Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 28: Joe Lovano & Greg Osby "Friendly Fire" and Don Byron "A Fine Line"

There's a failure in the blind method and my own weakness is setting me up big time. The grab bag method is all fine and good, except when I feel a double CD in my hand and think, "Man, I'm not up for that at the moment."

Of course this means that soon it's going to be nothing but multiple CDs that I have to do. And I have only myself to blame. But for now, I've kicked that can down the road and serve up two very different kind of progressive jazz CDs.

Regarding Ping...I have yet to figure out what the point of that even share my iTunes purchases with the public? Apparently it only notices activity within the iTunes store. For the featured CDs I can either use the ten it picked at random from my collection (that I bought through iTunes) or I can clumsily look for the album in iTunes. For two days straight the album hasn't come up. I thought it might have been another way to experience the collection, but it looks like it's just a way to look into my shopping cart. Meh.

Joe Lovano & Greg Osby
Friendly Fire

There are CDs in the Albatross that are 'familiar' without me having ever actually opened them or played them. They just surface a lot and I notice them. Maybe they have a catchy cover, a strange album name, or, in this case, two great tastes that taste great together that I probably kept intending to listen to. Joe Lovano was someone I got into in college, helped out a great deal from working at the store. Osby, I came across at the store, otherwise I might not have never heard of him.

And that would have been a shame, because I dig Greg Osby. With Lovano, on this CD, he's a little more on this side of wild with his playing. There's even a track called Serene. I don't know who is playing the flute, perhaps both of them...the liner notes are fused shut.

There was a time where I thought that two saxophones together was...I guess, unnatural. It just didn't seem right. Four or more saxophones? Of course, who wouldn't love that? But a band where there were two saxophones as the only horns, that was just wrong. There had to be a trumpet or trombone chaperone to prevent anything untoward. You simply could not lead a band with two woodwinds, it was unheard of. A combo consisted of one brass and one woodwind, at least if two or more horns were involved, and that's just the way it was.

I'm not sure why I thought this, I don't know what I had against two of my saxophone brethren standing up together to lead a combo. There wasn't any precedent for it. The fact of the matter is, two saxophones can sound great together, they don't need a brass to get down.

Two trumpets, though, that's just wrong.

This is a positively sedate recording, really. Not to say it's easy listening or anything, and I'm not about to confuse it with the Pat Metheny soundtrack, but it's pretty easy going by the standard I'm used to hearing these two play at. Maybe I've played it up in my head. It's still pretty awesome, though. The guys play pretty well off each other. And they switch things up enough that the tracks don't bleed even if you're not paying attention. There's the flute/sax bit, and another where they both play sopranos (a dangerous proposition in anyone else's hands.)

Don Byron
A Fine Line: Arias & Lieder

I first got hip to Don Byron when he released an album called Bug Music performing the full songs of all the pieces composers like Carl Stalling would sample for the cartoon scores.

Normally I don't really like the clarinet. Too many keys and fingerings, kind of a strange sound. And they were too eager to be in marching band for some reason. I mean, it's not like anyone can hear the clarinet...

Anyway, Byron turned out to be the kind of curious musician that I really like. So much so that I apparently have duplicates that have been lost. I bought Bug Music twice (and am really hoping that it pops up in this process.) One of the empty nests was a sleeve for this CD (which itself doesn't have a front case at all).  That really wasn't all that uncommon. We'd get promos in the sleeve like that in advance of the CDs release and then when the release date would come another promo in a proper jewel case.

I felt there was something familiar about this CD even though I'm fairly certain I never got around to listening to this album, and there it is, on the personnel on the back cover, pianist Uri Caine. I had mentioned him in passing when I raged against piano players (good times...) as a musician composer who manages to successfully blend music from the classical canon into a modern jazz (among other things) texture in a way that escapes most. His hand print is noticeable here as Byron takes music from Ornette Coleman, Gershwin, Roy Orbison, Schumann, and even Henry Mancini.

So, even without the no doubt over the top liner notes, we can see what the 'fine line' alluded to in the title is all about. It's really been a kind of pulling towards the center. The Coleman song was a little less 'wild' than it would have been for another free jazz player, while the Orbison or Schumann songs are a little more 'out there' than they would have been otherwise. All of that is laden with the unique sound that Uri Caine manages. It's this weird blend of American pop music of the early sixties, Eastern European folk, and whatever else he can find. If you spun an AM dial and wrote down the first eight genres you came across, it might be something like listening to a single Uri Caine piece.

A bass clarinet, the saving grace of the clarinet. I can't stay mad at an instrument that has this in the family.

I really wish I had noticed that Caine was on this album earlier. Caine is one of the only survivor CDs from the Albatross, the first to make it onto the hard drive when I first got my computer in an effort to make sure I always had it. Add onto that Byron, whose playing I really enjoy, this would have wound up in regular rotation had I known.

Byron rids himself of the band to do a Chopin song on the end (though thanks to a quirk of iTunes and a sketchy CD I have the Stevie Wonder song playing last). Not something you usually associate with Chopin, so it's a nice touch.

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