Off Minor

Musings of a Jazz geek

Agustí Fernández, Derek Bailey — Barcelona

Posted August 3, 2007


Barcelona, Hopscotch Records Hop 10 » Agustí Fernández (piano), Derek Bailey (guitar) «

Yes, another Derek Bailey record, and not any of the ones recommended to me by Nate Dorward (see here, and here).

The fifteen-minute opener Senyor Parellada is exploratory, Fernández playing a heavily prepared piano, Bailey sitting in the corner and plucking away, but with what would seem something of a determined expression. It seems like it’s music that has been tamed: they’re playing comfortably, but perhaps while keeping one eye over their shoulder. The second, half as long Botafumeiro is beautifully chilled, the plucking and bit-ting coming equally from both sides.

After a brief power-up Esterri comes the central 23 minute Casa Leopoldo, which is great, everywhere, and the highlight of the set. Starting off contemplative, it moves out into some really textural sounds, moments of some sort of intricate soundscape, with Fernández getting the uttermost out of his effect-laden piano. A musical sound with great depth. Seemingly bolstered by this production, the final two tracks are the most up of the record; 7 Portes is quite dark, whereas Medulio, more excited. I dunno… it’s a bit annoying that the pieces don’t really seem to fit together very well, one after another—it feels like just some random set of recordings that happened to turn out alright—but individually the music is great; accomplished and essentially straight-forward, but with a slight edge of tension to put it out that extra mile.

Evan Parker, et al. — A Glancing Blow

Posted July 30, 2007

Evan Parker - A Glancing Blow

A Glancing Blow, Clean Feed CF085 » Evan Parker (tenor/soprano sax), John Edwards (bass), Chris Corsano (drums) «

A sort of straight-forward Evan Parker trio set, I think recorded live at the Vortex. The first thirty minute piece: Parker sounds quite cool, fairly broody; someone (presumably Corsano) plays around with some sort of pipe, or disconnected mouthpiece, in parts, with Parker matching him there with an almost bagpipe drone. Parker also seems a bit, er, uncharacteristically melodic (which is nice). John Edwards plays a fairly forthright bassline throughout, with plenty of hard scraping, twanging and body-slapping. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually heard Corsano before, he sounds alright here, a bit like a more laid-back Paal Nilssen-Love. The second forty-five minute track is less compressed-together, with quite a lot more space. It’s also a little bit less of a melting pot, coming out more meditatively thoughtful.

Paal Nilssen-Love – Townorchestrahouse

Posted May 2, 2007

Townorchestrahouse record cover

I remember reading a review of this in The Wire, or something, ages ago, but was never able to actually track it down… But last week I found it on eMusic, and I just can’t stop listening to it. Paal Nilssen-Love (d), Sten Sandell (p), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (b), and Evan Parker (ts/ss), recorded live at the 2002 Kongsberg Jazz festival. And it’s a proper twin-set-and-encore live recording, so it’s a good almost-as-if-you-are-there-but-obviously-not thing.

The tracks are Town (first set), Orchestra (second set) and House (encore). (Is Townorchestrahouse a literal Norwegian–English translation?) Parker plays tenor on Town, and the whole group is really full-on. It’s noticeable (tho, I don’t mean, too noticeable) how close they seem to be following each other, trying to play to each other’s styles; sort of like the Norwegians trying to work out how to play Evan Parker; Evan Parker working out how to play Norwegian. The second set, Orchestra, sees Parker come back on soprano for the most part, and there’s a definite change in the group dynamics; a bit looser in the sense that, on Town, they’re trying to play as a unit, whereas on Orchestra they’re playing as four individual members of one group… Parker’s soprano just sounds so excellent! The highpoint is his own solo, about two thirds of the way through, where the rest of the band just peel away and drop out; the only sound left is the sax, the audible dynamics of the club itself, passing traffic outside… and it’s beautiful. In retrospect it’s like the whole piece is a build up to this peak, the frantic rhythms and build of Parker’s solo-playing reflected in the movement of the preceding twenty minutes of group improvisation (there’s a more eloquent description of this at One Final Note).

Paal Nilssen-Love plays great throughout, but then I think he always does; I like his style, it’s almost as if he’s soloing behind everything. Sten Sandell plays some great scattering melodies, everywhere. Ingebrigt Håker Flaten I’ve heard on other stuff (like, with Atomic and The Scorch Trio) but I’ve never really *heard* him; other reviews seemed to imply that he’s not at his best on this disc, but I’m loving his great deep guttural sounds; it seems such a peculiarly deep bass sound. He plays out the first set solo, and it sounds pretty special.

Looking around, it turns out that it’s quite easy to get hold of this disc after-all, and I definitely recommend it (although it’s been out a few years already so I’m probably the last man alive to hear it). Get it from Clean Feed records direct, or try eMusic.

Tony Oxley & Derek Bailey – The Advocate

Posted April 24, 2007

The Advocate record cover

Put out earlier this year on Tzadik, this is three studio-based duets, all recorded in 1975 and now receiving their first proper release. The three tracks clock up to around half an hour of improvised music, plus the disc is supplemented by a ten-minute Tony Oxley solo—The advocate, for Derek Bailey—recorded at last year’s John Zorn-curated Derek Bailey tribute concert. (That piece—and most of the rest of the concert—was in fact originally broadcast last summer by the BBC’s Jazz on 3 programme… Hmm… I must have a tape of that lying around somewhere!)

The duets were pretty much what I thought I’d expect; tight fractured playing from Bailey, with wide and varied percussion from Tony Oxley. (When he was playing with Cecil Taylor at the Royal Festival Hall a few years back, I remember his kit being pretty gigantic… Has it always been that big, or is it just something he’s built up slowly, over time?) Oxley also does some electronics I think, and it’s great just what a wide range of sounds he’s capable of producing… However, for the most part, this disc seems like something of a run-through; totally accomplished, totally swinging, great music but not really pushing it out… In fact, it’s the final Oxley solo piece that I find is the real stand-out track. He sculpts sound, producing something intense but with an engaging rhythmic drive (and something more directly rhythmic than the duo tracks). Not a bad disc at any rate (and it’s only the third-ish of Bailey’s that I own) it’s just that I’m sure that there’s probably a lot more out there on which they both have much more to say.

Art Ensemble of Chicago – Live in Paris

Posted April 17, 2007

Art Ensemble of Chicago - Live in Paris, album cover

This is a two-CD Charly reissue of two long Parisian BYG/Actuel live recordings: Oh, Strange (with the Art Ensemble being Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Malachi Favors) and Bon Voyage (where they’re joined by Fontella Bass on vocals). Both date from 1969, although the liner notes don’t make it clear that there’s any particular relationship between the two pieces… Each is a continuous 45 minute(ish) jam thing, each artificially split into two sections as an artifact of the transfer from LP.

The first disc opens up with quite a straight forward free arrangement, where they seem to be trying to keep pretty abstract but, at the same time, fairly structured and conventionally melodic. Unlike their contemporary studio recordings (eg. A Jackson in your House, Message to our folks, Reese and the Smooth ones, Phase One), where they seem to be basically working their way round a room packed with every instrument/noise-making object they can find—and then playing just enough on each one to keep pace—Oh, Strange opens up as more of a conventional (free) sax/percussion ensemble… and it doesn’t quite come together; the broken non-melody, squeezed out the saxophone (and sounding a bit like Albert Ayler tuning up) never really manages to catch on. After about 20 minutes, someone discovers that they’ve got a vibraphone out the back, and they break off into some great minimalist Arkestra-esque space-jazz (for desperate want of a better term) that carries it out for the rest of the disc. Takes a while to get up to speed but, once it does, turns out into quite a nice chilling track. Not particularly captivating… just something nice to have on in the background while you’re going through your emails!…

Bon Voyage starts with a beautiful, delicate, brushes-and-bass thing, that is gradually joined by some grooving percussion… Similar in vein, but more satisfying than Disc 1; a more purely Sun Ra-like Astral free-jam… like listening to protons rain down from Saturn… Fontella Bass makes an appearance only after about half an hour, a human cry of emotional release, carrying it right out to the end…

David Holland / Barre Phillips – Music from Two Basses

Posted April 2, 2007

David Holland, Barre Phillips - Music from two basses

I don’t really know anything about Barre Phillips, except that he played in Archie Shepp’s band on the Coltrane/Shepp “New Thing at Newport” record; similarly I don’t know a terrible amount about Dave Holland except that I quite like his bass playing with Miles Davis, and that he was the first proper jazz musician I saw live, in a slightly straight-ahead big-group setting (Prime Directive style) at Warwick Arts Centre (Coventry) in 2001-ish.

In fact, I’ve always had Holland as quite a straight ahead kind of guy, which was why I was intrigued to see him recording in this quite Free set-up of improvising double double-bass… This was recorded February 1971 (for ECM records), which seems to put it right at the point of Holland’s departure from Miles’ band (last recorded thing with him being “At Filmore” from June 1970, according to the PGTJOCD). (In fact, looking through the history books: spending the seventies recording with Anthony Braxton and recording solo albums for ECM probably isn’t the most fulfilling definition of “straight ahead” I’ve come across… Oh, and I forgot I also have “Conference of the Birds”, which is pretty cool, and pretty free.)

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Derek Bailey & Evan Parker – The London Concert

Posted March 20, 2007

Derek Bailey and Evan Parker - The London Concert

I bought this CD last year, slightly on a whim, after watching Evan Parker’s Electro-acoustic ensemble at the London jazz festival. On its first play I couldn’t really see what was supposed to be happening, and I tossed it into a corner with no real intention of paying much attention to it again… However, playing it over again these last few days, I can’t really believe I missed it all first time round. (I’m being blown away re-listening to Part I as I’m writing…)

It’s a slightly random collection of solo and duo improvisations; a 1975 live recording from London’s Wigmore Hall. Parker plays soprano and tenor saxes through the first and second halves, respectively; Bailey starts off with a stereo set-up (each channel controlled by independent volume pedals) and finishes off with his (infamous?) 19-string behemoth (after reading this page I’m not too sure what ’19-string’ is supposed to mean, exactly?). I think this is about the earliest Parker record I’ve heard (except for late 60’s things with big Peter Brötzmann groups) and he’s playing a lot more staccato, with trembling screeches that I don’t recognise from the Evan Parker records I’m used to. I don’t know enough to be able to say whether this is just his contemporary style, or whether he’s specifically picking up on the fractured lines from Derek Bailey. Anyway, it’s really interesting, and alerted me to a time-gap in my record collection that needs to be filled. There’s definitely a Bailey shaped hole that needs filling quickly; the only other thing I have of him is the (excellent, rocking) Moat Recordings. Thing is, I know that’s really terrible and I should have more, but his discography looks a bit obtuse at the moment and I’m not too sure where to start… Any recommendations?

Miles Davis – Seven Steps to Heaven

Posted January 23, 2007

Miles Davis - Seven Steps to Heaven

Miles’ Seven Steps to Heaven was recorded in April/May 1963, and documents the Miles Davis group in flux, making the transition between the Coltrane/… groups of the late 1950’s–early sixties, and the ‘classic’ quintet with Wayne Shorter et al. 7STH is basically Miles + George Coleman, with two rhythm sections: Victor Feldman, Frank Butler and Ron Carter (on five tracks), and then Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams on the remaining three May 14th tracks (my Columbia reissue comes with two tracks not-on-original-LP).

The tunes are pretty decent, but there’s nothing too magical happening. What’s really interesting, though, is how George Coleman is almost exactly half-way between John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter; his playing on Seven Steps to Heaven sounds perfectly Prestige-era Trane-y; his solo on So near, So far sounds just like it had come out the axe of Wayne Shorter…