Thursday, May 06, 2004

I think I'm goin' mad, mate / I think I'm losin' my mind

I hadn't bought any albums in a long time, but on tuesday I broke that dry spell by getting a couple of albums from a friend, known as LeMo on the internet.

45 minutes into Cecil Taylor's It Is In The Brewing Luminous I let myself sink into the music and nearly drowned. I've been on an intermittent quest to understand/enjoy Taylor's music and the going has, so far, been slow. Anyway, around that 45 minute mark, Ramsey Ameen's violin is buzzing like a swarm of furious locusts, the percussionists (Jerome Cooper and Sunny Murray) are creating a relatively simple, relentless, train-like drive, Taylor is all over the place as usual and (perhaps most crucially) Alan Silva is slowly bowing his bass. Jimmy Lyons is sitting out.

As I said, I let myself be enveloped by the music and felt like I was listening to the insides of a crazy person's brain, voices crying out and maintaining hopelessly tangled multilogues. Then, I felt like I was going crazy myself, so I pulled back, put a distance between us and imposed my own terms on the music. Otherwise, I would have had to scream or turn off the music and/or run out of the room. I'm too controlled/controlling a listener to let that happen.

The second album I got from LeMo was Jackie Maclean's "Let Freedom Ring", my first Maclean album. While easier to accept, it still possesses its own brand of unsettling music.

Maclean likes to play a bit sharp. When he digs into a funkier bag, this doesn't matter too much, but on a ballad like Bud Powell's "I'll Keep Loving You," it creates a disjunction between the expected note and the actual one. While Maclean's warm tone and phrasing fully indicate a lush ballad mood, his intonation remains on edge, yanking the listener out of the comfort zone of expectedness while simultaneously pointing him the way to it.

That aside, the writing on "Melody For Melonae" is incredibly modern, alternating between what sounds, intentionally or not, like a darker and gloomier Monk line and a sax/piano/cymbal unisson melody.