Friday, September 28, 2007

"Promises" kept // Thunderkiss '65

saw "Eastern Promises" w/ Laal. a fun night at the movies for sure. it's gruesome, yeah, but in an almost comical way. i don't think i was the only one laughing when Viggo Mortensen stabbed his would-be assailant in the eye with a curved dagger.

anyway, if you--like me--thought the first hour or so of "A History of Violence" was ultra-badass, you'll have fun with this one. if there's one thing Cronenberg does well, it's the depiction of menace: of amoral characters brutally barging in on meek, conventional lives.

Viggo's Russian gangster is hilariously slick and disaffected. his accent is just shy of a caricature. it's a really meaty role, one that calls for a lot of suggestive smirking, priceless lines like "i am driver. i go right; i go left" and even some naked kung fu.

the plot--involving a sex-slave ring and an orphaned baby--is a little cumbersome and depending on how you read it, even sappy. Naomi Watts really doesn't have much to work with in the female lead. but whenever the bad guys are on screen, the movie is great wicked fun.

p.s., anyone seen Viggo in this obscure horror flick "The Reflecting Skin"? amazingly creepy movie and he's awesome in it. rent it if you like scary and surreal.


moving right along... i wouldn't hesitate to call John Coltrane one of my favorite musicians, or more specifically, i would call the pairing of Coltrane with drummer Elvin Jones one of my favorite musical phenomena.

despite my great affection for Trane, though, i don't throw on his music that much. i have the sound in my head, and it's almost as if i don't need to refresh it that often. it's just sort of permanently there. but sometimes the music finds me and i'm just sort of like, "jesus christ, this shit is intense." this happened the other day when i was listening to the Coltrane birthday broadcast on WKCR...

i've often spoken of "Interstellar Space," Coltrane's February '67 duo recording w/ drummer Rashied Ali, as my favorite of his discs. it's a mindblower--completely and scarily austere. but i'm realizing that there's another record, or era really, that i like just as much.

that's 1965, the year of some of the last recordings w/ the fabled quartet of Coltrane, Jones, bassist Jimmy Garrison and pianist McCoy Tyner. the latter pretty much sounded hopelessly out of place at this point (at least to me), often coming across during his solos as this straw man for Coltrane to bulldoze when he re-enters. and people often talk about how Jones was getting uncomfortable too, but that was really when Ali was brought in late in the year as second drummer.

anyway, so i started thinking hard about this period when WKCR spun the following bootleg performance on Sunday and have thought even harder about it since i've been digging Ben Ratliff's excellent new book on Trane, which i'm about halfway through. Ratliff makes a point of highlighting '65 as a landmark year, and this bootleg from April '65 cemented that for me. this track comes from a few days after the recordings that were recently released by Impulse as "One Down, One Up." that shit smokes, but this is even better:

Untitled Original
Coltrane, Tyner, Garrison, Jones - April '65, live at the Half Note

much has been made of the novelty of Elvin breaking his bass-drum pedal in the middle of the tenor-drums duet that appears on the aforementioned "One Down, One Up." that's a quirky little piece of trivia, but the fact is that it's actually really annoying and tantalizing to listen to: here you have Trane and Elvin alone and Elvin is without one of the main weapons in his arsenal, namely his lethal right foot.

anyway, the recording above sounds a bit like crap, but you can totally hear the thunder and the fury. Trane and Elvin go at it MAJORLY duostyle in the middle, from around 7:00 minutes to around 10:00. it's pretty clear here that whatever tension it was that caused Jones to leave the following year wasn't around in '65. this is absolutely gorgeous, volcanic creation.

Jones is like this hurtling, rumbling engine. (when i hear Jones in this mode, i can't keep from thinking of that word "hurtling"--it seems to capture that precarious skipping speed that only he can muster, that white-hot percolating pulse.) the velocity these two summon is completely unreal. (there's also a really nice duo section on part three of the live version of "A Love Supreme" that was issued a little while ago as a bonus disc to the regular record on Impulse. not to be blasphemous, but all this '65 live shit blows "ALS" away in my opinion.)

"Sun Ship," recorded in August '65, is a little more reined in--mainly due to the studio setting w/ shorter track lengths, etc.--but still totally ripping. like the piece above, many of this record's themes are brief, almost maniacally repetitive melodies that Trane just fusses over and then blows to bits.




Dearly Beloved

from "Sun Ship" - same band as above, a few months later

"Amen" starts off a little more placid than the brutal first track on the album (the title track). a longish Tyner solo follows the minimal head. don't feel bad for fast-forwarding to around 3:35. Jones is already whipping up a storm in anticipation of Trane roaring back in, and man he just re-arrives and starts tearing shit up. Tyner's over there frantically laying down chords and Trane and Elvin are just kicking it out. this is slash-and-burn jazz of the absolute highest order.

"Dearly Beloved" is a whole other thing: an almost unbearably gorgeous free-time ballad. i love the little studio patter excerpt at the beginning. Trane tells someone--Jones?--to "keep a thing happening all through," says "ready?" and then launches into this insane rubato ballad thing. Tyner is totally at home in this setting and Elvin breaks out the mallets and the whole thing is just like this sea of sound that Coltrane is swimming in. this is like the current ballad paradigm--no steady pulse, just a miasma of tone and a soloist sort of fighting to stay afloat. check the last track on Sonny Sharrock's "Ask the Ages" for another amazing example of this, also featuring Sir Elvin...


Anonymous said...

ye-HAW. And right on. Thanks for the boot. SUN SHIP remains a fave, though it took longer than some others to get over.

The Ratliff book is a winner, and may well reignite a Coltrane moment, as weird as that may be to consider. You may know this already, but fmu dj Doug Schulkind will be airing a multi-part radio doc on Trane starting on Friday (10/5). Each part will be an hour, starting at 11am, EST. Streamable, but not archived, so it's a live listen. It's been on air before, but I missed it; apparently, it's a killer.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness the documentary will be on WFMU -- I could not access WKCR's Coltrane fest at all because their Real Audio web stream (my only means of access) was down yet again.

'Sun Ship' was a great 1965 favourite for me on vinyl for many years when a lot of other recordings from that period were unavailable over here.

Having listened to all the 1965 output intensively since the CDs came round to fill in the gaps (and like you, I don't play them all that often because the music is built into me now), I would highlight 'Meditations' as an example of McCoy Tyner being pushed to his absolute limit of 'out' playing, and 'Live in Seattle' as the dangerous sound of group tensions being cranked up to near breaking point during the transition phase away from the classic quartet.