Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12.12.2012, FTW

Thanks to T. Horn, I've been reading a couple of issues of The Wire and thinking about improv. The cover story on Peter Brotzmann got me intrigued over an artist I've never cared for much -- I've found the German saxophonist's unremitting intensity daunting. But his '60s albums For Adolphe Sax, Machine Gun, and Nipples, and his work with Globe Unity Orchestra kind of started the ball rolling for European jazz in the same way Roscoe Mitchell's Sound, Congliptious, and Art Ensemble of Chicago heralded the Windy City's avant-garde.

(As much as I love Ronald Shannon Jackson and Sonny Sharrock, I already know I can't hack Last Exit. Even the amusement of hearing Shannon singing Jimmy Reed songs is overshadowed by the sonic tantrum he and his bandmates kick up, not to mention the similar kick of his vocalismo on Power Tools' version of "Unchained Melody.")

Brotzmann talks about how his music reflects the experience of his generation of Germans, who lived through World War II. He dismisses comparisons with Coltrane (Ascension was the first jazz album I ever bought) and Ayler as spurious. No lofty spiritual concerns for him: "I was more feet on the ground, looking forward."

Reading about his '77 duet album with the percussionist Han Bennink, Schwarzwaldfahrt, piqued my interest. Imagine two drunken lunatics driving around the Black Forest (an area that's not open to the public without permission from the family that owns it) in a van at the end of winter with a really good tape recorder, occasionally stopping to make music. Bennink didn't bring any drums, so he's playing found objects. There are birds, planes, and chainsaws on the recording. Listening to this music reminds me that the first couple of years of HIO (once it boiled down to Terry, Hickey, and me) were probably the most carefree of my adult life, at least when we were "working on the project" (e.g., drinking at the Bull & Bush).

In the meantime, I'm re-listening to Snakelust (to Kenji Nakagami), a CD by Hairybones that arrived a few Clean Feed releases ago that I've been struggling to come to grips with ever since (that image perhaps inspahrd by the cover pic of Japanese wrestlers). Hairybones is a Brotzmann quartet with Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, whom I'd previously only known as the subject of a Dennis Gonzalez dedication that happens to be the title of Yells At Eels's signature tune. Like Dennis (and '70s Miles), Kondo uses a lot of F/X on his horn. Hairybones evolved out of the Die Like A Dog Quartet, a sort of Albert Ayler tribute band fronted by Brotzmann and Kondo. The current lineup has Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, who seems to show up on more and more records that I dig. With a new perspective on Brotzmann, I'll continue wrestling with this record.

Also listening to/thinking about Derek Bailey, whose Improvisation I've found more useful from a playing perspective than any musical treatise since Mick Goodrick's The Advancing Guitarist. While his "non-idiomatic improvisation" is not something I'll probably try to emulate, I like the idea of his album Music & Dance, where he's accompanying a dancer when a rainstorm begins, then plays with the sound of the rain on the leaky roof. Reminds me of Fred Frith playing with Evelyn Glennie in the film Touch the Sound, and some of the spatial performances HIO has done, both with and without Big Rig Dance Collective.

These days when I practice guitar, I try to think of it as "playing solo guitar" rather than "practicing." Yesterday I was doing an exercise I learned from the Goodrick book, trying to play lines on only one string. Next time I pick up a guitar, I'll try playing on only two strings. It's been a long time since I did this kind of playing. I'm remembering things I'd forgotten since I "learned how to play." F'rinstance, the way that sounding a single note can cause the guitar's body to resonate. Then when you hammer on a second note, the harmonic resonance continues, and you can feel/hear the relationship between those two notes. I also like playing electric at extremely low volume through T. Horn's little Honeytone amp. At the volume I'm playing, you can hear the sound of the unamplified guitar alongside the sound of the amp. Back to schooldays.


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