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September 04, 2006



After both you and Godoggo have expounded upon the John Carter records, I'm going to have to track them down. He's one of many names I've heard in passing but have never spent any time with.

I completely forgot about the ECM Art Ensemble records - Nice Guys might be my favourite record of theirs.


Many thanks for mentioning that Power Tools record--mostly I'm not all that regretful about the demise of my DJing days, but that was one of the albums I just loved spinning on-air & wish I owned myself. (No, I wasn't one of those guys who swiped vinyl from the station's stacks....) "Strange Meeting" is THE BEST Bill Frisell tune, period. I remember once spinning the Gramavision _Live_ version of it on-air & a staff-member, deeply moved, ran in to the studio to find out what it was.

In addition to that Kuhn/Jordan disc, I'd nominate the sublime _Lost and Found_ (1989)--a touchstone recording for me.

Alas, the Braxton Dortmund Quartet is now unobtainable, victim of the limited-edition policy at Hatology.


I just finished typing the following, which I didn't know was going to end up being so long-winded, I thought that I'd just go back to the beginning and say, yeah, yeah, I know (I think I'll also copy and paste it onto my blog, too, but not before clicking "post" here. What the hell).

About Blythe: one thing that makes him usique is that, as a composer and a player, he doesn't think in terms of chords (i.e. "can't play changes" but it doesn't matter in the right context), but n terms of 2-part counterpoint - almost invariably his tunes consist of a catchy, modal, riff-based melody against a catchy modal riff-based bass line - maybe they're based on the same mode, maybe they're not, but the interaction between the two sets up the "harmonic" environment, and any chordal intstruments are there mainly for texture, not to guide soloists (which is why cluster-chord-playing Blood Ulmer worked so well in Blythe's music); when he starts to improvise, he's mainly concerned with the intervals between the notes he's playing and those that the bassist is playing - whether the latter is staying with the composed vamps or improvising. His best bassist is actually a tuba player - Bob Stewart, who really sounds like Blythe's musical soulmate when they play together, which brings me to my choice for a Blythe album if I'd posted on him: Bush Baby, a trio with Blythe and Stewart inprovising Mikrokosmos-like bitonal counterpoint from some typical Blythe themes, along with a conga player whom I've otherwise never heard of, and whose name escapes me. I wouldn't necessarily say it's his best album - they take much of the first side getting warmed up, with Blythe initially playing with an uncharactaristically spitty tone, and the conga player - no virtuoso in any case - sounding pretty slopping at first - but once they get it together, the music is quite marvelous - probably the purest example of Blythe's conception on record, and really essential if you're interested in truly appreciating his music.

As for Newton the album I mentioned in my post, 'cause it's likely his best, was Suite For Frida Kahlo, although it's outside of the stipulated time Frame (though he doesn't get much press lately, it should be obvious to anyone he visits his site - and everyone should, you won't regret it - that his music has gotten steadily stronger right up to the present). My pick, if I had made one, for an album within the timeframe (because it has "resonated with me" over the years, to use Ethan's frame" would be 1978's Paseo Del Mar - not so much for the clamorous, loft-style jazz that makes up most of it, but for the album's centerpiece, a 3-part suite for overdubbed flutes called San Pedro Sketches. I mentioned in my post that what most impresses me about Carter and Newton is the "seamless melding of composition and free improvisation," and this piece is the quintessence of that, moving smoothly from rich impressionist harmony, to perfectly unified virtual group improvisation to pure sound, and back again, perfectly exploiting his strengths as an instrumentalist - his huge, creamy flute sound, his deep blues feeling, his freedom of melody and phrasing, and his unrivaled mastery of the technique of singing into his instrument - unique in part because, unlike so many who try to pull this off, he actually seems to have a singing voice, but also because in his hands it seems to be a natural, if sometimes startling, extension of that big bluesy sound of his.

Jason Guthartz

Great picks!

I posted some additional titles here.

I need to revisit those John Carter titles - I'm partial to the solo clarinet record on Moers.

derek bermel

Thanks for your props to John Carter, one of my favorite clarinet players ever.

Matt Weiner

This is a great list. More props for the Carter Roots and Folklore.

If I could add one album, it would be George Lewis's Homage to Charles Parker. So beautiful.

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