Monday, October 31, 2011

A Clarification and Some Further Thoughts About Ornette & Sonny

Interestingly, Ethan Iverson thinks I'm square because I wrote that Ornette Coleman's solo on "Sonnymoon for Two" (on Sonny Rollins's Road Shows Vol. 2 album) contains some corny blues licks.  I thought I was critiquing Coleman for being conservative!  I'd rather Coleman had played something along the lines of this:

(Just kidding... but only barely!)  Corniness is, I suppose, in the eye of the beholder, but let there be no doubt that Ornette Coleman is one of the greatest living blues players (read more about it in Lewis Porter's 1994 article or check out the saxophonist's blistering 1958 solo on "Ramblin'" from the Hillcrest Club tapes with Paul Bley).  I just think he didn't have time to find his groove at Carnegie Hall, which isn't surprising—how would you feel, making a guest appearance as a sideman at someone else's Carnegie Hall birthday concert, and walking on stage midway through a song to play with a rhythm section you're not accustomed to?

I wonder whether Coleman's relatively conservative solo at the Carnegie Hall concert (excluding the soulful opening passage which Francis Davis unfairly calls a squeaky reed in the liner notes!) might actually have been the result of the altoist's attempt to adapt—very slightly—to the relatively straight-ahead ensemble.  I'd rather he'd stayed in his comfort zone and let the chips fall where they may.

In my view, some of the most fascinating collaborations between "inside" and "outside" players have been those in which neither compromised.  Perhaps the most famous example is the notorious Cecil Taylor—Mary Lou Williams concert.  But, interestingly, another instance occurred when Rollins himself, during his most experimental phase, recorded with Coleman Hawkins in 1963 (compare Hawkins's opening solo with Rollins's at 5:35):

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Herbie Hancock Contains Multitudes...

Herbie Hancock began a recent solo piano recital by announcing that, while he really enjoys playing in a band because he can interact with other the musicians, he also likes playing solo because of all the freedom it allows.  He ended the recital by playing the keytar along with a pre-recorded rhythm track, precluding both the individual freedom and the collective interaction he professes to value.  Very well then, he contradicts himself...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Biophilia: Bjork Combats Music Piracy?

Bjork's new album, which comes accompanied by some snazzy iphone/ipad apps that, according to this review, basically present the music as a snazzy computer game, appears to be the music industry's latest creative maneuver in its ongoing endeavor to endow recordings with non-downloadable enrichment... or, in this case, enrichment that, while downloadable, is wired shut so that it's not easily distributed (i.e. pirated) for free.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Doris Lessing

Rhys Chatham, Jacob Kassay, and Charles Baudelaire

Rhys Chatham performs at a Jacob Kassay gallery opening:

(Chatham's new LP is Rêve Parisien.)

"Rêve Parisien," by  
Charles Baudelaire

A Constantin Guys

De ce terrible paysage,
Tel que jamais mortel n'en vit,
Ce matin encore l'image,
Vague et lointaine, me ravit.

Le sommeil est plein de miracles!
Par un caprice singulier
J'avais banni de ces spectacles
Le végétal irrégulier,

Et, peintre fier de mon génie,
Je savourais dans mon tableau
L'enivrante monotonie
Du métal, du marbre et de l'eau.

Babel d'escaliers et d'arcades,
C'était un palais infini
Plein de bassins et de cascades
Tombant dans l'or mat ou bruni;

Et des cataractes pesantes,
Comme des rideaux de cristal
Se suspendaient, éblouissantes,
À des murailles de métal.

Non d'arbres, mais de colonnades
Les étangs dormants s'entouraient
Où de gigantesques naïades,
Comme des femmes, se miraient.

Des nappes d'eau s'épanchaient, bleues,
Entre des quais roses et verts,
Pendant des millions de lieues,
Vers les confins de l'univers:

C'étaient des pierres inouïes
Et des flots magiques, c'étaient
D'immenses glaces éblouies
Par tout ce qu'elles reflétaient!

Insouciants et taciturnes,
Des Ganges, dans le firmament,
Versaient le trésor de leurs urnes
Dans des gouffres de diamant.

Architecte de mes féeries,
Je faisais, à ma volonté,
Sous un tunnel de pierreries
Passer un océan dompté;

Et tout, même la couleur noire,
Semblait fourbi, clair, irisé;
Le liquide enchâssait sa gloire
Dans le rayon cristallisé.

Nul astre d'ailleurs, nuls vestiges
De soleil, même au bas du ciel,
Pour illuminer ces prodiges,
Qui brillaient d'un feu personnel!

Et sur ces mouvantes merveilles
Planait (terrible nouveauté!
Tout pour l'oeil, rien pour les oreilles!)
Un silence d'éternité.

En rouvrant mes yeux pleins de flamme
J'ai vu l'horreur de mon taudis,
Et senti, rentrant dans mon âme,
La pointe des soucis maudits;

La pendule aux accents funèbres
Sonnait brutalement midi,
Et le ciel versait des ténèbres
Sur le triste monde engourdi.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Domingo, Midgette, and the Definition of "Sabotage"

Evidently Placido Domingo, whose first language is Spanish, and who is not a professional writer, has a better grasp of the English language than Washington Post classical music critic Anne Midgette. In this review of Washington National Opera's Tosca production, Midgette wrote that Domingo "sabotaged" the performance:
All the performances were hampered, indeed sabotaged, by the conducting. Placido Domingo, appearing for the first time since stepping down as general director, is a wonderful singer. But rather than supporting the singers, his conducting either drowned them out or tripped them up.
And in this letter to the editor, Domingo protested that, "an act of sabotage is a destructive act done on purpose. Her remark suggests not only that I “spoiled” the performances but that I did so intentionally. This is unconscionable." Midgette responded on the newspaper's website without directly addressing Domingo's central point. Indeed, her evasive reply didn't even reference the term "sabotage," which connotes deliberate intent.  It's one thing to say that Domingo's an incompetent conductor, but that doesn't mean his intentions are nefarious.  Midgette should have at least showed a little contrition, no?

Here, Midgette moderates a conversation with several opera-world luminaries:

Thomas Quastoff Sings "Auf dem Flusse"

The score to Schubert's Winterreise is here.  And... this is perhaps not so successful.