Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Piano Choir - 1975 - Handscapes 2

The Piano Choir
Handscapes 2

01. Ballad For The Beast From Bali-Bali 7:04
02. The Need To Smile 6:24
03. Barbara Ann 4:47
04. In What Direction Are You Headed 6:30
05. Prayer For Peace 8:45

Stanley Cowell - piano, synthesizer
Sonelius Smith - piano, electric piano,
Ron Burton, Nat Jones, Hugh Lawson, Webster Lewis, Harold Mabern - piano
Mtume, Jimmy Hopps, John Lewis - percussion

Recorded and mixed at Minot Studios, White Plains, N.Y. August - December 1974.

The follow up to the first "Handscapes", this is an LP of piano-only jazz recorded in 1975 for Strata East. The lineup is a who's who of hip, black piano players from the time, and includes Harold Mabern, Sonelius Smith, Stanley Cowell, and Webster Lewis.

So:  those who love progressive music please salute this installment.  This group of pianists made two records in the mid-seventies, and this one was posted by the boxes of toys blog so I direct you there. Bascially if you donate to Gianni, even just a small amount, you can access the wav rip.  I recommend it. 

The group consists of the following musicians: Danny Mixon, Harold Mabern, Hugh Lawson, Nat Jones, Sonelius Smith, Stanley Cowell, Webster Lewis.  The full information can be found on discogs.  First of all going quickly over that tracklist you can be sure we are dealing with some very ambitious progressive music here, just from perusing the titles.  The wonderfully named Hugh Lawson composition Ballad For The Beast From Bali-Bali starts with grand piano and synth noodling, but without hesitation moves into the arena of George Gruntz's wonderful piano conclave: intense, odd, fusiony, and oh-so interesting.  The track that follows, Sonelius Smith's The Need to Smile threw me to the floor with the opening mellotron strings soprano touches, as an electric piano plays an almost dissonant obligato in a different key, the different keyboards (electric, synth, acoustic) charm us with their weaving together of a complex pattern, like one of those richly hued arab carpets full of colors and geometry.

And that title!  yes, listening to these consummate artists, there is indeed a need to smile...

Barbara Ann is a gospel, Keith Jarrett-influenced acoustic composition by Webster Lewis.  This track and the first of side b were posted on soundcloud by Gianni.  The Prayer for Peace by Stanley Cowell, the last track, will shock you like an electrocution if you love polytonality and advanced-level, postgraduate composition.  It's a stunner.  I recommend it for teaching purposes at university schools of music-- advanced composition classes only for the most highly talented please.