WHS C-1008 Bill Quist Piano Solos of Erik Satie

 

 

Original Release Date: 1979

Review

“The Piano Solos of Erik Satie” is the eighth album released by Windham Hill and the only album released by Bay Area pianist Bill Quist. While this is the only classical album released on Windham Hill, you’d be excused for thinking these solos were written in the months prior to recording – or 400 years before that. They are minimal and modern in conception, and yet with an irreducible simplicity that sounds timeless. Satie gained fame primarily through the orchestrated arrangements done by his friend, composer Claude Debussy. Here, stripped of any ornamentation, the pieces are riveting and yet mesmerizing. You must pay attention, but can’t help drifting into the repetitive, percussive nature of the compositions.

For his part, Quist performs the works with sincerity but no sentimentality. Because of this, pieces like the well-known “3 Gymnopedies” are pretty, even beautiful without being precious or sappy. The artist Henri Matisse said he wanted his art to be “like a comfortable armchair to a tired businessman”. That is, it should provide comfort, a pleasant rest and full engagement. It should refresh and rejuvenate the mind. While this ambition seems limited, in many ways I believe it to be the highest form of art. Why should all art be challenging? There is a place for art to challenge; there is also a place for art to affirm life or allow for meditation or at least pleasant contemplation. This is the function of this album – music that is engaging, with moments of beauty. However, the album can also fade into the background because of the repetitive nature of the compositions, Quist’s metronomic timing, and the gently pulsing dynamics of the performance.

This was the second Windham Hill album recorded by Harn Soper at the Music Annex (De Grassi’s Turning: Turning Back being the first.) Soper close-miked the piano – and perhaps because of this a good deal of the natural harmonics of the piano come through. These harmonics – without the natural reverberation of a concert hall may also contribute to the direct, immediate and unsentimental nature of the recording.

Highly recommended.

I’ve not found any online samples of the album, but below is a good version of the first of the Gymnopedies. Music starts at the 35 second mark.

Credits

Many thanks to Will Ackerman, Harn Soper, Bill Armstrong for the use of his piano, Frances Stewart, Barbara(s)/Chevalier/Pace/Kafetx/Th.Dorothy Cheal, Hank Dutt of the Kronos Quartet, Starbucks, Club Mardi, Louis Magor and Kathy Smith. My love to PRC.

We have purposefully avoided much that is regarded as standard in the recording of solo piano. Unlike most recordings of this nature, we chose to record not in a concert hall, but rather in the studio using contemporary close-miking techniques. We feel that the sense of proximity to the intrument and pianist achieved in these recordings will add enormously to the listener’s appreciation for both the subtleties of the piano itself and for the nuances and dynamics of Qilliam Quist’s interpretation of Erik Satie’s music.

Two Neumann U 87 microphones were placed within twenty-four inches of the soundboard of a nine-foot Mason-Hamlin. Only a slight equalization curve was applied to the signal so as to preserve the natural overtones of the instrument. The recording was made on an MCI recorder/reproducer at 15 IPS using dbx noise reduction. WILL ACKERMAN/HARN SOPER

Track Listings

SIDE ONE: 29:12

  • 3 Gymnopedies (1888) (7:46)
  • 3 Sarabande (1887) (10:04)
  • Ogives # 1 & 2 (1886) (5:05)*
  • Prelude de la Porte Heroique du Ciel (1894) (3:10)
  • Prelude of the Heroic Gate of Heaven
  • Les Trois Valses Distinguees du Precieux Degoute (1914) (2:51)
  • Three Distinguished Waltzes of a Jaded Dandy
  • 1. Sa Taille: His Figure
  • 2. Son Binoncle: His Monocle
  • 3: Ses Jambes: His Legs

* The Ogives ©1965 Le Chant du Mond

Side Two: 27:12

  • Avant-Dernieres Pensees (1915) (3:22)
  • Next to last thoughts
  • 1. Idylle (to Debussy)
  • 2. Aubade (to Paul Dukas)
  • 3. Meditation (to Albert Roussel)
  • 3 Gnossienne # 1, 2 & 3 (1890) (6:07)
  • 2 Preludes (1893) (4;38)
  • Les Fils de Etoiles #1 & 2 (1892) (6:08)
  • The Son of the Stars
  • 1. La Vocation (The Calling)
  • 2. l’Initiation (The Initiation)
  • 3 Nocturnes #1, 2 & 3 (1919) (6:47)

Liner Notes

About William Quist

William Quist was born in 1951 and began his musical studies with his mother. More advanced training began with Charles Wilson of Michigan who prepared Quist for his eventual five-year enrollment in the Interlochen Arts Academy. He attended college for several years, but found it more valuable to receive coaching and the practical experiencee of freelance performing. He has worked with Noel Lee in Paris, and with Ned Rorem and Rosario Mazzeo of the Boston Symphony. Since moving to the San Francisco Bay Area eight years ago, Quist has concentrated primarily on the repertoire of Chamber Music. He is an adept accompanist, and works regularly with fellow pianist Richard Sechrist in teh duo of Sechrist and Quist. Quist’s performances have been extensive on the West Coast, including broadcasts on San Francisco’s KQED-FM and appearances with the San Francisco Symphony. This is William Quist’s first recording.

About Erik Satie

With the possible exception of Charles Ives, there is no more enigmatic figure in the music of our century than Erik Satie (1866-1925). But while Ives has in recent years been dusted off adn dubbed a Major Composer, Satie has remained if not peripheral at least overshadowed. Both musically and historically he looms too large to ignore; and he is too peculiar, his oevre too small, to command a place in the standard repertoire alongside his contemporary and friend Debussy. Satie’s music seems almost to resist assimilation or easy acceptance. It does not beguile. yet as you listen to this record you may find the music reaching you in unexpected ways. Its magic is subtle, but once you have imbibed Satie’s Apollonian nectar, you may find the champagne of Chopin and Brahms’ heavy lager less fulfilling draughts.

The man from whom this reticent yet compelling music came forth was born in Honfluer, Normandy, of a French father and a Scottish mother, and spent his adult life in Paris, where he earned a meager living as a cabaret pianist and a reputation as an eccentric. His unique personal style seems to have been due to the influence of his father’s brother, who was given to such large and enigmatic jests as construction a carriage so beautiful that nobody dared ride in it; Satie’s own quiks included the ownership of a dozen gray velvet suits, most of which he never wore (and because of which he was nicknamed the “Velvet Gentleman”). In his early years he was involved in Rosicrucianism, but he later separated himself from the movement. A fascination that remained with him for life was the tales of Hans Christian Andersen. His eccentricity found expression in music not only in the notes themselves but in the cryptic commentary with which the scores were sprinkled. Satie’s performance directions are sometimes so elaborate as to take on the form of surrealist sketches that bear no clearcut relation to the music.

It has been speculated that the verbal buffoonery with which Satie surrounded his austere music was his defense against feelings of inferiority. These feelings led him at the age of forty to return to school and take a degree in counterpoint; his studies had little effect on his output, other than to diminish and stultify it until they wore off. Fame came to him late in life, partly as a result of Debussy’s orchestrations of two of the GYMNOPEDIES. The high point of Satie’s career must be considered the avant-garde ballets for which he wrote scores in the years following World War One. His collaborators on these multi-media projects included poet and dramatist Jean Cocteau, choreographer serge Diaghilev and set designer Pablo Picasso.

Satie’s piano music, serenely simple and yet full of surprising twists, is in some ways the apex of his artistic achievement. Teh piano pieces often come in sets of three, and especially in the later works they are lacking in bar lines. Like his other works, they are characterized by simplicity of texture and frequent repetition of ideas. They are pure form – shorn of emotionalism, shorn of display. We are reminded that Saties’ first musical exposure was to Gregorian chant. Chant echoes through his lines. But his genius lies in the enrichment of chant with harmonies and symmetries that were entirely new. The early SARABANDES, for example, are almost entirely monodic, but in place of the single tones of chant the monody is built of entire chords, which often leap directly from one key to another without resolution. Elsewhere, simple melodies float over a harmonically static, even obstinately repeated left hand, turning corners in mid-airthat leave the Mozartean four-bar straighjacket far behind. In these matters Satie anticipated Stravinsky and Prokofiev by years or decades.

The testof music, however, is not whom it anticipates or what it overthrows, but how it sounds. William Quist has succeeded on this album in giving every note and chord its full expressive value without ever lapsing into Romantic overstatement or falling back into monotony (Satie seemingly invites the latter, while pitilessly exposing any tendency toward the former). This is music-making at its finest. Those who are looking for virtuoso fireworks in the form of thunderstorms and lovers’ reveries willfind nothing on this album, but for those who prefer music as clean and airy and geometrically pure as a grecian temple, it will be a rara find.

Jim Aiken

Contemporary Keyboard Magazine

WHS C-1007 Kidd Afrika Kidd Afrika


Original Release Date: 1979

Current Artist Web Site: http://www.myspace.com/kiddafrika

Review

Kidd Afrika is the seventh Windham Hill Album and the first Kidd Afrika album. For the first 10 Windham Hill albums, I suspect William Ackerman subscribed to the “I only publish one kind of music. The good kind.” theory. In the first three years of giving Windham Hill a go as a business, he released three of his own solo guitar albums, a lovely folk/pop album by Seattle musician Linda Waterfall, another solo guitar album by his cousin Alex De Grassi, and this immensely fun R&B/Blues party album by Kidd Afrika. This music is great fun. Really. Buy it now and put it on repeat at your next party. Don’t have a party planned?  Schedule one just so you can play it and have a great time.

Track Listing

Side One

  1. I Believe in You Don Davis (Groovesville Music, MI) (3:25)
  2. Handouts T. J. Politzer (KiddTunes, BMI) (3:50)
  3. She’s My Lady T. J. Politzer (KiddTunes, BMI) (5:25)
  4. I’m Gonna Be More T. J. Politzer (KiddTunes, BMI)(7:42)
  5. Spread the News Around Sonny Terry (Prestige Music, BMI) (2:13)

Side Two

  1. Don’t Mess with Mr. T Marvin Gaye (Jobete Music Co. ASCAP; and 20th Century Music Corporation, ASCAP) (6:20)
  2. Take the Bait T. J. Politzer (KiddTunes, BMI) (5:26)
  3. Marmalade and Jam T. J. Politzer (KiddTunes, BMI)(4:00)
  4. Apologize T. J. Politzer (KiddTunes, BMI) (3:19)

Credits

BACK COVER

  • Produced by Ned Neltner and Kidd Afrika
  • Engineered by Tim Rock at the Music Farm, Seattle, Washington, except for I BELIEVE IN YOU Engineered by Ron Gangnes at Kay Smith Studios, Seattle Washington
  • Mastered by Ken Perry at Capitol
  • Photos by Fred Milkie Studios in Seattle
  • Cover by Jack Nesbitt and David Imanaka
  • Insert by Jack Nesbitt
  • Released through Windham Hill Records, Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • Management by Don V. Ball 815 N 45th St., Seattle WA 98103 (206) 632-9690 and Ivan Buchbinder, PO Box 601 Bellingham, WA 98225 (206) 734-1435 — PLEASE NOTE THESE NUMBERS WERE PRINTED IN 1977AND LIKELY NOT CURRENT.

INSERT

(Includes complete lyrics, and the following additional credits)

THE PLAYERS

Teddy Joe Politzer

Lead Vocal, lead electric and acoustic guitars, vibes on TAKE THE BAIT, mandolin on MARMALADE AND JAM.

Larry Ryan

Electric and acoustic rhythm guitars, vocals.

Donny Morrow

Drums, percussion, vocals, Fender Rhodes piano on DON’T MESS WITH MR. T.

James Lilly

Fender Bass, vocals.

Peter Moss

Tenor and alto sax and horn arrangements on I BELIEVE IN YOU, I’M GONNA BE MORE, and APOLOGIZE with the West Seattle Horns, Ned Neltner on coronet and Les Clinkingbeard on baritone.

All selections published by KiddTunes ©1978, BMI except for SPREAD THIS NEWS AROUND, (Sonny Terry), Prestige ©1962, BMI; DONT MESS WITH MR. T, (Marvin Gaye), Jobete/20th Century Music Corporation ©1972, ASCAP; I BELIEVE IN YOU, (Don Davis), Groovesville Music, © 1973 BMI.

Used by Permission. All Rights Reserved.

We dedicate this project to our friends and fans in appreciation of all their help, support, and inspiration. Thank You All. Donny, Larry, Teddy Joe, James.

Additional copies and other releases are available through Windham Hill Records.

Notes

Kudos to the kids of the band members; they have made the album available digitally and set up a MySpace page. The album is available for listening and downloading from the Kidd Afrika page on Rhapsody. It’s also available at the Amazon MP3 store, and a few other sources, so pick your poison. Sure, the quality of the MP3 stores isn’t quite HDTracks quality, but hey, it will do until the unlikely event the album is re-issued.

In a 2016 Facebook post, Ackerman added some details about this, and the othe early Windham Hill instrumental title, Kidd Afrika: “Linda Waterfall (Mary’s Garden) and Kidd Afrika were personal choices of mine … Linda was at Stanford with me and was close to JB White and Frank Light (the “White Light Band”) who were as good as any duo on the radio at the time…. no, I mean REALLY as good as anything on the radio at that time. Linda was equally brilliant …. Kidd Afrika included Larry Ryan who was a faculty brat like me… his dad was in the English Dept. at Stanford along with my dad and a lot of memories include Larry.”

Recorded at the Kaye-Smith Studios in Seattle – from Wikipedia: Kaye-Smith 1969-1982 – Kaye-Smith was a joint venture between actor/comedian Danny Kaye and businessman Lester Smith. Kaye-Smith owned several radio stations includingKJR, the dominant AM top 40 station in Seattle during the 1960s and 1970s. Together, they also owned Seattle’s Kaye-Smith studios (where records by HeartSteve Miller andBTO were recorded), Concerts West (with Pat O’Day, a booking and promotion company that handled Jimi HendrixLed ZeppelinBad CompanyEaglesPaul McCartney, and others); and were original owners of the Seattle Mariners baseball team.

WHS C-1006 William Ackerman Childhood and Memory

Original Release Date: 1979

Current Artist Web Site: http://williamackerman.com/

Review

“Childhood and Memory” is William Ackerman’s third album and the sixth release on Windham Hill records. It is also his last primarily solo album until 2004’s “Returning,” and so has a special place in many listeners’ hearts. Of course, Ackerman duets with himself on banjo, and Dave Ross’ flute graces “Anne’s Song” in such a lovely way, that just as many must be pleased to consider this the first Ackerman album that includes a duet.

Here, the jangly folk influences are receding into Ackerman’s developing style (“Seattle” being a very pleasant exception) and a more contemplative mood comes forward. Where “The Search for the Turtle’s Navel” could never be called depressing, songs like “Sunday Rain” demand a deeply emotional response. Whether that response is tender nostalgia or or morbid depression probably says more about the listener than the performance. Regardless, it’s clear that by the time he recorded “Childhood and Memory” Ackerman had laid fundamental direction the artistic path he is still following today.

Track Listing, Credits and Tunings link after the videos:

Track Listing:

SIDE ONE

  • THE WALL AND THE WIND (3:33) 1978
  • THE VELVET GENTLEMAN (3:23) 1975
  • ANNE’S SONG (3:42) 1977
  • CHILDHOOD AND MEMORY (5:44) 1977
  • SUNDAY RAIN (3:31) 1979

SIDE TWO:

  • SEATTLE (3:30) 1978
  • THREE HESITANT THEMES (5:33) 1973
  • MURRAY’S SONG (3:15) 1975
  • GIDEON (1:42) 1979
  • BODIE (4:37) 1978

Credits

Produced by William Ackerman. Recorded and mixed by Harn Soper at THE MUSIC ANNEX, Menlo Park, CA. Originally mastered by Stan Ricker. Pressings by Record Technology, Inc. Camarillo, CA. Graphic design by Cheryl. Cover photo by Richard Pinkerton/ANTHELION. Liner photo by Steve Schoff. All compositions by William Ackerman. All Selections Windham Hill Music, BMI. Manufactured by Windham Hill Records, Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305. © (p) Windham Hill Records 1979.

All guitar and banjo performed by William Ackerman. The flute on Anne’s Song performed by Dave Ross. The banjo used in SUNDAY RAIN and GIDEON provided by Dana Morgan Music, Palo Alto, CA. These recordings were made in January 1979 using two AKG 451 microphones through an AMEK 2000 board on a TEAC 80-8 deck, and mixed on an AMPEX 440 two-track deck. UREI limiters were used in recording, and EMT 240 reverberation and dbx noise reduction were used in mixing.

Tunings

Ackerman generously makes tunings for all of his songs available on his web site.

Research Notes

AKG 451 Mic information from barryrudolph.com: Made from the late ’60s through the mid-’80s, the original AKG C-451 C Condenser Modular System (CMS Series) was a best-selling “chameleon” of a mic. It was designed to be adaptable to nearly any purpose; it could be outfitted with any of a whole system of modular components –such as screw-on capsule attenuator pads, extension tubes and swivels — that greatly increased its versatility. The original mic used the N-46E dual-AC power supply that supplied 12-volt phantom power and had a two-position, bass roll-off filter switch. As I found out by accident in my distant past as a second engineer, the mic would accept up to 52-volt phantom powering without smoking. The original, externally biased CK-1 capsule had an extremely low mass, making the mic insensitive to handling noise making it a favorite for handheld radio and TV use.

Dana Morgan Music was on Bryant Street in Palo Alto. It appears in several web biographies of the Grateful Dead, and in http://www.paloaltohistory.com/gratefuldead.html. Jerry Garcia taught guitar there in the 1960’s – and the Grateful Dead (then the Warlocks) would practice there. It was closed in the early 80’s.

WHS C-1005 Robbie Basho Visions of the Country


Visions of the Country

Original Release Date: 1978

Artist Web Site: http://www.robbiebasho-archives.info/ (by Steffen Basho-Junghans)

Review

Robbie Basho’s “Visions of the Country” is the fifth Windham Hill Records release, and the 10th album by the artist. It is one of the three “lost” Windham Hill releases – those original recordings that were not re-issued when Windham Hill gained national distribution. Robbie’s second Windham Hill album, WHS-1010 “The Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar” was re-released under the Lost Lake Arts imprint, but not “Visions of the Country.”

On first listen, there is no doubt why. Basho’s singing (and whistling) is heartfelt, strangely soulful and intense.  Ackerman was otherwise providing a very consistent sound and look with the albums released once Windham Hill gained national distribution in 1980.

If all you are looking for is the instrumental, relaxing, almost classical feel of other Windham Hill releases “Visions of the Country” will remain a curiosity. In it, you can hear how Ackerman was inspired by the fingerpicking steel-string playing of Basho (and the other Takoma Records artists Leo Kottke and John Fahey.) But you will likely have little interest in Basho’s intense and riveting vocal style.

However, if you value intensely heartfelt, innovative and riveting music – “Visions of the Country” is an excellent introduction to a voice that deserves your attention. While not always easy listening – much of this demands attention – there remains a beauty and gentleness throughout the album.

There is much more to Basho’s story than I can go into at this time. For more information from a Basho expert, Steffen Basho-Junghans maintains an excellent site about Robbie Basho’s work and life.

Basho describes the album this way in the liner notes:

“Visions of the Country is simply an L.P. of Guitar Paintings of the Americas and other joys. It uses the folk ballad style of some and the flowing Raga style of Hindu music to express the feeling and texture of the American Wilderness…Panoramique.”

Update, 8/2013:

Visions of the Country is being re-released. Purchase the Visions of the Country CD at GrassTops and the Visions of the Country LP on Vinyl from Gnome Life.  See the Pitchfork Visions of the Country review.

With the original master tapes long gone, Windhaming was charged with transcribing a pristine vinyl pressing to digital for mastering.

Equipment:

  • Vinyl Vacuum: VPI HW-17 Record Cleaning Machine
  • Turntable 1:  VPI Scout; JMW-9 arm; Dynavector 10×5 cartridge
  • Turntable 2: VPI Classic 1; JMW-10T arm; Dynavector XX-2 Mk II cartridge
  • Gingko Cloud Isolation platform
  • Cables: Furutech AG-12 tonearm cable
  • Analog to Digital Converter: TC Impact Twin
  • Computer: Apple Mac Mini
  • Software: PureVinyl by Channel D
  • Power Regeneration: PS Audio PowerPlant Premier
  • Power Cables: Acoustic Zen Tsunami

SIDE ONE: 27:01

Green River Suite (7:46) 1978

Six String Guitar and Voice

Rodeo (2:32) 1978

Six String Guitar

Rocky Mountain Raga (7:38) 1978

Twelve string guitar and voice: violin by Antoinette Marcus

Variations on Easter (4:01) 1977

Six string guitar

Blue Crystal Fire (4:49) 1977

Six string guitar and voice

SIDE TWO: 22:18

Orphan’s Lament (3:46) 1975

Piano and voice

Leaf in the Wind (4:46) 1973

Piano and whistling

Night Way (6:14) 1973

Six string guitar and voice

Elk Dreamer’s Lament (4:14) 1978

Twelve string guitar

Call on the Wind (3:04) 1977

Six string guitar and voice

Credits

  • Recorded at Recording Etc. Productions Berkeley, CA
  • Except tracks one, two and three of side two
  • All studio production, engineering and mixing by Dennis Reed
  • Mastered by Stan Ricker
  • Pressed by Record Technology Inc. Camarillo, CA
  • Produced by William Ackerman
  • Cover Photography by Ed Cooper: Everett, WA
  • Insert photo by Jeffrey Dooley
  • All compositions by Robbie Basho
  • All selections by Windham Hill Music (BMI)
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • © (p) Windham Hill Records 1978

Liner Notes

I would paint for you a portrait of North America, as a beautiful woman, when she was young and untarmed, untrammeled upon and unshamed. Her discipline was natural, her modesty overwhelming. And in the morning she would wash the burning face of the sun with her loving mist and comb his auburn hair with balsam fur: and he would smile upon her, and the day would begin and she would spread her apron for all to gather round her and she would feed the deer and the birds and share her loving heart with all creation. And with breakfast done, she would take her waterjar across her shoulders and off to the fields she would go; the seeds of corn and squash to sow, and she would raise her head to watch the forests weave their silent singing o’er the wind; and she would tickle the streams with magic fingers and feel the water’s flow and know the humor of their coursing. And up, up into the afternoon she would saunter, the sweat upon her brow, and past the jagged rocks, and past the balsam boughs , and in the shade od cedar she would stop to rest perchance to pray. Could she forget the warmth of sun against her eyes at night, and sight has fallen slowly into sleep and keep: and awake! and shake! and clear! and down and deep she wonders with the deer, and suppertime is drawing near; and dear it is the broth of sky she drinks and sweet the taste of buttered sun before he sinks (beyond the horizon),…..and twilight winks his way into her watchful heart, and start the song. For in the evening she would sing oh so sweetly that entire earth would turn on its side the better to hear her: and moon would place his palm against his cheek and weep with deep emotion for he was an old fellow with white hair, and she made him forget the distance of eons and eons and neutrons and protons. And of course this happened a long time ago before the age of tempered steel and ruffled lace, and outer space. But One can still hear her singing in the high countries of the heart and in the vast canyons of constant memory where the life of a single being is not forgotten nor forsworm and somewhere a child is born, and no where is the blanket torn between thee and me and shining sea and   God knows
earth calls
rain falls
corn growsloloma, loloma, loloma kwak kwai

WHS C-1004 Alex De Grassi Turning:Turning Back

Original Release Date: 1978

Current Artist Web Site: http://www.degrassi.com/

Review

Turning: Turning Back is Alex De Grassi’s first album and the fourth album issued on the Windham Hill label. This is a gorgeous solo acoustic guitar recording. In many ways it sets the tone for the remainder of what I consider to be the high period of the Windham Hill label.

De Grassi’s playing is technically deft, without being showy, creating a sound that flows and bubbles like water in a rocky brook, or sparkles like sunlight on aspen leaves – always engaging and thoughtful, and consistently filled with beauty and a positive energy.

This is a defining Windham Hill outing, but unfortunately not currently in print or available digitally.

Regarding other early Windham Hill releases, De Grassi says they are “Out of print and owned by Windham Hill/BMG. I can’t legally make them available. we’ve tried unsuccessfully to license them back. So, i might re-record them, but I can’t make them available as a digital download–sorry. Perhaps they will become available as individual pieces as downloads from Windham Hill,”

The recording quality is faultless with De Grassi’s guitar close-miked at the same San Mateo studio where William Ackerman’s first albums were recorded. Mastering by Stan Ricker and pressing by RTI of Camarillo makes the vinyl pressings similar to many Mobile Fidelity audiophile reissues.

In his Innerviews interview, De Grassi says of the album: “Turning: Turning Back really reflects a very personal approach to playing guitar and music in general,” he said. “People couldn’t put their finger on the genre. It came out before people called anything New Age. There were guitar influences from the British Isles like John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. I was listening to a lot of Keith Jarrett’s solo piano stuff at the time too. I really admired his playing and solo improvisations that cut across a lot of different lines and styles. Although it was jazz, it had a lot of qualities that were indefinable and indescribable. I think that was a very encouraging thing.”

Below is a terrific audio-only interview which begins with Alex talking about learning guitar and some of the things he brought to the recording of “Turning: Turning Back”.

Credits / Track Listing

Side One

  1. Turning (2:50) 1976
  2. Swordfish (2:53) 1977
  3. Luther’s Lullaby (2:49) 1975
  4. Blood and Jasmine (4:29) 1977
  5. Window (4:20) 1976

Side Two

  1. Children’s Dance (2:38) 1974
  2. Waltz and March of the Rhinoceri (2:40) 1975
  3. Alpine Medley (2:16) 1971-73
  4. Autumn Song (3:25) 1975
  5. Turning Back (5:22) 1977

Liner Notes

  • Recorded at Mantra Studios, San Mateo, CA
  • Engineered and mixed by Scott Saxon
  • Mastered by Stan Ricker
  • Pressings by Record Technology Inc.
  • Produced by Scott Saxon
  • Photography by Ron May
  • Design by Jay Watkins
  • All compositions by Alex De Grassi
  • All selections Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • © (p) Windham Hill Records 1978

WHS C-1003 William Ackerman It Takes A Year

WH 1003 It Takes a Year Ackerman
WH 1003 It Takes a Year Ackerman

Artist Current Web Site: http://williamackerman.com/music.html

Review

It Takes a Year is the second album by William Ackerman and the third issue on the Windham Hill label. Certainly the album is best known for introducing us to Ackerman’s most famous song “The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter.” There is much more to the album than the opening track – “It Takes a Year”, deftly transitions between fast-paced folk guitar songs and graceful, contemplative, almost melancholy studies.

Ackerman has said that “The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit” is about the feeling of innocence he had before his mother passed away when he was 12 – the same year he first took up the guitar. Just a beautiful piece – and one he would rerecord several times.

This is an album worth revisiting if you already own it, and sampling if you don’t. As the title implies a maturing and patience, “It Takes a Year” shows the key musical development of Ackerman with themes that he would work time and again over the next 30 years; Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter he has recorded at least twice more.

Produced again by Scott Saxon, the album was mastered by the legendary Stan Ricker. While not as consistent in sound as later albums, the recording still invites an intimate encounter with Ackerman’s guitar. Ackerman points out that one of the microphones he owns at Imaginary Road Studious is worth more than the entire recording budget for his first four albums, the sound is still quite good on the vinyl pressings, even if the steel strings sometimes show more of their metal than mettle.

Highly recommended.

Notably, this is the first Windham Hill album to use the ECM Records-inspired graphics that came to define the Windham Hill look.

I’ve been in touch with Scott Saxon and hope to report some additional details about the recording work he did on the early Windham Hill albums.

Credits

Side One

The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter, (3:38) 1975

Balancing, (3:35) 1975

The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit, (5:30) 1970

It Takes a Year, (4:52) 1976

Side Two

The Townshend Shuffle (4:27), 1970-1976

A Tribute To The Philosophy Of James Estell Bradley, (2:36) 1973

The Search for the Turtle’s Navel, (4:58) 1970

The Rediscovery Of Big Bug Creek, Arizona, (3:03) 1973

Liner Notes

  • Recorded at Mantra Studios, San Mateo, CA
  • Engineered and mixed by Scott Saxon
  • Mastered by Stan Ricker
  • Produced by Scott Saxon
  • Photography by Ron May
  • Design by Jay Watkins
  • All compositions by William Ackerman
  • All selections Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Pox 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • © (p) Windham Hill Records 1977

“Artists, I am told, are always searching for a new medium to explore. I honestly thought I had it, but it proved infeasible to lathe sound recordings into Tupperware. My apologies. The search goes on.”

William Ackerman 1977

Tunings and Tabs

Ackerman generously makes tunings for his songs available on his web site.

See “The Will Ackerman Collection” for selected song Tabs including “The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter”.

WH-C-1002 Linda Waterfall Mary’s Garden

WH 1002 Mary's Garden Waterfall

Release Date: 1976

Artist’s Current Site: http://lindawaterfall.com/

Update: New comment by Jim Bredouw added 6/1/2010. See below.

Review

The second Windham Hill album, and first solo Linda Waterfall album. She had previously released material with Entropy Service. Mary’s Garden a very pleasant folk/pop album, with several strong songs and excellent moments.

Here are Linda Waterfall’s comments on Mary’s Garden from her web site:

“My first solo album, originally released by Windham Hill Records.  Special thanks to William Ackerman, my old school buddy from Stanford, who offered to put out my first album and bring me into the music business.  Some day soon I want to re-release this recording on CD.  This collection of songs is very close to my heart.  It cherishes special  people I loved very much, who cared for me and started me on my path through life.”

Three of the first ten Windham Hill albums were not being reissued by the time 1980 rolled around; all three varied from what would become the Windham Hill sound: Robbie Basho’s album has gorgeous guitar work in the style that had so inspired Ackerman, but with intensely riveting vocals; Kidd Afrika is a blues album, and Mary’s Garden by Linda Waterfall is vocal folk/pop.

It’s clear that Ackerman had a good ear. There’s an awful lot to like on Mary’s Garden, even 30 plus years after it’s release. But the sound is so different from the crystalline vision of the acoustic instrumental music that would define Windham Hill that it’s no surprise it wasn’t reprinted when the label gained national distribution. In later years, fans would knock Windham Hill for segueing into electronic and vocal jazz. In reality, it had been part of the original vision of the label.

There’s a good albeit brief biography of Waterfall on answers.com.

Linda has clearly had a long and successful career as an artist in the wake of her auspicious initial release. Here’s a lovely video of Linda Waterfall singing “Way of Beauty” recorded in 2009 – some 33 years after the release of Mary’s Garden. Credits and Liner notes from Mary’s Garden after the video.

I’m pleased to have received a generous email from Jim Bredouw who engineered and produced the Mary’s Garden, which appears unedited.

Following are the ramblings of a 59-year old music veteran, any of which you’re free to use or edit as you see fit.

Re: the story w/Linda; I worked at a tiny 24 tk. studio on E. Pike St. in Seattle called The Music Farm between 1974-79. I saw Linda with Entropy Service in 1976 and was immediately enamored with her voice, songs, unique gtr. technique* and, of course, that gigantic smile. A few months later, as I was on my way to Santa Cruz to meet my future wife for the very first time (married as of now for 33 years), I stopped by Palo Alto to see Linda and Will Ackerman and pursued the idea of producing her for this fledging new label that Will named for his construction company.

(* 99% of all gtr. players use standard chording but Linda would write all her parts out and would voice her gtr. chords to not match, for example, the line in the treble clef on which her vocal was written – I’d never seen anyone take “folk” music and orchestrate it the way she did; which makes sense given her classical background – that is, she read and wrote music; a ‘legitimacy’ that was rare in those days of mostly self taught, unschooled rock and folk musicians).

I don’t believe Will had never signed an act before and as I had been involved in exactly one ‘deal’ with another act I’d produced, the master of which got bought and actually released by a major label (Capitol), I suppose I thought of myself as the seasoned professional among we three (laughable now, of course, as Will became perhaps the most successful independent label since Berry Gordy of Motown and I never again placed another major) and if memory serves, I believe I might have helped Linda better her deal with Will a tiny bit and negotiated my end as well. (I think after moderate sales, it amounted to a few hundred bucks but in those days of regularly having an annual income of $6,000, that was a lot – it was also a high honor just to be paid to make a record in the then very small Seattle studio world.)

Linda generously allowed me to collaborate on her arrangements and I hired maybe a dozen or so of my favorite studio players to enhance her already complete compositions and the result, I think, still mostly stands up today – I particularly love the steel guitar on Mary’s Garden played by Chris Middaugh of the much loved Seattle country band, The Skyboys – more on them later. (I also hired the photographer, Jonathan Crane, the brother of an ex-girlfriend who took what I consider to be an iconic cover photo.)

She and I, considering that we’re both being fairly headstrong and opinionated about music (and most things), got along famously to my memory and I truly loved the entire process. (She also patiently and generously taught me how to write music which was instrumental to my future work orchestrating and even conducting large studio orchestras in my commercial composing career.

We were both proud of this record. Anecdotally, my next project after Linda was producing the aforementioned Skyboys – perhaps the best record I’ve ever produced. Midway through recording, they fired their bass player and on a WAY out of left field whim, I suggested that they audition Linda, who is also a remarkably capable bassist, among her many abilities. To many people’s surprise I would guess, she actually joined this hard drinking touring bar band all over Western Washington for the next couple of years and enhanced them all musically much as she had me – nothing unusual given her need to constantly be exploring her musical boundaries.

A couple of years after the completion of Mary’s Garden, I moved to LA, gradually built a 16-studio recording complex called The L.A. Studios (http://www.facebook.com/l/dc780;www.lastudios.com), which coincidentally I just sold two weeks ago after 30 years, and as mentioned, composed music for commercials for a number of years; most notably for Nike. I am now retired on Orcas Island north of Seattle and work out of a private home studio.

 

This also has the distinction of being the first Windham Hill album with a lyric sheet with the first note to Windham Hill customers:

“Windham Hill records is, and will probably remain, a small record label. As such, and with a budget typical of most independent ventures, this is little to rely upon in terms of promotion for our music but the quality of the music itself. Though we obviously hop to survive financially, we will be less concerned with the mass appeal of our recordings than with promoting the talents of the individual artist, whose freedom artistically will be in no way compromised by Windham Hill. So without wanting to become in any way elitist, we will be content to reach an audience looking for some alternative to the dictates of the major labels. The production of our albums will be of a quality consistent with our regard for the music, and though there are certainly good arguments for “home recordings,” we have chosen to master only the work of professional studios. Please write to us and inquire about our other recordings.”

In a 2016 Facebook post, Ackerman added some details about this, and the othe early Windham Hill instrumental title, Kidd Afrika: “Linda Waterfall (Mary’s Garden) and Kidd Afrika were personal choices of mine … Linda was at Stanford with me and was close to JB White and Frank Light (the “White Light Band”) who were as good as any duo on the radio at the time…. no, I mean REALLY as good as anything on the radio at that time. Linda was equally brilliant …. Kidd Afrika included Larry Ryan who was a faculty brat like me… his dad was in the English Dept. at Stanford along with my dad and a lot of memories include Larry.”

 

Credits:

Side One

Country Bar (for Jimi Norton)

  • guitar, bass: Linda Waterfall
  • electric Piano: Martin Lund
  • drums: Peter Brown
  • chickenpicken’:Charlie Morgan

Mary’s Garden

  • guitar, bass: Linda Waterfall
  • pedal steel: Chris Middaugh
  • Song for Elizabeth (for Elizabeth Stolurow)
  • guitars: Linda Waterfall

The Spell

  • guitar: Linda Waterfall
  • congas: Jerry Weeden
  • seagulls, foghorn: Jim Bredouw

Gary

  • piano: Linda Waterfall
  • bass: Jim Lilly
  • drums: Donny Marrow
  • electric guitar: Charlie Morgan from Kidd Afrika

Side Two

Grandma’s Crumbcake

  • guitar, arrangement: Linda Waterfall
  • clarinet: Martin Lund

Cherry Tomato

  • guitar: Linda Waterfall

The Bird Song

  • guitars, arrangement: Linda Waterfall
  • cello: Page Smith
  • brown rice, stopwatch: Tim Rock

Lullaby

  • guitar, kalimba, bass: Linda Waterfall
  • electric piano: Martin Lund

All Alone Tonight

  • piano, bass: Linda Waterfall
  • accordian: Martin Lund

Liner Notes:

  • Recorded at the Music Farm in Seattle
  • Engineered and mixed by Jim Bredouw
  • Mastered by Ken Perry at Capitol Records
  • Produced by Jim Bredouw
  • All vocals by Linda Waterfall
  • All compositions by Linda Waterfall
  • Photography by Jonathan Crane

“I would like to thank Jim Bredouw for his fine engineering, invaluable production advice, and for being great fun to work with. I would also like to thank William Ackerman of Windham Hill Records for his friendship and enthusiasm. Special thanks also to Gunnar Erickson, Ned Hearn, Richenda Richardson, The Music Farm, and Entropy Service; to Peter Langston for ideas I used in the arrangements of The Bird Song and Lullaby, to Annette Morriss for the first line of Cherry Tomato, and to my teachers Mrs. Olga Sorenson Fuss, Mrs. William Burgoyne, and especially to Mary Festinger.

All selections Windham Hill Music (BMI) except Grandma’s Crumbcake Mighty Oak Music

Manufactured ny Windham Hill Records, Stanford, California (c) & (p) 1976 Windham Hill Records.