Friday, December 21, 2012

Hector Zazou - Geographies (Crammed Discs, 1984)

Although the fifth title in Crammed Discs' Made To Measure series, Géographies was the first full length LP to be released by the late French Algerian compser Hector Zazou. Zazou first gained recognition as part of the minimal synth duo ZNR, whose releases date back to the mid '70s. Until his untimely death in 2008, he led a prolific career composing his own material and both collaborating with and producing other artists. Omnipresent on Géographies is Zazou's trademark use of multi-cultural motifs and electronic effects. 

I feel it's best to keep the description of this piece to a minimum and let listeners simply experience it, although it suffices to say that the last track, 'Des Cocotiers' may be one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. I also recommend you read more about this visionary composer, starting here. Download Géographies here.

BL Lacerta - Music of BL Lacerta (Irida, 1981)

BL Lacerta is an improvisation ensemble formed at North Texas State University in 1976. The group has performed with distinguished artists such as John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, and David Behrman as well as a variety of dance ensembles, actors and visual artists. BL Lacerta is still active today with original member David Anderson performing with an incarnation of the group at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Anderson has his own site here, where he talks about the history and current events of the group as well as a personal musical history with beginnings at the University of North Texas Center for Electronic Music studying with Merril Ellis.

The music on this album is strictly unedited and improvised. It was recorded live at the Second National Tuba-Euphonium Symposium-Workshop and North Texas State University Art Gallery. Taken from the back cover-

        "The BL Lacerta Ensemble, named for a unique star in the constellation Lacerta (lizard), combines fundamental orchestral sounds of strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion together with invented instruments, electronically generated timbres and the rich sonic capabilities of the human voice....
        The music of this album represents two different approaches to the art of improvisation. "Free improvisations" are, as the name implies, totally free and spontaneous creations in which the performers rely on their musicianship and sensitivity to provide continuity and form. The majority of pieces on this album are free improvisations. "Character improvisations" are also created spontaneously but in this case the musicians agree beforehand to attempt to suggest a certain mood or style as they play."

This is a must have for anyone with an interest in improvisation ensembles. Download it here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jere Hutcheson - Contemporary Ensemble Works (No Label, 1974)

American composer Jere Hutcheson, born 1938, has been teaching composition courses at Michigan State University for over thirty-five years. Since the early '60s, Hutcheson has composed numerous works for band/wind ensembles, orchestra, choir, solo piano and chamber ensembles. Three works comprise this promotional LP: Shadows of Floating Life, Three Things For Dr. Seuss, and Night Gallery. The first piece is a major work in four parts for two vocalists (mezzo-soprano, tenor), flute, violin, contrabass, and vibraphone. Seven poems by Iwoa Matsuhara are recited over each movement. The second piece was inspired by the work of the famous author Theodor Seuss Geisel and the strange creatures, or "Things" that are encountered in his books. It is composed for harp and six percussionists. The final piece is composed for four trombones. About this piece, Hutcheson states, 

         "I do not recall any particular impetus that caused me to write Night Gallery.  I was teaching orchestration at this time, and I was keen on getting my students to understand trombone slide positions and their relationship to glissandi.  I suspect that the piece began as an exercise in demonstrating those traits of the trombone.  No one asked me to write the piece; I just wrote it."

These three works are a great example of American, contemporary (circa 1974) ensemble composition. You can view the artist's website here and download the album here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lee Konitz/Paul Bley/Bill Conners - Pyramid (Improvising Artists Inc., 1977)

This is something of a follow up to my October post of Paul Bley's Quiet Song. Here is Bley on piano with Bill Connors on guitar, again in the trio setting, only this time with Lee Konitz on alto/soprano sax. Much like that earlier release, Pyramid features compositions that explore the space between instruments and movements, but is less grounded on the spectrum between traditional and experimental playing. Get it here.