Tuesday, September 04, 2007

listening notes: nels cline, new monastery

New Monastery - A View Into the Music of Andrew HillNels Cline
"McNeil Island / Pumpkin" (mp3)
from "New Monastery - A View Into the Music of Andrew Hill"
Buy at Napster
Stream from Rhapsody

"Reconciliation / New Monastery" (mp3)
from "New Monastery - A View Into the Music of Andrew Hill"
More On This Album

The strangest thing about this very, very good album is Bobby Bradford's cornet. In fact, it is probably among the strangest cornet/trumpet tones I've ever heard. It is acidic, flattened, bitter to the taste, alienating and seemingly barely keeping a grip on the proceedings but somehow supremely arrogant, too, for example in the way he stands outside the ensemble on "Pumpkin"'s ensemble theme statement. It would be a stretch to say that I loved it, but I am really intrigued, almost fascinated.

One—You have to have a healthy irreverence for what everybody else is doing; two— you have to be willing to take risks; and three—you have to be really confident that what you’re doing is for you.
- Bobby Bradford, in Michelle Mercer, "Jazz West"
His exposed lead on the slow and soulful "Dedication" shows just how little he cares about being friendly to you. There's something irreparably cracked about Bradford's playing. This is probably due, at least partially, to the effects of aging: on 1969's Seeking with John Carter, his tone is much purer, his phrasing adheres more closely to the beat and the front-line's unisons have a surgical precision, at the highest of speeds. It is interesting to note the contrast with the age-tempered warmth Charles Tolliver brought to Andrew Hill's Time Lines.

Even compared to his younger bandmates, Bradford seems sour. However brash clarinetist Ben Goldberg and Cline himself get (and they are just as often overtly sweet), they're always ready to make nice and play pretty, as in their duo version of "McNeil Island." Andrea Parkins, here and in Ellery Eskelin's trio, seems to me closest to Bradford's aesthetic.

What does our local Bradford expert think?