WH 666 Windham Hell

Windham Hell is an “Ambient Neoclassical Avant-garde Metal” band from Snowqualmie, WA.

No connection to Windham Hill, but I can’t resist a really good pun.

While I grew up on metal as a kid in the 70’s, I’m not much of an afficianado of more current work, but it’s clear that there is more here than your standard teenage wannabe dark metal group. If you like Windham Hill AND Metal, they might be worth checking out. As an aside, if you like Windham Hill AND Goth, you must check out Dean Can Dance.

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

Oh, and as long we’re on humor, violins and metal, check out the “Violin Hero” video from Bay Area string metal group Judgement Day. It’s worth it just to watch the opening bit.

WH 1016 Scott Cossu Wind Dance

WH 1016 Wind Dance Scott Cossu

Review

Scott Cossu’s “Wind Dance” is the artists first album, and the 16th release on Windham Hill. Wind Dance is the first ensemble recording on Windham Hill that most people are familiar with, but Linda Waterfall’s “Mary’s Garden” and the eponymous “Kidd Afrika” R&B album predates it by some 5 years.

Cossu is a thoughtful and talented player, and the second side of the album in particular is strong. Nonetheless, “Wind Dance” is lighter than Cossu’s later works. Cossu and labelmate de Grassi explore music that will be familiar to listeners of the Pat Metheny Group recordings of the time.

Reviews at the time were deservedly positive. From Cossu’s web site:


“Cossu weds ethnic diversity to his natural style of ethereal piano. His enticing polyrhythms are fit for ecstatic dancing. A sparkling record.”
– The Boston Globe

“Undoubtedly, Scott Cossu is one of the jazz luminaries of the future.”
-Billboard Magazine

Recommended for Scott Cossu fans, Windham Hill collectors, or fans of Pat Metheny’s early work. Otherwise, look to Scott Cossu’s later recordings which are overall stronger.

Track Listing

Side One

  1. Jamaica 5:00
  2. Demeter/Rejoicing 5:32
  3. Kinsa 5:04
  4. Purple Mountain 5:29

Side Two

  1. Freija 6:25
  2. Almost Like Heaven 4:22
  3. Wind Dance 7:44

Produced by George Winston

  • All Compositions by Scott Cossu
  • All Selections are Silver Crow Music (BMI)
  • Administered by Windham Hill Music (BMI)
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • A Division of Windham Hill Productions, Inc.
  • Box 9388, Stanford, CA 94305

Distributed by A&M Records, Inc.

©(p) Windham Hill Records 1981

Research Notes

Dan Reiter’s Biography from the 1981 “Passage” Album:

DAN REITER, CELLO

Dan Reiter, 29, has for the past six years been co-principal cellist with the Oakland Symphony. He attended the conservatory at Cincinatti University and studied with Jack Kirstein. In addition to his work with the symphony, Dan composes unusual chamber music – incorporating folk and jazz elements along with classical – for his trio of clarinet, bass, and cello.

WHS C-1015 Windham Hill Artists – Windham Hill Records Sampler ’81

Review

Terrific compilation from the first fourteen Windham Hill Releases – or more specifically, nine of the first fourteen. By 1981, the musical direction of the label was crystal clear, with an emphasis on acoustic instrumental music. The blues/R&B party album by Kidd Afrika, the upbeat folk/pop of Linda Waterfall, and the vocal poems from Robbie Basho’s “Visions of the Country” would all remain footnotes from the label’s formation.

What remains is an excellent overview – missing only a track from Ackerman’s just released “Passage” or the essential “Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit.” The preponderance of solo guitar work is balanced by one long solo piano piece on each side – Bill Quist’s “3 Gymnopedies” on the first, and George Winston’s “Moon” on the second. This is also a master class in the subtle differences in styles of finger-picking guitarists, giving the listener a variety of techniques and tones – from the classically-tinged style of David Qualey, through the intensely soulful playing of Robbie Basho to Will Ackerman’s and de Grassi’s developing styles.

Sampler ’81 is well worth picking up; it’s a great overview of the early Windham Hill style, and some of the cuts are from the Qualey, Hecht and Basho albums which are hard to find and often collected only by completists.

Comments

Share your thoughts, memories or experiences with this album using the comments field at the bottom of this post.

Track Listing

Side One

  • Santa Cruz 2:09
  • David Qualey
  • Soliloquy WH-1011
  • Glenwood Music Corp. ASCAP
  • Produced by David Qualey

Side Two

  • Produced by William Ackerman Except Where Indicated
  • ©(p) Windham Hill Records 1981

Samples

In addition to the original artists’ performances below, you’ll note two excellent cover versions of the de Grassi and Ackerman tracks. De Grassi and Ackerman are good about sharing their tunings, and YouTube hosts dozens of performers who have learned the songs and uploaded their performances. It’s great to see that so many people who are touched by this music learn it and pass it on.

Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daugher – Ackerman

Santa Cruz – Qualey

3 Gymnopedies – Quist/Satie

Children’s Dance – de Grassi (cover version, but masterfully done)

Seattle – Ackerman (cover version)

Credits

  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Box 9388, Stanford, CA 94305

WHSD C-1014 William Ackerman Passage

Review

A  musically and technologically transformative album, “Passage” is William Ackerman’s fourth release and the fourteenth  Windham Hill Records issue.

Musically, “Passage” represents a breakthrough for Ackerman. His prior album “Childhood and Memory” still showed the folk-music roots he learned at the side of Robbie Basho and John Fahey. Here, Ackerman recasts four of his earlier compositions into his developing style. By adding accompaniment from talented classical and folk performers the songs project nuances and colors that his solo guitar only implied. It also shows the direction of future many future ensemble albums.

After years of playing Windham Hill music for friends and family, I do need to say that there are those who simply find the pace and tone of this album depressing. I find it relaxing and fulfilling, but I’ve seen the response in enough people that it’s worth mentioning. I have the same reaction when I listen to Joy Division – it’s like a Dementor has entered the room. Music should cause an emotional response, and Passage does so beautifully, however, your response may vary.

Importantly, Ackerman released “Passage” right on the heels of  George Winston’s “Autumn”, giving the many fans of that album a natural step deeper into Ackerman’s vision of new acoustic music. The album clocks in at an all too brief 27 minutes – and each composition is a model of restraint and balance, making it seem even shorter. Nonetheless, this is an album well worth seeking out – the versions of the songs performed here are brilliant, and yet not the versions that have made it onto the Windham Hill compilations. If you like “Remedios” or “the Impeding Death of the Virgin Spirit,” these are the definitive versions.

Technically, “Passage” is important as one of the first purely digital albums released worldwide. Seeking to convey the music, Ackerman was driven to produce the finest audiophile-quality pressings, when audiophile was a term barely heard outside of a small group of passionate hobbyists. While early digital recordings often sound thin and etched in comparison to the best analog pieces, Harn Soper and the engineering team at the Music Annex avoided this. Rather the flat frequency response provides clarity. The vinyl, mastered by Stan Ricker at Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs and pressed by RTI of Camarillo sounds terrific, and perhaps the analog sheen provided by the vinyl works sympathetically with the early digital technology.

Fishman Transducers, in their customer profiles, shares their story of the formation of Windham Hill:

The label was regarded as an audiophile label, offering record pressings of far greater quality than the competition. Half speed mastering, standard at Windham Hill, was nearly unheard of in a competitively priced record label. The label experimented with vinyl compounds and a host of other innovations. SONY approached Windham Hill with the first digital processor in the US, the SONY PCM 1600 and Ackerman’s own PASSAGE LP was among the first purely digital releases in the world. Windham Hill became the source of the first digital simulcast and experimented with the first digital audio laserdiscs (winning Gold awards in Japan for a series of videos created in cooperation with Paramount Home Video in the US.

Comments

If you have thoughts, memories or experiences to share about this album, or have questions about its recording, we encourage you to use the comments section at the end of this post.

Track Listing

Side One

  1. Remedios 5:06
  2. Processional 3:46
  3. The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit 6:02
  4. Pacific I 2:10

Side Two

  1. The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter 3:49
  2. Hawk Circle 5:03
  3. Anne’s Song 3:31
  4. Passage 4:25

Samples

Remedios

Processional

Credits

  • Graphic Design by Anne Ackerman
  • Cover Photo by Jerry Marcaccini
  • Inside Photography by Ron May
  • Liner Photo by Anne Ackerman
  • 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, 1981

Liner Notes

Back Cover

I am most grateful to the musicians who composed and performed on PASSAGE, and to the many individuals who contributed their technical expertise to bring this audiophile recording about. The musical program of PASSAGE consists of eight pieces: four are new renditions of previously recorded compolistions while the others are recent compositions and previously unrecorded. Steel string guitar is the ocus of the album, but duets feature violin, piano, cello, and english horn hopefully add scope both to the musical program and to the range of tonalities highlighted by the digital recording process.

William Ackerman

Inside Gatefold

This album was recorded on the Sony PCM 1600 Digital Recording System. The guitar was miked in stereo with two AKG 452 EB microphones. A Neve 8036 console was used in conjunction with an EMT 240 stereo reverberation system. The control room monitors used were UREI 813 Time Align Monitors powered by a BGW amplifier and equalized through two White 1/3 Octave equalizers.

My thanks to Kellie Johnson who built the six-string used for the majority of this recording. My thanks also to Guild Guitars for providing the custom D-40-C heard in these recordings, Adamas Strings, and Gryphon Stringed instruments of Palo Alto for their careful work.

Darol Anger, Robert Hubbard, Dan Reiter and George Winston composed the parts they performed on the duets – Remedios, Pacific I, Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit, and Hawk Circle, respectively.

Other LPs by William Ackerman:

  • Turtle’s Navel 1976 C1001
  • It Takes A Year 1977 C1003
  • Childhood and Memory 1979 C1006

This album is also available on coassette CTC 1014 and audiophile cassette A CTC 1014.

Darol Anger, violin

Darol Anger got his start on the violin after hearing a strolling violinist play “Never On Sunday.” From there it was all downhill. He took up electric guitar in high school in an effort to become popular, but nothing happened so he turned to fiddling. Nothing happened then, either, but he stuck to it, screeching and scratching his way through countless oldtimejugrootsrockreggaebluesswing-bebop&showtune type bands. He was a founding member of the David Grisman Quintet, with whom he continues to play Dawg music and jazz nonstandards. Darol has released on solo album, “Fiddlestics,” on the Kaleidoscope label.

Robert Hubbard, english horn

Robert Hubbard has played oboe and english horn throughout the San Francisco bay area for the past twenty years. A member of the San Jose Symphony, and co-founded the Midsummer Mozart Festival, his musical tastes tend to be less than well-rounded.

The prospect of appearing on this album, however, has lured him from his insular habitat, the dank and musty depths of the classical concert hall, into the fresh air and sunlight of Will Ackerman’s inimitable music.

Dan Reiter, cello

Dan Reiter, 29, has for the past six years been co-principal cellist with the Oakland Symphony. He attended the conservatory at Cincinatti University and studied with Jack Kirstein. In addition to his work with the symphony, Dan composes unusual chamber music – incorporating folk and jazz elements along with classical – for his trio of clarinet, bass, and cello.

George Winston, piano

Pianist George Winston’s first Windham Hill album, “Autumn,” has brought him instant acclaim and popularity throughout the country. His impressionistic music draws upon such diverse sources as Harlem stride pianist Fats Waller, New Orleans R&B progenitor Professor Longhair, jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, and steel-string guitarist Alex De Grassi. George’s first recording, Ballads and Blues, 1972, was recently reissued on Lost Lake Arts.

Research Notes

Roger Prior

In a May 5, 1979 article, Roger Prior, listed here as the digital consultant, is referenced as the manager for Sony Digital products. The article goes on to reference the Sony PCM-1600 used here as the first digital recording device and a “foothold for Sony.” It also points out that jazz and classical recordings would be first to take up the technology because those idioms required no more than two-track recording, and that’s what the digital recorders of the day offered.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs (MoFi)

In 1980, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs were really just coming into popular awareness with the recent releases of the “Original Master Recording” series of popular albums including Supertramp’s Crime of the Century and the Beatles’ Remasters. Today, they are widely recognized as the finest pressings available for any album. And yet, fundamentally, every Windham Hill album released from 1978 on was produced in substantially the same way by the same people who made Mobile Fidelity the pinnacle of vinyl pressings.

In the credits above, I linked to the current Mobile Fidelity site. Mobile Fidelity has remained an iconic re-issue label even after having changed hands and going through a turbulent business history. More information about Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs history here: http://www.mofi.com/store/pc/viewcontent.asp?idpage=14

Quiex Vinyl

This is the first reference I have ever seen to Quiex Vinyl – a virgin vinyl compound with superior sound qualities. The Classic Records re-issue label uses the current formulation of Quiex extensively. I have several Blue Note and Led Zeppelin pressings using Quiex SVP from Classic that all sound great. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to locate the manufacturer – if you know, let me know so that I can properly credit them.

WHS C-1013 Daniel Hecht Willow

Review

Willow is Daniel Hecht’s third album, after Guitar (1973) and Fireheart/Firewater (1977), and the thirteenth album in the Windham Hill discography. Willow is a pleasant laid-back guitar album. Compared to the breakthrough compositions that Ackerman, De Grassi and Basho were releasing at this time, it is much more conventional in style. It also takes a different tack than David Qualey’s classically-informed “Soliliquy.”

Most listeners, this writer included, will find “Willow” unexciting in comparison to the work of his label-mates. Nonetheless, there is much to recommend here. Hecht’s playing is confident, with a good sense of space and timing. His compositions are familiar and unchallenging. But I’ve learned long ago that there are many who will cherish the simple, even simplistic, art over the more technically complex. Sometimes that person is me – I’d be more likely to play “Willow” when others are around than Robbie Basho’s albums – though there’s no doubt that Basho’s intense artistry outclasses Hecht’s competent but modest charms. Indeed, “Willow” will be a pleasant diversion for the completist collector; but hardly worth pursuing to the ends of the earth.

Hecht never released another Windham Hill album, though “Willow” continued in print for many years. In 1989, he gave up playing guitar to take up writing, where he has had much success. As Hecht tells it on his site:

“A medical condition affected my hands and made playing pretty impossible. Giving up the guitar was tough, but I’m glad I did. For one thing, my compositions were very “athletic,” requiring constant practice – time-consuming and boring. And I just couldn’t get as good as I wanted to be I played a lot of concerts with terrific musicians like Alex De Grassi and Michael Hedges, and after a while I realized I didn’t have the level of talent. But I feel fortunate to have been deflected into writing. Telling stories comes naturally to me, and I seem to have an endless well of ideas, observations and interests to draw from.”

Original Release Date: 1980

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

Comments

If you have thoughts, memories or experiences  experiences to share about this album, or have questions about its recording, we encourage you to use the comments section at the end of this post.

Track Listings

Side One

  • Willow 5:03
  • Autumn 3:27
  • Water Mantra 3:48
  • Jimmy Blue Eyes 3:07
  • Love’s Reply 3:54

Side Two

  • Confluence of the Rivers 3:35
  • Shell Game 3:20
  • Tanglefoot’s Tales 5:46
  • March of the Trolls 3:50
  • Afternoon Postlude Soliliquy 3:32

US Visitors: Hear a a sample of Afternoon Postlude Soliliquy in iTunes Preview. Track 13.

Lead Guitar on Jimmy Blue Eyes by Alex De Grassi

Credits

  • All Compositions by Daniel Hecht
  • All Selections Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records,
  • Box 9388 Stanford, Ca. 94305
  • ©(p) Windham Hill Records 1980

Liner Notes

My especial thanks to Ervin Somogyi, of Berkeley, California, who made my delightful six-string guitar; and to Fred Carlson of Plainfield, Vermont, who made my twelve string. And to my brother Nicholas for his timely and gracious assistance.

Releases

“Willow” by Daniel Hecht was originally released on Windham Hill Records as WHS C-1013, and later as WH 1013. CD’s were released as WD 1013.

WHS C-1011 David Qualey Soliliquy

Review

David Qualey’s Soliloquy is the guitarist’s third album, and the eleventh Windham Hill release.

David describes himself as a classical guitarist. But he’s one who idolized Chet Atkins, played guitar in casino halls and folk-rock groups before moving to Germany to make a living as a guitarist. His varied background shows on Soliloquy. The solo guitar compositions, all his own, are clearly influenced by classical guitar – but have a compositional freedom that is at once immediate and timeless.

Owners of many of the Windham Hill reissues will immediately recognize the track “Santa Cruz” which captures the funky and cheery nature of the California beach town. The rest of the album is full of surprises – humor, delicacy, and grace are all present in turns throughout the album. The one emotion missing: plaintiveness, that beautifully aching longing that so impregnates a William Ackerman album. Here, Qualey’s work is beautiful, but fun, friendly and full of heart.

In his biography, Qualey tells of how Soliloquy came to be:

“It was in 1979 that Will Ackerman of Windham Hill Records in California heard of my music and wanted to get something of mine out on his new label. He got in touch with me and asked me to rerecorded the pieces from my Stockfisch album Only Guitar, which I did in my new studio, and delivered it personally to him in Palo Alto. This LP/CD was titled Soliloquy and was to be the one and only complete solo LP/CD of mine with Windham Hill.”

Qualey had just built his own recording studio and the quality is extraordinary. The recording and mastering by Stan Ricker pay off in an album that’s dynamic  – capturing the gentle nuances and full power of Qualey’s playing. There is also enough detail to satisfy those who want to hear the zing of the guitar strings as well as the harmonic resonances of the body.

Because Qualey never recorded another Windham Hill album, I overlooked this entry into the catalog for years, to my loss. While it represents a stylistic twist from the De Grassi/Ackerman albums, it’s one that will appeal to virtually every fan of the rest of the label’s output.

Says Qualey, “I was featured on several samplers over the coming years but we just never could agree on the music content for a second LP/CD. Windham Hill had achieved considerable success by the early 80’s and had their idea of what type or kind music they wanted to present on their label. Being that my LP’s were always a mixture of musical moods, which was my idea and way, I did not like someone else mixing into my LP creations. I think you get the picture? Ackerman and I just couldn’t meet at the same place on the street…, so we just each left it at that. He went on to become a super successful businessman and I remained a guitarist living in Europe.”

Highly recommended.

Track Listing

Side One

  1. Opus 20 3:29
  2. Homfeld Suite 3:42
  3. Opus 21 2:34
  4. Opus 19 3:22
  5. Opus 18 2:09
  6. Opus 22 3:47

Side Two

  1. Norwegian’s Fantasy 2:27
  2. Solo for Strings 3:00
  3. Santa Cruz 2:09
  4. Soliliquy 2:12
  5. Sylvia’s Waltz 2:36
  6. Sunset 4:09

Samples:

Opus 20

Homfeld Suite

Opus 18

Santa Cruz

Credits

Produced by David Qualey

  • Recorded by David Qualey, Dehmke, West Germany, 1979
  • Mastered by David Kulka at LRS Pressings by RTI, Camarillo, CA.
  • Graphic Design by Will Ackerman
  • Cover Photo by Will Ackerman
  • Liner Photo by Anne Ackerman
  • All compositions by David Qualey
  • All selections are Glenwood Music Corp. ASCAP
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • © & (p) Windham Hill Records 1980

Liner Notes

“This American Classical Guitarist now living in Germany manages to inject leagues of emotion into his already superb compositions.” Dan Forte, Guitar Player

David Qualey records in Europe on the Telefunken, Sonet, and Stockfisch labels.

Research Notes

Stockfisch features other David Qualey releases in their current site.

Dan Forte is editor at large for Vintage Guitar Magazine. From his spoke.com biography: Dan Forte grew up in Northern California, listening to his father’s Chet Atkins and Barney Kessel albums, along with his older brothers’ 45s of Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Buddy Holly. Duane Eddy and the Ventures were his earliest inspirations on guitar, which he took up at age 12. By the time he graduated from Stanford University, he was already freelancing for Guitar Player magazine and joined its editorial staff in 1976. In 1983 he toured with the original Ventures, subbing for Don Wilson on rhythm guitar for two weeks. An ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award winner for excellence in music journalism, Dan has interviewed such legends as Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, Buck Owens, Jimmy Reed, George Harrison, James Jamerson, and Carlos Santana for Rolling Stone, Musician, and numerous other publications, and annotated albums by Eddy, Tony Rice, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tommy Tedesco, and Albert Collins, among others. He currently lives in Austin, Texas.

WHS C-1010 Robbie Basho The Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar

Original Release Date: 1979

Current Artist Site: http://www.bluemomentarts.de/bma/rbasho/en/visions.html

Review

“The Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar” is the tenth Windham Hill release and the eleventh album by the artist. Because it varies somewhat stylistically from the direction that future Windham Hill albums would take, the label re-issued it under the “Lost Lake Arts” imprint as LL83.

Basho was a brilliant guitarist whose goal was to make the steel-string guitar an serious concert instrument. His work, more than others influenced William Ackerman as a guitarist. The music is admittedly and acquired taste for most, but repeated listenings will reward any who have interest in compelling and intense musicality.

Track Listing

Side One: 26:35

1. THE GRAIL AND THE LOTUS 6:36 – A Neo-Gothic construction for six string, combining East and West.

2 CATHEDRALS ET FLEUR DI LIS 7:00 – A 12th century French cathedral in the province with gardens, flowers and birds. Now comes a rainstorm, and hear the organ sounding within the church. After the rainstorm, doves flying from the cathedral windows, adn the immortal chimes.

3. PASHA II 6:33 – Islamic Hymn for the Goddess of the Rose

4. A STUDY FOR STEEL STRING 2:59 – Vivaldi and trumpets for six string guitar.

5. ACKERMAN SPECIAL 1:16 – German Rococo

6. APRES MIDI AMERICAN 1:56 – Nature Mood

Side Two: 24:42

1. VARIATIONS ON GRIEG 5:02 –  A romance for six string in C tuning (the Sun Tuning)

2. SCOTTISH RITES 4:38 – A study for 12-string thinking of Vaughan Williams

3. PAVAN INDIA 7:11 – A mini-raga for 6 string

4. VARIATIONS ON EZUMI 4:03 – A guitar piece based upon a them by Kemio Ito

5. VARIATIONS ON CLAIRE DE LUNE 3:36 No one can ever match the Claire de Lune by Presti and La Goya ( a husband and wife team on Nonesuch) but I thought this 12-string version was a good way to end the evening.

Credits

Coming Soon.

Liner Notes

It was in 1972 that I first heard Robbie Basho. Since that time I’ve been to hundreds of performances, but very few are as carved in my memory as that one. Only 50 or so people were in that tiny Berkeley rehearsal hall. I’d reviewed Robbie’s “Song of the Stallion” for Guitar Player Magazine, and he wanted me to hear hmi live. Frakly, I went to the concert out of courtesy. But I left a believer.

Robbie’s music has a way of totally captivating listeners, of enabling use to transcent our troubles, our daily concerns. We find ourselves in places we’ve perhaps never been, in times we probably never saw. WE get to experience those places and times, not with music that recreates bubbling brooks or galloping horses, but iwth performances that let us feel what Basho calls the “theatre” of America or India or generations poset or those to come.

The great classical guitarist, Andres Segovia, spent three decades before he was able to create a concert following for the solo guitar. Similarly, Robbie Basho is working to develop such an audience for the American steel string guitar. For nearly twenty years he has been touring the world to assimilate its diverse musical forms and instruments into his own approach toward the 6- and 12-string guitars. “My main desire,” he says, “is to establish the steel string as a concert instrument indigenous to America. To this end, Basho has refused to compromise his art in any way.

WHS C-1009 Alex De Grassi Slow Circle

Original Release Date: 1979

Alex De Grassi Web Site: http://degrassi.com/

Review

“Slow Circle” is Alex De Grassi’s second album and the ninth album released on Windham Hill Records. For this album, Ackerman commissioned liner notes by Tom Wheeler, which I will only second here because they so perfectly capture this album. See the full piece below.

The mood is classic Windham Hill. Where Ackerman tries to capture a mood directly, De Grassi writes songs to capture a sense of place: rural, but not necessarily grand places with natural beauty. “Causeway” is really about the causeway going over the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Klamath is really about Klamath in Northern California, and so forth. This makes his songs less poignant, overall, cheerier and more relaxed.

The sound quality is faultless – recording again by Harn Soper at the Music Annex, the recording doesn’t cast a soundstage – rather it puts you almost in the position of the guitarist himself. The reverberant body of the guitar is constant presence, and obviously a well-considered part of De Grassi’s playing.

This is an essential recording.

Track Listing

Side One: 20:26

CAUSEWAY                            (1) 1978 (4:09)

INVERNESS                            (1) 1978 (3:24)

KLAMATH                              (2) 1978 (2:51)

SLEEPING LADY                   (4) 1978 (5:17)

SLOW CIRCLE I                     (2) 1975 (4:18)

Side One: 17:01

SLOW CIRCLE II               (2) 1978 (2:56)

WHITE RAIN                      (1) 1978 (3:36)

MARCH SKY                        (1) 1975 (4:03)

MIDWESTERN SNOW   (3) 1979 (6:10)

The Tunings:

(1) E B E F# B E

(2) E B E G A D

(3) E B E G# B D#

(4) E B E F# B D

Credits

My special thanks to Ervin Somogyi of Berkeley, CA who built and provided the guitar used for this recording.

Alex De Grassi.

Liner Notes

Alex DeGrassi is an acoustic guitar impressionist. At the heart of his music is an aesthetic sensibility that embraces both the beautiful and the abstract. His songs are at once enjoyable and provocative, combining classical harmonies, the deceptive simplicity of various ethnic and folk musics, and a freedom from convention befitting a jazz composer.

SLOW CIRCLE is especially communicative, for at every turn it hints of an accumulation of experiences worth sharing. Alex’s poetic intuition is acute, imparting to SLOW CIRCLE a visual suggestiveness, a timeless quality evoking not just rain or snow, but dreams of rain, memories of snow.

There is much variety here, though not in the usual sense of a guitarist displaying his facility with various established styles. Rather there is a single, cohesive style, a new voice. The strong tonal anchor of each piece is explored in a variety of ways, encompassing a variety of moods – intense and serene, cheerful and introspective, romantic and invigorating. There are delicate minuets that lilt and twirl, meditative tone poems, and thematic, self-accompanied melodies, all punctuated with deft harmonics.

Alex’s compositional hallmark is his special gift for the unexpected – the chordal twist, the elegant juxtaposition. Instead of ignoring classical harmony and consonance, he filters them through his own perception and presents a new harmony, a new consonance. He can tinge an original melody with the echo of a childhood favorite, a fusion that brings to mind Samuel Johnson’s remark about the poetry of Alexander Pope: “New things ar made familiar, and familiar things are made new.”

Alex fingerpicks a clear and bright sounding steel string guitar. Like his compositions, his playing is sensitive and inspired. Staccato flurries are executed with confidence, and the dense, blurry-fast arpeggios are as stunning for their articulation as for their speed. Poignant passages are played with grace, and Alex’s attention to detail, his appreciation for nuance, pervades every corner. In short, his technique is potentially virtuosic, scary, the kind that shoves fellow pickers to the cliff of decision: should I practice like a madman, or chuck it all together?

With SLOW CIRCLE, Alex DeGrassi establishes his artistry in the first moments of the first piece, and there soon emerges an identity so distinct and so inseparable from the songs that it’s hard to imagine another guitarist attempting them. There is a good chance that SLOW CIRCLES’s energy will take you in, that its eloquence will speak to you, and that its lingering spirit will bring  you back.

TOM WHEELER / Guitar Player 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.