Sunday, 19 July 2015

Conny Plank Reviewed

The reviews are coming in for the newly released Conny Plank Sessions CD/vinyl.

First of all, Kevin Whitehead discusses the release with David Biancullli in this podcast:

Full transcription here.

And from the website Pitchfork, the following review by Ron Hart:

When the Conny Plank estate revealed that they have in their possession a recording of the experimental German producer and big band titan Duke Ellington in the studio together, it was indeed a surprise. But given the Duke's decades-long track record of taking creative risks, the two disparate minds coming together made a certain kind of sense.
Plank, who got his start as the soundman for famed German actress/singer Marlene Dietrich, was a maestro at multi-tracking, creating alien atmospheres for pioneering experimental rock acts such as Guru GuruClusterKraftwerk, and Neu! Plank wasn't entirely foreign to jazz, having done sound the year before for fellow countrymen Alexander von Schlippenbach on the piano great's seminal album The Living Music and Nipples, the free-jazz classic by saxophone colossus Peter Br√∂tzmann. Ellington, meanwhile, usually worked with a large ensemble and an even larger imagination for where to take it, a combination that seemed custom-made for multi-track recording. As with the rest of Ellington's rich and storied career, a combination of fate, savvy, and mutual connections brought the aging bandleader and the vanguard engineer together for a brief time at Rhenus Studio in Germany's Harlem of kosmische muzik, Cologne.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this session, which contains three takes apiece of two different songs, is how Ellington's Orchestra comes across when filtered through Plank's audio setup. For a producer whose work is so affiliated with heavy doses of pitch bending, echo, controlled reverb, and other forms of early electronic sound manipulations in his work, it's wild to hear how natural this recording is, as though Plank—himself a great admirer of the Duke—knew not to trifle with music that writer Henrik von Holtum compares to Johann Sebastian Bach in the liner notes to this release. "With both Bach and Ellington, you can sit down at a piano simply to go through it building chords and something great always happens," he explains. "This music is so rich, and it is virtually indestructible."
On the three versions of "Alerado", it is the combo organ work of Wild Bill Davis that takes center stage. Here, Davis picks up where he left off upon joining Ellington in 1970 for a leading man role on "Blues for New Orleans", the opening track off that year's New Orleans Suite. By the time they get to the third take, Davis seems to have discovered his inner Billy Preston, taking the brass section to a church somewhere between a cathedral and a ballpark, running full stride in a way that wastes no second of the opportunity provided to him by Duke, who seems happy to let Davis take the wheel.
But if there is any evidence from this session of a direct creative connection between Duke and Plank it is on the set's second track, "Afrique". Duke is front and center, and there's a discordance in his playing that suggests an admiration for Cecil Taylor or Andrew Hill. This song would wind up, in its more percussion-driven form, on Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, a record revered for its excursions into African folk music, Southern R&B, and even rock'n'roll. But on the three versions of "Afrique" recorded with Plank, Ellington can be heard exploring minimalism as expertly as his most vibrant, Technicolor playing from the heyday of swing.
When Ellington entered Rhenus Studio in the summer of 1970, the story goes that his goal was to use the space to record some stock material for later use. He didn't realize that he was working with one of pop music's bold visionaries. In hindsight, it's a meeting as monumental as such fabled unions as Prince and Miles Davis or Keith Richards and Gram Parsons; the kind of gigs music nerds book in their heads. Only, for this one there's hard evidence of its existence, a coming together of a great American icon and an adventurous young soundman from Deutschland that's as beautiful as it is unorthodox.
Source: Pitchfork

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