I bought this record shortly after it came out in 1980, and loved it from the first note. It seemed to come from another world altogether.
I couldn’t really fully understand where it was coming from, but it obviously had some kind of connection to both Miles Davis and Indian music.
Later on I learned about the connection with La Monte Young and it all made more sense.
There was another strange thing- one of the tracks (Griot ‘”Over Contagious Magic”) actually had a loop from “Miles Davis in Concert” playing in the background. How could that be? This was the first time I became aware of sampling…
This is still my favourite Jon Hassell album. His raga derived trumpet lines are unique and incredibly flexible. He uses a harmoniser throughout, and the parallel tonalities it produces give his lines an ethereal quality as they leave the tonality behind. I was lucky to see him play some of this material at the first Womad festival in 1982.
Jon Hassell’s journey into the spaces in-between the conventional notes of the trumpet in pursuit of raga created one of the all-time most recognisable signature sounds in music. It’s impossible to explore similar territory or use a harmoniser with a trumpet without sounding derivative of him.
Since I’m a sucker for anything with some good train sounds in it, I love this. It appears at the end of side one of his album ‘The Yellow Princess‘, which was released some time around late 1968 or early 1969. It was his second record for Vanguard. The first, ‘Requia‘ also contained a lengthy tape collage, “Requiem for Molly”.
The piece uses a recording of the ‘singing bridge‘, which sounds like a train is passing over it (or nearby) slowly.
Mixed with this are echoed guitar sounds, an “electric bassoon” and an “old phonograph record”.
The old phonograph record is ‘Quill Blues‘ by Big Boy Cleveland,recorded in 1926. Apparently quills were a form of pan-pipe. Using an existing record to make a new piece of music in this way makes this track an early example of sampling.
All these elements are collaged together into an evocative tape piece, a world away from regular folk & blues revival music. It demonstrates yet again the breadth of John Fahey’s vision.
Like many, I still prefer the first recording of “Einstein on the Beach”, even if it is a little short…
And one bit I’ve allways liked is “Act IV Scene 1-Building”. It’s the only Philip Glass piece that I know of that features improvisation.
It has the wonderful contrast of the Philip Glass Ensemble playing at breakneck speed with superhuman precision while the horn players play long tones leading to some free-jazz style blowing over the top.
On this recording it sounds great, especially at high volume.
This 1968 live recording of “Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band All Night Flight” comes from the “Purple Modal Strobe Ecstasy with the Daughters of Destruction All Night Flight” concert at S.U.N.Y, Buffalo, N.Y., March 22, 1968.
It came out in 1996, and follows in the minamalist tradition of maximalist titles…
To anyone like myself who grew up listening to “A Rainbow in Curved Air” this CD is a joy.
Here you can hear Riley’s live tape delay system (the phantom band) in all its splendour over fourty minutes.
Harold Budd and Marion Brown recorded this piece twice:
in 1975 on Brown’s album “Vista”
and in 1976 on Budd’s “The Pavilion of Dreams”.
Both are unashamedly sumptuously beautiful, and I often listen to one version followed by the other.
This composition by Harold Budd feels directly related to Coltrane’s “After The Rain” and “Welcome”. It pushes the floating quality of those works to the maximum, using multiple keyboards and percussion.
On Budd’s there’s electric piano, celeste, harp, glockenspiel and four marimbas.
On Brown’s version there are two celestes, Fender Rhodes, piano, bells and gongs.
It conjures up a blissed-out space, saved from New Age blandness by the arrangements and Marion Brown’s deep phrasing.
In the notes to his album “Porto Nova” Brown says “My reference is the blues and that’s where my music comes from. I do listen to music of other cultures… I don’t have to borrow from them … B. B. King is my Ravi Shankar.”
“The Pavillion of Dreams” came out in 1978, the final in Brian Eno’s “Obscure Records” series.
“Vista” is the fourth of Marion Brown’s albums for impulse, following the great “Geechee Recollections” and “Sweet Earth Flying”.
This record announced to me that, in the words of Sun Ra: “There are other worlds they have not told you of…”
An art teacher at school (thank you Mr Clegg) lent this to a friend of mine and he taped it for me.
It’s still my favourite Roland Kirk record. It has so much energy you could use it to heat your house up on a cold day .
Kirk sounds colossal – his horns sending out sheets of sound, both pre and post Coltrane.
The moment in the title track when he settles into “Hey Jude” is jubilant. On “Spirits Up Above” Roland and the band are joined by the “Roland Kirk Spirit Choir” and together they reach critical mass. This has to be one of the most celebratory pieces of music ever recorded, as is also “I Say a Little Prayer”.
Bacharach & David’s tune is used as a launchpad to pure music-as-energy (or energy-as-music), and just goes up a level every time you think its finished. Towards the end Kirk quotes everything from “The Four Tops”- “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” to Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”.
The second side captures a glorious live set from the 1968 Newport Jazz Festival. Central is the heartfelt “Tribute to John Coltrane”. The whole thing is a joy.
Ornette was one of the greatest melodicists in jazz (if not the greatest). This record is full of blues-drenched stream-of -consciousness melodic improvisation, especially on ‘The Ark’, which takes up all of side two.
I love the sound of this recording, and Ornette’s vocal tone never sounded better.
On “Sadness”, everything is reduced to the melody, delivered over David Izenzohn’s arco bass and Charles Moffet’s sparse drumming.
It’s all there- the aching, vocal tone and the melodic line continuously modulating as it pours out a pure lament. If I had to pick one piece of Ornette’s it might well be this one.
I borrowed this record from my local library as a Miles Davis obsessed sixteen-year-old, as it had John Mclaughlin on it. What I discovered was Don Cherry. This track captivated me and I still love it.
The music is a great early example of using the recording studio to conjure up a vision of some kind of imaginary ‘ancient to the future’ ( to quote from the Art Ensemble of Chicago) pan-cultural space.
Recorded in 1970, this predates Jon Hassell’s ‘Vernal Equinox’ by nearly a decade.
The track starts with a tape loop of some Indian music (flute and tamboura), sounding like it was fished out of a pond. The ‘Desert Band’ fade in, and Don Cherry’s trumpet sound evokes musical traditions much more ancient than jazz. This is what I always loved about his playing- it feels connected to something universal and timeless. There is no attempt at sounding polished or slick.
In the liner notes for the live album “Actions” (1971) Cherry is quoted as saying “I hate professionalism… (it) became like a religion in some quarters. To me there’s more to religion than that.”
Cherry plays what sounds like an improvised melodic line. This section of the tape is then repeated later in the piece (with slightly different editing at the end), which has the effect of transforming an improvised line into a theme. This is exactly the same technique that was used by Teo Macero on Miles Davis records of the period, especially “In a Silent Way” and “Bitches Brew”.
In a long and fascinating article about the making of the record, Carla Bley says that A.I.R. and some of the other pieces “…didn’t yet exist – all being Frankenstein creations put together later from bits and pieces of discarded materials.
But this record gets a lot of bad press, particularly when compared to the ‘Complete Live at Fillmore’ CD box set. Obviously there is a lot to be said for getting to hear the whole thing. This goes for ANY Miles Davis concert, and for anyone who hasn’t yet found it,
For me, Teo Macero got it right first time, although there is an argument to be made over some later recordings such as ‘Miles Davis in Concert’ or ‘Aghartha’. But on the classic 60s Quintet recordings through to ‘Bitches Brew’ and ‘Get Up With It’ he got the balance between clarity and warmth about right in my opinion
The whole CBS box set reissue series has tended towards a drier, more detailed sound. Of course it’s all a matter of taste, but I for one prefer Teo’s approach.
And then, there is the editing:
I always felt that the editing on this record (and others by Miled Davis) was an important part of the creative whole. Some hear it as a mess, but I see it as opening up multiple perspectives on the music.
There is a very interesting interview with Teo Macero in which he talks about his friendship with the French composer Edgard Varese-
“I was there when he was doing his ‘Poeme Electronique’ in Paris. He would show me all the pieces, all of the elements. But he was creating sounds from other sources other than electronica sounds. He was making his own, which to me is very creative. Much more so than just putting it through a filter. He created all kinds of things for that “Poeme Electronique” and I was fascinated by it.”
So Teo was there when one of the landmark pieces of electronic musique concrete was created. No wonder he was interested in using editing as a creative tool.
For ‘Miles Davis at Fillmore’ he could have just put together a standard live album, choosing the ‘best’ versions of the various pieces and presenting a ‘complete’ sounding concert. The LP format didn’t really allow for the whole four nights to be put out as Miles was reported to want. Instead Teo chose to use creative editing to make something unique- a kaleidescopic cubist multiperspective view of four nights of extroadinary music making.
I still listen to it as a thing of wonder- editing and all.