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Frozen Brass: Asia (Pan 2020CD)

Brass music - so stridently unfashionable - was, almost certainly, the first genuine meeting point of truly distant musical traditions, following hard upon the advent of European colonialism five hundred years (and more) ago. Because, unlike the string traditions - which only fully bore fruit in the US, reliant as they were upon mass (poor white) immigration & mixing - brass went everywhere that troops did...and was also viewed as the (artistic) corollary of military supremacy and, hence, eagerly adapted by locals everywhere - to the point where bamboo (or zinc!) saxophones (and weird hybrid styles) proliferated all over the place...nowhere more so than in Indonesia.

Once upon a time, I made up a compilation cdr of this stuff - in my first flush of discovery - and titled it: I thought I heard Albert Ayler call my name... Because, what this material demonstrates - conclusively - is that Ayler isn’t some “extremist”...instead, he’s one of the very few Western artists to fully inhabit the timbral mainstream on his instrument - it’s the rest of our Western brass & reeds that are truly upon the periphery; far too “genteel” to fully explore the natural timbral approach said instruments invite, or - even - demand...

In the current “underground”, we’re almost totally jazz-centric when in comes to brass & reeds...a situation which “world music” has - damnably - done very little to correct. Because of this, the Frozen Brass collections - sampling vibrant (living) traditions - need to be nailed to our goddamn manifestos!

Re may come as a total shock (well, it did to me) to find out that the New Orleans “jazz funeral” tradition of raucously dragging-out hymns has an uncanny parallel in Indonesia...which quite likely predates its New World incarnation, due to the factors mentioned above. Other parallels, if anything, are even more uncanny. Try, for example, Indonesian “ska”, or NY 60s boho shamanistic drone-based blurtfests & so on...

And, that’s (merely) to mention the stuff that falls easily upon our ears...because, a lot of this sounds like nothing much you’ve ever heard before. What sound like insane children tear-out collective madness, on home-made instruments w/kazoo mouthpieces, in what is (apparently) a venerable local tradition, and entirely new kinds of funk grease their ways down our backbones...disfunctional “feedback”-ridden “clockwork” shudders into view, beautiful “discords” abound...and, amidst all of this, “O Mauro Rendingane” chimes in - a fresh kind of awe that you could easily play to your mother - and have her love it to bits...

You, truly, need to open your ears to these marvels.

John Henry Calvinist