While my manic nocturnal ramblings of late may have suggested otherwise, I've actually been battling rather fiercely with some kind of nasty bronchial bug over the past week-and-a-half or so. It knocked me out of commission today, but the good news is that when I finally saw my doctor this afternoon, she suggested that I've already all but beaten it. Tonight, then, is a mandatory evening of over-the-counter medication and rest. But that's as good an excuse as any to post some follow-up thoughts on recent (and not-so-recent) blurts.
+ Jason Guthartz, who maintains an astonishingly comprehensive catalog of Anthony Braxton's compositions and recordings among the various resources he provides at his web site, Restructures, dropped me a line this afternoon to clarify a statement I made near the end of my initial post from the Iridium run. Jason had a conversation with Braxton, in which the composer clarified that he is most likely finished writing Ghost Trance Music pieces, but that does not mean the music will now be summarily abandoned. (Indeed, Braxton has ended the work at Composition No. 360, but the Iridium dates closed with Composition No. 358.) Furthermore, the "move into electronics and video" I mentioned is not intended as an end in itself, but rather as a navigational refinement for participants in future GTM performances. And far from hanging up his horns -- which, mind you, I never genuinely expected for a moment -- Braxton is reportedly looking forward to taking up his flutes and clarinets again, having temporarily set them aside for lack of practice time. (I've requested permission from Jason to post his detailed, informative message in its entirety, so that may well be coming soon.)
Ben Ratliff's respectful, informed but ultimately mixed New York Times review of Saturday night, which I did not attend, is here.
+ Novelist Robin Slick, whose drummer son Eric was one of the outstanding young School of Rock All-Stars that performed alongside John Wetton at the Knitting Factory and elsewhere during the past week (about which I posted here), has posted two colorful essays (here and here) on her own blog, In Her Own Write. These afford views from behind the scenes as well as at the front of the stage; nice color photos, too. Thank you for the kind words and fun posts, Robin. I'm also grateful to Sid Smith -- whose book, In the Court of King Crimson, is the definitive document of the band's history -- for posting a link to my essay at DGM Live, which has brought a steady trickle of fellow Crim fans to my doorstep.
+ The latest Django Bates CD, You Live and Learn...(apparently) (Lost Marble) -- which I ordered immediately after reading Ethan Iverson's terrific article at Do the Math -- turned up in the mail today. Based on a single spin, I'm thoroughly enchanted by this dizzying, mostly song-based album, which features charming vocals by Josefine Lindstrand and Bates himself. The music, of course, is sheer Django sophistication and puckish humor. Yet curiously, most likely due to the smooth singing and whimsical lyrics, it also kind of put me in mind of Canterbury jazz-rock -- Hatfield and the North, especially. Go figure.
+ The first major posthumous release by British improvising guitarist Derek Bailey -- whose Christmas-morning passing I noted at length in late December -- has just arrived, courtesy of John Zorn's always enterprising Tzadik label. The Moat Recordings compiles the entire contents of a December 1998 London recording session by the Joseph Holbrooke Trio: Bailey, bassist Gavin Bryars and percussionist Tony Oxley. In the late '60s, this trio had been at the forefront of the then-developing European free improvisation movement; sadly, its original activities were almost entirely undocumented, save for a short EP issued by Bailey's Incus label, Joseph Holbrooke '65, which includes only a 10-minute exploration of John Coltrane's "Miles' Mode" (which is in actuality an Eric Dolphy composition, "Red Planet"). The trio reunited in October 1998 for a concert in Cologne, part of an Oxley retrospective; a recording of that show, titled Joseph Holbrooke '98, was issued by Incus concurrently with the aforementioned EP.
So pleased were the participants with their reunion that in December of 1998, the three musicians agreed to record a new studio project at London's Moat Studios, a preferred Bailey venue. The project was instigated by California record producer/concert organizer Gary Todd, who had previously attempted to reassemble Joseph Holbrooke for a Los Angeles concert in 1995. That event had been cancelled when both Bailey and Bryars had fallen ill -- Oxley actually honored the booking alongside guitarist Fred Frith, which in itself would be well worth hearing. But clearly, the concept stuck. Todd had planned to issue a 2-CD set compiled from the Moat sessions on his Organ of Corti label, but suffered a tragic accident that left him permanently hospitalized. Tom Recchion, who has continued to look after Todd's Cortical Foundation affairs, shepherded the project through to fruition, and Zorn happily jumped at the chance to issue the recordings.
The newly issued set is designed and packaged to Tzadik's typically lavish standard, and includes a detailed essay written by Bryars prior to Bailey's death, as well as a brief postscript penned the day after the guitarist's passing. A short note by Bailey himself, from 1999, is also included. But it's the music that matters most, and the performances that fill these two discs are extraordinary. Bailey was playing at a remarkably high level in 1998, and Oxley, then as ever, brought out the best in him. Perhaps most amazing is Bryars's contribution, given that he had abandoned free improvisation decades past in favor of his burgeoning career as a composer (Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet and The Sinking of the Titanic, both early works, remain his most widely known pieces). His warm, solid bass provides the center of gravity around which Bailey and Oxley spin, clatter and whirl.
The Moat Recordings, by the way, is said to be the first in a potential series of releases. That's an exciting prospect, but I'm just happy to have this session in my hands and ears at last.
Django Bates - You Live and Learn...(apparently) (Lost Marble)
Anthony Braxton - Sextet (Victoriaville) 2005 (Victo)
Joseph Holbrooke Trio - The Moat Recordings (Tzadik)