1. Ants Ate My Silkworms (1:49, IL2)
HS: Even though Mahoozie Manor turned out to be quite soundproof, to keep good karma with the neighbors Greg and I limited our after-dark playing to acoustic instruments. Along with my drumkit I brought my tabla and kalimba, and Greg brought an assortment of instruments including acoustic guitars, dulcimer, recorders and percussion. This is a short duet featuring tabla and dulcimer, which seem to sonically compliment each other well. I set-up a basic rhythmic motif that Greg plays on top of.
GS: One of the goals of these sessions was to bring in new sounds and new ideas. Part of this was that we wanted to do some acoustic pieces. (This also extended our possible hours for recording, which made me happy.) One of the influences for the whole Jugalbandi concept was tabla/sitar duets. I don’t own a sitar (yet), but there was no reason not to try it with other instruments- that’s what we’ve done all along anyway! In this case we were halfway there, and we both thought the dulcimer’s tone worked well with the tabla.
2. Night Crazy (16:42, IL1)
HS: This piece seemed to come out of nowhere on the first afternoon session. To me, the loops that Greg sets-up during the first few minutes establish a musical context that anchor the piece throughout its 16+ minutes. The unusual percussion sound heard at 6:25 is a splash cymbal that I placed on my 16” floor tom. I played on both the cymbal and the drum before moving around to the rest of the kit at around 9:00, returning to the tom/cymbal combination at 10:05 until the cymbal fell off the drum at 11:20—you can hear it hit the floor and roll around. Greg used his 7-string Stratocaster magnificently on this piece, with his grinding low riffs at 12:45 and 14:01 (plus the low note that ends the piece) giving Night Crazy an other-worldly sonority. The back-and-forth trading that begins at 15:55 is some of my favorite playing from the entire 5-day session. The title came from my cat Neugher’s habit of galloping and howling all around the house almost every night while our family slept—or tried to. (Neugher is featured on the disc’s cover and tray card.)
GS: I love when you’re creating a piece and you know it’s going to work, you’re really enjoying the music as it happens. This was one of those times. Love the splash cymbal on the floor tom. Hyam’s willingness to experiment throughout these sessions was one of the things that made them so fun. This tendency has always been there- he once got up and played Dog Neutral bass player Barry Kennedy’s strings with soft mallets during an improv (“The Dog Ate My Homework”)- but it’s just not something he got to exercise often enough. On the recordings from these sessions you will really hear him stretch out- on a variety of instruments- and get a glimpse at the considerable depth of his imagination.
3. Beanwater Junction, Part 1 (3:29, IL2)
HS: I used Hot Rods to get a relaxed, loping feel somewhat reminiscent of Steve Gadd, but without his ever-present samba. This may be the ‘straightest’ playing that I did in the entire session. Greg shows his acoustic chops.
GS: This being the first time I’ve ever really been able to work out with Jugalbandi on a variety of instruments, one thing I was really hoping we’d get was a good acoustic guitar/drum kit piece. We tried this twice and felt they both worked. The acoustic has a pickup, and since it was plugged in to give me some volume I saw no problem with having a little electronic fun with it. But the sound of the clean acoustic guitar itself predominates. And it’s so nice working with a drummer who can handle anything I throw at him- even (gasp!) something relatively normal sounding. He switches from sticks to Hot Rods, plays quietly, and doesn’t lose anything in the process. The piece is just what it should be.
4. Yarmishun Jim (2:00, IL2)
HS: For this one I played the kalimba into a microphone that ran through Greg’s effects pedals, and we played-around until we got a snippet of kalimba music that would make a good loop. After Greg set-up the loop we went back to the drums and guitar to play along with it. I’m playing the cymbals with wire brushes. Dig Greg’s delicate staccato figure at the end of the piece.
GS: This was one of the few pieces where the microphone/pedalboard/amp setup actually worked. For the most part, no matter where we placed it, including pulling it most of the way out of the room, it fed back (and not in a good way). The signal from the kalimba was quiet enough to function. Unfortunately the loop was so quiet I had to put the mix on the delay all the way up, so I couldn’t play through the board along with it and be heard. So I just plugged the guitar direct into the amp’s other channel and played along that way.
5. Successfully Assimilated, Part 1 (4:39, IL2)
HS: When Greg and I decided to do this recording session, we both really wanted to play some things that were much more experimental in nature than we had previously done together. Before I even arrived in Portland, Greg prepared a long cassette tape collage that we might use in some pieces. I didn’t hear or know anything about what was in this collage before we actually recorded with it. In this piece, Greg manipulates the tape collage through his effects pedals while I play drums. (Greg can tell you more about what’s going on in the tape collage than I can.) What I can tell you is that I really had to keep my ears open during this piece. Since it wasn’t possible for the tape to react to my playing, I had to always be ready to react to it. Considering this, I’m especially pleased with how much interplay is going on here, especially with the dynamics.
GS: I knew that I wanted to try some pieces where I put strange taped things through the pedalboard, so a few days before Hyam arrived I spent some time getting source tapes together. The one used on this piece begins with a previously unreleased keyboard improvisation I did in 1985, followed by the smallest snippets I could manage of sounds from previous Jugalbandi releases, my 2003 sessions, Hyam’s “Teller-Ulam Configuration”, and the couple of “Revolver” CDs he sent me. This was followed by some singing in Yiddish (a slightly rude song my dad taught me when I was 10- this, some really vile cuss phrases and a few everyday ones, and the fact that I can still be disliked for my last name, are about all that exist of my links to Judaism). Immediately following the Yiddish song (actually overlapping it) are some stream of consciousness, word-jumbled phrases sung like a bad modern jazz atonal lounge singer. This was double-tracked during the creating of the original tape using one of my favorite primitive methods: bouncing back and forth between two mono tape decks, by recording your first track into the mic of one, playing it back, and playing/singing along with that while the 2nd deck records both. (This means controlling the mix during the performance with the distance of 1st deck and performer from the 2nd deck’s mic.) Then, if you want to keep going, you just switch tapes between the decks and keep going, adding a new live track each time. The end result is usually noisy, distorted, and very weird. How can you not love that? Actually, if you keep a reasonably strong signal next to whichever deck is the master one at any given time, you will come out with something that sounds pretty good. Using this method, I continued adding things to the tape- recorders (at times, two of them- an alto and a soprano- played at the same time, one in either corner of my mouth), glass sounds, egg slicer, etc. I would also rewind the tape (or fast forward it) and just put something down at random, regardless of what was going on underneath- didn’t check, didn’t want to know, I wanted to be surprised. So the process of creating this tape was, in itself, mostly improvisational. Most of it was done off the top of my head in a chain of rapid ideas, though still trying to keep in mind the context it was going to be used in. Now then…feed all this to be manipulated through the pedalboard to one unsuspecting drummer and….well, you can hear it for yourself. I had some control over it, of course- I could choose when to stop feeding the tape in, raise and lower the volume (including fading it in and out) decide when to loop it (and manipulate those too- with 2 loop delays this time, I could do a lot), change its pitch, turn it backwards, etc. It’s the number of sounds on the tape times the number of sounds possible through pedalboard manipulation- that’s a lot of sounds. So it wasn’t just “press a button and walk away and see what happens”. Although that can be interesing too..….
6. The Lost Transit Center (12:17, IL2)
HS: This is a classic example of what makes a piece an IL2: One of us suggested that we play a “slow Floyd”, and we just took-off on it for 12 minutes. As on “Previously Disenchanted” (from Yellow Star Mailing List, Great Artiste 89 JG002), I like the sense of majesty created by a good half-time feel. At around 6:20 I abandon traditional time-keeping and begin a long series of patterns between my hands and feet that move all around the kit, while Greg plays legato lines, using the volume pedal to great effect. The sustained guitar that begins at 2:20 and the grinding guitar passage at 6:10 blow me away every time I hear them. The four gong crashes at around 11:40 signal the beginning of the ending.
GS: This is in the same Dm tuning as “Night Circus”, which I actually quote during the piece. I’m really pleased with how well it follows the previous piece. We hadn’t checked the mic level on the gong before doing this- it was the first time during the sessions that we close-miked it- and we realized after we finished playing the piece that it might be too loud and that we might have to try it again. (“AAAHHH!!!”) Luckily it was loud but very usable. We ended up moving the mic back but I gotta tell ya, I like how it sounds climaxing this piece- SMASH! SMASH! SMASH! We probably never would have gotten that sound if we’d checked.
7. Successfully Assimilated, Part 2 (8:15, IL2)
HS: Another piece featuring the tape collage. The voice you hear at the very beginning is on the collage, and belongs to Palmer Harbison, keyboard player for my old band Revolver, exhorting a ballroom full of people to get out and dance while I churned-out the introduction to “Slow Ride” at some almost-forgotten gig in 1976. I begin a classic jazz hi-hat pattern to accompany the collage, the collage changes to Greg singing a Yiddish song and Greg begins accompanying it with some tasty backwards-sounding guitar. I really like the way this piece steadily builds in energy, achieved more through increasing its density than by simply playing louder. I keep adding elements of the drumkit throughout, until I’m pretty much playing balls-out during the last couple of minutes before bringing things back down with the jazz hi-hats at the very end. I love the glassware you hear on the tape collage at 7:00.
GS: You get to hear more of the tape on this, in case you weren’t entirely sure what I was talking about back in the liner notes for part one. For the most part I do let the tape just roll on this, occasionally stepping on pedals and tweaking its signal while I play guitar without effects out of the amp’s other channel.
8. Beanwater Junction, Part 2 (4:58, IL3)
HS: This was the second take (hence the IL3 classification), and since both versions contained some really good stuff, Greg and I wanted to include them both. I play that steady “not quite a samba”, and Greg really comes front and center, with wonderful acoustic guitar playing on top of great acoustic guitar loops.
GS: Despite the (correct) IL3 classification, I’m frequently amazed at exactly how much of pieces like this are improvised. The basic feel and a little bit of riffage are repeated, but the majority of the content was devised on the spot. Granted, we are a primarily improvisational band; but I thought you might like to know that it still surprises me sometimes. I’ll be listening back to something and think, “Where the hell did that come from?” It came from in the moment; we got a record of its mysterious appearance; it disappeared again.
9. Pleasure Circle (3:09, IL2)
HS: On this one Greg is playing recorders through his effects pedals. Lots of stereo cymbal patterns during the first minute.
GS: Well, technically I didn’t play the recorders during the session, this is off the source tape. It’s a good thing I put down so much recorder on that tape or we’d have next to none on these sessions- as previously described, the mic setup through the amp (and pedalboard) turned out to be almost useless. We got one short, VERY low volume piece this way (featured on an upcoming CD) but that was it. This way, despite its not being live, a) I had no memory of what I’d played, b) I was still able to manipulate it- actually, to do so to a much greater degree than I would have been able to if I’d been playing it at the same time. So as in some other cases, there’s a dual-time performance going on here: the original recorder performance (which was improvised), and the manipulation of the tape and effects (which can get extremely complicated- basically, it’s an electronic music performance- also improvised). I actually like the sound of the taped recorder- it doesn’t sound fully sound like the instrument, any more than a mellotron flute does. It’s a thing in and of itself.
10. Defeat Garbanzo Medallion (8:49, IL3)
HS: Near the end of the session I suggested that we try running the drums through a reverb unit, so we hooked one up to the mixer. It took several attempts to get everything set right, and we finally got this killer version. I simply love Greg’s opening motif and the feeling of controlled energy throughout. At about 4:50 I begin what turns-out to be a false ending, since Greg was obviously not finished yet, with some of my favorite playing of his occurring from round 6:10 until the real ending begins at about 7:20.
GS: I was all for putting the drums through the reverb, and the results are great. I didn’t hear Hyam’s attempt to end it- I might have followed him on it, so I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t.