November 24, 2013

Playlist Week of 2013-11-23

Taylor Ho Bynum - Navigation

* Hesperion XXI (Savall): Spirit Of Armenia (Alia Vox SACD)
* Andrew Hill: Change (Blue Note CD)
* Charlie Haden/Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti: Magico (ECM LP)
* Dave Holland: Prism (Dare2 CD)
* Dave Liebman: Lookout Farm (ECM LP)
* Keith Jarrett: The Survivor’s Suite (ECM LP)
* Keith Jarrett: Into The Light (ECM 2LP)
* Keith Jarrett/Jan Garbarek: Luminescence (ECM LP)
* Jan Garbarek/Kjell Johnsen: Aftenland (ECM LP)
* Jan Garbarek: Places (ECM LP)
* Jan Garbarek Group: Photo With… (ECM LP)
* Art Lande/Jan Garbarek: Red Lanta (ECM LP)
* Ralph Towner: Solstice (ECM LP)
* Egberto Gismonti / Nana Vasconcelos: Duas Vozes (ECM LP)
* Eberhard Weber: The Following Morning (ECM LP)
* Enrico Rava Quartet: Enrico Rava Quartet (ECM LP)
* Terje Rypdal: Odyssey In Studio & In Concert (ECM 3CD)
* Shankar: Vision (ECM LP)
* Manfred Schoof Quintet: Scales (ECM LP)
* Richard Beirach: Elm (ECM LP)
* Weather Report: Procession (Columbia LP)
* Weather Report: Domino Theory (Columbia LP)
* Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12 CD)
* Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: Navigation (Possibility Abstracts X & XI) (Firehouse 12 2LP/MP3)(†)
* Taylor Ho Bynum 7-tette: Navigation (Possibility Abstracts XII & XIII) (Firehouse 12 2CD)(†)
* Book Of Three (T.H. Bynum/J. Hebert/G. Cleaver): Continuum 2012 (Relative Pitch)
* Tom Rainey Trio: Cornelia St. Café, Brooklyn, NY 2012-12-30 (AUD WAV)
* Tom Rainey Trio: Cornelia St. Café, Brooklyn, NY 2013-10-19 (AUD WAV)
* Dawn of Midi: First (Accretions CD)†
* Dawn of Midi: Live (Dawn Of Midi/iTunes MP3)†
* I Am The Center: Private Press New Age Music in America, 1950-1990 (d.1) (Light in the Attic 3LP)
* Frank Ocean: Channel Orange (Island/Def Jam CD)†/‡
* Shelby Lynne: Just A Little Lovin’ (Lost Highway LP/CD)(†/‡)
* Edgar Froese: Macula Transfer (Brain LP)
* Daryl Hall & John Oates: Do What You Want, Be What You Are (RCA/Legacy 4CD)
* Jansen/Barbieri: Worlds In A Small Room (Pan East LP)
* Earth: Earth 2: Low Frequency Version (Sub Pop 2LP)
* Earth: Phase 3: Thrones And Dominions (Sub Pop 2LP)
* Boards Of Canada: Twoism (Warp EP)
* Boards Of Canada: In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country (Warp EP)
* Boards Of Canada: Trans Canada Highway (Warp EP)
* Sunn O))): Black One (Southern Lord 2LP)
* Zombi: Escape Velocity (Relapse LP)
* Lumbar: The First & Last Days of Unwelcome (Southern Lord LP)
* Wild Nothing: Nocturne (Temporary Residence CD) †
* Wild Nothing: Empty Estates (Temporary Residence CDEP)†
* Chris Forsyth: Solar Motel (Paradise of Bachelors LP)



In his liner notes to his new release on the  Firehouse 12 label, Taylor Ho Bynum repeats a common criticism of recorded music – and in particular, improvisatory music—lamenting “the inherent contradiction of creating a permanent document of an ephemeral moment.” Indeed, the transformation of a spontaneous and unique moment in time into something fixed and commoditized is a troubling aspect of modern musical aesthetics, leading some artists disdain recordings altogether as, at best, a necessary evil. Bynum addresses the issue head on with Navigation, an ambitious four-album set released last week on multiple formats, with different performances of the same composition recorded both live and in the studio. By presenting four iterations of the extended, multi-segment work, the listener is invited to “consider the composition as a set of possibilities” (hence the subtitle, Possibility Abstracts X, XI, XII & XIII) and “to enjoy the mutable nature of the music in multiple realizations rather than focusing on one particular performance.”

Fortunately, the composition (and performances thereof) warrants such in-depth scrutiny. Navigation is a fittingly descriptive title, as the ensemble "navigates" its way through its six interchangeable movements: “ISH,” “WUK,” “ZADE,” “TRIST,” “MANCH” and “KID.” While the musical materials within each movement are pre-composed (to one degree or another), the order of performance and resulting structure is modular and improvisational, left to the ensemble to decide in real-time. As Bynum points out in his notes, “this only works with artists of exceptional creativity and musicianship” and his Sextet, with Bynum on cornet, Jim Hobbs on alto saxophone, Bill Lowe on bass trombone and tuba, Mary Halvorson on electric guitar, Ken Filiano on acoustic bass and Tomas Fujiwara on drums and vibraphone, is made up of some of the most interesting jazz musicians in New York. Their commitment and boundless inventiveness makes the four performances uniquely satisfying, each illuminating a different aspect or variegated approach to the material.

The complete Navigation consists of two different releases on two different formats: Possibility Abstracts X & XI is available only as a limited edition two-LP vinyl edition and was recorded live on December 7, 2012 while Possibility Abstracts XII & XIII was recorded in the studio on the following day and is available only on a two-CD set. Either way, a download coupon is included for the entire four-volume set, which is a nice touch (not everyone has a turntable these days—though they should!). Interestingly, none of the performances include all six movements and some of them are repeated, an indication of just how mutable these Navigations can be. And while you could say the live performances have the edge in terms of energy and intensity, the studio recordings (which add second percussionist Chad Taylor) sound more cerebral yet more vividly realized in a way, as if the performers had by then become so fully comfortable with the material they allowed themselves to dig in even deeper. Of course, savoring the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differentiation between various versions is the whole point of this mammoth, four-disc set and amply rewards careful and repeated listening.

The music ranges from the old-timey blues feel of “MANCH” to the spiky pointillism of “ISH”; from the outright rocking riffage of “TRIST” to the linear post-bop of “KID"with plenty of opportunities for exuberantly free, group improvisation and densely textured avant-gardism along the way (“ZADE,” “WUK”). A wide variety of notational strategies are explored, from conventional to graphic to “cartographic,” and while the influence of Anthony Braxton is palpable, Bynum has developed his own organic compositional approach by this point and Navigation is by far his most coherent and fully integrated work to date. But, for me, what is exciting about these recordings is hearing how his Sextet (and 7-tette) has come together as a working band. There are moments on here that remind me of nothing more than the Grateful Dead at their most intuitive, as melodic fragments and rhythmic motifs are tossed around during the elongated transitions, gradually coalescing into the movement’s notated arrangements. This is the sound of a real group-mind thinking its way through music in way that only a well-seasoned band is capable of. The penurious economics of jazz usually dictate ad hoc groupings and a lack of rehearsal so it is really a treat to hear how this group has developed into a supple and adventuresome ensemble—a real band.

With Navigation, Bynum has created his first magnum opus, a large-scale masterpiece that demands your attention and thoughtful response. While any one of these performances would have sufficed to cement Bynum's reputation as both a player and composer, having four—in two different formats—offers the listener an opportunity to experience the multitude of possibilities inherent in this (and any) recording. Rather than presenting the work as fixed in time, self-contained and permanent, Navigation documents the evanescent yet transformative power of improvisational music.  Not just highly recommended—Navigation is essential listening for anyone interested in state-of-the-art musical expression.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Thanks for the detailed review of this brilliant work!

Here are my lists from last week:

Playlist 2013-11-25:

*Bach: Goldberg Variations (Glenn Gould, 1955)
*Chilingirian String Quartet: Ravel String Quartet in F Major/Debussy String Quartet in G Minor
*Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3 (Vladimir Ashenazy/London Symphony Orchestra, Previn, cond.)
*Rashied Ali/Charles Gayle/Sirone: 2008-03-08 Burghausen, Germany (CDR)
*AMM: 2001-04-15 Chicago (CDR)
*Daniel Barbiero/Steve Hilmy: Take a Sound
*Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet & 7-tette: Navigation (The Complete Firehouse 12 Recordings)
*Miles Davis: The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 (discs 4-7)
*Mahavishnu Orchestra: Between Nothingness & Eternity
*Tom Rainey Trio: 2013-10-19 Brooklyn NY (CDR)
*Wayne Shorter: Native Dancer
*Stark Reality: Acting, Thinking, Feeling (disc 1)
*Sun Ra & His Solar-Myth Arkestra: The Solar-Myth Approach (Vol. 1)
*Acid Mothers Temple: Born To Be Wild in the USA 2000
*Lily Allen: It’s Not Me, It’s You
*Michael Bass: Parchesi Pie
*Cognition: The Road (side 1)
*Dark Carpet: Dark Carpet (Bandcamp)
*Dr. Dog: B-Room
*Bob Dylan/Grateful Dead: Dylan & the Dead
*Mike Elder/Harry Forrest/Sam Byrd: 2013-11-15 (wav)
*Faust: Faust IV (disc 1)
*Flaming Lips: The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends
*Grateful Dead: Sunshine Daydream (selections)
*Grateful Dead: 1989-10-26 Miami (CDR) “Dark Star”
*Jimi Hendrix: Lifelines: The Jimi Hendrix Story (selections)
*Pere Ubu: Lady from Shanghai
*Various artists: Mojo Presents: We’re with the Beatles
*Various artists: Pomegranates: Persian Pop, Funk, Folk, and Psych of the 60s and 70s
*Various artists: That Devilin' Tune (Vol. 2, disc 6)

Reading List 2013-11-25:

*Eggers, Dave. The Circle (started/finished)
*Hyde, Lewis. Common as Air (in progress)
*Moore, Steven. The Novel: An Alternative History, 1600-1800 (in progress)
*Weldon, Michael J. Psychotronic Video Guide (in progress)