Off Minor

Musings of a Jazz geek

Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, again…

Posted July 15, 2007

Good to be able to listen to the Taylor/Braxton gig, again, now I’ve got two working ears… (You can listen to the Jazz on 3 broadcast via the BBC listen again player, or by the direct links in my previous post… The feed is available for the next seven days.) They broadcast one of the three Taylor/Oxley duos, and then the main quartet piece with Braxton… I had been a bit so-so about the duo pieces, on the night, but, being able to hear it properly, Taylor’s stuff sounded even better… The delicateness of his lines, much brighter. Although, at the same time, the clear recording seemed to make Oxley’s contribution less worthwhile, and, faintly distracting… I don’t know which of the three duo pieces they actually broadcast, but it was also interesting to realise that he was playing the same piece as formed the basis of his last performance, at the RFH, three years ago!…

Ornette Coleman, at the Royal Festival Hall

Posted July 11, 2007

Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman quintet, at the Royal Festival Hall, 9/7/07 » Ornette Coleman (alto sax, violin, trumpet); Charnett Moffett (bass); Denardo Coleman (drums); Tony Falanga (bass); Al MacDowell (electric bass) «

Hmm… Not a lot that can be said, really… Back to the Royal Festival Hall, twice in two days, having caved in, and scraped the money together, just at the last minute (to think! that close to missing it, all through my own free will!)… Ornette Coleman, with his son Denardo on drums, and then the bass-trio backing of Charnett Moffett, Tony Falanga, and Al McDowell.

An hour long set with tunes mostly from the recent Sound Grammar recording, I think… Jordan and Sleep Talking were definitely there, with Denardo Coleman and Tony Falanga both direct from that disc.

Ornette was as piercingly rich as my first exposure to him on The Shape of Jazz to Come, even though, now, clearly quite frail. (Even his trumpet and violin managed to sound complete…) His son played full, rocking drum beats that established a strong propulsion… The three bassists mixing around the roles, and sounding great; the block sustained the sound, leaving it more solid than it would have been as just a jazz trio, perhaps, but maintaining that same slightly stripped-down immediacy. With slightly duff hearing, and a cost-saving rear-stalls eye view, it was hard to distinguish between the individual bass roles, so I’ll have to leave the specifics to others elsewhere

A contrast to the cerebral performance from the previous night; it was like getting slapped in the face by a slab of pure melody, and I just felt fully on air, really… Probably not pushing the boundaries, this Sound Grammar a traditional Atlantic-era-sounding Coleman project, but not that that left anything missing… After the standing ovation, Denardo seemed to tactfully suggest that they should play something else… And ‘Lonely Woman’ was really something else… Ornette Coleman was such a strong, formative influence on my earliest forays into jazz music, thankfully he didn’t let me down!… Outstanding, and just one of the happiest gigs I’ve ever been to… ;)

Pity that many of the seats remained unsold… £45 starting price is, in a practical sense, probably asking a little bit too much… The extra 75mm of leg room is all very nice, and the new hall looks very, very pretty, but… how much cash are they short of?

Byron Wallen Trio
A conference presentation on the Dirac equation, and its modelling of the zero-bandgap energy states of graphene, left me running to the Festival Hall just in time to miss the first few minutes of this warm-up trio… They were alright but not really on the same level… This Evening Standard review seems to be quite confused…

Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton, at the Royal Festival Hall

Posted July 9, 2007

Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton

Cecil Taylor & Anthony Braxton, at the Royal Festival Hall, 8/7/07 » Cecil Taylor (piano); Anthony Braxton (soprano, sopranino, alto saxes; contrabass-clarinet); William Parker (bass); Tony Oxley (drums) «

My first visit to the newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall, this Sunday… A bit of a hash-up with the seating, after a ‘raised stage’ that hadn’t been put down again left everyone in the front two rows scattered across the remaining front fifteen, just to give us a chance to see… Would also have been nice if it hadn’t taken until the eighth steward to find out what was going on… But at least it’s not a double-booking, and at least they made up for it by springing on a surprise (to me!) Polar Bear support act… Not quite as cool as at Taylor John’s, but only through a lack of intimacy; a capable, restrained, half hour set, making their upcoming CD even more tantalising…

A quick break, enjoying the hall’s nice new palatial bars and Thames-overlooking balconies (but not the lack of toilets!), then back in, not quite knowing what to expect… Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton had been double-billed at the RFH before, but Braxton in a Ghost Trance quintet, and Taylor, separate, in a trio with Bill Dixon and Tony Oxley. Braxton had stolen the night, while Taylor’s presence had seemed fraught, to say the least.

But! Here he was!! Disembodied, at first, off-stage, reading some poetry that I couldn’t begin to understand, while Oxley walked solemnly to his kit. Then Taylor appeared, dancing onto stage to meet the waiting drummer, finishing with a pirouette and a bow onto the piano stool — a sign of contentment, or a sarcastic ‘fuck-you’ to the paparazzo, jumping up to stick a camera lens in his face?… It seemed slightly ominous… But then the music came: nimble foraging, picking at the keys, flurries and delicate atonal crashes, beating off Oxley’s wide ranging patted-out percussion (where do they breed cows that big?). The pair feeding in and out of each other, but heavily interplay through confrontation, it seemed… Three tunes: exquisite melodic fragments, drawn out of a small moleskinne on the piano-top and then battered with the shit kicked-out on the keys. Maybe just a little bit samey, a bit like he was just beginning to go through the motions… I’m not sure, my hearing was duff on the night, and I found it a bit tricky to lock in… Beautiful, none-the-less…!

After that, the pair disappeared; William Parker took the stage for an impressive classically Down bass solo, a lot of it arco and massively impressive. Then, they all re-emerged, this time with Braxton finally in tow… A brooding, rattling, percussive start, with Braxton squeezing on contrabass-clarinet… They moved around, the inimitable Taylor lines began to break through… Braxton, investigative, trying to decide quite what to try. As he moved to different horns—soprano, sopranino and alto saxes—his style shifted through the modes, not necessarily making anything canonically ‘Braxton’. Abstract flurries then, on alto, more-like smashed melodies. Taylor’s attention seemed always on him, batting out the shapes and apparently transfixed by the prospect of what was to come… At times the group moved into definite free-jazz territory, with the almost-melodies just prised out… But then it would move into more of a noise territory; delicate noise, aggressive but easy. As for the rest of the band, Parker started off quite muted, but moved toward some great grooving lines nearer the end… Impressive, always, and a great propulsive sound. Oxley looked like his was having great fun throughout, pausing now and then to reflect on the concentrated music around him…

It burned out as a great success, I thought… When taking the applause, Braxton and Taylor seemed fairly decently elated by the whole experience… My description of the great music they made is probably well far off the mark… Was listening to Parker’s Now! Other Directions in music… record this afternoon and was thinking, well, if you take this, add some Cecil Taylor, then… you’ll get something that isn’t even close… Wordsandmusic has a better description; mapsadaisical does too (plus a nice photo that is approximately three-thousand times better than mine)… The whole thing was recorded for Jazz on 3, broadcast this Friday 13th… See my earlier post for lots of suitable links :)

Louis Moholo Unit, at the Vortex 4/7/07

Posted July 7, 2007

Louis Moholo Unit Front Line

Louis Moholo Unit, at the Vortex 4th July 2007 » Jason Yarde & Ntshuks Bonga (soprano + alto saxes); Orphy Robinson (marimba); John Edwards (bass); Louis Moholo (drums) «

I only really know Moholo (or, Moholo-Moholo, if that’s more appropriate), specifically, from his playing with the Evan Parker/Steve Beresford/John Edwards quartet Foxes Fox; he was with them at the Vortex last year, I think, playing his ‘last’ gig before moving back ‘permanently’ to his South African homeland (a performance, I notice, currently being prepared for release on Psi records). This group was something completely different, and quite a unique musical experience, a celebration of more traditional (inverted quotes, probably) free-Jazz (with a capital ‘J’) rather than free, free improvisation… Stylistically sounding like no other band or music I’ve ever actually seen, only heard, on dug-out records put out by artists either having some understated civil rights message, or a tendency to walk around on stage wearing robes of gold. Anyway, whatever, completely marvellous.

Jason Yarde and Ntshuks Bonga played soprano and alto saxophones, usually in tandem, improvising around spiralling, coruscating, abstract patterns (piling on plenty of extended technique). There were tunes, tho, with almost-heads, written scores, and everything… Orphy Robinson played great energetic marimba (watching him set the thing up, at the start of the evening, was pretty captivating by itself). It had an important role, really, I think, because Moholo’s drumming comes out like a burning, tumbling power engine, that was constantly turning over, moving, but really there creating a sense of momentum and pulse, with only barely perceptible constructive interaction (if that’s the right phrase). Well, barely perceptible to me. I mean it was brilliantly exciting, but there creating a moving pulse, rather than sculpting out a particular rhythmic line. That left Robinson’s marimba free to bring in a more structured rhythm, I think. With the saxes burning and twisting away, and the drums and mallets doing their thing, John Edwards seemed, at times, to act as the focus, or the channel, that completely meshed the two free aspects together. The second set had a few intense bass features; Edwards is great to listen to, but also inspiring to watch, lightning reactions with such a physically involving instrument. Looks like his solo spot next week will just have to get pencilled in… ;)

Jazz on 3: Freedom of the City 2007

Posted June 29, 2007

You can get a chance to see how wrong my descriptions of Freedom of the City were (original post), by listening to BBC Radio 3’s Jazz on 3 programme, tonight… If you don’t have access to a UK-based radio set (!), you can listen live online (BBC Radio player; direct links: real stream, Windows Media stream high/low quality), or, Listen Again for all of the following week… Transmission is at 2330, British Summer Time (2230 GMT).

From the programme newsletter:

Tonight – 29th June 2007 – at 11.30pm on BBC Radio 3

A programme of highlights tonight from London’s premier festival of free jazz and improv. Recorded over the weekend of the 6th-8th May of this year in London’s Red Rose, Freedom Of The City this year offered a diverse range of ensembles (you can have a look at the line-up at: ) and we’re bringing you highlights of almost all the performances.

From the massed ranks of the London and Glasgow Improvisers Orchestras (separately and en masse) to the pin-drop solo guitar set from Pascal Marzan and the incessant scrapings of Barrel (get it?). We’ll also hear from key AMM figure Eddie Prévost’s latest group, 9!

Postscript: (1/7/07) That was actually quite interesting, since the London Improvisor’s Orchestra sounded a lot better on radio than it did when I saw them live at the festival itself… Sort of compactified and easier to grasp, but also clearer and better separated than I remember (if that’s not a contradiction!). Maybe I was just overwhelmed!

The Mahasvanah Trio, at the Vortex 27/6/07

Posted June 28, 2007

The Mahasvanah Trio

The Mahasvanah Trio, at the Vortex 27/6/07 » Jon Wilkinson (guitar), Tony Bianco (drums), Julian Siegel (soprano/tenor sax, bass clarinet) «

Julian Siegel was depping for Paul Dunmall, who was unavailable (and apparently flooded out). The trio is described in the Vortex leaflet as “a concept orientated improvising trio using the drum as an arkestra … reminding one … of the Indian drone”. Basically Tony Bianco fired away with a rattling, droning drum line, while Siegel improvised around on top. The drums were a bit like Rashied Ali on Interstellar Space, or Isis and Osiris with Alice Coltrane… Pretty mesmerising, hypnotic. Siegel played both saxes and bass clarinet, while Jon Wilkinson—whose sound was a little overwhelmed in the mix—played interference patterns on electric guitar.

They played a first set for something like an hour, continuously, and then a second for something like closer to twenty-five minutes; Siegel played the first on tenor and bass clarinet, playing moving (shifting) lines that seemed to want to play something specifically tuneful. For the second half (much on soprano) he played more abstractly, in sorts of rhythmic changes (again not unlike Interstellar Space) and in this sense the horns and drums fit together more seamlessly. Throughout, Siegel and Bianco would fade in and out, coming together every so often to create something extra-ordinary… only to move off again, and allow the audience and themselves to become hypnotised purely by their own polyrhythms and pulse.

State of Off Minor

Posted June 27, 2007

So: a small fiddle with the site layout, and a bit of tweaking here and there… Hopefully a bit easier to read, particularly for those on small monitors.

Apologies for the lack of worthwhile postage recently; juggling a PhD and a blog that no one reads can get tricky…

Mopomoso, June 10th 2007

Posted June 13, 2007

Mopomoso June 10th 2007

Mopomoso » Henry Kaiser (guitar), Steve Beresford (electronics), Lol Coxhill (saxophone), Satoko Fukuda (violin), John Russell (guitar), Roger Turner (percussion), Hannah Marshall (cello) «

A specially assembled Mopomoso, at the Red Rose, this weekend (extra to the usual third Sunday of the month) in order to feature the visiting US guitarist Henry Kaiser… I also went along to see Sakoto Fukuda, again; I’ve only seen her once before, but she’s apparently this blog’s second most-popular referring google search term (thanks, Sakoto Fukuda!).

Sakoto FakudaSakoto Fakuda

The evening opened with a John Russell + Henry Kaiser acoustic duet; twin plucking, scrabbling Bailey-esque lines that was pretty marvellous; but too short! Play longer!

Steve Beresford had a cool duet with Roger Turner; Beresford with electronics and toy stuff, Roger Turner on inventive percussion… After seeing them both in succession at Boat-Ting once before (and not having seen Turner too much, at all), I had previously compared his playing to that of Steve Noble; he’s not so much playing a drum kit, but sort of pouring a box of metal spare parts out all over it, and then seeing what sort of noises he can create with the mess… Turner’s fantastic, although tonight my Noble comparison diverged; Turner played with a lot more space, whereas, whenever I’ve seen Noble, he’s seemed more forcefully full-on… Beresford’s electronic toy stuff is cool… At first a seemingly incongruous collection of noise making machines that all somehow come together… For the Turner duet, although there was no obvious dialogue taking place, everything still fit together perfectly, each sound (effect) colliding perfectly with the others…

John RussellJohn Russell

Elsewhere, there were a lot of strings attending: two guitars (John Russell sticking to acoustic throughout, Henry Kaiser moving to electric for everything except his duet); Hannah Marshall, cello, and Fukuda’s violin… so, as the small groups were divied up, it was all a little bit of a variation on a theme… But I felt like I wasn’t paying enough attention, and all the complex string textures all sort of blended the one into the other… For example, Russell (photo, above) played really nice movements, but I found it hard to pick up on all the detail he was obviously contributing; it looked like something where there’d be an improvement in having it on record, so that it’d be easier to dive in close to his delicate lines…

Hannah Marshall at Mopomoso Steve Beresford and Roger Turner at Mopomoso Mopomoso June 10th 2007 Henry Kaiser at Mopomoso