WH 1018 Alex de Grassi Clockwork

WH 1018 DeGrassi_Clockwork

Review

The first true ensemble album in the Windham Hill style – Clockwork really defined the label’s sound for the next several years. Alex de Grassi proves that not only is he one of his generations finest guitarists, he has a larger musical vision, ambition and extraordinary taste in collaborators. The players all bring both a technical and lyrical deftness to their parts, and as the album name implies, there is a musical interplay that creates a rhythmic whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Fans of de Grassi’s solo guitar work are rewarded on the second side with the Bougainvillea Suite opening – gorgeous and thoughtful guitar music.

Clockwork can be hard to find, and it is not the last word in either de Grassi’s or the label’s collective work, but it’s important as a new creative step in the genre-defining label, and a worthy listen in and of itself.

Recommended.

Comments

Have a thought, memory or experience to share about this album or any of the musicians? Share it in the comments section below.

Track Listing

Side One:

Thirty-six 6:34
guitar, piano, percussion

Two Color Dream 6:25
guitar, fretless bass, soprano sax, drums

Clockwork 6:54
guitar, lyricon, fretless bass, percussion

Side Two: Bougainvillea Suite

Opening 1:49
solo guitar
Bougainvillea 3:35
solo guitar
Elegy 1:14
solo guitar
Sorta Samba 5:55
guitar, violin, mandolin, bass
Part Five 4:43
guitar, soprano sax, lyricon, violin, mandolin, bass

Credits

Musicians:

Alex de Grassi: guitar
Darol Anger: violin
Scott Cossu: piano
Chuck Greenberg: soprano sax, lyricon
Mike Marshall: mandolin
Patrick O’hearn: fretless bass
Michael Spiro: percussion
Robb Wasserman: bass
Kurt Wortman: drums

Produced by Alex de Grassi

Engineered and Mixed by Oliver DiCicco, Mobius Music, San Francisco
Original Half-Speed Mastering by Stan Ricker, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, Chatsworth, CA
Matrix and Pressing by Record Technology, Camarillo, CA

Graphic Design by Anne Ackerman
Cover Monoprint and Liner Photo by Anne Ackerman

All Compositions by Alex de Grassi
All Selections Tropo Music BMI
Administered by Windham Hill Music BMI
Manufactured by Windham Hill Music BMI
Manufactured by Windham Hill Records Box 9388, Stanford, CA 94305

(p) Alex de Grassi 1981

© Windham Hill Records 1981

Special thanks to Nick and Esther Baran, Jeff Heiman, and Elaine Marans for their support.

Other recordings by Alex de Grassi

Turning: Turning Back WH-1004, Cassette WT-1004

Slow Circle WH-1009, Cassette WT-1009

  • Alex de Grassi
  • Clockwork
  • WHS C-1108
  • WH 1008

WH 1017 Michael Hedges Breakfast in the Field

WH 1017 Breakfast in the Field Hedges

Review

Michael Hedges was playing in a Palo Alto coffeeshop when William Ackerman heard him and signed him on the spot. Good move. Hedges is arguably the best acoustic guitarist to ever play, with apologies to Ackerman, de Grassi,  Django Reinhardt and Bucky Pizzarelli.

“Breakfast in the Field” is Hedges’ first album, and the seventeenth Windham Hill release. It’s a deceptive album – what sounds simple has incredible technical skills behind it; what sounds pastoral becomes funky and urban. When the album came out, the buzz was not only that you had to hear Michael Hedges, but you had to see him playing. His style was so new and different that it made it seem as if the instrument had simply been waiting all these generations for its true master to come along. “Breakfast” gives you the first taste of the tremendous talent that Hedges developed before he died at the age of 43 in a car crash north of San Francisco.

Because “Breakfast in the Field” opens with two slow-paced songs, the casual listener could easily be fooled into playing the album quietly as background music. But turn it up, pay a little attention, and it will quickly become apparent just how much this 34-minute acoustic album can rock.

Michael Manring, who was so omnipresent on Windham Hill that it seemed as if he functioned as a house bassist, makes his first appearance here. George Winston, on the heels of “Autumn” and his successful contribution to William Ackerman’s “Passage” also performs here. In both cases, the effect is to complement and not overwhelm the immersive soundscapes created by Hedges.

In a 1987 concert, Hedges gives an introduction to “The Funky Avocado” that is revealing about his open-minded approach to composition and how he brought in so many influences to his work. Says Hedges: “This tune has a little bit of a cross cultural bent to it, but it has more of an American bent to it. from the time where I lived above a health food store just down the street from a gay disco called The Pink Hippopotamus. I used to be trying to write music up there, trying to… maybe it would be just after dinner and I’d be trying to get some work done, and The Pink Hippo was always sending me back ‘boom boom boom’ and maybe the bass line would come through, ‘bum Bum BUM bum Bum BUM,’ so rather than trying to compete with it, I decided to  try to incorporate some of the elements. So that’s how ‘The Funky Avocado’ came about. It starts out with a medium R&B tempo, slows down into some heavy rock and it finishes up in a fit of disco fury”.

The sound quality is outstanding – Michael’s guitar is full of body and resonance,  detailed, and all of one cloth. There’s an interesting side story regarding the guitar Hedges used for several of the tracks: “Eleven Small Roaches,” “Babytoes” and “Two Days Old”. As noted on Hedges’ memorialized “Nomadland” site: “If Michael’s art is driven by openness, the fates were on his side just after he finished The Road To Return. At a concert in Oregon in 1994, Michael was approached by a woman who returned a guitar to him which had been stolen from his van fifteen years earlier while opening for Jerry Garcia. The custom guitar (built by luthier Ken DuBourg and heard on much of Breakfast in the Field) was in dreadful condition, but Michael invested in its restoration and the instrument’s presence wound up becoming the inspiration for several of the tunes heard on Oracle.”

“As Michael points out, Oracle fits perfectly into the chronology of his own life—“The Road to Return was a search for ‘Who am I?’ Then my old guitar was returned and I thought, ‘Yeah, this is part of who I am.’ Now, I’m open. I have a feeling something new is on the horizon for me, because, after all, how many ways can you slap a guitar? Since I’ve been writing songs, I’m more conscious of the music I’m after. It shouldn’t be seen as a new phase of my playing, but just more of me.”

This is an essential recording for any guitarist, lover of acoustic music or Windham Hill.

Comments

Have a thought, memory or experience to share about this album or Michael Hedges? Leave a comment below.

Track Listing

Side One

  • Layover 2:30
  • The Happy Couple 3:20
  • Eleven Small Roaches 3:00
  • The Funky Avocado 2:03
  • Baby Toes 2:10
  • Breakfast in the Field 2:24

Side Two

  • Two Days Old 4:46
  • Peg Leg Speed King 3:20
  • The Unexpected Visitor 2:46
  • Silent Anticipations 3:23
  • Lenono 4:03

Samples

Michael was a phenomenal live performer. Samples below are largely from concerts – he tells great stories about each song, and you get a sense of his showmanship.

The Happy Couple

Eleven Small Roaches

Baby Toes

Breakfast in the Field

The Unexpected Visitor

Silent Anticipations

Lenono

Credits

  • Michael Hedges: Guitar
  • Michael Manring: Fretless Bass
  • George Winston: Piano
  • All Compositions by Michael Hedges
  • All Selections Michael Hedges Music (BMI)
  • Administered by Windham Hill Music (BMI)
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records Box 9388, Stanford, CA 94305

©(p) Windham Hill Records 1981

This album was recorded without overdubs or multitracking on a MCI JH 110 A analogue two-track tape recorder at 30 inches per second through a Neve 8036 console with minimal equalization. No noise reduction was employed. The guitar was close-miked in stereo with a matched pair of AKG 452 EB condenser microphones in a cardioid pattern.

This album is dedicated to my teachers of composition: E. J. Ulrich who sent me on my way, Jean Ivey who let me go my own way, and  Morris Cotel who asked me where I was going and why.

Thanks to Ervin Somogyi of Berkeley, CA who built the splendid guitar used on most of the tunes in this recording. Thanks also to Ken DuBourg of Arbutus, MD who made the guitar used on Eleven Small Roaches, Babytoes, and Two Days Old.

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

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-1012 George Winston Autumn

WH 1012 Autum George Winston

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

George Winston’s “Autumn” page: http://www.georgewinston.com/recordings/01934-11610-2.php

Review

“Autumn” is the second album by George Winston, and the twelfth album released by Windham Hill. This is the breakthrough release that propelled Windham Hill from small, passionate “folk” label to genre-defining, multi-platinum selling label, and for good reason.

In context of the label’s development, this was really just the first album with crossover appeal – Winston’s December and later, the Winter Solstice albums brought Windham Hill more and more into mainstream consciousness.

Autumn found an audience who had loved Keith Jarrett’s enduringly popular The Koln Concert from 1976, and wanted more. Indeed , there’s a fair resemblance in mood, artistry and overall feel. But where Jarrett was improvising, Winston wrote densely rich compositions that drew from folk, rock and classical influences into something new. Moods shift and tempos vary – giving  life to the otherwise serious nature of the compositions. Over the last 30 years Winston has continued developing his performances of most of the pieces here to great success. Few are the artists who can reinvent such iconic performances into something significantly better than the original, but Winston does it. Or maybe I’ve simply listened to the album to death – it’s been such a regular companion of mine that it’s difficult to find anything new in it. However, if you have only ever had a passing experience with Autumn, consider this an essential recording that will reward revisiting.

Like Alex De Grassi, Winston writes music that is meant to evoke a place. That he succeeds brilliantly is evidenced by the myriad people who post YouTube videos of snowy roads, high-def landscapes, and mountain creeks to the soundtrack of Autumn. For Winston, it’s Montana itself that’s the muse. Sure the albums have seasonal titles, but it’s the season as experienced in Montana.

Comments

If you have thoughts or experiences about this album, or have questions about its recording, please leave a comment, share a memory, or ask a question in the comments section below.

Track Listing

Side One: September (26:22)

  • Colors/Dance 10:25
  • Woods 6:47
  • Longing/Love 9:10

Side Two: October (20:16)

  • Road 4:14
  • Moon 7:44
  • Sea 2:42
  • Stars 5:36

Recorded Jun 19 & 20, 1980

Samples

First, visit the Dancing Cat (George Winston) YouTube page featuring “Woods”. It’s a pleasure to hear a new performance of this song.

  • Colors/Dance 10:25

  • Woods 6:47
  • Longing/Love 9:10
  • Road 4:14
  • Moon 7:44
  • Stars 5:36

Credits

  • All Compositions by George Winston
  • Al Selections Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Box 9388 Stanford CA 94305
  • © (P) Windham Hill Records 1980

Liner Notes from the 20th Anniversary Edition

SEPTEMBER

1. Colors/Dance (10:25)

Inspired by the blazing yellow cottonwoods of Miles City and Billings, Montana, where I mainly grew up.

The middle section of improvisation over two chords was inspired by the great band The Doors (Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore and the late Jim Morrison [1943-1971]), particularly the improvisation on two chords in the instrumental section ofLight My Fire from their first album in 1967, THE DOORS (Elektra). This section was also inspired by the modal improvisation over different sets of two chords by the late, great saxophonist John Coltrane (1926-1967). This style of improvisation appears in the middle of Coltrane’s version of My Favorite Things from the 1960 album of the same name (which also inspired The Doors) and his version of Greensleeves from the 1961 recording THE COMPLETE AFRICA/BRASS SESSIONS (Impulse!). Another inspiration was the Coltrane-influenced version by the great jazz organist Jimmy Smith, from his 1965 album ORGAN GRINDER SWING (Verve). I was also inspired by a similar improvisation by the late, great composer/guitarist Frank Zappa on his song Black Napkins, especially from hearing him play it live in 1975. He recorded it several times, including on his albums MAKE A JAZZ NOISE HERE (Rykodisc), FRANK ZAPPA PLAYS THE MUSIC OF FRANK ZAPPA––A MEMORIAL TRIBUTE (available from the family site at www.zappa.com), YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON STAGE ANYMORE VOL. 6 (Rykodisc) and ZOOT ALLURES (Rykodisc). His music has been very inspirational to me in general, especially his 1969 instrumental album HOT RATS (Rykodisk).

The Doors’ first album, which is like one long song from the beginning to the end, is the album that most inspired AUTUMN, which I recorded thirteen years later in 1980. Of all the composers whose music I love to interpret, The Doors’ and Jim Morrison’s songs have taken the longest for me to make them sound how I want—some have taken 34 years. I now play ten Doors songs at the solo piano dances I am currently doing, and I do a solo piano version of one of Jim Morrison’s songs, Bird of Prey, that he sang a cappella on his poetry album, AN AMERICAN PRAYER (Elektra). Jim Morrison has inspired and influenced my playing more than any other vocalist. (The Doors’ official website is www.thedoors.com.)

When I play this song live I now play it as a medley with Tamarack Pines, the song that begins my album FOREST. Colors/Dancewas composed in 1979.

2. Woods (6:47)

Also inspired by the trees in Miles City, Montana, which was built around the Yellowstone River in Eastern Montana. Composed in 1974.

3. Longing/Love (9:10)

Composed in 1975


OCTOBER

4. Road (4:14)

Composed in 1971

5. Moon (7:44)

The second half is influenced by traditional Japanese koto music. When I play this live I now play it with Lights in the Sky from the FOREST album. The first half was composed in 1973, and the second half was composed in 1979.

6. Sea (2:42)

Particularly influenced by The Doors. The introduction is inspired by the late, great guitarist and composer John Fahey (1939-2001). Composed in 1973.

7. Stars (5:36)

Inspired by composer Dominic Frontiere’s great soundtracks for the first year of the television series THE OUTER LIMITS from 1962-1963, some of which are on the soundtrack album THE OUTER LIMITS ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK (Crescendo Records).

Also inspired by Russian composer Aram Khachaturian’s (1903-1978) Adagio, from the Gayaneh ballet suite of 1942 (which was prominently used in the soundtrack of the film 2001), and by Lullaby, from the same suite. Composed in 1973.


Produced by William Ackerman
Recorded June 19 & 20, 1980
Engineered by Harn Soper and Russell Bond (Stars)
Mastered by Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Mastering, Hollywood, CA
Cover photo by Ron May
Design by William Ackerman

All pieces composed by George Winston
All selections published by Imaginary Road Music/Dancing Cat Music (BMI)

Special thanks to Henry Roeland Byrd (the late Professor Longhair), Thomas “Fats” Waller, the late Bola Sete, the late John Fahey, Alex deGrassi, John Creger, Steve Reich, Dominic Frontiere, Nels Cline, Russell Bond, Megan Corwin, the late Frank Zappa and the members of The Doors: Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore and the late Jim Morrison

  • Vinyl pressings released as WHS C-1012; WH 1012.
  • CD released as WD 1012
  • Also released on BASF Chrome Cassette.

Research Notes

George Winston lives in Santa Cruz, CA and owns Dancing Cat Records. Dancing Cat promotes George Winston and published Hawaiian slack-key guitar recordings and concerts.

From The Music Annex web site:

We built and finished our first room, Studio A, in the summer of 1976. The other rooms were started shortly after that and we’ve eventually ended up with 5 studio spaces, Studios A, B, C and a Mastering Suite, as well as our Studio D, a converted video sound stage with an audio control room attached.

Our location turned out to have benefits we didn’t realize would be so instrumental to our longevity till later on. Being located smack dab between San Francisco and San Jose has given us a unique blend of clients both in the music and the corporate/advertising world. Before the dawn of “Silicon Valley” started to rise in the early 80’s our forte was “quality analog recording of acoustic instruments”, and many musicians became privy to our prowess at capturing the essence of performance by not letting technology get in the way of the creative process… getting the recording right the first time… and knowing when to let the “tape” continue to roll.

Progressive record labels like Windham Hill and SUGO Music, companies that became known for their unique musical artists and progressive recording techniques, found their way to our door. All of the important, early Windham Hill records, when their signature sound was just being defined, were recorded here: Will Ackerman, Alex deGrassi, Michael Hedges, George Winston, Scott Cossu and many others.

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-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. Anyone who has seen the Megalovania Sheet Music will notice a similar contemporary feel to this unique album.

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.

2019 Edit:

In the Windham Hill Lovers’ Facebook Group, several members were rightly praising this album. Will Ackerman commented:

When all is said and done, Erik Satie is the center of my musical world. When I’m asked about influences in my musical life I cite Erik Satie, a pianist, over any guitarist. The stark simplicity of the pieces magically create harmonies I’ve never heard elsewhere in my life. It was Eric Satie who gave me permission to strip my own pieces down to their essential elements. I have been talking of late about doing a new Satie recording…. I’ve learned so much about piano since recording the Satie recording with Bill Quist. With our piano at Imaginary Road, our mics and Tom Eaton’s brilliant and unique approach to recording piano, I think we can offer something really brilliant. I owe Sarah Clebsch (who I’m still in touch with) for playing me Satie when I was (I think) 17. That experience utterly changed my life and offered a perspective on music that had much to do with what Windham Hill became.”

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. This makes the piano moving cost much less than you may have previously though due to the 3 separated sections. 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-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.