You, me, the music, and me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

CIRCLE Paris-Concert

ECM 1018/19 ST (1972)

Circle were a group of musicians who came together for a brief period in the early seventies and played an energetic brand of free-form jazz and improvisation. Their members were pianist Chick Corea, bassist Dave Holland, percussionist Barry Altschul, and sax-and-reed-man Anthony Braxton. Circle's few recordings are difficult to come by today, but I was lucky enough to find this live double-album at Days of Wine and Vinyl in Halifax for ten dollars. I was just "getting into" jazz and recognized Corea's name, but it would turn out to be Braxton who would lure me into the improv genre. I went on to purchase over fifty of his albums (and counting), many of which I'll tell you about in the months to come.

The album contains compositions/improvisations by each member of the quartet, as well as a cover of Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti" and the standard "No Greater Love". Everyone is in fine form; listen to the incredibly underrated Altschul bounce along beneath "Nefertiti" or wind out on Braxton's "73 Degrees Kelvin (Variation-3)", and check out Holland's nimble fingering on his solo showpiece "Song for the Newborn". Circle's recordings contain what is probably Corea's most "out" playing on record; he unhesitantly follows Braxton into uncharted waters on their "Duet", plucking away furiously at the strings inside the piano. Conversely, Braxton shows off his straightahead jazz chops on the swinging "No Greater Love", proving himself as adept at standards as on his own knotty compostions.

Circle would disintegrate not long after this album, with Corea being lured away by Scientology and a larger audience of fusion fans, but all four members continued to make challenging, personal music on their own. Their albums as a group are worth the search, though... they were a "supergroup" whose whole was at least equal to (and often greater than) the sum of their parts.


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