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The unabridged LINER NOTES to
KNOT the THOUGHT that COUNTS by COMPLEXBLUE

   When the Compact Disc replaced the vinyl LP, smaller size dictated some restrictions on the amount of verbiage that could be plastered all over the packaging. Luckily, the internet came along to provide a suitable medium for the overly verbose likes of me to spew forth without the benefit of sensible editing.
   Of course, the old debate about whether or not music should stand on its own - without explanation, program, or verbal digression - is a valid one. I feel strongly both ways!  But I suppose if you've come to this page you're not one of those people who care much about that argument ... so, read on and enjoy.

    Television is a terrifying thing, a destructive drug, an evil force at work in the name of commerce, the almighty dollar, the so called "American Way". OK, maybe I'm overstating this just a bit. But whenever I happen to watch TV, which isn't too often, I can't help but think of the intense vigilance it requires to keep one's brain from being sucked out and turned to applesauce, while otherwise being seduced by its hypnotic spell into thinking that it's only simple entertainment.  
   So imagine, as I did once, a TV quiz show called Knot the Thought that Counts, wherein a glib, meticulously dressed host who smiles too much in that vacuous, telegenic way, asks trick questions to a panel of hapless folk off the street with bad hair, whose only desire is for a chance to be on TV. In order to win "fabulous prizes", like one of those grotesque SUVs by Lincoln or Lexus,  the panelists must discern the real question hidden within the question, and include an appropriate nugget of objective truth in the answer - Truth hidden within the Truth. For this panel, though, it's hopeless. They can only stand there like blinking, defenseless prairie animals. The judges, who are off camera, are actually sorcerers and mystics and in this surreal game of Truth or Consequences, the consequences are for real.  And now, a word from our sponsor . . .
   The title track of this recording could be the theme music to this imaginary game show.  Or knot.

   Dreams of Benisa is a piece that dates back to the mid 70s! I was a member of a musically adventurous group called Xyphus. We were young and fearless (as evidenced by our choice of an unpronounceable name), and eager to make our mark in the world of fusion, which was then the jazz of fashion. We thought our big break had come when we were booked to open for Weather Report at a concert in Syracuse, NY. But for some reason, Weather Report had to cancel the date, and the promoter, who didn’t want to break his contract with us (probably because we were a cheap act), booked us instead to open for Fleetwood Mac! This musical mismatch, an example of what makes promoters and booking agents infamous, could have led to concert catastrophe, maybe even a riot! Luckily, the hard core rock ’n’ roll audience was reasonably polite, or maybe just too stoned, and didn’t boo us off the stage. Dreams of Benisa, which had been performed only once or twice before, had its last performance that night, and Xyphus broke up shortly thereafter.
   I always thought the tune deserved a better fate, so I enjoyed dusting it off for this project. Though it got an extensive rewrite, you might still hear some its fusion roots. But what really inspired this tune was my naive imaginary impressions of Spain: gypsies dancing in the streets, and a procession of proud townsfolk perhaps celebrating some special event or holiday. Benisa is the name of a small city on Spain’s Mediterranean coast that I picked out while gazing at an atlas one day and dreaming of places I’d like to visit. Maybe I’ll get there someday. I’d love to know if the music they play is anything like what I imagined.
   Noting the extensive Arabic influence in Spanish music and culture (the Moors), listen to how, in spontaneous invention, Chris begins his wonderful solo.

   Composers often use the sounds of nature to inspire their music. Listen to the beginning of Stravinsky’s "Le Sacre du Printemps", my favorite example of the symphonic palette used to recreate the sounds of a primordial wilderness teeming with life. OK, let’s be counterintuitive. The sound of a saxophone based jazz group typically evokes a gritty, after-dark, urban ambience. So, how to translate nature’s random sound textures, specifically the conversations of birds like the ones I hear in my backyard, into the language of jazz?   It was this experiment that led to Tall Tales of the Tufted Titmouse. It's a funny thing, but maybe the idea of mixing jazz and bird calls goes back to when I first heard Charlie Parker records and the busy rhythms and convoluted contours of his solo lines reminded me of bird songs. So when I learned his nickname was "Bird", it all made perfect sense to me! It was quite a letdown when I later discovered that his nickname had nothing to do with birds, but was short for "Yardbird", the name for a prison inmate.
   For those of you who aren't into birds, I want to tell you that there really is bird called a Tufted Titimouse. I didn't make it up. One of the many sounds actually made by our little feathered friend can be heard repeatedly in the piano part. My fellow birders will earn extra credit if they can pick it out. Now let's go out and find a smoke-filled jazz bar downtown and drink a toast to Roger Tory Peterson! (I figured since Roger was dead he wouldn't mind if I borrowed his fine portrait of a Tufted Titmouse for the graphics on the back of the CD cover.)

   All I Want is from Joni Mitchell's exquisite "Blue" album. She has written so many beautiful songs that embrace the jazz sound and ethos, but this is probably not one of them! At first, the dulcimer drone and acoustic guitar on the original track signal a traditional folk setting. Yet hidden in Joni's rhythm, phrasing, and form is something that takes you deeper. I took a few liberties with the chords and meter in this arrangement, but my intention was that the irresistible allure of Joni's spirit would still convey. And Joni, if you want to discuss this with me, I'm waiting by the phone.
   Incidentally, while developing this arrangement, I was experimenting with playing parts on the marimba and then the vibes, trying to pick one that might best emulate the role of the droning dulcimer. Accidentally, I discovered the wonderful sound of playing them together at the same time!  I should say RE-discovered; we did pieces in our percussion ensemble at Ithaca College by composers such as Steve Reich that exploited this acoustic quality. Using two mallets on each instrument in unisons and close voicings, the blend of the timbres and the slight intonation difference makes for a great noise. With these two ungainly instruments set up in an L shape, there are some physical obstacles to overcome in order to play smoothly, but if Evelyn Glennie can do it, I have to try at least
. Here, and on the melody of Matte Kudasai are my first attempts at this new double instrument playing. I’ll be working on some more ways to feature this sound. Stay tuned.

   No matter how strung out you are on high tech, dot calm should lower your stress by a meg or two. Forget about your losses on the NASDAQ. Put your feet up, close your eyes, and float away. Listen to Harry’s piano solo: an absolutely beautiful piece of improvised music.

jazz45.jpg (42703 bytes)   I spent the "Summer of Love" in France. If you're too young to know, that was 1967. I was only 14. One day, while playing hooky from my French lessons, I wandered into a record store. Browsing through the jazz section, I was fascinated to discover that they had jazz singles - 45s - just like the rock and roll hit records I had back home. Even though I had already developed a taste for jazz, my exposure was limited; as was my budget. But now here was a chance to get my hands on some new music in a convenient, small dose, low risk format!  I thought, why didn’t they have cool things like this in the States? It turned out to be a formative moment. I bought four records, all Savoy releases. I loved them so much I practically wore the grooves off them. Perhaps the one that proved to be the most enduring influence was Thelonious Monk (with Art Blakey, Gigi Gryce, and Percy Heath). I’d heard of this man with the unusual name before but hadn’t yet listened to his music. From the first spin of this disc I was hooked. Gallop’s Gallop was on that record. What a wonderful intricate little masterpiece! As the years went on and I learned to appreciate more and more jazz, I always came home to Monk - my adopted "jazz godfather".
   Monk’s music is so often played and recorded, but strangely, Gallop’s Gallop is an extreme rarity amidst all this output. I chose it for this date, not just because I wanted to pick something unusual, but because my affinity for the tune goes back to the very essence of my love for jazz. I hope our playing of it here will inspire more interest in this largely neglected gem of the Monk repertoire.
   Note: in the US, the 2 tunes on the French EP were released as part of a Gigi Gryce album called "Nica's Tempo". It's been re-released on CD by DENON RECORDS/Nippon Columbia Co. (SV-0126)  Check it out.
  
   F.U.B.A.R.
is just a blues. Actually, it’s a double blues - a 24 bar form where the bass line and cadence structure of the first 12 bars is roughly reversed, or mirrored, in the second 12 bars, which is really in a different key, too. Oh, and one bar in each 12 bar section is in 6/4 instead of 4/4. OK, maybe it isn’t really just a blues. But now you’ll understand how the title came about. The old familiar acronym, in this case, stands for Fucked Up Blues And Reflection.
   The basic melody to this piece came to me when I was practicing drums! (I don't know how other drummers practice, but
when I sit down alone at the drums there's always a whole ensemble playing in my head. I'd probably be a better drummer if I would cut that out and focus more on exercises and rudiments. Oh well, too late now.) It was just there in my ears, like a gift. Of course I then had to sit at the piano for hours and hammer out the details. The trick is to make a composition sound completely natural. So no matter how much strain and effort actually went into a piece, the result has to sound effortless or the essence of it will fail to come across to the listener. The greatest music, I think, works on many levels; it communicates something - perhaps subliminally - even if it's just a sound in the air that you're not necessarily paying attention to, and it stands up to repeated analytical listenings too.
   Some have said this tune reminds them of a Wayne Shorter composition. I'm flattered at the comparison! I think Wayne is one of the greatest jazz composers, and that his legacy will only grow in stature as time goes on. Though it was not my intention to emulate him at first
, I too noticed as this piece was taking shape that it had a certain Shorter-like color. And that was OK with me!

   Wig Wise is on the "Money Jungle" album, that odd and wonderful trio date that Duke did with Mingus and Max Roach. Typical of Ellington tunes, it has real joy built in, and a hook too! At first I thought our version would be pretty much a simple blowing session, but then I had so much fun playing with the harmonic possibilities I couldn't settle on just one chord progression to base the arrangement on. So each time the head comes around between solos it launches a new harmonic variation. And, as Rob deftly points out in his solo, "... and they really got into somthin'".

   Slice open a ripe gospel funk groove and mix the meter, add a hint of artificially sweetened doorbell, plus a dash of North African tambourine (riq) to offset the saccharine, then set it aside to simmer. In a separate bowl, beat straight eighths until they rise, fold in four tender lydian modes, and sprinkle liberally with major-seven-sharp-five chords (my favorite chord when in season). Combine all the ingredients and let it cook. There you have the strange recipe for Fifth Myth. This is also an older composition of mine, reconstituted here for more discriminating palettes.
   For all you would-be record critics out there who are going, "Aha, a tape splice!" when the transition occurs to the 'B' section: wrong. There are no splices on this tune (and only two on the whole record). That sound you hear, which admittedly does sound exactly like a poorly executed splice, is only the natural result of the attack of the vibe mallet and the cross-stick "click" on the rim of the snare drum.

   King Crimson's Matte Kudasai, originally from the "Discipline" album, and later released again on a compilation disc called "Compact King Crimson", is a haunting song that hit me right in the gut the first time I heard it. Though its melody is beautiful, for me it is a song of longing and melancholy. Our version, though, seeks a different outcome. After the ethereal Asian influenced intro (the title is Japanese for "wait, please"), things begin to change. A slow blues emerges, and the passion heats up thanks to Mike's incredible drumming (the man is super-glued to the groove!). In the end, it's just pure joy. The melancholy has faded.   Release.     Peace.
   When we recorded this, it was decided that recording quality would be compromised if we tried to fit the vibes and marimba together in the slightly cramped studio with everybody else playing at the same time.  So the mallet parts, along with Chris' pennywhistle part were overdubbed later. I got to sit in the control room and just listen as the other guys laid this track down in one take! Tears came to my eyes as all the sound, spirit, and energy they poured into this music just washed over me. (If you've ever heard what music sounds like in a good studio - BEFORE it's pinched and processed to meet CD production requirements, you know how powerful a full dynamic range can be!)

   Here are the words to MATTE KUDASAI by King Crimson (Adrian Belew, Robert Fripp, Tony Levin, & Bill Bruford)

  1.  Still, by the window pane,                         2. When, when was the night so long,
       Pain, like the rain that's falling.                     Long, like the notes I'm sending.
       She waits in the air,                                    She waits in the air,
       Matte Kudasai.                                           Matte Kudasai.
       She sleeps in a chair                                   She sleeps in a chair
       In her sad America.                                     In her sad America.

                                                                                                                                         L.O. -  August, 2000

 

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