Wednesday, July 30, 2014

a couple of discs from the nyc trip

Last week I was in New York City and, as I usually try to do, I stopped by the Jazz Record Center and Downtown Music Gallery - I managed to behave, limiting myself to one album from each store. All jazz fans who make it to NYC need add these two stores to their schedules.

The Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4: New York Concerts (Elemental Records)
The two concerts were recorded during 1965 for broadcast of on WKCR-FM, the tapes recently came to light and were released earlier this year filling a spot in the decade-long gap in Giuffre's discography following the release of Free Fall.
The first disc features the trio of Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet & tenor sax) Richard Davis (bass) and Joe Chambers (drums) and opens with Giuffre on Tenor sax. The tone is robust and not what many would associate with Giuffre if they have only heard the airy whispers his earlier work (although there are recordings from 1952 with Howard Rumsey where he honks, growls and wails).

Fans of Ornette Coleman will be interested to hear the trio's sparse and slower take on Coleman's "Crossroads" with Giuffre on clarinet.

It's great hearing Giuffre playing this music with drums. Chambers fits in well and uses space nicely, mixing up broken time, color/texture playing and time. Check out drive "Drive" where his playing flows between approaches very smoothly. Davis sounds great here too (duo spots with Giuffre and solo playing) - the excellent recording quality is a bonus too. It's an interesting piece that mixes up fairly introspective sections with more full throttle playing. At 11 minutes it's the longest track on the disc and the trio keep it interesting throughout.

The last two pieces - "Quadrangles" and "Angles" - contrast one another. The former being a quieter piece with Giuffre on clarinet, the later a kicking off with some powerful tenor playing moving into a section with Giuffre playing high, single note attacks before taking the tune out.

The second disc is from a concert from earlier in 1965 featuring the quartet of Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet & tenor sax) Don Friedman (piano) Barre Phillips (bass) and Joe Chambers (drums). The two concerts have four tunes in common and a more listenings will be required before I draw to many comparisons. On the surface the obvious change is the fuller sound of the ensemble due to the addition of piano. Even so, the change is not as dramatic as I expected. There is still plenty of space and density/texture seems to be a detail Giuffre paid plenty of attention to. On many occasions only two or three of the quartet are playing. When all four are present often a couple of them are keeping their roles to interjections and responses. Players entering and dropping out (seemingly at will) caught my ear and I found it compelling listening.

The recording quality is very nice and it's a nice package too - 27 pages of photographs and notes from Zev Feldman (Producer) Philippe Carles (author) Bob Blumenthal (critic) George Klabin (Recording engineer) Juanita Giuffre (Jimmy's Wife) Paul Bley (an except from his book Stopping Time) Jim Hall and Steve Swallow. A must for fans of Giuffre. I've added this to the my "best of 2014" list.

John Zorn Stephen Gosling
Stephen Gosling Trio: John Zorn's In The Hall Of Mirrors (Tzadik)
I recently heard Gosling playing "Illuminations" on Zorn's Rimbaud and a quick search brought up this recently released album (recorded in February, 2014). For this album (like on "Illuminations"), Stephen Gosling performs works by composed by John Zorn (yes, the piano pieces are 100% notated) with improvised accompaniment from Greg Cohen (bass) Tyshawn Sorey (drums)

I'm curios about the preparation of the rhythm section. Did they have scores or had they heard the pieces before the recording? If the answer is no, then their playing is all the more remarkable. There is a high level of communication between the bass and drums as a pair and in combination with the piano.

The six compositions span from 2010 - 2014 and there is plenty of variety - from the mellow opening "Epode" to the rumbling intensity of "Maldoror" and power of "Illuminations" to the balladry of "In Lovely Blueness" to the minimal and abstract "Nightwood."

A small complaint - I understand the visual confusion of being in a hall of mirrors but did that require them to make the liner notes so difficult to read?

It's a recording that blurs the lines…. classical…. jazz ….. third stream….. other? Worth while checking out for those interesting in piano trios, new music or something a bit different. A fantastic candidate for a blindfold test!

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