Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Glenn Branca - 1980 - Lesson No. 1 For Electric Guitar

Glenn Branca 
1980
Lesson No. 1 For Electric Guitar


01. Lesson No. 1 For Electric Guitar 8:12
02. Dissonance 11:40

2004 promo bonus
03. Bad Smells 16:26

Glenn Branca – guitar (1,2)
Anthony Coleman – organ, keyboards
Michael Gross – guitar
F.L. Schröder – bass
Stephan Wischert – drums
Harry Spitz – sledgehammer
Thurston Moore – guitar (3)
Lee Ranaldo – guitar (3)
David Rosenbloom – guitar
Ned Sublette – guitar
Jeffrey Glenn – bass

Lesson No. 1 For Electric Guitar and Dissonance originally released 1980 on 99 Records as 99-01. Bad Smells originally released 1982 on Giorno Poetry Systems as GPS 025, "Who You Staring At?



Glenn Branca's compositions center around multiple guitars -- four or more, heavily amplified -- augmented by a rock-based rhythm section of drums and bass. In later works, the composer began adding other instruments, including mallet guitar, keyboards, and occasionally a second drummer. Branca's minimalist compositions frequently require unusual guitar tunings -- more recent works have them strung with two sets of three strings tuned an octave apart. Many of downtown New York City's more notable experimental guitarists have been a part of his ensemble, including Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo of the punk rock band Sonic Youth. Branca studied performing arts at Emerson College in Boston. Much of his '70s output was composed for experimental theater, and was performed by his two ensembles, Theoretical Girls and Static. In the '80s his compositions for the Glenn Branca Ensemble included the several symphonies for which he is best known. He's received many commissions from such groups as the Twyla Tharp Dance Company, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Bang on a Can, to name just a few. Branca's music has also been heard in films and performances by Peter Greenaway, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, the Joffrey Ballet, Eric Bogosian, and many others. Branca's 12th guitar symphony was performed at London's Barbican Centre in 1998. His works have also been performed by traditional symphony orchestras, including the London Sinfonietta, the Minnesota Opera Orchestra, and the Graz Festival Orchestra.

In the late 1970s, Branca was a member of no wave band Theoretical Girls. While he was out of town touring with the Static, Max's Kansas City invited Theoretical Girls to perform for a 1979 Easter festival. Branca convinced the venue to book him for a solo gig, and he assembled a group that included Barbara Ess and Christine Hahn. The group performed "Instrumental for Six Guitars", and its sound convinced Branca to continue composing for multiple guitars. He began performing solo at rock clubs and avant-garde venues such as The Kitchen. Branca "wanted to make sure [his music] was understood as rock and nothing else."

Branca knew Ed Bahlman, who sold independent singles at a store run by his girlfriend, and asked Bahlman if he would be interested in starting a label and releasing a record by Branca. Bahlman knew little about recording, pressing, and distributing records, but Branca had some experience with Theoretical Records. Having seen some of Branca's shows, Bahlman agreed and decided to make Lesson No. 1 the first release by 99 Records.

Branca needed guitar players to form a large guitar orchestra, and he posted fliers at record stores in downtown New York City. He held auditions at his apartment where he conducted guitar players. Thurston Moore, who performs on "Bad Smells", auditioned at the recommendation of his girlfriend Kim Gordon but was rejected. Rhys Chatham of the Gynecologists was initially upset after hearing the new band, feeling that it was reusing his ideas.

Branca's group performed around New York and was invited to perform at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. When three musicians pulled out, he recruited guitarist Lee Ranaldo. Ranaldo had seen Branca's ensemble perform at The Kitchen and lived in the same building as Branca's friend, pianist Anthony Coleman. Branca bought tickets providing unlimited flights for three weeks for what became his first tour. The tour began in December 1980 and included Ranaldo, Ned Sublette, David Rosenbloom, Jeffrey Glenn, and Stephan Wischerth. They traveled the country performing "Lesson No. 1 for Electric Guitar", "Dissonance", and "Compositions". Ranaldo, who performed with a six-string guitar strung with E6 strings, emerged as a foil to Branca. The two would playfully butt heads or guitars onstage. Some of the tour's audiences were unfamiliar with art music and heckled the band by calling the work "devil's music".

Upon Lesson No. 1's original release, John Rockwell wrote for The New York Times that "the effects and textures Mr. Branca achieves are really remarkable, and the sound…is unlike anything in music." AllMusic called the EP "a powerful, wrenching, transcendent piece of rock guitar classicism". Slant Magazine said that the EP is "primarily interesting as a historical curiosity that provides deeper insight into the genesis of Branca's music". Pitchfork Media commented that "the sound remains close enough to grab hold of you and lift you into Branca's intense world." The publication included "Lesson No. 1 for Electric Guitar" in its collection of The Pitchfork 500.

Despite only selling a few thousand copies, Lesson No. 1 became a seminal work in New York City's no wave movement. It became an influence on Moore and Ranaldo's work as members of alternative rock band Sonic Youth, and it paved the way for other experimental rock bands such as Swans.

Lesson No. 1 was Glenn Branca's first release as a composer. Originally issued as a 12" EP, or mini-album, it featured two tracks, the beautiful and accessible title track -- composed as a response to listening to Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," and the frenetically assaultive "Dissonance," which has lost none of its power. The players on this date were organist Anthony Coleman, drummer Stephen Wischerth, F.L.Schroder on bass, Branca and Michael Gross on guitars and, on the latter track, Harry Spitz on Sledgehammer. This compact disc reissue on Acute contains "Bad Smells," an unreleased track from the Ascension sessions that came two years later. The band here features five guitarists: Branca, David Rosenbloom, Ned Sublette, Lee Ranaldo, and Thurston Moore, as well as bassist Jeffrey Glenn and Wischerth. There is also a QuickTime video movie of "Symphony No. 5" included. One of the most compelling things about this release is how fully developed Branca's ideas were even at this early juncture. His micro- and over-tonal notions as overlooked visceral elements in rock & roll prove worthy mettle here, and even on "Dissonance" with its catharsis and knotty harmonics, rock & roll is never far from the fore in his method. "Bad Smells" has a different, more complex dynamic, especially from the outset, but the sense of urgency is there, along with the shimmering, barely hidden melodic frames that keep the entire thing evolving on the axis of its pulse. Guitarist Alan Licht provides a fine critical history and appreciation in his liner notes, making for a historically relevant package. But in spite of its obvious contribution not only to vanguard music, but to Sonic Youth's sound, the music here is actually pleasant and compelling to listen to, and does not sound like a relic out of time and space, or a curiosity piece from long ago. Lesson No. 1 is a powerful, wrenching, transcendent piece of rock guitar classicism that, if there is any justice, will get a wider and more appreciative hearing in the new century.

Glenn Branca has died, his wife and frequent musical collaborator Reg Bloor announced on Facebook. He was 69 years old. According to Bloor, Branca “passed away in his sleep last night [May 13] from Throat Cancer.”


May his memory be a blessing to us all.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Cosmic Eye - 1972 - Dream Sequence

Cosmic Eye 
1972
Dream Sequence


01. Dream Sequence

Derek Grossmith: Flute
Chris Taylor: Flute
Dougie Wright: Drums
Tony Campo: Bass
Ray Swinfield: Sax, FLute
Amancio D'Silva: Guitar
Alan Branscombe: Vibraphone, Sax
Viram Jasani: Sitar
K. Sati: Tabla
John Mayer: Violin


Recorded in 1972 at the legendary Landsdowne Studios in London, Cosmic Eye is an extraordinary piece of recorded music. Led by Indian born guitarist Amancio D’Silva, Cosmic Eye was a highly innovative studio experiment in which ‘Jazz Meets World’. Following in the footsteps of other pioneering Landsdowne jazz recordings such as Joe Harriott & John Mayer’s Indo Jazz sessions, Cosmic Eye is modal, but is also under-pinned with traditional Indian instrumentation and structure, resulting in a hypnotic, psychedelic jazz excursion. Constructed into two conceptual pieces (Dream Sequences), two side-long jazz ragas showcasing D’Silva’s soulful guitar playing reminiscent of his earlier 60s sessions, Hum Dono and Integrations, as well as his session work for the Bollywood film industry under the musical directors Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Featuring a host of UK and Indian musicians, Cosmic Eye is a Singular recording from a fervently rich period of British modern jazz.

The fashion and the music that were derived from the latter half of the 1960s. Those elements and fusion were very remarkable in the U.K. in particular. rock which let you introduce folk if psychedelic is carried out by various bands. The music absorbs culture and the music of various countries and uses many it. rock in particular and the fusion of the Indian music become very remarkable at this time. There was really it to a lot of musicians who devoted itself to culture and a musical instrument. It is certain that it was practiced music established not the fashion that they are simple as process to create. If is psychedelic; fusion of folk and rock. Or the introduction of the Indian music was the part which a musician expressed all in one body. The known musician and band existed in the flow that practiced them to some extent as raga rock, but there will be the situation that a fan of the minority recognizes even now. Therefore existence of such a band and group may be always divinized. The name of Third Ear Band and Quintessence is known as a field of known raga rock to a fan of raga rock to some extent. However, each band would give creation of the original music as a nucleus by introduction of folk if the situation as those days of the latter half of the 60s was psychedelic. There was the part that, as a result, a part of rock was strongly reflected in such a band, but there is often the band letting I let you are stronger and reflect those elements and succeed as original music when what I find becomes more difficult. However, the creation of the music that this Cosmic Eye performed in the existence of the band which showed admiration of the Indian music not the fashion conspicuously must be the thing that is one of raga rock and the music that you should call definitely particularly. It is said that this band has the form such as the project as information. However, the creation of the music that the musicians who participated were united can feel that all practices some purpose and directional agreement. The band which carries out admiration and a purpose well in the band where a musician from India does not participate in will surely exist. However, directionality and the creation act well even if the musician who participated in this Cosmic Eye was a project. The form of the project that I listed as the said article can look at the form by the musician who participated. At first what I appointed Denis Preston which let you introduce Indian music into the situation of the music of this time as as a producer. And other musicians having been familiar with such a music in each activity to some extent. And the fact that let a musician from India really participate. And the member of the group of John Mayer and him who are active as a violinist. And existence of Viram Jasani known as a well-known fact well. His existence will be known by having participated in a performance of "Black Mountain Side" of Led Zeppelin as tabla player. However, Viram Jasani plays sitar in Cosmic Eye. And there is the information to say that Ana Da Silva of the guitar player from India played a role as the traction in this project. Or Keshav Sathe of the tabla player is to join the group of John Renbourn after having participated in this project, and the name is known. This album is still known as a valuable, expensive album in the own country. In vinyl in particular. It was precious existence announced alone in 1972 by Regal Zonophone, but the information will be gradually known now in those days. I can feel complete raga rock as general musicality. Furthermore, the performance may often present an aspect of jazz rock because a musician playing a vibraphone and a wind instrument exists. Musicality including Sitar and tabla. The division of mental part and ensemble. And lenience and severity of ensemble and raga rock such as jazz rock developed in sequence. A method of the effective disposal of violin and guitars in relation to those elements. Not only the fan of Raga rock but also fan of jazz rock and the psychedelic fan will be albums having the development that I can enjoy enough. "Dream Sequence" is established from 14 parts; is constituted, but those titles of a musical composition do not really become clear. The constitution to advance to without being divided from a beginning to the end while various melodies and constitution show a different aspect is wonderful. A part of opening raga rock by Sitar and tabla. And the melody that I introduced beat rock and fusion into. The flow has the free form by a vibraphone and the performance of the flute. Raga Rock often tempts a listener into the mental world. The atmosphere slightly felt an atmosphere like Alusa Fallax. The part which let you introduce a form of Raga Rock and jazz well. They may have the part reminding of some free jazz. However, the development I let jazz rock fuse well while having the respect for traditional Indian music, and to advance to will be wonderful. This album let you take in the situation of the then music well partially and would carry it out. I function as raga rock where a factor of the compromise is felt generally.

Moe Koffman - 1970 - Curried Soul

Moe Koffman 
1970 
Curried Soul


01. Curried Soul 3:18
02. You Are My Sunshine 3:19
03. Li'l Bitty Pretty One 3:56
04. Sunshine Superman 4:54
05. Country Song 3:31
06. Anteater's Dance 3:00
07. High Heel Sneakers 3:50
08. Cantelope Island 6:55

Lenny Breau: Guitar
Moe Koffman: Flute, Saxophone
Dave Lewis: Drums
Doug Riley: Keyboards
Davis Young: Bass


Born in Toronto, Koffman played violin at age nine. Later he took up clarinet, sax, and flute at age 13. In 1948 he won a jazz poll in 'Metronome' magazine which garnered him a record deal with Mainstream Records in New York who released two records on 78 RPM.

In January 1950 he moved to New York and hooked up with Sonny Durham's band and later did stints with Buddy Morrow, Jimmy Dorsey, Ralph Flannagan, Charlie Barnet, Tex Beneke, Doc Severinsen as well as some Latin acts.

After six years on the road Koffman returned to Toronto and formed the Moe Koffman Quartet to play clubs and concert halls where they were highly in demand.

On the suggestion of a friend, they recorded a demo tape which landed them a record deal with Jubilee Records. Their first record for them was originally an original by Koffman called "Blues A La Canadiana" but was changed by the producer during the recording session to "Swingin' Shepherd Blues" becoming a smash hit in 1958.

Koffman has stuck mostly to session and other studio work (like Bach Sonata's on GRT Records in the '70's) while also performing at Colleges and clubs with his band. He was music director at George's Spaghetti House in Toronto for over 20 years. He was also an integral part of Rob McConnell's Boss Brass, worked closely with Doug Riley, Jimmy Dale and Guido Basso.

In the 80's he would sign to Duke Street Records producing music that was back in style once again -- be-bop jazz plus 'cover material' by the masters.

In 1993 Koffman was appointed the Order Of Canada for his outstanding work and service to the arts; Koffman's instrumental piece "Curried Soul" was the theme music to CBC Radio's 'As It Happens' show for many years.

Moe Koffman was a Canadian jazz musician who played not only the flute but also rocked the sax and clarinet (just like our very own Trampy). Having established his reputation as a talented flautist in the late 1950s and 1960s, Moe's Curried Soul saw Koffman move from straight-up jazz into the world of fusion. Released in 1969 on Karma Sutra records, Curried Soul is a funk/soul/jazz explosion. The title track is the winner here, funky and jazzy in equal measure. If you can tolerate jazz flute you'll surely find a lot to like – great guitar, nice horn section and (presumably to justify the "curried" part of the title) just a tickle of sitar ... all of which builds to a satisfyingly cosmic finale. The rest of the album has a definite 1970s Sesame Street vibe going on (particularly the cover of You Are My Sunshine which jars somewhat as it immediately follows Curried Soul) but Koffman's covers of High Heel Sneakers and Cantelope Island are worth a listen.

Indo British Ensemble - 1969 - Curried Jazz

Indo British Ensemble
1969
Curried Jazz


01. Yaman (The Colonel's Lady) - 4:47
02. Lalit (Meeting Of The Twain) - 8:32
03. Bhimpalazi (Looking Eastward To The Blues) - 9:47
04. Pahari (University Raga) - 8:07

Dev Kumar - sitar
Chris Karan - tabla
Ray Swinfield - flute
Kenny Wheeler - fluglehorn (1,2)
Leon Calvert - fluglehorn (3,4)
Jeff Clyne - bass
Bill Eyden - drums (1,2)
Art Morgan - drums (3,4)

Composed, arranged and conducted by Victor Graham
Produced by Ken Barnes and Michael Hall
MFP Records 1969


In 1969, the imaginative indie record producer, and jazz-lover, Mark Sutton, who owned his own recording studio in Soho, gathered together some of the finest session jazz musicians working in London together with husband and wife, Dev and Sitara Kumar to record a series of what we might today call "fusion". The result was "Curried Jazz". The producer for the sessions was Ken Barnes and his notes together with a an extract of an interview with noted Sitarist (and father of Norah Jones) Ravi Shankar and the arranger on this session Victor Graham are included in the notes. The original release was unleashed on a n unsuspecting jazz world that didn't quite know what to make of it. 

Indie record producer Mark Sutton brought together a group of fine British session jazz musicians in 1969, and with husband and wife instrumentalists Dev and Sitara Kumar came up with this early "fusion" album. By the time I came across it around 6 years later my jazz friends had "moved" on. Kenny Wheeler(flugelhorn) on this album and Jeff Clyne(bass) had both joined Nucleus which was among the leading new sounds. Bill Eyden, the drummer on the two tracks on which they play had been with the Jazz Couriers in the late 50's. He did a spell with Georgie Fame and was a member of Stan Tracey's trio - the "house band" at Ronnie Scott's in the late 60's. Ray Swinfield - a fine Australian flautist who I suspect was just about settling in the U.K. around that time - has a fine cd available on Amazon entitled "Reprise" on which he teams up with British stalwarts John Pearce, Dave Green and Allan Ganley amongst others. I recently came across my copy of this LP when updating my catalogue. It still sounds exotic, rhythmic, a beautifully married blend of musical skills and styles. It will be sometime before it gets tucked away un-played again.

John Mayer - 1971 - Radha Krishna

John Mayer 
1971
Radha Krishna


01. Radha Krishna Act 1 15:40
02. Radha Krishna Act 2 19:50

Music composed and directed by John Mayer.

Susan Lees - Contralto
Austin Miskell - Tenor
Nicolette Bernard - Narrator


The unashamedly erotic, two-act Radha Krishna (1971) is the more ambitious project. “Each day the breasts of Radha swelled,” intones narrator Nicolette Bernard before the strings come in. While Radha Krishna is the greater work, its jazz content is not as pronounced though it has its Indo-jazz, wailing sax and boogie-woogie moments. A long-lost treasure.

Radha Krishna is a two-act dramatization from 1971 with narration and musical storytelling of Krishna's consort Radha and their romance. scored for sitar, sarod, tabla, string trio, double bass, flute, tenor saxophone and clarinet, oboe, drums and percussion. Vocalists are Austin Miskell, tenor, and Susan Lees, contralto. The excellent album should appeal to jazz, classical, and world music fans who appreciate experimentation.

John Mayer - 1969 - Indo-Jazz-Fusions

John Mayer 
1969
Indo-Jazz-Fusions


01. Intro And Rondo
02. Capriccio
03. Serenade
04. Toccata
05. Saraband

Alto Saxophone – Joe Harriott
Double Bass – Coleridge Goode
Drums – Allan Ganley
Flute – Chris Taylor
Piano – Pat Smythe
Sitar – Diwan Motihar
Tabla – Keshav Sathe
Tambura – Chandrahas Paigankar
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Kenny Wheeler
Violin, Harpsichord – John Mayer


In 1952 the Calcutta-born violinist and composer John Mayer landed in what would become his adopted homeland. Dark-skinned, he knew all about colour bars and prejudice. He overcame to establish himself as a sought-after orchestral violinist and composer. 

While he is best known in jazz circles for the Joe Harriott and John Mayer Double Quintet and John Mayer’s Indo-Jazz Fusions, it is for his whole canon that he gained his place in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – Britain’s history told through biography. Mayer was that important. Of the two projects reissued here, the five-movement Études (1969) is closer to the style of composition associated with Harriott. 

John Mayer, Kolkata-borne of Anglo-Indian parents and classically trained violinist who was part of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, was a pioneering composer of Indo-Jazz Fusion. His tenuous earlier albums from the 1960s were more chamber works blended with jazz, but his 1997 album was more fully jazz developed. In this remastered album from 2008, classical formats were the structures of a cleverly conceived and composed Third Stream fusion, written in 1969, that works exceedingly well. The musicians include violin (Mayer himself), flute, trumpet and flugelhorn, tenor saxophone and clarinet, piano, bass, drums and for Indian spice, sitar, tampura drone, and tabla. The Etudes are of five movements. Introduction and Rondo repeats themes with various instrumental solo improvisation and rhythms. Capriccio allows whimsy built upon 13-beat. jai-tal, background, and I think of bandleader-composer Don Ellis, who loved such unusual rhythms. Serenade is a romantic Baroque-inspired piece with beautiful violin lyricism. The tabla soon enters with sitar ornamentation, the middle section is a jazz expansion, and the Indo-jazz fusion continues with tabla and drum solos. Toccata designates an instrumental (versus cantata) and typically involves fast, light touching, plucking, staccato; the elements weave and come to sharp conclusion. Saraband is in 3/4 time and is an ancient dance. 

John Mayer - 1968 - Indo-Jazz Interpolation

John Mayer
1968
Indo-Jazz Interpolation


01. Indo-Jazz Interpolation No. 1
02. Indo-Jazz Interpolation No. 2
03. Indo-Jazz Interpolation No. 3
04. Indo-Jazz Interpolation No. 4

Joe Harriott: alto saxophone
Eddie Blair: trumpet, flugelhorn
Pat Smythe: piano
Rick Laird: bass
Alan Ganley : drums
John Mayer: harpsichord, violin, music director
Diwan Motihar: sitar
Chandrahas Paigankar: tambura
Keshav Sathe: tabla
Chris Taylor: flute


Noted for it's early (1966) attempt at East/West jazz fusion, the band(s) succeed on most fronts.  A definite mid-60s British feel to the jazz elements is there and the Indian percussion brings a new sense of swing.  The album uses the scales of the two forms imaginatively, at times being more one than the other and then combining them almost seamlessly.  I don't know of any previous recordings that have done this sort of tonal experimentation so seamlessly and accessibly within the genre.  Expertly done.

There will always be detractors who maintain that East is East and West is West, but music has always been an evolutionary art, the world is wholly populated with songs that do not stand on their own but are a product of world-wide influences from uncountable circuitous routes.  If we were to preserve purity in our musics then we'd probably wouldn't have much more than Gregorian Chants to listen to.

Joe Harriott & Amancio D'Silva Quartet - 1969 - Hum Dono

Joe Harriott & Amancio D'Silva Quartet
1969
Hum Dono


01. Stephano's Dance
02. Spring Low, Sweet Harriott
03. Ballad for Goa
04. N.N.N.T.
05. Hum-Dono
06. Jaipur

Joe Harriott - alto sax
Amancio D'Silva - guitar
Dave Green - bass
Bryan Spring - drums
Norma Winstone - vocals on 1,3,6
Ian Carr - flugelhorn on 1,6

Originally released on EMI Landsdowne in 1969 and never reissued since then.


Continuing with the Harriott postings, and moving up to 1969, this was a collaboration of Joe Harriott with the Goa, India - born Amancio d'Silva. This came after the recordings with John Mayer wherein Harriott would move into "world music", long before that phrase was coined and develop his own brand of East-West fusion, using Western as well as Eastern instruments.

Here the fusion continues in perhaps a slightly more subtle fashion. D'Silva draws upon the jazz guitar tradition of Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery, but sneaks in aspects of the Indian vocal tradition on the title track and Norma Winstone's vocals on the opening slide effortlessly from Indian popular song styles to snatches of "My Favourite Things".

On the opening, there are Latin rhythmic inflections, on "Ballad for Goa" shades of Portuguese fado and on the closing track, what to these ears sound like a precursor of the fusion music that was to become immensely popular in the 1970s.

This is an exquisite, beautiful record. It's all very tastefully done and it swings like hell in passages. This is Harriott in yet another setting and yet again pointing ahead to what was to come. You will dig it (or else ...)

Joe Harriott - John Mayer Double Quintet - 1968 - Indo-Jazz Fusions II

Joe Harriott - John Mayer Double Quintet
1968
Indo-Jazz Fusions II


01. Raga Piloo
02. "Song" Before "Sunrise"
03. Purvi Variations
04. Mishra Blues

Alto Saxophone – Joe Harriott
Bass – Coleridge Goode
Drums – Jackie Dougan
Flute – Chris Taylor
Piano – Pat Smythe
Sitar – Diwan Motihar
Tabla – Keshav Sathe
Tambura – Chandrahas Paigankar
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Kenny Wheeler
Violin – John Mayer


John Mayer was one of those multiple-threat music talents that made most other players' lives and career paths seem simple. Born in India, to Anglo-Indian parents, he studied classical music and had a successful career as an orchestral violinist, but gave it up to work as a composer and, later, in jazz fusion as a composer-violinist-band leader. From the mid-1960's onward, he made his mark in the fields of jazz, progressive rock, and world music.

Along with Dave Arbus of East of Eden, Mayer was probably the most well-liked violinist among rock musicians in London during the late 1960's, although his career is much more rooted in classical music. John Mayer born 1930 in Calcutta, to an Anglo-Indian father and an Indian mother. His musical interests manifested themselves early, and at seven he was studying violin with Phillipe Sandre at the Calcutta School of Music, who agreed to teach him in his free time, because Mayer's parents lacked the resources to send him there as a paying pupil. He later studied with Melhi Metha, who encouraged him, while in his late teens, to compete for a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London.

By then, Mayer was determined to become a composer who would be taken seriously both in his own country and abroad. He also wanted to achieve this utilising both European and Indian techniques, and toward this end he studied with Sanathan Mukherjee, who taught him the theoretical aspects of Indian classical music. At the time, he knew and heard little of jazz, although he did start sitting in as a drummer with jazz bands. Mayer won the scholarship, and arrived in London in 1950 to study at the Royal Academy. He had won through his violin playing, but he started out studying composition with Matyas Sether, who encouraged him to use the techniques of Indian and western music in serial composition.

His money ran out after only a year, but he was fortunate enough to earn a spot in the violin section of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Thus began a somewhat awkward eight-year period in which he played in the violin section of the orchestra while continuing to study composition - despite having some of his works played by the orchestra, and conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, he didn't begin to make headway as a composer until Sir Charles Groves commissioned him to write his Dance Suite for sitar, flute, tabla, tambura and symphony orchestra, which was premiered by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1958.

This early success, however, created problems with the management of the London Philharmonic, however, which was a conservative organization and didn't appreciate having a composer within the ranks of its performing musicians. Mayer was forced to leave his job at the LPO, but was hired by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Sir Thomas Beecham, who asked him to join. Mayer began a happy seven year relationship with the RPO, in the process learning a huge amount about orchestration (as well as conducting) from some of the finest players in England. By 1965, when he left the RPO's violin section, he was able to finally earn his living from his compositions and to quit full time orchestral playing.

Additionally, by that time, fate had taken a hand in his career--Mayer was known in avant-garde London circles for his work mixing western and Hindustani classical music, and in 1964 EMI producer Dennis Preston asked him if he had available a short jazz-based piece with which to complete an album Preston was working on. Mayer told him he did, even though he had nothing ready - Preston said he wanted to record it the next day, and Mayer stayed up all night writing the piece. He attended the recording the following day, and thought no more about it until six months later when Preston told him that he'd played the piece to Atlantic Records founder and president Ahmet Ertegun in New York, who'd liked what he'd heard and suggested that Mayer write music for an album which would fuse Indian music and jazz.

Ertegun's idea was to combine the quintet of Indian musicians with which Mayer worked, featuring a sitar, tabla, tambura, flute, with Mayer on violin and harpsichord, with a jazz quintet led by Joe Harriott, himself an under-appreciated alto-player who had shown an appreciation of various aspects of world music. Mayer wrote the music in a month, and it was recorded by this group, known as the Joe Harriott and John Mayer Double Quintet, in two days. The resulting album, Indo-Jazz Fusions, was released in 1966 and became an immediate favorite in avant-garde circles and an unexpectedly good seller.

They cut a second album that did as well as the first, and played in England and throughout Europe for the next seven years, until Harriott's death in 1973.

Mayer played violin with a group called Cosmic Eye, who cut an album, "Dream Sequence" (EMI-Regal Zonophone), in 1972. Mayer devoted much of his time in the years after Harriott's death to composition and academic pursuits, and was rewarded with professorships and composer-in-residence positions at the Birmingham Conservatory.

He revived Indo-Jazz Fusions in 1995, and resumed performing and recording with them (most recently on the Nimbus label), as well as composing new works with the same Indian-Jazz fusion idiom that he pioneered 40 years earlier. In March of 2004, Mayer was hit by a car and fatally injured. He was 73.

Joe Harriott - John Mayer Double Quintet - 1967 - Indo-Jazz Fusions

Joe Harriott - John Mayer Double Quintet
1967
Indo-Jazz Fusions


01. Partitia
02. Multani
03. Gana
04. Acka Raga
05. Subject

Alto Saxophone – Joe Harriott
Bass – Coleridge Goode
Drums – Alan Ganley
Flute – Chris Taylor
Piano – Pat Smythe
Sitar – Dewan Motihar
Tabla – Keshav Sathe
Tambura – Chandrahas Paigankar
Trumpet, Flugelhorn [Flüglehorn] – Shake Keane
Violin, Harpsichord – John Mayer


Not even relegated to the shadowy status of cult figure, Jamaican-born alto saxophonist Joe Harriott remains virtually unknown today. A key influence in the British free-jazz movement of the early ’60s, Harriott’s adventurous style earned him unfavorable comparisons with Ornette Coleman, even though he was far more boppishly swinging than his volatile American counterpart ever was. An unsung pioneer in the union of Eastern and Western music, Harriott began experimenting with Indian musical forms in the mid ’60s, incorporating its distinctive structures and rhythmic patterns into a jazz framework.

Harriott soon merged his working quintet with a five-piece Indian ensemble headed up by Calcutta composer, conductor, and violin master (he played in the London Philharmonic) John Mayer, co-leading this Indo-jazz “double quintet” until his untimely death in 1973. While the Joe Harriott-John Mayer Double Quintet certainly did not invent the mixing of jazz andIndian music (Ravi Shankar and Bud Shank were doing it in 1961), they were the very first group to use the term “fusion” in identifying their sound (don’t blame them…they only gave the genre its F-word name, not its derogatory connotation). Artists of the highest order, they were able to fully evoke the mystery of the East within a solid jazz context, a feat few contemporary jazz and world musicians have matched.

Released in 1967, Indo-Jazz Fusions boldly meshed elements of Western and Indian classical music with modal and free-jazz to create a vibrant and organic new sound. The album opens with the 17-minute Mayer composition, “Partita,” a highly orchestrated suite comprised of three linked movements, featuring strong individual solos and an intense collective improvisation at its end. Mayer nimbly conducts both halves of the Double Quintet as they riff on traditional Indian scales (ragas) and lay down intricate rhythmic patterns (talas). Harriott dominates throughout, playing accessibly and free, his impassioned solos soaring to meet Mayer’s Indian challenge. Chandrahas Paigankar’s droning tamboura and Keshav Sathe’s pulsing tabla combine with Coleridge Goode’s swinging bass and Allan Ganley’s tasteful drums to create an uniquely exotic groove.

“Multani” follows with 11-minutes of equally magical and compelling music, as Mayer opens up his composition with virtuosic statements on violin, while Diwan Motihar deftly plucks his sitar with a mystical flair. When the horns come in, their cohesively chaotic interactions sound strangely like something off Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch. At 2 1/2 minutes in length, the kitschy (and catchy) “Acka Raga” is the perfect track to throw on any cool ’60s mix (it was apparently the theme song to the BBC’s old-school quiz show, “Ask The Family”). The album ends with “Subject,” a tune that starts off sounding like the irritating theme music to the NPR show, “All Things Considered,” before rebounding to a close with some rousing swing from Harriott’s horn.

One of the most fully realized and natural sounding mergers of different musical idioms, Indo-Jazz Fusions broke new ground with its modal free-jazz stylings and heavy use of indigenous instrumentation and players. The album’s tight musicianship and compositional excellence clearly set the standard for future East-West excursions by such jazzers as Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Don Cherry, and John McLaughlin. Classic creators of an authentic Indian-jazz, the Joe Harriott-John Mayer Double Quintet deserves at least as much attention as its more commercially savvy successors in jazz and world music have enjoyed.

The Joe Harriott Double Quintet - 1966 - Indo-Jazz Suite

The Joe Harriott Double Quintet 
1966
Indo-Jazz Suite


01. Overture
02. Contrasts
03. Raga Megha
04. Raga Gaud-Saranga

Alto Saxophone – Joe Harriott
Bass – Coleridge Goode
Drums – Alan Ganley
Flute – Chris Taylor
Piano – Pat Smythe
Sitar – Diwan Motihar
Tabla – Keshav Sathe
Tambura – Chandrahas Paigankar
Trumpet – Kenny Wheeler
Violin, Harpsichord – John Mayer


Joe Harriott's music goes virtually unheard today, yet the alto saxophonist exerted a powerful influence on early free jazz in England. The Jamaican-born and raised Harriott played with his countrymen, trumpeter Dizzy Reece and tenor saxophonist Wilton "Bogey" Gaynair, before emigrating to England in 1951. In London, Harriott worked freelance and in the band of trumpeter Pete Pitterson. In 1954, he landed an important gig with drummer Tony Kinsey; the next year he played in saxophonist Ronnie Scott's big band. His first album as a leader was 1959's Southern Horizon. Originally a bop-oriented player, Harriott gradually grew away from the conventions of that style. During a 1960 hospital stay, Harriott envisaged a new method of improvisation that, to an extent, paralleled the innovations of Ornette Coleman. Harriott was initially branded a mere imitator of Coleman, but close listening to both men reveals distinct differences in their respective styles. Harriott manifested a more explicit philosophical connection with bebop, for one thing, and his music was more concerned with ensemble interaction than was Coleman's early work. The 1960 album Free Form, which included trumpeter Shake Keane, pianist Pat Smythe, bassist Coleridge Goode, and drummer Phil Seaman, illustrated Harriott's new techniques. Beginning in 1965, he began fusing jazz with various types of world folk musics. He collaborated with Indian musician John Mayer on a record -- 1967's Indo-Jazz Suite -- that utilized modal and free jazz procedures. The album's traditional jazz quintet instrumentation was augmented by a violin, sitar, tambura, and tabla. Harriott's recorded output was scarce and virtually none of it remains in print.

At long last, Caribbean saxophonist Joe Harriott's classic collaboration with Calcutta composer and conductor John Mayer is back in print on this Koch CD reissue of the original Atlantic LP from 1967. In England in the 1960s, Harriott was something of a vanguard wonder on the order of Ornette Coleman. And while the comparisons flew fast and furious and Harriott was denigrated as a result, the two men couldn't have been more different. For one thing, Harriott was never afraid to swing. This work, written and directed by Mayer, offered the closest ever collaboration and uniting of musics East and West. Based almost entirely in the five-note raga -- or tonic scale that Indian classical music emanates from -- and Western modalism, the four ragas that make up the suite are a wonder of tonal invention and modal complexity, and a rapprochement to Western harmony. The band Harriott assembled here included his own group -- pianist Pat Smythe, bassist Coleridge Goode, and drummer Allan Ganley -- as well as trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, flutist Chris Taylor, Diwan Mothar on sitar, Chandrahas Paiganka on tamboura, and Keshan Sathe on tabla, with Mayer playing violin and Harriott on his alto. Of the four pieces, the "Overture" and "Contrasts" are rooted in blues and swing, though they move from one set of ascending and descending notes to the other, always ending on the tonic, and involve more than the five, six, or seven notes of Indian classical music, while the latter two -- "Raga Megha" and "Raga Gaud-Saranga" -- are out to lunch in the Western musical sensibility and throw all notions of Western harmony out the window. The droning place of the tamboura and the improvising sitar and alto shift the scalar notions around until they reflect one another in interval and mode, creating a rich, mysterious tapestry of sonic inquiry that all but folds the two musics into one another for good. Amazing.

The Joe Harriott Quintet - 1964 - High Spirits

The Joe Harriott Quintet 
1964 
High Spirits


01. Home Sweet Heaven 3:37
02. If I Gave You 5:56
03. Go Into Your Trance 4:18
04. You'd Better Love Me 4:20
05. I Know Your Heart 3:40
06. Was She Prettier Than I 5:30
07. Forever And A Day 5:28
08. Something Tells Me 5:13

Alto Saxophone – Joe Harriott
Bass – Coleridge Goode
Drums – Bobby Orr
Piano – Pat Smythe
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Shake Keane

Recorded in London, September 1964.


"High Spirits" is quite a surprise as it is completely "conventional", with the quintet playing modern Jazz arrangements of the themes composed for the musical show of the same name, which was being staged In UK and USA at the time. Here the listener gets the opportunity to hear Harriott, Keane and Smythe playing perfect solos, showing their respective talents. The overall performance is simply perfect in every possible meaning of the word, clearly showing that by that time European musicians could play Jazz as well as their American contemporaries, if not better. 

The shortcoming of High Spirits lies in the sense that these show tunes, from the musical based on Noel Coward's play Blithe Spirit, are really fairly average West End/Broadway fare. "You'd Better Love Me" is a case in point. It really doesn't deserve Pat Smythe's elegantly poised solo. Smythe did the arrangements here and he made a more than adequate fist of the task. In fact, Smythe has the album's finest moment in his lovely, limpid performance on "Forever and a Day." The band's playing, however, is lively and authoritative throughout, and Shake Keane is on wonderful form and particularly so on "If I Gave You." There's also a certain poignancy to the way Harriott plays on each of these eight tracks, almost as if somehow he can compensate for the lack of depth to the original tunes. In any other context, his solos on "I Know Your Heart" and "Was She Prettier Than I?" would count as prime Harriott. Perhaps, this a little ungenerous.

The Joe Harriott Quintet - 1963 - Movement

The Joe Harriott Quintet 
1963
Movement



01. Morning Blue
02. Beams
03. Count Twelve
04. Face In The Crowd
05. Revival
06. Blues On Blues
07. Spaces
08. Spiritual Blues
09. Movement

Alto Saxophone – Joe Harriott
Bass – Coleridge Goode
Drums – Bobby Orr
Piano – Pat Smythe
Producer [Supervision] – Denis Preston
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Shake Keane

Recorded in London, 1963.


Harriott's career is beautifully recalled in Alan Robertson's biography, Fire In His Soul (Northway 2012). The Jamaican alto saxophonist recorded and released ten LPs for Denis Preston's Lansdowne Series between 1960-69. Of these, three saw him experiment with an abstract approach to jazz that paralleled but was quite different from saxophonist Ornette Coleman's work in the USA. Free Form (1960) was reissued last year as part of the four-CD The Joe Harriott Story (Properbox, 2011). Abstract (1961), his best album, came out on Universal in 1999 but has long since been deleted. Movement (1963) is the third and last in that sequence. As to the reasons why Harriott abandoned his experiments, these are well-documented in Robertson's biography and elsewhere on this site.

Movement is perhaps the best representation of a typical Joe Harriott Quintet gig of the period, combining as it does straight-ahead tracks with his free-form work. British pianist Brian Dee has remarked, that Harriott's way of mixing sets in this way did not help his cause, leaving audiences puzzled and unsure about how they should respond. Indeed, there are intimations of this when hearing this record. And yet, that does not ultimately detract from it. In fact, it allows conclusions to be drawn and, more than that, the opportunity to see how the experimental stuff is to some degree derived from and related to the more bop-oriented music.

So, it opens with the easy swing of "Morning Blue" with Harriott's alto warm, sunny and optimistic and Shake Keane's flugelhorn light as air. "Beams" follows, echoing Harriott's two previous records in several ways. Firstly, it is immediately apparent that this is very much a group music. The horns, in particular, seem almost mutually dependent, with Harriott and Keane interlocking and playing off each other. The music is held in place by Coleridge Goode's walking bass, with piano and even drums having greater licence within the rhythm section. Secondly, it's clear that this music is not really modal at all; rather, it is developed from melodic fragments and motifs.

"Count Twelve" is pure bebop rooted in the blues with some simply lovely flugelhorn from Keane and delightful piano from Pat Smythe. The relationship between Goode and drummer andBobby Orr here is almost symbiotic, while Harriott's own solo is wild and free-flowing.

Michael Garrick's quirky "Face in the Crowd" follows. Originally, it accompanied Jeremy Robson's poem of the same name on Poetry & Jazz-Record Two (Dutton-Vocalion, 1967) and on which Harriott played as part of Garrick's quintet. It's a fine, angular performance that sits well with Harriott's own more abstract writing. "Revival" is one of the saxophonist's most Caribbean-inflected tunes and is perhaps the record's highlight, whilst Garrick's "Blues on Blues" reveals perfectly how very, very good this group really was.

The album concludes with three tracks: "Spaces," which was arguably the most abstract piece Harriott ever recorded; the fine, if mainstream bop "Spiritual Blues," with some great bowed bass from Goode and excellent drums from Bobby Orr; and the album's title track. "Movement" itself has an intensity not found in all of Harriott's free form work. It's a stunning group tour de force, again building from comparatively simple melodic materials into something that is dark, brooding and even slightly unsettling. Of the two records in this package, Movement is the one that is absolutely essential. Were it not for these earlier achievements, High Spirits might come more highly recommended. It is of a much lighter weight but it does have its share of pleasures. It is doubtful that Harriott could ever have made a bad record and, by most other people's standards, this would be top flight.

The Joe Harriott Quintet - 1962 - Abstract

The Joe Harriott Quintet
1962
Abstract


01. Subject 5:26
02. Shadows 5:52
03. Oleo 7:65
04. Modal 4:41
05. Tonal 5:08
06. Pictures 5:08
07. Idioms 6:25
08. Compound 5:05

Alto Saxophone, Leader – Joe Harriott
Bass – Coleridge Goode
Bongos – Frank Holder (tracks: B1, B4)
Drums – Bobby Orr (tracks: A1 to A4), Phil Seamen (tracks: B1 to B4)
Piano – Pat Smythe
Trumpet – Shake Keane

Side One was recorded May 10, 1962, in London; Side Two November 22, 1961, in London.


This 1961 date recorded in England shows altoist and composer Joe Harriott in full command. Harriott was, like his contemporary Eric Dolphy, a consummate stylist whose tonal and harmonic inquiries led him off the left-hand path of mainstream jazzers. Harriott was interested in how mode and interval, when stretched to their limits by extended harmonics, could create "impressions" of lyricism and melody, without actually engaging them. The reason for this was simple, and a listen to any of the seven originals here -- the cover of "Oleo" is a throwaway -- will attest to it. But "Pictures," "Idioms," and "Tonal" -- constructed by harmony and rhythm, mode, and interval -- could be used to invert standard notions in that space and leave room for musicians or listeners to create their own impressions of what that sound world might be. Rhythmically, the quintet was also interesting, in that they allowed the standard notions of jazz time to fade into freer constructs that undid rhythm altogether -- check out the percussion on "Shadows" and try to find a time signature anywhere, though the ensemble has no trouble playing or keeping together during Harriott's raw, bluesed-out solo. Drummers Bobby Orr and Paul Seamen (who alternated) were both amazing. Pianist Pat Smythe was the driving force in the rhythm section, creating very large chords and pulsing them along modal lines to keep everyone focused. Trumpeter Shake Keane was the perfect lyrical foil for Harriott, in that his smooth, high-register approach contrasted brightly with Harriott's gospel and guttersnipe honk, and bassist Coleridge Goode was the technician of atmosphere for this band. Abstract is wonderful; it shows that the Brits were taking the new jazz of the early '60s and placing a spin on it because they had a few players like Joe Harriott. Here is a musician deserving of a wide reappraisal. Let's hope he gets it.

The Joe Harriott Quintet - 1961 - Free Form

The Joe Harriott Quintet
1961 
Free Form


01. Formation 6:06
02. Coda 7:53
03. Abstract 3:32
04. Impression 5:25
05. Parallel 5:32
06. Straight Lines 5:50
07. Calypso Sketches 4:37
08. Tempo 6:18

Alto Saxophone – Joe Harriott
Bass – Coleridge Goode
Drums – Phil Seamen
Piano – Pat Smythe
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – 'Shake' Keane

Recorded in London, England; 1960.


 The West Indian-born alto saxophonist Joe Harriott was one of the most convincing boppers outside of the USA at a time when the music was still fresh, though by the end of the 1950s he was exploring freer musical pastures, and the quintet with which he undertook the exploration was an outgrowth of the hard bop band with which he'd made a name on the British scene. As the 1960s progressed, Harriott also proved himself to be something of a pioneer in the fusion field, in the way he fused jazz and classical Indian music. Often in the past the group's music, in which trumpet and flugelhorn player Shake Keane figured alongside Harriott in the front line, has been compared with that of the early Ornette Coleman quartets, but here it's far more interactive, a fact borne out most obviously by the lack of soloists. This makes for a far more organic music than anything Coleman's group was putting out at the time. Here on Free Form (1961) is where the rhythm of that indigenously West Indian form is extraordinarily maintained in the midst of characteristic group exchanges

One of the great jazz albums of the last five decades also has one of the great sleeves. On the front there is an idiosyncratic construct of tree trunk, open shelf and figurines of various sizes and colours while the back sports an ink motif of riotous invention. The images are meaningful. They stand as a metaphor for the constant union of seemingly disparate creative elements that nonetheless cohere. In fact, the stylistic ground covered in the piece ‘Coda’ alone stands as an ambitious integration of idioms from outside as well as within jazz; fleeting classical motifs; a snatch of Caribbean folk melody; an understated bop progression; a modal ostinato. All of which is presented in a tempo that stretches like the elastic in a young rascal’s catapult. This extreme flexibility with the speed and weight of the music is another enormous part of its appeal. The band sound gets thinner and fatter from one chapter of a composition to the next, the breathing and heartbeat of the score increasing and decreasing as the thin man-fat man ensemble negotiates a harmonic spiral staircase. Although the frontline of Harriott, Keane and Smythe is mesmerising in its rhythmic-melodic gymnastics, the multiplicity of accent and attack provided by drums and bassmeisters Seamen and Goode is no less important. The former’s use of mid-range toms to create an almost rock ’n’ roll effect on some pieces is yet another sound of surprise, an astutely “exotic” ingredient thrown into the bouillabaisse. Then again Free Form is quintessentially about a musical dish in which the large number of spices is somehow calibrated so as to not overwhelm the palette. Harriott conceived this music as polyphony and metamorphosis yet it is also precise structure and tightly gripped manipulation of idea. One can theorise limitlessly about parallels between Harriott and Ornette Coleman but at the end of the day it is the presence of both Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman that frames this work. It’s all in the title; it’s not free music but free form music that has evolutionary, liberating DNA, a score that unfetters improvisation without losing its galloping shape. Look at the sleeve again, the construct is multi-faceted but it’s standing straight. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Irène Schweizer Trio - 1978 - Early Tapes

Irène Schweizer Trio
1978
Early Tapes


01. Dollar's Mood 6:58
02. Attack 5:20
03. Pre Beat Conception 6:50
04. Don't Worry About 5:20
05. Hinten 4:29
06. Stop Twice 3:20
07. Sounds 6:44

Recorded January 26th, 1967, Munich.

Bass – Uli Trepte
Drums – Mani Neumeier
Piano – Irène Schweizer


"Early Tapes" form the Rosetta Stone of pianist Irene Schweizer's music. This early trio - featuring Guru Guru's monster drummer Mani Neumeier - offers clear glimpses of her formative influences as well as her own individualistic approach to the keyboard. Echoes of Dollar Brand, Cecil Taylor, and Paul Bley can be heard, but in a context that's all Schweizer.

"Schweizer’s Early Tapes clearly reveals her roots in such players as Cecil Taylor, Paul Bley and Dollar Brand. She has forged a muscular, diverse, creative and technically excellent style that is truly her own." - Milo Fine, Sweet Potato 

"Early Tapes unveils the semi-free music of her 1967 trio with bassist Uli Trepte and drummer Mani Neumeier. The first track, “Dollar’s Mood”, makes clear her indebtedness to Mr. Ibrahim." - Free Jazz and Free Improvisation

Dewan Motihar, Irene Schweizer, Manfred Schoof, Barney Wilen - 1967 - Jazz Meets India

Dewan Motihar, Irene Schweizer, Manfred Schoof, Barney Wilen 
1967 
Jazz Meets India


01. Sun Love 17:40
02. Yaad 5:15
03. Brigach And Ganges 14:31

Bass – Uli Trepte
Cornet, Trumpet – Manfred Schoof
Drums – Mani Neumeier
Piano – Irene Schweizer
Sitar, Vocals – Dewan Motihar
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Barney Wilen
Tabla – Keshay Sathe
Tambura – Kusum Thakur

Recorded october 23rd, 1967 SABA Tonstudio, Villingen im Schwarzwald.


Years before John McLaughlin began a deep investigation into the music of India that resonates to this day, there was Jazz Meets India. It wasn't the first time that Indian music had crept into popular western culture—The Beatles and John Coltrane, amongst others, had already seen to that—but this 1967 MPS date was an early experimental meshing of linear Eastern modality with free jazz improv. There have been plenty of failed cross-cultural experiments, but thanks to Promising Music's ongoing MPS reissue series, this conjoined septet of European improvising trio, traditional Indian classicists and a couple of additional horn players proves an unqualified success.

Comprising only three compositions—two extended pieces and one relatively brief one at just over five minutes—the premise of Jazz Meets India arose when MPS producer Joachim Ernst Berendt asked pianist Irene Schweizer's drummer, Mani Neumeier, if he had any connection with Indian musicians. The drummer had studied with sitarist/tablaist Dewan Motihar a couple years earlier in London, and Motihjar was, himself, a student of Ravi Shankar—already on the ascendancy to international stardom at this time. With Neumeier's insistence of including saxophonist Barney Wilen, and the additional of trumpeter Manfred Schoof, this mix of eastern and western instruments works precisely because, at the core of all three pieces, is a fundamental that's not jazzed up, nor toned down. Instead, both sides moving towards a common middle ground where individual authenticity remains, while creating something fresh and exciting.

The 17-minute "Sun Love," co-written by Motihar and Neumeier, begins steeped in Indian traditionalism, with Kusum Thakur's droning tambura and Motihar's sitar patiently finding their way to a tablaist Keshav Sathe's more defined pulse. Schweizer's trio doesn't enter until after the four-minute mark, but when they do, they're clearly coming from a space heralded by Coltrane—albeit more gently—as Neumeier injects a 6/8 swing over Sathe's longer rhythmic pattern. Bringing a chordal instrument into the mix of this largely linear music could displace it, but instead Schweizer's increasingly active playing respects the piece's inherent modality, drawing on McCoy Tyner for inspiration but going to areas of even freer expressionism. Schoof—whose recently reissued Resonance (ECM, 2009) was nothing short of revelational—plays with equal license, as does Wilen, who adopts a less nasal tone than that of Coltrane's.

"Yaad" provides a brief moment of contemplation, Wilen's saxophone a delicate foil for Motihan's gentle singing, but it's Schoof's closing "Brigach and Ganges" that's Jazz Meets India's greatest success. Starting with Uli Trepte's microtonal-centric bowed bass and some empathic yet lyrical interaction between Schoof and Wilen, over the course of 14 minutes it builds towards the disc's greatest reckless abandon; Neumeier and Scweizer, in particular, playing with unbridled fire matched, perhaps surprisingly, by Motihan.

Neither east nor west, yet redolent of both, Jazz Meets India is an overlooked gem from the MPS catalogue, one that may have seemed more innovative at the time of its release, but which remains engaging nearly 45 years after it was first recorded.


(Less than one year after this record Neumeier and Trepte radical changed their musical verve by founding the heavy psychedelic rock band Guru Guru, who's second album title was "Hinten". You can find a piece called "Hinten" on Irene Schweizer Trio - Early Tapes.)

Wiebelfetzer - 1971 - Live

Wiebelfetzer 
1971 
Live


01. Bazillus-Infection (Ole Thilo)
02. Force Ichha  (John Tchicai)
03 .Viodo  (Runo Ericksson)
04. Abrikosmos  (Ole Thilo)

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – John Tchicai
Bass Guitar – Gogo Thalmann
Bass, Bass Guitar – Peter Warren
Drums, Percussion – Freddy Studer
Guitar – Stephan Wittwer
Organ, Piano – Ole Thilo
Percussion, Congas – Krokodil-Düde Dürst
Piano, Electric Piano – Irène Schweizer
Trombone (Bass) – Runo Ericksson
Trumpet (Pocket Trumpet) – Jürg Grau
Voice, Percussion, Artwork – Anne Christiansen

Recorded in concert at "Weisser Wind", Zurich, Switzerland, April 27nd 1971.


It all started at the "Weisser Wind" of Zürich, in April 1971. Seven Swiss, three Danes, an American and a Swede, played the whole evening of the 27th, experimenting new sounds and melodies, for all the free jazz lovers... The result is just astonishing, brilliant and out of time !!! That session will always remain timeless, as these sounds (more than music) transports you elsewhere, allowing a long interior mediation. Of course, you can call it free and experimental jazz / rock but I don't think it can properly be classified. This so dense album is properly a chronological history of music: hear it a hundred times, you'll always discover new things in it ! After a few plays, it's to me a subtle and refined melange of Stravinski, Miles Davis (especially Bitches Brew) and Amon Düül. It also makes me think about "Shining" creepy OST.

Four tracks, the shortest being 17 and a half minutes long and the other three all going past twenty. I was expecting this to be much, much freer than it was. It's still pretty off-putting, particularly in its dedicated lack of direction, but I was surprised by how much ground is covered on this album. The last track gets all psych-rocky out of absolutely nowhere, some of it's experimental big band-y, some of it's straight free improv... veritable assloads of wandering, but it doesn't like to stick to one theme for very long. Well, I say very long...

Schweizer, Nicols, Lewis, Léandre, Sommer - 1988 - The Storming of the Winter Palace

Schweizer, Nicols, Lewis, Léandre, Sommer 
1988 
The Storming of the Winter Palace 


01. Now and Never 26:11
02. The Storming of the Winter Palace 10:07
03. Living on the Edge 14:59

Now and Never recorded May 18th, 1986 at the International-New-Jazz-Festival-Moers by Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), Köln.
The Storming of the Winter Palace and Living on the Edge recorded March 25th, 1988 at Taktlos-Festival, Rote Fabrik Zürich.

Irène Schweizer – Piano
Maggie Nicols – Voice
George Lewis – Trombone
Joëlle Léandre – Bass
Günter Sommer – Drums, Percussion 


The Storming Of The Winter Palace was originally released on LP in 1988 as Swiss based “ Intakt Records ” has thankfully chosen to reissue this most interesting recording on CD. The 26-minute opener, “ Now and Never ” offers a hearty mix of disparate motifs, glistening choruses and endearing interplay among trombonist George Lewis, vocalist Maggie Nicols, pianist Irene Schweizer, percussionist Gunter Sommer and bassist Joelle Leandre. Here, Ms Nicols displays a supremely masterful vocal range complete with spurts of humor, scat and spoken word intermingled with weaving, multidimensional ensemble work along with an abundance of peaks and valleys. The musicians entice one another with interesting dialogue and shrewd on-the-fly development yet many of these sequences sound composed or pre- planned. On “ The Storming of the Winter Palace ” George Lewis and Ms Leandre are the instigators who often prod Ms Nicols into operatic-style vocal pyrotechnics, which unto itself is rather amazing. The audience in attendance must have literally been on the edge of their seats during the final piece, titled “ Living on the Edge ” as the band pursue vivid theatrics, circular thematic movement along with some downright awe-inspiring drumming/percussion from Gunter Sommer. 

The Storming Of The Winter Palace is a showstopper as this writer often thought of the visual aspects; hence, a video of this performance would have been an added treat as the music and overall intensity alludes to one heck of a live performance! 

_ By GLENN ASTARITA

Fabulous musicians doing fabulous and innovative stuff. The playing is wonderfully reactive, allowing for creative space for each member. Even the vocal improv is not as cheesy and grating as it could be. As these things CAN be. As they're prone to be... 
Intakt Records is doing great shit, man. They're Swiss; it must be the water or the neutrality.
Fun fun fun fun. Will give this another listen soon, but this is some really great stuff.

Irene Schweizer - 1984 - Live At Taktlos

Irene Schweizer 
1984 
Live At Taktlos


01. First Meeting 9:50
02. Lungs And Legs Willing? 11:40
03. Trutznacht Igall 20:15
04. Every, Now And Then ... 0:55

Recorded live 4th & 5th February 1984 at the Taktlos Festival, Rote Fabrik, Zürich.

Irène Schweizer: Piano
George Lewis: Trombone
Maggie Nicols: Voice
Joëlle Léandre: Bass
Günter Sommer: Drums
Paul Lovens: Drums


At the first Taktlos Festival in 1984, Irène Schweizer assembled several chosen musician to a three-day improvisation meeting. The recordings, which appeared in 1986 as the first Intakt LPs, reveal the improvisational art of the pianist in three different formations: Schweizer and Lewis / Schweizer, Nicols and Sommer / Schweizer, Léandre and Lovens. Twenty years after their initial release, these improvisations haven’t lost any of their playful inventiveness, liveliness, power and originality. “A city tour through musical liberated zones” was what Zurich press wrote after the festival. In addition, the record is a cultural-political document of the atmosphere of awakening in Zurich in the eighties; moreover, it marks the beginning of the jazz label, Intakt Records, as well as that of the Taktlos Festival.

Schweizer’s Live at Taktlos—taped in 1984 at the first annual incarnation of the Swiss festival bearing the same name—marked the first LP release on Intakt. Reissued on CD the album presents the pianist in three extremely fertile situations with fellow improvisers from Europe and America. Peter Pfister, most-renowned these days for his impeccable engineering work for Hatology, handled the recording and while the fidelity isn’t blemish free it still captures the players with true-to-life sound. The disc's three main pieces accord ample space for extended free improvisation, the longest among them swallowing up a good twenty minutes. “ Every Now and Then, ” a manically-paced match-up of vocalist Maggie Nicols with pianist Lindsay Cooper works as coda. “ First Meeting ” teams Schweizer with trombonist George Lewis for a lengthy extemporization that is startling in its degree of close convergence, so much so that parts, particularly the puckishly tuneful conclusion, sound pre- composed. A wealth of unorthodox patterns and phrases pour forth from both players, often at telegraphic speed, but the whole constructed from these parts never loses a guiding sense of symmetry.
Less easily accessible is the trio of Nicols, Schweizer and Günter Sommer who convene on the enigmatically-titled “ Lungs and Legs Willing? ” Nicols ’ operatic, largely abstract vocals soar and swoop, leaving pianist and drummer to shape a sequence of ground-swelling collisions, soft and stentorian, that serve as terrestrial counterpoint in a crowded exchange. “ Trutznachtigall ” delivers an even most challenging experience via what on the surface seems the most conventional instrumentation. Bassist Joëlle Lèandre brings her full repertoire of capricious techniques to the event, sawing down tree trunks with her bow, punishing her strings with chest-pounding pizzicato flurries and, if the snapshot in the CD booklet is to be believed, even playing her instrument upside down. Her gruff and often outrageous vocals add to the turbulent atmosphere, veering from banshee wails to romantic cooing and back again. Lovens’ percussive idiosyncrasies fit right in, the fractious, but precisely intentional clatter from his kit complimenting Schweizer’s frequent forays under her piano’s hood to pluck and damper hammered strings. Attaching a play-by-play to all the delirious, irreverent action and reaction ends up a pointless pursuit within mere minutes. A marker for various partnerships that have since made good on their promises tenfold, this music still packs an enjoyable jolt on par with its initial release twenty years ago.

By DEREK TAYLOR, All About Jazz, USA, November 2005

Note:
Most independent recording labels have their bellwether artists, those musicians on the roster central to the label's identity and mission. Hatology has Joe McPhee. Peter Brötzmann is commonly associated with FMP. Tzadik revolves around John Zorn. In the case of Intakt it's Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer. Schweizer has been playing actively for nearly half a century and the last several decades of her career have been faithfully documented on Intakt. Ideally, labels and artists share a reciprocal relationship. It's the charge of the label to act as advocate for the artist and the job of the artist to supply the label with meaningful creative capital. Schweizer's partnership with Intakt represents a model of this sort of mutually sustaining arrangement.
INTAKT RECORDS:  http://www.intaktrec.ch/

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Irene Schweizer, Rudiger Carl, Louis Moholo - 1976 - Messer

Irene Schweizer, Rudiger Carl, Louis Moholo
1976 
Messer


01. Messer 10:51
02. Come-on-Bert 8:17
03. Göndsi Mitenand 8:27
04. Conn-Conn 9:47

Tracks 1 & 2 on 19 May 1975 during the New Jazz Festival, Moers
Tracks 3 & 4 on 11 December 1975 at FMP-Studio, Berlin

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet, Piccolo Flute – Rudiger Carl
Drums – Louis Moholo
Piano – Irene Schweizer


"Lively free jazz with extensive use of extended techniques - especially from Schweizer who had started playing inside the piano. And I have rarely heard Rüdiger Carl in such a blower’s role."
--François Couture


John Tchicai and Irène Schweizer Group - 1975 - Willi The Pig

John Tchicai and Irène Schweizer Group 
1975 
Willi The Pig


01. Willi The Pig, Part 1 25:01
02. Willi The Pig, Part 2 23:24

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Piano – John Tchicai
Bass – Buschi Niebergall
Drums – Makaya Ntshoko
Piano – Irène Schweizer

Recorded August 30, 1975, in concert at the Willisau Jazz Festival, Willisau, Switzerland.


August 1975 heralded the first Willisau Jazz Festival in Switzerland. The performance by the quartet featuring Danish saxophonist John Tchicai and Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer made its way into a pair of microphones, and shortly thereafter onto a limited edition LP—which of course went right out of print. Free jazz afficionados interested in the active European improv scene of the '70s will be grateful to know that they can now get their hands on this document without hunting endlessly through used bins.
Hot-pink Willi The Pig strides confidently down the middle of the road on the cover drawing, but the music on this disc does anything but the same. The 47 minutes of free improvisation on Willi The Pig range from quiet contemplative moments to explosive outbursts of energy. The particularly satisfying feature of this performance is the way Tchicai and Schweizer coordinate their playing to bring the improvisation to a higher level. Tchicai's saxophone playing, frequently reminiscent of Ayler, emphasizes thematic content with powerful but bridled emotional intensity. Schweizer tends to play impulsively but busily on the piano, throwing out scampering runs and insistent clusters that help shape Tchicai's energy and flow. While bassist Buschi Niebergall and drummer Makaya Ntshoko propel the music forward with pulsing rhythms, it is Schweizer and Tchicai who really dominate the performance.

Unfortunately this reissue derives from three virgin LPs, since the original master tapes were lost. As a result, the frequency range is compressed, the piano retreats to the background, and the drum set tends to reduce itself to a lot of cymbals. In addition, the full-length performance is cut in half by an LP break during a period of particularly high intensity. So it's not the most ideal sonic setting—but if you keep your ears open, you can follow the evolution of an unusually fresh-sounding spontaneous improvisation.