Following on from the recent Hamburg Concert, and with special thanks to Boromir for posting the interim Bergamo piece, we continue with Circle.
"Quartet Pieces Nos. 1, 2 & 3".
Recorded in the studio - New York - 21st August 1970.
Chick Corea, piano, prepared piano, vibes, percussion, bass-marimba
Anthony Braxton, alto, sopranino, clarinet, contrabass-clarinet, percussion, voice
Dave Holland, bass, cello, acoustic guitar, percussion
Barry Altschul, drums, percussion, bass-marimba, vibes.
These three fascinating pieces are the earliest example of Circle's other side, their work in a lifeless studio, with no engrossed audience to offer inspiration, challenge or acceptance. All three pieces were issued only on a Blue Note 2LP set called "Circulus", under Corea's name, and have never appeared on CD, to my knowledge. This rip is taken from the original vinyl, with apologies for the occasional surface noise. The music is also the first recorded evidence of Braxton playing with what was until then Corea's trio.
In the opening minute or so, the musical aesthetic promptly reveals itself to be far closer to developments (in 1970) in European-style free improvisation and contemporary classical music, rather than the conventional notions of jazz. All three pieces are open improvisations, stark, spiky, a tad austere, with a disorienting use of space, unnerving deviations, terse twists and turns. A volcanic highlight appears on Piece No. 2 at the 5 minute mark, where Corea suddenly hits upon a single note, wrings the life out of it in seconds and sends the entire band careering off in a wholly unexpected (by them) direction. All the musicians use a wider-than-usual range of instruments, e.g. Holland on acoustic guitar, Corea on vibes and Braxton's vocal contribution at end of Piece No. 2 will surely raise an eyebrow or two.
The musical results show thrilling interplay, rich in detail, and no lack of careful listening among the players. What is more extraordinary is that just three days before these recordings were made, Corea and Holland, both on electric instruments, played an explosive set with Miles at Tanglewood on 18th August and followed it up a few days later with Miles' Isle of Wight Festival appearance on 29th August in front of a mere half-million people. In between the two, they tossed us these three acoustic gems.