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NYTimes.com Article: 22 One-Man Bands, Along With a Conductor

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  • f.fuchs@gmx.net
    The article below from NYTimes.com has been sent to you by f.fuchs@gmx.net. /--------- E-mail Sponsored by Fox Searchlight ------------ GARDEN STATE: NOW
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 14, 2004
      The article below from NYTimes.com
      has been sent to you by f.fuchs@....

      /--------- E-mail Sponsored by Fox Searchlight ------------\


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      22 One-Man Bands, Along With a Conductor

      August 7, 2004

      Twenty-two trumpeters arranged themselves on the small
      stage at Tonic on Wednesday, and that began the Festival of
      New Trumpet Music.

      Trumpeters are often the egotists of the bandstand, but for
      most of the set they followed orders meted out by Butch
      Morris, who conducted with baton and hand gestures. To top
      that, they followed by playing a free piece among
      themselves, with no one to police them.

      The trumpeters Dave Douglas, Roy Campbell Jr. and Jon
      Nelson organized the festival, a monthlong series of
      concerts at four different places in Manhattan.

      This is the festival's second year, and Mr. Nelson is new
      to it and has widened the circle by adding classical
      players to a festival more centered around jazz and the
      jazz-related avant-garde.

      The musicians on Wednesday included the three festival
      organizers, some jazz veterans (John McNeil and Ted
      Daniel), and some players who have appeared only in the
      last few years (including Jonathan Finlayson and Matt
      Lavelle). Mr. Morris conducts improvisers - often without
      scores, which was how he did it at Tonic, in Conduction No.

      What is the experience of hearing Butch Morris conduct 22
      trumpeters? Most of all like hearing nature: birds in the
      trees, crickets in a field, frogs on a lake, tidewater on a
      calm shore, in the strangely orchestrated ways that those
      elements sound.

      With downstrokes pointed in particular directions, Mr.
      Morris forcefully indicated how the notes should fall and
      from which players. With other gestures he brought forth
      ripples and squiggles and panning effects, leading the
      players gradually into ferment. Swiftly, he directed one
      trumpeter to repeat a low-range gesture that he had just
      played and built it up into a two-beat rhythm across the
      stage; the oomph-oomph figure became a new bed for a series
      of plangent melodic improvisations.

      There was humor and a kind of narrative in opposites:
      stopping against starting; low notes against high, riffs
      against melodic form and bebop rhythm against pure smeared
      texture. These little cycles of opposition would start up,
      charm you, then change without warning.

      Mr. Morris kept asserting the upper hand, growing more
      emphatic when the players didn't catch his signals fast
      enough. It's a control game, but it serves the listener.
      Mr. Morris edits the music on the fly, and makes the music
      cogent, generally ending pieces before you expect him to.

      In the free-form, conductor-less piece, various musicians
      popped up at regular intervals as correctives. Every time
      the collective imagination became soupy, someone came along
      to push it back toward structure: Steve Bernstein focused
      it with a riff, Mr. McNeil inaugurated a duet, Mr. Lavelle
      hammered out expressive, major-triad, folklike patterns,
      Mr. Douglas ripped through blues and bop lines.

      The festival (information at <a
      target=_blank">www.fontmusic.org) will present 37 more
      events traversing mainstream jazz to Stephen Barber to
      klezmer to experimental post-classical music. It ends on
      Aug. 31 with a performance by Bill Dixon.



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    • Franz Fuchs
      1.) A short one in The Guardian: Anthony Braxton, 23 Standards (Quartet) (Leo Records) John Fordham Friday August 6, 2004 The Guardian Anthony Braxton,
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 22, 2004
        1.) A short one in The Guardian:

        Anthony Braxton, 23 Standards (Quartet)
        (Leo Records)

        John Fordham
        Friday August 6, 2004
        The Guardian

        Anthony Braxton, the fearless reeds multi-instrumentalist, is a
        contemporary improviser for whom no received wisdom about playing
        technique or style holds any sway. Yet, unlike European free-improv
        specialists like Evan Parker or Derek Bailey, Braxton has revisited the
        jazz past many times in his long career, beginning with the wonderful
        Tradition albums in the early 1970s. This four-CD set is a limited
        edition of 1,000 copies, recorded at a variety of locations during 2003,
        and the repertoire mixes Broadway songs with compositions by Coltrane,
        Dave Brubeck, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson and others.
        Braxton sometimes plays within the harmony or close to the melody and
        original shape, but the usually sultry Black Orpheus is delivered as if
        Braxton's soprano were an out-of-tune violin, and Desafinado as a
        textural exploration of suckings, crackles and barking effects from
        guitarist Kevin O'Neill. Some celebrated themes, like Joe Henderson's
        Recorda Me, Braxton elects to play at the highest altitude he can reach,
        so the usual sensuous bossa murmur becomes an eerie, hesitant sound,
        like a nervous child trying to come downstairs in the dark. But the
        biggest star on this set is the whole quartet. Bassist Andy Eulau and
        drummer Kevin Norton are as creative within the rules of time and
        chord-changes as outside them and guitarist Kevin O'Neill is brilliant
        all through.



        2.) Dan Warburton at "Bagatellen" is more critical. See also the
        comments at the site regarding Dan's argument that the 4CD box should
        have been trimmed to 2CDs. A reader writes that he "personnally
        regret[s]...that this four CD box didn't turn, in fact, to be a FIVE CD



        Anthony Braxton - 23 STANDARDS (QUARTET) 2003
        Anthony Braxton
        23 STANDARDS (Quartet) 2003

        Leo CD LR 402-405 4CD

        Even those with just a passing acquaintance with Anthony Braxton's
        voluminous discography can't have failed to notice his recurring need to
        square up to The Tradition by covering probably not a word he would
        approve of material from the whole accelerated history of jazz from Fats
        Waller to Dave Brubeck, Antonio Carlos Jobim to Sam Rivers. This quartet
        alone, which features Braxton on (alto, soprano and sopranino?)
        saxophones with guitarist Kevin O'Neil, bassist Andy Eulau, and Kevin
        Norton on drums, has already recorded three albums of "standards": Ten
        Compositions (Quartet) 2000, Nine Compositions (Hill) 2000 (both for
        CIMP and largely devoted to the music of Andrew Hill) and the more
        wide-ranging 8 Standards (Wesleyan) 2001 on Barking Hoop. 23 Standards
        (Quartet) 2003 features material recorded on tour in Europe that year,
        from concerts in Antwerp on February 19th, Brussels (three days later),
        Amsterdam's BIMhuis (November 15th), Verona (November 17th), Rome
        (18th), Lisbon (19th) and Guimaraes (in Northern Portugal, 20th). Quite
        a punishing touring schedule by anyone's standards that the music
        recorded should be, for the most part, of such high quality is quite an
        achievement. The 23 standards include, in addition to much loved
        chestnuts as "After You've Gone", "Crazy Rhythm" and "I Can't Get
        Started", three Coltrane compositions ("26-1", "Countdown" and "Giant
        Steps", two Monks ("Off Minor" and what is billed rather sloppily as
        "Round Midnite"), two Dave Brubecks ('It's A Raggy Waltz" and "Three To
        Get Ready"), a handful of 1960s Blue Note classics (Herbie Hancock's
        "Dolphin Dance", Sam Rivers' "Beatrice", Wayne Shorter's "Ju-Ju" and Joe
        Henderson's "Recorda Me", and continuing the bossa nova theme, Jobim's
        "Desafinado" and Luiz (misspelled here) Bonfa's "Manha de Carnival"
        (here billed as "Black Orpheus").

        In his extensive and well-researched liner notes, Stuart Broomer writes:
        "The difference between a Braxton performance of a canonical work and
        the performance by any of the current neo-traditionalists is that the
        work (its meaning, its messages) is again indeterminate, again liable to
        new mutations. It is in the imagination of this larger collectivity that
        the tradition comes alive, and with it the possibilities of risk and
        meaning." Hmm while this undoubtedly applies to the more off-the-wall
        Braxton covers outings such as the Charlie Parker Project (1993, hatART,
        featuring the benign anarchy of Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink), or
        the Knitting Factory (Piano / Quartet) 1994 discs on Leo, it's hard to
        see what Broomer is referring to here, other than Braxton's own soloing,
        since Eulau, Norton and O'Neil certainly play things straight throughout
        one could easily imagine grafting a straight hard-bop solo by Benny
        Golson or Warne Marsh over their three-man rhythm section and it would
        sound just fine (not only are the musicians' contributions respectfully
        traditional, but the tracks follow the time-honoured head solos head
        structure, and several even trade fours with the drummer from time to
        time hardly iconoclastic stuff..). Broomer's not wide of the mark though
        when he describes O'Neil as "the most remarkable musician to emerge on
        guitar (that most marketable of instruments) in a decade, and (at 35) as
        gifted as any musician of his generation," but after over four and a
        half hours of his playing, even O'Neil's moves, impressive though they
        are, do become a little predictable. Bassist Eulau sticks resolutely to
        the changes throughout no flights of fancy à la Dave Holland, Joe Fonda
        or Matt Sperry here and Norton gives no indication whatsoever of the
        wildly inventive free playing that characterizes his other outings with
        or without Braxton. The furthest "out" he gets is a bit of tinkling on
        an adjacent glockenspiel.

        Braxton's soloing itself is certainly unpredictable, and at times
        inspired as you might expect, there are numerous highlights, but his
        readings of Coltrane are particularly impressive but I'm not sure it
        lives up to Broomer's hype. The nagging question that remains after
        listening to all this is why the saxophonist insisted on releasing a 4CD
        box. OK, so it's a limited edition of 1000, and there are surely at
        least that many hardcore Braxton fans out there to shift Leo Feigin's
        units (at least I fervently hope so: this is after all the 23rd Braxton
        release on Leo, including eleven double albums), but someone along the
        line should have raised some serious questions about actual musical
        quality. Brubeck's "It's A Raggy Waltz" should have been binned
        outright: quite apart from Braxton's squeaky sopranino having difficulty
        getting round the theme itself, O'Neil gets lost in the middle eight and
        Norton's heavy-handed hemiolas sound positively amateurish – in all
        honesty, if you were majoring in jazz and turned this in, you wouldn't
        graduate. I imagine the only reason the track wasn't rejected was that
        it contains O'Neil's wildest and most Sharrock-like guitar playing.
        Another question mark hangs over the brutal fade that ends "26-1" on
        Disc One, right in the middle (it seems) of Norton's drum solo. Who
        pulled down the faders, and why? And why keep the rest of the track
        then, since there are plenty of equally impressive Braxton and O'Neil
        solos elsewhere in the set? It might seem mean-spirited to draw
        attention to such odd glitches and bloopers, especially when there are
        so many extraordinary moments on offer (my own favourite tracks are the
        readings of "I Can't Get Started" and Sam Rivers' exquisite "Beatrice"),
        but I can't help thinking that in choosing to release 23 tracks instead
        of settling for half as many, Anthony Braxton has missed out on the
        chance of releasing one of this year's most spectacular double CDs.

        ~ Dan Warburton

        Franz Fuchs
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