I had this podcast pretty much finished and ready to go in time for a weekend release, when all hell broke loose on Friday. Although there were only a few things to tweak, I was a bit numb and too uninspired to wrap it up until today.
There are no topical song selections here. I do not break into any renditions of "Imagine" accompanied by my toy piano and harmonica, or engage in any other opportunistic public grieving for the fallen. Although I've never been there, I used to regularly frequent and sometimes work at music venues the size of the Bataclan or places slightly more intimate. I could easily add to the cacophony of thoughts and feelings being transmitted in 360 full spectrum stereo and technicolor by spilling more ink.
Or I could just share this podcast I made. Hope you enjoy it.
Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Nagasuram, Flute – Charlie Mariano
Vocals (on "Mirror" only) – Asha Puthli
Written-By – Charlie Mariano (except A4)
Produced and mixed by Arif Mardin
Recording engineer - Gene Paul
Although his name appears on classic records by Mingus, Chico Hamilton, Shelley Manne, Elvin Jones (hey, lots of drummers seem to like him), I think I first started really paying attention to Charlie Mariano through his work with the wonderful Toshiko Akiyoshi, to whom he was married for a few years in the 60s. Incidentally this is also how I discovered Lew Tabackin, who became Toshiko's second husband and formed a much longer musical partnership. Along with Phil Woods, these artists constitute a group of highly prolific jazz cats about whom I'd love to spread some enthusiasm. Might as well start here, even if this is an atypical example.
I had no idea Mariano had made any records this heady until I stumbled on it. The garish cover art, with a creepy eyeball thing glaring out at you, acts like a sort of magnet. It either attracts or repels you away, depending on your musical polarity. I'm not sure the album art does the music justice, and in fact I would nominate it for my art gallery of Garish and Gaudy 1970s Jazz-Funk Album Covers, a project I am initiating right now (other inductees include a Blue Mitchell record I picked up recently, and this amazingly fugly George Duke/Billy Cobham thing).
Musicians of Mariano's caliber can pretty much do whatever they want and pull it off. I don't know what kind of soundscape he had in mind when he went into the studio to make this album, but with the help of some very competent friends, he created a canvas on which he could moan, wail, and shriek (pleasingly) on soprano and alto sax in ways I did not expect. The band he put together to create this moody, genre-blurring music with vaguely spiritual inclinations is more than up to the task. One pleasant surprise is the presence of a young Tony Levin on bass, years before he would start progging it up with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. Levin was not a complete stranger to soul jazz/funk sessions in the early 70s - other records I have with him from this period include Jack McDuff and Deodato - but this is probably the first time that he really stood out for me in this capacity. This may partly be due to the fact that he is featured right alongside upright bassist George Mraz. Levin lays down the lower register funk, freeing up Mraz to do more textured and melodic things in the upper register.
Airto is somewhat underutilized on this record. He doesn't seem fully present or into it all the time, sometimes more like a percussionist "playing in the style of Airto" rather than the man himself. Perhaps Mariano kept his eccentricities on a short leash, or maybe this was just session #374 for Airto in 1972 and goddamnit what do you want from the guy, does he have to be on fire all the time or what? Keysman Pat Rebillot satisfies the urge to hear some Fender Rhodes and also favors us with some acid-drenched, reverby organ on the opening cut, but his solos don't really push the music anywhere adventurous. Session vet David Spinozza gets in some nice solos on the guitar, in particular on the title track. Drummer Ray Lucas is one of those guys who probably never got his due recognition. His credits include King Curtis, Roberta Flack, Eugene McDonald, Shirley Scott, Donny Hathaway and a ton of other people: he was even briefly a bandmate of Hendrix, as part of Curtis Knight and The Squires. There is nothing flashy about his playing, it doesn't call attention to itself, but it casts a solid foundation to build around, and provides agile fills and texture when needed. Never underestimate the importance of simply playing time. Indian singer Asha Puthli contributes vocals to the album's titular track (she also appeared on Ornette Coleman's "Science Fiction" sessions from the same year). At first I thought this was wordless vocalizing before I checked the back of the LP cover and saw that she was singing the free verse poem there. I'll have to assume her voice is deliberately submerged in the mix, perhaps to trigger subliminal spiritual contemplation.
Deliberate, because producer Arif Mardin was no amateur. That guy knew how to mix. And this record sounds great. In fact, in spite of the fact that I started with a not-quite-perfect copy (although in better shape than the cover would indicate), the sound is pretty solid. This is not only the mixing but also the famous Monach Pressing Plant who should get a shout-out. Quality control!
All of the compositions are by Mariano except for Michel Legrand's famous "Summer of '42" theme, which is here given a languid deconstruction where Charlie plays the flute. Slow funk grooves are blended with modal and outside riffing. The second track, "Shout," is like the opening of a baptist tent revival meeting, with Charlie coaxing harmonics from his sax by overblowing furiously. F-Minor Happy is very Deodato-esque (Deodatismo?), a more rough-hewn and stoney take on CTI-style jazz funk. "Vasi Bindu (Raindrops)" is a free and open piece coming halfway through the second album side, as if to help us come down from the plateaus of the massive title track. The album closes with the short "Madras," which features Charlie on the nagasuram for the first time on this album. This South Indian instrument ends the record on a truly ceremonial note, sounding a bit like Mariano may have been trying to beat Don Cherry to doing the soundtrack for The Holy Mountain. It makes you sit up and pay attention.
This record goes pretty deep, but is also just a damn pleasurable listen that you can enjoy while going about your day. I feel the need to point that out because a lot of the adjectives used in this post (heady, spiritual, free, modal) would tend to indicate a record that might get in the way of activities like reading a novel, making love, writing a novel, or tidying up the house (unless you are the type of person who likes to fold laundry and clean bathrooms while listening to Anthony Braxton or AEoC in which case this warning doesn't apply to you). I hereby declare this record completely safe for "taking care of business." It might uplift you and inspire you to seek enlightenment, but it won't automatically induce a trance state, epileptic fit, or other central nervous system anomaly.
It's a Halloween DOUBLE FEATURE at Flabbergasted Vibes!
It seems as if, at some point, Goblin became the Game of Thrones of progressive rock: it's cool to like them even if you're generally dismissive of the genre. A revival of interest in this Italian group includes a burst of recent activity, including a few books about their music, a box set collecting six of their albums, and a concurrent (or was it subsequent?) reunion and tour. They are undoubtedly most famous for providing soundtracks for director Dario Argento, who worked extremely closely with them. As my friends can tell you, I'm much more of a music head than a cinephile, with yawning gaps in my cultural literacy when it comes to film. As such, I was familiar with these Goblin records without being familiar with the films. This includes even the hugely famous Dawn Of The Dead from George Romero, which I only saw last year for the first time. And just for this post, I got hold of a gorgeous Blu-Ray of Suspiria and watched it last night. The overall foreboding has not yet worn off.
The music that Goblin produced for these films is central to their entire aesthetic, the score is almost present as it were a separate character, having an impact on the plot more than providing a setting or acting as a reflection. This feeling of urgency isn't all in my head, apparently, because according to the liner notes the music for Suspiria was actually recorded before they began shooting, and was at times blasted through PA speakers on the set to provide the proper ambiance.
Both Suspiria and Zombi are pretty nightmarish records. The sense of brooding unease never lets up. As on all their record, the group blends organic sounds (percussion and stringed instruments like lutes or zithers or dulcimers) with analog electronics (synthesizers, oscillators), whispers and shrieks and other creepiness. They'll swing from the soundscapes called up from terrifying bad-trip psychedelia, then switch suddenly to a galloping jazz-funk jam that offers a way out of the dream, or a jaunty prog workout in an off-kilter time signature, anthems of chase or pursuit depending on your luck or misfortune, or perhaps some gentle acoustic guitar or mellow saxophone to lull you into a temporary state of relaxation. Some sort of throat-singing type chant provides the bedrock for another track's dissonant organ chords and yammering, hallucinatory voices. Considering how cliché-laden the twin genres of horror and prog rock can be, it is kind of amazing how these soundtracks retain a sense of fresh unpredictability throughout them. There is a questionably "tribal" passage on Zombi seemingly meant to invoke white peoples' fear of Afro-Caribbean percussion, or more precisely the ritual uses to which it often lends itself, but even that somehow manages not to cross over into tackiness territory. Overwhelmingly instrumental (there are obligatory wordless choral bits here and there, in accordance with the 1974 International Agreement on Horror Film Soundtracks), these two soundtracks work well as self-contained records, but when I finally saw the films they belonged to, they seem more fully realized and deliberate. Suspiria was actually the band's second soundtrack for Argento, the first being "Rosso Profundo", which is included in the box set on the Bella Casa label, as is the later collaboration for the film Tenebre. Two albums not related to films are also in the box - Roller (1976) and Il Fantastico Viaggio Del Bargarozzo Mark (1978).
I'd like to thank my friend Cheshire Tom for sharing the box set with me and being okay with this post. I guess whether or not these two albums end up on your Halloween party playlist tonight largely depends on who you've invited over. See the comments section for more info. Regardless of how you chose to enjoy them, I advise you to keep some soothing tunes handy to follow them. I recommend The Best of Bread.
So I've fixed a bunch of links on posts where people asked nicely. I do that sometimes, particularly when people have other feedback and things to say about the blog. Anonymous people who only leave a comment to say "link broken" and nothing else rarely get listened to any more. In fact those comments are likely to get an old post moved to the very bottom of the pile, because it irritates the shit out of me. I'm not your personal genie in a bottle, and last time I checked I'm not making any money off this blog. The people who actually read the posts are the reason I've kept this going for seven years. So, for y'all, here are some posts where I fixed stuff.
(note: The Black Ice post actually didn't have any broken links, but a good friend pointed out that I left out a song from the 16-bit versions of it. So if you happened to have grabbed those, which are missing Track #8, you should probably purge it from your collection and start over with this version.)
Lead Vocals – Ada Chabrier, Nancy O'Neill, Rosa Soy
Piano – Carol Parker
Timbales – Susan Hadjopoulos
Trombone – Kathy Cary
Trumpet – Ellen Seeling, Trudy Cavallo
Arranged By – Luis "Perico" Ortiz (tracks: B1), Marty Scheller (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B2), Randy Ortiz (tracks: B4), Sonny Bravo (tracks: A3, B3)
Producer – Larry Harlow, Rita Harlow
Engineer – Irv Greenbaum, Mario Salvati
This curious little record seems like it ought to have a lot
of great stories surrounding it. Maybe somebody will come by and tell us some in the comments section here, because there really is not a lot of information
out there on the internet.When I bought it, I
assumed that Larry Harlow actually played on the session, and I continued thinking that
for a while before I stopped being lazy and actually read the info on the back
cover.I have been noticing signs that I
am getting old lately.One of them is
that I do not religiously read album credits like I used to when I was a young
lad, back before the days of being flooded with more music than we can possibly
listen to in one lifetime.Another clue
that I am getting old is that I actually enjoyed the hell out of a Dire Straits
album the other day and thought it was pretty groovy.