Tag Archives: solo

WH-1030 Alex de Grassi Southern Exposure Windham Hill

WH 1030 de grassi southern exposure
WH 1030 de grassi southern exposure

Southern Exposure Review

A tour de force of finger-picking guitar, and in many ways the album that would set de Grassi’s direction for years, Southern Exposure is an understated delight.

Technically impressive, and hewing to a fast-paced solo guitar sound, Southern Exposure nonetheless shows many moods. From the ringing rhythms of Overland, to the final notes of the humming Subway, De Grassi provides an album that rewards close listening, yet maintains a cheerful veneer of joy. Where Turning: Turning Back was more pensive, and Clockwork played on group dynamics developing in rhythm and melody, Southern Exposure sets a style that De Grassi is still exploring today.

Highly recommended.

Southern Exposure Tunings

http://www.stropes.com/index.php?glbm=20&fa=12&cdid=137Track Listing

Side One: 18:15

  • Overland 2:29
  • Blue and White 4:16
  • 36 4:40
  • Cumulus 4:55
  • Southern Exposure 1:55

Side Two 19:41

  • Western 4:02
  • Street Waltz 3:37
  • Heavy Feet 4:39
  • Empty Room 3:04
  • Subway 4:19

Southern Exposure Samples

Overland

Southern Exposure

Western

Credits

WH 1030 alex de grassi southern exposure back cover
Alex de Grassi, 1983. Photo by Bud Lee, Courtesy TWA Ambassador Magazine

Produced by Alex de Grassi and Steven Miller

  • Recorded in May, 1983, at the Music Annex, Menlo Park, CA
  • Engineered by Steven Miller
  • Assistant engineers Russel Bond and Roger Wiersma
  • Digital editing and transfer by Mark Boeddeker, Master Digital, Venice, CA
  • Mastered by Bernie Grundman at A&M
  • Matrix and pressings by Soundome, Irvine, CA
  • Cover photo by Barry Brukoff
  • Liner photo by Bud Lee, courtesy TWA Ambassador Magazine
  • Design by Anne Ackerman Robinson

This album was recorded live to two-track digital, using a Sony PCM 1600

  • All compositions by Alex de Grassi
  • All selections Tropo Music (BMI)
  • Administered by Windham Hill Music (BMI)

My guitar was built by Ervin Somogyi of Berkeley, CA

Special thanks to Lila for always listening, and to an anonymous voice in the audience for the title “Subway”.

  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • A Division of Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • Box 9388, Stanford, CA 94305
  • (c) (p) Windham Hill Records 1983
  • Distributed by A&M

Other Alex de Grassi recordings on Windham Hill Records

1. Turning: Turning Back

2. Slow Circle

3. Clockwork

4. Southern Exposure

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 1025 George Winston December

WH 1025 George Winston December WHS C-1025
WH 1025 George Winston December WHS C-1025

George Winston December

Comments

Frozen branches overhead, snowy drives in the evening, and the quiet of a snow covered landscape. Winston invokes all of these on his landmark album December. While Winston named his compositions after moments in time – months or seasons, he was really playing music about places – creeks, and trees, passes and roads in Montana and the high-plains and prairies.

The music holds up year-round thanks to its simplicity and beauty. Even the carols are stripped down enough that they can be enjoyed even as we endure the heat of a July afternoon. In his discography, December stands as a crowd-pleaser – neither as resonant and redolent as Autumn, nor as cold and brittle as the first side of Winter Into Spring. December is an album that inspired a million insipid imitators, yet always maintains a beautiful and thoughtful poise; relaxed, yet energetic.

December is often incorrectly identified as the album that made Windham Hill Records a crossover success. That honor goes to George Winston’s Autumn, which sold millions of copies and was the breakthrough success for the label. That being said, December was another high-tide mark for the label, and laid the groundwork for the extraordinarily popular Winter Solstice series.

It is curious that with all of the detailed credits, there is no listing of which brand of piano is played by  by George Winston. According to engineer Harn Soper, Winston used a Yamaha grand for Autumn. Based on the sound, I would imagine it was another Yamaha for this recording. It should also be noted that in the recoding of Autumn, Winston would indeed drop and pickup in mid-song, only to be edited together later. This saves an enormous amount of time during the recording section, and I certainly can’t hear it in the recordings, which is remarkable given that Winston will often hold the sustain pedal down throughout an entire song, and the reverberations must undoubtably be different as he plays through a track different times.

WH 1025 George Winston December Back WHS C-1025
WH 1025 George Winston December Back WHS C-1025

Track Listing

Side One: 20:56

  • Thanksgiving 4:04
  • Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head 2:40 – An Appalachain carol of the late Eighteen Hundreds, Collected by the eminent folklorist John Jacob Niles.
  • Joy 3:13 – Inspired by an arrangement by David Qualey
  • Prelude 1:16
  • Carol of the Bells – A Nineteenth Century Ukranian carol.
  • Night 5:47
  • — Part One: Snow 1:51
  • — Part Two: Midnight 1:56
  • — Part Three: Minstrels 2:00
  • Minstrels was inspired by St. Basil’s Hymn, a traditional Greek Children’s New Years’s Carol based upon a rendition by Malcolm Dalglish.


Side Two: 18:18

  • Variations on the Kanon by Johann Pachelbel 5:21 – Composed circa 1699, the Kanon was originally an organ piece.
  • The Holly and the Ivy 4:52 – An Eighteenth Century English carol based upon an earlier French carol.
  • Some Children See Him 3:43 – Composed in 1951 by jazz trumpeter Alfred S. Burt (1921-1954), Some Children See Him was one of fifteen carols written as gifts for friends. The piece was originally a song with lyrics by Wilha Hutson expressing the universal love of children.
  • Peace 4:02

Samples

Thanksgiving

Prelude

Carol of the Bells

Night, Part Three: Minstrels

Variations on the Kanon (Live)

The Holly and the Ivy

Peace

Credits

  • Recorded in September and October of 1982 at Different Fur Recording, San Francisco, CA
  • Engineered by Steven Miller
  • Second Engineer on the Steven Miller sessions: Karen Kirsch
  • Engineering by Karen Kirsch on Carol of the Bells and Variations on the Kanon by Pachelbel.
  • Half-Speed Mastering by Jack Hunt of JVC Cutting Center
  • Matrix and Pressing by Record Technology Inc., Camarillo, CA
  • Photos by Greg Edmonds
  • Design by Anne and Will Ackerman
  • Thanksgiving, Prelude, Snow, Midnight and Peace composed by George Winston and published by Windham Hill Music BMI.
  • Some Children See Him composed by A. S. Burt and published by Hollis Music Inc. BMI.
  • All other compositions are traditional and in the public domain.
  • Special Thanks to Steven Miller and Cathy Econom for their valuable contributions in production.

Liner Notes

This recording was mande direct to two-track using a Studer A 80 VU MK III half-inch recorder at thirty inches per second. No noise reductin was employed. KEF speakers were used for audio monitoring and referencing on this recording.

There is a great wealth of traditional and contemporary music to draw from in doing an album for the winter season. These four albums have been most inspirational to me in conceiving of this album and in doing albums for the seasons.

Thanks to Doc Bochenek, Larry Boden, Mario Cassetta, Janea Chadwick, Megan Corwin, John Creger, George Cromarty, Jane Crosier, Alex de Grassi, Melissa Dufffy, Sylvan Grey, Howard Johnston, Gail Kennedy, Jerrol Kimmel, Silvia Kohan, Marin Moon, Steve Reich, Bola Sete, Sari Spieler, Liz Story, Marie Winchester

  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • A Division of Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • (c) (p) Windham Hill Records 1982

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 1019 George Winston Winter Into Spring

WH 1019 George Winston Winter into Spring

Review

There’s a certain simplicity in any art that it takes a master to achieve. Whether it’s the quick study in a notebook that a Picasso or Matisse can use to convey motion, mood and sentiment, or the way an actor can almost imperceptibly move their face to convey a deep undercurrent of emotion, it’s a skill that is highly underrated.

Winter Into Spring is the third George Winston album released, his second on Windham Hill, and the 19th Windham Hill album. Winston’s “Autumn” had given Will Ackerman a new level of financial freedom to fuel his artistic vision.

From the time “Winter Into Spring” first dropped onto the turntables of George Winston fans everywhere, there was a sense that some portions of the songs “were so simple a child could play them.” The magic is that they were so simple that no child actually would play them.  And those few bars that were so noticeable in their simplicity and purity soon gave way to Winston’s lushly chromatic songs. Truly, it takes a mature artist to be able to strip down a song, and still have a complex and lingering effect. Songs that drew from classical and jazz traditions, but mainly the beautiful and deceptively simple traditions of folk music. Comparing the two albums is necessary, as so many millions of copies of Autumn have been sold, but it’s also problematic, in that Autumn has a different emotional appeal, much as the seasons themselves draw on different aspects of the listener’s experience. Where “Autumn” is all amber hues and slowly changing colors, “Winter Into Spring” is crisp footsteps in the snow, cold moonlit nights, and then finally the burst of weak radiance of a Spring sun and wild mustard flowers. As always, Winston finds inspiration not just in the seasons, but as the seasons exist in the plains states – Montana in particular.

To this reviewer, “Winter Into Spring” is now my go-to Winston album, if only because I’ve heard “Autumn” so many times that it’s hard to have any perspective on it any more. But the other factor is that as I’ve matured, I’ve also appreciated the development of maturing artists more. “Winter Into Spring” reminds us all of the universal edict that it takes the longest to get to the simplest solutions. Winston’s playing on later albums will simplify even more – but for me “Winter Into Spring” is the right place for my ear and mind right now.

Harn Soper, who recorded “Autumn,” tells me that Winston would press down on the sustain pedal near the beginning of a song, and just keep his foot down, with the slow decay of the notes blending into the next key. This is what gives Winston’s composition a richness that was missing from so many solo pianists, and helped him define the genre of “new age” solo piano. There is plenty of that subtle density of sound here still.

Track Listing

Side One (21:51)

January Stars (6:38)

February Sea (5:13)

Ocean Waves (O Mar) (7:15)*

Reflection (2:45)

Side Two: (22:19)

Rain/Dance (10:10)

Blossom/Meadow (4:04)

The Venice Dreamer (8:05)

– Part One: Introduction

– Part Two

Samples

January Stars

Rain/Dance

Blossom/Meadow

The Venice Dreamer – Part Two

Credits

Executive Producer: William Ackerman

Produced by George Winston and William Ackerman

Recorded March 1982 Different Fur Recording, San Francisco, CA

Engineered by Howard Johnston

Assistant Engineer: Karen Kirsch

Half-speed mastering by Stan Ricker, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs

Matrix and pressins by Record Technology Inc., Camarillo, CA

Vinyl Compound: Quiex Premium by Vitec

Cover Photography by Ron May

Design by Anne Ackerman

All compositions by George Winston except where noted*

All selections Windham Hill Music (BMI) except where noted*

*Composed by Dorival Caymmi, 1939

*Published by Mangione (Brazil)

*Arranged by Bola Sete

Manufactured by Windham Hill Records, Division of Windham Hill Productions, Inc.

PO Box 9388, Stanford, CA 94305

©(p) Windham Hill Records 1982

This recording was made direct to two track using a Studer A 80 VU MKIII half-inch recorder at 30 inches per second through a Harrison board. The Yamaha C-70 piano was miked with a matched pair of Neumann U-67 microphones, a pair of Neumann KM 84 microphones and an AKG 451 EB was used as an ambient microphone. No noise reduction or reverberation was employed.

Thanks to Megan Gorwin, Scott Cossu, Alex de Grassi, Cathy Econom, Silvan Grey, Daniel Hecht, Michael Hedges, Paul Horn, Jerrel Kimmel, Steve Reich, L Subramaniam, and thanks to Bola Sete for his inspiration and specifically for his arrangement of Ocean Waves from his guitar LP “Ocean” Lost Lake Arts 82.

Other LP’s by George Winston

Autumn, Windham Hill Records C-1012

Ballads and Blues, Lost Lake Arts 84

In Memory of David Fleck

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.

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

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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.

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