The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #26

[On some sort of classical kick here …]

Alan Hovhaness, Fred the Cat: Half a Century of Piano Music (Koch, 1992); Marvin Rosen, piano.

The titles alone show the pointed, playful personalities of each track here.

I mean, you know, catchy and smart and lyrical and compact. Well, my only hesitation is that the three longest tracks are the last ones, which slows down the finale, but the opening sequences of dances and “Sonata, Fred the Cat” itself can’t be beat.

I play this about every other summer. Has some of the same seduction as Mompou, swirls in abundant early sunshine.

The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #25

[Just a reminder, this is the general title for posts where I want to do a quick plug of an oldie (or several) that’s too little-known, according to me.]

Bela Bartok, The 6 String Quartets (Lindsay String Quartet) (ASV, 1981)

This requires a shout-out to my long-gone half sister, Betty Jane, who, when she heard I was becoming captivated by music, said something like: “Pay attention to Bartok — my favorite — he’s not like anybody else.” And that his intelligence radiated from everything he wrote.

I’m not music-tech illiterate, but as close as I can be to get by (stopped taking lessons in grade school when an ignoramus told me I couldn’t play if I couldn’t read scores) so all I can say is that every moment of these three discs runs a marvelous abstract movie in my mind that’s different each time through. (Yeah, it’s not in chronological order and I wouldn’t have any other sequence than this one.) I had not played it for a long, long time because (I was reminded a couple months ago) this weird glitch had developed about two minutes into the Second Movement of Quartet No. 1, one of my most beloved passages in the whole thing. I cleaned the disc but it still wouldn’t play right. I understood I better hurry up and replace the OOP set if I didn’t want to shell out a fortune. So I did and every morning this week has featured supernatural sunshine as a result.

R.I.P.: Glenn Branca

The Racket Rocker has left the building.

I had to admit I didn’t play him as often as I expected to — not least because almost anybody else in the room would go batshit within 30 seconds when I did. I treasure my vintage Theoretical Girls 45. I heartily endorse Lesson No. 1 for newcomers and for established fans, I must note that I played this record as often as any:

Poetry falling up and downstairs.

Expert Witness Comment of the Week

Trio da Kali & Kronos Quartet

I’ve been kicking myself for weeks since I’ve been too tangled up in non-writerly matters to get a review done for this standout. It’s the second classical-strings-fusion miracle this year, following Carl Craig’s Versus. The secret in both cases, I would say, is tweak and practice tweak and practice. Ten years to perfect the Craig. And Trio de Kali and Kronos have been working out the kinks in live performances since 2014.

(Final?) Followup on Carl Craig’s “Versus”

Checked out Debussy done by Les Siecles, directed by Francois-Xavier Roth. Because I wanted to hear something else by the ensemble that worked on Versus. Turns out much like the more familiar numbers on the Francesco Tristano piano-duets album: smart and lots of fun, but I can live without. With the added limitation that I don’t hear anything more in Versus after hearing this. Just (“just”) a sprightly modern classical ensemble.

Looks like that’s a wrap.

Followup on Carl Craig’s “Versus”

Scandale

Tristano is one of the prime collaborators on Craig’s techno-classical fusion marvel. This is a set of piano duets from 2014 (don’t these two look like they’re straight from central casting?). It features three familiar works arranged for piano duet by the composers: “Le Sacre du printempts” by Stravinski, “The Story of the Kalendar Prince” by Rimsky-Korsakov and “La Valse” by Ravel. These are lots of fun, but I could live without them. What you have to hear is Tristano’s original, “A soft shell groove.”

The revelation is his phrasing, structures, sequences that seem to conclude but perfectly not quite. In short, his musical language, which you then can go back and discern most vividly on the Versus tracks. Tristano’s skill at immersing himself in Craig’s work seems even more remarkable to me now.