Live Fripp: ’74 & ’10

17 05 2011

When music cost more it seemed there was less of it. Now that music is often free, there’s a glut. More is good but more is a lot to wade through.

Prog loves this glut and it’s a pleasure to sip from the fire hose.

Robert Fripp’s recent performance in a very public space in New York playing his version of ambient jazz is available to listen to any time for free here and here. Free music that’s actually worth paying for … but why bother. Thank you, seriously, WNYC Radio, for actually creating programming in the public interest, at no direct charge, with an interview that is not over-the-top fawning. Archived too? There is nothing to not like and that’s a compliment for the stale loaf of bread that’s become American radio.

The context of this show’s broadcast fits into the progressive mold: a live recording, strictly by the station for its listeners. This practice fled from album-oriented rock radio’s demands for low budgets in the mid to late ’70s. A live broadcast from a local venue, usually a small one, was a treat for those who couldn’t get a ticket. Grateful Dead on KSAN formed the mold.

Fripp that costs is available too.  Toronto ’74, with all the beautifically jagged edges Fripp owned at the time. Bill Bruford’s hollow-with-a-solid-bottom drumming, the heady pull of the dark bass, and the sheets of steel guitar. DGM makes the show available by mail order as the most recent release in the King Crimson Collectors Club series that dates back to the late ’90s.

Pay the guy; he deserves it. No one should have received the bad treatment Fripp’s been meted out by the music business, and he’s only one of tens of thousands to realize he had to be part businessman in addition to avant garde musician. Evolve or die, eh?

Both performances are progressive, a foot in the past and one in the future. Put each in context with its time and it’s clear they’re an accurate mirror of our time, then and now. Those who listened closely, and those who still do, are still present for a feast of audio.

Plus, it’s a Robert Fripp audio feast. He’s easy to underrate and tough to overrate.

Prog should be rewarding in this way. It’s not a drive-by  experience. It’s meant to resonate and both these Fripp performances will bounce pleasantly around the room and your head for a while after you’ve heard them.