Opposites Attract (Well, Maybe)

One could not juxtapose more different releases than these two. Sometimes is good to completely change perspective from a record to another as it keeps the mind fresh, delivering it from the mechanisms of expectation that typically introduce fossilization. Also interesting is the combination between old style/prosperous orchestration and new style/near-nakedness.

GRAHAM COLLIER – Directing 14 Jackson Pollocks

A double album by the (reasonably) ebullient Collier on his own Jazzcontinuum imprint, based on two live recordings from 1997 and 2004. The title comes from Gill Fisher’s description of the latter concert, the composer “casually strolling around the stage, giving directions to these fantastic musicians by hand signals..”. There’s only one recent piece, “The Vonetta Factor”; the rest consists of newly arranged revisiting of previous favourites. Artists like this British educator (in every sense) are the kind of figure that totally exterminates my necessity of cold analysis of a record, in favour of “going with the flow” and just enjoying the evening. A fusion of pre-planned architectures and regulated freedom allowing each soloist a spot under the sun yet never transcending into pandemonium, which lets us appreciate the lucid vision of a man that, together with people such as Mike Westbrook and Keith Tippett, has contributed to create a typical sound that for many aspects is our favourite brand of jazz, alternating hints to traditional schemes and a still-modern outlook on how a score should be interpreted by refined performers. Music that sounds nonconformist and time-honoured at once, showing a nice conversancy with the material by the involved participants (among them Jeff Clyne, Harry Beckett, Chris Biscoe, Geoff Warren, John Marshall, Oren Marshall – see what I’m talking about). At times the cylinders take a while to start firing, some imprecision and a couple of not perfectly coordinated executions perceptible in certain sections, especially during the first part of “Forty Years On”. But when the wheels get spinning for real – as in a pair of great blue-tinged tracks, “Mackerel Sky, An Alternate Blues” and “The Alternate Third Colour: Old Blues”, mere examples of a collective virtuosity heard most everywhere – that’s the moment in which you have to raise the volume level up, and applaud.

NARTHEX – Formnction

A prove-nothing experiment revolving around a complex procedure – which definitely won’t be repeated here – through which saxophonist Marc Baron and double bassist Loïc Blairon generated two 30-minute segments, one made with the sounds of their real instruments, the other obtained by substituting the actual sonic occurrences with frequencies of 1000 and 500 Hz. The latter version constitutes the first partition of the album and is an utter bore, sounding like a joke at the expense of the audience. Beeps and silences – lengthy silences – for half a hour. The second part is surely superior, the expert listener at least perceiving the “breath” of the playing despite the small number of notes and the interminable moments of absence of everything. A couple of long-held tones by Baron acted interestingly with my momentary position (walking in the room while listening is fine, better still if you don’t care about the compositional poverty of the pieces), whereas the tiny manoeuvres and percussive connotations used by Blairon on the bass are mainly forgettable. A thunderstorm broke out as yours truly was intent in understanding what’s so special in this music to be released by Potlatch – usually a label that publishes more important stuff – and literally saved the day: the interaction between the rumble and this writer’s sense of doubt amidst sparse (and largely inconsequential) pitches and disinterested thuds let me conclude the experience with a sigh. This is not an ugly record; just a neutral, undemonstrative thing. Which is even worse. File under “I’ll probably never listen to this again”.

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