Sunday, May 03, 2009

Playlist: Jimmy, Joe, etc.

Was offblog longer than I'd hoped, but not necessarily longer than I'd expected. Anyhow, some recent listening, apropos of very, very little:

*Jimmy Giuffre
The Jimmy Giuffre 3, Emphasis & Flight, Free Fall, Conversations with a Goose
What can I say but that I'm floored. I'd had a date with this music for a while. I guess I first became aware of the Giuffre/Bley/Swallow trio via my former colleague K. Leander Williams, who was a big fan. But I didn't dig in seriously till the past week or so, abetted by some loaners from Joe, who recently scored a bevy of JG discs. For all my drummerness, I adore the phenomenon of strategic drummerlessness in jazz. The clarinet-piano-bass music heard on E&F, Free Fall and Conversations with a Goose is exquisite: liquid and microscopically interactive. Sumptuous and titanically strange, in tiny ways. It is music of Discovery, no doubt. Free Fall (waxed in 1962), the last studio recording by this band, is a real head-scratcher, sounding formless at first and then blooming into something ultramysterious but also structured. Emphasis & Flight is PHENOMENAL. It's two live concerts, from 1961. Much more apparent form here, with clear-cut heads and the like. But no less free-sounding. Incredible variety of pieces and masterful concision. You must acquire this music. I might try to help with that at some point, but I can't now since I've got no web storage just now. Conversations is from '96; it's part of the aforementioned trio's second phase. (I could be mistaken, but I'm pretty damn sure Giuffre is holding a cooked goose on the cover; anyone got a large scan of this amazing pic?) Swallow on bass guitar this time. Superstrange music that has a feeling of oozing along. There's a real mindmeld to this session; don't think there's any precomposed music here, but I could be wrong. Didn't like Swallow's tone at first, but I'm fine with it now; started thinking how I shouldn't disparage bass guitar in this context if I'm down with Jim Hall's nonbass guitar in an earlier drummerless Giuffre band, documented on The Jimmy Giuffre 3. What a charming, charming record. Dry, spare sounds abound but with much plainspoken beauty. The record gets weirder as it progresses, gradually segueing from happy-go-lucky swingers into oblique melodic poems. In the latter vein, "The Green Country (New England Mood)" is a masterpiece.

I know everyone and their mother said this when JG died last year, but WHY is he not better known and WHY is the Free Fall trio NEVER mentioned in any account of seminal free jazz? (Okay, Ken Vandermark named a band after it, but still...) And why can't I find any interviews with Giuffre online? Seems like an outstandingly underdocumented figure journalistically. Damn, I would've love to have had the good sense to go and talk with this brilliant man while he was still alive.

BONUS--> Dig this, from the liner notes to Free Fall: "Given: this trio; a great studio on 30th Street in New York City; an engineer with radar ears and safe-cracking fingers.... [ellipsis mine] Given: the visions received from thinking on such things as ... [ellipsis sic] gravity, Monk, electricity, time, space, the microcosmos, leaves, chemistry, power, Gods, white-hot heat, asteroids, love, eternity, Einstein, Rollins, Evans, the heartbeat, pain, Delius, Scherchen, Art, overtones, the prehistoric, La Violette, wife, life, voids, Berg, Bird, the universe.... [ellipsis sic]"

Has anyone written a more profound "influences" list EVER? We need more thinkers like JG in music.

*Joe McPhee
No Greater Love, As Serious as Your Life

Heard Mr. McPhee live w/ the Thing a little while back and was reminded of how much he rules. He brought major gravitas there, as he pretty much always does. What a strange musician, though--not at all just a post-Ayler tenor giant as he's so often pigeonholed as. No Greater Love is an amazing CIMP release from 2000. There are some spirituals on the program, which definitely brings Ayler to mind, but the record (a quartet with reedist Joe Giardullo and two bassists: Dominic Duval and Michael Bisio) doesn't have that vibe at all. It's lush and strange and joyful, not harsh or anguished. Definitely file this one under "Speaking of the awesomeness of drummerlessness." And no coincidence, b/c McPhee not only recorded a Giuffre tribute album back in '91, he actually appeared on disc alongside Giuffre himself on a record from that same year called River Station. Would kill for a copy of this but can't find it anywhere. Anyone? As Serious... is a great solo set named, of course, for Val Wilmer's essential free-jazz tome, one my favorite music books. Very cool and odd trumpet thing starts off the set. It's called "The Death of Miles Davis" and features many fascinating tiny, alien sounds of the sort often heard from Nate Wooley and his ilk. Also there's a sort of overdubbed chorale that put me in mind of George Lewis's awesome Solo Trombone Record. Some very focused and intense solo alto stuff on As Serious... as well. McPhee plays in exactly that setting this Monday in NYC, as part of the RUCMA series, so don't sleep on that.

*Neil Young
Mirror Ball
Beautiful, beautiful '95 recorded with all of Pearl Jam as the backing band. Has that awesome bigness and shaggy warmth heard on PJ discs from that era, e.g. the phenomenal No Code. Read more on this rekkid here, via the Volume.

The Pod, All Request Live
Ween is on the brain and... that's likely to be the case for a while, I'm "afraid." The Pod is outstanding: like a weirder, more deliberately agonizing Pure Guava. The obnoxious stuff here is ultraobnoxious ("The Stallion, pt. 1"), the funny stuff is ultrafunny ("Pollo Asado," of course) and the sad stuff is borderline terrifying ("Demon Sweat"). All Request Live has a version of "Happy Colored Marbles" (a song from the epochal Quebec that I'd never really paid that much mind to) that I find superbly moving. That disc as a whole is an awesome demonstration of the way the current Ween (i.e., full band) honors and animates the group's lo-fi duo back catalog.

*Chester French
"Ciroc Star"
Unbelievable song from these Harvard-hop buzz magnets. The full album don't cut it at all IMHO, but this track is golden. Listen here, via the Volume.


Also: Thanks, Hexa, for a really fun show.


Also: Laal and I got to check out a Deep Tones for Peace rehearsal last weekend, featuring the awesome pairing of Henry Grimes and Trevor Dunn. Check out a pic and some vids here, all from behind the scenes.


Jake said...

I wonder if Giuffre doesn't get more attention partly because his instrument was clarinet.

Hank, do you - or anyone else for that matter - have thoughts on why the instrument has attracted so little notice in modern jazz? I've heard a few explanations - not loud enough; too difficult; dorky classical associations - but I don't find them convincing.

Anyway, great post. Always glad to see something new on the site.

Hank said...

Jake, thanks for your comment. Off the top of my head: Maybe it's b/c clarinet can never attain that blustery "macho" quality inherent to so much free and postfree jazz? I've always loved the instrument though, esp. in the hands of, say, John Carter or Giuffre, folks who specialize in it rather than just pick it up every now and again.

Jason Guthartz said...

"And why can't I find any interviews with Giuffre online?"

There is this excerpt of the interview included on Talks and Plays (CELP, 1992).

"WHY is he not better known"

See Graham Lock's comments here regarding the "jazz police" vs. Giuffre and why his work was/is not more fully appreciated.