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.
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 didnt 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
didnt 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.
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.
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 Harrys piano solo: an absolutely beautiful piece of improvised music.
| 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 didnt 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). Id heard of this man with the unusual name before but hadnt yet
listened to his music. From the first spin of this disc I was hooked. Gallops
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".
Monks music is so often played and recorded, but strangely, Gallops 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, its 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 isnt really just a blues. But now youll 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