November 6, 2010

Playlist Week of 11-06-10

* Vivaldi: Concertos & Sinfonias for Strings (Venice Baroque Orchestra/Marcon) (Archiv Produktion CD)
* Vivaldi: Double Violin Concertos (VBO/Marcon/Mullova/Carmignola) (Archiv Produktion CD)
* Bill Evans: The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961 (d.1-2) (Riverside 3CD)†
* Eric Dolphy: Iron Man (Douglas/Fuel 2000 CD)
* Eric Dolphy: Conversations (Douglas/Fuel 2000 CD)
* Charles Mingus: Town Hall Concert (4-04-64) (Jazz Workshop/OJC/Fantasy CD)
* Charles Mingus Quintet: Bremen, W. Germany 4-16-64 (FM CDR)
* Charles Mingus: Revenge! (Paris 4-17-64) (Revenge! Passport 2CD)
* Sun Ra: The Great Lost Sun Ra Albums: Cymbals & Crystal Spears (Evidence 2CD)
* Sun Ra: Pathways to Unknown Worlds + Friendly Love (Evidence CD)
* Anthony Braxton & Joe Morris: Four Improvisations (Duo) 2007 (d.3-4) (Clean Feed 4CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Falling River Music (Wesleyan University 5-07-08) (AUD 2CDR)
* Evan Parker/Mark Dresser/Gerry Hemingway: The Stone, New York, NY 10-04-09 (AUD CDR)
* Evan Parker/Sylvie Courvoisier: The Stone, New York, NY 10-06-09 (AUD CDR)
* Sylvie Courvoisier Trio: The Stone, New York, NY 1-04-09
* Sylvie Courvoisier Quartet: The Stone, New York, NY 6-02-09 (AUD CDR)
* Tom Rainey Trio: Pool School (Clean Feed CD)
* Tom Rainey & Ingrid Laubrock: The Stone: 1-07-09 (AUD CDR)
* Ingrid Laubrock Quintet: The Stone, New York, NY 8-01-09 (AUD CDR)
* Ingrid Laubrock Trio: The Stone, New York, NY 8-21-09 (AUD CDR)
* Ingrid Laubrock’s Anti-House: Anti-House (Intakt CD)
* Myra Melford Quartet: The Stone, New York, NY 7-07-09 (AUD 2CDR)
* Myra Melford’s Happy Whistlings: Firehouse 12, New Haven, CT 4-09-10 (AUD 2CDR)
* Myra Melford’s Be Bread: Le Poisson Rouge, New York, NY 6-20-10 (AUD CDR)
* Matana Roberts Quartet: Zebulon, Brooklyn, NY 3-30-09 (AUD CDR)
* Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: Stadtgarten, Köln, 6-08-09 (AUD 2CDR)
* Scanner with The Post Modern Jazz Quartet: Blink of an Eye (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Isotope 217: Who Stole The I Walkman (Thrill Jockey CD)
* Funkadelic: Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow (Westbound—UK CD)
* Grateful Dead: The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA 8-30-80 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Formerly the Warlocks (Hampton, VA October 1989) (d.5) (GDP/Rhino 6CD) †/‡
* Big Star: Keep An Eye On the Sky (d.3) (Ardent/Rhino 4CD) †/‡
* Robert Fripp: Exposure (Deluxe Edition) (d.1) (DGM 2CD)
* Cocteau Twins: Lullabies to Violaine (d.3-4) (4AD 4CD)†/‡
* Robert Pollard: Moses On A Snail (GBV, Inc. CD)†/‡

†/‡=iPod in car


One thing that is striking about the contemporary Downtown New York avant-jazz scene is the prominence of women, as both instrumentalists and composers/bandleaders. While female instrumentalists have reached near-parity in the classical music world by now, jazz has remained something of a boy’s club. Sure, women are allowed to sing, like Billie Holiday, or Ella Fitzgerald, or Diana Krall (just like sopranos and altos were always necessary in classical music) but women have, historically, not been encouraged to play an instrument. Yes, I know there were notable exceptions to this (e.g. Alice Coltrane, Carla Bley, Emily Remler, Joanne Brackeen, et al.), but let’s face it, these exceptions prove the rule. And the truth is: women composers continue to be marginalized in “classical” music institutions as well—just look at the programming of any symphony orchestra/chamber ensemble. But in the utopian world of Downtown New York, women and men are seemingly on an equal footing, cooperatively creating music that feels altogether current and thoroughly exciting—while also offering a fresh take on a long but neglected and abused tradition: “jazz.”

The acclaimed German saxophonist, Ingrid Laubrock, relocated from London to New York a couple years ago and has since joined forces with guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist John Hébert, drummer Tom Rainey and (sometimes) Kris Davis to form a band called “Anti-House.” Their self-titled debut on Intakt is a sprawling, magnum opus, showcasing not only superlative musicianship, but Laubrock’s uniquely eclectic compositional vision. For example, on the very first track, “Slowfish Glowfish,” the music alternates between slow, tender lacework and full-throttle prog-punk-rock and, after a blurry solo from Laubrock, it doesn’t so much come to a conclusion as stop in the middle of a thought. Thanks to an intricate arrangement and the players’ impassioned discipline, these disparate elements cohere into enigmatically powerful music. Each of Laubrock’s compositions on this disc is similarly complex and equally compelling: “Quick Draw” and “Anti-House” draw upon freebop’s melodic drive, but with multisectional scoring and careful orchestration, while “Tex & Clementine,” and “Tom Can’t Sleep” are ballad forms but with peculiarly fractured rhythms and pan-tonal harmonic schemes; “Big Crunch” and “Betterboon” are something else altogether, a kind of modernist chamber music that could only come out of the jazz tradition but which sounds totally up to the minute. Interspersed are four very short group improvisations, ranging from quiet spaciness (“Is Life Anything Like This”) to raucous skronk (“Big Bang”). The album concludes with two epic constructions: “Oh Yes” begins as a lament and ends in contrapuntal triumph while “Mona Lisa Trampoline” dares to incorporate long stretches of silence into its dreamlike unfolding. I can’t say I’ve ever heard music quite like this before and, at over seventy-two minutes, there is a lot here to absorb. This CD has stood up well to repeated listening over the past couple weeks, each time revealing more of its mysteries. Anti-House is definitely one of the most interesting records I’ve heard this year and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

So is music by women different from music by men? In terms of ability, sheer technique, obviously not. Nor in the level of emotional intensity or artistic ambition—one listen to this record should disabuse you of that notion. But boys and girls are obviously, um, different. And in creative music like jazz, different perspectives are the lifeblood of the genre, its whole reason for being: immediate personal expression. In that sense, women like Ingrid Laubrock and Mary Halvorson and Kris Davis (and many others) are necessarily bringing a new and different take on what has historically been a male-dominated music. I hesitate to put into words what that difference sounds like, but the music these women create seems to be more concerned with a holistic group conception than in demonstrations of instrumental prowess—despite their own obvious virtuosity. This is a refreshing change from the ego-driven “cutting contests” of jazz lore and signals the way forward for the tradition. I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

1 comment:

Sam said...

I'm so out of it! I can't keep up with all these folks. Sounds intriguing, though!

Here's my list for last week:

Playlist 2010-11-08

*Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music vol. 2: Second a-chronology 1936-2003, disc 1
*Muhal Richard Abrams/George Lewis/Roscoe Mitchell: 2008-08-17 Antwerp, Belgium (CDR)
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: Art Ensemble of Chicago With Fontella Bass
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: Phase One
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live at Mandell Hall
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: Bap-Tizum
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: Fanfare for the Warriors
*Tadd Dameron's Big Ten: Dial "D & T" for "Dameron & Trumpets" 1949/1953 (CDR)
*Miles Davis Quintet: 1967-11-06 Paris (CDR)
*Mary Halvorson: 2009-02-13 Roulette, NYC (CDR)
*Mary Halvorson: 2009-03-21 Abrons Art Center, NYC (CDR)
*Roscoe Mitchell Sextet: Sound (side 1)
*New Loft: 2010-09-15: "Offload" (wav)
*Howard Riley-Tony Oxley Orchestra: 1970-01-23 Hamburg (CDR)
*Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life
*Allman Brothers: Eat a Peach
*Beatles: Unsurpassed Broadcasts, 2nd ed. (CDR) Vol. 6, 7
*De La Soul: The Grind Date
*Frosted Ambassador: Frosted Ambassador
*Grateful Dead: 1972-05-23 London (CDR) "Dark Star"
*Grateful Dead: 1972-05-25 London (CDR) "Dark Star"
*Grateful Dead: 1972-05-26 London (CDR) selections
*Grateful Dead: 1972-08-27 Veneta, OR (CDR) "Dark Star > El Paso"
*Instruments: Dark Smaland
*Music Tapes: 1st Imaginary Symphony for Nomad
*Olivia Tremor Control: Music From the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle
*Olivia Tremor Control: Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One
*Pipes You See, Pipes You Don't: Individualized Shirts
*Neil Young: Road Rock, Vol. 1: Friends & Relatives

Reading log 2010-11-08

*Gaiman, Neil, et al. The Absolute Sandman, vol. 3 (started)
*Gaiman, Neil, et al. The Absolute Sandman, vol. 2 (finished)
*Moore, Steven. The Novel: An Alternative History: Beginnings to 1600 (in progress)
*National Lampoon Presents True Facts: The Book (in progress)
*Sterne, Laurence. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Florida Ed.) (reread/in progress)