Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 62: Don Byron "Music for Six Musicians" and Wayne Shorter "Juju"

Today represents two musicians I kind of backed into knowing, so to speak. They were either tangential to something I was into or they did one thing that I found curoious and as a result (and since whenever they released something I got it for free from the label) I started following. Also, today represents the first time something is verifiably from the actual rotation section of the Albatross because it comes from a sleeve to a broken CD carrier. On with the show...

Don Byron
Music for Six Musicians

I have to keep checking because I become convinced that this album is already on the hard drive, but it's not. I listened to it enough that much of it is pretty familiar, even though that had to be a fairly long time ago because I don't remember this being available during that brief window in which I had a CD player in the short lived Vanagon.

Not that I associated any of this familiar music with this album. There is the slam poetry opener that I knew as soon as it started, but if I had remembered those lines separately I would not have thought immediately, "Oh, that Don Byron CD I used to listen to..." In fact, I was surprised to hear slam poetry when what I was expecting was just some progressive jazz played on a clarinet.

This, I believe, never really had a case, so it's little torn sleeve is as much home as its ever known.

Outside of the poetic opening it's pretty straight forward progressive jazz stuff, complex rhythms, some collective improve, dissonance, lots of counter-everything. I don't know that what makes up the six musicians stays the same from track to track, since I don't remember the electric guitar that's making a showing in "I'll  chill on the Marley tapes..." on (The press made) Rodney King (responsible for the LA riots). The track names, by the way, are awesome. A little dated in their politics (a reference to both Rodney King and Ross Perot...), but that's fine. In ten or twelve years some rabid downloader is going to realize he has all this unlistened to music and start whatever indulgent method is available to him like blogs now about going through all his music and commenting on the outdated politics of half-term Alaskan governors and modern day tea partiers. And maybe people who do stunts to become reality TV stars. Or maybe by then we'll have given up and everyone will be reality TV stars.

The cool thing about being political in jazz is you really only have to come up with the snappy title and you're done.  Well, unless you're Moss Allison, then you have to use dry wit in lyrics, apparently.

The music is as eclectic as I come to expect from Byron. Not so much as A Fine Line, more than Bug Music. Right down the center of variation. The relatively short The Allure of Enlightenment is a calm and melodic contrast to the previous Crown Heights. I'm more familiar with the beginning of this album than I am its end. I don't know if it's because by this time I was well into playing a video game and not paying attention, or if it stands out less, or if I simply just stopped playing it early on each time and moved on to another CD.

Wayne Shorter

The internet has effected me. I feel the urge to create some sort of graph or something starting with Sidney Bechett and placing saxophonists along it in relation to which direction they took the horn and where they sit. Because in my mind at least, I start to do that in some form or another. There are groupings, like Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, and Paul Desmond all sit grouped up in one part of the graph, the 'mellow side.' Then there's Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Hamiet Bluiett on the crazy side, and just a little in from those guys would be Pharoah Sanders and Rashaan Roland Kirk, and a little further in Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter. But here's where the graph would get confusing for me, anyway, is finding the distance on a different axis between Shorter and Rollins. Rollins is more bombastic, more Kirk, and Shorter is more manic, more Dolphy. Of course for any of this to make any sense you have to know who all these players are, and if you do then you don't need the stupid chart.

Wayne Shorter is on or near everything cool at one point or another, which I guess would come from being part of not only Miles Davis' amazing group ("The Quintet" as some have called it) but also part of a whole lot of other people's amazing groups. Whenever I want to find an example of jazz albums I should have to demonstrate my collection's lacking, about half the time the example I bring up is a Wayne Shorter album. Half because he's a remarkable player with some landmark albums, but the other half I think is because he's one of those guys that people know is awesome but don't buy the records that he heads. I might be projecting here, but most of the time when I was able to look at a serious collector's stash, Shorter wouldn't really come up as often. Shorter albums don't appear on lists as much unless the list goes past twenty or so, but when it does the person making the list lavishes it with praise. I don't know what the distinction is or really even if it's just in my head. I was relieved that the CD had been pulled out, that at least I listened to this one when I got home, but not as often, apparently, as Don Byron's CD.

This is, of course, another Rudy van Gelder edition from Blue Note. If I had been tagging RVG CDs in the posts I'm pretty sure that would be the top tag. Everyone of the RVG Edition CDs has the exact same graphic on the back. There's that pose, the universal gesture, apparently, of someone wearing headphones indicating, "Shut up, I'm trying to hear something..." You see that all the time in movies...hell, I do it when I'm recording audio on a shoot. You're trying to pinpoint something in the audio and you tilt your head even though you're wearing if I crook my head just right the proper audio will fall into my ear and I'll get what I'm looking for. Like for no reason we all become Nipper the RCA dog twisting it's head in front of the gramophone. I'm not sure why in the hell we do this. Alright, in movies it is really the only way to visually indicate that the person on the headphones hears something important and is trying to figure out what it is. And maybe it's just reflex because in every other situation if we move our ears we can hear certain things better and it's not like that reflex is going to go, "Oh, hey, the speakers are attached to your head...moving it won't matter." But it's still kind of silly.

I wonder if I could rate artists on how easy it is to do something else while listening to them. I don't really know how to do it without it sounding like a bad thing. I get distracted on a lot of the CDs, they're usually around an hour long and if I sat here with my fingers on the keyboard for the whole hour the posts would be crazy long nonsense, and already they're too long for one of my only readers. But for some of them I enjoy having them play and then merrily go about my business stumbling around the internet until "Shit! The CD is over and I haven't said much of anything!" Then I don't know what to do. It's hardly ever that I just didn't like the music, but rather I just didn't only listen to the music, I guess. And they don't have any tracks where I go, "What the hell is that?" which isn't a bad thing, necessarily.

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