Amoeblog

I REMEMBER JOHANN JOHANNSSON

Posted by Rick Frystak, July 2, 2019 07:56pm | Post a Comment
 
 
Johann Jóhannsson passed away last year in February, of a street drug overdose mixed with other medication he was taking, at the way-way-too-young age of 48 years old, a HUGE, huge loss to many fans of progressive music, film scores and progressive performance. Many of my friends saw his last show at the Walt Disney Hall here in L.A., and it was phenomenal. He would start each piece by rising from the keyboard / midi rig he was using and putting up a 15’’ reel of audiotape onto a Revox analog tape recorder and begin the piece with a repetitive loop or musical chunk, which would be softly, slowly and gradually picked up on by his traveling chamber ensemble and himself on piano, synths and samples, and fleshed out into a blooming, flourishing journey of sound. Simply spellbinding. And the visual elements, besides the exotic candelabras, would be a black and white film with blotted images, increasing the brooding, dark atmospherics.

Brooding and dark usually describe his sound, his direction favoring minor chords and modes. But then, he’ll go and write the Theory of Everything, with lots of lilting, rosy cues because that’s what the story demanded. But to me, he excelled in the glum, ominous moods that begat his reputation and manifested the darkened concert hall, with the black balloons and smudged visuals. In many ways his music reminds me of a correlation with composers such as Arvo Part or John Tavener, in mixing the sound of music from the middle ages with contemporary minimalism or ‘avant garde’ sounds; whatever the project demanded or his own inspiration dictated won over. The reason is inexplicable to me.
 
His film scores such as Prisoners, The Mercy, Mary Magdalene (shared credit with Hildur Gunadóttir), Arrival, Sicario, Mandy, A User’s Manual and others show Johannsson’s versatility, variety and inspiration, with the use of electronics mixed with symphonic and pop music elements, and his collaborations with closely held associates like Icelandic cellist Hildur Gunadóttir, who may continue on the path Johann was mining. In Arrival, he used pure electronic effects as part of the melodies in some of the cues; very effectively. Hildur's score to the HBO series Chernobyl (download only) is fascinating, a logical extension of Johannsson’s sound, with the horror of what's happened manifested by pure unfettered ambience. Twice nominated for Academy Awards, he hit it and won a Golden Globe award (foreign press) for his score to Theory of Everything, a great film detailing the early life of Stephen Hawking, no less great due to Johann’s work.

A CRY For CECIL TAYLOR, My Avant Gardfather, 1929-2018

Posted by Rick Frystak, May 8, 2019 07:57pm | Post a Comment

Cecil Taylor

Photo by unknown/illustration by Rick Frystak
 

Welcome back to The Choice Bin. It's 1973, UCLA's Royce Hall, a few notches up from what it is today satus-wise as there just weren't many halls to showcase serious music in '73. Big deal anytime or place, these artists in L.A. then, (like say, Stevie Wonder) so the town was abuzz. Cecil Taylor is here to play a solo piano recital. Lee has Rhino stocked. Lingerers linger. Jivers jive. Clowns clown. There's a festival vibe, it was called Newport Jazz Fest west or whatever. This night is just Cecil.

The concert begins. Each note, chord harmony, repetition, arpeggio, triad, cluster, question-and-answer; a sensation of logic and emotion. To some,''noise''. This man went to the New York Conservatory. Cecil is here in UCLA playing a huge 10-foot Bosendorfer piano and the paint is already coming off the walls. Folks are on the edge of their seats.

OMG, it's Cecil my main man, my idol in the ''out'' music. I have "all" his albums. I'm in the SAME ROOM with him! Tonight, Cecil has come from a whisper (he hadn't begun dancing out to the piano yet) to a brilliantly built mountain of sound.

It's getting more and more and more intense when all of a sudden, a man sitting almost dead-center STANDS UP,TAKES OFF HIS SHIRT and begins dancing and...YELLING!! I couldn't believe what I was seeing for a split second, but then that same feeling came over me, but I stayed in my seat. It was like a shot of adrenaline, more exciting than ANYTHING I'd ever heard, right then and there...the physical manifestation of the sounds we were hearing, driving us to yelling!

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Another "Best Of" 2017" from The Choice Bin/Rick Frystak

Posted by Rick Frystak, January 18, 2018 01:45pm | Post a Comment

 

This album, My Foolish Heart by Ralph Towner, could be my favorite release of 2017. Jazz meets classical concepts via virtuosic nylon string guitar impressions of Bill Evans' work. Bravo! Here's more:

Allan Holdsworth

Allan Holdsworth - The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever

A 12-CD box set of all of Allan’s original domestic releases in mini-LP style covers and exclusive 40-page booklet in the box! The most beautiful, terrifying and harmonically fascinating jazz fusion electric guitar and guitar synthesizer playing you will ever hear, sometimes a caged animal roaring to be released, sometimes like a butterfly landing on a lover's tear, with sensitive and sensational accompaniment. Allan passed away 2 weeks after this release, and I know he loved that it had come out and been made available. This music will go backout of print, so enjoy this while you can. A 12-LP vinyl box is out soon!

Thank You For Your Service soundtrack

Thomas Newman - Thank You For Your Service [Soundtrack)]

I REMEMBER JOHN ABERCROMBIE, 1944-2017

Posted by Rick Frystak, September 4, 2017 02:12pm | Post a Comment


-photo Doug Proper

by Rick Frystak

Guitarist John Laird Abercrombie passed away of heart failure last week at the age of 72, too young an age for an artist who had so many more years of creativity left. John was one of my all-time favorite guitarists, one of only a handful of unique, tasteful ''jazz-rock'' guitarists who managed to create his own style and mature with it for all the years that he was active and making records.

John's playing had a swing, a lilt, perhaps a swaying effect that was captivating and had me eagerly anticipating his notes to see where he would go with a tune or a solo. His songs were quite often effectively moody and dark which I loved, but alternately funky, and always a good melody but left room for discovery. When he really let go, as he soon highlighted on his early solo records and the Billy Cobham big band records he could bring the house down. But when he turned inward, it was like telling a secret or a heartbreaking whisper. And his compositional directions were such an amalgamation of the old standard beauty and a new, ear-bending edginess.

I first heard John on the small, independent Oblivion label album, Friends, featuring Marc Cohen playing a searing electric alto sax, inspiring John to higher highs of energy I'd rarely heard outside of heavy rock, the whole group developing music that would be years ahead of it's time. Then came his first of a 43-year ECM Records relationship, the immortal, iconic Timeless, with Jack DeJohnette  and Jan Hammer (fresh out of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Billy Cobham's fantastic Spectrum album),which took the heaviness and beauty and made some of the most intense trio jazz since Tony Williams' Lifetime. He excelled in the trio format, and in his group with Peter Erskine and Marc Johnson they swung hard, burned.  He released his last ECM record this year, Up And Coming, which would be, as the press kit notes, his first album played without a pick, just using his fingers. This sound seems more buttery and lyrical, perhaps like a fine scotch,  the tempering of John's later-career approach and character.

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GOODBYE, ALLAN HOLDSWORTH. Remembering A Guitarist Like No Other.

Posted by Rick Frystak, April 20, 2017 05:48pm | Post a Comment

by Rick Frystak

On April 15, 2017, I was very saddened to be told that guitarist / violinist / composer Allan Holdsworth had passed away, leaving behind a legacy of recordings and for me, countless live performances I witnessed that will live forever in my soul. Along with being shocked, I just did not believe my brother's text that this news had happened. Fake? It was then that I was pointed to Facebook, where Allan's daughter had quietly and thoughtfully revealed her father's death.

The timing of his passing was, and is absolutely spooky. 2 weeks previously we had  seen Allan perform a celebratory gig to mark the release of a project in which I had participated in the production, and my brother Peter had provided photographs for: a huge, 12-CD box set of almost all of his albums,The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever. and a 2-CD set, Eidolon, of his ''best'' songs selected by Allan himself. I was grievously perplexed. I have to remind myself now that Allan had to be happy to see that the CD projects were on the store shelves. Dan Perloff, producer of the CDs for Manifesto Records, has said that the box set is already sold out. 

I first heard Allan while he was a member of the group Tempest., and their album Tempest. We knew immediately that this man was no ordinary guitarist. 

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