RAN BLAKE & ANTHONY BRAXTON – A Memory Of Vienna

HatOLOGY

Born from a single session occurred November 19, 1988 at Haus der Begegnung Mariahilf in Vienna, this music is finally released after 21 years. The tapes were left unattended for almost a decade, retrieved in 1997 and apparently forgotten again until this deserved publication. In the liners, producer Art Lange vividly recalls the enthusiastic fervour with which favourite standards and “agreed-upon songs” were being hastily written on a piece of cardboard before heading to the studio, a multi-purpose room located in an obscure district of the Austrian capital. Both virtuosos were there to participate in Cool Noir, a festival organized by the Wiener Musik Galerie. The sudden decision to have Blake and Braxton recording a series of evergreens represents one of those turns of events that frequently engender works that are destined to be remembered. If there’s a jazz album that doesn’t reflect the short time at disposal of the artists and the urgency connected with such an immediate project this must be it, the musicians performing with inspiring authority, care of detail and brilliant management of the emotions, the impression that of a two-week recording stint.

It is tremendously difficult today, for this writer, to listen to tunes like “Round Midnight”, “Alone Together” or “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” without manifest symptoms of aural exhaustion, mostly derived by the swallowing of an incalculable number of pedestrian versions by dozens of nobodies (and a few “names”, too). This can’t possibly be told of these particular actors, who literally disinfect the wounds of those faded bodies, bringing them back to life thanks to the untarnished transparency of their intentions. Blake plays articulated trickles, hammers clusters and re-harmonizes selected passages, obeying to a sense of adventurousness that is only limited by the perfect geometry of his figurations. Braxton tends to respect the basic fundament of the thematic materials yet, once the right moment comes, designs extraordinarily coherent phrases that, fused with not-exactly-docile atonal flurries, miraculously fit the structure of the original better than ever. The result is a lesson in style, masterfully delivered a couple of decades ago but sounding as if it was taped last month.
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