Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Not having listened to this in quite a while, I had it in my head that Side One from "Trio and Duet" (I believe it's Composition 36 in the current catalog) was as close as Braxton came to eai. Well, maybe it is, at least from earlier in his career, but it's really not very close at all. I was probably thinking of the extended, drone-like stretches but those actually occur mostly in the written passages. That plus Richard Teitelbaum's presence; he does engage in a few moments that, removed from context, might throw some listeners, but does far more active burbling than contemplative playing.

That said, it remains a favorite Braxton piece of mine. The theme is just gorgeous, one of the all-too-few beautiful dirge-like lines he wrote in the early 70s (another, best of all imho, serves as the basis for the last track on "New York, Fall, 1974" which is next on my hit parade). In fact, listened to now, the theme's couple of appearances are easily the highlight of the track. In between, the improvising of AB, Leo Smith and Teitelbaum is OK but really meanders off from everything the theme opens up.

One of the first concert events of this sort of music I ever attended was the Braxton/Teitelbaum duo that took place at Mt. Tremper on June 10, 1976, subsequently issued as "Time Zones" on Arista and reissued since with "Silence". Aside from my first live exposure to Braxton, it was also the first time I'd seen a synthesizer handled in non-keyboard fashion, having aurally teethed on Keith Emerson and his ilk. It was pretty revelatory to see Teitelbaum manipulating dozens of jacks and generating sounds that bore little or no relation to standard musical tones. Still, I've never really warmed to his playing. There was a point in the mid 80s where he and Braxton worked together (there's that double LP on Hat, I forget the name) and began to get into an almost rockish groove on occasion that got fairly exciting. I caught them at SOBs (!) around then on a double bill with Blood Ulmer (!!) and they rocked the place.

Of course, Side Two of the record in question is three duets with Holland on standards. Braxton seemed to have a penchant at the time for picking works from the repertoire that included "You" in the title: "You Go to My Head", "Embraceable You", "You Stepped Out of a Dream", etc. They're fine, though admittedly a bit boring at this point. Holland is absurdly agile, though.


Herb Levy said...

I know that I was lucky in my relation to this music both in perms of concerts and recordings (I was in Madison when Cecil Taylor and Bill Dixon were teaching, while Chuck Nessa was also managing a record store there and later had access through record store and radio work to a ton of promos), but it's really difficult for me to imagine getting an accurate handle on Braxton's early music (late '60s-mid-70s) without attention to his ensemble discs on Delmark, BYG and other labels from that time.

Nor, for that matter, outside the context of all the albums coming out by other AACM groups led by Abrams, Jarman, Mitchell et al.

Or maybe I'm misunderstanding your organization here and you're moving from solo to duos to larger groups or something. But it doesn't seem like this is the case.

Also, I don't think I have access to an e-address for you, but it seems that I may have a chance of getting down to San Antonio around when you're there, so please get in touch with me about details; .

Brian Olewnick said...

Hi Herb,

Yeah, I'm simply trawling through my vinyl which is, of course, arranged in alpha/chrono fashion. By and large this would sync up with the sequence I heard the LPs, though not always. With Brax, I'd heard a little bit (iirc) of his BYG things on radio but actually never got to owning them until much later on disc. Going from memory, I probably got this shortly after the first Arista album, before the second.

I was previously familiar with the AEC and others at the time, so Trio & Duet wasn't an entirely new experience. If anything, the synth sounds were something different, though I was aware of Sun Ra by then as well.

And of course, the redoubtable Mr. Emerson!

Herb Levy said...

Yes, I also think it's time for musicians like Keith Emerson to be doubted again.

But then, I was never much of a prog fan.

Brian Olewnick said...

Too bad AB and Teitelbaum never thought to cover "Lucky Man".