Tag Archives: duet

WH 1028 William Ackerman Past Light

WH 1028 William-Ackerman-Past-Light
WH 1028 William-Ackerman-Past-Light

WH 1028 William Ackerman Past Light

Review

With 1983’s Past Light, Will Ackerman expands on the collaborations that he began to explore in earnest on 1981’s Passage, for an album that melds Ackerman’s meditative style with a larger vision of dynamic group performances.

Past Light is Ackerman’s fifth solo album, and twenty-eighth Windham Hill release. He must have been in the thick of the Windham Hill explosion, and it shows in a number of ways: the incredible stable of artists with whom he collaborates (Mark Isham, Michael Hedges, Darol Anger, Stein/Walder, Greenberg and Szmadzinski from Shadowfax, even Bay Area neighbors Kronos Quartet); the continued development of an aesthetic for group performances of Windham Hill artists, first seen on albums like Alex De Grassi’s Clockwork; and a confidence to keep pushing his vision farther, while hewing to his unique style, born out of Fahey and Kottke, but by now all his own.

While it still has poignant moments, there’s less mournfulness on Past Light than was present on Passage. There is less Erik Satie contemplation and more Robbie Basho exuberance in emotion, though stylistically Ackerman is wholly his own man.

The album opens with “Visiting” which varies enough in pacing and dynamics so that listeners are engaged and relaxed, taken on a journey with many uplifting moments. Where George Winston and Alex De Grassi write songs that are evocative of specific places at a certain time (a stream in January, a trip to Philadelphia) and Michael Hedges songs are paeans to rhythms, harmonics and dynamics, Ackerman’s work always strikes me as being about mood in and of itself. Each piece seems to be about that feeling you get when… (fill in your own very personal blank here.) Less intense and immediate than Passage, but profoundly evocative.

The fact that the moods here are varied, and often include the golden sunshine of Chuck Greenberg’s Lyricon just makes Past Light appealing to a wider audience, and a friendlier play for stalwart fans. Overall, it feels like Will was in a really good spot. Emotionally, the album it feels most like is Ackerman’s 2011 New England Roads (my current favorite of all of his albums, dare I even say it, over In Search of the Turtle’s Navel, and available exclusively at Target).

Samples

Visiting

 

Pacific II

 

Synopsis II

Track Listing

Side One: 22:11

  • Pacific II (1980) 3:09

Side Two 23:17

Liner Notes

“One always goes to great lengths at times like these to thank a phalanx of individuals for their contributions to the project as a whole. This will be no exception. Often the musicians who joined me on Past Light were given little more than a basic form in which to work, and it is no false modesty to to say that many of the compositions represented in these recordings are pure collaborations on the part of these friends and myself. To them I am sincerely grateful. I must also thank my co-producer, Steve Miller, for having the talent and vision that enabled me to try new ideas.”

William Ackerman

Credits

Produced by William Ackerman and Steven Miller

  • Engineered and mixed by Steven Miller
  • Recorded at Mobius Music, San Francisco, assistant engineer Oliver DiCicco, and at Different Fur Studios, San Francisco, assistant engineer Don Mack.
  • Mixed at Different Fur Studios, assistant engineer Dale Everingham.
  • Original mastering by Bernie Grundman, A&M Records, Hollywood, CA
  • Matrix and pressings by the Pressing Plant, Irvine, CA
  • Graphic design by Anne Ackerman Robinson and William Ackerman.
  • Photography by John Cooper, Summit, New Jersey
  • All compositions by William Ackerman
  • All selections Windham Hill Music, (BMI)

This recording was made on a Studer 24 track recorder at thirty inches per second. No noise reduction or compression was employed. The recordings were mixed digitally on a Sony PCM 1600 system, Kef speakers were used for audio monitoring and referencing on this recording.

Thanks to Harn Soper for loaning “Rain to River” back to me to record and to Dan Snow for the dream that inspired “Night Slip”. Thanks to Ervin Somogyi for the construction of my newest six-string and to Adamas strings.

  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • PO Box 9388, Stanford, CA 94305
  • Distributed by A&M Records, Inc.

Other original William Ackerman albums

  1. In Search of the Turtle’s Navel 1976
  2. It Takes a Year 1977
  3. Childhood and Memory 1979
  4. Passage 1981
  5. Past Light 1983
  6. Conferring with the Moon 1986
  7. Imaginary Roads 1988
  8. The Opening of Doors 1992
  9. The Sound of Wind Driven Rain 1998
  10. Hearing Voices 2001
  11. Returning 2004
  12. Meditations 2008
  13. New England Roads 2010

WH-1026 Windham Hill Artists An Evening with Windham Hill Live

WH 1026 evening with windham hill live
WH 1026 evening with windham hill live

WH-1026 An Evening with Windham Hill Live featuring George Winston, Alex deGrassi,  William Ackerman, Michael Hedges, Liz Story, Scott Cossu, Darol Anger, Chuck Greenberg

Review

Truly one of the great Windham Hill albums of all time, “An Evening with Windham Hill” features the classic Windham Hill artists at artistic peak of the label. While Ackerman, Winston, de Grassi continue to perform and record, often with even greater artistry than here, this album represents a clarity of vision and cohesion of styles that places it at the pinnacle of Windham Hill’s output.

Relaxed but uplifting, complex but with clarity, An Evening with Windham Hill is a required recording for any fan of the label.

Most telling about the label overall is Alex de Grassi’s introduction to Turning: Turning Back where he recounts how people tell him that they play the music at weddings and births – but “it’s really just about a trip Philadelphia.” de Grassi was writing about everyday places and moods – but touched a special chord with his fans.

Track Listings

Side One 19:59

Rickover’s Dream 4:30

  • Michael Hedges – Guitar
  • Composed by Michael Hedges
  • Michael Hedges Music (BMI)

Turning: Turning Back 9:00

  • Alex deGrassi – Guitar
  • Composed by Alex deGrassi

Clockwork 6:23

  • Alex deGrassi – Guitar
  • Chuck Greenberg – Lyricon
  • Darol Anger – Violin
  • Michael Manring – Bass
  • Michael Spiro – Percussion
  • Composed by Alex deGrassi
  • Tropo Music (BMI)

Side Two 22:01

Spare Change 5:29

  • Michael Hedges – Guitar
  • Liz Story – Piano
  • Michael Manring – Bass
  • Composed by Michael Hedges
  • Michael Hedges Music (BMI)

Visiting 4:48

  • Will Ackerman – Guitar
  • Chuck Greenberg – Lyricon
  • Michael Manring – Bass
  • Composed by Will Ackerman

Hawk Circle 5:10

  • Will Ackerman – Guitar
  • George Winston – Piano
  • Michael Hedges – Guitar
  • Composed by Will Ackerman

Reflections/Lotus Feet 6:25

  • George Winston – Piano
  • Reflections Composed by George Winston
  • Windham Hill Music (BMI)
  • Lotus Feet Composed by John McLaughlin
  • Warner Tamerlane Publishing Corp. and Chinmoy Music Inc. (BMI)

Samples

Reflections/Lotus Feet

Liner Notes and Credits

  • Produced by William Ackerman
  • AlexDe Grassi
  • Steven Miller

On October 9th, 1982, a group of ten Windham Hill musicians gathered for two shows at the Berklee Performance Center, Boston, Massachusetts. It was during those two shows that these recordings were made. The success of the Berklee Performance Center shows made it inevitable that other Windham Hill Evenings would follow, including Carnegie Hall, Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, the Wax Museum in Washington, DC, and Symphony Hall in Boston to date.

  • William Ackerman
  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • Engineered and Mixed by Steven Miller
  • Recorded by the Fedco Audio Labs Remote Truck
  • Remote Recording Crew – Bill Straus (Crew Chief), Nick Gutfreund and Bob Dickson.
  • Mixed at Different Fur Studios, San Francisco
  • Assistant Engineer – Don Mack
  • Original half-speed mastering by Bernie Grundman, A&M
  • Matrix and Pressings by The Pressing Plant, Irvine, CA
  • Cover photo by Jerry Lukowicz
  • Design by Anne Ackerman Robinson

All selections published by Windham Hill Music (BMI) except where noted. KEF speakers were used for audio monitoring and referencing on this recording.

Thanks to Steve Backer, Fred Taylor, Bill Strauss, Sue Auclair, Eric Jackson, Ron Della Chiesa and Al Goldman.

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

On the Threshold of Liberty – Mark Isham Independence Day

On the Threshold of Liberty

Promotional Single WS-17528 Mark Isham from the album Vapor Drawings WH-1027

Happy Fourth of July to our American readers. In honor of Independence Day, Windhaming presents Mark Isham’s On the Threshold of Liberty.

Interestingly, this track exists as the only 45 RPM Windham Hill 12″ promotional single I have ever found. See the comments below for a few more that the inimitable Caitlyn Martin found.

Liner notes and credits below the video.

On the Threshold of Liberty

 

Liner Notes:

In a decade where we have been bombarded with countless numbers of cold and mechanical recordings of synthesizer, it is like a breath of fresh air to work iwth an artist who is capable of utilizing the synthesizer to convey a more human perspective. Mark Isham is such an artist. Just looking at some of the musicians with whom he has worked gives you an idea of his depth and diversity: Van Morrison, Pink Floyd, Gil Evans, Horace Silver, the Beach Boys, the Oakland Symphony, Esther Phillips, and Dave Liebman. And to round all this out, this past year he composed and performed the musical score to the new Carroll Ballard (the Black Stallion) film “Never Cry Wolf”.

This music has heart and it has soul — always a rarity, but an even more surprising feat considering that one man plays all the instruments  (there is a percussionist added on these two pieces). I am quite proud, along with Mark, to have given birth to this music. Hopefully if will fill your hearts with as much joy as it does mine.

Steven Miller
Producer, Vapor Drawings, Mark Isham
November 1983

Credits:

Mark Isham: Synthesizers, trumpets, flugelhorn, piano, soprano sax, Steiner EVI, electronic percussion.

Peter Van-Hooke: Snare drum and electronic percussion

  • Produced and engineered by Steven Miller
  • Recorded and mixed in London April-May 1983
  • All compositions by Mark Isham
  • On the Threshold of Liberty published by Windham Hill Music (BMI)
  • Many Chinas published by ECM Records Verlag GMBH (GEMA)
  • Design by Anne Ackerman Robinson
  • Cover image by Larry Bell “Vapor Drawing LDIF5”
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records(r)
  • A Division of Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • (c) (p)Windham Hill Records 1983
  • All Rights Reservedd
  • Distributed by A&M Records

WH 1024 Windham Hill Records Sampler ’82

Windham Hill Records Sampler ’82

Selections from the Windham Hill Records Album Catalogue

Review

Windham Hill was truly hitting its stride in 1981-82. It took four years for Ackerman to release the first nine Windham Hill Albums, and of those, only six remained in print. Numbers 14-23 came in just over a single year, and each became a defining album for the label – either the first release of important new artists such as Liz Story, or genre-establishing discs like Alex de Grassi’s Clockwork. Sampler ’82 excises one track from each of the nine discs that Windham Hill released since the initial sampler came out in 1981.

Side One opens with the rather somber “Remedios” and continues in a generally solemn vein throughout the side, with Hedges’ “The Happy Couple” being the happy exception. Side Two picks things up a bit, and ends with the upbeat “Clockwork,” an ensemble piece which will be familiar to any Windham fan today thanks to its appearance on countless samplers since its initial release.

Ackerman was enraptured with the new digital technology of the time – his album Passage was one of the first commercial digital releases in the world. Each of the tracks here were remastered in digital – at some expense to the dynamics, detail and warmth of each of the recordings. Indeed, only “The Happy Couple” benefits from the increased detail and brightness of the remastering. Nonetheless, unless you’re a die-hard vinyl fan with a revealing system, the sound quality is still excellent.

In the end, I’m sure Sampler ’82 has its fans – it was the first introduction to many of these artists for many tens of thousands of people. However, the album is a broad overview rather than a cohesive statement of where the label was at the time, and each of the albums represented are strong and complete on their own. Nonetheless, while I do hesitate to second-guess Ackerman’s selections, for the modern listener, I would recommend you skip this one and buy the individual albums from the era. Sampler ’82 is an important snapshot of Windham Hill’s development, but not necessarily the place to start as a listener.

Track Listing

Side One:

  • Remedios 5:46
  • William Ackerman
  • Passage C-1014
  • Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Produced by William Ackerman
  • Blossom/Meadow 4:04
  • George Winston
  • Winter into Spring C-1019
  • Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Produced by George Winston and William Ackerman
  • The Happy Couple 3:20
  • Michael Hedges
  • Breakfast in the Field C-1017
  • Michael Hedges Music BMI
  • Administered by Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Produced by William Ackerman
  • Minou’s Waltz
  • Ira Stein & Russel Walder
  • Elements C-1020
  • Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Produced by William Ackerman
  • A Thousand Teardrops
  • Shadowfax
  • Shadowfax C-1022
  • Greenshadow Music BMI
  • Administered by Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Produced by Chuck Greenberg

Side Two:

  • Wedding Rain 5:44
  • Liz Story
  • Solid Colors C-1023
  • Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Produced by William Ackerman
  • Tideline 4:34
  • Darol Anger & Barbara Higbie
  • Tideline C-1021
  • Slow Baby Music BMI
  • Administered by Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Produced by Darol Anger
  • Purple Mountain 5:29
  • Scott Cossu
  • Wind Dance C-1016
  • Silver Crow Music BMI
  • Administered by Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Produced by George Winston
  • Clockwork
  • Alex de Grassi
  • Clockwork C-1018
  • Tropo Music BMI
  • Administered by Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Produced by Alex de Grassi

 

 

Liner Notes

  • Digital Transfers, Editing and Mastering by Jack Hunt, JVC Cutting Ctr., Hollywood, CA
  • Cover Photo by Tom Szalay
  • Design by William and Anne Ackerman
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • A Division of Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • (c) (p) Windham Hill Records 1982

All of the recordings included in the Windham Hill Sampler ’82 are thirty inches per second, no noise reduction analog masters with the exception of “Remedios” which is a digital recording. This collection was transferred to digital and mastered as a digital recording to maintain the sound quality of the master recordings. KEF speakers were used in audio referencing.

WH 1021 Darol Anger Barbara Higbie Tideline

Review

Darol Anger and Barbara Higbie’s Tideline is a foggy windswept day at Stinson Beach, or rather time spent sipping coffee inside a weathered redwood beach house near Stinson, warm and rich, but with an undercurrent of cool tumult always nearby. From the rolling sea rhythms of Tideline to the Japanese music box references in “Onyame,” the album flows effortlessly through moods and moments. The closest analog to Tideline may be another classic, Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage.”

Technically impressive while putting the music first, the album stands on its own as a must-have for any Windham Hill collector. It is even more important as a development in the ensemble sound of Windham Hill at the time, and also as the kernel for the Darol Anger/Barbara Higbie Quintet which would come to be known as Montreaux.

Samples

True Story

Track Listing

SIDE ONE: 20:32

Tideline ◊ (4:34)

Movie ◊ (1:47)

Above the Fog ◊ (3:50)

Keep Sleeping 0 (4:22) octave violin and piano

Onyame ◊ (5:49) violin, mandolin, piano

SIDE TWO (20:38)

True Story ◊ (4:22)

Fortunate ◊ (4:22)

Gemini 0 (1:02) mandolin and piano

Gualala 0 (5:41) piano, octave violins, cello

Lifeline ♦ (6:13)

◊ Written by Barbara Higbie and Published by Slow Baby Music (BMI)

o Written by Darol Anger and Published by Fiddlistics Music (BMI)

♦ Written by Barbara Higbie and Darol Anger and Published by Slow Baby Music (BMI)

Credits

  • All Publishing Administered by Windham Hill Music (BMI)
  • Alll selections are violin and piano unless otherwise noted.
  • Darol Anger: violin, octave violin, mandolin, octave mandolin, cello
  • Barbara Higbie: piano
  • Mike Marshall: madnolin on Onyame
  • Produced by Darol Anger
  • Co-produced by Barbara Higbie
  • Executive Producer: William Ackerman
  • Recorded Frebruary 14-16, 1982 at Different Fur Recording, San Francisco, CA
  • Engineered and mixed by Howard Johnston
  • Assistant Engineer: Anne de Venzio
  • Half-Speed Mastering by STan Ricker Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
  • Matrix and Pressings by Record Technology, Inc. Camarillo, CA
  • Cover Photo by Alan Levinson
  • Liner Photo by Irene Young
  • Design by Anne Ackerman
  • Manufactured by Windahm Hill Records
  • A Division of Windham Hill Productions, Inc.
  • Box 9388, Stanford, CA 94305
  • (c) (P) Windham Hill Records, 1982

Liner Notes

This recording was made as a multi-track on a Studer A 80 MK III recorder at 30 inches per second, through a Harrison board and mixed onto a Studer A 80 VU KMIII half-inch two track recorder. The Yamaha C-70 piano was miked with a matched pair of Neumann U67 microphones and a single Neumann U47 microphone. The violin was miked with a single Neumann KM 84 and a single AKG 414 microphone. A single AKG 451 EB microphone was employed as an ambient source.

Thanks to Tom Paddock for the use of his U 67 tube microphones; Stephen Gilchrist, and John Monteleone for hand-built mandolins; Will Ackerman, Anne Ackerman, Marin and the Windham Hill Family; Susan Skaggs; Doc Howard and Queen Anne; Tom and Pat of Different Fur; Katrina Krimsky, Irene Young; Mike Marshall; David Dawg; CM; Dave Balakrishnan; Dix; our parents, ancestors, and the big bang. Support new acoustic music.

  • Darol Anger and Barbara Higbie
  • Tideline
  • WHS C-1021
  • WH-1021

WHS C-1020 Ira Stein Russel Walder Elements

Review

Ira Stein and Russel Walder’s “Elements” is a misty morning cup of coffee. Energetic, even upbeat moments abound, but the overall mood is warm, wistful, and well-paced with a real sense of rhythm and  flow from one moment to the next.

“Elements” is the recording debut for both Ira Stein and Russel Walder, and the twentieth album released on Windham Hill Records.

Stein’s playing is remarkable throughout, with both a solid command and a light touch on his instrument – with moments that remind one of the percolating playing of fellow Bay Area pianist Vince Guaraldi. Stein also composed all the tracks. More than most Windham Hill albums, “Elements” feels like jazz – the players so imbue their parts with feeling that each note sounds as if it could only be conceived in the moment.

Walder had been training with some of the shining lights in modern acoustic music – Paul McCandles and Ralph Towner, and his training and own personal magic are apparent. Under lesser skills, the 0boe can become grating with its high piercing tone. Here, Walder’s tone and touch give us playing that is sweet, yet complex, almost mimicking a human voice more like a tenor sax than an oboe.

I recently traded e-mails with Walder, and he shared some thoughts on his Windham Hill releases:

Elements and Transit came at the very beginning of my career. It was a very exciting time in music and for me personally. Windham Hill was the magic door to everything that has happened since. I recently returned from a music tour to Spain and I remember going there with Windham Hill and it was a circle that completed itself. I also just came back from a tour of India with my new band and it was the first time since Windham Hill that I have have played in anything other than as a soloist.”

Walder has recorded a significant body of work, and fans of “Transit” in particular should check out his album “Rise,” available at Walder’s current sites:

www.nomadsoulrecords.com
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/russelwalder

As part of the overall Windham Hill vision of 1982, “Elements” shares more than a little DNA with Darol Anger and Barbara Higbie’s “Tideline,” released immediately after this. Both albums are central to the reasons I love Windham Hill music, although over the years, I find myself reaching for the glorious “Transit” over this release. No slur on “Elements,” it’s just that “Transit” is a masterpiece. Similarly, I sometimes play “Birth of the Cool” by Miles Davis. But more often than not, I’ll reach for “Kind of Blue” first.

Recommended.

“Keyboardist Ira Stein and oboist Russel Walder met in 1981 at a series of master classes taught at the Naropa Institute by two of their major influences, Ralph Towner and Paul McCandless. Shortly thereafter, Stein And Walder produced a demo and were signed to Windham Hill. Over the years, their sound has expanded from the acoustic duets of their 1982 debut, Elements, to a satisfying blend of electronic keyboards, drums, bass, and intricate studio enhancements.”

~ Linda Kohanov, All Music Guide

Walder was born and raised in Deerfield, Illinois. Following his graduation from Deerfield High School, he briefly attended the University of Arizona in Tucson Arizona.

He then also attended The Boston Conservatory of Music, and The California Institute of the Arts.[1] He also studied privately with teachers at The New England Conservatory of Music. At age 17 he toured Europe and North American with the United States Youth Symphony appearing in Carnegie Hall and Royal Albert Hall among many notable venues. Walder came onto the contemporary jazz instrumental scene quickly in 1982, at the age of 19, after joining Windham Hill Records and then recording Elements with pianist Ira Stein. The pair met at Naropa Institute while studying with the jazz fusion group Oregon. Walder also studied with Oregon Jazz legend Paul McCandles. After the success of Elements, Walders next recording, 1986’s Transit, again with Stein, also included performances by Bruce Hornsby and mixing by Mark Isham.

~ Wikipedia biography for Russel Walder

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: 17:04

Elements 11:14

Minou’s Waltz 5:50

Side Two: 19:51

The Epic 1:20

Rice Fields 6:00

Eden 5:44

Caravan 6:27

Samples

Have a sample to share? Post it and pass it along.

Liner Notes

Ira Stein, Piano

Russel Walder, Oboe

Produced by William Ackerman

  • Engineered and Mixed by Edward Bannon, Tres Virgos Studios, San Rafael, CA
  • Assistant Engineer: Robert L. Missback
  • Half-Speed Mastering by Jack Hunt, JVC Cutting Center
  • Matrix and Pressings by Record Technology Inc. Camarillo, CA
  • Cover Photo by Jerry Lukowicz, San Francisco, CA
  • Liner Photos by Anne Ackerman, Ira Stein (l.), Russel Walder (r.)
  • Design by Anne Ackerman
  • Thanks to Steven Miller for his contributions to production
  • All Compositions by Ira Stein
  • All Selections Windham Hill Music (BMI)
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • A Division of Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305

©(P) Windham Hill Records 1982

This recording was made on an MCI JH-24 recorder at 30 inches per second, and mixed onto an Ampex ATR 102 two-track. Teh principal microphones both for the 1932 Baldwin grand piano and the oboe were Crown PZM(tm) phase coherent microphones. No noise reduction, limiting or compression was employed.

KEF speakers were used for audio monitoring and referencing on this recording.

Credits

Many thanks to Toni and Dad, Marily and Fred, Barb and Clint, Deb, David, Paul McCandles, Ralph Towner, Glen Moore, Collin Walcott, Art Lande, Allen Vogel, Cynthia Maser, Howard Weisel, Dick Fister, Nika, Fellow Calartians, Harobed and Dominique.

Dedicated to Rudy G. and Minou.

Engineer Edward Bannon in the Tres Virgos recording Studio in San Rafael, circa 1980.

(photo from http://tresvirgosstudio.com/history)

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.

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.