Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Susan Alcorn-AND I AWAIT (the resurrection of the pedal steel guitar) LP (Artist's Own Label, I guess)

As some of you devoted bloghunters may remember, I reviewed a cybercast of a gig performed by this steel guitarist of some reknown way back inna day, and if I recall correctly I even pondered when some sorta recording of hers would make its way to my doorstep. But that was then and this is September 12 '07 last time I looked at the calendar and whaddya know, but Alcorn's got an actual vinyl el-pee out for us to toss around like we have been for the past umpteen years of our lives waiting for that next big sonic excursion to weedle-deedle into our "doo-wah classic"-riddled minds. Dunno if AND I AWAIT is exactly the kinda platter that'll rattle our collective beanies, but it just might be. Alcorn starts off slow and steady playing this one-note guitar line as the rest of the strings glissando all around, and pretty soon the whole thing erupts into this holiday for mucked-up strings as Alcorn careens and plucks away in a fashion that seems to owe more to the newer, sorta crossover jazz/avant stylings than they do straight-ahead avant jazz proper. It certainly is entertaining enough for me to keep it from being another tossed out into the sell pile loser from when so many albums have been ground into macadam. A nice aside from the usual "new music" that lately seems to sound older'n any of us would have guessed.

Art Ensemble of Chicago-CHI-CONGO LP (Paula)
Recently I've been writin' back 'n forth with a longtime pen pal about some of the great used record finds I've not only bought, but passed up on ever since my rabid flea-market roaming days commenced back in the seventies. Most of this retroactive browbeating was spurned on by my Yardbirds review a few weeks back, and if you don't think that the thought of passing on a lotta fifty-cent goodies back then because fifty cents was sure a lotta money and you just weren't sure that Standells album was worth the try, well then you've never been a kid having to live on depression wages because your folks somehow still thought things were worth as much in the seventies as they were in the thirties! But here's a flea market purchase from the early nineties that only set me back a measly $3.00 (which at the time was probably worth about fifty cents as far as mid-seventies flea market exchange rates go) and hey, I gotta pat myself on the back and for once pride myself on being smart enough at the time to snatch this winner up without having to worry about my bank balance taking that dreaded fifty-cent, or three dollars for that matter plummet!

Anyway I got it from some guy who had the usual rows of used platters neatly segregated in typical flea market fashion, and most of 'em going for pretty good used disc rates mind you (I bought my second copy of Tim Buckley's STARSAILOR from the same guy, a deejay copy at that even though it sounded as groove-damaged as my earlier acquisition) but the recent acquisition of CHI-CONGO really surprised said dealer because Paula was a blues label and here they were handling this free jazz oddity! The way he was talkin', I thought this used bin mogul was gonna wanna part with the platter for way more'n the pittance I paid for the thing but anyway, I still consider myself lucky for snatching up this rarity for the price I did, something I truly consider a steal in a world where such elpee bonanzas were certainly becoming rarer and rarer due to the mass populace wizing up 'n discovering the unmitigated joys of GOLDMINE.

Enough reminiscence (this lookback to days of flea market finds through rose-colored rear-view mirrors is even making me sick), and let's get down to the brass tacks of CHI-CONGO, a platter that's not only fueling my lust for those early Art Ensemble wares recorded during their French glory days but an impetus that actually made me go and dish out some beaucoup bucks for the rare Affinity reish of their double live set which always seemed to elude me even after twenty years of feh search. "Chi-Congo" (the title track) is a typically skewered Malachi Favors bass solo surrounded by that patented-yet-great AACM small instrument clatter and percussive saw being produced by the rest of the Ensemble, while Roscoe Mitchell's "Enlorfe" is a manic, intense saxophone free-play in the best Art Ensemble tradition complete with the gongs rattling and sirens blaring as the trio of Mitchell, Jarman and Bowie sound like they're trying to induce brain aneurisms in themselves, in each other, and in the listener. Why they hadda split this one up between two sides is a mystery, and perhaps the Cee-Dee reish rectifies things though I doubt it. Mitchell's "Hippparippp" closes things out, though the real mystery about this piece is where does it really begin? I mean, there's a pause between various musical movements and all, but no groove seperation to actually denote what this track really entails. No matter what, CHI-CONGO's a manic winner in the already-stellar early Art Ensemble oeuvre and I gotta say that I used to think Don Moye brought these guys down a bit but he really fits in snugger'n a Lang inna fug with the rest of the guys.

1 comment:

django said...

I wrote a long review of Jandek's "Fort Worth Hoedown" in July 2007 (I took Eric), which featured Susan Alcorn in the band. It's posted on the Jandek discussion list and can be accessed at