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Prospero is Juan Carlos Mendizabal: a graduate of San Francisco State’s Music Department and founder of the electronic music label, Black Note Music. To date he has released a number of albums using various aliases (Kyron, Radio Free Clear Light, Projective Module, Via Sinistrae). The album, Freedom of the Process, is, as he puts it, “an ambient minimalist electronic exploration of self-assembling molecular structures and the interactions between various sonic components … 12 tracks of delicate electronic noise and glitch coalescing into an ambient tapestry of melodic guitar and silvery experimental processing.”
Slobber Pup’s double album Pole Axe is free jazz. The band is made up of four people: Jamie Saft on organ and keys, Joe Morris on guitar, Mats Gustafsson on saxophones and Balazs Pandi on drums. As Morris has described it, the album is a manifestation of glacial time: “a state of deep listening between musicians, when time is felt and understood by all, but does not need to be overtly stated. Everyone is experiencing the pulse, yet everyone’s focus is on the larger arc of the music.” One Amazon reviewer described it as a bunch of people warming up, while another as “fabulous improvisation by masters at their craft. Jamie Saft and Joe Morris can read minds.”
Idan Raichel’s “At the Edge of the Beginning” is easy listening Israeli music. The album ranked third on the Top World Albums Billboard Chart when it came out in 2015. Raichel, an Israeli pianist, sings in Hebrew and is accompanied on various instruments on different songs: including double bass, cello, trumpet, saxophone, guitar, accordion even a tuba on the last piece.
In the early 70s, at the age of 18, Arthur Russell, a formally trained cellist, moved from Iowa to San Francisco; he studied North Indian classical music at the Ali Akbar College of Music and Western composition part-time at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. It was during this time that he began his association with Allen Ginsberg: accompanying him on the cello as a soloist or in groups while Ginsberg sang or read his poetry. By the mid-70′s Russell moved to New York where he collaborated in the rock project Flying Hearts: which included artists such as David Byrne, Rhys Chatham, and Peter Gordon. The first piece comes from the mid 70′s with the Flying Hearts. “Ballad of the Lights” was written and recited by Russell; Ginsberg accompanies. The second piece “Pacific High Studio Mantras”, chanted by Ginsberg, is a Tibetan mantra recorded in July 1971.
A Special Light by David MacBride is a collection of solos and duets spanning the last decade. Throughout, the artist explores his relationship with his Chinese heritage (his mother was from China, his father from Scotland): a relationship he had never directly addressed in his work before. “All of these pieces,” he tells us, “reflect in one way or another Chinese musical and cultural traditions as I become more comfortable being direct in personalizing recognizable Eastern styles and aesthetics.” Ultimately, the aim of the music is for what the artist calls “a basic sense of serenity and focus.” MacBride’s work has been described as ambient, minimalist, luminous and impressionistic.
Vocals, sitar, tabla, saxophone, and piano make up the album Dawning by the ensemble Saffron. Formed in November 2009, the group is composed of musicians from the East and West: each bringing their own style, and all joined together by the love poetry of the Sufi mystic, Rumi. Saffron layers classical Indian music with a hint of jazz forms atop lines from Rumi in Persian. The music is meditative. Check out the first (haunted) track entitled “Dawning” at 21 minutes or the lively “Tease” at 17 minutes. But if those are too long for you there are shorter pieces as well.
Patriarchs is Bryan Ruhe’s third album. Described by the artist as a work “for all who yearn for rest.” The disc features ambient piano pieces, soundscapes using voice, acoustic instruments, magnetic audio-tape, sampled vinyl records and field recordings (like rain and crickets). The music is relaxing, meditative, even dreamlike.
Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch “Comeuppance” is a free jazz album with a “garage rock attitude.” Mezzacappa, a Bay Area artist, plays bass; most of the pieces are written by her. Influences on this album include: Ornette Coleman, Henry Threadgill, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Eric Dolphy, Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Billy Harper Quintet, “Live on tour in the far east, Vol. 1,” was recorded in Pussan South Korea in 1991. The influence of John Coltrane is clear throughout. Check out the piece “Countdown,” Coltrane’s reharmonizing of Miles Davis’ “Tune Up”. SteepleChase, the record company that put out the album, is based in Denmark and is known for picking up jazz artists who lost their contracts with other labels. Indeed, Harper is considered by some as a “criminally” underrated musician. Listen to the album and decide. There’s alot to like there.
Dark and moody, neo-psych space rock with a nod to Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, and Hawkwind. Band based in Brooklyn; this is their fourth album; check out their lead single, Garbage Brain.
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