Friday, 26 August 2016

Tomasz Stańko - Bluish (1991)

Triptykon made me dig this out - primarily to listen to more Arild Andersen in a trio format, where he turns in another rock solid performance, this time underpinning Tomasz Stańko.  The trumpeter was just emerging from an incredibly strange fusion era in the 80s (someday I'll post Freelectronic In Montreux, it's hilarious) and got right back to basics with this sublime trio recording.  Well, there's just three instruments credited; not sure what's going on in the two takes of Andersen's composition If You Look Enough, whether it's a vestigial synth or just delay effects on the bass or suchlike.

Bluish, "named after the place in your brain that is responsible for your addictions" (Stańko, in a 2010 autobiography) would've been a perfect ECM release - drummer Jon Christensen rounds out the trio.  In 1991 however, Stańko was still three years away from long-term commitment to the Eicher stable, so Bluish came out on a Polish label; luckily, it's still fairly easy to get hold of on CD.

Stańko would eventually hit ECM on an deeply melancholy, grey-streaked note that saturated his work for the rest of the 90s.  On Bluish, there's only hints toward this, notably on Third Heavy Ballad.  For the most part, this a light, airy album that swings, takes odd little diversions that could only be Stańko (notwithstanding the Andersen-composed bookends), and generally revels in its tight-but-loose atmosphere of mature free jazz at its most understated and effective.

Kind Of Bluish

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Jan Garbarek w. Arild Andersen & Edward Vesala - Triptykon (1972)

This is probably my favourite Jan Garbarek album.  His playing style was becoming more distinctive with each release, coming well and truly out of the shadow of Albert Ayler, and he was still a couple of years away from starting to become Jan Garbarek™, ECM ice king extraordinnaire.  That said, there's already evidence of him starting to mellow, in the goregous Selje (a fjord region on the west coast of Norway) where he switches to flute, and the understated Sang.  For the vestiges of early, skroning Garbarek at his freest, head straight for the 12-minute title track.

It can't be stressed enough however that this isn't just Garbarek's album - what I love most about Triptykon is that I can sit down for a listen through this album and focus solely on Edward Vesala snaking his way around the kit like no other jazz drummer on earth.  Or indeed, spend the duration listening to Arild Andersen putting in a phenomenal rock-solid performance on bass, taking a great solo on the title track and a memorable switch to the bow in the closing track.  One my favourite expressions of the trio format in jazz, up there with Money Jungle; Triptykon is a true team effort.  Should further evidence be required, just check them out in a rare French TV recording (below).


Previously posted at SGTG: Afric Pepperbird

Monday, 22 August 2016

Eliane Radigue – Triptych (rec. 1978, rel. 2009)

Another archival release on the always interesting Important Records for French composer Eliane Radigue, the second (I was going to say first, but that's really Pauline Oliveros by a few years) lady of extreme minimalist electronics.  The other one I have is Transamorem-Transmortem (1973); following that behemoth of glacial eternal ARP sound, Radigue took a few years out to explore Tibetan Buddhism, which would inform her music and entire life from then on. 

Returning in 1978 to create some music for a choreographed performance (at Robert Ashley's suggestion), Radigue produced the three pieces that were eventually released on this CD.  Triptych is possibly a more accesible entry point to Radigue's unqiue soundworld than Transamorem; each of these pieces has its own distinct character, and each one only lasts between 18 and 24 minutes (practically Ramones-level brevity for this composer). 

The first is an enjoyable sensory cleanse for the ears that whooshes around like a sandstorm or seashore on a distant planet, settling into an almost melodic rise and fall around the halfway point.  The second and longest is an eerie but not unpleasant quivering drone, that in its last five minutes introduces an insistent, rhythmic two-note pattern in the right channel that fades just before the end.  The triptych is completed with 20 minutes of a more rhythmic drone, almost something Tangerine Dream might have built from circa Phaedra, but much rawer and unbothered by effects and production; just pure sound.  I think that nails what I love about Eliane Radigue's music - it's like the clear mountain spring water of electronic sound, I've scarcely if ever heard anything more pure and elemental.


Friday, 19 August 2016

Astrud Gilberto - I Haven't Got Anything Better To Do (1969)

This is the 100th album I've posted, so time for something extra special.  Put up a few Brazilian albums about a month ago, including Jobim's magnificent Wave, one of my top 10 albums of all time - here's something I hold in almost the same esteem.  This album however doesn't have quite as strong a Brazilian stamp on it as the artist's previous releases.  By the time Astrud Gilberto got to this stage in her career, she wanted to expand her horizons beyond bossanova and ended up making this baroque pop/chamber pop masterpiece of lush, dusky melancholy - in Gilberto's words, "my fireplace album".

So why do I love this album so much?  It's just a pure and utter Goldilocks Zone of a singer a few years into her career, coming into a more confident vocal maturity, selecting a perfectly complementary set of songs and having a first-rate arranger on board (Al Gorgoni).  In just 28 minutes, I Haven't Got Anything Better To Do weaves an achingly romantic narrative that hangs together perfectly, sounding like an extended reminisce of a fleeting summer affair now being remembered only through photographs.  Late 60s adult pop perfection par excellence.

Though I'll never feel that way again, I still remember when

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Art Lande - Rubisa Patrol (1976)

Pianist Art Lande has previously featured on these pages in an early 80s trio; this is the first album by his 70s quartet, who would subsequently take their name from this album.  And winding back to '76 with ECM puts us square in the middle of the label's first phenomenal purple patch, when almost every release was an instant and lasting classic.  So prepare for something pretty special as far as 70s jazz goes.

Digging this album out after not having listened to it in quite a while, the first thing that struck me was just how good it sounds.  This is where the renowned 'ECM sound' really started to crystallise, and the recording quality is a joy to behold even before you get started on how good the music is; you'd barely believe it was forty years ago that ECM's Jan Erik Kongshaug rolled the tapes.

Lande is on top form throughout this mostly laid-back programme, but Rubisa Patrol is very much a group effort.  Trumpeter Mark Isham is arguably the star player here, with his mellifilous tone wringing every possible drop of beauty from these melodies (two of them from his own pen).  However, the first sound you hear on the album is a bamboo flute played by bassist/flautist Bill Douglass, who also gets the spotlight (on regular flute) on two takes of Jaimi's Birthday Song.  As mentioned above, this is a wonderfully relaxed record, but the Isham composition For Nancy does pick up the pace a bit for variety, and the minute-long Bulgarian Folk Tune even more so, making for a memorable halfway point on this stunning album.

Rubisa Patrol

Monday, 15 August 2016

Charlemagne Palestine - Schlingen-Blängen (rec. 1988, rel. 1999)

We've had a few minimalist organ works on these pages already, but none so minimal as this single drone, developed by Charlemagne Palestine during the 70s by holding down notes on the organ with pieces of cardboard and then gradually expanding the sound solely through use of the organ stops.  Schlingen Blängen (a meaningless title invented by the composer) could therefore last indefinitely if desired, and was sometimes performed for up to six hours.  This 1988 performance in a village church in Farmsum, Groningen (which had previously played an important role in the development of the piece) is a more manageable 71 minutes in length.

This is a work that rewards concentration for its full duration, to let the initially static-seeming piece reveal all its subtle changes.  Different frequencies are periodically introduced and collide against each other, creating an oscillating feeling of rhythm amidst the giant, unchanging sustained chord.  After ramping this up as far as it can go, the gradually quietening ending is just as stately.


Previously posted at SGTG: Strumming Music

Friday, 12 August 2016

William Basinski - The Disintegration Loops II (2003)

As explained in the previous post, I decided against posting all four volumes of The Disintegration Loops in favour of just my personal favourites.

Volume II contains two substantive loop pieces, both with a distinct character.  Dlp 2.2 (2.1 was a brief taster on Volume I) lets the tape loop, possibly the most aged and decaying of the set, flake away into staccato, echoing nothingness over 32 minutes.  The fact that it's also one of the most musically spartan of the loops puts the emphasis squarely on the effects of the tape disintegration - no bad thing, as it demonstrates the project's raison d'etre more effectively than any other.  By contrast, Dlp 3 has a much more lush, stately and mournful sound, washing over the listener in wave after wave of melancholy, then inevitably losing its identity a little bit at a time.  An achingly beautiful sound-world to get lost in, and my favourite Disintegration Loop after Dlp 6.

Volumes I & III are definitely worth seeking out - I've no plans to post them here, but all four volumes were remastered a couple of years ago; I've read that they all sound great in those new reissues.

The Disintegration Loops II