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6 January 2015

Paul Flaherty - 'Aria Nativa' (Family Vineyard)

Another solo saxophone record I must try to write about both intelligently and subjectively. I was just talking with someone who mentioned a solo saxophone 7" release by some current artist (I forget who) and we were remarking on how that's actually the perfect format for solo sax. Though I've already weighed in quite positively on a few such longplayers in these pages (David Boykin, Hamiet Bluiett) and we're only up to the F's. Aria Nativa has the live audience that Last Eyes lacked, though they are quiet and attentive, leading me to only surmise the energy they must be fueling; it's like listening to something invisible and possibly a cultural construct. But maybe that's one of the beautiful things about music - that an audience can generate an undeniable effect on a performer, and that relationship is symbiotic - yet it's not scientifically measurable. I dunno, maybe the crowd noise is fake like some live records do, but I'm going to buy into the idea that this is a unique contract between Flaherty and audience, documented on wax forever by the Family Vineyard label. Flaherty's warm as blood here, letting the circular note patterns attain their overtones which build into something inviting, yet still challenging. When they eventually constrain themselves into dying shrieks (such as at the end of Side 1, on the short 'I Don't Live Here Antymore' piece), there's a sense of resignation. Maybe the tone is set by Ken DelPonte's poem, 'No More America', which plasters the back cover of this record, a 5 part revisiting of the turbulent late 60s (though copyrighted in 2008). He wouldn't have included this were it not meant to relate to what he was trying to express, and the longer piece at the start of side 2 reflects the most onto the history of "jazz", meaning there's some identifiable swing and blues residue. It's faint, but it's there; this couldn't be mistaken for having emerged from any other tradition, as extreme and attenuated as it might seem. But this is the jazz of Shepp, Ayler and Sanders; a jazz built on the same late-60s consciousness change that DelPonte's poem reflects. This is forty years later but the fire is still burning, and it seems (at the moment) that there's still something to say.

5 January 2015

Flaherty/Corsano Duo ‎– 'Last Eyes' (Records)

This live recording was made during a radio station session for MIT's station so it has a nice live sound, but no presence of an actual crowd. This doesn't seem to be a problem in generating energy between these two, though the key significance of Flaherty and Corsano together is how much they are able to channel their fiery explosiveness towards more fluid interplay. 'Sign Your Name in the Sand, Please' has exactly this - it opens with a flurry of cataclysmic sound and then refines itsel into some very melodic push and pull between Flaherty's earthy, low tone and Corsano's tom-tom pulse. The two sides of this are up and down in mood, but always maintain a good bit of space. A good solo bit in the middle is chunky and barren, inspiring Corsano to rejoin with aplomb. Side two's 'I Miss Jimmy' finds Flaherty clamping down on the mouthpiece and delivering some real shrill blasts, which will somehow bend back on themselves and pull these lovely complementary melodies from the lower register, darting between the two extremes instantly but somehow not sounding too discordant. There's a long drum solo as well on this track, and Corsano often sounds like two drummers playing at once anyway - this just affords the listener more space to perceive it. When I first put this record on I thought that I would end up writing a bit here about the meaning of 'jazz' today and what this type of free music means in a cultural context, but I don't have the energy for it right now. Listening to Last Eyes takes energy from the listener, though it's not the most abrasive work by either of these two; it's more because the momentum that never lets up, even if the tonality shifts. And recorded by an old buddy of mine!