Herbie Hancock live!

hh.jpg

Whenever my music listening gets on the jazz train, as it has been for the past week or so, I find myself gravitating to the Kozmigroov Konnection to see what albums I may still be missing. “Kozmigroov” is one of those descriptive terms that sounds awkward but is nevertheless useful for framing an idiom that would otherwise go undefined: “a transgressive improvisational music which combines elements of psychedelia, spirituality, jazz, rock, soul, funk, and African, Latin, Brazilian, Indian and Asian influences culminating [in] an all encompassing cosmic groove. At its most accomplished, Kozmigroov is both expansive and highly rhythmic, and simultaneously finds connections with the mind, soul and body.” (more)

If you like this kind of thing then the Kozmigroov Konnection is an essential guide, especially when you’re faced with discographies by artists you know only from their contributions to releases by bigger names. Herbie Hancock isn’t exactly an unknown quantity but I hadn’t noticed before that his Kozmigroov listing features a number of live recordings that I was sure I hadn’t heard. Could they be found anywhere? The answer is obviously yes, thanks to the trove of live recordings archived at Never Enough Rhodes. The post there is an old one but the links for all the Herbie Hancock recordings were updated a few years ago, and all the ones from the essential years up to 1979 are still active. Not only are they active but there are far more concerts from the Mwandishi/Head Hunters era than I ever expected to find in one place. And many of these are from FM radio broadcasts so they don’t suffer from the cassette-recorder-under-the-seat syndrome that spoils so many rock bootlegs from the 1970s and 80s. Amazing.

flood.jpg

Sleeve art by Nobuyuki Nakanishi for one of the few official live albums from Hancock’s Head Hunters period (but only in Japan until it was reissued a few years ago). I love everything about this cover: the Cosmic Coelacanth, Mr. Hancock’s NASA helmet, the Stop typeface, the waterspout nod to Mati Klarwein’s cover for Bitches Brew… Earth, air, fire and water.

The performances range from extended extrapolations of album compositions—a 43-minute version of Hornets (Boston Jazz Workshop, 1973) featuring a lot of synth freakery from Patrick Gleeson; a 57-minute performance of Sleeping Giant (Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, Detroit, 1972)—to later concerts that capture the post Head Hunters group playing to wildly enthusiastic audiences. The thumping version of Palm Grease that opens the Kansas City show makes the studio version sound very restrained. The only disappointment is a rather noisy recording of the FM session from the Ultra-Sonic Recording Studio, a Long Island venue that in the early 1970s hosted many studio appearances by rock, blues and jazz artists. An Ultra-Sonic session by Dr John from 1973 has circulated for years in exceptional quality so I was hoping the Hancock set might sound as good. This is a minor quibble, however, the recording is still decent enough, and the performances are fantastic.

hh2.jpg

Musikladen, 1974.

The only concert on the list that I had heard before is an audio rip from a 1974 appearance by the Hancock ensemble on Musikladen, a German TV series. I linked to a copy of this in one of the weekend posts years ago but nothing lasts on YouTube so the link is now defunct. There is another copy here, however. For the time being… The person who was running Never Enough Rhodes complained about having to keep reposting concerts when file hosting services were shut down. Always download things of interest, you never know how long they may be available.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Miles and Miles

Weekend links 573

strutt.jpg

The Greendale Oak, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire, from Joseph George Strutt’s Sylva Britannica (1822/1830).

• “…a single page from Max Ernst’s collage novel Une semaine de bonté (A Week of Kindness, 1934) uncovers the weird brooding threat in Tenniel’s image of Alice in the railway carriage.” Mark Sinker reviewing the Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. I don’t know what Ernst page Sinker is referring to but I made the connection between an Ernst collage and Tenniel’s drawing here in 2010.

• At Wormwoodiana: “Calum Storrie’s 36 Elevations is a book of drawings of imaginary architecture, with the emphasis on towers, stairs, ladders, globes, oblique angles, gantries, finials etc.”

• At The Quietus: Jennifer Lucy Allen on The Strange World of…Don Cherry, and Dustin Krcatovich on Don and Moki Cherry’s Organic Music Theatre.

Call it the new orthodoxy of the digital middlebrow, “the rise of safely empowering stories with likeable protagonists who move through short sentence after short sentence towards uplifting conclusions in which virtue is rewarded.” The laudable goal of increasing the diversity of literary voices has somehow morphed into a series of purity tests designed to ensure that any artistic representation ticks the same boxes as its ostensible author. “On this,” Tyree writes, “conservative religious evangelicals secretly agree with their puritanical secularist enemies on a censorious attitude and checklist approach to art as either ‘acceptable’ or ‘offensive’ to whatever program one happens to prefer for cleansing all vileness from the world.” The result?

[A]rt is increasingly viewed by both the right and the left as a sub-branch of medicine, therapy, hygiene, or good manners. Art is no longer that which tells us the truth but rather that which makes us feel better—a deflated ideology that is spawning a sort of unofficial school of palatability.

And this, I fear, is what’s afflicting many of my students…

Justin St. Clair reviewing The Counterforce: Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice by JM Tyree. Since I’m currently in the midst of a Pynchon reading binge this is all very timely

• “Researchers create self-sustaining, intelligent, electronic microsystems from green material“.

• From 2018: Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Toop live at The Silver Building.

• New weirdness: Catwalk Of The Phantom Baroque by Moon Wiring Club.

• Mix of the week:Episode #391 of Curved Radio by radioShirley & mr.K.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Illegible autographs.

Elevation (1974) by Pharoah Sanders | Elevation II (1997) by Vainqueur | Elevations And Depths (2010) by Locrian

Miles and Miles

discs.jpg

I listen to music all the time when I’m working but it’s not always a good idea to give new music an airing when you’re also concentrating on new work. What often happens on these occasions is that the album will fail to make an impression and end up being laid aside in favour of more familiar sounds, which is what happened to the copy of Milestones (1958) by Miles Davis that I bought last year in a charity shop. Listening to it again this week provoked a “Wow!” response as well as making me realise that I’d heard the tune of the fourth track, Miles, somewhere before. Miles, or Milestones as it’s confusingly also known, is covered by Barry Adamson on his 1996 album, Oedipus Schmoedipus, a simpler version but still jazzier than everything else on the album. I’d always suspected that Adamson was referring to Miles Davis with the title but since I’d never looked at the writing credits until this week I didn’t make the connection. Davis had a habit of naming new pieces of music after people he knew—John McLaughlin, Billy Preston, Mtume, producer Teo Macero, etc—so Miles (as opposed to Milestones) can be taken as an early example of the habit even though it refers to him and also doubles as a reference to measurement rather than a person.

The same title, but not the same piece of music, appears on a 1985 album by Sly & Robbie, Language Barrier, the track in this case being a renamed reworking of Black Satin from Miles Davis’s On The Corner album. Language Barrier in turn was produced by Bill Laswell who later remixed the original Black Satin for his excellent compilation/reconstruction of Davis’s electric period, Panthalassa, and who may have suggested that Sly & Robbie record their own version of the Davis piece. Whatever its origin, Miles (Black Satin) is credited to “B. Laswell, M. Davis, R. Shakespeare & S. Dunbar” which brings us back to Barry Adamson whose Miles has a similar credit at Discogs (but not on my CD…) although Laswell is now (bizarrely) “William Laswell”. I still don’t know what connection Laswell or Sly & Robbie have with Adamson’s track, unless it’s a Discogs error or contains a sample I’ve missed, but the ghost of M. Davis might at least be satisfied that he was influencing popular music after so many years on the outside looking in. Always miles ahead. And that’s the title of another Davis album I’ve yet to acquire…

Chance encounters on the dissecting table

maldoror2.jpg

In times of great uncertainty about our mission, we often looked at the fixed points of Lautréamont and De Chirico, which sufficed to determine our straight line.

André Breton, Surrealism and Painting, 1928

1: The metaphor, 1869

maldoror.jpg

You can’t read the history of Surrealism for very long before encountering some variation of the most famous line from Les Chants de Maldoror by the Comte de Lautréamont/Isidore Ducasse: “beautiful as a chance encounter on a dissecting table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella”. Translations vary, as do misquotations; the page above is from the Alexis Lykiard translation where you can also read the surrounding text. The context of the description is seldom mentioned when the quote is used, and reveals that the words are describing the attractiveness of an English schoolboy living with his parents in Paris. The insipid Mervyn is stalked, seduced and finally murdered by the villainous Maldoror. Lautréamont’s metaphor, like so much else in the book, carries a sting in its tail.

2: The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse, 1920

ray.jpg

Man Ray, like Mervyn, was a foreigner living in Paris when he created this artwork. The “enigma” may be taken as referring both to the wrapped object (a sewing machine sans umbrella) as well as to the mysterious author of Les Chants de Maldoror, who died at the age of 24 after writing his explosive prose poem, and about whose life little is known. I first encountered Ducasse’s name in art books showing pictures of this piece which is one of the earliest works of Surrealist art. For a young art enthusiast the enigma was more in the name itself: who was this Ducasse, and why was he enigmatic? The original of Man Ray’s piece was subsequently lost, like many of his pre-war sculptures, but may be seen inside the first issue of La Révolution Surrealiste. Editions of the work that exist today are recreations made in the 1970s.

3: An illustration for Les Chants de Maldoror, 1934

dali3.jpg

Salvador Dalí created 30 full-page etchings and 12 vignettes for an illustrated edition of Lautréamont’s work published by Skira in Paris in 1934. Dalí must have seemed an ideal match for a book whose prose descriptions offer copious atrocities and mutations but, as with many of Dalí’s illustrations, the pictures owe more to his obsessions than to Lautréamont’s text, and could easily be used to illustrate something else entirely. Plate 19 does, however, feature a sewing machine.

4: Electrosexual Sewing Machine, 1935

dominguez.jpg

A Surrealist painting by Oscar Dominguez which emphasises the sexual nature of Lautréamont’s metaphor, or at least the Freudian interpretation of the same. Breton and company took the sewing machine for a female symbol, while the umbrella was male; the dissecting table where their encounter takes place is, of course, a bed.

[In Electrosexual Sewing Machine] the dissection appears to be under way. There is a strange abusive surgery being undertaken, the thread of the sewing machine replaced with blood which is being funnelled onto the woman’s back. The plant itself may even echo de Lautréamont’s umbrella. Domínguez has taken one of the central mantras of Breton’s Surreal universe and has pushed it, through a combination of painterly skill and semi-automatism, in order to create an absorbing and haunting vision that cuts to the quick of the movement’s spirit. (via)

Continue reading “Chance encounters on the dissecting table”

Weekend links 521

parent.jpg

Au Lion d’or (1965) by Mimi Parent.

• After the recent announcement of Jon Hassell’s health issues it’s good to see he has a new album on the way at the end of July. Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two) follows the form of the first volume, Seeing Through Pictures (2018), in reworking elements of earlier recordings into new forms. Not remixes, more reimaginings, and a process that Hassell has been applying to his own work for many years, most notably on his collaboration with Peter Freeman, The Vertical Collection (1997). The latter is an album which is impossible to find today and really ought to be reissued, together with more scarcities from the Hassell catalogue.

• Death of a typeface: John Boardley on Robert Granjon’s Civilité, a type design intended to be the national typeface of France but which fell out of favour. It wasn’t completely forgotten however; I was re-reading Huysmans’ À Rebours a couple of weeks ago, and Civilité is mentioned there as being a type that Des Esseintes chooses for some of his privately-printed books.

• At Plutonium Shores: Kurosawa versus Leone in A Fistful of Yojimbo. Christopher Frayling makes a similar analysis in his landmark study, Spaghetti Westerns (1981), but I didn’t realise that Leone had based so many of his shots on Kurosawa’s film.

• More lockdown art: Seen from Here: Writing in the Lockdown is a collection of new writing edited by Tim Etchells and Vlatka Horvat. A PDF book whose sales will go to support the Trussell Trust, a UK food bank charity.

• The week’s culture guides: Ben Cardew on where to start with the back catalogue of Miles Davis, and Hayley Scanlon on where to begin with the films of Yasujiro Ozu.

• “We can no longer ignore the potential of psychedelic drugs to treat depression,” says Robin Carhart-Harris.

• At Dangerous Minds: Laraaji returns with a new album, Sun Piano, and a preview of the same, This Too Shall Pass.

• Mixes of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XXI by David Colohan, and XLR8R Podcast 647 by The Orb.

Penelope Rosemont on the humorous Surrealism of Mimi Parent.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jeff Jackson presents Free Jazz Day.

The Golden Lion (1967) by Lomax Alliance | Dread Lion (1976) by The Upsetters | Gehenna Lion (1982) by Chrome