Friday, April 29, 2022

There Will Never Be Another Hugh

Continuing the International Jazz Day leadup, we'll spotlight a birthday brahmin of the bottom end.

He's gone more than a decade, but my playlist never goes too long without something he was a part of.

He was a part of a heckuva lot of music over a 40-year career, so it's never hard to hear him.

He began his bass life as the anchor of the Soft Machine, with his round-toned, rock solid ostinati running like a spinal column down through their one-foot-Jazz, one-foot-Rock output.

Finding a home playing with all manner of British Jazz and Fusion cats, he left the Softs and embarked on a solo career, with tons of collaborations mixed in.

Towards the end of his life -- he passed in 2009 -- Hugh Hopper (born this day in 1945) helped start a project featuring past members of all the various Soft Machine lineups playing together.

In kind of a cool but morbid twist, each time one guy would die, another old Softie alumni would take his place.... kind of like a war with the next soldier up.

When sax legend Elton Dean -- an original Soft Machine Legacy man -- left us in 2006, they actually went outside the past guys and got Theo Travis, who pretty much blows up the show I am sharing today.

That's the distinguishing feature of this tape, really... all four dudes play their asses clean off. It almost sounds like a tribute to Elton Dean, or that they are thinking of their recently-departed friend and trying to burn the place down in his honor.
Even Hugh takes a few wicked fuzz bass solos -- almost akin to the distorted-organ style of Soft Machine founder Mike Ratledge -- during the course of this 95 minutes of mayhem.

Soft Machine Legacy
Berlin, Germany

01 Ash
02 Seven for Lee
03 Footloose
04 Strange Comforts
05 untitled improvisation
06 Grape Hound
07 1212
08 As If
09 Kings & Queens
10 drum solo/Two Down
11 Kite Runner

Total time: 1:35:49
disc break goes after Track 05

Hugh Hopper - bass
John Etheridge - guitar
Theo Travis - alto & soprano saxophones, flute & electronics
John Marshall - drums

indeterminate (likely digital) off-air FM capture of a (likely digital) German FM rebroadcast
remastered, repaired and retracked -- with FM announcer removed -- by EN, April 2022
506 MB FLAC/April 2022 archive link

This really is that rare reunion-esque kinda project that, for me in terms of the new tunes and the overall eyepopping musicianship on display, is almost the equal of the original Golden Era music that's being alluded to/expanded upon here.

Anyway he would have been 77 today, so I thought it was good Hoppertunity to hear from Hugh.--J.

4.29.1945 - 6.7.2009

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Tchicai's the Limit

The last day of April is allegedly "International Jazz Day," so let's start the party early with the first of two straight birthday celebrations.

First up is the 86th birthday of this guy, who's been gone a minute but no one who knows has forgotten.

Most people probably know him, if they do, from Coltrane's pivotal Ascension recording, but he's got a whole universe of his own in the music beyond that touchstone of the Free thing.

I guess, like his frequent collaborator Don Cherry, John Tchicai was a kind of World Music before there was such a label. Not that I like or value that term, but that's one way to describe what he did.

There's way more to it, of course. Really he's one of the most unique sax voices ever, and a lot of his output is unclassifiably eclectic in its scope.

One of, if not the most, beloved Jazzers to come from Denmark, he blazed quite a trail up to his passing in 2012. Maybe only bass legend Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen rivals him among Danes.

This 53 minutes of fun is one of the few recordings of him from the early 1970s, when he took a sort of sabbatical from playing to teach.

John Tchicai Quartet
WDR Studios
Köln, Germany

01 Nachtmusik I 
02 Nachtmusik II
03 Nachtmusik III
04 Nachtmusik IV
05 Frühlingsrauschen

Total time: 53:00

John Tchicai - alto and soprano saxophones, percussion & vocals
Ole Thilo - piano & organ
Peter Warren - bass
Pierre Favre - drums & percussion

pre-FM reels from the WDR archives 
it's unclear, but Tracks 01-04 appear to be improvisations incorporating pre-composed themes for which the titles are unidentified; 
these have been designated "Nachtmusik I-IV" for the purposes of this edition
volume increased +1.4 dB throughout -- with dead air slightly edited -- by EN, April 2022
266 MB FLAC/April 2022 archive link

In terms of quality, this one sounds just like a pre-broadcast, WDR thing always does: that is, indistinguishable -- often cleaner! -- than many official live albums.

Watch this space for part II of this double shot, coming in less than 24.

And happy birthday to John Tchicai, born this day in 1936 and still pioneeringly relevant 10 years after his ascension!--J.

4.28.1936 - 10.8.2012

Friday, April 22, 2022

Alpha Centaurus: Charles Mingus 100

I know I vowed not to duplicate stuff and cover people I have done before, but centenaries are an exception, especially when it's someone of this gravity.

It was a very different world 100 years ago, I think we can all agree on that.

I know I worry we're going backwards to 1922 and beyond. I think today's birthday guy worried about that too, although it sure does seem to be speeding up -- in ways no one back then could have anticipated -- here at the end.

When I hear the Shut Up And Entertain Me contingent of today admonish artists to keep the politics out of their music, I laugh to myself thinking how our hero here would have retorted.

A vivid living color in a black-and-white time, is one way I'd describe him.

Although a rare disease ensured he wouldn't see 60, he dominated his lifetime and his times in ways that have people still talking about him, decades after his death in 1979.

One of the primary architects of the Be-Bop revolution of the 1940s, he progressed into areas no other 20th Century composer dared broach and left a catalog almost unparalleled in the vast history of American music.

A notorious taskmaster, he was famous for firing his sidemen... sometimes in the middle of a set.

On occasion, he'd fight them on the bandstand.

Needless to say, if he were around today there's no telling the Technicolor derision he would pour upon the puerile, stagnant-bland piffle that passes for popular song these days.

Born 100 years back from this very day, Charles Mingus still sends a mighty ripple from the beyond, and is a figure about whom we can honestly say -- even though Jazz is as rejected in the land of its inception as it's ever been -- that no one will ever forget what he left us.

He left such a ridiculous wealth of it, in fact, that there's still a whole lot of really valuable treasure to be mined which remains unissued.

In honor of the Mingus Centennial, I know the massive set of The Maestro 50 years ago this summer, upstairs at Ronnie Scott's in London, is getting a nifty Record Store Day issue tomorrow on vinyl, with digi-platforms to follow next weekend.
I posted that years ago but eventually some of them get the legitimate treatment, for which I feel oddly grateful... like I demonstrate a hint of demand, upon which the record industry can focus their greed with a supply lolol.

What the hey, it's all an excuse to put together a neato companion to that upcoming four-LP/triple-CD Ronnie Scott's thing, isn't it? Let's beat the boots with a still-unreleased, three-hour adventure into a small 1972 slice of what made Mr. Mingus a man among men.

Charles Mingus
Europe '72
Sextet, Quintet & Quartet

01 announcement by Charles Mingus
02 Pops (When the Saints Go Marching In)
03 Fables of Faubus
04 Mindreaders' Convention In Milano (My Music Emission)
05 Cherokee (theme)/announcement by Charles Mingus
06 The Man Who Never Sleeps

Total time: 1:19:40

Charles Mingus - bass
Charles McPherson - alto saxophone & vocals
Bobby Jones - tenor saxophone & clarinet
Jon Faddis - trumpet & vocals
John Foster - piano & vocals
Roy Brooks - drums & saw

01 announcement by Dexter Gordon
02 Jelly Roll, Muddy Blues
03 Duke Ellington medley: Blues In G (bass solo)/In a Sentimental Mood/Sophisticated Lady/Mood Indigo/Take the "A" Train

02 Fables of Faubus
03 Body and Soul
04 Blues medley: John's Blues (Blues for Some Bones)/Blues for Roy's Saw/Noddin' Ya Head Blues 

Total time: 1:39:27

Charles Mingus - bass
Charles McPherson - alto saxophone
John Foster - piano & vocals
Roy Brooks - drums, percussion & saw
Dexter Gordon - tenor saxophone (CD2, Track 02) 

CD1: 15th International Jazz Festival  Jachthaven van Dijk, Loosdrecht NL 8.12.1972 likely off-air FM master reel
CD2, Tracks 01 & 02: Jazzhus Montmartre, Copenhagen DK 8.28.1972 likely off-air FM master reel 
sourced from the 2013 remastered bootleg silver CD "Live In Holland & Denmark 1972" on the Naima label
declipped, with Loosdrecht tracks restored to correct running order, 
and dead air very slightly edited to accomodate a single CD by EN, April 2022
CD2, Track 03 & CD3: Châteauvallon Scène Nationale, Ollioules FR 8.22.1972 likely master pre-FM reels 
sourced from the 1989 grey area silver CD "Live In Chateauvallon" on the France's Concert label
slightly remastered by EN, April 2022

These, like tomorrow's RSD thing, are all from August of 1972 and feature Mingus wreaking havoc across Europe and Scandinavia, shedding band members like the rest of us shed our clothes before bathing. In the Loosdrecht set, the tenor is on crutches from dude tossing him off the stage the night before!

These Passions are inseparable from the man, and if there were ten like him today we would live in a very different -- and probably much less evasive and dishonest -- world. So happy One Hundred to Charlie Mingus. If they're still playing his tunes in another hundred, there may yet prove to be hope for us humans that might remain here.--J.

4.22.1922 - 1.5.1979

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Stratosfear Itself

Things are real tough right now, but I have been working up this monster anniversary excursion for a few weeks and it's reached its time to shine.

This isn't a post about the anniversary of a concert or someone's birthday associated with one, but concerns instead the anniversary of a music festival's birth.

22 years ago today, the inaugural iteration of this festival took place. I don't see any record of them happening after 2011, but they might still have them, I'm not 100% certain.

Each one from 2000 has taken place in a different location in the world, selected for its relevance to locales referenced in the music of Tangerine Dream, around which the festival itself kind of revolves.

For this is a gathering at which electronic musicians from the world over get together and improvise in the style of the classic TD records of the 1970s and '80s.

Judging from the (largely sublime and 100% extemporaneous) recordings, an ambrosia of arpeggiation on a surfeit of sequencers and synthesizers was served up for a decade-plus by a whole host of participants.

Some of it happened in venues in front of audiences, but a lot of it was more along the lines of a bunch of musos uniting in private session behind a common interest: reverence for vintage T-Dream tracks like Ricochet, for which the festival is named.

It's from those sessions, recorded over the first decade of Ricochet Gatherings, that the little 220 minute (and 220 volt!) odyssey I have constructed comes, loving improvisation with electronic instruments -- especially ones usually utilized in a more premeditated, arranged setting -- as I always have.

And what have I done? Well, I've married different pieces, taped at different Gatherings over the 2000s, of the same key together to weave in and out of each other like an alternate universe of Stratosfear.

I put it into several sections, each in its own key and with a common tonal center, to form an imaginary concert covering each of the first 10 festivals.

I worked pretty meticulously on it, so hopefully it works and coalesces into something that sounds all of a piece. It would make for pretty decent music to sleep to, at any rate, if insomnia's got your tail.

Ricochet Gathering
Ricochet Passage

01 Grand Prismatic Spring 4
02 Sounds from a Southern Marshland
03 Invisible Gates (conclusion)
04 Stranded At Minnie's Lake
05 Horizon Memories (excerpt)
06 Suwanee Riversill
07 Dr. Moreti's Visit
08 Croatia 2009 (excerpts)
09 Red Star
10 Have a Nice Dave ("Ricochet" excerpt)
11 Ricochet Passage
12 220 Volt Koenig
13 Londermolen #21
14 Area 201
15 Easy Papa
16 A Night At the Museum

Total time: 2:20:43
disc break goes after Track 09

mixing desk sessions recorded at the various Ricochet Gatherings from 2000-2009, assembled, denoised, remastered and sequenced by EN, March-April 2022

766 MB FLAC/April 2022 archive link

I'm having a tough time domestically but I will try to assemble this other (unprecedented, never attempted) compilation I have planned this week, to post next Saturday. Then we can get back to the concerts, but if you love TD, Klaus Schulze or whatever of that style, I'd advise not tryna miss this one right here because it's authentically Dreamlike.--J.