Monday, September 08, 2008
Alvin Curran - For Cornelius/Era Ora (New Albion)
I'm not hugely knowledgeable about Curran's oeuvre; I have a few discs and, of course, know his work with MEV but, that said, this is my favorite, especially Side One. Two pieces for piano, the first for Cardew (played here by Ursula Oppens), written immediately after his death in 1981. A central section of whirling, cloudy minimalism recalls Charlemagne Palestine more than Cardew but is still effective. Bracketing it, however, are two stunning...elegies? Somber, graceful, moving music evoking huge loss. It's very "straight", not in essence too different than, say, a Satie Nocturne. I often find myself wondering if I give too much credit for contemporary works like this, whether composing such is "too easy" for anyone worth his/her salt. I don't think so, given the number of quasi-similar, awful, smarmy pieces one stumbles across, but the possibility gnaws at me a bit. (I think about that with Skempton sometimes as well, but usually brush aside such absurd notions!)
"Era Ora", for two pianists (Oppens and Rzewski), is a more frenetic, precise kind of minimalism; it actually sounds at times a little like the strains Jarrett used to get into in his improvisations in the 70s, just continually beating down one area of the keyboard. It closes with another soft, pensive section, a raindrop-y theme, again quite beautiful.
Not sure of its current availability (no images of this LP cover, natch), but well worth hearing.
When I first heard the Willem Breuker Kollektief, the first notes I actually encountered were courtesy of pianist Leo Cuypers, the opening chords to the piece "Ouverture, 'La Plagiata'". I've long felt that, despite Henk de Jonge's steely technical ability, the Kollektief lost a vital component when Cuypers left, a liquidity of style, a kind of eeliness, after which the band was never quite the same (despite some excellent recordings early in de Jonge's tenure). Cuypers was one of those players just dripping with musicality, who never lacked for lyricism no matter how outside he went. My understanding was a drinking problem led to his ouster; hopefully he's doing better these days.
I have three LPs under Cuypers' name (though arguably his best, 'Zeeland Suite', I have on a CD burn;). "Theatre Music" (BVHaast 017), from 1977 features a trio on Side One (with Arjen Gorter and Martin van Duynhoven), Breuker joining the group on the second. Cuypers' compositions are typical from this period, lilting, hyper-melodic riffs that probably owe a bit to Jarrett but, imho, are the equal of the latter's pieces from the mid-70s. "G.L.T." sounds like the best piece Dave Brubeck never wrote. Very pretty recording.
"In Amsterdam" (BVHaast 028) is a pleasant solo recital from 1979, pretty enough at some points to be heard as good mainstream film music. Maybe a smidgen of Abdullah Ibrahim influence in here. Not that it's my favorite area of music by any means these days, but I'd love to hear Cuypers come in and play a local jazz haunt, downtown NYC; he'd probably be quite the sensation...
Neither of the above have ever been issued to disc, to the best of my knowledge (no cover images either), so good luck finding them, but that's not the case with:
Those cover photos always crack me up.
Reissued by Atavistic a few years ago, very enjoyable date, Breuker in excellent form, Bennink in full swing mode and Gorter just so strong. Again, far more imagination and joy--while sticking pretty closely to a melodic jazz form--than heard from any number of far better known players.
Andrew Cyrille/Milford Graves - Dialogue of the Drums (IPS)
Man, can't believe there's no image on-line of this one. Ridiculous. Well, it is something of a rarity, as I understand it. A live recording from 1974, performed at Columbia University, never, I don't think, released on disc. A pretty great show, Cyrille and Graves playing a few dozen instruments including, in the former's case, his own skin. Wonderful call and response with the audience toward the end, vocally and percussively. I think, at the time I first heard this ('75 or so), I might have felt it was "too earthy", the yowls and grunts perhaps making me a bit uncomfortable. It does sometimes verge on the sort of quasi-mystical nonsense you get at your random Viz Fest but somehow, happily, never gets there. I imagine because Cyrille and Graves believed more strongly in the completeness of what they were about than many musicians these days. Just guessing, though. "The soul is the music!"
So, I've made it through the C's in my LP collection. Only took a couple of years...
As of Friday, we'll be in Montauk for a couple of weeks, me writing, reading and relaxing. Not sure if we'll have connectivity; if not, see everyone at the end of the month.
Umberto Eco - Turning Back the Clock
Will Self - The Book of Dave
Damn, just saw that Esther Venrooy and Heleen Van Haegenborgh are going to be performing at Roulette on the 26th, the day I get back. Hope I can make it...