zondag 21 november 2010

Whatever happened to..... Charles Brackeen?

Saxophonist Charles Brackeen (born 1940) produced some very fine records in the eighties, like Worshippers come nigh and Bannar, in a band with Fred Hopkins or Malachi Favors and the fantastic Dennis Gonzalez. He also appeared on records by Paul Motian and he was married to a great pianoplayer who still bears his name, Joanne Brackeen. But what has become of him? I can't find any cd's of him since the nineties. Anyone who knows, please let me know. I consider Mr Brackeen's contribution to jazz as very important.

vrijdag 19 november 2010

Henry Threadgill

All praise be to Mosaic Records for reissuing historic jazz recordings, although most of their releases are outside my range of intrest. But the Anthony Braxton box was a pleasant surprise (his band with Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler and Barry Altschul!), and now this great Henry Threadgill reissue will serve the same strange people who love the bizarre sounds of avantgarde jazz...
Threadgill has been too silent for many years now (only two short cd's on Pi Recordings in eight years...), yet he remains to me one of the greatest artists on the music scene today. This box with eight cd's illustrates this perfectly.
The Complete Novus & Columbia Recordings of Henry Threadgill & Air contains three albums by Air (his trio with Fred Hopkins on bass and Steve McCall on drums): Open Air Suit, Montreux Suisse Air and Air Lore. Then there is his special X-75-band, of which the Volume 2 included here was never released before. Then there is three albums by the notorious sextett (with two t's at the end, since it consisted of seven people...): You Know the Number, Easily Slip into another World and Rag, Bush and all.
Finaly, there's three records by the Verry Very Circus and Make a Move-bands: Carry the day, Makin' a move and Where's your cup.
The music on all of these cd's is never less than fantastic. When I got to know the work of Henry Threadgill in the early eighties, I considered him to be a postmodern artist, in that he summed up all iconoclastic avantgarde experiments that came before him (be it with respect to the early history of jazz), and put his very personal stamp on it.
But he is much more than that, really. His sense of adventure is never less than jaw dropping. Air is basically an 'ordinary' trio, consisting of a horn, bass and drums, but Threadgill organized it as a real group of equal partners. He was in that period very much influenced by the roots and early outings of jazz, such as ragtime, evidenced on Air Lore, on which the band plays pieces by Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton.
Hopkins and McCall are terrific partners. Especially Fred Hopkins is very underrated, I think. To my ears he has the most identifiable sound on acoustic bass ever. These three albums by Air included here are great, but the group recorded many more, and my favorite, 80° below 82, was on the label Antilles, so is not included here, unfortunatley.
The same is true of the sextett. I consider their first two albums as highlights in the history of recorded music, be it jazz, rock, classical or whatever. When was That? and Just the Facts and Pass the Bucket are brilliant from beginning till end. But they were released on the label About Time.
The Henry Threadgill Sextett is really an amazing band: who could ever have the idea of combining a frontline consisting of sax, trumpet and trombone with a cello, bass and two drummers?  The cello of Deirdre Murray is central in all recordings of this band. The sextett sounds like a fanfare, firmly rooted in tradition, but extremely modern in its sound. My god, I hadn't listened to this stuff for more than a decade, but I still love it so much.
Henry Threadgill allways uses strange instrumentation. On X-75 he used four (4!) basses. After the sextett broke up, he used electric guitars (but the soprano guitar of Brandon Ross surely sounds like no other guitarist), but it's probably the use of two tubas that is the most dominant sound of the Very Very Circus and Makin' a Move bands.  On Where's Your Cup, Threadgill also uses the accordion of South African Rony Cedras as the main voice, with the electric bass of Stomu Takeishi replacing the tubas.
Throughout all the work of Threadgill, there's a weird sense of humor. In the music itself, and in the crazy song titles like Let Me Look Down Your Throat or Say AhDirty in the Right Places or Those who Eat Cookies and The Devil is on the Loose and Dancin' with a Monkey.
And, last but least, and I almost forgot: HT is a virtuoso musician himself. I especially love his sharp sound on the alto saxophone! And his bands are full of interesting musicians like Ray Anderson, Rasul Siddik, Frank Lacy...
Those who love jazz but haven't heard anything by HT (and Ethan Iverson writes on his blog that such people do exist): please, eat these cookies!