Thursday, May 31, 2018

Wallenstein - 1972 - Mother Universe

Mother Universe

01. Mother Universe (8:30)
02. Braintrain (8:33)
03. Shakespearesque (4:20)
04. Dedicated To The Mystery Land (7:48)
05. Relics Of The Past (6:18)
06. Golden Antenna (4:15)

Bill Barone / guitars, vocals
Jürgen Dollase / keyboards, lead vocals
Jerry Berkers / bass, lead vocals
Harald Großkopf / drums, percussion

Does Wallenstein's "Mother Universe", their second album, hold it's own with their astounding debut "Blitzkrieg"? My answer is yes. There are some differences in this second effort, but also some continuity with it's predecessor, with the result being an album that holds it's own, but is still classic Wallenstein.
The differences are that this album has real vocals, the songs are shorter, and the mixing of instruments is sometimes altered. On some tracks in Mother Universe, Jurgen Dollase's keyboard work is less to the fore than on Blitzkrieg, and the resultant song feel in some cases leans more towards a psych direction than a classical music structure.

Then, there are the previous Wallenstein characteristics apparent. Dollase's deeply moving keys playing, obviously classically inspired at times, the playfully aggressive guitar work going on at the same time at times, and the creative bass and drum work, as well. And the compositions are Dollase's, as in the case of the debut album.

On Mother Universe, the vocal work and instrumental play go together really well, and make for a balanced album, though it is instrumentally where this band really shines. Mr. Dollase's keyboard work is especially delightful, and a thrill to follow on this album, as well. Vocally and instrumentally, there is real unbridled emotion going on here, and what would music be without real emotion? The whole record is very moving, and displays some of the greatest music of the symphonic prog world, period.

Wallenstein would not peter out after these first two masterpieces, and continue to create some great music, up to, and including the album Charline, an album which is a far cry from this one, but good, nonetheless. Mother Universe is definitely one of the band's very best

Wallenstein - 1971 - Blitzkrieg


01. Lunatic (11:55)
02. The Theme (9:37)
03. Manhattan Project (13:47)
04. Audiences (7:38)

Bill Barone / electric & acoustic guitars, vocals
Jürgen Dollase / keyboards, Mellotron, lead vocals
Jerry Berkers / bass, lead vocals
Harald Großkopf / drums, percussion

WALLENSTEIN were a band that transcended a number of musical styles during their decade-plus of existence, from early krautrock to symphonic to space rock toward the end of their existence. 

WALLENSTEIN's original lineup was centered around keyboardist/vocalist Jürgen Dollase and drummer Harald Großkopf, both of whom would go on to make names even bigger for themselves in the German music business (Dollase with THE COSMIC JOKERS and Großkopf as a founding member of ASHRA and later the CENTRAL EUROPE PERFORMANCE). The band was originally named BLITZKRIEG, but as they readied their first studio release the band discovered a prior band with that name so changed theirs and retained 'Blitzkrieg' as the title of that first album. 

Großkopf would leave the band following the 1975 release of "Stories, Songs & Symphonies", and was replaced by former ZOPPO TRUMP drummer Nicky Gebhard. This began a stretch of several lineup changes in the band, including the Genhard's replacement of Charly Terstappen, who would himself move on as a member of the skirt band THE LORDS; the addition of Achim Reiser on violin and Dollase's brother Rolf on flute; Jürgen PLuta on bass; and Gerb Klocker on guitar. 

The band's sound evolved from a straightforward kraut sound into a harder style reminiscent of AMON DÜÜL II or CAN, heavier on screaming guitar and piano with only sporadic mellotron for accent, and with the addition of violin and flute the band would adapt a truly symphonic sound for their later releases. 

By the close of the seventies only Jürgen Dollase remained from the original lineup, and the band faded into oblivion following the 1981 release of "Ssssssstop!". 

 One of Germany's longer lasting bands had first started as Blitzkrieg (until they found out a British band used the name as well) and changed their name to Wallenstein and kept their former name for the album, gracing it with a war-themed gatefold cover. Produced by the unavoidable Dieter Dierks and released on the ultra collectible Pilz label in early 72, this debut album is stunning effort that transformed the 200 MPH speed notion into music. Keyboardist Jurgen Dollasse's very international group comprised of a Dutch bassist Berkers, an American guitarist Barone and fellow German drummer Grosskopf (big head), but clearly jurgen is the star of the show with his battery of keys, mainly piano, but harpsichord and mellotron, but surprisingly no organ.
Just four tracks on this corking red-hot album, all well above the 7-minutes, and not one weaker than the others. The 12-min instrumental Lunetic starts on harpsichord arpeggios, before the group is adopting a binary rhythm, until they break free of it and stroll on through constantly shifting patterns, with Barone pulling one or two solos over Dollasse's harpsichord. Less than halfway through the track, the track dies down, letting Dollasse (sole songwriter) slowly rebuild it back, but the man is taking his sweet time for our pure enchantment. What a performance, even if the track overstays its welcome by roughly one minute!! The 10-mins Theme is a no-less impressive slow starter, with Dollasse singing (3 minutes into the song) from behind his piano (but plays synth and mellotron as well), almost a one man show, but so well supported by Grosskopf's excellent drumming and Barone's discreet but efficient guitars. The track is a succession of seesaw moods that takes from exaltation to sadness to reflection inside the half-minute.

On the flipside, the 14-mins instrumental Manhattan Project is obviously the "pièce de resistance" (main course) in the Wallenstein menu; whatever they managed so wall on the A-side is here multiplied by four, the group shrewdly tearing spine chills and tears of joy from you, as it moves through the constantly evolving web of moods they spin around your dizzied brains. Closing the album is the almost 8-mins Audiences, Dollasse's singing (lacking the perfection of The Theme's vocals) giving way to a mellotron and the band picking their usual tricks and twists.

A stunning debut symphonic prog album, one of Germany's very best, Blitzkrieg is a must-belong in every proghead's collection, for fear that it wouldn't be worth a penny without it. What a corker this album is!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Hans Dulfer And Ritmo Natural - 1970 - Candy Clouds

Hans Dulfer And Ritmo Natural 
Candy Clouds

01. King Size Davy 7:45
02. Satin-A 6:51
03. Candy Clouds (Part 1) 4:00
04. Candy Clouds (Part 2) 13:00
05. Froggy 2:32
06. Red, Red Libanon 2:48

Bass – Jan Jacobs
Congas [Congadrums], Timbales – Steve Boston
Design – Jan Fijnheer
Drums – Martin van Duynhoven
Guitar – Dave Duba
Piano – Kees Hazevoet
Tenor Saxophone [Tenor-sax] – Hans Dulfer
Tenor Saxophone [Tenor-sax], Flute – Rob van Wageningen
Timbales, Guiro – John Grunberg (Groentjie)
Timbales, Vibraslap [Fibre Slap] – Appie de Hond

Recorded 17th. and 18th. of August 1970

In the 70's, especially in Europe, there was no shortage of groups striving to merge the worlds of jazz and rock. Often the fruit of these labors seem proggishly vulgar, pedantically over-intellectualized (looking right at you, Soft Machine), or were simply train wrecks-- the result of clueless musicians who understood neither jazz nor rock with any insight or subtlety, smashing them together like joyless stoners. So If I were to tell you that Dutchman Hans Dulfer's Candy Clouds is a Jazz-Rock masterpiece and beyond, I'd understand if you required some further persuasion.

Let's get something straight: Dulfer doesn't even belong in the Prog-jazz ghetto with acts like Alcatraz, Xhol Caravan, and all the others. Candy Clouds' mind-blowing brand of fusion has much more in common with the free/spiritual jazz scene in Europe, and can be easily to compared to the experimental fusion efforts of Archie Shepp or Gato Barbieri in the 70's. It isn't even entirely accurate to call this jazz-rock, as though the two modes of music share the spotlight equally; the music here is as Latin as it is heavy, and so this becomes a fascinating record of Spiritual Free Jazz Latin Psych. Stupendous.

The title track, split into two sections on the record and totaling nearly twenty minutes, is the heart of this fine album. Part 1 opens with a giant smash of heavy guitar that sounds like early Sabbath (forgive the obviousness of this comparison-- it just sounds like fucking Sabbath), trading lines with conniptions of free sax. They go back and forth a few times, until the whole things drops and it's a heavy psychedelic Latin jam with red hot sax burning through everything. In case I am failing to make the case, let me be blunt: it is awesome, as in awe-inspiring.

Part 2 takes its time getting started, beginning above the clouds with a long dreamy section, the sax heating up to flaming as the combo descends to earth... after six or seven minutes, your flight has landed, and that huge groove from Part 1 makes a return. Bigger, deeper, groovier even than before, Dulfer's improvisations reach a thrilling space between, say, Gato Barbieri's warm exotica shredding and Archie Shepp's emotional Fire Music-- all while electric guitars blaze in a cloud of reverb, a piano wanders off and gets lost, and a glorious cowbell abides with wisdom.

Just as good as "Candy Clouds 1&2" are the two tracks preceding it, a guitar-based groove with jungle shadows that's honestly just too cool to be believed, and a huge Latin jam with excellent flute acrobatics (the flautist is doing that Black Harold-y thing where he's sort of howling into the flute as he's playing it, whatever that's called). The Fire Music is in full force throughout.
A lost masterpiece of many fusions, an album so crazy and cool and fun that I honestly can't believe it exists. This is the type of thing I hear in my dreams, then wake up depressed because it wasn't real and I can't even remember it anymore. So, so good.

Hans Dulfer And Ritmo Naturel - 1970 - My Morning After The Third

Hans Dulfer And Ritmo Naturel 
My Morning After The Third 

01. The Morning After The Third 9:36
02. Senor Steve 8:56
03. Dit Is Het Begin 5:44
04. Between The Devil And The Blue Horizon 5:09
05. Green Mountain 7:24

Congas [Conga Drums], Timbales – Steve Boston
Drums – Paul van Wageningen
Drums, Timbales, Vibraslap [Fibre Slap] – Appie de Hond
Electric Bass, Bass – Arjen Gorter, Jan Jacobs
Guitar – Jan Akkerman
Tenor Saxophone [Tenor Sax] – Hans Dulfer
Timbales, Guiro, Trombone – John Grunberg (Groentjie)

Recorded: February 1970.

Hans Dulfer was born on 28 May 1940 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He began at age 17 and has been referred to as "Big boy" because of his album of the same name. At the end of the sixties he and Herbert Noord (Hammond organ) founded a quartet that played saxophone/organ funk. He has done a good deal of cross-over jazz or jazz fusion and even worked with Punk rockers at one point. He has recorded an album with fellow saxophonist Frank Wright titled "El Saxofón". He has comparatively high popularity in Japan where Hyperbeat was a top-selling CD by instrumental standards. Furthermore, Japanese film maker Masaaki Yuasa stated that he listened to Hans Dulfer's music while working on Mind Game.

Hans Dulfer is the father of saxophonist Candy Dulfer and the two worked together on the album Dulfer Dulfer, whose title refers in part to Hans.

Dulfer's album is a sax laden underground jazz album with Latin percussion. The sole area of interest for rock fans is the appearance of Jan Akkerman (Focus) on the first track (of five total). Here Akkerman adds psychedelic styled guitar solos that are at complete odds with the rest of the material, but is strangely satisfying. Of note, the Dutch Catfish label was also home to Ahora Mazda and the early albums by Solution.

Akira Ishikawa And Count Buffalo - 1976 - Okinawa

Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffalo 

01. サスカッチ
02. High School Cadets
03. Baby Elephant Walk
04. C'est Si Bon
05. Okinawa Blues 沖縄ブルース
06. Sea Side Bound
07. 谷茶前
08. Sunset Okinawa サンセット沖縄

Baritone Saxophone – Masao Suzuki
Bass – Masaoki Terakawa
Drums – Akira Ishikawa
Guitar – Takao Naoi
Keyboards – Hideo Ichikawa
Percussion – Larry Sunaga
Strings – Ohno Group
Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone – Takeru Muraoka
Trombone – Eiji Arai
Trumpet – Koji Hatori
Vocals – Kayoko Ishu, Time Five

Count Buffalo & The Jazz Rock Band - 1969 - Soul And Rock

Count Buffalo & The Jazz Rock Band 
Soul And Rock

01. The Cougar
02. I'm Gonna Make You Love Me
03. Michelle
04. Green Sleeves
05. The Sandpiper
06. No More Than A Drop
07. Hey Jude
08. Deep River
09. Mago-Uta

Masaoki Terakawa: Bass
Akira Ishikawa: Drums
Kiyoshi Sugimoto: Guitars
Hiromasa Suzuki: Piano
Masahiko Satoh: Piano
Takeru Muraoka: Sax

Free Jazz Rock album with covers and originals compositions recorded by the Count Buffalo band, precursor of the Japanese Progressive Jazz Rock genre featuring Masahiko Sato & Hiromasa Suzuki. The first album of Akira Ishikawa under  Count Buffalo nickname who was active since the mid-fifties as percussionist and probably the most famous jazz drummer alongside Motohiko Hino, Takeshi Inomata & George Kawaguchi. Each track contains some free forms of Jazz & psychedelic rock including two classics from The Beatles, the Motown cult song, I'm Gonna Make You Love Me which was performed by The Supremes & Marvin Gay, the negro spiritual Deep River, two compositions of Masahiko Sato The Cougar & No More Than A Drop.

Burton Greene - 2010 - Live At The Woodstock Playhouse 1965

Burton Greene 
Live At The Woodstock Playhouse 1965

01. Tree Theme II 11:54
02. Cluster Quartet II 19:00
03. Like It Is 27:42

Alto Saxophone – Marion Brown
Bass – Reggie Johnson
Drums – Rashied Ali
Piano – Burton Greene

Recorded August 28, 1965.

Recently discovered live recording from 1965 of pianist Burton Greene performing with saxophonist Marion Brown, drummer Rashid Ali and bassist Reggie Johnson in Woodstock, New York. During the 60s there was a clear line drawn in the sand between the traditionalists of jazz and the new school of free jazz musicians, who took in the social situations around them and channeled it through their music. This quartet stood firmly on the side of free jazz with highly creative compositions mixed with a strong dose of improvisation. An important audio recording by some of the best known musicians in the field of free improvisation.

Out there but still together. Almost great sound quality of a dedicated band working it. The sound of Coltrane just after a '63 show contemplating his next move. Great for research and new writing projects.

Burton Greene Quartet - 1984 - One World Music

Burton Greene Quartet
One World Music

01. Portugese Impressions 16:17
02. 63rd And Cottage Groove 7:07
03. Round Robbin' 6:13
04. Cokertme 11:25
05. When You're In Front Get Off My Back 4:40

Recorded januaary 18, 1984 in Holland
music by Burton Greene except track 4, traditional

Burton Greene - piano, percussions, voice
Fred Leeflang - sax soprano alto and tenor
Raoul van der Weide - bass
Clarence Becton - drums, percussions

Narada Burton Greene - 1983 - Zephyr

Narada Burton Greene 

01. Autumn Song
02. When You're In Front, Get OFF My Back
03. Karasar Zeybegi
04. Zephyr

Narada Burton Greene, harpsichord, piano, prepared piano, percussion, voice

"Zephyr" recorded at Odeon Theater, Amsterdam, for KRO Radio on December 12, 1982.
"Karasar Zeybegi" recorded at NOS Studios, Hilversum, Holland, for KRO Radio on April 11, 2983.
"Autumn Song" and "When You're in Front, Get OFF My Back" recorded at a concert in France in Autumn, 1983.

Though Narada Burton Greene's best-known work dates from when he was based in New York in the tempestuous heyday of free jazz, the pianist has recorded a sizeable body of work, and not just for piano, since he relocated to Amsterdam in the early '70s. Zephyr, released on Greene's own Button Nose imprint in 1983, gives a splendid overview of the musician's diverse activities of the period. On "Autumn Song," recorded live in France, he uses that European keyboard par excellence, the harpsichord, to create a predominantly modal tapestry that reveals a fondness for and understanding of everything from the Baroque repertoire to Bartók and Klezmer. Though harpsichords aren't normally associated with high-energy freakouts, Greene's subtle use of registration takes the venerable instrument to the limit. "When You're in Front, Get Off My Back," which Greene dedicates to "all the little people in this world," is one of the pianist's typically rambunctious exercises in offbeat stride and blues piano crossed with sporadic explosions of free jazz fisticuffs (plus some assorted explosions from percussion instruments placed inside and around the instrument). In a more lyrical vein, "Karasar Zeybegi," a traditional Turkish folk song -- Greene's interest in Turkish music dates back to his encounter with percussionist Okay Temiz in the early '70s and has remained strong ever since -- reveals the gentler side of Greene's pianism, from deceptively simple folk voicings to sparingly but effectively used touches of Debussyian impressionism. The album's title track, "Zephyr," is billed as a "wind suite in four movements." Wind as in element rather than instrumentation; emerging from the bowels of the piano (Greene was the first jazz pianist to play the innards of the instrument, it should be borne in mind), a haze of wind chimes and swept strings soon lead to some decidedly Romantic tremolo work (Liszt comes to mind). It's a perfect resumé of Greene's multidirectional activities, from disarmingly naïve folk-like material via wryly ironic (self) parody to all-out free-form explosion.

Greene Burton / Alan Silva - 1980 - The Ongoing Strings

Greene Burton / Alan Silva 
The Ongoing Strings

101. Side A first set
102. Side B first set

201. Side A second set
202. Side B second set

No track titles given.

Rec. live at the Bim Huis in Amsterdam 14 February 1980
Hat Hut Fifteen 2R15 - 2LP

Greene Burton, piano, prepared piano, percussion, voice on first set
Silva Alan, bass, cello, percussion, voice on second set.

Burton Greene Quartet - 1980 - Lady Bug Dance

Burton Greene Quartet
Lady Bug Dance

01. Renephanie 10:57
02. Sunny Monk 5:00
03. Embryonic Change 10:50
04. Sphyrinx 7:18
05. Biedronka Tanz (Lady Bug Dance) 10:57
06. Na-Calm (After The Strom) 5:32

Fred Leeflang - Alto Saxophone (5), Piccolo Flute (5), Flute (4), Soprano Saxophone (1, 4), Tenor Saxophone (1, 2, 3)
Mark Miller - Bass
Max Bolleman - Drums, Percussion
Burton Greene - Piano, Piano [Prepared], Percussion

Tracks A1, B2 and B3 recorded at VARA-studio's, Hilversum, Holland, April 2, 1980;
track A3 recored in Zürich, September 23, 1980 during the Quartet's Swiss Tour;
tracks A2 and B1 recorded at Studio Zeezicht, Haarlem, Holland, October 13, 1980.

The N.B.G. Trio - 1979 - Structures

The N.B.G. Trio 

01. Come Sunday 5:30
02. Indebop 18:57
03. Impulse 10:27
04. Nicolai Covaci Variations 14:30

Bass – Mark Miller
Drums – Rob Peters
Piano, Percussion, Voice, Bells [Bell] – Narada Burton Greene
Tenor Saxophone, Piccolo Flute – Keshavan Maslak

Recorded live at the 't Hoogt Theater, Utrecht, Holland, November 11, 1978

Narada Burton Greene - 1978 - The Past Is Also The Future

Narada Burton Greene
The Past Is Also The Future

01. Pavanne Variations 6:50
02. Siep 7:37
03. Zero 5:00
04. Milestones 8:25
05. Cycling Thru The Cycles 9:20
06. Museums 4:45
07. Khalil 9:12
09. Would'n You 3:30

Recorded Nov. 14, 1978 at Studio des Champs Elysées, Paris, France.

Piano – Narada Burton Greene

Narada Burton Greene - 1978 - It's All One

Narada Burton Greene
It's All One

01. Buddy's Blues             5:14
02. It's All One... Fun       9:58
03. In Your Own Sweet Way     5:14
04. Django                    3:02
05. Renaissance Variations    9:43
06. Daoud                     6:45
07. Hey, Little Mama!         4:48
08. Sbruce                    9:43
09. Trees Revisited          13:05
10. March Sun                 7:15
11. Nicolai Covaci            6:32
12. Cycling Thru The Cycles   5:18

Burton Greene - piano, percussion, recorder

Recorded in Rome, April 12, 1978 at Mama Dog Studio.

New Age Jazz Chorale - 1976 - Light

New Age Jazz Chorale 

01. Manifesto For Angels 30:33
02. Tarot 30:44

Alto Vocals – Andrea Goodzeit (tracks: B), Wilma Bos (tracks: A)
Bass – Christian Landry (tracks: B)
Bass Vocals – Hans Van Winsen
Cello – Ernst Reijseger
Electric Bass – Christian Landry
Flute – Gerrit Jan Herring (tracks: B), Wally Shortz
Percussion – David Amin
Piano – Burton Greene
Saxophone – Harvey Wainapel (tracks: B), Sean Bergin (tracks: A)
Soprano Vocals – Cornelia Van Der Horst (tracks: B), Linda Haslach (tracks: A)
Trumpet – Charles Green (tracks: A), Frank Grasso (tracks: B)
Viola – Maurice Horsthuis (tracks: B)
Violin – Martin Koeman (tracks: B)
Vocals – Marga Arosa, Phil Arosa

"Manifesto For Angels" recorded June 1976
"Tarot" recorded June 1975

music Burton Greene, poetry Vincent Gaeta
Narada Burton Greene: Composer, Pianist, Arranger, Author

Originally from Chicago, he began his long career of many recordings and performances in New York´s legendary jazz scene of the 1960’s. He and Bassist Alan Silva contributed to the beginnings of free jazz in New York with the formation of their Free Form Improvisation Ensemble in 1963. He also co- founded the East West Trio with Indian sitarist Jamaluddin Bhartiya and percussionist Daoud Amin in 1973, one of the first World Music groups (and long before they called it that.) Since that time he has travelled all over Europe and the USA with performances and recordings of his compositions and arrangements in many different types of music styles and ensembles. As Burton says it: “Music is or should be universal, without limits.. Borders eventually become boring.. they should be transcended. I like all kinds of music as long as it´s not dull or repetitious or superficial.. as long as it´s creative and from the heart.” His 14 piece New Age Jazz Chorale (1975-78) did concerts and recordings in Europe, years before most other groups were termed as “New Age”. In the last 26 years he’s been busy with his klezmer, Sephardic, Balkan, jazz ensembles Klezmokum and Klez-Edge, and various jazz solo, trio or quartet combinations. He also has a solo orchestral electronics program, teaches jazz, world music workshops, and lectures. His autobiographical book written over 20 years: “Memoirs of A Musical Pesty-Mystic” appeared in print in 2001 (Cadence Jazz Books). His solo piano recording for Drimala Records: “Live At Grasland” was voted one of the top 10 CD releases in All About Jazz (2005). His groups in recent years based in New York and recorded on CIMP Records include a duet with bassist Mark Dresser, a quartet with trumpeter Roy Campbell, Lou Grassi, and Adam Lane. Concerts and recordings also on the CIMP label are his trio with Ed and George Schuller on bass and drums, and a quintet with the Schuller brothers, Russ Nolan on saxes and flute, Paul Smoker on trumpet. His solo piano CD “Retrospective 1961– 2005 came out in January, 2007 on the CIMP label. Burton’s group, a quintet: Klez-Edge had a CD Release in May, 2008: “Ancestors, Mindreles, NaGila Monsters” is on John Zorn’s Tzadik CD label in New York. Also Released on the Tzadik label in June, 2009 is the intimate duo CD: “Two Voices in the Desert” with Burton’s long time colleague and Klezmokum clarinetist Perry Robinson. A release (September, 2009) on Latham Records: “Groder & Greene”, spontaneous improvisations with Brian Groder, Rob Brown, Adam Lane, Ray Sage, and Burton. Porter Records brought out a rare recording: Burton Greene Quartet: “Live at the Woodstock Playhouse 1965” with Marion Brown, Rashied Ali, Reggie Johnson (February 2010). After that came 3 releases: Burton’s klezmer jazz group Klezmokum: “Where We Come From,. Where We’re Going” on the Music & Words label: (Netherlands–2011), a solo piano CD of his latest compositions: “Live at Kerrytown House”, on NoBusiness Records (Lithuania), and a duo electronics CD “Parallel Worlds” with Burton’s long time colleague Alan Silva on Long Song Records (Italy). The last 2 CD’s came out in 2012. Burton’s solo piano concert program of his recent compositions was presented in the Spring of 2013 in a 12 concert tour in the States, and in Europe together with a film about his life and music “Moldavian Blues” by the English documentary film maker Malcolm Hart. Recent releases (2015) include “A 39 Year Reunion Celebration”, a duo with Laurence Cook on Drums, (Boston– Studio 234 label), and “Flower Stalk—Burton with Open Field String Trio”, (Cipsela label– Portugal). Burton hooked up with the fine Paris label Improvising Beings in 2015 for the duo CD release with Burton’s long time “spiritual co-composing partner” composer/vocalist Silke Röllig: “Space Is Still the Place”, and a quartet with Alan Silva, Chris Henderson, Abdelhaï Bennani recorded at a Sunside/Sunset concert in Paris. Klez-Edge has a recent CD out on Burton’s label Disk Respect: “The Struggle Can Be Enobling”. Burton’s most recent release is on Improvising Beings (May 2017), his recent music on a double CD: “Compendium 2016-2017” recorded at the Goethe Institute and Bim Huis in Amsterdam. Burton’s music is featured on more than 85 recordings: records and CD’s. 

Burton Greene / Daoud Amin - 1973 - Trees

Burton Greene / Daoud Amin 

01. Suite: Variations On Darbari Kanada In Three Movements (1973) 25:55
02. Woodstock Vibrations (1967) 11:38
03. Vishnu (1972) 13:09

Burton Greene - Piano, Percussion
Daoud Amin - Percussion [Bongos]

 Recorded live at the Doelen Alternative Jazz Festival, June 1973, Rotterdam (1)
 and Central Museum Utrecht, September 1973 (2, 3)

Burton Greene - 1971 - Mountains

Burton Greene 

01. Mountains.... Expression 1 22:15
a) I Prologue
b) II Ascent
c) III Descent
d) IV Aftermath
02. Now Music 20:04

Flute, Cello – Tom Moore
Piano – Burton Greene

Deep avantgarde, rare Dutch free jazz LP from 1971. A very intriguing album.

Burton Greene - 1970 - Celesphere

Burton Greene

01. Prins Hendrik Garden 17:10
02. Astral Projection 9:00
03. Lyric For Brother John 15:00

Bass – Maarten Van Regteren Altena
Piano, Electric Piano, Percussion – Burton Greene

Recorded November 1, 1970

This is a pretty obscure one with one of my dutch musical heroes, I found years ago in a flea market when I just moved to Amsterdam and everybody was still ditching their LP for little money. I love the dreamy feeling of the first track. I think it was around this time that he also recorded with Gong... or do I have it wrong? All info welcome!

Burton Greene - 1968 - Presenting Burton Greene

Burton Greene 
Presenting Burton Greene

01. Ballad In B Minor 6:40
02. Slurp! 7:37
03. Nirvana Vibrations 8:55
04. Lebanese Turn-Around 3:45
05. Eastern Folk Song 6:30
06. Voice Of The Silences 11:39

All tracks recorded in New York City. Recording dates:
A1, A3, B3: 4.17.68
A2: 3.26.68
B1: 3.26.68 & 9.11.68
B2: 9.11.68 & 4.17.68

Byard Lancaster - Alto Sax, Trumpet
Steve Tintweiss - Bass
Shelly Rusten - Percussion
Burton Greene - Piano, Keyboards

Burton Greene figured prominently in New York's free jazz movement of the '60s, performing with such major figures as Marion Brown, Sam Rivers, Gato Barbieri, and Alan Silva. As a child, Greene studied classical music at the Fine Arts Academy in Chicago; from 1956-1958 he studied jazz with Dick Marx. Greene moved to New York in the early '60s, as the city's free jazz movement was gathering momentum. There, he formed the Free Form Improvisation Ensemble with Silva in 1963 -- reputedly one of the first groups devoted to playing a wholly improvised music. In 1964, he joined the Jazz Composer's Guild. During the mid-'60s, he recorded for the ESP-Disk label as a leader, before moving to the Netherlands in 1969. Greene became something of a journeyman, performing all over Europe while maintaining a residence on a houseboat in Amsterdam. He recorded intermittently in the '70s and '80s. Greene became one of the few free jazz musicians to experiment with synthesizers. He's played solo and led various bands of unusual instrumentation; a recent project is a klezmer group called Klez-Jazz, which features clarinetist Perry Robinson. During the '90s, Greene recorded more frequently in the U.S., notably for the Cadence Jazz and C.I.M.P. labels. Greene's autobiography is entitled Memoirs of a Musical "Pesty Mystic" -- or -- From the Ashcan to the Ashram and Back Again, published by Cadence Jazz Books.

Certainly one of the more adventurous titles in the Columbia catalog, Presenting Burton Greene is a complex and fiery affair. Greene is teamed with bassist Steve Tintweiss, percussionist Shelly Rusten, and Byard Lancaster on both trumpet and alto saxophone. Lancaster is particularly hot and, when he isn't plowing through scales at 90 miles per hour, he employs a wide, Ayler-esque vibrato. Of particular interest may be Greene's use of electronics to augment his usual instrument of choice. The result could perhaps be described as Morton Subotnick-meets-Cecil Taylor as rapid, oscillating tones match and complement Greene's upper register runs on the (acoustic) piano. Free improvisation reigns on this date although most numbers begin and end with a theme of some sort or another. Many of these themes are quite catchy and, in a sense, help counter some of the more intense and somber improvisations with a touch of warmth and humor. "Slurp!," for example, gets things off the ground with a dissonant yet bouncing and playful head before Lancaster lets loose on alto, prompting the captain to leave the seat belt sign on until the turbulence subsides.

Burton Greene Ensemble - 1969 - Aquariana

Burton Greene Ensemble

01. Aquarius Suite 19:24
a) Mystery
b) Eastern
c) Piano Trio
d) Interpretation
e) Basses Painters
f) Aquariana
02. From "Out Of Bartok" 5:10
03. Two-One-Two Vibrations 19:20

Recorded June 9, 1969 - Studio Saravah - Paris

Alto Saxophone – Arthur Jones
Bass – Beb Guerin
Bass – Dieter Gewissler
Drums – Claude Delcloo
Piano – Burton Greene
Trumpet – Jacques Coursil

Burton Greene was a conservatory-trained musician, writer, painter, and improviser who was a vital participant in the new music and free jazz movement of 1960s New York. Recording for the ESP label and working with artists such as Bill Dixon, Archie Shepp, Roswell Rudd, and Alan Silva, he formed the Free Form Improvisation Ensemble and the Jazz Composers Guild of New York. Relocating to Europe in the late '60s, he worked extensively in the free improvisation community, and produced a few recordings, of which one is handsomely reissued here. A new pressing of the prestigious avant-garde label BYG 's eighth release saw Greene teamed up with avant-garde jazz musicians Jacques Coursil, Arthur Jones, Ben Guerin, Claude Delcloo, and Dieter Gewissler. Meditation mindsets were of great interest to Greene, and he employed such conscious states in his performances, improvisations, and compositions, resulting in a cerebral and intensely spirited free jazz music with classically inclined motifs (as the second of the three pieces here, billed as "Out of Bartok," may suggest). The LP side-long "Aquarius Suite" is considered to be one of the most vital pieces of late-'60s free jazz, and is clearly a powerful display of the mastery of chaos and melody combined.

Burton Greene Trio - 1967 - On Tour

Burton Greene Trio
On Tour

01. Bloom In The Commune 9:50
02. Ascent 11:25
03. Tree Theme 12:35
04. Transcendence 12:42

Recorded April 1966 at Syracuse University, Buffalo, and Cornell, Ithaca.

Bass – Steve Tintweiss
Percussion – Shelly Rusten
Piano, Harp – Burton Greene

Press Quotes: 
"Pianist Burton Greene ('37) is a major figure in the free jazz revolution of '60s New York." –Portland Monthly 
"Pretty far out work from pianist Burton Greene...Steve Tintweiss on bass and Shelly Rusten on drums…give Burton plenty of space to stretch out in an open-ended, freely improvised sort of way. There's a very spacious, dynamic style to the music – with oblique segments interspersed with more wide open ones, and occasional crescendos with wide sheets of sound." –

Lost classic, recorded "live" during ESP's 1966 New York State College Tour. The "piano harp" credit is Greene's way of noting that he plays inside the piano, directly on the strings – the first jazz pianist to do so on record, taking a page from avant-gardist Henry Cowell's book. In his notes to the original LP, included complete in this reissue, Greene writes, "The tour found people largely unexposed to this music. They were often shaken up. Some were deeply moved. Those who came for a total body and soul experience were rewarded with the vibrations. The people who constantly needed the theoretical approach or 'road maps' were not.... Like the time a boat load of people left the hall at a lecture following a performance at Fredonia State Teacher's College. We had the audacity to tell people that not only was our approach to music valid but that often the results were as musically complex and often more so than, let's say Beethoven. Throughout the tour we continued to denigrate the idea of the 'sacred cow' and tried to encourage people to learn to do their own thing rather than to follow us blindly and mimic our techniques etc.

Burton Greene Quartet - 1966 - Burton Greene Quartet

Burton Greene Quartet
Burton Greene Quartet

01. Cluster Quartet 12:08
02. Ballade II 10:34
03. Bloom In The Commune 8:04
04. Taking It Out Of The Ground 13:02

Alto Saxophone – Marion Brown
Bass – Henry Grimes
Tenor Saxophone – Frank Smith
Piano, Percussion – Burton Greene
Percussion – Tom Price
Percussion – Dave Grant

Recorded in January 1966.

Burton Greene (born June 14, 1937) is a free jazz pianist born in Chicago, Illinois, though most known for his work in New York City. He has explored a variety of genres, including avant-garde jazz and the Klezmer medium.

Greene rose to popularity during the 1960s on New York's free jazz scene, gigging with well-known musicians which included Alan Silva and Marion Brown, among a host of others. With Alan Silva he formed the Free Form Improvisation Ensemble in 1963.[1] He joined Bill Dixon's and Cecil Taylor's Jazz Composers Guild in 1964, and also played with a number of other artists, including Rashied Ali, Albert Ayler, Gato Barbieri, Byard Lancaster, Sam Rivers, Patty Waters, and others. During this time, he recorded two albums under his own name for ESP-Disk.

He moved to Europe in 1969, first to Paris. Since then he has been living in Amsterdam and played with such Dutch musicians as Maarten Altena and Willem Breuker. During the late 1980s he began exploring the Klezmer tradition in his groups Klezmokum (along with Perry Robinson), Klez-thetics, and a more recent group called Klez-Edge with vocalist Marek Balata. Klez-Edge has a recent recording Ancestors, Mindreles, NaGila Monsters (2008) out on John Zorn's Tzadik label. A duet with Perry Robinson, also on the Tzadik label, Two Voices in the Desert was released in January 2009.

"Although over 50 years have passed since the release of this album for ESP-Disk in 1966, Chicago-born pianist / composer Burton Greene still considers it to be one of his best recordings. All compositions are written by Greene and feature Marion Brown on alto sax, Henry Grimes on bass, Dave Grant and Tom Price on percussion and Frank Smith on tenor sax. Greene made his way to New York City in 1962 just as the free jazz movement was beginning to gain momentum. The following year he and bassist Alan Silva formed the Free Form Improvisation Ensemble, often considered the first spontaneous composition group. Greene has remained committed to music over the past four decades, most recently exploring his Eastern European Jewish roots with various klezmer-jazz projects.." - Forced Exposure

A typical ESP blowout, this CD reissue has the only recording of tenor saxophonist Frank Smith (who sounds quite intense during his lone appearance on "Taking It Out of the Ground") and features strong playing from pianist Burton Greene, long-lost bassist Henry Grimes, and either Dave Grant or Tom Price on drums. However, this set's main value is the improvising of altoist Marion Brown, who manages to sound both lyrical and very exploratory on the four Greene originals. Invigorating music from the free-jazz era.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Irene Schweizer / Carl Quartet - 1975 - Goose Pannee

Irene Schweizer / Carl Quartet 
Goose Pannee

01. Glücksgäu 4:30
02. Opus De Fökk 4:20
03. Masur 0:40
04. Scheidling Extra 9:40
05. Goose Pannée 21:15

Recorded At – Quartier Latin, Berlin

Bass – Arjen Gorter
Drums – Heinrich Hock
Piano – Irene Schweizer
Tenor Saxophone – Rüdiger Carl

Recorded Live 13/14 September 1974 at the Quartier Latin/Berlin on the "FMP-Recording-Unit"

A tremendous early showcase for Carl and Schweizer, before an appreciative Berlin audience. The album opens with one tune by each, revealing the depth of their talents, before building to the side-long climax that is the title track. A full-bore blowout, it's a classic example of Euro free improv at its peak, and deserves as wide an audience as possible.

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society - 1999 - Montreux Jazz Festival

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society 
Montreux Jazz Festival

01. Mother's Day 5:49
02. Iola 7:15
03. Gossip 7:14
04. Zane'sFangs 10:58
05. Alice In The Congo 14:54

Bass - Melvin Gibbs
Bass - Reverend Bruce Johnson
Drums - Ronald Shannon Jackson
Guitar, Banjo, Guitar - Vernon Reid
Saxophone [Alto, Soprano] - Zane Massey
Trumpet - Henry Scott

Recorded on 21 July 1983 at Casino, Montreux

Another fiery set from the Decoding Society, this one from July of 1983. Song selection is almost evenly split between Mandance and Barbeque Dog. Vernon Reid is featured on banjo on several cuts, including the lovely "Iola," where he does some nice trading off with bassist Bruce Johnson. The rest of the set is fairly explosive, highlighted by "Alice in the Congo," a lengthier track that touches on other tunes (like "Small World") and gives the players a bit more room to solo. The playing of both Zane Massey on saxes and Henry Scott on trumpet should not go unmentioned, as they receive the bulk of the solo spotlight and really take advantage, sending their solos into the stratosphere. In addition to his banjo playing, Reid gets a chance to burn on electric guitar on both "Gossip" and "Alice in the Congo" (where the band slides into a very straight blues for a short time). Montreux Jazz Festival is a fine live document of what is arguably the strongest version of the Decoding Society.

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society - 1999 - Live In Warsaw

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society 
Live In Warsaw

01 Christmas Woman 4:34
02 Front Seat Frisco 3:45
03 Night In Seville 9:54
04 Cameroon Morning 4:46
05 Serenade Of Musician 7:33
06 Opinion's 2:49
07 Now's The Time 8:21
08 Christmas Woman 6:48

Bass - Ngolle Pokossi
Drums, Flute - Ronald Shannon Jackson
Guitar - Jef Lee Johnson 
Saxophone - James Carter

There is no questioning Ronald Shannon Jackson's abilities as a drummer and composer, although his actual albums have tended to be somewhat erratic and inconsistent. Such is the case with Live in Warsaw, a 1994 recording with James Carter on saxophones, Jef Lee Johnson on electric guitar, and Ngolle Pokossi on electric bass, although the album still has its merits. The problem lies mostly with the excess of nebulous fade-ins and inconclusive fade-outs, one or the other of which occurs on nearly every track. The actual sound quality is good for a live recording, and the performances are often inspired. "Night in Seville," which features a long coda for Johnson's flamenco-tinged guitar, does meander a bit, but the R&B-flavored opener, "Christmas Woman," and the joyous, Bo Diddley-evoking "Camaroon Wedding" are infectious. Unfortunately, the rug gets pulled out from under each of the latter tunes by the aforementioned fades, and these tracks are surrounded by some not-as-strong pieces that just don't seem to go anywhere (see the murky disco-jazz of "Opinion's" [sic]). Not until the swinging avant-blues take on Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time" and the foot-stomping reprise of "Christmas Woman" does the band really get cooking. These tracks, and Carter's honking, blues-drenched solos in particular, are likely to have listeners calling for an encore and wishing the rest of the album had been on such a high level.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society - 1999 - Live At The Greenwich House

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society
Live At The Greenwich House

01 Flatbush Roti 11:01
02 Erri Moments 12:30
03 Sacred Language 7:07
04 Boiling Cabbage 7:10
05 Chocolate Envy 11:06
06 The Janitor 8:59

Bass - Melvin Gibbs
Bass - Reggie Washington
Drums - Ronald Shannon Jackson
Guitar - Cary Denigris , Vernon Reid
Saxophone - Eric Person
Trumpet - Henry Scott

Recorded live on 1 January 1986 at Greenwich House, NYC.

This gig took place in 1986, almost two years after Vernon Reid and Melvin Gibbs left the Decoding Society. For whatever reason, they returned for this New Year's Day gig at the Greenwich House. The standing band had moved deeply into its African rhythms phase by this time, and most of its members had been playing together for over a year. They had recently added Henry Scott on trumpet, making Eric Person's job as saxophonist a little easier. Here is the largest Decoding Society ever assembled. Two guitars, two basses (acoustic and electric), and horns, along with Jackson, make up the band of seven. The set smokes, though the producers get no points for the live mix -- it's thin and brittle in places, and who knows how hard the Knitting Factory label worked to clean up the tapes. But the music -- that's another story. The infusion of Reid and Gibbs into this band moves the intensity level -- as well as the creativity level -- up a couple of notches. Jackson had become deeply interested in the rhythms of South and West Africa and added them to his already loaded arsenal of expression. His band, however, could never hope to match his intensity, as other gigs from this period attest. But here, with two monster players who he had known and played with for an extended period, all bets were off. The energy level and the feeling of goodwill among the musicians are evident in the loose and fiery way in which they interact during the improvisational breaks. Guitarists Reid and Cary DeNigris trade lines so quickly you almost can't tell when it shifts; Gibbs and Reggie Washington shape each other's basslines by interacting with Jackson's continually switching intervals. Tempos, keys, modes, and harmonies all become interchangeable as Jackson's rhythmic inventions dictate the pace. This set is so much funkier and jazzier than others in this series. Bop lines are welcomed into the mix with rock and funk phrases -- the muted trumpet lines Scott plays on "Erri Moments" are brilliant. It's driven by confidence and showmanship, for one thing. Reid is brilliant in how understated he is, choosing to play with rather than around DeNigris or the horn players -- which is not the usual thing for him. The best examples of the band's strengths on this date are "Boiling Cabbage," "Flatbush Roti," and "The Janitor." This is one of the better issues in this series to be sure; it's solid from top to bottom.

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society - 1999 - Earned Dreams

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society
Earned Dreams

01. American Madman 6:58
02. Earned Dreams 6:13
03. Bangkok Morning 6:35
04. Nairobi Cowboy 6:14
05. Sundance Square 5:23
06. Booby Trap 8:48

Bass - Melvin Gibbs
Bass - Bruce Johnson
Drums, Flute - Ronald Shannon Jackson
Guitar - Vernon Reid
Saxophone - Zane Massey
Trumpet - Henry Scott
Violin - Akbar Ali

Recorded live on stage in 1984 at the Caravan Of Dreams, Fort Worth, Texas.

Drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society sounded like a tighter version of Ornette Coleman's free funk band Prime Time, which originally included Jackson as a member. That influence remained prominent during this live performance at Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth in 1984. Earned Dreams features Zane Massey on alto and tenor saxophones, Akbar Ali on violin, Henry Scott on trumpet, Vernon Reid on guitar, Melvin Gibbs on bass, and Bruce Johnson on electric bass. This ensemble maintained intense creative mayhem while sticking with tight funk structures. One of several out-of-print Jackson titles made available again by Knitting Factory's reissue label Knit Classics.

Ronald Shannon Jackson With Twins Seven Seven - 1986 - Live At The Caravan Of Dreams

Ronald Shannon Jackson With Twins Seven Seven
Live At The Caravan Of Dreams

01. The Ancient Voice Of 'E'
02. Dream Caravan
03. Iré
04. Boilling Cabbage

Bass [Electric] - Reginal Washington
Drums - Ronald Shannon Jackson
Guitar - Cary Denigris
Saxophone [Alto, Soprano] - Eric Person
Violin, Woodwind [Barriphone] - Akbar Ali

Recorded live at the Caravan Of Dreams, Fort Worth, Texas.

For the first time, harmolodia's master drummer requires no decoding; sparked by a Nigerian chantmaster, he vamps along without ever risking implosion. But a vamp isn't always the deepest of grooves, and though the synthesis should engage devotees from both sides, only "Iré," in which various sidemen shadow the chanter a note and a harmony behind, will give agnostics a joyride.

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society - 1985 - Decode Yourself

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society 
Decode Yourself

01. Bebop 0:49
02. Decoding 4:15
03. Thieves Market 3:56
04. Behind Plastic Faces 4:55
05. Software Shuffle 2:35
06. Snake Alley 3:44
07. Undressing 7:56
08. Love Words For A Queen 6:29
09. Tricky Vic 3:55

Eric Person - Soprano/Alto Sax
Robin Eubanks - Trombone
Akbar Ali - Violin
Vernon Reid - Guitars, Guitar Synth and Banjo
Dnaje Allen Gumbs - Synth
Melvin Gibbs - Electric Bass
Rev. Bruce Johnson - Electric Bass
Ronald Shannon Jackson - Drums

RSJ came to my attention as drummer for Last Exit. Turns out he, like Sharrock, had been around for many years and had an even more impressive resume than Sonny - playing with Ayler and "schooled" under Ornette Coleman, the father of "Harmolodic" jazz, a branch of melody/group improv that was in part the basis for much of the free jazz movement. Jackson was in Coleman's first electric group to explore his ideas. In the '80s, Jackson, living in NYC, put together The Decoding Society which incubated a group of youngsters that included Melvin Gibbs (later played with Defunkt and The Rollins Band) and, more famously, Vernon Reid, guitar god from Living Colour. It was only natural that Jackson would continue in the vein of the work he did with Coleman.

Much of the music he put out during this time was revered although this album is generally considered a low point. If Entertainment Weekly ever did an article on all his records, this would probably get a D-. What he was trying to do, however, was interesting and that was update Bebop and Free Jazz with a more techno, whatever-fusion sensibility (whereas Last Exit just thrashed the shit out of it). Hence, some of the experiments are either too much rock/techie ("Software Shuffle") or feature instrumentation that was even dated in '86 (Sonar drums went out with, like, Foreigner). Accordingly, the album starts out with a short but sweet cover of Dizzy Gillespie's "Bebop" as if announcing this is what has come before and now here's what's gonna come after (a lot of New York "loft" jazz at that time seem to be trying to make an Ultimate Statement about Jazz in the Here and Now). The cut immediately following, "Decoding" makes that point despite the hippy-dippy lyrics ("read all your dreams/key into the scene) that the Decoding Society Chorus sings are a bit lame but you can't deny the Jackson-Gibbs-Johnson (that's Rev Bruce Johnson on second bass) rolling beat, the horn/synth counter-melody and Vernon Reid's smoking guitar solo smack dab in the middle.

Bill Laswell is blamed for this record by some - for not letting Jackson's inner Harmolodics self shine with his more snaky and unrestrained melodies (which you hear in "Decoding" but seem restrained in the rest of the album). I'm usually not one to argue that the producer makes all that much difference (outside of MTV scrum-pop and disco) - I mean the ideal producer provides a second ear and should keep the engineer from interfering with the process - but given that a lot of the other Decoding Society output is pretty boss (especially live), I'm not gonna argue too much with the conclusion that Laswell had something to do with the failure of this record.
Jackson from '94 Live in Warsaw (reissued in 2000)

The liner notes that appear on the Knitting Factory website (which rereleased much of RSJ's output earlier this decade) describe the origins of the group and explains why often NYC New Jazz is also referred to as Loft Music:
“The Decoding Society came together as a group during the winter months of 1979,” Jackson explains. “I met Melvin Gibbs through Bern Nix. Melvin brought his high school ‘like-minds’ running buddy Vernon Reid into the group. Vernon brought his friend Zane Massey. All three attended Boys High school in Brooklyn. Vernon also brought in the Rev. Bruce Johnson on fretless bass. Dr. Verna Gillis, ethnomusicologist at Long Island University, gave me the key to her loft club Soundscape. She needed someone living near Soundscape to allow for deliveries at any time. This gave me the all important rehearsal space I needed for playing drums and rehearsing the band.”
A great, albeit academic, web article on Jackson and his recordings by Jeff Eldridge of UCLA that appeared in the Echo journal. Way better than anything Entertainment Weekly could do. Here's what they say about the Island albums and Decode Yourself:
The Island period (starting with Man Dance and Barbecue Dog) represented the height of the group's visibility and popularity. Funk and blues gestures had become more overt than ever, contributing to a pastiche not found in the earlier work. Tempo and feel shifted rapidly from section to section. Hints of tonality, often in funk-based solo sections, could now be heard in contrast to polytonal and atonal sections. Unison sections at very fast tempos and Reid's fiery guitar work both exhibited the flashiness reminiscent of Seventies fusion, yet the signature rhythms, quirky melodies, and arranging/orchestration style assured the listener that this sound was still unmistakably Jackson's. Despite the return of the violin, the addition of the trombone, some interesting stylistic forays into country, bebop, and space funk, and the promise of a Bill Laswell production, the third Island release, Decode Yourself, is marred by a thin sound, gimmicky electronic drum and synthesizer timbres, and (surprisingly) a plodding, four-square rhythmic monotony.

Ronald Shannon Jackson - 1984 - Pulse

Ronald Shannon Jackson 

01. Circus Of Civilized Fools 7:27
02. Richard III, Raven 11:30
03. Puttin' On Dog 4:05
04. Hottentot Woman 2:20
05. Last Affair: Bessie´s Blues Song 2:00
06. Geronimo, On The Run 3:18
07. Slim In Atlanta 2:26
08. Tears For The Earthbound 2:44
09. Those Winter Sundays 0:55
10. Lullabye For Mother 2:06

Drums, Vocals - Ronald Shannon Jackson
Piano - Onaje Allen Gumbs 
Voice - Michael S. Harper

This is more or less a solo Ronald Shannon Jackson record. Poet Michael Harper appears unaccompanied on "Those Winter Sundays" and with Jackson on "Bessie's Last Dance," the latter a rare success in the poetry-and-music category that has something in common with clarinetist Don Byron's later collaborations with spoken word artist Sadiq. Meanwhile, guest Onaje Allan Gumbs takes care of "Lullaby for the Mothers," an uncharacteristically sentimental solo piano piece that borders on new age territory. The rest of the album is all Jackson, though. The most interesting tracks are the ones where he sings (in the same rough, weathered, bluesy style as his occasional vocals in Last Exit) or speaks along with his drumming. He does the latter on "Raven," the album's 11-minute centerpiece, groaning out a surreal mix of wordless noises and quotes from Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe in tandem with his explosive drum rolls and fills; Jackson really seems to be out in his own world here. Elsewhere, there are several more straight-ahead solo drum tracks that, while being as well played as one would expect, aren't as engaging as "Raven," the New Orleans-flavored "Puttin' on the Dog" (sic), or "Slim in Atlanta." Due to its inconsistent nature, Puttin' on Dog is probably better left to established Jackson fans, but its unusual highpoints do make it worth hearing.

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society - 1983 - Barbeque Dog

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society
Barbeque Dog

01. Barbeque Dog 4:21
02. Trials of an Honest John 3:24
03. Yugo Boy 3:10
04. Say What You Will 3:15
05. Mystery at Dawn 4:38
06. Gossip 5:48
07. When Cherry Trees Bloom in Winter, You Can Smell Last Summer 5:29
08. Harlem Opera 9:02

Encoded March 1983 at Jam Recording, London, England. Decoded April 1983 at Electric Lady Studios, NYC.

Zane Massey – Alto, Soprano and Tenor Saxophones, Percussion, Voice
Henry Scott – Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Percussion, Voice 
Vernon Reid – Guitars, Guitar Synthesizer, Steel Guitar, Banjo, Percussion, Voice, Coins 
Melvin Gibbs – Electric Bass, Electric Piccolo Bass, Percussion, Voice
Reverend Bruce Johnson – Fretless Electric Bass, Percussion, Voice
Ronald Shannon Jackson – Drums, Flute and Bass Flute, Voice, Bertoia Sound Sculpture

A follow-up to the highly successful (artistically) Mandance, Barbecue Dog doesn't quite reach the explosive heights of its predecessor, but is arguably the next best item in Jackson's discography. The band strikes a comfortable balance between the horns and the electric instruments, allowing each to surface when needed, and also compliments the required barnburners with more contemplative pieces. Thus, for every "Trial of an Honest John" where the sky threatens to cave in, there's a lovely, serene number like "Mystery at Dawn," with the leader switching to flutes and often incendiary guitarist Vernon Reid (pre-Living Colour) plucking a delicate banjo solo. As worthwhile as the better numbers here are, however, the bulk of the compositions begin to settle into something of a rut, if not necessarily a bad one. The listener begins to hear a certain standardization of material that would become more apparent in subsequent releases. Still, there's much to enjoy here, including Henry Scott's dazzling trumpet work, the unreservedly funky dual bass playing of the Reverend Bruce Johnson and Melvin Gibbs, and, of course, the leader's own roiling, brink-of-chaos drumming. Barbecue Dog is possibly the last Decoding Society recording that can be recommended with few reservations.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society - 1982 - Man Dance

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society 
Man Dance

01. Man Dance (4:31)
02. Iola (5:23)
03. Spanking (3:07)
04. Catman (6:44)
05. The Art Of Levitation (1:24)
06. Belly Button (4:45)
07. Giraffe (3:07)
08. When Souls Speak (5:47)
09. Alice In The Congo (6:09)

Ronald Shannon Jackson / drums, compositions
Vernon Reid / guitar & banjo
Melvin Bibbs / bass
Rev. Bruce Johnson / bass
Henry Scott / flugelhorn, trumpet
Lee Rozie / sax
Zane Massey / sax
David Gordon / trumpet

Jackson's compositions here remind me of a freer, funkier version of Moondog, which might be the highest complement I can give to a jazz musician. This one's also helped along by the fact that the musicians clearly love playing with each other - listen to how much fun Melvin Gibbs is having playing off of Vernon Reid's banjo on "Iola," or "The Art of Levitation," which is Danny Elfman-esque in its demented glee.

Because Zane Massey isn't exactly the type of saxophonist who can carry a track into the stratosphere this album is at its best when it heads into funkier over freer territory (think the extended bass leads at the end of "Catman" or the terrific closer "Alice in the Congo," which only comes out of its menacing lurch for extended string solos) though Reid in particular shines in the heavily-improvised moments, unleashing James Blood Ulmer-level leads all over the place. The dual bass lineup of Gibbs and Bruce Johnson also leads to some interesting textures, especially on "When Souls Speak." All in all, this a solid piece of 1980s free-funk style jazz, not the type of thing that will appeal to Blue Note Records purists but certainly enjoyable if your tastes are a little more out there.

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society - 1981 - Street Priest

Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society 
Street Priest

01. Street Priest 6:17
02. Sperm Walk 8:07
03. City Witch 5:51
04. Sandflower 4:21
05. Hemlock For Cordials 7:05
06. Chudo Be 8:06

Bass - Melvin Gibbs
Bass - Reverend Bruce Johnson
Drums - Ronald Shannon Jackson
Electric Guitar - Vernon Reid
Saxophone, Flute - Zane Massey
Saxophone - Lee Rozie

Recorded at: Studio Nord, Bremen 13th-16th June 1981

In the Sixties and Seventies, jazz music took a substantial downturn in its popularity and importance to mainstream American society. Not surprisingly, the jazz economy suffered in parallel. Due in no small part both to the commercial success of rock and roll and to the difficult nature ("inaccessibility") of Sixties free jazz (or "The New Thing"), jazz was no longer a core cultural phenomenon. Even the two remaining jazz music giants of the time, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, would wander into controversial territory by the late and mid-Sixties, respectively.

Thus, when considering jazz and related improvised, western musics in the 1980s, one could potentially focus attention on the work that Wynton Marsalis and his colleagues did to regain both recognition and respectability for jazz music. While Marsalis and company had—at best—a mildly positive impact on the jazz economy, they also transformed and revitalized the music culturally and socially. Jazz became known more widely as an "American classical art form" and appeared increasingly in classrooms, auditoriums, and conservatories. The music associated with this revival was typically representative of more conservative post-bebop styles, the Miles Davis quintet of the Sixties being a standard reference point.

The Seventies and Eighties, however, were not just a time of a purely neo-conservative re-exploration of past jazz traditions. The Seventies New York City loft scene provided an environment in which artists could regroup from the hostile reception that free jazz had been given, thus allowing for further development of musical ideas broached a decade earlier. At or around the same time, the stage was being set for a "post-loft" aesthetic that, in the late Seventies and early Eighties, would use the principle of freedom to mine the entire history of jazz and other musics, resulting in the creation of a rich variety of new forms, new sounds, and new styles. The artistic freedom afforded by the loft scene combined and coincided with a late modern condition of jazz music wherein all possible styles had presumably been exhausted. In essence, the analogue of post-modernism in jazz was being born. 

Henry Threadgill, James Blood Ulmer, David Murray, Anthony Davis, Oliver Lake, Arthur Blythe, and Ronald Shannon Jackson were among major participants in this "movement," synthesizing musical influences and performance styles from any number of sources: the entire history of jazz (including Sixties free jazz), rock, blues, art music, and world musics. As parallel efforts (that incorporated stylistic fusions and improvisational vocabularies) arose with musicians who were considered part of either the rock tradition or the western art music tradition, the word "jazz" itself began to lose what little meaning had not already been wrung out of it in the wake of Sixties free jazz.

As with many of the latter artists, drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson's ascent to the critical recognition and mild popular success he enjoyed in the 1980s did not come early in life. In 1979, at the age of 39, Jackson formed The Decoding Society, a medium-sized ensemble that would become an ongoing vehicle to showcase his compositional/arranging talent and his uniquely propulsive drumming style. Sadly, by the mid–1990s, Jackson had lapsed into relative obscurity alongside many of his colleagues.

In his home town of Fort Worth, Texas, Ronald Shannon Jackson's exposure to a healthy variety of vernacular musics—country, gospel, jazz, blues, and soul—and his subsequent, early performance career, were key ingredients in his artistic trajectory, culminating in the exuberant compositions and sounds of The Decoding Society. After beginning his performing career in Texas, Jackson left the southwest for New York City in 1966 and quickly found work with Betty Carter, Charles Mingus, and numerous other prominent jazz artists. His most notable affiliation during this period was with seminal free jazz figure Albert Ayler. Soon thereafter he became relatively inactive on the scene for several years.

In 1974 Jackson met Ornette Coleman, began "lessons" with Coleman on his "harmolodic" theory, and recorded and performed with the original incarnation of Coleman's Prime Time Ensemble. Jackson's career accelerated in the late Seventies as he made formidable contributions to one of Cecil Taylor's many working ensembles, and participated in the landmark James Blood Ulmer recording, Are You Glad to Be in America? Certainly, by these late Seventies recordings, Jackson’s drumming was already indicative of what would become his signature style: an energetic pushing of the pulse, a loose and swinging feel, a focus on tom-tom and snare work, and the usage of parade rhythms (i.e. patterns involving repetitions of two sixteenth-notes followed by one or two eighth-notes).

Jackson gathered a combination of seasoned loft players and young, talented newcomers in 1979 as the first edition of The Decoding Society. Over the next decade, the group performed extensively and released about one recording per year. Personnel changes occurred over the years, but during the course of the Eighties and into the early Nineties there was a handful of core units anchored by some relatively long-term, primary performers. Unfortunately, Jackson's first six studio albums are out of print, despite most having seen at least a brief appearance on CD format. Jackson left New York City in the early Nineties and returned to Texas where he currently resides. Three studio Decoding Society recordings, his latest from the Nineties, document a period of seemingly sporadic activity.

Fortunately for those of us who bemoaned an almost complete disappearance of commercially available Ronald Shannon Jackson recordings, and for those who may have missed the opportunity the first time around, the Knitting Factory's KnitClassics label (a division of the jazz/pop club's Knitting Factory Records) has released nine "reissue" recordings by Jackson over the course of the year 2000, eight of which involve some version of The Decoding Society. Four out of these nine recordings were actually previously unreleased. Eight were recorded, either in the studio or live in performance during a span between 1983 and 1988, while one dates from a 1994 concert. The KnitClassics recordings provide broad coverage of Jackson and The Decoding Society's work through various editions of the band and their concomitant compositional and stylistic progression.

In response to his formulation of and early work with the Decoding Society, Jackson was critiqued as a primary participant in the so-called "new fusion" movement of the early Eighties. This movement was ostensibly derived from Coleman's then recent foray into electric music, forming a parallel to the way in which Seventies fusion emerged from the electric music of Miles Davis. Indeed, Jackson's first recording under his own name, The Decoding Society's Eye on You (About Time Records, 1980), exhibited more overt influence from Coleman than any subsequent work. Yet Eye on You was not merely an homage to Coleman, but in fact documented a new artistic voice.

For the first version of The Decoding Society, as well as most later versions, Jackson selected instrumentation with doublings similar to Coleman's Prime Time (and Free Jazz) ensemble: two or three saxophonists who each played multiple horns (or one sax and one trumpet), and initially two guitars and one bass, which quickly reversed to become one guitar (a teenage Vernon Reid who later formed Living Colour) and two basses (often in fretted/unfretted combination). Violin, vibes, and trombone made sporadic appearances and later on, lineups focusing on a core of multiple guitarists would return.

On Eye on You and subsequent early Decoding Society recordings, the ensemble's polyphonic texture was clearly rooted in Coleman's elusive "harmolodic system" which professes an equal role for harmony, movement (i.e. rhythm), and melody, and dispenses with traditional notions of key and pitch. Each instrument, in theory, would be capable of playing a rhythmic role, a harmonic role, a melodic role, or some combination thereof; a similar blurring applied to lead/soloing and accompanying roles. Moreover, Jackson's compositions did not typically focus on any one key. The combination of sharply contrasting, implied tonal centers, the predominance of polyphony over harmony, and an often heterophonic relationship (due to looseness in both rhythm and pitch) between ostensibly unison-based parts, all contributed to the prevailing tonal ambiguity.

Jackson's compositions for Eye on You were frequently built out of busy and even frenetic webs of multiple melodies and ostinato figures; the resultant energy was a reminder of Jackson's affiliation with Cecil Taylor. Multiple themes, usually carried by the horns and sometimes the guitar, were presented both as "head" melodies (at the beginning of the composition) and as material underneath one or more soloists. Melody instruments typically played either in unison or fourths. Melodic material often recalled Coleman in its simple motives and lazy, floating lyricism; at times Ayler in its urgent diatonicism; and at other times Mingus in its bluesy, spy-theme quality. Augmented seconds occasionally peppered the sound with an “eastern” sensibility. Melodies sometimes floated freely in their relationship to the pulse; sometimes they swung playfully and festively; and sometimes they serenely presented one of Jackson's gorgeous—yet still tonally ambiguous—ballads. Moreover, Jackson demonstrated an ability to develop long, snaking, sequencing melodies, something he no doubt brought with him from his experience with Coleman. Melodic development and structure formed the basis of Jackson's compositions, but free-blowing, both in solo and group configurations, abounded as well.

The Decoding Society sound was alternately (or simultaneously) hot and cool, savage and gentle, danceable and contemplative. It was a brew of African, “eastern,” and American sounds. Tempo, meter, feel, and stylistic references varied across different compositions and within single compositions as well. Jackson combined his parade rhythms with soulful tenor saxophone lines, the bluesy chatter of electric guitars, and the high-pitched exoticism of soprano saxophones (and high trumpet parts). Like many of the jazz giants before him, he showed a knack for creating a big sound out of a relatively small band.

In 1981, The Decoding Society recorded and released two albums for the German Moers label. Three more releases for Island (or Antilles/Island) Records followed in 1982, 1983, and 1985 respectively. All five of the latter recordings involved a fairly stable unit whose core consisted of Jackson, Vernon Reid (now the sole guitarist and a dominant voice in the ensemble), two bassists, and two to three horns (limited to saxophones on the Moers releases and expanded to include trumpet or trombone on the Island releases).

The Moers dates (which resulted in Nasty and Street Priest) were well recorded, effectively highlighting the busy, melodic interplay of the two bassists who served less in the traditional/functional bass roles and more in melodic roles that were on par with the horns and guitar. The feel was overall more funky and the melodies more catchy than on Eye on You. Reid was given more room to stretch out, while the saxophones continued to explore the high register, and Jackson continued to embed rhythms and melodies within a polyphonic texture that exhibited Coleman's influence. Nevertheless, this music had rapidly and unquestionably become Jackson's own and the Moers recordings exhibit some of his finest work.