These are CD and concert reviews that I have written over the years and posted to various mailing lists. Rather then let them die or gather dust in some obscure archive, I have gathered them here for your enjoyment. - Ray
Dale Ladouceur: "Brimstone and Clover"
review written 8/5/03
Hey all tappers,
I have a short tap CD review, of Dale Ladouceur's
new opus: "Brimstone and
Rather than go track by track, I'll say
why I like her style of music so
much. She is a good singer, a good songwriter, and all around she has good
musicianship. It is not technical rock music or one-person-band
I remember when I saw her playing live
and solo in NYC a few years back, the
thing that struck me about here playing is that she was not playing "block
chords" and bass. Instead, she has effective bass and a melody
counterpoint, and she sings on top of this. The result is good
singer-songwriter music that "regular folk" can enjoy, not just math rock
nerds (ok I know we are all in denial, but let's admit it, we've all
listened to and performed math rock at some point in our lives:).
This is the best example I can think of
of the Stick(r) in the hands of a
cpable songwriter. She's backed up by some guitar, sax, and drums.
Some fo the standout tracks include the
instrumental "Eau Dux", and the
tracks right after it, "No Will" and "Cry to Eve"
get it now, thank me later - for info check
out www.crowtown.com, e-mail is
Frank Jolliffe's CD "Live on Comcast"
was recorded live at the Comcast
Cable Television company here in New Jersey May 29, 1990. He played the
Chapman Stick(r), accompanied by Jim Mason on drums. I have never seen
the video from this, but the sound quality of the audio mix is
On this CD, Frank shows that he has matured
even more as a jazz musician
since completeing his 1986 "Solo Stick" album. This is perhaps the best
jazz album ever recorded on the Stick, he has a smooth tone that you get
by having the right touch. Its a shame he has not recorded more in
recent years. I know from firsthand experiecne that his playing and
tone have just gotten better and better in the last dozen years. For
now we'll just have to be content with this recorded document, captured
on a May afternoon in 1990.
Jolliffe was one of the first Stick players
(if not the first) to master
the art of playing a walking bassline with bebop guitar solos. He shows
his mastery of the style on a mix of originals and jazz standards. On
Sonny Rollins' "Doxy" he swings hard, and shows his ability to play
solos that really "speak": they have something to say and at the same
time they know when to pause and take a breath.
Joliffe shows off his own compositional
ability on the original tune
"Tropics", which has a Carribean vibe, while still showing off an
advanced jazz vocabulary. Other originals include "Swingtime" and the
classic Jolliffe song "Bluesday", a song every touchstyle player should
learn! All of these are available in print from Frank's web page (see
Through it all, he and Jim Mason realy
lock together as a tight rhythm
section. I don't know how much these two guys gigged together, but
based on this record I would think it was quite a bit.
The album wraps up with a jazz version
of "Santa Claus is Coming to
Town"... I am not sure why they were playing this in the month of May,
but it sounds cool, it swings, so why not?
Highly recommended. Available at www.touchstyle.com
I wanted to take a moment to review the
latest album from the Dark
Aether Project (DAP), a band led by touchstyle musician Adam Levin, who
also happens to be the moderator of this list.
Adam has had almost as many line-up changes
in his band as Robert Fripp,
but if this newest record is any indicaiton of things to come, let's
hope that the current band will be at least as stable as the 90's KC
troupe. Adam plays an 8 string Warr (and occasionally other electric
stringed instruments) and is joined by Allen Brunelle (drums), Jennifer
Huff (Vocals), John McCloskey (Guitar) and Marty Saletta (keyboards).
All the band members play other instruments from time to time.
The first thing I noticed with the new
line-up is the vocal sound.
Jennifer Huff has a clear vocal sound, expressive like the current
generation of singer songwriters but also well suited to prog rock.
The album opens with an instrumental number
"Crossing the Threshold"
which is the beginning of the fire walk. It begins slow and meditative,
but builds in power and volume until the scorching guitar fire consumes
This paves the way for "Night Embrace",
and "Mask". On these tracks,
Jennifer's seductive voice draws the listener in with lyrics that will
grace many a prog geeks .sig files for generations to come.
The title track is another one without
vocals, and it has a psychedelic
techno feel to it that is modern and retro and original all at the same
time. It is sure to launch many a cosmic voyage by chemically enhanced
Two instrumental tunes really stand out.
"3rd Degree +" is a rocking
tune with a memorable 7/8 riff. I enjoy playing this on my Warr guitar,
left and right hand together, though Adam plays the bass line and John
the guitar part separately. "Sparks Fly" uses interesting counterpoint
between Hammond, heavy guitar, and Warr Guitar lines.
The CD closes with "Embers", an interestingly
different number. A vocal
line sung by Jennifer and spoken by Allen is backed up by a haunting
ambient loop and a Warr bass line, both laid down by Adam. This is a
great tune, Adam is doing what he does best. Jennifer breaks your heart
with each line and leaves you begging for more, making you wish you were
Allen, numbly droning along, reflecting the sentiment. Marty's gentle
piano line rounds out the picture on this track: "weak against the
coming night, the love we used to share..."
Looking at the cover I originally was reminded
of the old Hypgnosis
covers of the 70's that graced LP's by Yes, Pink Floyd, and Hawkwind.
Looking more closely at the cover, I realize there are hidden meanings -
the faceless figure is the everyman and the fire he must walk through
represents the trials of day to day living, difficult in these trying
times. CD's like this make it a little easier.
I thought that the original, self titled
DAP record was the classic one,
but after listening to this a dozen times or so I think this is THE DAP
album for the serious prog collector to start with. This is the first
2002 album I have gotten into, so it is the best of year so far for me.
I am also looking forward to hearing this new band interpret the songs
from the older DAP records.
Trey Gunn Band: Live Encounter (review written 10/26/01):
About a year ago, I was in lower Manhattan,
not far from the trade
towers, where I saw a wonderous show. The venue was the Knitting
Factory, and the band was the Trey Gunn Band. Little did I know that we
had almost exactly one year left before the world would change. Now, one
year later, we are given this document, a live concert CD, a reminder of
a bygone era - yet a document that speaks much of the shape of music to
What I am talking about is the new Trey
Gunn live CD "Live Encounter"
recently released. I just got it in the mail today after much waiting -
I want to personally thank all the post office employees who risked
their lives delivering this to me. All my mail comes through the
Trenton/Hamilton post office facility which, sadly, has been much in the
news of late.
So today I finally got my copy of the CD
and all I can say is, WOW. I
did not know if they would be able to transfer the jaw dropping, heart
stopping experience of the Trey Gunn Band live, on a single CD (if only
it could have been a double set) but they did, with some kick ass video
thrown in, taboot!
I have written at length in the past of
the joy of seeing Trey play
live, seeing the carefully crafted studio songs brought to new life with
an elite live unit. All of that exitement is present in these nine
audio and two video tracks, recorded in late 2000 and early 2001.
The songs are taken from Trey's two most
recent studio records, "The
Third Star" and "Joy of Molybdenum", both of which featured members of
his band. In the studio, though, Trey can overdub as he pleases. plus
he has had some great support from some of the best engineers in the
Live, the sound is more raw, and the music
takes on a new and different
persona. Joe Mendelson is brought in to play mostly bass lines, on an 8
string Warr guitar. Trey remains on a stereo ten string Warr, playing
in all sonic registers. Tony Geballe plays some great electric and
acoustic guitar, and Bob Muller reigns on the drum throne with all kinds
The CD opens with "Third Star's" opening
track "Dziban". It's nice to
hear how the live version of this tune has more open space, and more
free energy, than the tightly woven studio version. They then rip right
into the heavy bottomed "The Glove", and then the intricate "Kuma".
track 4 is the new tune (I am not going to spell it, go buy the CD:)
with some nice soling by all.
"Arrakis", the track that established Trey
as an avante-guitar composer
of the first rank, is here converted into a free-jam extravaganza in the
hands of the live band. In this nearly 8 minute rendition, volleys of
chords, ambient waves, and angular basslines are fired back and forth
between band members over Muller's busy world groove. Finally, Trey
brings unity to this primordial chaos, speaking through his hands with
the song's signature motifs. The band then comes to order, harmonizing,
soling, and bringing a new, otherworldly meaning to the word 'groove'.
"Sirrah" is a real joy to hear. On
the studio album, it sounded
overcompressed. Here, it takes on a past glory it never had, removed
from the shade of the backyard and aired out in the bright light of a
desert day at noon. Speaking of the Middle East, "Tehlikeli Madde" and
"Brief Encounter" are segued into each other for a cool eastern medly.
The audio part of the CD concludes with
"Rune Song" which was also a
great show closer on the 2000 tour. Hearing Trey and Tony locked in
harmony over Joe and Bob's awesome groove is just the most uplifting
thing I have ever heard tapped.
My only wish is that this were longer.
I remember great renditions of
"Hard Winds" and "Kaffaljidma" on these tours, and these tunes did not
make it on to this record. Maybe there was a space constraint because
of the video content. hmm... did I say video, let's talk about that a
The video is something to see. I
am glad I recently upgraded my
computer so that I could watch it. This alone provides a badly needed
tutorial to tappers on how to play with a relaxed stance and good
posture. Trey's playing is just amazing to watch, the two handed
interlocking parts, interdependant lines that also weave in and out of
Joe's basslines and Tony's chords. Anyone who criticizes Trey for not
being a total two handed player, watch this video and eat your words in
And Bob Muller - man, he sounds great but
seeing him is half the fun.
you can see how he casually slips back and forth between tabla grooves,
frame drums and the standard drum kit without ever missing a beat. Just
like with Trey, the key to his great playing is how he can manage all
these different elements and stay relaxed.
On the video tracks you also see the sheer
joy of playing music that
these four men pass around between each other. It's hard to believe
that they had NOT rehearsed every day for ten years before mounting the
tour. Since only certain cities had the priveledge of seeing the band
play live, it is good that this video will show people in the heartland
what it was like. Then you can listen to the audio part of the disc,
close your eyes, and use your imagination for the visual element.
On the CD cover there is a sticker that
says "featuing KING CRIMSON's
Trey Gunn". If it were up to me, the next King Crimson album would have
the sticker, reading, "Featuring Trey Gunn, the baddest bottom end in
the business". If you don't have any Trey Gunn CD's and were looking
for one to buy - heck if you haven't any Warr Guitar CD's - if you have
not one fretboard tapping CD - this is THE ONE to buy.
Like I said, this is a document of a bygone
era, a time of collective
innocence now lost. We don't know, here in America, what's coming next,
but I am glad to have lived in a country that had, at one time, live
music as great as this. I will cherish this disc forever as a document
of that time.
The Lazarus Harps: Old Loves (Rocking
Review written 11/13/00
Veterans of tap mailing lists old and new
may remember Kyle Wohlmut,
touchstyle's most famous refugeee. This American/Dutch linguist was a
key player in both the SF bay tapping scene and the folk harp scene back
in the mid to late 1990's.
In tapping, he was a Stick student of Bob
Culbertson and had the chops
to show for it. Before his mysterious dissapearance in 1997, he
contributed often to our discussions and was always one of the most
constructive posters around. I can remember how after one of his
internet postings I changed my tuning (at his suggestion) and some other
aspects of instrument setup which really improved my playing.
On the harp scene, he was known for his
band The Telltale Harps, which
played many a harp festival in northern California, back in the day.
I am happy to say that Wohlmut's art is
back out from the shade and into
the light of day, now that his new band called the Lazarus Harps has
released its first CD, "Old Loves". This is a globespanning CD with
plenty to offer for people who like their music ecclectic. For a "harp
record", it also has a lot to offer for us tapping geeks:)
Wohlmut, who currently lives in The Netherlands,
plays acoustic folk
harps and electric harps made by Rudiger Opperman. These electric harps
lend themselves to processing and distortion, while still retaining a
rich wood/metal tone. Check out the extra-terrestrial harp introduction
to "Prince of Darkness" which sounds like wheelbarrow full of processed
guitars resonating in harmony with each other.
Having established this cosmic harp sound
at the core of the band,
Wohlmut then surrounds himself with a spectacular cast of musicians from
around the world. Let me introduce them...
Readers of this mailing list will be most
intrigued by the Warr Guitar
playing of the Czech tapper and bass player Jarmilla Bugosova. She
clearly picked up a lot of Wohlmut's tappy chops. The opening track,
which is a note for note cover of Smetena's "Vltava" features a rapid
fire bass line on Warr as harps and flute sing overhead. "She's Late
but she's timely" also features a Warr part that ntertwines with the
harps before coming out on top with a gorgeous solo with a tone that
would make Trey Gunn drool.
But before I get into a track by track
rundown, I should introduce the
rest of the band. From Mongolia, there is fiddler Solongo Damdin. She
plays the mhorrin khorr, the traditional violin of the Gobi Desert
dwelling people. Her traditional fiddle sound is truly efferevescent,
with a lighter, clearer tone than a western violin, but a sound that is
still fuly compatible with western tunes like the Jazz standard "Prince
of Darkness". her violin sound is beautiful and distinctive without
seeming exotic for the sake of being exotic. Damdin treads on her own
turf, and brings Wohlmut along for the ride, in the traditional
Mongolian medly termed "Gobi Dick Set".
Paul Espinoza contributes accordian to
a South American flavored number
called "Tense and Aspect 99" which no doubt makes reference to some
Native South American linguistic concept that only Wohlmut could
decipher! Another Latin flavored track is "Scherzino Mexicana".
"My Lagan Love" is one of several traditional
Celtic numbers which are
featured on the record. The haunting voice of Innes Caffier graces the
melody over a harp and fretless bass accompaniment with jazz voicings.
While other harpists may just give us an obligatory re-hash of the Irish
classics, Wohlmut shows us here that he has something new to say in the
"The Gift" is the only track with a rock
backbeat, courtesy of drummer
Mac Hine, and a very tasty Warr Guitar distorted solo from Jarmilla at
the front of the mix. "The Ides of May" is a very moving and lyrical
Wohlmut composition that features the rich, singing, viola of Jennifer
Arnold (one of the few Americans on the record). The clean arrangement
of this song, and the two harp solos "Canco Del Lladre" and "She Likes
what I Do" are a nice contrast to the more orchestrated pieces.
To me the highlights of the record are
the aforementioned "Prince of
Darkness" and the closing number "Bridget Cruise Set" which, though from
the book of O'Carolan, sounds like a natural Mongolian tune in this
setting. Wohlmut's arrangement is simply a masterpiece, combining
elements of rennaisance European harmony and lilting Chinese melody.
Listening to it brings to mind Irish spice traders lost in the Gobi
desert in the 10th century. Ever the comparitive linguist, Wohlmut
closes out the album by showing us the universiality of music as a
mother tonge to all that we use with which to speak.
If you are into harp and Warr guitar combinations
(like Geist) or if you
just like off beat ecclectic music that slaps the face of convention -
new age, major label, and otherwise - you'd dig this record. It is a
harp record with some happy tapping, eastern fiddling, and a whole lot
The album has extensive liner notes, with
more information about some of
the folk and other sources which, with Kyle's original compositions,
make up the base material for the record. More info is available at
<http://www.lazarusharps.com>, or e-mail [email protected]
Infidel Castro: Infidelicacy (independant
release, no catelog#)
CD Review written 1/24/01
I'd like to take a moment to do a quick
review of a CD I recently picked
up by a project called "Infidel Castro". The name of the CD is
This project consists of native Philadelphians
Colin Marston and George
Korein. Both these musicians play the Warr Guitar as well as every other
conceivable instrument. I first met up with these guys back when they
were in high school. I think they were only 14 or 15 years old and they
were gigging downtown at clubs like the Lion Fish. They passed through
various bands, which made homebrew CD's, like "Wrong Way Out" and
"Bulgarian Rhythm Kings". I find this latest duet effort to be the best
I love this CD because it defies categorization.
There is a lot going
on in their overtracked world from the aggressive ambient textures of
David Torn to the angular but catchy riffs of Trey Gunn to the dark
world of gothic dance music. It is mostly instrumental, all dark, all
very avante garde, and very impressive from a bunch of guys who can't
even legally buy a beer.
Of special interest to the tappers here
is the Warr Guitar work,
primarily played by Marston (Who goes by the moniker "Kolan" these
days). He has that aggressive, heavy and asseritve bass tone that you
only get on a Warr Guitar and he disperses this tone liberally
throughout the CD's 12 tracks. On the high end of the Warr, there are
scorching leads and ambient washes.
But, I don't want to deceive you into thinking
that this is just a Warr
record, actually, the Warr playing forms just a small fraction of the
good and original sounds found here. There is novel use of sampled
street sounds as percussion, instead of a conventional drum kit. there
are some midi drum tracks, old schol analog drum synth and bass synth,
babbling in Japanese, and a lot of sounds, of whose origns I can only
offer my best guess.
"Psychogeneic", the opening track, has
a cool Warr groove which comes in
after you have been assaulted with some industrial doings.
"Lysergery" is an aggressive dance track
that is years ahead of what
people are grooving to these days on the floor. It has sections with a
wicked bass riff, with a mid section of industrial noise.
"The Tragedienne" starts out with a riff
vaguely reminiscent of the
guitar craft thing, but moves off into heavier territory quickly.
"A Cold Slow Learner of Painful Lessons"
is again reminiscent of the old
Fripp/Gunn ambient duets, but moves into darker lands quickly. Over a
techno beat and an acoustic guitar strumming a computer voice speaks in
Maybe I could sum up this record by saying
that Infidel Castro still
shows its influences, but just enough to get you in the door, before
they mesh it all up with creative noise, percussive sampling, and the
like. the great thing is that it works, and I think these guys know
what they are doing and know that they are heading into new seas of
sound. They are not afraid to be repetitive with a givin riff from time
to time, but it works because the grooves are infectious, the riffs are
catchy and the atmosphere is dark, all at the same time.
The production on this is also astounding,
in that it sounds pro,
polished, and radio ready, something that I find rarely in CD-R projects
that originate on some kid's hard drive.
At this time both members of Infidel Castro
are in music school, Marston
in New York and Korein in Philadelphia. If academia does not crush the
blazingly original ideas displayed on this CD, we are in for in for some
fine new sounds in the years ahead.
Buy this now, so you can say you were into
this when these guys get
For contact and ordering information on
the Infidel Castro Project, and
all of the projects of Kolan, see:
Trey Gunn Band Live at The Knitting Factory September 14, 2000
As you can guess from the subject line of this e-mail, I was in New York last night seeing Trey Gunn. I went into this show expecting to be blown away, after seeing them in 1997 at the Bottom Line. I am pleased to say that i was not disappointed. This show totally kicked ass!!
The Knitting factory is New York's premeire venue for new/progressive/avante garde type music. Trey and co. played in the main space, which is aroom that can hold 100 - 200 (maybe more??) - a good crowd but still intimate.
Trey's current touring band consists of himself on 10 string Padauk Warr Guitar (piezo/Midi/magnetic pickups), Tony Geballe (of guitar craft fame) on guitars and saz, Bob Muller on drums and Joe Mendelson on 8 string Warr Guitar.
Joe fills the spot that Chris Cunningham played in the old touring band. Joe played a lot of the Warr Guitar parts that were at the extreme low end, as well as some ambient swells on the higher strings.
Trey generally did not play the lowest bass line in a given arrangement, but he played a lot of parts that used both halves of the 10 string (check out the awesome groove on "Hard Winds"). This dispels the widely held myth that Trey does not play this way. Just because he ain't a one man band, doesnt mean that he can't play great music on every string on every fret of the 10 string Warr. The clear singing melodies that he played on the high bass strigns were especially nice ("Kuma").
They opened with "Sozzle" from the new album, featuring Tony on the Saz, which is a mid eastern acoustic stringed instrument. The mix wasn't too great during this opening number, but obviously the sound man was awake because by the time they got into the second number, everything was in place and the mix was fixed.
They played a good mix of material from "The Third Star" as well as the new record, "The Joy of Molybdenum". Off "Third Star", one of the highlights was "Sirrah", which really opens up with this band, and an extended jamming rendition of "Arrakis". "Kaffaljidhma" also rocked out as usual.
"Kuma" gave Bob Muller one of many opportunities to play crazy percussion as well as the trap kit all at once. I could start going off on how great a musician Bob Muller is, but not being a percussionist, I am at a loss to describe what he does. Go see the band, and you'll understand what I mean. He is one bad mo-fo!
>From the new record, "Hard Winds Redux" was absolutely great with Trey playing one wicked groove on the Warr and the rest of the band filling in the funk machine. This is a re-arrangement of music from "Raw Power", Trey's windsurfing soundtrack of the early 90's, but this new arrangement really blows away the old versions of the song. "Gate of Dreams" was another highlight, those intricate parts played by Trey and Tony had the whole audience in a collective trance.
I believe it was on "The Glove" that Joe played an Ashbory rubber bass guitar, tapping on the fingerboard for a huge sound that shook the room. On the ambient side of things, Trey played segments and seugueways with swells of huge sustained chords. This was not, generally, looped music and it showed that you don't have to loop to play ambient. These huge sonorities made the Knit resonate like a huge slab of Padauk that we were all embedded in.
They closed with the title track from the new record, which rokced with authority, and then they encored with "Rune Song" which is my favorite track on the new one. Listening to it last night, I was reminded of the structures of the compositions of Jean Sibelius. Though Rune Song is most definately a rock song, it reminded me of Sibelius in the way that germs of ideas are thrown out durign the song. These seeds of music coagulate in the end to form a cohisive theme that was there all along waiting to be uncovered. I think that this is one of the most new and engaging compositions in rock from the last few years.
I have one other comment on the nature of the Trey Gunn Band experience, as it relates to the two-handed tapping world in general. The great thing about this music is that its reason for existance is not "look at me, I'm a one-man band, I can play guitar and bass at the SAME TIME!!"; rather, Trey showed the importance of playing together with musicians, communicating on stage. His reason for tapping is not the one-man band, but rather because it sounds great. His Padauk Warr Guitar took the whole audience on a rip ride through the tone zone, with funky hammered bass sounds, avante guitar lead sounds, as well as strumming, shredding, and the use of foreign objects to attain novel sonic textures. Trey's technique on that guitar seemed capable of producing any texture needed, without excessive processing*. Having Tony on acoustic and electric instruments rounded out the ensemble with the resonance of strumming open chords. Tony is just a great all around guitarist. All in all, to me, it was the world's ultimate guitar band.
At the end of the show, band members were readily available to chat and sign stuff. It was also nice seeing some tappers, musicnas, and other old friends I had not seen in a while. If you get a chance to see these guys on tour, GO GO GO, because it will probably be another three years before the chance comes up again!
* for those who must know, Trey had a rack
mount Pod, the TC Electronics G-Force, and ART bass pre-amp (I think) and
some digital echoplexes, all controlled by a switchblade switching device.
King Crimson Takes Philly! Great
show last night. They
played all the stuff off the new record, plus a healthy amount of
material from the 70's, 80's and 90's.
Some bands with a 30 year heritage, when
they play live in Y2K have to
decide how to mix up the lame songs from their new record with the old
tired songs the audience demands. King Crimson does not have this
problem because their latest is ther greatest, and they served up
heaping helpings of the new stuff at every turn last night. They opened
the show with Larks Tongues in Aspic Part 4. Then right into The
Construkction of Light. When they played Prozakc Blues, Belew did not
have his voice processed as on the CD, rather, he sang it like a true
blue American bluesman, complete with slide guitar solo. It was
totally over the top!!!
Of course, Fripp and Belew were great in
their old ying and yang
personas - Belew the American rock singer songwriter and Fripp the
calmly seated Englishman. Their parts wound interlock, or Belew would
break out with a modern sounding solo, or Fripp would shred, or all of
the above, they were just great.
Mastelotto and Gunn were rock-solid as
the rhythm section for this
band. The thing I like about Mastelotto is that he is not trying to
impress us by showing that he can drum in three different time
signatures at the same time. He is rock solid and all ove rhte kit,
acoustic and electric drums. Trey Gunn payed his padauk Warr guitar.
Mostly he played a bass role. His bass sound was thunderous and clear
at all times. He rocked with the new stuff and breathed some new life
into old chestnuts like "Elephant Talk" (hard to believe this song is
almost 20 years old). During one improv he played a most transcendetal
solo on the high guitar strings using the smokey amp as an infinite
sustain device. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever
heard at a King Crimson concert.
The Theater of the living arts is a small
theater (are King Crimson fans
becoming "more selective", to borrow a phrase from Spinal Tap?) but it
was packed to the gills, and everybody was way into it, as we screamed
for our three encore sets. During the very beginning of the show, some
audience members who had placed themselves up front ran for refuge to
the back (or the theater doors?). Perhaps they were expecting "Court of
the Crimson King"?:) But back to my original point, which is that it
was great to see them up close, the sound was great, the band was into
it, and it was a rockin' night. Also nice to see Tom and Joan in the
audience from the warr Guitar community!
one other thing I forgot to mention is that just like the 70's they played total improv
pieces several times during the concert. It was the 1974 formula
updated for 2000. This happenned I think 3 times during the show. Call
it Projekct X, or just the spirit of John Wetton incarnate, it was
great, Belew would use the magical digi-theramin thing to pull sound out
of the air, Gunn rocked the foundations, Fripp shredded, Mastelotto and
Belew kept a techno-club beat, see it if you can! if you get a chance, see this show!
Daniel Schell's CD "Gira Girasole"
Written Oct 14, 2000
We were discussing the other day the "one man band" approach vs. the "being in a band" approach. While I was in Europe I picked up a number of CDs by Daniel Schell and his different badns, and one stands out as a supreme example of a performance of the Stick(r)* in a band contect.
The CD I am referring to tis Gira Girasole, by Daniel Schell and Karo. This CD is on the Materialai Sonori label, in Italy, which is a division of Time Warner, so lets not go complaining that htere is no major-label tap centric stuff. This CD is as good as it gets, and should not be too hard to find. It features the Stick, keyboards, clarinet, cello, and tablas. In the US you can order it from www.touchstyle.com.
What I like is the linearity of the music. The keyboard parts are single lines. the Stick has its distinctive sound in left and right hands, but there is interlocking counterpoint and linear lines in the (fourth tuned) bass. The Stick sound is at the center of the band, with low, growly bass and percussive highs. Of course, the clarinet and cello play songle lines and tablas provide great punctuation without the overbearing nature of a drum kit. All the parts interlock well throughout.
These songs represent a modern compositional style that is accessible at the same time. Though I am not an expert at Indian music, it is clear to me that Schell is influenced by Indian music in rhythm and melodic contour, without copying it outright. For instance this is not cheap 1960's "raga rock" where you have a buzzing sitar and tampoura with a few flat seconds thrown in. Rather, this is music that is driven by Indian tabla beats. The melodies have a slighty Indian quality, expecially the way that one istrument like the Stick may develop a melodic idea until it is fully formed, then repeat the idea a few times, then the whole band takes it up in unison. But the music goes beyond these eastern underpinnings with modulations and more modern harmonic language. Schell mentioned to me that all the tracks are ultimately based on Italian folk songs.
My favorite track is the title track, a meditative journey in a time signature that I have not deciphered yet! It is both rhythmic and ambient at the same time. The opening track , "Costumi Bianchi" is a great opener which features the Stick in a very central role, with two handed playing which is augmented by interlocking parts from the cello and clarinet. Cello and Clarinet do get prominent unacompanied solos later in the album.
I have another Karo album which features the classic tune "Remi" which I'll have to review some other time.
A Fine Day
CD Review written June 6, 1998
Hey Tappy Folks,
I just got my copy of William Bajzek's "A Fine Day", a self released EP that he recorded with his brother and S.O. This is a neat little CD. Although its only 18 minutes long, it has three nice jams on it. William (on Warr Guitar) and his brother (on Ovation Acoustic Guitar) have a nice blend of tones and their jams have direction and cohesiveness. I think it would be even better if there was a drummer, becasue there is a nice inherent rhythmic drive going on with just the two of them.
Kelly McCaffery plays alto sax on track 3 only, adding some extra textures melodies to the sonic palette.
I think that this CD is an effective demo of the Warr Guitar's sound, clean without effects. Of the few Warr Guitar records that are out there, most have lots of megabuck processing going on. That is not the case with this EP. William gets a great sound with just his hands. I would recommend this CD to anyone curious about how the Warr really sounds, and I say this as Stick player who has had the opportunity to play several different W.G.'s. Listening to "A Fine Day" brings to light some of the ways that William's instrument is different from my own, and tonally very nice, in its own way.
The cover and booklet art (uncredited) is also really cool. It is a montage of the day in the life of a plush toy. I am glad that it also pays homage to the real genuine Japanese Godzilla, not the overhyped American copy now in theaters.
CD Review of Steve Hahn's "sh"
Written July 25, 1998
Hey Stickwire Folks,
I wanted to take a minute to write a formal CD review of Steve Hahn's new album "sh". I have actually had this CD for a couple weeks, but there are a lot of tunes on it and it has taken a while to digest.
This CD was released simultaneously with it's companion "Native American Music Meets the Chapman Stick". I think that this simultaneous release idea was brilliant, since these two albums each have a theme very different from each other. I'll review the Native American CD at a later time, so I can focus on "sh" here.
This is the first new CD from Steve Hahn of original music in a number of years, and I have to say that it is definately worth the wait and it covers lots of new ground, compared with "Stickburst", his last CD. The CD opens wih "Bakedo" a somewhat thorny and aggressive tune which sets the tone for the CD. Mostly duets with percussion, the works on this CD have an agitated, restless feel and are harmonically advanced, in Steve Hahn's own way. Even in the quiet moments, such as the longingly beautiful "Swans of Coole" (the only non-original tune on the CD) there is an unsettled air to the proceedings
As always, Steve's technique is astonishing and unique. Like other Stick players who are technically at that stratospheric level, he has techniques that are all his own, a unique personal sound.
The centerpiece of the album is a 6 movement "Suite" in which he extensively develops several musical ideas. My favorite piece, though is the separate "Suite Vignette" where he takes some thorny, almost atonal harmonic ideas and makes them rock! I have seen the score to this piece (in the current TouchStyle Quarterly) and seeing it all tabbed out, I realize that this is not an impossibly difficult piece to play, but hearing it for the first time on the CD it sure sounds that way! Pieces like this make you realize that in order to make a piece of music work, with that kind of advanced harmony, the rhythm has to be really happening. In Suite Vignette, the harmony, melody and rhythm are all way out there, but they form a cohesive whole, which makes it all rock. It isn't aimless free "blowing".
All of the pieces are really advanced, compositionally, but special mention goes to "12 Tone Quartets" which features some nice overdubbed trumpet ensembles, along with some quirky Stick work. Theres also a moving elegaic improvisation based on Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings".
In summary, let me say this is not an easy listening new age record, rather a great Stick record with forward looking compositions. If you liked "Stickburst" this is more music from the same player, but 5 years more advanced.
Ordering information is available at his website: http://www.deepchocolate.com
Steve Hahn's "Native American Music Meets The Chapman Stick"
CD Review Written July 28, 1998
Hey Stickwire Tappers,
Before I sign off for summer vacation, I have one more CD review to file. This one is for Steve Hahn's "Native American Music Meets The Chapman Stick"
Steve also recently released an album called "sh" which was mostly solo compositions. That album featured some adventurous but rewarding listening. This CD is completely different, but still rewading to the listener. It features Chapman Stick arrangements of nine Native American songs and dances. Steve researched these pieces from the music of the Navaho, Creek, Yurok, Tolowa and Cherokee Peoples.
The first question that comes to mind is "is this album worth doing?". Is there a reason to play Native dances on the Stick? I believe that this CD does work, and serves the purpose of stating these pieces of music in a language that is clear to the western listener. The rhythms that some of these pieces use is unlike anything I have heard before, with rapid meter changes that would make a veteran prog rocker run for cover.
Harmonically, on the other hand, the album speaks in a clear tonal language that is relaxing and not "far out". Steve's clear ringing Stick tone seems, to me, to be the perfect medium for this music. He uses some slides and bends to mimic some of the microtonal aspects of the works. The CD comes with an informative booklet that describes the origins of the music. This information is also available on Steve's web site:
There is a beautiful simplicity to all these pieces, and constructive repetitiveness, as well. It is important to remember that long before Glass, Reich, et. al. , there was excellent minimalist music being practiced by native peoples all over the World in their roundhouses as all night ceremonies were practiced.
While some of these pieces suggest hypnotic trance music, others, like the "Corn Grinding Songs" and "Woman's Brush Dance", celebrate the joy of everyday life. Percussionist Matt Houston uses a wide variety of implements to help give each track a distinctive tone color.
In Summary, this is a really nice album which compliments Steve's "sh' very well. This is relaxing but thoughtful music. I would be intersted in knowing how a Native American musician would react to this CD. I hope it would be a positive reaction, because I think that the CD helped to give me a better understanding of this music.
Ordering info is on Steve's web site. There is a Transcription of the "Gar Dance" in this month's TouchStyle Quarterly. It isn't too hard and uses interplay between the two registers in an interesting way.
CD Review of the Dark Aether Project (debut CD)
Writeen May 7, 1998
While we're on the subject of really good CD's, and Stick(r) related CD's, I'd like to congratulate Stick player Adam Levin for his outstanding new release, "Dark Aether Project" with his band of the same name.
I saw DAP play their first gig ever, just last November. Then I was an audio witness to their radio invasion of New Jersey earlier this year. Now that I have obtained a copy of their CD, I have to say that this is probably my favorite Stick related recording of the year, or maybe even the last two years.
To me this sounds like 21st century Garage Music, just a few basic elements: Stick, guitar, drums, and some vocals. To me the vocals are very psychadelic, and remind me of underground stuff from the late 60's - not mainstream late 60's psychadelia, I'm referring to the really good stuff like the 13th Floor Elavators that you don't hear on the radio any more.
The Stick is mostly minimalist bass lines which are in perfect groove with the drums. The right hand Stick lines seem to be complimentary rhythm tracks and some looping. If there is one thing that detracts from the CD, its that the loping reminds me a little too much of Fripp. Other than that, I think Adam has found a unique voice on the Stick.
The other thing that makes this CD a treat is the presence of guitarist Yaman Aksu. He plays both fretted and fretless guitars. His fretted playing is explosive, he's a really good lead player with Jazz and Middle Eastern voicings in his playing. His fretless playing is really tasteful and cool (like a GOOD fretless bass player who uses it for subtlties and not just to make sound effects). Some of the fretless guitar playing remonds me of David Torn's recent work on the electric oud.
But the thing I like most about the CD is that all of the songs are interesting and effective and the production has a nice, underground, edge to it that I find irreseistable. I know that this music was recorded in a short period of time, and listening to the CD, it sounds like they made it work for them. There is an urgency that underlines the whole project. Like I said before, 21st century Garage Music.
I am looking forward to hearing them playing live again, hopefully in a basement bar at 3AM with a crispy micro brew in hand!
Their website is at http://www.darkaether.net/
and I bought my copy from The Laser's Edge.
I just wanted to take a minute to write
a review of a really wicked show
I saw Saturday night at the Down To Earth in Mt. Holly, New Jersey.
The gig was Stick Player Paul Mimlitsch
in his ever-evolving band
Adelante. They play spontaneous improv music. That means that its like
a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. Part of
the attraction to this genre for me is that you could see a really
transcendental show or you could be subjected to 2 hours of unbearable
noise, or anything in between, and you won't know what until the night
of the show.
The last time I saw Adelante
(http://www.newcommunity.net/adelante/adelante.html), it didn't quite
gel for me, but this time, it definately did. Mike Robbins, the viola
player in particular was realy digging in on the low C strig, looping
bass lines that way, while riffing middle eastern over that. Drummer
Jody Janetta was locked in with the violist, while Paul layed down a bed
of ambience. Once the music reached fever pitch, paul would let the
loops run and take a fierce solo on the melody strings.
The amazing part was that they kept it
interesting for 90 minutes
straight without taking a break. They did, in that time, pass through
many different sonic landscapes.
It was also cool to see a lot of young
kids out, really getting into
this advanced material. Only in New jersey, I tell you!
Review of Invasion of Time live in concert at TAGfest - Written 9/8/97
I want to take a minute to write a concert
review of a show I saw this
weekend (06 September 1997) at the Trenton Avante Garde Festival
(TAGFEST). This year's TAGFEST was in Mill Hill park in Trenton, the
capitol of New Jersey. There were a lot of interesting acts like
Rumumbus and NC17, as well as a unique "Fun House" sponsored by
UNSOUND. However, for me the highlight was the Stick(r) duet "Invasion
of Time" which featured Stick players Paul Mimlitsch and Jim Speer.
As the sun set over the State Capitol building, I.O.T took their places
on stage in the historic amphitheater carved out of the rock on the
banks of Assunpink Creek. Sounds of city life and the rushing water set
the backdrop for the music.
Paul started the 'soundscape' with a concordant
loop, which washed over
the living rock of the amphitheater in a wave of sound that complimented
the brillinat sunset. Jim joined in with more rhythmic loops, somewhat
discordant, distrubing the fabric of this timescape like a strship
creating ripples in the fabric of an unexplored nebula.
Soon the music grew louder, scarier, darker.
A young child in the
audience began to scream, hands over her ears. To the audience (the crew
of the Starship), it was suddenly uncertain whether this nebula was
benevolent or hostile. As darkness descended on the city, the
spotlights bathed Paul in a red glow, Jim in green. Audience and
performers joined together as explorers of space and time.
As the music moved into its final phase,
the shroud of terror lifted,
revealing the pure sound of deep, everlasting peace which resonated
throughout the semicircle. At this point, I know at least one audience
member (me) was moved to a state of deep meditiation. As the music
slowly faded to its end, the feeling of 'loss of self' was complete.
Fear had been conquered.
looking forward to TAGFEST 98,
Hi Fellow Musicians!
I thought I would take a quick minute to write about a concert I saw last Saturday night, Oct 26th, at the LionFish in Philadelphia.
The evening opened with a set of music by Greg Howard, then a set by Broadside Electric, and then to be democratic, they kept alternating sets, for a total of two sets each.
Greg played his explosive brand of Stick madness with the usual passion, grace, and fire. I have written here in the past about his shows, but I would add that his arrangements are constantly changing and becoming more interesting as the months pass. Songs from "Stick Figures" that were once played clean may now be embellished with some effects processing. He also interpolates cover material into his longer jams, like the "All Along the Watchtower" jam worked into "Shapes". One highlight of the evening was his instrumental rendition of his friend Dave Matthews' song "One Sweet World."
Broadside Electric was also in fine form, this being the first time I have seen them on their home turf. This Philly folk band features Jim on Stick and bass, Tom on guitars and vocals, and Helene on violin. They played selections from their past three albums. A highlight of the show was the "Stairway to Heaven" jam at the end of one of their tunes. I had never seen them do this before.
After Broadside's encore, Greg was persuaded
back to the stage for one last encore, a song called "Guitaresque" by an
obscure East German composer.
Okay, I found this on the archives of "Elephant Talk" - a review written by one [email protected] - me in a previous incarnation. I find it amusing reading this, because it was so long ago. My perspective on a lot of issues of playing, instrumentaiton, etc. was vastly differnet from what it would become. At the time I wrote this, I had just played my first touchstyle gigs and I had yet to seriously begin study.
I also found, later, that the album "1,000 Years" really grew on me. Especially that piece "The Gift" is so great and subtle at the same time. I think the pacing of the various tracks is really well done. It would be neat if Trey chose to bring back one of these songs for his newer touring band, but of course he'd have to sing, and we have not seen him sing solo yet... (c'mon it'd be cool!). OK, here it is, thanks to Toby from ET, who originally aske dme back in 1993 if he could reprint it, and now I take it back and presnet it here, as an interesteing relic from the bygone past.
By the way, though this review is kind
of lukewarm, I'd highly recommend the record today, it's good, though not
as great as Trey's two later studio albums You can also probably
assume all these addresses are no longer valid.
Date Submitted: 13-Dec-93
Submitted By: Ray Ashley ([email protected])
Subject: Review of "1,000 Years"
I just got my copy of _1,000 Years_, the new CD by Stick artist Trey Gunn, now out on Discipline records.
For starters, this album has all the accoutrements
of a big-budget CD release, the fancy Bill Smith graphics, the professional
record label that a famous guitarist records on, etc., but I don't know if this is available in any store. NO WORRIES! If you send $14.99 +
15% p&h to:
351 Magnolia Ave,
Long Beach, CA 90802
They'll rush you a copy in a week (that's
how long I had to wait, and I live in New Jersey). International orders
add $5 I AM NOT
GETTING PAID TO MAKE THIS ANNOUNCEMENT, I AM ONLY SAYING IT BECAUSE I DON'T THINK THAT THIS CAN
BE FOUND ANYWHERE ELSE!
Anyway, the album...
It is rather good. It is out of the ordinary
for a Stick album. It doesn't abound with the characteristic Stick sounds
we're all used to, it
sounds like a guitar & bass record, drenched with TONS of high-end fx. I don't know how much overtracking Mr. Gunn did here, but all
of the sounds except vocals and percussion emanated from his Touchboard.
Other musicians on the record were Bob Muller and Pat Mastelotto, drums, and Xan and Serpentine, voice.
As lead singer, Trey is not going to win any Grammys, but he has a decent "alternative rock" type baritone.
Listening to Trey's melodic style, it is
immediately apparent that he is one of the hard core Crafties (level IX
or something) and has spent a
lot of time in Fripp's shadow. Just listen to the solo at the beginning of "The Screen Door and the Flower Girl" and you'd think uncle Bob
was the one laying down the ultra distorted- compressed fretwork. "Into the Wood" features a repeating figure that sounds like vintage reel
to reel tape deck delay - and "1,000 Years" is pure ambient Frippertronix.
His bass lines are, to say the least, heavy
and repetitive. "Killing for London" has a "Darshan" like feel to it, sort
of post- post modern.
Some songs don't have any real "bass line". Mr. Gunn has stated that he treats the stick as a total instrument unto itself. That feeling is
present here, as he doesn't always force his touchboard into conventional guitar/bass roles.
The album grew on me after three or four listenings.
In summary, this won't go down in the history
books with "TV Weather" or "Parallel Galaxy" as one of the all time great
Stick albums, but
it does stand as a bold document of one man's quest to create sounds never before heard from a Chapman Stick. It will be interesting to
see him live to see how much of this he can pull off at once, solo.