Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Gary Burton - 1976-03-04, Greenwood Inn, Olympia, WA

An All-Star ECM Lineup...

Throughout the 70s, Gary Burton did as much as anyone to popularize Carla Bley's music. Her tunes weren't just scattered throughout his live sets, but Burton did an entire album of them: Dreams So Real. I mention it because, for me, it's his high-water mark from the most fruitful period of his career.

Indeed, the mid-70s has Burton taking several interesting musicians into his band and making some compelling music. Not exactly fusion, but definitely something more rhythmic than the more free stuff other ECM groups were playing at the time. And with Bley's music at the centre of his setlists, he made the most of his gigs.

This one come from a FM broadcast of a show in Olympia, Washington. There's one of the all-time 70s ECM lineups here: both Pat Metheny and Mick Goodrick on guitar, both Steve Swallow and Eberhard Weber on bass and Bob Moses on drums. And Burton, too, naturally. It opens with a nice medley: "Sea Journey > Eyes of the Cat," which has everyone taking some turns at the helm, Moses going nuts on his kit, and a nice bass solo as something of a segue. The version of "Eyes of the Cat" might be one of my personal fave moments of any Burton gig: they work themselves up into a nice groove, and there's a great bass solo. How often does one say that?

And that's just the first 20 minutes. Elsewhere, Metheny takes charge on "B&G (Midwestern Night's Dream)," and Burton gets some alone time on "I'm Your Pal." It's a nice show throughout, with generally good sound. There's some hiss, and the stage banter is a little distant, but the music itself comes through nicely, with Burton's vibes especially getting a nice sense of ambience. I've heard shows where they sound stale and harsh, but it's not the case here.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Carla Bley - 1984-07-16, Schauberg, Bremen, Germany

A belated birthday...

I always forget about it until like some European blog mentions it, but Carla Bley's birthday is May 11. And since she's one of my fave musicians out there, it seems about right to post some more of her music.

This show comes from summer 1984, which is right around what the Penguin Guide might argue was the lo ebb of her career. They certainly don't care for stuff like I Hate to Sing, and I see where they're coming from. This set has her and her band in fine form, however, working on older tunes like "Song Sung Long" and "Fleur Carnivore," not to mention her arrangement of Monk's "Misterioso," which I believe was commissioned by Hal Willner around this time.

Not long after this, Bley would go in two directions almost at once: smaller, more intimate groups, then what she'd dub "The Very Big Band," which was about what it sounds like.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Circle - 1971-03-04, Jazzhaus, Bremen, Germany

From the Radio Bremen archives...

Dave Holland's lumberjack phase
In the early 70s, free jazz was a little more open than it is now. And by that I mean it was something you could hear on the radio (on public radio, anyway), that major labels were investing in it and big names in jazz were trying it out. Today's share actually covers all three of these.

Circle was a short-lived group featuring Anthony Braxton, Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Barry Altschul. Both Holland and Corea were fresh out of Miles Davis' band, while Braxton had just made a name for himself with the seminal For Alto. Altschul, meanwhile, had been associated with Paul Bley, himself a pioneer in the free jazz/creative music scene.

This show comes from early 1971, which I think was nearly the end for the band. By the time Paris Concert was released the next year, the group was a thing of the past. Fittingly though, this show was recorded a few weeks after that album, and two Holland compositions appear on both: "Toy Room," and "Q & A." There's also a handful of Braxton tunes, all under the heading of "Composition 6," which is the sort of thing I'd explain if I understood it at all. \

Musically, it's a little abstract, with jutting figures and sections that are rather dissonant. At the same time, there's moments where everything comes together and the band clicks. I think that throughout, Corea's on the top of his game, and Altschul's percussion adds a lot of flavour to the music. Braxton, at this point, I respect although I find  a little rambley at times, and Holland's playing is, as usual, tasteful and interesting arco textures. They actually compliment Braxton's overblowing.

Circle was a group not long for this world; Corea would move away from purely free playing and get into more mainstream stuff with Return to Forever and his duo albums with Gary Burton; Braxton  and Artschul would release some of the wildest music ever to come on a major label with his run at Arista; Holland would work as a session player (including a memorable turn on a Bonnie Raitt record) and release records on ECM.