Monday, December 27, 2010

Ornette Coleman - Body Meta (1975)

File:Body Meta.jpg

Here's a relative obscurity from the mighty oeuvre of Ornette Coleman.
Recorded in Paris in December 1975, a year before his more famous Dancing in your Head, but not released until the year after Dancing, and on the independent Artists House label. Body Meta also features the same band that would later record Dancing and, with a few personnel changes, become Prime Time.

I know very little about the Artists House label, other than that its Wiki page confirms that it was "short-lived." I've got maybe half a dozen releases on the label, and all of them are beautifully presented with high-quality artwork and little booklets with artist discographies and manuscripts of some of the songs. They also sound fantastic, with mastering by such esteemed engineers as Rudy van Gelder and Robert Ludwig (this one has Ludwig's telltale RL inscribed in the runoff groove).

I think this one might have been reissued on CD in the 1990s, but the CD seems to be long out of print. I think I bought this LP at Surry Hills markets in around 1991, and haven't played it for ages. Listening to it again, in some ways I think I prefer this to Dancing in your Head, in that it seems to have a bit more more air in the improvisations than those on Dancing. It shares the simple, almost childlike, heads of tunes that Dancing has, upon which Ornette and the band elaborate with increasingly complex, elliptical improvisations.

I saw Ornette with his current band (having seen him in Europe back in the '90s, both with acoustic quartet with piano and with Prime Time) at the Opera House early in 2008, and he's lost none of his astonishing ability to invent melody, and to communicate complex musical ideas directly to his audience. This comes across less directly on his recordings, but I find this one to be one of his more accessible efforts.

Artists House, 1978, Cat # AH 9401

Ornette Coleman - Alto Saxophone
Bern Nix - Guitar
Charlie Ellerbee - Guitar
Jamaaladeen Tacuma - Bass Guitar
Ronald Shannon Jackson - Drums

A1: Voice Poetry (8:08)
A2: Home Grown (7:43)
B1: Macho Woman (7:40)
B2: Fou Amour (8:35)
B3: European Echoes (9:38)

320kbps mp3
[Links fixed 22/1/12] 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Normal Service Will Be Resumed...

Sorry about the lack of activity here lately. I've recently changed my stereo to a surround system (yeah: I know, I know...), and thought I'd be clever and get the one with a phono input. Turned out the phono input, not so good. So I've got myself a proper phono stage (well, it was the cheapest one in the shop, but it sounds good to me anyway). I should be able to do a few more needledrops now, that is if kids' birthday parties, Christmas and the cricket season allow.
The first rip with the new phono stage is the Otterloo/SSO Stravinsky LP below. I'd actually composed the post and ripped the LP before heading out to buy the new amplifier, but realised when I got home to edit the audio tracks (actually, while unplugging the stereo amp to pack into a box) that I'd had the turntable wired up for mono playback. Live and learn, eh?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps.
Willem van Otterloo, Sydney Symphony Orchestra (1978)

UPDATED 28/4/12. See below.

Indulge me if you will for a moment.

I went on my usual Friday afternoon perambulation a couple of weeks back, and thought I'd take a look in Ashwoods. I'd been rummaging through their classical albums a lot recently since reading Alex Ross's  The Rest Is Noise, which I can't recommend highly enough, although it's probably the most expensive book I've ever bought because since reading it I've been buying up loads of albums by composers of whom I had hitherto been ignorant. It would have been far more expensive had it not been for good old Ashwoods, Sydney's oldest (so far as I know) second-hand record shop, which has been in business since the 1930s. Their stock had become a little depleted since their glory days back in Pitt St in the 80s (when you couldn't move in there at lunchtime for men - and it was almost always men - looking through their LPs, books, comics etc etc) but their classical section was always worth a dive through, and you could regularly pick up an elusive recording of such-and-such by whoever for $3, or a box set of this opera, or that symphony cycle for under $20 (so long as the staff didn't mind your mixing and matching boxes, records and libretti).
The previous couple of times I'd been there, they'd had a half-price sale, during which I picked up several items from a large collection of minimalist CDs, and I'd most recently searched through about half of their classical bins looking for Bernstein's 1958 Le Sacre du Printemps.* 
I was about to pop back in to search through the other half when I saw this:
No, not the Adult Shop sign: that's downstairs, and still operating by the looks of it. I mean the 'For Lease' sign in Ashwoods' window. Talk about the end of an era. The last time I'd spoken to the more approachable of the two Ians that worked there, he didn't mention anything about their impending demise. He he did say that they were going to try and get their website running properly for online shopping, but I haven't seen any signs of life there since they closed. They did have an eBay store, but that seems to have fallen into neglect too (Ian said that they'd had their disagreements over eBay's fees).

I must have bought hundreds of records there over the years: some good, some bad, some real bargains. And I probably have dozens more bought elsewhere bearing that telltale Ashwoods stamp on the inside of the sleeve. I do hope they turn up again in some form or another. Sydney may never see their like again. I can't help but wonder (selfishly) what has become of their stock.

Anyway, by way of a half-arsed tribute, here's the last thing I ever bought at Ashwoods. There's actually a real tragedy attached to this recording, of which I was unaware. The SSO's Dutch chief conductor, Willem van Otterloo, died in a car accident in Melbourne a few days after this recording from the Sydney Opera House. The recording date is not on the liner notes, but it does say that he performed a season-ending concert featuring Le Sacre on the 25th of July, before travelling to Melbourne where he died on the 27th. I won't go into any more detail here, since (pardon my iggorance) I'd never heard of the guy before picking up this LP. There's some stuff about him on the good old internets.

This is a perfectly serviceable performance, and one that deserves to be preserved. I'm no musician, but I think I can detect the occasional flubbed note here and there, and the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House is not necessarily the best hall acoustically to be making recordings.
Those reservations aside, it's still an enjoyable recording. I've been on a real Stravinsky kick recently, and generally pick up any new recording of Le Sacre that I come across. There's another copy of this one in Ashwoods' classical stock, wherever that might be now.

EDIT 21/11/10: I've been playing this a few more times, and I've really grown to like it. I might have been a bit quick to judge earlier. Well worth the download.

Sydney Symphony Orchestra: Willem van Otterloo, conductor.
ABC** Records, Australian Orchestras, 1978. Cat # AO7041

A1: The Adoration of the Earth (15:22)
B1: The Sacrifice (17:49)

EDIT 28/4/12: Since I've received some requests for a re-up of this LP, I thought I'd re-rip it. I've got better gear and I'm better at the process now. I've posted this one in 24/96 FLAC too, so if people are interested in that I might post more hi-res rips in future.

24-bit/96kHz FLAC
16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC
320kbps mp3

* I didn't find it, but I have since found it (on a mono LP and in stereo on CD) on eBay. Awesome recording!
** as in Australian Broadcasting Commission, as she was then known.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

James Blood Ulmer - Part Time [Live] (1983)

As promised, here's more Blood. This one's not in print anywhere, and there doesn't seem to be an excess of good-quality rips available.
This one's from the 1983 Montreux Jazz Festival, with the Odyssey trio of Charles Burnham on violin and Warren Benbow on drums. Curiously, it's on the English Rough Trade label, perhaps better known as a punk/new wave label. I think they had previously licensed his Are You Glad to be in America album (issued in 1980 on the American Artists House label - preceding his Columbia albums) and had even released the title track as a single, so there must have been some sort of following for Blood in the UK in the early 80s.
This is quite a smokin' performance, though the recording is a bit too reverby for my liking, and the violin is a little low in the mix. I picked this up at Ashwoods for about $8 in the early nineties, and have seen it around occasionally since.
Here's some contemporaneous footage of the same group in Warsaw:

Rough Trade (England) 1984. Cat # ROUGH US 65 LP

A1: Part Time (4:55)
A2: Little Red House (5:40)
A3: Love Dance (6:39)
B1: Encore (2:59)
B2: Are You Glad to be in America? (3:38)
B3: Swings & Things (3:27)
B4: Mr. Tight Hat (5:03)

Sorry folks. This album is now available on iTunes.
12" remains OOP so check that out below.

As a Brucie bonus, here's the 12" single, Eye Level b/w Blues Don't Fail Me Now, also on the Rough Trade label from 1984.

This is a real oddity. The artwork, obviously, is similar to that of Part Time, but the music is nothing like it. It's an 'On-U Sound Mix' by Adrian Sherwood, replete with drum machines, dubby reverb and harmolodic guitar. Sounds a bit like James Blood meets Tackhead. As far as I know, neither of these songs has appeared on any album (at least not one that I possess), so this is something of a one-off. I picked this up at a jazz record shop in Chicago in 1993, and was somewhat surprised when eventually I heard it (some months later). I am still glad I bought it.
If some enterprising record label were to reissue Part Time on CD, I imagine they might add this single as bonus tracks.

James Blood Ulmer: Guitar & Vocals
Sean Oliver: Bass
Bruce Smith: Drums
On-U Sound Mix by Adrian Sherwood

Rough Trade, 1984. 45rpm 12". Cat # RTT128

A1: Eye Level (5:49)
B1: Blues Don't Fail Me Now (4:31)

320kpbs mp3
[Links fixed 22/1/12]

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Porgy and Bess - 1959 Film Soundtrack

And now for something completely different.

Picked this up today in the bargain bin at Utopia records (the big heavy metal specialist shop in Sydney, FTWDK) for $5. Spiffy Japanese pressing from the '70s by the look of the label. Was doing a little googling and was taken aback to find that both the film and its soundtrack are out of print, save for a very dodgy-looking "public domain" Euro CD.

Seems that the Gershwin estate was displeased with Otto Preminger's film, particularly the way they had allegedly Broadway-ised the music and taken it away from its highfalutin' opera origins, and the film has been withdrawn from circulation for several decades.

I have never seen the film, but had heard several jazz interpretations of the score: Miles Davis's and Gil Evans's obviously, but also those by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, The Modern Jazz Quartet and Joe Henderson (not to mention countless versions of Summertime, I Loves You Porgy and It Ain't Necessarily So). It was only this year that I actually dug out a triple LP box of Simon Rattle's recording with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, mainly due to my reading Alex Ross's excellent The Rest is Noise and realising I had never heard the "proper" version of Porgy. All of which is my long-winded way of saying that I was more familiar with a looser interpretation of the work, which is probably why this version appeals to me.

As was the way at the time, many of the big name stars had their vocals dubbed by uncredited singers. One exception being Sammy Davis Jr who for contractual reasons was replaced on the soundtrack album by Cab Calloway, who had performed the role of Sportin' Life to great acclaim a few years earlier (there's a recording of that production in print, but I have never heard it). I'm sure Sammy Davis Jr did a good job in the film, but Calloway absolutely kills on It Ain't Necessarily So here.

Actually, thanks the the miracle of Youtube, here's Sammy Davis from the fillum. He's pretty good, I must say.

The principal roles are sung on the album as follows:

Porgy: Robert McFerrin (yes, it's Bobby's dad).
Bess: Adele Addison.
Clara: Loulie Jean Norman
Maria: Pearl Bailey
Crown: Brock Peters (whom some hereabouts might recognise from his spoken lines at the end of Miles Davis's Jack Johnson)
Serena: Inez Matthews
Sportin' Life: Cab Calloway
For the minor roles, see the IMDB link above.

The score was adapted and conducted by André Previn.

CBS/Sony, Japan. Cat #25AP 809. Stereo.

A1 - Overture (5:22)
A2 - Summertime (2:39) [Clara]
A3 - A Woman is a Sometime Thing (1:58) [Jake, Mingo, Sportin' Life]
A4 - The Wake: Gone, Gone, Gone; Porgy's Prayer (3:00)
A5 - My Man's Gone Now (4:25) [Serena]
A6 - I Got Plenty o' Nuttin' (3:10) [Porgy, Maria]
A7 - Bess, You is my Woman Now (5:13) [Porgy, Bess]
B1 - Morning; Catfish Row (1:34)[Chorus]
B2 - Oh, I Can't Sit Down (2:02)[Chorus]
B3 - It Ain't Necessarily So (3:06) [Sportin' Life]
B4 - I Ain't Got No Shame (1:20) [Chorus]
B5 - What You Want with Bess? (2:08) [Bess, Crown]
B6 - Street Cries: Strawberry Woman; Crab Man (2:25) [Strawberry Woman, Crab Man]
B7 - I Loves You, Porgy (3:24)[Bess, Porgy]
B8 - A Red Headed Woman (1:09) [Crown]
B9 - Clara, Clara (2:13) [Chorus]
B10 - There's a Boat Soon That's Leavin' for New York (2:17) [Sportin' Life]
B11 - Oh, Where's My Bess? (2:33) [Porgy]
B12 - I'm On My Way (1:48) [Porgy, Chorus]

320kpbs mp3
[Links fixed 22/1/12] 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Larry Coryell - Le Sacre du Printemps (1983)

UPDATED 28/2/12. See Below

Gee, it's been a while. What with the World Cup and all I've been neglecting this blog a little, other than my little run-in with Billy Jenkins's people (for which I can't apologise enough).

Anyway, here's a little-known gem from 1983. Larry Coryell's solo guitar arrangement of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps (aka The Rite of Spring). I'm no guitarist, but even I boggle at the performance on this one. I think there was originally a four-handed piano reduction of the piece (for the ballet rehearsals) of which there are many issued recordings, and I think later pianists have recorded a two-handed arrangement (I thought I had a recording* of one, but it turns out it's a four-handed arrangement overdubbed by one pianist). But Coryell plays it on solo guitar. There's no overdubbing. I don't have good enough ears to detect whether there's any splicing or punching in, but even if there is, it's still a mighty impressive achievement. There are quite detailed liner notes that probably reveal the recording process, but since I don't read Japanese I couldn't really say.
In lesser hands a solo Le Sacre could turn into a wanky shred-fest, but Coryell plays it pretty straight, other than the occasional implied blues shuffle or latin rhythm, and really seems to capture a lot of the drama and rhythmic intensity of Stravinsky's work.

I picked this up on eBay for a song about five years ago. In fact, I think it's the first thing I ever bought on eBay. Curse you, eBay, and your detrimental effect on my finances!
It was recorded in New York City in 1983, and produced by none other than the esteemed Teo Macero. This one might have only ever been issued in Japan (it came out on CD too). Coryell put out an album the same year featuring his solo recordings of L'Oiseau De Feu and Petrouchka, of which I have an LP** pressed in Holland, so I'm not 100% sure that this one only came out in Japan. Either way, according to a logo on the OBI 帯, this one is pressed on Super Vinyl, so you know that's just got to be, er, super.

Philips label, Japan, 1983. Cat # 28PJ-2

A1: Part I: The Adoration of the Earth (16:25).
Introduction - Dance of the Young Maidens - Mock Abduction - Spring Rounds - Games of the Rival Tribes - Entry of the Wise Men - Kiss to the Earth - Worship Dance of the Earth.

B1: Part II: The Sacrifice (18:48).
Introduction - Mystical Circle of the Young Maidens - Glorification of the Chosen One - Evocation of the Ancestors - Sacrificial Dance

Re-rip 28/4/12.
I reckon I've done a much better job this time, so those who already have this might want to grab it again.

320kbps mp3

* Found it. It's by Dickran Atamian on RCA. Was thinking of posting it, but there are a couple of in-print recordings by the same pianist available. Look 'em up.
**My copy of L'Oiseau De Feu/Petrouchka is not in the best shape, so I won't post it unless someone asks for it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Billy Jenkins - Beyond E Major (1985)

Here's a musician whose work I've only just begun to explore. Billy Jenkins has been plugging away, doing his own thing since at least the early 80s. He seems to be almost entirely unknown outside England, and not terribly well known in it. He is what the English would politely call "an eccentric" or, what others might less politely describe as "bonkers."
I saw him perform back in 1994 or '95 at a small festival at Sadler's Wells theatre in London. I came to see Jack DeJohnette, Carla Bley and Anthony Braxton (er, sharing the bill, that is, not in the same band) but, as is the nature of such events, caught some interesting acts of whom I was entirely ignorant.
Billy Jenkins played with his group (I can't remember whether he was calling it the Voice of God Collective at that time) and the Fun Horns of Berlin. He loped around the stage with his guitar, hair flapping around, like a British jazz version of Neil Young, playing songs with titles like 'Fat People,' 'Greenwich One Way System' and 'Benidorm Motorway Services.' Frequently, he would interrupt the band mid-song with a cry of "Jurassic Park!" which would prompt the band to play a few bars from the Jurassic Park film theme, before returning to the song in progress. I think (though I might be imagining this) that the punchline to this running joke involved the German horn section tut-tutting at Billy's command to play the theme from Schindler's List). I thought "this guy's great," but never bothered to investigate his recordings.
Years later, I came across his name in the Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings and thought I should check him out. Many of his albums are still available, whether on CD or for download on his website (which contains more information about Billy than I could possibly give), but this one seems to have disappeared from the catalogue. It's an instrumental trio recording (augmented by a horn section) of Billy's compositions, apparently intended to illustrate themes he'd explored in a column he wrote in the music press at the time. I still think "this guy's great" and hope to explore his catalogue further (I have four of his albums as of this writing). I think he's deserving of wider recognition too, beyond what I assume to be something of a cult following in England (including, of course, the surviving Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings guy).

A1: Country and Western (7:18)
A2: The Blues (8:19)
B1: Heavy Metal (9:06)
B2: Rock and Roll (7:45)

Billy Jenkins - Guitar
Steve Berry - Double Bass
Roy Dodds - Drumkit

accompanied by:
John Eacott - Trumpet
Steve Buckley - Tenor Saxophone
John Harborne - Trombone

One Two Testing label, 1985. Cat # ALMS 1

Links removed by request (see comments below)
Please visit Billy online at 
...where he has published several new archival releases for download (though not, as far as I can see, this one yet).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Sports - Fair Game EP (1977)

Picked this up on eBay last year. Wasn't too expensive considering there were only 500 of them printed.
I'm afraid I'm too young to have seen The Sports in the flesh. I think the first time I encountered them was - of all places - on Simon Townsend's Wonder World when I was a nipper. They were flogging one of their LPs, and I remember one of the band members repeatedly exclaiming "most of my friends use them as frisbees!" before flinging one skyward. Oh, that crazy rock'n'roll lifestyle.
I'd been vaguely aware of Stephen Cummings in the intervening years (mostly from the slightly naff "sexy" video for his dance single 'Gymnasium' - go on, look it up on YouTube) and saw him play supporting Elvis Costello at the State Theatre a few years ago, when he played songs like 'Who Listens to the Radio' and 'How Come,' (which I must have heard on the radio and/or on Countdown back in the day) and realised that these were brilliant pop songs. he's quite a compelling performer too.
Soon afterwards, I saw a copy of The Sports' Suddenly LP with the die-cut venetian blinds on the sleeve intact for once, so I bought it. I liked it, and over the next few years picked up all their albums and their three EPs. They're quite easy to buy cheaply second hand (if you don't mind having a copy of Suddenly with the sleeve all torn to shreds) and there's a pretty good double CD compilation called The Definitive Collection (originally released as This is Really Something) that's often in the bargain bin at your friendly local chain store. This, their debut EP, however, seems to be quite rare. Most of Cummings's solo albums are worth checking out too, and many are still in print. Cummings's website, is a mine of information, and his recent memoir, Will it be Funny Tomorrow, Billy? is a cracking read.

A1 (Right) Thru Her Heart (3:43)
A2 Twist Señorita (2:27)*
B1 In Trouble With the Girls (3:12)
B2 Red Cadillac & a Black Moustache (2:54)

45rpm 7" EP
Zak Records 1977, Cat # ZR-001

*'Twist Señorita' is available on the in-print CD The Definitive Collection so I have left it off the download file.

320kbps mp3
[Links fixed 22/1/12]

Saturday, May 15, 2010

James Blood Ulmer - Black Rock (1982)

OK, I'll admit it: I'm putting this up as click-bait for this blog. Since a few people seem to have downloaded Free Lancing, here's its follow up, Black Rock.
Listening to this again, I'm prepared to re-evaluate whether this or Free Lancing is my favourite Blood album. The basic group for this album has expanded from Free Lancing's power trio to feature Ronnie Drayton's second guitar more prominently on most tracks, and Cornell Rochester is featured as a second drummer on tracks 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7. There's a bit of a harder edge to the instrumental tracks on this one, and Irene Datcher returns as a vocalist on 'Family Affair' and 'Love Have two Faces.' Sam Sanders (of whom I know nothing) plays tenor sax on 'Moon Beam' and alto on 'Overnight.' The last two tracks are the power trio again, with Amin Ali on lead vocals on 'Fun House.' There's an uncredited saxophone on 'We Bop,' which I assume is Sanders again.
For some reason (presumably a religious one), Blood had taken to calling himself Damu Mustafa Abdul Musawwir on the song credits on this one. He can call himself anything he likes as far as I'm concerned, just as long as he makes records as great as this one.

Turns out this one came out on CD in Japan some years back, and it changes hands for a pretty penny, although the LP is relatively easy to find. It doesn't seem to be available for download, unlike Odyssey. I don't know why someone like Wounded Bird hasn't licensed these albums from Sony if Sony doesn't want to reissue them. Maybe the master tapes have gone missing or maybe Sony just wants too much money (or maybe it just hasn't occurred to anyone). Either way, it's a pity that these great records are out of print.
I have rather a lot of Blood's albums. If anyone has a request, kindly leave it in a comment and I'll try and put it up here (as long as it's out of print).

A1: Open House (5:21)
A2: Black Rock (3:23)
A3: Moon Beam (5:12)
A4: Family Affair (7:26)*
B1: More Blood (4:46)
B2: Love Have Two Faces (5:29)
B3: Overnight (3:27)
B4: Fun House (4:54)
B5: We Bop (2:57)

Columbia Records, 1982. Cat # ARC 38285

Buy it here

*in case anyone was wondering, 'Family Affair' is not a cover of the Sly Stone song.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

James Blood Ulmer - Free Lancing (1981)

Just putting this here because I wanted to rip it for my iPod and couldn't see it anywhere online after looking for two minutes.

It's inexplicable to me, not to mention utterly scandalous, that James Blood Ulmer's Columbia recordings are out of print. As far as I know, only Odyssey has ever had a CD release (and now that I look, I see that it's currently available to buy for download from the usual places), relegating this album and the equally good Black Rock to the obscurity of the cut-out bins.
I don't know what the story was with James Blood signing to Columbia. He'd been a sideman for Ornette Coleman, Big John Patton, Larry Young, Joe Henderson and others, had a couple of albums out on independent labels (the first of which featured Ornette as a sideman) and was a big name around the downtown jazz/improv scene. I have seen a fair few copies of this album over the years, so perhaps they were expecting a bigger "push" from the marketing division or it just baffled radio programmers and/or the punters so much that it didn't shift as many units as anticipated.
James Blood was (one presumes) dropped like a sack of spuds after three albums (the third of which seems to have some enduring popularity, hence its CD release and current availability online) and has subsequently put out dozens of albums on independent labels in Europe, Japan and the U.S.A. He seems to do pretty much as he pleases - moving between "out" improv (eg with Phalanx or the Music Revelation Ensemble), commercial funk and more recent albums of old-school blues (albeit with that distinctive Blood twist) with Vernon Reid.
The core band for this album is the power trio of James Blood on guitar, Amin Ali (son of the drummer Rashied) on bass and Grant Calvin Weston on drums. Both of these guys play with blood intermittently to this day.
Tracks 2, 4 and 8 feature Blood's distinctive mumbly vocals, with Ronnie Drayton on second guitar, Irene Datcher, Diane Wilson and Zenobia Konkerite (whoever they are) on backing vocals.
5, 6 and 9 feature David Murray on tenor, Oliver Lake on alto and Olu Dara on trumpet. How's that for a line-up? The cheesy harmonica on 'Rush Hour' is uncredited.
 I picked this up (I think at Red Eye for $8) in around 1988 or '89, after seeing Blood name-checked by Vernon Reid in some music magazine. I reckon I've got just about all of Blood's albums (including most of the Japanese ones) over the following couple of decades, and have seen him perform four or five times in three different continents. I still think this is my favourite of all his albums.

A1 Timeless (4:23)
A2 Pleasure Control (5:03)
A3 Night Lover (5:26)
A4 Where Did All The Girls Come From? (4:41)
A5 High Time (4:01)
B1 Hijack (4:04)
B2 Free Lancing (4:40)
B3 Stand Up To Yourself (3:46)
B4 Rush Hour (5:35)
B5 Happy Time (5:12)

Columbia Records 1981. Cat # ARC 37493

Buy it here

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Peter Sculthorpe - Rites of Passage (1974)

I picked this one up fairly recently at a record shop in Annandale for $5. Bargain!
I first encountered the work of Peter Sculthorpe at a concert to commemorate his 60th birthday at Sydney Town Hall. Wiki tells me that he's about to turn 81, so I guess it must have been in 1989. The concert was also the Australian premiere of his work Kakadu, performed by the Sydney Symphony under Stuart Challender (there's a recording of their performance available on ABC Classics here) along with Varèse's Arcana, a work by Takemitsu, (I think it might have been Reqiuem for Strings), Sculthorpe's Irkanda IV (which is also on that ABC Classics recording) and something by Percy Grainger (not sure what, but it definitely wasn't Country Gardens). There may also have been a work by Debussy and/or Ravel so the genteel folk weren't entirely frightnened off.
By chance, I was seated just behind Jill Wran, the (then) wife of the recently retired Premier of NSW. I seem to recall her enjoying the Grainger, and sitting politely during the Sculthorpe, but  she did not seem to enjoy the Varèse one little bit.
I was there mostly to see the Varèse, whose work I knew only through the 1984 LP by Boulez. Before the concert, Sculthorpe did an interview for ABC radio, who were broadcasting the concert live (I forget who the interviewer was - it might have been Andrew Ford) where he gleefully said that Arcana might be the loudest noise ever heard in the Town Hall, and cheekily suggested that they might need to put a plug in Dame Joan's ear. I instantly liked the man, before having even heard a note of his music. (he was probably right about the noise too - unfortunately I don't have a good tape of the concert, due to a piece of cassetulant ineptitude by a friend tasked with recording it at home).

Anyway, I guess I had assumed that there were Australian composers, but I had never really given it much thought, much less been able to name any or recognise their work. To be honest, I probably couldn't name more than half a dozen now if you put a gun to my head. It's good, at least, to see Sculthorpe getting some wider media coverage in his dotage. He's even considered a living national treasure these days. I'll never forget the impact that Kakadu had on me the first time I heard it. Sculthorpe slightly spoiled it for me in the pre-concert interview by mentioning that someone in America had erroneously suggested to him that the main theme should be sung as "Kakadu! Kakadu! It's Kakadu! It's it's it's it's Kakadu..." etc etc, and it's sometimes difficult not to think of this while hearing it. There's a section where the strings use some kind of squeaky bowing technique (to use the technical term) that imitates a large flock of birds taking wing. You can hear it on the ABC recording, but the sensation of hearing it done live is incomparable.

I have since tried to get hold of whatever recordings I could find of Sculthorpe's music, so was a bit chuffed to find this one down in the dregs of the classical section the other day. It's a lot more dissonant than his later work, slightly reminiscent of his more famous Sun Music (of which I might post an early recording one day), but with vocals. Trying to get some background info, I stumbled across this old news story about the work in progress. The stage production must have been a hoot. It's also mentioned retrospectively in this interview from 1988 (which is unfortunately very slow to load). I could be wrong, but I think this might be the only issued recording of the piece. A revised version was apparently performed at last year's Canberra International Music Festival, so perhaps another recording will be forthcoming. I don't know whether this one was previously released on a different label and reissued on World Record Club, or this is the original release.

The Victorian College of the Arts Orchestra
With the Melbourne Chorale Continuing Choir.
Conducted by John Hopkins.

A1: Chorale I (5:49)
A2: Chorale II (7:40)
A3: Chorale III (2:43)
A4: Chorale IV (4:11)
B1: Chorale V - Rebirth (7:14)
B2: Chorale VI (16:24)

World Record Club, Cat # WRC-R 030074
320kbps mp3

[Links fixed 22/1/12]

Friday, April 2, 2010

Serge Ermoll's Free Kata - The New Language of Music Vol. 2 Featuring John Clare (1976)

And here's Volume 2, featuring the improvised poetry of John Clare. I'm no judge of poetry, so I've not much to say about that aspect of it, save to say that it's quite an impressive feat to get through 28 minutes of free improv (much less in the presence of such an unholy racket) without repeating yourself and falling back on old riffs or talking absoulute gibberish. I have heard Clare speaking a few times and don't recall his having such clipped BBC diction. I could be wrong, though. Clare says in the liner notes that he was subject to "an emotional browbeating" by the musicians during these sessions, he assumes to enhance his spontaneity and prevent his falling back into old material.

Whenever I hear "poetry and jazz" I'm afraid I can't help but think of Lenny Bruce's old Psychopathia Sexualis bit.

However, I suspect this is largely my own problem.

Clare used to be quite a prolific writer, both in the Sydney Morning Herald and the free "inky" gig guide, On the Street (where for some time he used the pseudonym Gail Brennan, claiming that when he used his real name people accused him of pretentiously copping the name of a 19th Century English poet).
He also wrote a book called Bodgie Dada and the Cult of Cool, a history of post-war Australian jazz. I borrowed this from the library when it came out, and can recommend it. I bought a copy recently but haven't gotten around to re-reading it.
Clare's columns in OTS were occasionally a bit rambly and self-indulgent, but more often were invaluable to those like me who were looking for music that was a bit beyond what was on Triple J at the time. He was a staunch supporter of SIMA too, and on his advice I saw many a gig at the Strawberry Hills, where I would often see him, sitting up the front nursing an orange juice and listening, rapt, to the music.
I was about to say that I didn't know what he was up to nowadays, having not seen his writing published recently, but the SIMA site linked to above contains his review of the recent Wayne Shorter concert at the Opera House (which I also attended), and several reviews and diaries going back a few years. I really should try and keep up with this stuff.

I'll be buggered if I can remember where and when I bought this album, or how much I paid for it, save to say that it was a brief time after I bought the first volume.

A1: Atlantis (28.24)
B1: Derelictus (14:51)

[NB the tracks are labelled the other way around on the sleeve and label, but it seems clear from the lyrical content they should be labelled as above. Side one is very long for a vinyl record, so it's a bit noisy in the quieter parts - I've given it a clean with the trusty AM fluid, but haven't tried to clean it digitally for fear of losing some of the music]

John Clare - Vocals
Serge Ermoll - Piano
Louis Burdett - Drums
Eddie Bronson - Saxophone
Recorded October 10, 1976

Free Kata Records, Cat # KATA 003.
320kbps mp3

[Links fixed 22/1/12]

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Serge Ermoll's Free Kata - The New Language of Music, Vol. 1 (1976)

Following on from last week's Louis Burdett album, here's the first in a two-part set by Free Kata. I picked this up from somewhere or other ca. 1992 (might have been Bob Gould's shop in Pitt St near Ashwood's) for around $5.
The line-up here is Serge Ermoll, piano (centre in the picture); Eddie Bronson, saxophone (right), Louis Burdett, drums (left).
Recorded October 10, 1976. Released on the Free Kata label. Catalogue # KATA 002
[no, I don't know what KATA 001 was]

I had seen a newer incarnation of Free Kata around about the time I bought this record, featuring Serge Ermoll (who was the band leader), Louis Burdett or John Pochée (depending on who was available), Matthew Clare, the son of the jazz writer John Clare (aka Gail Brennan) and a bassist whose name escapes me (sorry). I think Sandy Evans might have been in the line-up occasionally too. Eddie Bronson, who seemed to be such an integral part of this early band, was at that time playing around with another band, Ear-Rational music, featuring a young Oren Ambarchi and Robbie Avenaim on drums (don't own any of Eddie's recordings I'm afraid). Apparently Bronson, Burdett and Ermoll reunited as Free Kata in 2003 with violinist Jon Rose. I was completely unaware of this till I googled it just now.

This recording has a flying by the seat of your pants feel that's quite thrilling, and captures something of the intensity of their live performances. Volume two features the same instrumentalists, with some improvised poetry by John Clare (gadzooks!). Will try to rip that one too when I get around to it.

A1: The First Movement (17:50)
B1: The Second Movement (19:30)

These albums with side-long tracks sure are easy to edit :)

320kbps mp3

[Links fixed 22/1/12]

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Louis Burdett/Lucien Boiteux - Existence is Proof (1978)

I saw a copy of this go for over $200 recently on eBay, which is partly what inspired me to start this blog. I picked this up in the early 90s, probably at Glebe markets, for around $6.
Louis Burdett is somewhat of a living legend in Australian jazz/improv, and has a reputation as a great drummer and - shall we say - a bit of an eccentric.
I was a big fan of his work at the time, having seen him perform at the Strawberry Hills Hotel with Clarion Fracture Zone, Free Kata and austraLYSIS, and was tickled to find this record, with its plain white sleeve, adorned by cheap, photocopied liner notes and a hand-drawn crayon sleeve design.
Louis is an absurdly talented drummer, with an incredible facility for playing polyrhythms. Not quite sure what to make of this album, on which he is credited with "drums, piano, flute, voice and body percussion." It is credited both to Louis and to the pseudonym Lucien Boiteux (which is spelt "Boiteaux" on the record labels)
This is on the Fringe Benefits label, and is undated, though the eBay listing mentioned above dates it from 1978.
Track Listing:
A1: Love through action (22:08)
B1: Erased and raised (22:55)
320kbps mp3

[Links fixed 22/1/12]
*Addendum: 12th June 2010.
I just noticed on the Clarion Fracture Zone album on which Louis plays, Zones on Parade, that a drum overdub on one track is credited to one Lucien Boiteux.


First post.
I'm new at this, so sorry if it looks a bit crappy.
This is a blog for discussing rare and out of print recordings, starting with some from Australia.
All these recordings are out of print to the best of my knowledge, and are provided for reference and discussion only. If you are aware that any of these recordings is currently in print, or if you are the copyright owner, please let me know and I'll take them down.
Any comments welcome, of course, unless you're spamming.