6 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 7 - April 2016

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circular tweets from

circular tweets from sopranino saxophone, clarinet and flute settle uneasily next to guitar strokes. The concluding Area 12 with its corkscrew reed squeaks and rugged string quivers gives notice that neither improvisational philosophy has bested the other. But the framework for future reciprocal idea exchanges has been set. Three years earlier the protean trio of German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove and Dutch percussionist Han Bennink was constantly touring the continent confirming that a bellicose interpretation of free jazz wasn’t confined to Americans. The CD 1971 (Corbett vs Dempsey CD 020 reissues the band’s justly famous, furiously unyielding set at that year’s New Jazz Meeting, but adds an additional almost 16 minutes of sound recorded four months earlier that demonstrate the hair-trigger-like technical skill that goes into what initially seems like relentless bombast. Like the proverbial tough guy with the gentle interior, Van Hove for one uncovers elegant nearromantic phrasing on Filet Americain, which he expands with harsh clanging, sounding as if he prepared the piano with thumbtacks. Bennink confines himself to clattering reverberations and Brötzmann blows with a burr-like tone. I.C.P. No.17 is more aggressive, with the saxophonist’s subterrestrial exposition echoed by Bennink probably honking through a Tibetan radung or long metal bass horn. Just For Altena the 26-minute final showcase then shows how a palpitating rhythm can be maintained even as the players push techniques past expected instrumental limits. Spelled by the percussionist’s smashing cracks, horn blowing and yells, Brötzmann’s virtually endless honks and glottal punctuation sound as if he’s soon going to be pushing blood out of his horn as well as air. Still he manages to work in quotes from Bavarian marches, polkas, Mexican hat dances and limitless freejazz glossolalia as he plays, often unaccompanied, reaching beyond the highest imaginable altissimo slur. Like a hyperactive canine, Bennink is also in motion, shoving everything from a conga-drum interlude to bass drum resonation to gong and cymbal clashes into his accompaniment as if boiling a potluck stew. Van Hove marathon-runner-like glissandi share space with crackling kinetic expositions that whack the keys and strings as frequently as they play them. Is it any wonder that at this time this trio could challenge any electrified rock band for pure excitement? Another band that could do the same was the Willem Breuker Kollektief (WBK), like Bennink, part of Amsterdam’s fertile improv scene. Mixing anarchistic stunts, parody, constant motion, classic tune recreations plus free-form playing with top-line musicianship, the nine-piece group led by saxophonist/ clarinetist Breucker (1944-2010) was the epitome of post-modernism. Yet unlike more academically oriented Fluxus or Dada experimentalists, the WBK was so entertaining that this two-CD set recorded live in France, Angoulême 18 mai 1980 (Fou Records FR-CD 9&10, ends with the raucous audience demanding three successive encores. A European equivalent of Sun Ra’s Arkestra, but infinitely less serious-minded, here the group mixes the precision of Glenn Miller’s band, the romping swing of Count Basie’s and the humour of Laurel and Hardy. During the concert modern jazz originals, a tango, Kurt Weil’s Song of Mandalay, Les Brown and his band of Renown’s theme song Sentimental Journey and finally the hokey I Believe – to disperse the crowd – race by at record pace. Additionally, following Big Busy Band where the group’s solid brassy power is broken up by Rob Verdurmen’s flashy drumming à la Gene Krupa, plus bassist Arjen Gorter playing Blues in the Closet, Breucker exposes his inner Benny Goodman and tenor saxophonist Maaren van Norden outscreams Big Jay McNeeley. Eventually an episode of pseudo-show-biz banter introduces March & Sax Solo with Vacuum Cleaner where Breucker does just that, improvising in tandem and in opposition to the whining household appliance. Like a squad of quick change artists the WBK is capable of taking on any persona, with pianist Henk de Jonge for instance, comping like a bopper, knocking out stride piano asides, beginning and ending Flat Jungle with romantic flourishes and extravagant glissandi that could be Vladimir Ashkenazy playing Chopin, channels Cecil Taylor’s contrasting dynamics in the song’s centre and mocks the saxophonist’s appropriation of the highest altissimo notes in existence with studied, flamboyant quotes from Rhapsody in Blue. Gorter’s bass line and Verdurmen’s back beat ensure that foot-stomping elation is always present, even if the rhythm team may sometimes feel like extras in a Marx Brothers movie with all the musical mayhem going on around them. Still any band that on Potsdamer Stomp mocks rock music’s overwrought yakety saxes via dueling solos from Breuker and baritone Bob Drissen, at the same time as playing Name That Tune, as fragments of everything from Chick Corea’s Spain to the Marine Hymn to circus music loom into earshot, confirms that these discs do a lot more than fill in a three-year gap in the WBK discography. They’re a jubilant listening experience on their own. If music’s value is judged by its pervasive acceptance, then the tracks on Frictions/ Frictions Now (NoBusiness Records NBCD 79 are as notable as the better-known efforts by Breuker, Braxton- Bailey and Brötzmann. Independent of other connections, members of the Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden (FJGW) developed a caustic and punchy free music variant, which mixed musique concrète and chance notions from notated music, folkloric instruments and tropes plus improvisation that went beyond freebop into sonic intoxication. Recorded in 1969 and 1971 and released in limited edition, the German band members eventually pursued other paths. Like Quebec’s Walter Boudreau, who went from leading the Zappa-esque ensemble l’Infonie to become a composer and artistic director of Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, trumpeter Michael Sell abandoned improvisation for fully notated work in the 1980s; saxophonist/pianist/flutist Dieter Scherf played with major German free jazzers later in the decade before abandoning music because of dental problems; drummer Wolfgang Schlick and guitarist Gerhard König’s histories are even more obscure. However the three tracks here demonstrate the band’s originality. Coming across like a spiky combination of Jimi Hendrix, Sonny Sharrock and Earl Scruggs, König’s chord-shredding flanges insinuate into whatever spaces the horns leave open with a style that includes surf music intonation, single-string finesse and preparations that could come from double bass. Schlick’s coiled rumbles and consistent thumps range from martial to miasmatic; he doesn’t swing but keeps the pieces moving notwithstanding, even when slamming his metal bracket for unusual rhythms. Squeezing death rattles and hunting-horn-like blares from his trumpet, Sell’s tone resembles those of ur-New Thing players like Earl Cross and Don Ayler. Yet when he unites with Schlick they harmonize enough to approach contemporary jazz, and even flutter out rounded grace notes on the final Frictions Now Part II, to reach a meandering, delicate tempo. Leaping among his instruments like an unsupervised child in a music store, Scherf brings something different to each one. On alto saxophone, obviously influenced by the atonal techniques of American free jazzers, his honks, snorts and blats include crying vibrations that add an unconventional Teutonic melancholy. Brief shenai and oboe interludes introduce World Music allusions to the middle of the extended Frictions, while his inner-piano strums join with König’s finger-style ornamentation on the same piece for stark tonal outlines, finally climaxing with a moving motif that appears to judder from cadence to cacophony and back again. Like crate digging in a second-hand vinyl store, reissues like these can reveal unexpected values. They confirm the talents of the known or introduce unfamiliar stylists who should have been better known first time out. Ken Waxman reviews The Necks and the Ulrich Gumpert Quartet at 82 | April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016

Old Wine, New Bottles | Fine Old Recordings Re-Released A new box of Philips Classics restores to the catalog a wealth of analogue recordings that were, not so long ago, in wide demand by music lovers around the world: Philips Classics The Stereo Years – 50 Analogue Albums in Original Jackets (Decca 4788977, 50 CDs). After WWII Philips entered the blossoming long-playing record business by issuing American Columbia recordings in Europe under their own Philips mini-groove imprint. Columbia, inventors of the long-playing record, owned the LP logo and for many years no other manufacturer could call their product an LP. Very soon LP became generic however and that was that. Philips productions were of the highest quality, both sonically and in their immaculate pressings. In fact, when their discs were eventually pressed in North America, knowledgeable music lovers sought out the better sounding Dutch pressings in their gatefold covers even though they were marginally more expensive. It may be of some interest to audiophiles that after Ray Dolby developed his noise reduction system that enabled producers and engineers to make more accurate and wider range recordings, Dolby became the universal noise reduction system (and still is). Philips, though, preferred to tilt the high frequencies up in the recording and reverse the process for playback. Simple…tape hiss gone. There’s more to it than that, but that’s how Philips touted it at the time. In 1979 when Polygram bought Decca they owned DG, Philips and Decca, and although each company shared their technologies with the others, each retained its own recognizable sound due to the preferred choice of microphones, set-up and certainly recognizable artistic preferences. Philips, in close cooperation with Sony, devised and perfected digital encoding and in 1979 began recording digitally. The recorded performances in this box are from the analogue era, 50 recordings in replicas of their LP original jackets, often with bonus tracks. Most music lovers of a certain age – make that of any age – will be thrilled to the teeth to hear the musicians whose artistry lives on in these recordings. Dutch soprano Elly Ameling sings Schumann, Frauenliebe und -leben and Liederkreis, and ten Schubert lieder with Dalton Baldwin and Jörg Demus (1973, 1979). Mezzo Janet Baker sings Handel and Gluck with Raymond Leppard (1972, 1975). Cristina Deutekom, the Dutch coloratura, sings Verdi, Bellini, J. Strauss, etc. (1969, 1971). Dramatic soprano, Jessye Norman sings Ravel’s Shéhérazade and Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été (1979). Gérard Souzay, the French baritone, sings Handel, Rameau, Lully and Ravel (1963, 1968). José Carreras sings 16 arias from Verdi to Rossini (1976, 1980); and there are others. Pianist Claudio Arrau, once a towering figure, plays Liszt’s Twelve Transcendental Etudes (1976) and the Concert Paraphrase on Aida (1971), also Beethoven’s Third and Fourth Piano Concertos with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and Bernard Haitink (1964). Alfred Brendel plays Schubert’s Sonata D960, The Wanderer Fantasy and Three Klavierstücke D946 (1971, 1974), Liszt’s two concertos and Totentanz (LPO Haitink, 1972), three Mozart concertos, K450, K467 and K488 (1971, 1981) and of course, the Sviatoslav Richter Sofia recital of February 1958. And lots more. How about symphonies? Brahms’ First and Fourth (van Beinum), Saint-Saëns’ Third (Daniel Chorzempa organ, Edo de Waart). I must mention that this recording was made with the Rotterdam Philharmonic in the organ’s home, De Doelen, Rotterdam. Overwhelming sound. Simply fabulous! Well deserving of mention are the Concertgebouw Orchestra recordings: The Sibelius Second conducted by George Szell, the Dvorak Seventh under Colin Davis, Heldenleben (Haitink), Bruckner Ninth (Haitink), Bruckner Fifth BRUCE SURTEES (Eugene Jochum), Schubert Ninth (Haitink) and many other so wellremembered classic recordings. In this collection there is not a single recording or performance of less than exemplary quality but check them all out for yourself at Arthaus Musik has issued a Blu-Ray video of a really great live performance of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Sir Colin Davis, the Bavarian Radio Symphony and soloists Doris Soffel and Kenneth Riegel (ArtHaus Musik 109113). It is fortunate for us that this 1988 event from Munich was flawlessly documented in both audio and video. Davis is not usually remembered for his Mahler, although he has directed impressive productions throughout his career. Davis was such a natural, intuitive Mahlerian in this performance that it’s a pity that he did not set down a complete cycle of this calibre. Of course he has the redoubtable Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, with whom he recorded the First, Fourth and Eighth, who are surely at home in this work. The best news is the choice of soloists because both Riegel and Soffel have not been able to elsewhere demonstrate their mastery of this demanding work. From the first song, Riegel creates a bright, constantly dramatic tone, cutting through the orchestral welter. Here we can see just how fluently he projects every meaning of the text with intense, vehement authority. Soffel is captured in a role for which she was clearly born. In this production her alto voice is perfect for the role. She comes into her own after the orchestral interlude in Der Abschied where she projects a sense of loneliness and emptiness with the tone of her voice wherein she keeps any warmth under strict control, to crushing effect. Mahler, deeply superstitious, salted away the finished score and never heard it performed. Leonid Kogan (1924-1982) was born in Kiev and came to be one of the foremost violinists of the 20th century. From about 1955 on, he was considered to be among the supreme artists of his era. One only needs to hear any of his recordings to agree. Archipel has returned to the catalog the three Brahms Violin Sonatas with his accompanist Andrei Mytnik (ARPCD 03550). The first two are studio recordings and the third live from Moscow in 1956. As a bonus there are the Brahms Hungarian Dances 1, 2, 4 and 17. From the first few bars of the First Sonata, through to an inspired finale we hear totally natural Brahms played with commanding mastery. The late Leonard Rose was an American cellist who was best known during the 1950s and the 1960s through his Columbia recordings of concertos with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra and later as a member of the very special Istomin-Stern- Rose Trio. Well-respected are his early 1950s recordings with the New York Philharmonic, of which he was principal cellist, of Bloch’s Schelomo with Dimitri Mitropoulos and Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations under George Szell. Although many or most of his Columbia recordings remain in print as reissues, collectors are always on the lookout for live performances from around the world residing in radio archives. There are three cello concertos: Dvořák with Charles Dutoit and the ORTF Orchestra (1967); Saint-Saëns No.1 and Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations with Louis de Froment from Radio Luxembourg (1961); and Beethoven’s Fifth Cello Sonata with Eugene Istomin (Stratford, 1969). From WQXR in NYC, playing with pianist Nadia Reisenberg, Rose plays Beethoven’s Third Cello Sonata and Brahms First Cello Sonata (1973). These performances issued by Doremi (DHR-8038/9, 2CDs) are not intended to replace his commercial recordings but to confirm and enjoy his unmistakable, now legendary powerful sonorities and musicianship. April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016 | 83

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