Monday, August 22, 2016
J. Blake Fichera, a horror film fan, film music commentator and musician, has gathered some of horror's most prolific living soundtrack composers, some 14 in all, and interviewed each individually on his art, on what it takes to put all together in a finished product designed to scare the hell out of you.
The substantial dialogs are now out in a fascinating, provocative and entertaining 356-page book entitled Scored to Death: Conversations with Some of Horror's Greatest Composers (Silman-James Press, paper, $19.95).
Each composer tells a bit about what got him started as a soundtrack composer, the creative process of making a great soundtrack, his interaction with directors, producers, sound-effects people and other key personnel, time frames, budget considerations, personal idiosyncrasies and the various stages of composition that take place.
The changing role of technology over the years, both in audio production and synchronization are key themes as well. How much of the music is extensively mapped out in terms of timing? What is the role of the director in the ultimate outcome? What has happened as composition essentially went from a demo tape, a rough score or a simple live piano demonstration in the old days to the ability now to lay down a live, multi-track demo directly onto a copy of the digital film? How has the expectations of directors changed over the years?
All this and very much more is what makes the book great. The recollections of the composers on specific films and how the end result was reached is the most interesting part of the book, I would say. But it is fascinating as well to take in the particular influences a composer has had in his work and how he uses them, whether it be rock, electronic synth music or avant garde modern classical, or you-name-it, and the spectrum of inputs one can get from a director, whether it be vague impressionistic thoughts or very specific directions.
It's one of those books that virtually reads itself. You find yourself drawn into the subject and the pages turn quickly.
Scored to Death stands out as a lively set of insightful interviews that in the end gives you a very good idea about how the music comes to be and its function in the making of a modern horror film. I recommend it highly.
This issue, No Coming, No Going: The Music of Peter Kuhn, 1978-79 (No Business 2-CD) is for CD 1 a WKCR broadcast of Kuhn on B-flat and bass clarinet, Denis Charles on drums, William Parker on bass, Toshinori Kondo on alto horn and trumpet and Arthur Williams on trumpet that became the album Livin' Right. It was out for a time back then on Peter's own label--and it is great to be able to hear it again. I would venture to call it a forgotten classic of the era, a marvel for all concerned.
The music is a series of three well conceived Kuhn compositions, with some very swinging Denis Charles and fundamental William Parker. On top of that everyone gets a chance to have their say here but ultimately Peter stands out with the three horns together doing some excellent collective improvs as well.
The second disk consists of an extended duo recording of Peter on B-flat and bass clarinet and tenor sax and Denis Charles on drums. It was a 1979 concert at the New England Repertory Theater in Worcester, Mass that was broadcast at the time on WCUW.
This is a creative two-way effort as interesting for what Denis was doing (he was a great drummer!) as well as what Peter conjured out of his horns.
If Livin' Right is the more exciting of the two, the second CD is nonetheless a very nicely done gathering of the duo and a documented revelation of the extended artistry of Peter and Denis in those days.
I most certainly recommended this one for your new thing collection. Peter was doing important work.
Happily there is a brand new New Business album out with the latest music from Peter and a trio that I will cover in a couple of days!
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Each artist in the quartet has honed his sound over the years. The four make a grand noise together in five well-paced segments. The band is comprised of Sylvain Guerineau on tenor sax, Itaru Oki on trumpet, flugelhorn and flutes, Kent Carter on double bass, and Makoto Sato on drums.
There is inspiration to be heard throughout. The band has a real feel for dynamics, so that you get a spectrum of sounds from the introspective to the stormy.
It is a commonplace to expect a band like this to listen, or conversely to NOT listen to one another. The album gives you interactive interplay and a four-way independence at times for a varied and absorbing result.
No doubt, all four give us some of their most considered work here. It's avant improv that goes its own way and does it with maximum creativity.
Kudos to the quartet and for Improvising Beings for putting this out! Highly recommended.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
The players and their instrumentation form the principal foundation for this musical mix. Glenn Dickson is on clarinet and channels modern and Klezmer elements; Gary Bohan is on cornet and has much to do with the sound color of the ensemble; Michael McLaughlin is a key element on accordion; Andrew Stern gives the ensemble a rock and explorative edge; Jim Gray has a vivid lower presence on tuba; and Eric Rosenthal does a fine job on the drums.
The compositions are intricate and involved and are critical to the sound of the band. McLaughlin contributes five of the nine, Glenn Dickson pens three, Bohan gives us one. The "Jewish Tinge" is pretty much out front throughout, and that combined with a modern small-big band fullness. Add to that an improvisatory edginess, and intermittent helping of rock heaviness and mellifluous compositional prowess and you have a band to reckon with.
It's one of those albums that stays in your mind after a while. The band stands out with a great set! Check this out.
Friday, August 12, 2016
As early as 1971 when I was at Berklee it seemed that a lot of students would pull out some Wayne classics in those impromptu sessions in the practice rooms that were so important to me in the short time I remained there. Songs like "Speak No Evil," "Nefertiti," "Ju Ju," "Infant Eyes" were sounding really great right about then and here we are some 45 years later and they still sound revolutionary.
But in the hands of Denny and a solo gig we hear them even more vividly. Of course Zeitlin has had the touch and the feel for stretching music since he first started out. And with this album he reminds us how deep he has gotten into the four-dimensional world of Zeitological piano.
All you have to do is put this CD on once or twice and I wont have to say another word. It's a shining example of what sort of brilliant things Denny Zeitlin does these days.
No kidding, just get this one and hear it. You'll be very glad you did, I think.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Arsen Petrosyan is a fabulous exponent of the instrument. He gives us a program of memorable folk and composed music on his beautiful Charentsavan: Music for Armenian Duduk (Pomegranate Music CD-1929).
He is accompanied by ensembles varying from a single dhol drum, Armenian harp or guitar to a larger ensemble. His tone and phrasing are nothing short of exquisite. Arsen is a master in every way.
So stunning is the music that my mid-eastern neighbors heard me playing the album and knocked on the wall to say they loved it! Now that's a testimony and I surely agree!
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
His latest, Embrace the Change (Unseen Rain 9947), features a cohesive and compatible quartet of Rocco John on alto and soprano, Rich Rosenthal on electric guitar, Francois Grillot on contrabass and Tom Cabrera on drums. Rocco John provides the originals, attractive springboards for the often collective improvisations that make good tracks into the horizon.
Rocco John sounds quite limber and full of spontaneous musicality. So too Rich makes creative paths that go well with what Rocco John is doing. Francois Grillot is, as always, the complete bassist, whether walking or making horn-like statements. And Tom Cabrera swings and frees it all up well depending on what is needed.
It is an album that stays in the avant mode with lots of fire and ideas. It's well worth hearing, another notch in the Rocco musical belt. Recommended!