February 28, 2015

Playlist Week of 2015-02-28

* J.S. Bach: Motets (Collegium Vocale Gent/Herreweghe) (PHI CD)
* Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht, Op.4, etc. (Chicago/Barenboim) (Teldec CD)
* Messiaen: Éclairs sur l’Au-Delà (Orchestre de l’Opera Bastille/Chung) (DG CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993 (Hat ART 2CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Quartet/Quintet (NYC) 2011 (New Braxton House FLAC>CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Trio (New Haven) 2013 (New Braxton House 4CD)
* Anthony Braxton Falling River Music Trio: University of Alabama 2015-02-23 (AUD WAV)
* Robin Kenyatta: Girl From Martinique (ECM LP)
* Jemeel Moondoc & Connie Crothers: Two (Relative Pitch CD)
* Andrew Raffo Dewar: Interactions Quartet (Rastascan CD)
* Lou Donaldson: A Different Scene (Cotillion LP)
* Donald Byrd: Black Byrd (Blue Note LP)
* Ofra Haza: Shaday (Sire LP)
* D’Angelo & The Vanguard: Black Messiah (RCA CD) †/‡
* Mandrill: Mandrill Is (Polydor LP)
* Grateful Dead: The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA 1980-08-30 (selections) (SBD FLAC)
* Grateful Dead: Civic Center, Hartford, CT 1981-03-14 (selections) (AUD 3CDR)
* The Pentangle: Basket Of Light (Reprise LP)
* Matching Mole: Matching Mole’s Little Red Record (Columbia LP)
* Tangerine Dream: Atem (Relativity LP)
* Art Bears: Hopes And Fears (Re LP)
* Art Bears: Winter Songs (Re/Ralph LP)
* Fred Frith: Speechless (Ralph LP)
* Chris Cutler/Lindsay Cooper/Dagmar Krause/Zeena Parkins: News From Babel (Re 45-RPM LP)
* New Order: Power, Corruption & Lies (Factory/Rhino 2CD)
* Porcupine Tree: Lightbulb Sun (KScope CD/DVD)
* Mastodon: Crack The Skye (Reprise 2-45RPM LP) †/‡
* Torche: Restarter (Relapse LP)
* Pelican: The Cliff (Southern Lord 12”)
* Pallbearer: Sorrow And Extinction (Profound Lore CD) †/‡



I caught a break in the weather and drove down on Monday to catch the Anthony Braxton Falling River Trio at the University of Alabama Gallery at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in downtown Tuscaloosa—and it would actually turn out to be final concert of the weeklong residency.

Unlike the spacious Bama Theater or the University’s Moody Music Hall (the other venues where Braxton appeared), the performance space was quite intimate. Braxton’s Falling River Music scores were hanging on the walls along with artworks and installations created by students, which were, in turn, inspired by Braxton’s presence on campus. In other words, it was the perfect setting for the music. By the time they started, the place was packed—standing room only!

It was enthralling watching the musicians navigate their way through Braxton’s wildly variegated notational strategies, communicating their intentions to each other via furtive glances and cryptic sign languages. Having never seen him perform before, I was impressed not only with Braxton’s instrumental virtuosity (with which I was already familiar) but also with his gentle yet utterly commanding stage presence. This is his music and he is in total control—yet his innate generosity allows his collaborators ample freedom to express themselves fully—more fully, perhaps, than most so-called “free jazz” allows.

Taylor Ho Bynum (whose Sextet I got to see in New York way back in 2007) is nominally a cornetist, but deploys an array of brass instruments—including trombone—combined with all kinds of mutes (both conventional and unconventional) to exploit a wide range of timbres. Like Braxton, Bynum utilizes multi-instrumentalism to further expand the available range of expression, all of which was on display on Monday.

Kyoko Kitamura, whose astonishing vocal acrobatics were delivered with an almost unsettling calm, particularly blew me away. I’ll be honest: I have a hard time with vocals in a non-pop/rock setting and operatic warbling and swingy scat singing generally leaves me cold, no matter how much I might respect the technical abilities required. Kitamura, however, was completely riveting—and sometimes very funny, bringing out the humor and good-natured fun at the core of Braxton’s music. I have disparaged Braxton’s obsession with opera in the past (displaying my own biases in the process, of course), but I might just have to reconsider my stance after hearing Ms. Kitamura bring bits of the libretto to such vivid life.

Ingrid Laubrock was in the audience and it was great to chat with her. She was also nice enough to personally introduce me to Mr. Braxton. I was at first quite star-struck being in his presence but he was so kind and gracious, I was immediately put at ease. He seemed genuinely interested in the copy of Cosmologies I gave him and even made polite noises about making music together one day. Ha! Wouldn’t that be amazing? Mostly we talked about Don Elliott, who, I told him, gave me my first Anthony Braxton record back when I was a teenager. Of course, Braxton knew who Don was and told me he’d always wondered what happened to him. “Oh, Ingrid,” he said. “He had such a lovely tone.”

After about ten minutes, he deftly turned his attention to another fan who was patiently standing by—and Braxton devoted the same affectionate attention to him and everyone else who bothered to say hello. His generous spirit and boundless love of music was truly inspiring to behold and a memory I will forever cherish.

Tuesday started off sunny and nice but by the afternoon the Governor of Alabama had declared a state of emergency, with five-to-eight inches of snow expected through Wednesday night. Having been stranded once already this winter, I high-tailed it back to Nashville only to awake to a couple of inches of the dreaded white stuff. And, as it turned out, the concert was cancelled so it was a wise move either way. Nevertheless, I really resent Old Man Winter interfering with my planned weeklong Braxfest (not to mention the fact that almost every musician travelling for it was horribly inconvenienced by the storms, including some no-shows). Guess I should grateful what I was able to do—because it was extraordinary.


I also made a VC video about my trip—and the surprisingly top-shelf records I found while digging around in Alabama:

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