Improvijazzation Nation, issue # 74
Issue # 74 REVIEWS
FEATURED Zzaj Productions album samples –
We now have 3 TOTALLY FREE CD’s (with free cover art) available for download at our NETLABEL site! The only thing we ask is that you scroll to the bottom of the page(s) & give us a REVIEW! Please ADVERTISE this to ALL your friends… tell them we are GIVING AWAY music!
Dan Moretti – PASSING PLACE: It’s always a joy to review someone who was a “hit” in our ears in a previous review… get an idea of where they’ve been since we last heard them, & where they may be going… Dan’s CD “That’s Right” was reviewed way back in issue # 36, & “Passing Place” is even more exciting! He’s got a heck of a krew with him this time ’round, featuring keyboards by Paul Nagel, guitar by Bruce Bartlett, Marty Ballou’s bass, percussion by Jorge Najaro & drums by Marty Richards, & tho’ his tenor/soprano sax work is at the forefront of this get-down & funky jazz, they all play their parts flawlessly! Another fantastic element of this grand lil’ CD is that the tracks are all originals (except Wayne Shorter’s “Virgo”)… I always prefer that jazz albums feature red-hot smokin’ originals, & Dan doesn’t disappoint on this outing, that’s fo’ SHO’! All th’ way from th’ funky organ/keyboard sounds on “Aren’t Blue” to th’ totally groovin’ “You Said What” (my favorite track on the album, btw), Moretti carves a niche totally his own (something very difficult to do in this world so plentiful with reed players)… & you’ll find that you’ll make it your own as well! This one gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, without hesitation or qualification! There’s no hint of “smooth” jazz here, & that’s a total compliment! Get more information at http://danmoretti.com/ Rotcod Zzaj
Hendrik Muerkens – AMAZON RIVER: I’ve only heard a few jazz CD’s that featured harmonica before… this one is a favorite after only 3 spins… Mr. Muerkens plays with real energy & I think the harmonica adds a somehow “familiar” touch that makes it easy for him to draw the listener “into his fold”. If your ears are looking for radical improv, this won’t fit the bill… it feels like “homespun”… but Hendrik is clearly a genius at “the weave”. The compositions have a distinctly Latin feel to them, probably because the players on it (besides Hendrik) are from Brazil. One of the best parts of the album (for me) is that Muerkens has so many originals on the release… as those of you who read this section regularly know, my ears always favor original over covers… 4 out of 11 cuts belong to him – “Mosquito Tongue” (cut 6) is my absolute favorite track on the album! Listeners who want to hear jazz with a different twist will fall in love with this CD immediately – I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Get more information on this August 23rd, 2005 release at www.bluetoucanmusic.com Rotcod Zzaj
Trio Da Paz – SOMEWHERE: I’m not quite sure where “somewhere” is, but the first listen to this CD ensures that it’s a place I’d like to be (probably somewhere in the vicinity of Brazil, since that’s where all these folks hail from)! Acoustic guitar-based jazz, with absolute & powerful energy quotient. It’s totally clear that Romero Lubambo’s guitar, Nison Matta’s acoustic bass & Duduka Da Fonseca’s drums will transport you to an aural space your ears will love, full of inspiration & vision! This album will hit the streets around 20 September, 2005, & you’ll want to be there to snatch up your copy. These guys melt together smoothly, but their strong compositions guarantee that they’ll never be classified in the (dreaded) “smooth jazz” territory. Their changes are clear & straightforward… the music leans heavily in the direction of Latino jazz, infused with a real sense of mystery & discovery! If your ears are already in search of sonic adventure, you’ll find that this addition to your collection will be one of those timeless “keepers”. I give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! There is one minor criticism – get the track titles & credits burned to the CD, fellows… so I don’t have to keep running back & forth between the tracks & the album cover to see what track is playing. Get more information on this great little CD at www.bluetoucanmusic.com Rotcod Zzaj
Flight ’09 – SIGNS AT THE WATER: We reviewed this smokin’ lil’ rock band from Uzbekistan several issues ago, on a U.S. label release… this CD had no label inserts, or other information to tell us much about who was releasing it… but that’s of little consequence, since their music is still on fire, NO doubt about it. I’m reminded a lot of albums we’ve reviewed by Rick Ray… heavy, HEAVY guitar leads, drums that POUND, & vocals that keep your blood movin’ right on along! We’re actually hoping that this is a “pre-release” version, & that they’ll have some cover art on th’ final release… this is one of the better rock albums I’ve listened to this year… it stands alone as rock of th’ 21st Century… just KICKZ! Lookin’ back through the e-mail boxes, I realize (now) that they’re shopping for a label for this CD (that’s why it didn’t have cover art, I suspect). If you’re a small label lookin’ for an “instant rock hit”, I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… same goes for listeners who want a spirit of adventure & drama in their listening experience! GR8 rock! Contact via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
Beegie Adair, with the Jeff Steinberg Orchestra – AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER: So, you’re waxing nostalgic, & want to wend your (mental) way back to the elegant moments of big theater from the ’50’s & ’60’s, eh? Well, when you listen to the soothing keyboard mastery Ms. Adair lays down for you, you’ll be able to get “in the mood” instantly – as was the case for her “Jazz Piano Christmas” CD, reviewed in issue # 39! The music on this CD certainly isn’t “back room funk”, or “be-bop-a-lula”, so those who are somewhat lost without a backbeat to grind against won’t get into this… but if beauty is your thing, you’ll find yourself weaving your own Technicolor dreams after only 8 or 10 bars. Beegie keeps th’ jazz alive, even tho’ this is primarily laid-back movie background track type material… it makes for a very pleasant listen, & those listeners who want a break from dangerous music will enjoy it immensely. I give this album a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those listeners! Get more information at www.beegieadair.com Rotcod Zzaj
Andrea Wolper – THE SMALL HOURS: Pay attention to the CD title, ‘coz as soon as you hear the first few bars, you’ll “get” the picture Andrea is painting with her sultry vocals… I remember many early morning cruises through downtown late-night streets & jazz bars (in Frankfurt, Germany) that had singers in smoky rooms like Ms. Wolper’s beautiful voice brings back to memory. Track 2, “You and the Night and the Music”, takes me into slightly different streets… still dark, but with smoke rising out of hookahs, rather than expensive cigarettes & cocktails…. very “eastern” rhythms on this one. My favorite cut on the album is an original from Andrea, titled “Gray, Not Blue”… though you’ll find strong blue in the cut, to be sure. Once she starts her vocal on this one, you won’t be able to escape… except into th’ “down” atmosphere she draws you into; very laid-back environment that will make you feel it! If you want a relaxing, yet highly inspired, bluesy interlude (that will stay in your collection for many years to come), this one comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… it hits the street ’round September 6th, 2005, so be there! Get more information on the website at www.wordsmusic.com/cd.html Rotcod Zzaj
E-Rok and Blacklight – SONGS YOU CAN PLAY AND SING TO: This CD provides a nice contrast to what we are often reviewing… acoustic stylings, wonderfully recorded guitars & strong lyric/vocals blend into alternative music that is alternative. From the standpoint of composition, this music takes me back to early CSNY, though these folks have their own distinctive style, no doubt. One of the things I check for (right away) these days is the CD itself… to see if the producers have “burned” the credits/titles onto the disk (using NERO, or something other than WMP)…. this one didn’t do that, so it takes an ever so slight “hit” for that. That’s only a minor crit, though, as it’s definitely their music that will capture your ears & move your soul into “the zone”. They play with high spirit & full energy on all the songs, though there aren’t a lot of “rockers” here. My favorite track, rhythmically, is “Blows”, track 7… & it turns out to be my favorite on the whole album. Keep your ears on these folks, they’ll be risin’ on up th’ chartz, no doubt about it. I give this album a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who wants to hear acoustic with real intrigue. Get more information at their site, www.somissound.com Rotcod Zzaj
Stellamara – THE SEVEN VALLEYS: On occasion, we get a few “New Age” recordings in for reviews… few are able to combine world energies into anything more than drone… while I have no objection to such, my ears yearn for melodies to intertwine with rhythm in a manner that challenges me to get up & MOVE in support of something, anything… & that’s what “Stellamara” is able to accomplish. Yes, there are some repetitive rhythmic stretches, but the composition & arrangement skills are able to keep the flow moving in the direction of inspiration. This CD hits the streets on September, 13th, 2005, & if you want music that is soothing, yet challenging – “The Seven Valleys” will take your ears to a level that bounds beyond the “comfort zone”, & on into musical adventure. Lead vocals by Sonja Drakulich have much to do with the energy quotient involved here, but the other players (far too many to itemize here) are just as intimately involved in layering the sonic canvas so that you will be (quickly) drawn into their world of enchanted aural imagery. I like this one well enough to rate it as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all who love New Age with more! Get more information at www.stellamara.com/ Rotcod Zzaj
Matthew Thomas Band – LIVE AT UNCOMMON GROUND: After to listening to a nice set with these guys at a local Olympia coffee house (The Java Flow, now with a new owner), I asked if they had a CD… fortunately for our ears, they handed one off for me to review. No fancy artwork, just the above titled album in a green jacket. What impressed me in the short live set I listened to is how “natural” they seemed playing original material… nice folk/electric rockin’ compz infused with real energy & spirit! The CD sounded even better, probably because there were an even dozen songs that just kinda’ “flowed” across my ears. No credit listings (but, they were forwarded to me later – here they are: Matthew Brenna: Lead Guitar/vocals/song writer/Thomas Rorem: Guita/vocals/song writer/PeterSloan: Bass/Rian Beaird: Drums), since there wasn’t any kind of booklet, or tray insert… also, I’d recommend burning the CD with something like NERO, so the track titles/listings/credits can be visible as the album plays. They’ve got a broad range of talent for basic guitars/bass/drums, & where their talent really shines is in their lyrical skill. Well crafted, with no hint of being “overbearing”, I really enjoyed their songs. You’ll want to keep your ears out for this band – they’ve got some real potential! Get more information via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Moutin Reunion Quartet – SOMETHING LIKE NOW: Superb sonics & excellent jazz composition will make this a reunion you’ll wish you’d been there for… & with this CD, you can (at least for a few) feel like you are. The recording has an “intimate” feel… not just the playing, but the recording itself… I’m not exactly sure why it comes across that way, but it does. You’ll want to be in line on August 30th, 2005, when this is released in stores… it’s that pleasant a listening experience. Siblings Louis (drums) & François (bass) Moutin are joined by a most excellent pianist, Pierre de Bethmann & sax player Rick Margitza. All of the tracks but one are all original, which makes the experience ever more exciting for these ol’ ears… totally fresh ideas that are expressed with total energy & will challenge your ears to reach new plateaus. This is one of the best jazz albums I’ve listened to this year, & it comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz buffs who want pure creativity flowing into their ears! Get more information about the band, their tours & listen to some samples at http://moutin.com/ Rotcod Zzaj
Margie Baker and Friends – LIVE AT BACH: There are two words that come to mind when you listen to Ms. Baker’s soulful jazz singing skills here – FRIENDLY MUSIC. Her vocals are charged with what that “good ol’ soul” is s’posed to be all about – “the SPIRIT” – this kind of talent doesn’t come from inside (alone) – some higher power is involved! With “friends” like Omar Clay (Drums), Fred Berry (trumpet) & Rodney Jones (guitar), just to name a few, this CD can’t help but be a jazz classic! What makes this musical experience even more wonderful is that it’s live… it’s really hard to get all the players/elements to come together well enough on a recording to release it, when you don’t have the studio tricks to lean on. You’d better be prepared for this one, though… zone out a couple of hours, pull up a jar of your favorite poison & sit back & please yourself with 2 albums worth of sonic solitude. Now, that’s not to say that it’s all e-z listening, either… when she rolls on into “Gimme A Pigfoot”, you’ll hear just how “down-home” Margie is… all I can think of while I listen to her perform this is starched (but stained) white Van Heusen shirts on a Saturday afternoon in the park. This is, without question, the most entertaining female vocal album I’ve heard in a long, long time – it gets my “PICK” for “best female jazz vocal album” of 2005, as well as our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating! Superb music! Get more information at CAP Records, via www.jazzbeat.com/ Rotcod Zzaj
OnOffOn – BRIDGE TO PRESAGE: One of the main reasons I fell in love with this group so many years ago (mid-to-late ’90’s) is because they always bring freshness to the musical arena with their compositions. You often read (or hear) statements like that about musical groups, but this band continues to amaze. All instrumental on this ’round, with an almost “classical” underpinning, they have successfully painted sonic images that illustrates their (musical) vision of a world that emphasizes what should be our focus (as quoted from the liners) – “Humanity, Peace and Remembrance”. Bassist Von Babasin sent this as a review copy (I’ve been corresponding with him ever since I first heard the band), & are we glad he did. They’ve incorporated their jazz/blues roots into the tunes, especially on tunes (track 3) like “Ostinato” (my favorite on the album, in great part because of new member Glen Garrett’s superb sax work… but all the players smoke on this cut. My first listens to this superb music were when they were a trio… Don Lake (guitar), Von (bass, as already mentioned) & Dave Goode ( drums). The addition of Marcus Duke’s piano, & guests Ron King doing trumpet & flugelhorn work, as well as Bob McChesney’s trombone excellence offer a new dimension, to be sure. If your ears thirst for music that is in a new dimension, you’ll surely agree that this keeper is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. To get more information, visit them at www.onoffon.com Rotcod Zzaj
Positive Knowledge – FIRST ONES: You don’t have to be a rabid fan of spoken-word artistry to enjoy this collective from San Francisco – but it does help to be in that category. It also pays to enjoy reeds, like the bass clarinet & saxes played by Oluyemi Thomas, & the word artistry performed by Igeoma Thomas. While I’m not religious about my penchant for spoken-word, I do believe it’s important for children (& adults who are still children at heart) to grasp the significance of “word-istry” as it relates to music. & folks like this, as well as Spirit on drums & percussion & Ike Levin on tenor sax, clarinet & percussion are among the best to listen to if you want to pursue this unique street of dreams. The most notable thing about the performances on this particular album is the degree of freedom & energy they project. “Never a dull moment” is an axiom that CERTAINLY applies here. I enjoyed this thoroughly, & if your mind is open enough, you surely will, too. I rate it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who love to hear what creativity in music truly is. To get more info, go to www.charleslestermusic.com Rotcod Zzaj
Steve Heckman Quartet – LIVE AT YOSHI’S: Steve’s tenor & soprano sax skills are at the top of the stack, & this excellent recording will make your ears just stand up & listen! The quartet is rounded out by Matt Clark’s great piano work, bouncing bass from Karen Horner & beautiful drum work by Jemal Ramirez; all the players are in total communion with each other, whether on Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes” (the opener), Coltrane’s “Equinox”, or one of the several Heckman originals. My favorite cut on the album is Steve’s “Ode To The Sunsinger”, which blends old “smoky-room” beats with modern & spirit-filled soprano beauty to bring all the power of jazz to your yearning ears. If you can’t hear the soul in his compositions, you’re not of the “jazz persuasion” anyway, so move on to another rack. The quartet is totally in communication, especially considering that this album was captured live… harmonically & rhythmically, this is some of the best work I’ve heard this year. We give this an immediate MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any & all who can’t bear to be without the most hip jazz in their collection. A SUPERB jazz CD that will rise to the top of the charts in stellar fashion. Get more information at www.steveheckman.com/ Rotcod Zzaj
Mark Sherman – ONE STEP CLOSER: Must have been “jazz heaven” that Mark had in mind when he titled this CD… ‘coz that is where this music will take you – at least if you’re a “jazz-head”, that is. His vibraphone work is brilliant, shining jazz that will get your motor running! We’ve been reviewing his great works since about 1995 or so… all the way back to issue # 36… about 4 CD’s thus farly… I’m sure that’s why they keep coming our way, ‘coz everything I’ve ever heard from him had real panache & spirit – & “One Step Closer” takes him (& you, the listener) ever nearer Nirvana, to be sure. This one will be on the racks in your favorite local store around September 6th, 2005, & you’ll want to be first in line to snatch this one up. He’s joined by some really strong players… Joe Lovano does tenor sax, Joe Magnarelli on trumpet & flugelhorn, Allen Farnham on piano, Dean Johnson’s bass & Tim Horner on drums. Once again, Mark has put together a truly classic jazz set that you’ll want to stay in your “active” collection. Nearly all original (& new) pieces, you’ll fall in love immediately with his skill & energy… my favorite on this album was “Spiritual Exercise”… it’s the kind of tune (particularly because of the vibes) that will spur you to get connected again – no slothful spirits here, I can tell you. This CD gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who love jazz that kicks tail! Get more information through his site, at www.markshermanmusic.com Rotcod Zzaj
Lisa Bell – IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE: I wouldn’t call this wonderful CD “strictly jazz”… there are elements of everything th’ world ’round us is about… but it’s clear that Ms. Bell is fully capable in the vocal jazz arena. Her voice is classic… full-bodied & laden with emotion. The title track is (actually) my favorite, & in addition to the great lead vocals, it’s been arranged to make the background vocals stand out, too. I’m really, really impressed with this lady’s crystal-clear talent. Cut 3, “Don’t Wait Forever” takes on a real Latino feel, & is running a close second for my favorite pick… Lisa switches styles easily, & her voice is right on the rhythms… your feet will be beggin’ you to get up & dance th’ night away. “Ain’t Divorce Grand” will make you feel th’ hurt, & if you ain’t had “the blues” before, you’ll know how they feel at the end of this one. This album is our first listen to Lisa’s work… she’s a total pro, the recording is excellent & my ears give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any listener who wants to hear talent that shines ever so brightly! Get more information, or purchase the CD, at www.cdbaby.com/cd/lisabellmusic2 Rotcod Zzaj
Angelyna Martinez – LABOR OF LOVE: This must be “female jazz vocalist” month at this ‘zine… we’ve already pulled 2 or 3 marvelous CD’s out of the stack that feature jazz-oriented vocals… Ms. Martinez knows how ta’ belt ’em down, with real verve & gutsy lines that come straight from th’ soul! Her real vocal talent is in “capturing” the listener, like a true siren! After listening through several times already, it’s clear why director Tim Burton declared Angelyna’s vocals to be “simply beautiful”. The recording is excellent, with a wonderful blend of instruments that put her voice right out where it belongs – in FRONT! This makes for a very pleasant listen for anyone who wants jazz with heart, especially if you want to hear some “new” interpretations of old standard jazz tracks. I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, to be sure. If you want to hear what “fresh” sounds like, get this one… you can get more information at www.angelynamartinez.com/ Rotcod Zzaj
Kenny Carr – FRIDAY AT FIVE: If yer’ soul’s hankerin’ for some down & dur-tee blooz’ influenced guitar music, you’ll just love what Kenny does on this great CD. & if you’re wondering why or how he got “hold o’ that soul”, it’s probably got a lot to do with the fact that he played as Ray Charles lead guitarist for over 10 years. I’m talkin’ about some scorching tunes, heavily jazz & R&B influenced, that will take ya’ down home, folks. The tunes were recorded way back in ’97, & (somehow) wound up on a shelf – man, we’re glad they got released, ‘coz there’s some shining energy here, & Carr & his fellow players (Andy Hess on bass, Donny McCaslin doing tenor sax, John Dryden on keyboards, Tony Mason’s drums & John Bailey on trumpet) are absolutely tight on all the tracks. That title trak is my favorite, genuine funk&groove that’ll make ya’ MOVE! I don’t hear great R&B influenced guitar compositions like this all that much these days, so it’s a real treat for my ears. Real/legitimate musical magic that gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “best R&B/jazz guitar sound”. This one is a “keeper” for sure! Get more information at www.kennycarrguitar.com/music.html Rotcod Zzaj
Joan Crowe – BIRD ON THE WIRE: When “Fever” comes crooning out of th’ speakers with th’ same intensity as Peggy performed it with, yet with Joan’s own unique spirit/take on it, your ears know you’ve snatched a true winner. Ms. Crowe’s vocals on these wonderful jazz are full of pure energy & dedication to putting th’ listener in th’ “pleasant zone”. The whole idea on this CD is that the ears of those who are catching the sonics must be entertained… no drab messages, or worn-out cliché songs, in fact every moment on each song is full of emotion & talent. My favorite cut was “Twisted”, ‘coz it displays shining talent, boogie’in’ blooz energy & humorous intent through & through. This is one of the best jazz vocal CD’s I’ve heard (yet) this year, & we certainly look forward to hearin’ more from Joan in the future. This one gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ol’ ears… hit th’ stores when it hits the streets ’round August 16th, 2005. Get more information on Joan’s site at www.joancrowe.com Rotcod Zzaj
Tom Furgas – RELAY MUSIC 2005: This great little CD features long-time home-recorder Furgas doing some pieces that feel much more in the “ambient” zone than I’ve heard him do before… that may not be because he hasn’t done such before, just that I hadn’t heard them before. No matter, the opener (“York Factory B”) clocks in at over 17 minutes, & will (if you relax & let it) take you through a land of total enchantment. There are some really deep moments in the listening; you’ll feel like you’re at the edge of some far-away galaxy, in some “godlike” position, able to shape & move planets, suns & stars. Truly majestic scope, with broad vistas painted clearly & sweetly for your aural appendages. This is an astounding album that instantly merits our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating. Get more information from the label, via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Rotcod Zzaj
The Mars Dark – THE MARS DARK: I’m pretty sure the main reason we received this CD for review is because our (long-time) friend Don Campau was a part of the recording project. & of course, he knew it would be a big HIT here. You’ll easily understand the title when you are told the artist’s names – Myke Marrs (Kansas City), Josh Mars (Monterey, CA), Don Campau (Santa Rosa, CA) & Dr. Calvin Marze (Carmel, CA). They started (as so many of the home-taper crew, myself included) with analog tape… circulating, re-recording & (carefully) digitally re-mastering their sonic experiments/manipulations to the final product… a very interesting CD that explores depths & heights of signal previously untapped. This is a different kind of project than any I’ve heard Mr. Campau on before… much more in the experimental realm – even borders on the edges of industrial in spots. Some intriguing vocal backgrounds & psychotic word meanderings add spice, too. All in all, a very good CD that listeners who prefer adventures in sound (as opposed to the “comfort zone”) will relish thoroughly. I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Get more information via e-mail to email@example.com Rotcod Zzaj
Darren Hume – LIGHTNING WOMAN: If ROCK is yer’ forte, you won’t be able to do WITHOUT this one… there are real varieties on this CD, it’s not “poppy plastic”, as are so many these days… Mr. Hume hails from Australia, so I’ve no doubt we’ll be hearin’ tunes like “Crocodile Man”, or the (VERY interesting) “Rattlesnake Rose” at th’ local “Outback” steakhouse… sorta’ subliminal, to get ya’ hooked on Darren’s upbeat interpretations of what RAWK is! Solid lyrical style, talent galore & a spirit of “fun” will kinda’ take you back to what this music started out to be on our shores. His tunes aren’t (quite) as psychedelic as th’ Fab Four got to be… more like when they first started out (I Wanna’ Hold Your Hand, & such)… but, they somehow remind me of those daze, not sure why. The key here is that if you’re thirsting for some HEAV-y improv… yer’ not gonna’ find it here – but if you enjoy cute tunes with some depth, you’ll dig this. I give it a RECOMMENDED for those who want more than just bubblegum-rock. Get more information at www.darrenhume.com Rotcod Zzaj
Jim Self – INNERPLAY: This great little jazz CD will be officially released on August 1st, 2005… I’d never listened to Jim before, but he plays jazz tuba/flugelhorn & (what he calls) “Fluba”… some of th’ most relaxing music I’ve listened to (yet) this year. There’s often a tendency for tuba to come off sounding too “intrusive” in the mix, ‘specially when it’s a jazz set… but the arrangements & mix on “InnerPlay” ensure that you’ll hear Jim’s work as a part of the quartet – without the intrusiveness… I’m tellin’ you folks, this recording (and Self’s playing, of course) is excellent! Since most of you who read here often know I always enjoy originals better than covers, it will come as no surprise that I liked his “That Morning In May” better than any of the other tracks. That’s not to minimize the impact of any of the other tunes, though… the opener, Herbie Hancock’s “Speak Like A Child” is a winner, too! If you’re looking for a CD that will last (in your collection) for years to come… that you’ll never tire of hearing… this is IT! This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears, & we’re sure your ears will agree! Get more information at http://bassethoundmusic.com/ Rotcod Zzaj
Mark Weinstein – ALGO MAS: When you look at the CD jacket, & see the Latin theme, you may say to yourself (ever so quietly), “another Latin band”. It’s a natural tendency, in fact I did it… BUT, you’d be cheating your ears (not to mention your spirit) if you passed on this one. Some simply beautiful flute/guitar/percussive works that won’t melt away from your mind anytime soon. Pedro Martinez vocals have a lot to do with why it holds that Latin “flavor”, but the compositions have been very carefully crafted to exercise your mind & keep you alert. Mark’s flutes are a feature, as you might imagine, but the percussion players (too many to itemize here) are clearly “IN” to what they are doing. The other really neat thing about this album is the superbly high levels of creativity… I can guarantee you – you’ve never heard a more creative Latin-Jazz oriented CD than this one. It’s an amazing listen – I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “best Latin creative jazz”! You can get more information about the players & purchase the CD at www.jazzheads.com/catalog.php?item=jh1148 Rotcod Zzaj
Vince Seneri – STREET TALK: If you love Hammond B3, you will NOT want to miss this one (when it hits the streets on September 1st)… it’s my first listen to Vince’s work, & after only one spin, I know I wanna’ hear MO’, mo’ – MORE! He’s joined by a cast of players far too long to list here… guitar, drums, percussion, tenor sax & some straight-ahead flute… all the players are “on”, great energy all the way through the CD. The “feature”, though, is that deep-throated organ… I (literally) grew up on jazz like this… Vince’s original, “Organ Boogaloo” boogies along with all th’ soul & verve I remember from th’ ’70’s & ’80’s jazz (organ) masters. It’s clear he has many influences, but he’s a player after my own heart… ‘coz he’s pure, not tryin’ to sound like anyone else! The album will carry you away to funk/jazz heaven, I’ll tell ya’… a real variety of styles, well recorded & in high-energy mode from th’ opening bar to th’ very last chord. I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any & all listeners who love organ jazz! Get more information at www.senfulrecords.com Rotcod Zzaj
Thomas Barth – BEYOND BLACK & WHITE: This Austrian keyboardist has put together some very calm/collected compositions for listeners who want to feel the “heart” of a chord (or a series of them). It isn’t “jazz”, per se, nor can it be lumped in the (dreaded) “New Age” category… it’s pure emotion… laid back most of th’ time, as on the opener, “Father To Son”, or with “spooky” intros, as on “Where I Come From”. The word that comes to mind when listening through Thomas’ solos is “new”… not new in the sense of “never been done before”; rather, it’s new because it’s “his take” on what’s around him, and his talent is clearly in communicating to the listener exactly what his feeling is. I found this a very pleasant listen.. it gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all those who like something in between jazz & new age that isn’t cliché-laden. Get more information on Thomas’ site, at www.thomasbarth.com Rotcod Zzaj
Dancing Dogs – PATIENCE: This music reminds me of the excitement I had when I first listened to Bobby McFerrin… NOT of Bobby’s music, per se, but the energy behind it for having created somethin’ nobody could ram in a pigeonhole! These “Dogs” are one kickin’ bunch… yah, it’s jazzy, but there are also scorching guitar leads (from Jim Robitalle), after the fashion of SRV, & maybe even a coupla’ moments of F.Z. Somewhere along th’ way, great lil’ snatches of New Orleans… lil’ Dr. John in there, fo’ sho’! Horns from Tom Short & Joe Rapoza whip up some zerious frenzy on “Haute Tamale”, then some smokin’ funk when “Can You Get To That” comes steppin’ on th’ scene. If th’ band could be accused of anything, it would be havin’ too many styles. My favorite cut on the album, “Tribes” (track 7) is about as free as fusion can get, ‘specially with Matt Rykebush’s bass, John Nieman’s drums & Jimi Beauregard’s percz’ forming such a solid underpinning for the rest of the players… I’m tellin’ ya’ folks, this one gets a place of honor in th’ Zzaj collection – it goes in the OFFICE library (& there aren’t too many that get to do that). This is some of the best & most original music I’ve listened to this year… it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears! Get more info, or buy the CD at http://whalingcitysound.com/wcs027.htm Rotcod Zzaj
Chris Mcnulty – DANCE DELICIOSO: If you’re not in a jazz mood, you will be when you listen to the title track.. Chris’s vocals are solid, yet sultry, & will capture your heart immediately, not to mention your ears… it’s my favorite cut on the CD. She’s backed by about 12 players, not to mention the 4 member vocal (backing) group. The recording is superb, & will have jazz fans dazed for days. This lady isn’t afraid to step into new territory, & it’s evident from the broad range of styles on the album… she sings material by Annie Lennox, Cole Porter & Bobby Troup – & does it her own way! True talent is rare, but it’s clear that Ms. Mcnulty has it in spades… along with a joy for singing that communicates to the listener without her having to try (or so it sounds). You won’t find an album quite as timeless again this year, I’ll bet you… if you love great jazz vocals, you’ll HAVE to get this one! This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “best female jazz vocals”. Cool jazz, but with vigor! Get more information at her site – http://chrismcnulty.com/chris-mcnulty-hme.html Rotcod Zzaj
I am pleased and honored to be in receipt of some poetry & prose from a “new” friend of ours, Maria Daines! She’s promised to send more along, so you can look forward to them in future issues!
MARIA DAINES – POETRY N’ RAMBLINGS
Hey Tom, I stood there man, you have voices for lives, and I couldn’t move for a work bound weekday recess, standin’ listenin’ while you came into mine. Now I have that piece that fits it up – the picture card sorrow I knew was there, all along, it’s broke my luck, an’ I gotta thank you for that, cos it means a lot, it crosses my heart like a sailors knot, somehow trails from where it all began, moves me from your writin’ hand, n’ grizzled tortured song, that asks no thanks from anyone, yet tears me into tangled sheets, where all life’s pain n’ pleasure meets, sees me like I’m here at last, like nothin’ knows the driven past. You took it all n’ let it go, yeah you’re somethin’ man, maybe you don’t know, how you passed the baton down the line, left your soul an open shrine, to dreamers who can sleep n’ break, to images before they wake, hold the bar with whisky grins, take the knocks on losin’ chins, feel that someone in the smoke, will one day laugh n’ get the joke, mould them tightly, prop them up, wedge the door before it shuts, that’s where it is, about a cry, you’ve always needed but it hurt your eye, made you wait for somethin’ true, that gets behind what’s eatin’ you. Then the stirrin’ melts you down, like how your fingers smooth a frown, put it on again, n’ I can hear what I have found, there, that’s what it is, it’s the healin’ stone that weighs me down.
(This one will be a monologue in southern drawl when I can get to it)
Maureen NO! Ain’t seven kids enough? Denley shouted, as his wife eyed a new spangly pair a’ wheels. We don’t have the room for us another single cot, no matter how yah feels. N’ she tried lookin’ sorrowful, ‘tad smugly at his face, knowin’ as a woman does, when a fetus is in place. It’s hard enough ta’ feed the little roughians we got, ain’t four boys and three blind girls a pretty hopeful lot? But she didn’t pay no neverminds to Denley and his No’s, she had the jackpot tucked away, right underneath her clothes. Cookin’ like a fairy cake an’ a’ fillin’ her with joy, Maureen didn’t mind a hoot, if t’was a blind girl or a boy. Long as she could carry she’d go on shellin’ ’em like peas, funny little wrinkled things, all crawlin’ ’bout her knees. She never did like school or doin’ ‘rythmetic or sums, couldn’t wait ta’ git herself a football team a bums, – Maureen NO! – Poor Denley told her, every single year, n’ out would pop another set of lungs to bend his ears. N’ that was how it went – until the perambulator broke, n’ Maureen had a gang a’ 12….one for every spoke.
He lives in a world
Where the money must be earned,
But he’s a million miles from that.
He’s in the trees,
And on the plains,
Tweakin’ out a whistle,
For a melody he’s at.
It won’t come steady,
Cos his bones are full a’ creaks,
There’s somethin’ in between,
In the solace of the beats,
Wearin’ at his face,
With a chisel and a stick,
Keepin’ him from peace,
And the song that makes him tick.
It whines at him in daylight,
And it vexes at his soul,
He scratches for the rhythm,
With his fingers at the sail,
Lickin’ like a fire,
At the ground around his feet,
Worryin’ his innards,
Til the sound begins to speak.
It won’t be done in minutes,
And it won’t be done in days,
This gon’ take a life,
And then some more,
Before it saves.
He’s over by the window,
With a caption in the sky,
A singer on the dashboard,
And a chorus in his eye,
He won’t go to the mattress,
And he won’t go to the church,
He’s strummin’ through his atlas,
To make the moment work.
It wouldn’t be a sickle,
And it wouldn’t be a book,
It wouldn’t do to pass it by,
Or leave it to the cook,
It wouldn’t be a memory,
And it wouldn’t let him steal,
The thing that lies between,
Is the picture he can feel.
Late train grabbers saw the Goodhew ambulance draw a corner of Eighth street to a close. Walkin’ boarders advertizin’ slacked a’while, couldn’t make a dime beside a show. Dumb assed broads were shoulder checkin’, landin’ heels as sparks, flappin’ ornamental deckin’ – starin’ through the cars. High noon entertainment with paramagic medics, assimilatin’ God, right there, down on the pavement, workin’ on a heart cos it was part of some derailment, horizontally at the mercy of their hands, diggin’ around a body while the road had other plans. Cinematic folly, crisp new film yet unreleased, brink stuff, makin’ people work, or movin’ the deceased, yeah, some old gal from Omaha, on the deck as white as snow, n’ no one’s gonna think of her in green light city go. This town’s just for doers, ain’t no time for any less, can’t give way for passengers or someone else’s mess. Fit n’ well n’ fightin’ is all you gotta be, ain’t no good you dyin’ cos there ain’t no cemetery. This place hails the livin’ not the broken or the down, if it’s old you’re feelin’ then you’d better split the town, find some other universe, cos you ain’t nothin’ here, without accepted currency you’re all but disappeared. So there she was, scraped up n’ transmigrated to the zone, sleepin’ on the blue light to that last appointment home.
I SING DON’T I?
I’m gonna hit this key ’til I’m blue in the face,
I’m gonna shriek this song all over the place,
NO! – keep your book, don’t need your know-hows,
I wanna be a player, I wanna make sound.
I can do this thing, watch me n’ see,
Watch how I make noise, it’ll come outa me,
It’s fiery n’ simple, they call it a voice,
It makes my chin dimple n’ brings me the boys,
I don’t need yah tellin me things that ain’t right,
I know I can do it, just stay outa sight,
I don’t want your eyes borin’ into my head,
I sing dammit don’t I – just like I said.
Don’t point out mistakes, don’t tell me – I know,
OK it’s not perfect, but man what show!
I hate this piano reminding me how,
I can’t really cut it, I sing like a cow!
Call me not to undo dread of buried plough-turned misery, and I shall not bang fear upon your drum. You and I croon passing feign of yesterday, and long ago our arbitration done.
Wear my ease, for all good clothes are those well lived, not fancy plaid unfathomable hue, lest yours be all out of gay, I give, wry hoof and tickle grimace of my shoe.
‘Tis more than fine a legacy to friendship, not shabb’ed trick, last penny to a tramp, fortune gather plentiful a kinship, bespattered words of wisdom ‘neath a lamp.
Mark your deeds – your letterings are noted. Pains to read old garble oft annoy, gelded thane, one eye to blinded marble, thy crucible a thespian destroy.
Keeper of an ark beseech vexation, mere bibelot, I hang beneath your freight, widely hewn for crabb’ed tugs, a station, art to carmaraderie a fake.
You, of all fair enemies distrusted, sly vagabond, a heel, implanted thorn, not forsaken, diamond encrusted. Come; lay beside our memory, forlorn…
INTERVIEW with Tom Furgas
Zzaj: I like to start off these interviews with a little “personal insight”… so please give us a little history about yourself…. where you grew up, where you live now… how old you are, your day job (if any), & other interests you (may) have besides music… kind of a “bio”, if you will!
Tom Furgas: I was born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1954, and I currently reside in Austintown, Ohio, only a 20-minute drive from the old neighborhood on the west side. I started my love of music in kindergarten, when Mrs. Loag would play songs on the piano that we children would sing along with. So my interest was so keen that my parents obliged me with piano lessons, which I continued until the sixth grade. I studied music in high school, and had a bit of training in college as well, at the Dana School of Music in 1973. I decided, though, that I didn’t want to try to make a living as a musician, since I wouldn’t have been able to do it they way I wanted to and make a living at it. So, in a sense like Ives, I got a “day job” to support myself while I continued to work at my music in my own way and in my own time. I have worked at various retail-sector jobs, never making very much money…but then I never really needed to make great money since I have never had any interest in raising a family which is of course a large financial undertaking. I currently work the night shift at a Major Retail Establishment doing building and equipment maintenance.
Zzaj: You/I have been with the “tape underground” for some MANY years now; how/why did you get started with home recording?
Tom Furgas: My main desire was to hear my own music, since finding others to perform and record it has always been out of the question, it seems. I started composing in an avant-garde “classical” idiom but have since progressed to a kind of progressive/avant-garde pop-rock-classical hybrid style, with strong elements of “classical” avant-garde (i.e., in the tradition of “classical” composers, leading up to Webern, then Varese, Stockhausen, Carter, Xenakis, Cage, etc. etc.) I began home taping by the most primitive means imaginable; overdubbing by bouncing and re-recording tracks between two tape decks…very primitive and the early tapes are just horrible to listen to. But I evolved with better equipment over time. I played various electronic keyboards including a fine old ARP monophonic synthesizer, some Casio keyboards, an old electric bass, drum machines, and anything I could borrow.
Zzaj: A “standard” question on Soundclick is “How does the Internet affect your music?” Expand that a bit, & tell us how accessibility to the net, as well as improved gear, has affected your (own) music, please.
Tom Furgas: Well, I currently don’t go in for MP3’s and such as yet, since my home computer is a very primitive laptop with a terribly slow processor, but my good friend Ken Clinger has made a number of tracks of ours (mostly pieces that I’ve composed which he has done realizations of) available as MP3 files on Soundclick. Mostly, having the Internet means access to e-mail and thus instant communication with a number of like-minded musicians, so we can set up collaborations and/or trades. This has been the area of largest impact on my own activities so far. As for improved gear, well, home-recording has now gone digital in a big way (i.e. it’s now easily affordable to almost everyone) so the quality of the recordings are on par with the professional studios. As almost all of my recordings are direct digital recordings from keyboards or other equipment to the CD burner, there is no loss of sound quality and it’s about as close to perfect as can be. I am not a fetishist about audiophile quality, I just want my recordings to sound the best they can, so that the music comes through without the defects of an imperfect recording medium.
Zzaj: Who (out of the original crew of home recordists) do you play with most these days? Are there any “new” folks you’ve discovered (as a result of the new technology, perhaps) that you play with now?
Tom Furgas: Mostly I still hang with my old favorites from the ’80’s such as Don Campau, Ken Clinger, Zan Hoffman, and many others. But I recently did a fine collaboration, our first, with Russ Stedman, and there is another collaboration in the works with the superb improvisor Eric Wallach. On the whole although I have the potential to have tons more contacts I am limited by my time and cash-flow to trading with mostly just the dozen or so musicians whom I have known for over 20 years now. I wish I could expand it, but at this time my time and money don’t allow it.
Zzaj: One of the tenets in the old “tape days” was that “home taping will kill the music industry”… though it didn’t do that, have the advances in technology helped to “re-shape” the industry, or is it still one big “snake-pit”? Or, is that really important?
Tom Furgas: The music business is just that, a business, and as such the most important factor is the bottom line, the profits gained from moving so many units of merchandise. It might as well be boxes of detergent for all the businessmen in the business care (except perhaps that they like having access to the drugs and groupies, etc.) Home taping (nowadays, more like “home disking” I guess) has nothing to do with that…it’s essentially electronic “folk music”; music of the people, by the people, for the people. The music industry, as has been seen of late, is starting to come unravelled, though…thanks to the Internet and advances in home-recording, but from those musicians who wish to create and market their music as a source of income. Those of us “amateurs” (i.e. those who do it for the “love” of it) don’t have much effect on the situation on that score, but that’s OK…that’s not what this music-making is about. We don’t persue it as a means of earning a living simply because our audience is naturally too small to permit that. Not because of the “quality” of the music, but because there are not enough listeners to financially support it.
Zzaj: How has the “new gear” influenced your own studio? Have you gone more & more “digital”, or do you still run analog tape first, then digitize?
Tom Furgas: Right now I have several electronic keyboards, as well as a “groovebox”, a kind of advanced drum machine, and these are recorded directly to digital recording on a Tascam CD burner. Using the sequencer of one keyboard, and the multi-tracking of the groovebox, I am able to have multi-tracked compositions without recording them to analog tape first. Any other elements such as sounds or voices I can mix in “on the fly” as well. I have an analog tape 4-track that my good friend Bill Lehman has given me, but it doesn’t factor in what I am doing just now. But I will be using that at some point, so I will still have an opening for analog tape in my arsenal. But by going direct from the tape to the CD burner it will still probably sound almost 100% perfect as my current setup does.
Zzaj: Were you musically “trained”, or did you pick up the music pretty much by ear? On that note, how important do you think formal training is to the quality a musician is able to display?
Tom Furgas: I’ve had piano lessons, and some training in composition and harmony in high school and college, but mostly I am self-taught just by picking up books on music theory and applying those lessons to my own work, or breaking those rules as the case may be. For many of my own recordings I don’t compose on paper but “compose” by playing and recording, doing retakes for rethoughts rather than using an eraser on music paper. The kind of formal training a musician has should be determined by what that musician wants to do. In some cases formal training can be a greater hinderance than a help. Some musicians will be exposed to conventional theory, harmony, etc, and find themselves straitjacketed by it. Some who never have formal training will find themselves limited by the lack of it, and not know it. So it varies, I think, with the individual. I think a bit of education regarding music HISTORY is important; one should know how we arrived at the current situation, so as to know which paths one may follow, or create, fruitfully.
Zzaj: How do you approach the artwork for a project? Do you try & do your covers/tray inserts/etc., all by yourself, or do you use the Internet to aid you in the design? Do you think the artwork for a tape or CD is as important (or nearly) as the music itself?
Tom Furgas: I make my own CD sleeves using a photo program on the computer, currently the MGI PHoto Suite program. I have also tried Adobe Photoshop, but not with my current computer. I have a pretty standardized format for my sleeves, usually with the titles and credits for the CD laid out on the front, the text centered (rather than having left or right margins), and then inside the jewel-case (I only use “slimline” cases) a photo or piece of artwork. Some discs have an artwork on the front and the titles/credits inside. I have downloaded images from the internet when I wanted a particular image for a given CD cover, but just as often I might create an abstract image using the Photo Suite program, or I’ll just put the artist-title listing on the front and the titles-credits inside. Generally a pretty simple setup…just to put the imformation out there in an easily readable format. I like to experiment with typefonts and layouts, but they generally adhere to a standardized format. I do feel that a good CD design is important, but not as important as the music itself…it should be there to provide information which will enhance the listeners experience. I am in agreement with Martin Davidson of Emanem Records, who feels that clarity of information is the most important aspect of CD design.
Zzaj: From researching the net, it looks like you (too) have done quite a bit of work with folks (poets) like John M. Bennett; I personally believe that the marriage of music and words is very, VERY important… what are your thoughts about that?
Tom Furgas: I used to have a band with Bill Lehman, we were Courtesy Patrol, and at the time (1984-1996) I felt that I did have important things to say with song lyrics, or felt that Bill’s, or other contributors, lyrics had important, poetic, meaningful things to express and that they should be combined with music and expressed in that way. And I still like to occasionally incorporate found voices in my recordings, but not as often as I once did. I do find that the inclusion of words of any kind immediately push the music into the background; suddenly the focus is on the message in the lyrics or poetry or found words or what have you. Now, I have nothing against that, not at all! But for me, currently, it is not a high priority; I prefer to keep the music in the forefront of the experience. But that could change at any time, who knows? I may want to start writing song lyrics again, and then I will certainly team up with Bill (he’d do it at the drop of a hat) and continue in that vein.
Zzaj: Give the folks reading this your thoughts on “how to get started” in music, please. What are the most important values one should have when starting out? What (do you think) an artists’ “goals” should be for their music?
Tom Furgas: It’s certainly easier than ever to get started in the home-taping and trading field…the equipment and contacts are there to be used to any extent one wishes. But in terms of starting in music itself…! Well, if one has a vision, a sense of purpose, then one should persue it diligently and with passion, and everything else will simply fall into place. Well, not “simply”…it takes great commitment and dedication to bring it to full flower, whatever one wants to master be it hair-metal guitar, writing rap lyrics, programming a drum machine, or any means and methods of music making. I knew a young man, many years ago, who swore off all partying, carousing, troublemaking with his neighborhood friends and shut himself up in his parents basement with a guitar and an amplifier and did nothing in his spare time (outside of school and homework) but practice, practice, practice. No TV, no video games, no distractions of ANY kind. He became an amazing and brilliant guitarist as a result. Not sure if he is still persueing it as a profession but if he is I know he is successful at it (although not famous…yet). Is that degree of commitment necessary? Well, for HIM it was, and it paid off. For others, maybe not that degree of commitment, but certainly one will become as skilled and focused as one wants to be with the proper amount of dedication and hard work. It’s a matter of acting professionally, not simply dabbling in it and letting it drop as soon as one encounters obstacles or challenges. A friend of J.S. Bach once asked him for a simple keyboard piece, and Bach obliged him with a minuet. His friend complained that it was too difficult for him, and Bach simply said “Only practice it diligently, and it will go well.”
Well, what follows isn’t exactly a “rant”, but it’s a very informative & insightful piece by Paul Killington (of “Maria Daines“, at MIXPOSURE)… we want to thank him for taking the time to share his “Pivotal Moments” with us, & hope you’ll visit this prolific artist:
PAUL KILLINGTON’S PIVOTAL MOMENTS
It’s about 1973, it’s Wembley Arena, and Robert Plant is screaming. The heavyweights of rock are at full throttle, this must be the loudest rock concert ever, but no one complains, we love it. Opening for Zep was ‘Stone The Crows’. After a few bars of their opening number, on struts Maggie Bell, their vocalist. She’s in a white cowgirl outfit, she grabs a mic stand at a rakish angle and starts stomping her foot and belting out a blues rocker. We’ve never heard of this band, and my mate turns to me and shouts – ‘It’s a f***ing chick man!’ Janis Joplin was the first to do this sort of thing in a male dominated genre. Maggie Bell was the English Janis and it was a pivotal moment for us, just one of many for me in the late 60’s and early 70’s. My life seems to have been littered with these moments, and when it came to music, it was an eruption of creativity the like of which I don’t think will be seen again. Apart from influencing me as a musician, these things affected me as a person, and gave me a take on life that has endured throughout the years.
Four years earlier I attended my first outdoor rock concert. As the facilities were basic compared to today’s extravaganzas, we decided we had to get out to find some food. Looking down the day’s programme we saw that the next band up were Led Zeppelin. Having never heard of them, we saw this as an ideal opportunity to leave the arena. A week later, I was getting my mind blown by Led Zep one, with ‘Communication Breakdown’ causing my father to run in from the garden demanding to know what the hell this noise was blasting out of our mono radiogram.
Where I lived you could always go and see a live band, something that seems sadly lacking today. At a live music pub three miles from me, every Wednesday night you could see the likes of Deep Purple, Yes, Family, Black Sabbath and Rory Gallagher, etc., etc.,. One night Deep Purple announced ‘This is the last time we’ll be playing like this’ they weren’t that well known to us and were slightly poppy, the next time I heard them was when I bought their album ‘In Rock’, this change of style was obviously a good move as the new direction catapulted them into rock stardom, so again this was a pivotal moment witnessed by yours truly.
Friday nights were spent at my local youth club, of course watching the bands. They all brought something new with them and there seemed to be no end to their originality, among them the likes of ‘Supertramp’ and ‘Hawkwind’. Many of them never progressed on to greatness but all deserved to. One tremendous band were called ‘Good Habit’ and dressed in monks outfits. Their guitarist offered to sell me his 1959 Les Paul for £150. I was about 17 or 18 and I didn’t quite have the cash but I wasn’t that bothered because you could buy Gibsons anywhere. A 1959 Les Paul now? Name your price. Roundabout this time a progressive outfit called ‘Yes’ played at a dance at my school but they didn’t go down too well with a rather straight audience.
I’d always been a big fan of ‘The Who’ as a schoolboy and later one night in about 1968; I saw them in a local club. I was thrilled to hear them playing their big hits, but was then somewhat disturbed as I watched them smashing up their equipment towards the end of the night. I left the place on some kind of high, thinking that there was more to this rock n’ roll stuff than I thought. The next time I saw them was at the Oval cricket ground in London about five years later, and Keith Moon was playing the drums with a cricket bat. During this period there were so many great gigs and memorable moments that to me any one of my age whose life didn’t get affected in some way must have been brain dead.
Much of my weekends were spent in London. A regular excursion on Fridays after the youth club was the Lyceum in the Strand. It was an all-nighter with a series of great bands. I remember ‘Ten Years After’ and ‘Uriah Heep’ among others. It was just another major happening, and being a fully-fledged hippy, I really did feel part of a movement and this music was the catalyst.
Saturday afternoons were spent wandering the hip areas of London – Portobello road, Kings Road and Kensington Market buying clothes and records and other things. The aroma of josticks and various herbs seemed to emanate from everywhere, and people in colourful clothing and long hair drifted around in this peaceful, magical atmosphere. This was my world and it was a world we sincerely, naively believed would one day become the norm, and the planet would become a wonderful place. It was fun to dream and of course we were horribly wrong, but it was a way of living, an attitude that stayed with me and millions of my generation throughout the world. The hippy motto of love and peace was so innocently basic but so right, and I’ll think that way until the day I die.
Saturday nights usually meant a trip to another local venue called the Roundhouse at Dagenham in Essex. This was a sweaty club, which was always packed and had a great atmosphere. Once again the list of legendary bands appearing there was endless including Led Zeppelin. The intensity of the performances there was incredible. One pivotal moment for me was staring at Paul Kossoff, Free’s guitarist, from about three feet away, and being transfixed not just by his playing but also by the depth of feeling, which he seemed to exude. One of our favourites was the African band ‘Osibisa’ whose good time rhythm’s coupled with rock rubbed off on everyone. A couple of years later my friends and I drove a truck across Africa, and in Lagos, Nigeria, we saw Osibisa at the sports arena there. We actually met them backstage, and when we mentioned the Roundhouse they erupted into gales of laughter at the craziness of it all.
After rising about mid-day Sunday morning, breakfast was bypassed and it was straight to the pub for me. In the summer we’d go out into the country with guitars, harmonicas, flutes, plastic water containers as drums and anything to make a noise. An essential item was a portable record player, which was the pinnacle of high tech at this time. Carrying that and a bunch of vinyl albums under your arm was a small price to pay to be able to listen to the wonderful music which seemed to drift across the sky and was borne on the wind.
Sunday afternoons was the heyday of another Roundhouse, the one at Chalk Farm in London. This was THE place for the ‘heads’ (as we used to call them) to gather. True to its name it was round and all along the perimeter walls, psychedelic multi-coloured patterns of moving, changing bubbles and liquid iridescence were projected. This was done amazingly by my erstwhile band mate Bob Swinn who I didn’t know at the time and wasn’t to meet until years later. We sat on the floor and grooved to some of our favourite bands, among those that appeared there were Jethro Tull, Rolling Stones, Humble Pie, Jeff Beck, I could go on a lot longer of course. When Monday morning came around, it would be back to whatever job I had at the time to get the money to go to some festival or other.
One such outdoor concert was at a place called Shepton Mallet near Bath in Somerset. The list of bands appearing that weekend reads like a who’s who of rock history – Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, Frank Zappa, Jefferson Airplane, Steppenwolf, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Led Zeppelin, and on and on. Call me old fashioned, but in thirty years time I doubt if seeing a list of today’s bands could conjure such wonderful images and the immediate recall of how it felt to be there.
I guess longevity maybe dying out in today’s fickle society. Keith Richards said he saw the Stones as guinea pigs to see if older people could still do it. Well as long as he’s still doing it then I’m still young. As a musician, I feel as if I’m keeping something alive, something that never died in me and never will. I’m thankful that I lived through what I did and that I’m part of a unique generation. I hope some of what I do may give some inspiration perhaps in a subtle and insidious way and pass on how I feel.
Till next time…,