Category Archives: jazz

Goodbye 2016 (we will not miss you)

I have been dreading having to write a wrap-up piece about the year 2016. The last post that I made was in November when Leonard Cohen died. Since then, it seems to have been difficult to write anything. It has never been my intention to have my blog look like an obituary column but, it quite often feels like that.

In recent years, I have been reminding people that the musicians whose music we have enjoyed since the ’60s and ’70s are now mainly in their 60s and 70s. That means that the inevitable signs of mortality will surely take hold. This has certainly been the case in 2016.

The year seemed to start off on a high note with a brilliant new release (Blackstar) by David Bowie. However, this event seemed to quickly get overshadowed when Bowie died a couple of days after its release.

The death of Bowie seemed to resonate hard and deep within both the music industry and among his long-time fans. As someone who had been a fan for 45 years, I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. This seemed to be a shared experience as many people that I talked to or exchanged messages with appeared to be doing their best to hold back a wellspring of tears. Many tried but did not succeed. The last time that I can honestly recall such a reaction was when John Lennon was brutally gunned down.

But, that was just the start of a year that appeared to be voracious in its appetite to take away so many musicians and music related personalities away from us. It didn’t matter which genre of music was your favourite, the losses touched all aspects of music from rock, pop, R&B, jazz, classical and avant-garde.

Bowie, Cohen and Prince were among the biggest or most influential names for most of the year and then word of the death of George Michael slipped in on Christmas day.

I’ve owned records by many of the people who have passed this year. I’ve seen some of them in concert. I’ve even had the pleasure to meet a couple of them. The sad fact is that as time marches on, more of these people will make the headlines as they continue to leave us. So, let’s enjoy their music while they are still here and continue to honour their memory after they are gone.

Music can make us happy. Music can make us sad. Music can make us think. Music can make us feel how great it is to be alive. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like, it just matters that it means something to you. Be grateful for that. It is rare.

Here is a very brief list of some of the musicians and music-related people we lost in 2016:

Signe Anderson (Jefferson Airplane)

Gato Barbieri

Paul Bley

Pierre Boulez

David Bowie

Leonard Cohen

Tony Conrad

Keith Emerson

Glenn Frey (Eagles)

Dale Griffin (Mott the Hoople)

Merle Haggard

Sharon Jones

Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane)

Greg Lake

Neville Marriner

George Martin

George Michael

Scotty Moore

Alphonse Mouzon

Pauline Oliveros

Rick Parfitt (Status Quo)

Prince

Leon Russell

Dave Swarbrick (Fairport Convention)

Rudy Van Gelder

Alan Vega (Suicide)

Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire)

For a much more detailed (and depressing) list of the people that we lost this year, please visit Musicians Who Died in 2016.

Recent Arrivals – MoonJune

2016 marks the 15th anniversary of the MoonJune Records label. Over the course of its history, the label has released an impressive array of sounds spanning jazz rock, prog and world fusion recordings. Here are a few of the most recent…

“Zhongyu” Is Chinese for “Finally” is the self explanatory title of the CD by Zhongyu. The group explores many different areas which encompass relationships between different genres of music.

From the initial sounds of some electronic experimentation, the group slips into a prog rock mode with Crimson-esque guitar riffs and violin reminiscent of the Lark’s Tongue in Aspic era.

The use of the Chinese zither known as the guzheng brings an oriental feel to many of the works. It is used on its own as well as being blended with more modern electric sounds to interesting effect.

Overall, the mix of themes and instrumentation forms a nice balance for an album of interesting sounds.

So Far So Close by keyboardist Dwiki Dharmawan seems like a real blast from the past. If somebody had told me that an unreleased 1970s album by Return to Forever had recently been unearthed, I’d have been hard-pressed to argue. So far from the ’70s, so close to the sound.

Since I have been listening to RTF a fair amount lately, this disc seems to fit right into that mode. Even Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Jerry Goodman has been brought into the mix to feature on the album’s first track.

Sometimes it is hard to ascertain whether an artist is making a nod to the past with their sound or simply stuck in the era. Either way, if this type of jazz fusion is your cup of tea, you’ll probably find it quite entertaining.

For many of us of a certain age, the release of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon seemed like a watershed moment in musical time back in March of 1973. Since then, a couple of generations had been around to absorb its ever-present sonic vibrations. Over the years, there have been countless tributes and covers spanning all manner of disparate musical genres.

The Great Gig in the Sky is another such tribute by the trio of Boris Savoldelli, Raffaele Casarano and Marco Bardoscia. After the obligatory heartbeats and spooky voices, an acoustic bass brings the listener into Breathe.

Throughout the tracks, the sounds of jazz are mixed with electronic sounds which sometimes develop into pseudo electro dance beats.

The interpretations are interesting with accomplished musicianship.  The only drawback for me are the vocal contributions. While Boris Savoldelli has a distinctive vocal style, the often pained, dark approach seems to be more of a distraction within the context of the rest of the music.

MoonJune Records website

 

 

Keith Tippett on Discus

A while back, I posted about a recent Kickstarter campaign to fund a new Keith Tippett release on the Discus label. It was a quick success and now the CD is available for all to hear.

Keith Tippett has been active on the British jazz scene for over 45 years. His discography (under his own name as as a player with others) spans dozens and dozens of releases over those years.

My own introduction to his work came in the form of his sprawling double LP set called Septober Energy by the ensemble of fifty musicians that he assembled known as Centipede. This set released in 1971 (1974 on this side of the pond) was an amazing and sometimes confounding work of a massive scale. It certainly made my teenage ears perk up and listen.

Over the years, Tippett has continued to produce many works deemed important in the annals of British jazz. His latest work certainly does not veer from that standard.

The Nine Dances of Patrick O’Gonogon spans over the course of a series of nine (natch!) compositions… with an additional two works appended as codas.

Scored for his octet, the introductory work often feels like there are often twice as many players at work. The band could be as big as any Ellington or Basie ensemble at work. The piece swings but with a series of jagged edges stabbing within and around rapid-fire themes.

The second piece makes you feel like you have come out of the blistering sunlight and into the shade of a familiar tree. You can now wipe the sweat from your brow and feel some relief from the heat.

Three of the works – The Dance of the Walk with the Sun on his Back, The Dance of the Bike Ride from Shinanagh Bridge with the Wind at his Back and The Dance of the Wily Old Fox of the Ballyhoura Mountains – give off a cinematic air. These ears want to hear the sounds coming from a black and white detective film from the 1950s. They evoke a contemporary sound which harks to a monochrome age.

Following the Nine Dances are two codas. The first is a ballad sung by Julie Tippetts which seems to come out of nowhere to bring a tear to the eye like so many Irish folk songs are wont to do. It is followed by an arrangement of the traditional Irish song The Last Rose of Summer which neatly ties the whole package with a big shiny bow.

Tick the box for one more impressive addition to the discography of Keith Tippett.

Keith Tippet at Discus Music

Exposure for Canadian contemporary music (or lack thereof)

During my 25 years on the radio, I always took great pleasure in featuring the music of countless Canadian composers and musicians. These included works from the world of contemporary classical, electroacoustic and out jazz music. While it was great to share this material with the audience of a community radio station, it was not quite the audience that this music could have been receiving from a national broadcaster.

Over the years, the CBC (Canada’s national broadcasting service) has gone through many changes and these have often resulted in these types of music getting even more marginalized.

Canadian composer Paul Steenhuisen recently put together a letter to send to the Canadian League of Composer which addressed the situation of contemporary music and its status on the CBC. Paul has graciously given me permission to re-post his letter here.

Please read this letter in order to gain a greater understanding of the challenges that people like me (an electroacoustic composer) face when trying to get our music exposed to more people.


From Paul Steenhuisen to the Canadian League of Composers:

Following up on my recent FB post, I’ve written a letter to the Canadian League of Composers. I include the letter here in order that others can read it, and perhaps add their comments. The letter was addressed to CLC President Brian Harman and the Head of the Advocacy Committee, Ian Crutchley. Others cited in my original FB post were Christien Ledroit, David Pay, and David Jaeger. Hopefully good things will happen.

“As a former longtime Canadian League of Composers Council Member, past ISCM Canadian Section President, composer, and contemporary music and public broadcasting advocate, I am requesting that the CLC, in its role as representative of Canadian composers, direct resources toward renewing its working relationship with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for the benefit of the status of the artist in Canada.

The past decade has seen the removal of the CBC’s composer commissioning program, the demise of the CBC Vancouver Radio Orchestra, the cancellation of Two New Hours (the primary broadcast venue), the abandonment of recording of Canadian contemporary music, the end of the Young Composers Competition, and removal of other Classical Music radio programming. The accumulation of these actions amounts to the decimation of all resources previously, historically, and successfully devoted to Canadian contemporary music by the CBC, and the severance of the relationship between our flourishing field and the public broadcaster. While in some areas the CBC has diversified its programming, with the absence of Canadian composers and Classical music programming, it has moved toward significantly more commercial programming, at the expense of its responsibilities to the 1991 Broadcast Act. The Broadcast Act states that the CBC is mandated to provide programming that is “distinctively Canadian,” “actively contribute(s) to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,” to “make maximum use of Canadian creative and other resources in the creation and presentation of programming,” to “safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada,” and serve as “a public service essential to the maintenance and enhancement of national identity and cultural sovereignty.” Over the course of just over a decade, the CBC has perpetrated significant, quantifiable cultural and economic damage to the fields of Contemporary and Classical music in Canada.

In addition to developing and maintaining regular dialogue with the CBC to regenerate their investment in Canadian contemporary music through recordings, broadcasts, and commissions, etc., it would be prudent to determine the formal process for how new programs are proposed and developed, create a list of producers amenable to new programming initiatives, determine ways in which composers work could be included in current programming, and compile a set of resources that would assist CLC constituents in establishing meaningful communication with the CBC regarding our shared musical interests. More specifically, I am also requesting that the CLC, in combination with the organizers of the ISCM World New Music Days (Vancouver 2017), work towards securing national broadcast commitments by the CBC. The ISCM World New Music Days is an important international festival that will showcase top-level music, performers, and composers, and is an ideal opportunity for the CBC to be reminded of the quality, interest, and value of artists and individuals contributing to this wide-ranging field of creative music. While various other new media is available for making concerts available, nothing can currently match the awareness and exposure that can be obtained through the radio and television resources of Canada’s longstanding public broadcaster.

Please note that in discussion with the CBC, some individuals are inclined to distort and manipulate important terminology required for the presentation and understanding of accurate broadcast statistics. While demonizing art music as elitist, they have simultaneously sought to co-opt the term composer to apply to singer-songwriters and anyone who makes music. They have also attempted to transform the terms contemporary music and new music to mean anything recent, and inclusive of anything, such as commercial, pop, rock, hip-hop, electronica, and other forms of musical expression. By doing so, they will argue that they play more contemporary music by Canadian composers than they ever have, while knowing that this is untrue based on historically accepted definitions of the terms. Meanwhile, the CBC’s inclusion of composers associated with the Canadian Music Centre, including electroacoustic music, is near zero. The CBC is mandated to be an alternative to commercial interests, driven by cultural responsibilities rather than commercial ones.

With a new government that has stated its commitment to restoring the CBC, and new funds being promised to the public broadcaster, it is critical for the Canadian League of Composers to devote significant and ongoing resources to forging a meaningful role for Canadian art music at the CBC. There is a wealth of wonderful music being made and performed by artists of the highest level in Canada, and the field has expanded and changed – it is a cultural loss to Canadians that the CBC is currently not part of it. My hope is that with the advocacy of the CLC (perhaps in combination with the Canadian New Music Network), the current circumstance will change and our collective, active role in Canadian culture will once again be reflected by our public broadcaster.”

Recent Arrivals – Innova

Innova Recording have been releasing a steady catalogue of innovative CDs for many years. Most of these feature the works of contemporary classical music composers but, also other genres. Here are a few which have arrived in the post recently.

Paula Matthusen – Pieces for People: Paula Matthusen is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan University (experimental music, composition, music technology). This recent release focuses on a number of works in collaboration with other performers. Each piece presented here explores a different area of compositional styles.

Sparrows in Supermarkets is a piece for recorder (Terri Hron). It consists of various loops and drones and also explores the sounds of varying physical spaces. Limerence features the sound of the banjo (James Moore). Here, the instrument is used as a sound source to produce abstract manipulated sounds which float in an intriguing soundscape.

Two movements from AEG feature glitchy cut-up sounds including voice and real instruments. It was composed for dance. Of Architecture and Accumulation is a work for solo organ (Wil Smith) which examines the slowly increasing and decreasing dynamics of the instrument.

The CD also features works for large and small instrumental ensembles in the pieces corpo/Cage and In Absentia.

This discs presents a wide overview of the Matthusen’s compostional areas of exploration.

Gordon Beeferman – Four Parts Five: At first glance of the credits, you’d be forgiven in thinking that this was probably some straight-ahead jazz recording. Featuring piano, Hammond B3 organ, sax, flute, bass clarinet, electric guitar, double bass and drums, this is definitely not straight-ahead jazz.

Each of the four works included here possess their own quirky internal sonic engine. It is glitchy, funky, minimalist and dense with looping rhythms that ebb and flow but also jar and intrigue.

It is an odd blend of funky jazz meets minimalist composition. Think of Frank Zappa meeting up with Philip Glass at a strange late-night dance club where the music is not conducive to dancing. Pleasantly odd and inviting sounds abound. A challenging and rewarding listen.

Karen Gottlieb – Music for Harp: With her latest release, harpist Karen Gottlieb presents the works of four American composers. The disc is book-ended by pieces by Lou Harrison. Suite for Cello and Harp from 1949 presents a duet sound which reveals an optimistic melancholy which serves as an excellent starting point.

A series of seven other brief Harrison works dating from 1967 to 1977 conclude the disc. Music for Harp and Percussion presents a series of short works which explore the dialogue between the instruments. Each is like a vignette of sonic possibilities for duet.

John Cage’s 1949 composition In a Landscape is a solo work with a Satie-esque charm. The brief phrases loop and repeat in a hypnotic manner. This work was originally composed for dancer Louise Lippold.

The CD also contains two more recent compositions by Wayne Peterson and Dan Reiter and once again highlight Gottlieb’s feel for the works of these composers.

This is a well produced and varied selection of pieces which truly highlight her gift for interpretation of many different composers.

Patty Waters – In Concert 2015

If you read my earlier blog post about Patty Waters (or know me in real life), you’ll be aware of my affection for her ESP label debut LP. Well, this month marks the 50th anniversary of the recording of that album (December 19, 1965). So, it seems fitting to make another post about Patty at this time.

Last month, Patty gave a rare concert appearance at the Jazzhouse in Copenhagen, Denmark. Luckily, quite a bit of the performance was captured on video on that night of November 8th.

Here are clips from that show featuring Burton Greene (piano), Barry Altshul (drums) and Tjitze Vogel (bass). Enjoy!

 

Recent Arrivals – Leo Records

Pianist Uwe Oberg’s latest release – Twice, At Least – is a solo outing recorded at concerts in Germany in 2012 and 2015. In addition to the self-penned compositions, he also plays works from Annette Peacock, Steve Lacy, Carla Bley and Thelonious Monk.

Throughout the performances, Oberg expands the sound of the piano by often simultaneously playing the keyboard while also reaching inside to pluck the strings. This practice adds an extra layer of detail and expressiveness to the works which are already detailed and dynamic.

Hearing these live recordings makes the listener wish that there they were in the audience to see the performance first-hand. An excellent collection of works which excite the ears with their dynamic variations.

VocColours is a quartet of poetic vocalizers who have teamed up with musician Eberhard Kranemann to produce a unique blend of voices along with double bass and electronics. Throughout their CD entitled Luxatio, the ensemble bobs and weaves through a tapestry of vocalizations with sympathetic sonic accompaniment by Kranemann.

The result is a quilt of sound full of abstract sonic imagery and highly interesting blending dynamics.

The other two most recent releases in this latest batch from Leo Records share many similar sonic traits.

14 rue Paul Fort, Paris features the trio of Joelle Leandre (bass), Benoit Delbecq (piano) and Francois Houle (clarinets). Ramble is by the quintet known as SWQ and features Sandra Weiss (sax, bassoon), Jonathan Moritz (sax), Kenny Warren (trumpet), Sean Ali (double bass) and Carlo Costa (drums).

On both recordings, the ensemble players are seeking to create a flowing and abstract sound picture. The musicians listen to the sounds emanating from around them and spontaneously react to the situation at hand. It feels more like an improvisation of sound clouds than a a musical progression.

These clouds bend and blend to create a wonderful distortion of musical reality. Two sonic excursions which provide an aural palette of curious abstract imagery.

Leo Records website 

 

Recent Arrivals – Discus

If there is one thing that you can anticipate from the releases on the Discus label, it’s to expect the unexpected. This is a case in point.

frostlake is Sheffield-based singer, musician Jan Todd. On this debut release (White Moon, Black Moon), she creates layers of her voice and multiple instruments alongside contributions from other fine folks from the area including Martin Archer, Charlie Collins, Terry Todd and others.

The first thing that strikes you is the reverb-drenched near-whisper vocals. These are combined with layers of dreamy instrumentation that evokes a folky, psychedelic, progressive soundscape. It almost feels like one of those unearthed rarities of what is now termed “acid folk” recorded in the late ’60s or early ’70s.

However, the sound is brought up to date with one foot in the past and another with a hold on the present and future. The music is dreamy yet never slipping into a maudlin melancholy. There is always something going on to keep the listener engaged as the background sounds blend seamlessly with the often haunting layered vocals in the foreground. Definitely an album inviting repeated late-night listens.

Martin Archer’s latest release – Echoic Enchantment – is a collaboration with poet Bo Meson. Martin goes into some detail about the project’s genesis in the liner notes of the CD.

Inspired by a performance by Bo’s poetry group, Martin was inspired to create a work written around the text. The musical portion of the disc-length range from sparse basslines to haunting string sections evoking an atmosphere not unlike Ligeti or Pendereski. These sections are juxtaposed with others based on “directed improvisation” which have been edited and collaged featuring percussion, piano etc… which incorporate text which weaves its way into the soundscape.

The work flows and glides in several directions often creating a haunting and evocative atmosphere. A lengthy sonic journey that provides multi-layered scenery for the ears.

Discus website

 

Recent Arrivals – Drip Audio and Ambiances Magnetique

It’s always nice to receive some wonderful sounds from right here in Canada. These recent arrivals come from opposite sides of the country.

Joyful Talk is Jay Crocker. A Nova Scotian who found himself embedded in the heart of the Calgary experimental scene. His latest offering – MUUIXX  – consists of a series of self-recorded works which feature a number of his own homemade instruments. With these instruments, he creates soundscapes which range from repeating percussion lines, loops of electronic sounds and some obscured voices to haunt the mix.

Despite the percussive feel, the sounds don’t make their way into a realm of dance-ability. The rhythms are often broken or fractured evoking a picture sometimes reminding one of Autechre or Aphex Twin.

There are many twists and turns over the duration of the material and it’s always a pleasant surprise to hear where things proceed.

Guitarist Tony Wilson’s latest release features him in the context of an ensemble which is well suited to his wide range of performing. Many of the works present an atmosphere of hazy, laid-back sounds. His guitar mixes well with the violin of Jesse Zubot and trumpet of J.P. Carter. Cellist Peggy Lee, bassist Russell Sholberg and drummer Skye Brooks flesh out the picture to create a highly polished sound.

The hazy works are complimented buy other tracks which evoke the quirkiness of a Zappa-esque feel.  Even some King Crimson Lark’s Tongue in Aspic inspiration makes its way into the mix at times. A very diverse and successful recording.

With Musiques de Chambres 1992 – 2012, Jean Derome presents works different to the usual jazz-based releases that we’ve heard over the years. In this context, he presents several works in a more classical style but featuring instrumentation more associated with jazz.

Four of the compositions feature ensembles of four to eight players. Of those, one features eight flutes and another four saxophones. One work features Lori Freedman on solo bass clarinet and another is a duo with Derome on bass flute and alto saxophone along with Lori Freedman on clarinet and bass clarinet.

All of the works feature top-notch arrangements featuring stellar musicianship. While these pieces may not be what you would generally associate with Jean Derome, they should be considered an essential listen if you are a fan of his past work.

Drip Audio website

Ambiences Magnetique website

Recent Arrivals – Leo Records

The latest quartet of releases from Leo Records contains work from two saxophonists whose work has been very well documented by the label over the years – Ivo Perelman and Carlos Actis Dato.

Three of the four new discs feature Perelman in both duo and trio settings. Tenorhood with drummer Whit Dickey, Callas with pianist Matthew Shipp and Counterpoint with violinist Matt Maneri and guitarist Joe Morris.

All three recordings show Perelman in his element. In Tenorhood, he locks in with Dickey as they bob and weave to produce a tapestry of propulsive, percussive works.

With Matthew Shipp (on Callas), he produces a series of pieces (over two CDs) which have been inspired by the late, great opera singer Maria Callas. Each of the improvised works were subsequently named after one of the famous parts which Callas played (Aida, Norma etc…). While not specifically designed to mimic the music of any of these works, the inspiration of the serves to unify the theme in the minds of the players.

On Counterpoint, the trio which includes Morris and Maneri pull out all the proverbial stops to create an air of sonic surprises. The proceedings twist, turn and melt together to produce a cohesive picture of expansive proportions.

The Actis Dato Quartet include second sax player Beppe Di Filippo, bassist Matteo Ravizza and drummer Daniele Bertone. The context on the CD Earth is the Place focuses on compositions as opposed to improvisation. The works are up-beat and joyous in their presentation. It’s an uplifting atmosphere of a quartet locked in the moment and enjoying themselves as much as the listener.

Photos: Ivo Perelman (top), Carlo Actis Dato (bottom)

Leo Records website. 

Remembering Ornette Coleman 1930 – 2015

Ornette Coleman passed away on June 11th at the age of 85. He was a jazz legend who ranks among the greats such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis. While he probably sold less records than those two other artists, his influence on music certainly rivaled them.

Coleman’s 1958 debut album called Something Else!!!! in 1958 caused a stir in the jazz world that would continue to divide listeners and critics for years to come. His approach to melody, harmony and rhythm was part of his own view of what he called “harmolodics”.

His music was unique, inspired and inspiring. As with Davis and Coltrane, his sidemen over the years reads like a Who’s Who of jazz innovators. People like Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins all traveled though his groups.

I first heard Coleman’s music at some point in the 1970s. It wasn’t until some years later that I started adding his music to my collection. The advent of the CD era seemed to make it easier to find his recordings. These often included extra tracks recorded at the same sessions.

I also tried to track down copies of his albums on vinyl whenever possible. In the end, I managed to amass quite a large selection of his work in both formats (sometimes with duplication).

As my friend David Lee (jazz writer and former editor of Coda magazine) has mentioned, Coleman’s death is not a time for sadness. He was around producing his own personal style of music for decades. So, it is more a time to celebrate the work that he left us over so many years.

Luckily for us, Ornette Coleman did not die at an early age like Jimi Hendrix. In the latter’s case, we can only be left to speculate on what he would have done had he lived beyond the age of 27. In Coleman’s case, we were truly blessed to have heard his world of sound evolve over many years.

Ornette Coleman’s obituary from The Guardian

Recent Arrivals – Discus

DiscusCDs-Tippetts&Archeretc...-flat

One of the best things about doing a radio programme featuring non-mainstream music for many years was receiving music from like-minded folks from around the globe. Such was the case back in the ’90s when I received a package of CDs from Martin Archer on his Discus label.

Martin continued to send me music and I continued to feature it on the airwaves. We also corresponded quite frequently and a musical relationship built up. In the ensuing years, we have played together live many times on my visits to the UK and we’ve also contributed to each other’s recordings.

When I visited Martin in Sheffield last June, he was in the midst of about a dozen different recording and performance ventures. At that time, he played me a number of recordings that he was working on. Many of these are now available on this latest trio of double-CD releases.

Vestigium is the latest collaboration between Martin and vocalist Julie Tippetts. Every release in their series of works seems to magically rise above the previous  set. This is no mean feat as each of their projects are quite wonderful affairs.

This latest set is no exception as the individual works often vary drastically in their sound but manage to create a bigger picture which holds all of them together. Sonic backdrops can be minimal and shimmering with the vocal lines drifting through the landscape. Other times, a steady bassline and percussion beat bring the funk to the fore.

Listening to these works, it seems like both Martin and Julie were destined to lock their creative energies together. Julie’s dexterous vocalizations meld perfectly with the music. Martin’s ear for detail and the ability to create subtle layers for the vocals makes for a tapestry of aural delights. The final work in the set – Stalking the Vision – is a fine example of this sonic synergy in action.

Bad Tidings from Slackwater Drag is by Martin’s ten-piece big band called Engine Room Favourites. From the introductory tune – Song for Alice Coltrane – you know that you are in for a good ride. Tracks range from dense and frenetic to minimal improvised structures.

At times, I was put in the mind of Soft Machine and also was reminded of Julius Hemphill’s Big Band. The latter thought was confirmed as the concluding number of the set is a cover version of Hemphill’s classic track The Hard Blues. And ERF do a most admirable job in their performance.

Inclusion Principle’s Third Opening shows even more diversity for Martin and his cohorts. This is a trio which also includes Herve Perez and Peter Fairclough.

On this set, the sounds range from environmental field recordings, computer-generated sounds, saxophones, piano and percussion. From minimal soundscapes to wild hyper-rhythms, the pieces blend and weave their way through two CDs of diverse sonic contexts.

Definitely three more highlights for the ever-expanding Discus catalogue.

Discus Music website

 

 

Bernard Stollman (1929 – 2015)

ESP-Disk'

Bernard Stollman passed away on April 20 at the age of 85. He was the founder of one of the most eclectic record labels that ever existed – ESP-disk.

The roster of artists who recorded for ESP in the 1960s reads like an encyclopedia of the avant-garde musical world. Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Patty Waters, Paul Bley, Burton Greene, Alan Silva, Don Cherry, The Fugs, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders… The list seems endless.

For me personally, if they had only released the Patty Waters album, I would have been more than happy. But, they released so many more interesting and influential records over the course of the years.

Here is a link to Bernard Stollman’s obituary in the New York Times.

ESP-disk website

The Mysterious Mystery of… Lois

Lois-SatinDoll-back-cover

There was a time when you could find some interesting records at the thrift shop for a buck. The negligible investment made it possible to take a chance on things that just looked a bit odd or interesting. That is how I discovered a record that still remains a mystery to me.

Lois – Satin Doll showed up during one of my scavenges at a local thrift shop. It looked interesting enough to risk a dollar. So, I grabbed it.

Lois was apparently a regular fixture playing lounge style organ at a restaurant called The Charlesgate Restaurant in Williamsville, New York. This LP was recorded live there. It contains a mix of old chestnuts like the title track, Misty, Call Me etc… It also contains Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man. The tunes are well played and her voice is very good on the numbers that she sings.

So, of course, I should be able to track down something about her on the interwebs. Right? Well… no.

The record is a private pressing manufactured by a company called Mark Custom Records in 1977. I have been able to find out that these folks are still around doing custom runs of CDs for people today. That’s where the trail runs cold.

Countless searches only turn up the odd listing on eBay which simply quote from the liner notes of the LP. So far, I have been unable to find out any information about the mysterious Lois herself.

If you have any information, I’d love to hear from you. Until then, Lois remains a mystery.

Lois - Satin Doll

 

Essential Sounds – Patty Waters

Back in the mid-’70s, I was listening to the radio (WABX, Detroit or CJOM, Windsor) when I heard a DJ talking about an record that he was about to play. He sounded very upset. He felt that this was a VERY special album and that in a perfect world everybody would own or at least hear it. He then played the piece which takes up the entire second side of the LP entitled Patty Waters Sings. I was so blown away by the sounds that I immediately went downtown and special ordered a copy of the record.

Recorded in December 1965 and released the following year on the wild and wonderful ESP record label, Patty Waters Sings is indeed an essential listening experience.

The first side consists of short songs with Patty on vocals and piano. The songs are minimalist works of art. Both the vocals and piano seem to hang suspended in space with a persistent mood of melancholy mixed with broken-hearted despair.

Every time that I have played this album for people, they would sit motionless and entranced by the sound. Jaws would drop.

And then there is the second side. Here, Patty is accompanied by Burton Greene (piano), Steve Tintweiss (bass) and Tom Price (percussion). The sole piece on this side is a radical reworking of Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.

During the course of this track, the band goes off into a manic level of improvisation while Patty seems possessed by a demon. She starts off quite traditionally but winds up sounding like she is running around the studio shrieking to the mass of angular sounds stabbing their way around her voice. It is a magnificent tour de force of both instrumental and vocal dexterity.

In a recent discussion on a music forum, the question was asked what one album you would save if you had to escape your home burning down. This was the album… and it didn’t take a great deal of thought to make the decision.

Patty released one more LP for ESP which was a live recording. But, her debut album is the one that really stands the test of time for its essential sounds.

PattyWaters-Sings