Jun 9, 2008

AIN'T NO WRONG NOTES - A Free-Jazz Playlist

Unless I'm mistaken, my days on the island are numbered. The neighbors are steadily returning and I doubt they're down with the kinda rumblings my house typically produces in the wee small hours. Then again, my frat boy roommates'd probably love to pick that bone, too. They make rumblings of their own, but they've got nothing to do with alternate tunings, if you catch my drift. So unless my bread baker job interview goes stunningly well today and they offer me shit-ton money, I'll be packed and on the ferry by week's end. (I got my fingers crucified.) Where to? I ain't certain.
While I try to figure it all out, here's some free jazz or creative modern or "new music" or whatever tag's been hung on the Ayler & Co. lineage, that I love. I gotta go wring my wash out by the shore.

Any of these players could lead me to a cliff and I just might drink. But the most fascinating part about these sessions is that nobody sounds like themselves! Okay, Parkins can only stretch in so many directions, but even she's kept me guessing all these years. Her shimmering accordion slivers and loping percussion samples alternate between underpinning strokes and wide watercolors. Brown forgoes his usual misbegotten seagull cries for some lyrical, Steve Lacy-inspired lines. Borca might be the most unsung player in the world, so any chance you get to hear her pour spools of deep-red yarn from her bassoon, you do so. Her work with Jimmy Lyons oughta be legendary by now. You mightcould say she's the bassist to this bass-and-drums-free disc. And Joe Morris, well, I've heard a lot of words used to describe his guitar-playing. "Squirrelly" and "obtuse" are among the most apropos. Forget your notions of free-jazz guitar players being weened on Sharrock and Ulmer, cuz although he might use a "Blood" tuning, Joe's sound is always clean and skronk-free. For my money, his ink draws the defining lines here.
Ignore the crummy cover art, if you happen to snatch this up. The artist, Anne, once told me "black is the new 'black'," so, uh, you can imagine...

IDRIS ACKAMOOR - The Music of Idris Ackamoor 1971-2004, EM Records 2006?
If you ask the cats at Aquarius Records, they'll tell you 1971 is the most important year for music in the last 1/2 of the 20th century. Me? I think that date's a movable feast, but after hearing this double-disc, I might stick around for dessert. Typically, I head straight for the Pyramids tracks because they define all that is good about the horrendously-monikered "spiritual jazz" movement. We're talking big, wide organically developing passages that, to my ears, are carved out right between Sun Ra and the exhausted pace of late-afternoon field hollers. Makes me wanna curl up and spoon with them. "Birth/Speed/Merging" and "Black Man of the Nile" are top of my list. The more rigid cat in me thinks "Spiritual Rebirth," a piece by the Idris Ackamoor Quartet, is pretty tight, and lets you know Ackamoor can wrangle structured beauty from his cortices, too.
Ackamoor has gone more of the Threadgill route since the heyday of these recordings, on top of becoming some sort of "cultural consultant" or some damn thing. I don't know; Google him, and then gobble this up before EM runs out.

THE GREAT MUSAURIAN SONGBOOK - Out of a Suitcase, Musikszene Schweiz/Grammont portrait 1998
Hoo, what a puzzler. I've had this for about 5 years and it reveals less and less about itself as time goes on. Maybe that's just me growing stupider, but I think you'll agree that a loose-improv record based on documents found in a suitcase like a postcard from a little kid, a page from a diary, a bill from a public house, a doctor's note, or a random telegram, all played by the national band of a made-up country that doesn't in any way involve the Hafler Trio is deep in "I need a lie-down" territory. What's it sound like? Europe, in all the ways you can conjure: Iskra, Evan Parker-led screech-and-crumble parties, indigenous folk musics, and a bucketful of Dada. I have no clue what Claudia Ulla Binder, Dieter Ulrich, or Alfred Zimmerlin did after this, aside from continue on in the "creative music" camp and sell out tents in Switzerland. If anyone knows anything of note about their more-recent endeavors, give a holler. In the meantime, pick this up and smirk at it for a while; you might be glad you did.

V.A. - Golden Age of Soviet New Jazz, Volumes I&II, Leo Records, 2001
I never got a chance to pick up volumes III and IV, but as I've been slowly picking through these 8 discs (!) for--wow, seven years, maybe I'll finally be familiar enough with them to move on by the age of 50. Aligned under the banner of "Soviet New Jazz" is all kinds of bucket-on-the-head performance art, collective improv, free-rock, berserk prepared piano rolls, and warehouse caterwauling recorded behind the Iron Curtain. Aside from that, the main reason it's taken me so long to drink these in is that each disk is a chronicle of an entire career. So, in reality, we're talkin 8 anthologies! Sometimes, all of the aforementioned buggery is included in a single piece! Who knew so many Noah Howard, Jellyroll Morton, Ya Ho Wa 13, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Henry Flynt, and Butch Morris records got smuggled into Leningrad?
Highlights for me include Sergey Kuryokhin's maniacal, dual-piano history lessons and the larger ensemble stuff like Jazz Group Arkhangelsk--basically, any of the stuff where someone isn't just shouting into a trashcan. Hell, with enough time, I might get my head 'round that, too.


Geoffrey M. Golia said...

Please just look at this picture:


s. kobak said...

commies rule.
ya ho wha and his followers were super dumb. ever hear how he died? he broke his back in a hang gliding accident and, instead of taking him to a hospital, his followers laid him in a room and burned incense around him for three days. bunch of dumbasses.