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10 Seconds: Tom Challenger

1. Miles Davis - Funk (0'02" - 0'12")

From Miles Davis - Live In Rio De Janeiro (1974, bootleg)

"Sometimes you hear things that are new, and the first 10 seconds or so just stay in your mind: an ear worm, or similar, if you like. I’ve been listening to this all week. The Wah’d Drum Machine, plus the feedback…the fade in…then Michael Henderson and Al Foster HIT. The whole band are incredible here."

2. John Coltrane - Ascension (Edition 1) (4'16" - 4'26")

From John Coltrane - Ascension (1965)

"I bought The Impulse reissue double CD of this, which included both takes of Ascension. The second take was released, however, the inclusion of this take in the double CD always stays with me. The modulation you hear at ‘4.20 always used to make me me cry! One of those bits of music I guess…

The sense of pulse at this moment really stands out for me, especially when you contrast it with the same rough area on the take that was ultimately released, which as one can hear is much more turbulent. Being able to hear both takes together really outlines the breadth and dynamism of all the participants. It’s joyous."

3. Ornette Coleman - Eos (0'13" - 0'23")

From Ornette Coleman - Ornette on Tenor (1962)

“Coming out of the written head, I used to repeat the opening of Ornette’s Solo over and over (I find myself doing the same now…). Jimmy Garrison (Bass) and Ed Blackwell (Drums) lay the most fantastical and swinging accompaniment for Ornette. Like Parker, or Julius Hemphill (which we listen to later), his sound on tenor is so unique."

4. Henry Threadgill - Salute to the Enema Bandit (0'39" - 0'49")

From Henry Threadgill - X-75 Volume 1 (1979)

"Threadgill will never cease to amaze me. This snippet for some reason however manages to surprise me every time I hear it. Yes, the orchestration is preposterous. However, the melody in the Arco Basses, alongside with the trajectory of the ensuing wind lines seems to sum up a lot of why I love Threadgill: resonance, movement, personality…

There are countless other examples like this in his oeuvre, such as with his Sextett and the Air Trio. As composers and improvisers, both…whatever, I guess we always aim to expand, yet understand more. At least I do. However, Threadgill really made me listen to and consider all aspects of an ensemble, right from the bottom to the top, and how it proceeds. X-75, is essential, by the way!"

5. Julius Hemphill - Reflections (0'01" - 0'11")

From Julius Hemphill - Coon Bid'ness (1975)

"I think Tim Berne once described this (on social media) as one of the greatest openings to an album of all time. He’s not far wrong, in my opinion!

I’ve been fascinated/in love with JH’s music for some time now. Although I was quite late to discover his music (in my mid-20’s or so), there was a lot in it that immediately resonated with me. This particular example I love for many reasons, however, mainly the intonation/orchestration. It simmers with a resonant feeling that comes from having incredible melodists such as Hemphill, Arthur Blythe, Abdul Wadud and Hammiet Bluiett encounter such richly orchestrated and beautifully moving parts."

6. Roscoe Mitchell - Nonaah (4'20" - 4'30")

From Roscoe Mitchell - Solo, Willisau (1976)

" I’ve dropped in on this time-marker more out of practicality than anything else. At this point, however, one begins to hear the audience become part of this unbelievable solo performance by Roscoe Mitchell. Although the piece, ‘Nonaah’ can be heard in many different iterations, this particular rendition highlights his mastery of the nuance, and development of sound over time. As he waits, tiny variations become amplified by his control of the sonic context."

7. Weather Report - Young and Fine (0'00" - 0'10")

From Weather Report - Mr Gone (1978)

"This is the sample that ATCQ took for their tune ‘Butter’, from The Low End Theory. That album was a staple of my teen years and has a lot to answer for in terms of my current employment status. That said, on discovering ‘Young and Fine’ for the first time, it opened me up to a lot about placement, orchestration, transposition….I love how ATCQ have pitched up the original sample, so as to sit with Q-Tips vocals and other sounds. However, at the original speed, you hear all the moment within the pads that Zawinul employs. I’ve also been a sucker for layered keyboards, and this really does that particular thing well (of course, with the Bass)."

8. John Coltrane - Leo (0'25" - 0'35")

From John Coltrane - Live In Japan (Recorded in 1966)

"I somehow stupidly passed on buying the 4CD version of this release 15 years ago, which was a big mistake. Luckily, I have a copy on long term loan from a good friend! The set really pulls at me in different ways than some of the other later recordings that were released. There are parts that frustrate me, yet others that move me more than anything else I hear. For example, the amount/when the members’ of the band solo never aligns with my biased presuppositions. There’ll never be a moment where I don’t want more of him. However, the sounds! The Clarinets, Alto Saxophones, Tenor saxophones… The interplay between Coltrane and Pharaoh is not what I want it to be - and this fascinates me. The interplay acts to realign my aesthetic biases every time I hear this. The interplay is alive!

This clip is revealing in other ways too. Much like the stunned silence at the end of the very recently released version of A Love Supreme in Seattle, the roar of the audience here highlights the resonance and perceptive cycles between audience and band. Hair raising."

9. Eric Dolphy - Iron Man (0'24" - 0'34")

From Eric Dolphy - Iron Man (1963)

"‘Youth. Youth. Woody Shaw is 20 on this date and the opening of this solo just blew my mind when as a teenager I was walking my old family dog, with a CD Walkman in my home village of Marsden, in the Pennines. I still revisit this particular entry for a number of reasons. One is the SOUND, the conviction, but also his riding of the wave that has come before (his experiences, the song, Dolphy’s solo). It sums up the feeling that I sometimes have when you commit to a scene, and the energy continues to drive you forward. However, rather than this idea being one of the transcendental, Shaw shows us that there is an immanent strength to improvisation. One responds, yet the craftsmanship, or personal drive has as much to do with this.

And youth. It genuinely astounds me that he was so young. Youth is inspiring."

10. Dudu Pukwana & Spear - Baloyi (0'00" - 0'10")

From Dudu Pukwana & Spear - In The Townships (1974)

"Just the most incredible opening statement. Rising, rising, rising. No more to be said!"


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