Friday, August 31, 2018

Carla Bley - 1971 - Escalator Over the Hill

Carla Bley / Paul Haines
Escalator Over the Hill

01. Hotel Overture 13:12
02. ... This Is Here 6:00
Cecil Clark's Old Hotel
03. Like Animals 1:20
04. Escalator Over The Hill 4:51
05. Stay Awake 1:18
06. Ginger And David 1:40
07. Song To Anything That Moves 2:17
08. Eoth Theme 0:38
Off Premises
09. Businessmen 5:37
10. Ginger And David Theme 0:55
11. Why 2:19
12. It's Not What You Do 0:13
Cecil Clark's
13. Detective Writer Daughter 3:00
14. Doctor Why 1:30
15. Slow Dance (Transductory Music) 1:51
16. Smalltown Agonist 5:29
In. The Meadow Or In Hotels
17. End Of Head 0:37
18. Over Her Head 2:37
19 Little Pony Soldier 4:35
In Flux
20. Oh Say Can You Do? 1:08
21. Holiday In Risk 3:10
22. Holiday In Risk Theme 0:47
23. A.I.R. (All India Radio) 4:00
24. Rawalpindi Blues 12:40
25. End Of Rawalpindi 9:38
Over The Hill
26. End Of Animals 1:25
27. ... And It's Again 9:55

Principal Cast
Jack, Parrot: Jack Bruce
Leader, Mutant, Voice, Desert Women: Carla Bley
Sand Shepherd: Don Cherry
Ginger: Linda Ronstadt
Ginger II: Jeanne Lee
David: Paul Jones
Doctor, Lion: Don Preston
Viva: Viva
Cecil Clark: Tod Papageorge
His Friends: Charlie Haden, Steve Ferguson
Calliope Bill: Bill Leonard
Roomer: Bob Stewart
Ancient Roomer: Karen Mantler
Loudspeaker: Roswell Rudd
Used Woman: Sheila Jordan
Operasinger: Rosalind Hupp
Nurse: Jane Blackstone
Yodelling Ventriloquist: Howard Johnson
Therapist: Timothy Marquand
Dad: Perry Robinson
Phantoms, Multiple Public Members, Hotelpeople, Women, Men, Flies, Bullfrogs, Mindsweepers, Speakers, Blindman:
Jane Blackstone, Carla Bley, Jonathan Cott, Sharon Freeman, Steve Gebhardt, Tyrus Gerlach, Eileen Hale, Rosalind Hupp, Jack Jeffers, Howard Johnson, Sheila Jordan, Michael Mantler, Timothy Marquand, Nancy Newton, Tod Papageorge, Don Preston, Bill Roughen, Phyllis Schneider, Bob Stewart, Pat Stewart, Viva

Musicians (alphabetical)
Gato Barbieri - tenor saxophone
Souren Baronian - clarinet
Karl Berger - vibraphone
Carla Bley - organ, celeste, chimes, calliope, piano
Sam Brown - guitar
Jack Bruce - bass, vocal
John Buckingham - tuba
Sam Burtis - trombone
Bob Carlisle - French horn
Don Cherry - trumpet
Roger Dawson - congas, xylophone
Sharon Freeman - French horn
Charlie Haden - bass
Peggy Imig - clarinet
Jack Jeffers - bass trombone
Leroy Jenkins - violin
Howard Johnson - tuba
Sheila Jordan - vocal
Jimmy Knepper - trombone
Jeanne Lee - vocal
Jimmy Lyons - alto saxophone
Michael Mantler - prepared piano, trumpet, valve trombone
Ron McClure - bass
John McLaughlin - guitar
Bill Morimando - orchestra bells, celeste
Paul Motian - drums, dumbec
Nancy Newton - viola
Don Preston - Moog synthesizer
Enrico Rava - trumpet
Perry Robinson - clarinet
Linda Ronstadt - vocal
Roswell Rudd - trombone
Calo Scott - cello
Michael Snow - trumpet
Chris Woods - baritone saxophone
Richard Youngstein - bass

Musicians (chronotransductional)
Orchestra (& Hotel Lobby Band)
Carla Bley (piano)
Jimmy Lyons (alto saxophone)
Gato Barbieri (tenor saxophone)
Chris Woods (baritone saxophone)
Michael Mantler, Enrico Rava (trumpet)
Roswell Rudd, Sam Burtis, Jimmy Knepper (trombone)
Jack Jeffers (bass trombone)
Bob Carlisle, Sharon Freeman (French horn)
John Buckingham (tuba)
Nancy Newton (viola)
Karl Berger (vibraphone)
Charlie Haden (bass)
Paul Motian (drums)
Roger Dawson (congas)
Bill Morimando (orchestra bells, celeste).
Jack's Traveling Band
Carla Bley (organ)
John McLaughlin (guitar)
Jack Bruce (bass)
Paul Motian (drums)

Desert Band
Carla Bley (organ)
Don Cherry (trumpet)
Souren Baronia (clarinet)
Leroy Jenkins (violin)
Calo Scott (cello)
Sam Brown (guitar)
Ron McClure (bass)
Paul Motian (dumbec)

Original Hotel Amateur Band
Carla Bley (piano)
Michael Snow (trumpet)
Michael Mantler (valve trombone)
Howard Johnson (tuba)
Perry Robinson, Peggy Imig (clarinet)
Nancy Newton (viola)
Richard Youngstein (bass)
Paul Motian (drums)

Phantom Music
Carla Bley (organ, celeste, chimes, calliope)
Michael Mantler (prepared piano)
Don Preston (Moog synthesizer)

A jazz-rock opera on three LPs, with an all-star collection of musicians including Jack Bruce, John McLaughlin, Don Cherry and Linda Ronstadt. There's allegedly a plot, about expatriates and a Pakistan hotel, but the point was the insanely ambitious sprawl of genres, from Cream-style rock to droning free jazz. Carla Bley went on to a long career as a jazz composer and bandleader; lyricist Paul Haines is now best-known as the father of Emily Haines, lead singer of Metric.

"Escalator Over the Hill, with its spiffy gilt-lettered box, profusely illustrated libretto and international cast of characters, comes on like a DeMille epic, but leaves the listener enormously satisfied. . . a work that is complex, labyrinthine, but immediately enjoyable." — Bob Palmer, RS 114 (August 3, 1972)

The late '60s and early '70s played a great role in the development of youth culture and politics, but it was also a heady age for jazz, where the great changes of funk, rock, and counterculture seeped into improvised music and changed it forever. Not only were the established movers and shakers of jazz creating a stir, but also several new voices were greatly affecting what jazz could and would be. One of the most eclectic and brilliant of these was Carla Bley.

Bley in many ways can be seen as one of the few great jazz composers of the post bop era. The pianist is often regarded more for her work as a composer than for her chops. For an early example, on her then-husband Paul Bley's amazing ESP release Closer shows off some of Carla fine work as a composer. During this period, she became one of the founders of the Jazz Composer's Guild Orchestra before becoming a cult icon in the world of avant-garde jazz. In 1967 vibraphonist Gary Burton recorded her genius song cycle A Genuine Tong Funeral, where she was also featured as a pianist. This record first gave her public attention and led to her composing and arranging one of jazz's finest anti-war records, Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra. But the record that brought her into the full realm of jazz was Escalator Over the Hill.

Escalator Over the Hill is a huge, expansive, and all-encircling work that was originally released on a three-LP set. Even today, that seems a bit extreme for a debut release, but it's even more remarkable given that jazz at the time was experiencing a severe decline in popularity. But what is even more interesting is that the record works on the premise of being a conceptual opus. Though it has often been described as a jazz opera, that description fails on many levels. An opera, no matter how abstract, tells some sort of a story. Nowhere on this set are there any lyrics written by Paul Haines that really suggest a cohesive narrative.

The work by Haines, who is classified as a "jazz poet, consists of equal parts rambling beat poetry and interesting yet nonsensical lyrics that work more in the context of Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica than inside a unified story structure. Yet his bits are interesting and reflect the "far out surrealism and dadaism that was a big part of this period. Although the lyrics are bit crazy, they appeal the free chaos of the record and even flesh out the overall ideas projected on the album. The album does work as a concept record, much in the same way as the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Mothers of Invention's Freak Out!, or Ornette Coleman's orchestral masterpiece Skies of America. Working from track to track with bits of poetry and vocals, the record comes alive in a variety of ways.

Throughout the record Bley's piano works in the background and allows her skills as a composer come to the forefront. As well, she shows a determination to work from traditional elements to all other extremes of music. Her combinations, ranging from bop to Kurt Weill's pre-WWII cabaret music to the sort of pure, raw aggression that could easily fit onto an early Anthony Braxton record, make this one of most interesting works in the canon of avant-garde jazz. Between the thirteen-minute cut-up opening piece "Hotel Overture" and the all-encompassing, Zappaesque 27-minute closing epic "...And it's Again," there's nothing left to the imagination.

Much like discs by the aforementioned Frank Zappa, the record utilizes rock at a variety of points that display aggression. Unlike Zappa's music, the rock doesn't really sound or grasp the conventions of rock music; here it seems merely like a tool, rather than a wholehearted expression, unlike the use of world music and jazz on the album. Unfortunately, at times the use of rock mixed with vocals sounds a bit too much like it might fit into the rock musical Hair. Being the first of its kind, Hair sounded like what New York theater composers and playwrights thought rock music and youth culture should sound like. But Hair was a product of its period as is this record. Musicians like Zappa and Steely Dan would find the perfect alchemy of rock and jazz.

Not to say that this set does not work. This opus is truly one of the most unique recordings that has ever graced modern music. Due to Bley's unrelenting fearlessness in surrounding her compositions with influences from around the world, this results are all the richer. Interestingly enough, the record features vocals from a young Linda Ronstadt on "Why," some clarion trumpet from Don Cherry, and a trio composed of John McLaughlin, Jack Bruce, and Paul Motian. As well, Carla gets started with early experimental big band pieces here. Overall this now two-CD set may seem a bit dated and grandiose, but nostalgic expanse is one of the great features of Escalator. It sounds unlike any other jazz recording ever. The genius of Carla Bley and the amazing ideas she incorporates into this record (and its followup, Tropic Appetites) make it worth searching out.

This album has fascinated me ever since I first read about it in the Rolling Stone Record Guide, back way before we had this wonderful Internet thingy. The album was described as some sort of magical universe, a completely unprecedented convergence of rock, jazz, avant garde, and surrealist theater. And yet, even that glowing writeup did not prepare me for the shock I got when I finally located a copy and listened with libretto in hand. 20 years later, it still amazes me. I consider it a high water mark in my collection, a monumental effort the likes of which have rarely been attempted, let alone equaled.

Carla Bley, along with a cast of close to 100 musicians in various groupings, as well as lyricist Paul Haines, released this 3-record set in 1971, the culmination of several years of work. The music alternates between big-band jazz (specializing in a cheesy cabaret vibe as befits the decadent hotel where the story takes place), psychedelic acid rock (with Jack Bruce, John McLaughlin, Paul Motian, and Bley forming a dream team of sorts), avant garde drones (described here as "phantom music", and used to make stark contrasts against the often busy music that occupies the majority of the album), and some stunning "desert music", a spine-chilling concoction of Don Cherry's abstract trumpet shrieks, woozy hand percussion, and a strange drone tapestry created from the seamless blending of violin, cello, and Moroccan clarinet.

Most of the tracks have vocals too, people from Don Preston (Mothers of Invention) to Paul Jones (Manfred Mann) to Jack Bruce (Cream) to Linda Ronstadt and even Carla Bley herself (not known as a singer, though to be fair, neither is Don Preston), and many more too numerous to mention, taking the mic at various points. Each singer plays a character in an absurd, somewhat frightening tale taking place inside a cheesy hotel full of low-life degenerates and their vices. Musical themes are introduced and revisited, the scenery shifts without notice, and the whole shebang is just one huge head-scratcher. I still don't know what it all means, but that's not really the point. The overall mood is one of almost complete loss of rationality, in a world where sense and morality have no place. It's dark comedy at its most surreal.

One of the most impressive things about this album is how it maintains a slowly climbing level of emotional intensity for the duration of its length, and just when you think you've heard all it has to offer, it offers one surprise after another. The entire first side of the 3 record set is the "Hotel Overture", a jazz big band arrangement of several of the musical themes that will pop up later. The highlight comes in the middle of the piece, where over a funeral cadence (later to be presented as the grim "Smalltown Agonist" on side three) we hear tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri take a solo cadenza that you won't soon forget. Weeping, shrieking, SCREAMING through his sax, it still makes my hair stand on end. Ironically, even though as an "overture" it's supposed to provide clues of what's to come, it's a pretty deceptive beginning to the album. I can imagine someone hearing it and coming to the conclusion that this is a jazz album. Ha! Just you wait.

On side two, the meat of the album begins. "This is Here..." opens with the "phantom music", a very long fade-in, with scary noises flying in and out of the mix. I believe these noises are actually the music from the END of the album, played backwards! Finally Carla intones the benediction in a spooky voice over spooky organ drones and voices. This is jazz? Then Don Preston (as the "Lion") sings the somber and brief "Like Animals", one of the most succinct and beautiful spots on the album - his role seems to be that of the "Tramp" in Shakespeare's plays -- the wise and humble outsider commenting, unseen, on the action. Then we get the clambering trainwreck of the title piece - "Escalator Over the Hill" often sounds like a drunken cabaret band - charging onward heavy-handedly, only to stumble and nearly fall every now and then, with multiple singers singing one-liners from within Cecil Clark's Hotel Lobby. Phantom music returns, and Carla Bley repeats the phrase "Stay Awake! Please! Stay Awake!" in increasingly frenzied tones. A brief vocal piece called "Ginger and David" introduces two more characters, a desperate pair of strangers fated to shack up together very soon. An instrumental reprise of the title track closes side two.

A brief fanfare opens side three, and then we get the electric rock band of Bruce, McLaughlin, Motian, and Bley ("Jack's Traveling Band" in the libretto) spewing bile about "Businessmen" in the lobby. After a reprise of "Ginger and David", Linda Ronstadt (as Ginger) sings the closest thing this album has to a conventional pop song, the pleading "Why". Despite it's fluffy veneer, the lyrics are rather grotesque, and Bley joins in towards the end to add to the confusion. Bley and Bruce duet on the chaotic and complex "Detective Writer Daughter". A small brass band plays a "Slow Dance". And the side ends on a most gloomy note, with Manfred Mann's Paul Jones singing deathly melodies and graphic lyrics of violence over funereal music in "Smalltown Agonist". Gato Barbieri returns with some mad saxophone in the fadeout.

Side four feels a bit less serious and more whimsical, although this ultimately proves to be even more ominous than before - as if acknowledging that things (in the story) couldn't really get worse. The music is light and playful, and although it gets melancholy, it doesn't get quite so doomy. "Over Her Head" is a confusing piece of music sung by Bley, never staying in one place too long. "Little Pony Soldier" features a remarkable Bruce vocal over a simple guitar figure. ""Holiday in Risk" returns to the schizo mood of "Over Her Head". Everything is getting all topsy turvy and it's hard to focus on reality anymore. It seems like things can't get any weirder. But there's still one record to go. On to side five, glorious side five...

There is a long, eerie fade-in, with odd sounds slowly making themselves known until we're fully into "A.I.R. (All India Radio)", the first time we've yet heard the incredible "desert band" of Don Cherry on the album. The sound of this grouping of musicians is unlike any I've heard. One of the few purely instrumental numbers on the album, it nonetheless makes its point absolutely clear: we have now taken the album to a new plane of consciousness, or perhaps unconsciousness - everything below us on sides one through four seems so small now from up here. Having shifted gears to terra incognita, we move onward to what is probably the centerpiece of the whole album, "Rawalpindi Blues". Jack's Traveling Band starts us off, with John McLaughlin taking an especially inspired guitar solo. Then unexpectedly, the song starts to decompose and morph into a return to Don Cherry's desert ensemble, a transition that really makes for one of the most surreal musical turns on the whole album - and it continues for what seems like ages, the remainder of the album side, a heartfelt cry of spiritual longing, with a bottomless reservoir of regret and sadness.

Side six is ostensibly a continuation of that track ("End of Rawalpindi"), but the mood is suddenly much brighter, with the rock band coming back to pep things up again. This continuation goes for a further nine minutes. As if reflecting on all that has happened in these emotional, confusing album sides, Don Preston returns for a reprise of "Like Animals" called "End of Animals". I just love the melody of that song. And then we're off into the big Finale: "....And it's Again" (by the way, the word "again" seems to be a recurring word/theme in this work). This track tries to pull everything together into one piece pulling musical themes and characters into a spiraling conclusion that seems to introduce more questions than answers. It lasts for about 9 minutes, but it seems to have no beginning, middle, or end, it just mixes all these things together into a confusing stew of words, phrases, musical links, all stirred in a woozy, circular pattern. Far from the cathartic climax we might have foolishly expected, this is everything regressing back into its infant form, eventually dwindling down to nearly nothing but a few disembodied voices and drones (which, remember, were played backwards for us to open "This is Here..."). The circular life cycle encompassing the album has completed. We are back where we started, and what the hell just happened?

And then everything is gone.

Except for a low buzzing hummmmmm, the "phantom music" with which we began our journey, lasting to infinity. A locked groove on the LP sees to that, unless you have the strength to pick up the needle. For those of you with CD or mp3 players (guilty!), the final track plays out this hum for approximately 20 extra minutes to replicate the experience of infinite hum. Don't worry, there are no surprise noises hidden in there, just an eerie hummmmm... and it's agaaiinnnnnn.

One of the best albums in my collection.

Bullet - 1975 - The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man

01. Contract Man
02. G.B.H.
03. Road Runner
04. The Heist
05. Duluth Blues
06. The Spic
07. Hanged Man
08. Blue Panther
09. Killer Hill
10. Smokey Joe The Dreamer
11. Gentle In The Night
12. The Peterman
13. Funky Bear
14. Hanged Man

Music from the 1970's Television Series "The Hanged Man".
Published by Television Music Ltd, issued under license from Yorkshire Television Ltd. Originally released in 1975.

Bullet is the band with the performer credits for 'The Hanged Man' soundtrack. The music for this soundtrack was composed by Alan Tew and all cuts were taken (and re-edited) from two library records from the Themes International imprint Alan Tew - Drama Suite Part I & Alan Tew - Drama Suite Part II . 
The members of Bullet were session players (for KPM Music and Themes International Music): Les Hurdle (bass), Barry Morgan (drums), Alan Parker (Guitar), Frank Ricotti (percussion) and Alan Hawkshaw (keyboards) with additional members of the Max Greger Orchestra (brass and reeds). The score for 'The Hanged Man' (their only long player as Bullet) was recorded in Munich, Germany.