Goldmine recognizes Windham Hill as “the forgotten audiophile label”

There’s a great new article by Todd Whitesel over at Goldmine Magazine recognizing Windham Hill as a “forgotten audiophile label” for both the artistry and sound quality. Obviously, I couldn’t agree more!

Check it out here: http://www.goldminemag.com/article/windham-hill-records-the-forgotten-audiophile-label

Since Goldmine also deals with valuation – I had to share some of my thoughts in the comments. I will expand on them here:

Here in Northern California, where Windham Hill was very popular, there are still record stores where you can find relatively cheap copies of the original pressings on vinyl. In addition to the condition of the vinyl and cover, there are a few things I look for:

1) Windham Hill originally numbered their discs using the WHS C-XXXX system in a nod to Takoma records who used the same system. Once A&M started distributing Windham Hill, they started using WH-XXXX. These pressings are more common, and between two pressings of similar condition, I would value the WHS-C pressings higher. (One note – Passage was numbered WHSD because it was recorded digitally, indeed, one of the first albums ever released that was digitally recorded.)

2) Promo copies are rarer, and often in better condition than non-promo copies. Also, they serve as a piece of history. Again, these are worth slightly more than a non-promo copy in my book.

3) Alternate covers and early pressings of Ackerman’s “In Search of the Turtle’s Navel” are also worth more, again due to rarity.

4) Signed copies, are obviously worth more, although some artists are more reluctant to sign than others.

5) The “Lost” recordings are a mixed bag – not as much demand, but very rare. “Kidd Afrika,” “Mary’s Garden” by Linda Waterfall are great albums, but generally only collectors look for them.

6) I would value a mint condition copy of one of the first 300 pressings of “In Search of the Turtle’s Navel” as the most valuable in the catalog due to rarity, and the fact that you know that it was personally handled by Will or Annie Ackerman. I hear that if people play them, they also want to use the best phono preamps on the market, HIFISYSTEMCOMPONENTS.COM seems to have a fantastic range of preamps that’ll work with any phono type signal.

7) In my collection, my mint copy of “Visions of the Country,” signed by Robbie Basho is my most valuable – it’s signed by the artist who has passed away, and it’s a very rare record. Most people would likely pay more for a signed copy of a Michael Hedges album due to his larger following, but Basho fans are equally passionate, so valuation remains based on individual demand.

All in all, you can’t go wrong – the most popular vinyl pressings can easily be found for only a few dollars a copy in some record stores, and sealed copies can still be found online for as little as $10-15 dollars. I do believe that long term, prices will increase as more people recognize the value of these treasures. In the meantime, buy a few, keep them clean, play them, and enjoy the music.

While many view vinyls as a thing of the past, true audiophiles know that the vinyl scene is still alive and well, with things like vinyl pressing from VDC Group ensuring the industry is here to stay.

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 1023 Liz Story Solid Colors

Review

Solid Colors is the auspicious debut of Liz Story. In the wake of the massive success of George Winston’s December a river of cassette demo tapes that would have stretched around the world came pouring into William Ackerman’s Palo Alto PO Box 9388. Liz Story’s recording was the beautiful bucket drawn from the torrent.

Rich, dense, and impressionistic – but always still pretty – Story draws from jazz, particularly as expressed by pianist Bill Evans, in much the same way as George Winston drew from folk. Liz Story’s style has continued to develop over the years. She continues to record, and each release deserves close listening.

The recording quality, as always, is excellent, with Story’s rich harmonics lovingly presented, and while the vinyl is the standard, even the CD transfer holds up well.

Solid Colors is a must-have recording for any fan of piano jazz, new age music, or Windham Hill.

Here’s the review I wish that I had written, by James Rotundi from Amazon: Story’s remarkable 1983 debut is the intellectual sister of Winston’s December–a discursive series of solo piano improvisations that draw on the rich jazz harmony of pioneers like Bill Evans, Story’s acknowledged chief inspiration. Yet Colors is almost minimalist next to Evans’s more densely textured works–a spacious blend of polychords, breezy runs, and finely timed sustenutos, with an accessible spirit and memorable melodies–like the uplifting figure she plays over a simple descending bassline in “Hymn,” or the indelible major-key main theme of “Things with Wings.” More economical than Keith Jarrett, more florid and changeable than Winston, Story finds a compelling middle ground here between jazz harmony and classical technique, outside improv and sturdy songcraft, complex performance and inner stillness. –James Rotondi

Liz Story can be found on the web:

Samples

Things with Wings

Track Listing

SIDE ONE: 20:23

  1. Wedding Rain 5:44
  2. Pacheco Pass 3:05
  3. Without You 4:29
  4. Hymn 4:17
  5. Things With Wings 2:48

SIDE TWO: 20:09

  1. Solid Colors 4:36
  2. Bradley’s Dream 4:43
  3. White Heart 2:12
  4. Water Caves 3:07
  5. Peace Piece* 5:31

Credits

  • All Compositions by Liz Story except where noted
  • All Selections Windham Hill Music (BMI) except where noted
  • *Peace Piece is Acorn Music (BMI), Composed by Bill Evans
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • A Division of Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • Box 9388, Stanford, CA 94305
  • (c) (p) Windham Hill Records, 1982
  • This recording was made direct to two-track using a Studer A80 VU MKIII half-inch recorder at 30 inches per second through a Harrison board. No noise reduction, limiting or compression was used. KEF speakers were used for audio monitoring and referencing on this reecording.
  • Our thanks to Steven Miller for his many contributions in production.
  • Without You is for Terry.
  • Peace Piece is a homage to its composer, Bill Evans.

WH-1023

WH 1022 Shadowfax Shadowfax

WH 1022 Shadowfax Shadowfax

Review

Shadowfax is the eponymous second release from the atmospheric fusion group, and the twenty-second release on Windham Hill. With a strong Asian and Native American influence on the music, there is a different feel to this release than the folk, classical and chamber jazz releases of their label-mates. And while this is fusion and not rock – there are rock underpinnings throughout the album. While this release isn’t as dynamic as all later albums, there is a drive and flow that comes through even on the quietest tracks.

As for the sound – this recording is an excellent litmus test of your system. While you can enjoy the music anywhere, it will sound compressed and more like atmospheric background music than the eastern-inspired jazz that it is. If you play the vinyl and your system doesn’t sound detailed and dynamic, then your system could use some extra resolving power. You can follow each instrument throughout every song and each piece comes to life. Phil’s bass is tight and yet full-bodied, and the ever-present percussion sparkles throughout each track. When I see someone dismiss this album as lacking any engagement or dynamics, I blame their reproduction of it, not the music. That being said, for the first 10 years I owned this album, I mainly played it on a home-made cassette through an old Sony receiver, and enjoyed it just as much as I do today.

As a bit of trivia, the closing sound on Vajra that I always took as a dog is actually Emil Richards dragging a rubber balled mallet over a marimba key, according to Phil Maggini in a 2013 Facebook comment.

Shadowfax members are active on the web, catch up with them on Facebook and MySpace.

Unfortunately, Stuart Nevitt, Chuck Greenberg and Bruce Malament  have all passed away. Links to their obituaries are below.

http://www.facebook.com/shadowfaxmusic?ref=ts#!/shadowfaxmusic?v=wall&viewas=1196427542&ref=ts

http://www.ilike.com/artist/Chuck+Greenberg/

New York Times Obituary for Chuck Greenberg: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/09/09/obituaries/chuck-greenberg-musician-dies-at-45.html

Joy Greenberg has written the biography “A Pause in the Rain” about Chuck, and maintains his web site:  http://www.chuckgreenberg.com/cgindex.htm

You can find Joy’s site, and samples from her book here: http://www.joyhornergreenberg.com/jghome.htm She shares fascinating anecdotes and details about the band, as well as personal remembrances, in an easy engaging style; I highly recommend it for any Shadowfax fan.

Joy has generously permitted the reprint of an excerpt here:

Excerpt from “A Pause in the Rain” by Joy Greenberg:

There soon evolved a microcosmic musical community that could provide work for a lot of people. The timing was perfect—it became a little engine, allowing everyone to play and record with each other. Phil and Chuck became creatures of habit, starting a rehearsal schedule with a day-in-day-out routine, knowing the process was essential to their growth and viability as musicians. Robit did, indeed, manage to attract the backing of a label and cut the album Resident Alien with Chuck, Phil, drummer Stu Nevitt and guitarist G.E backing him up. By then Stu and G.E. had moved out from Chicago and were rehearsing with Chuck and Phil in a variety of bands, including one fronted by another old friend from the Windy City, Morris Dollison, aka Cash McCall. The Cash McCall band featured all the blues songs, like “Sweet Home Chicago,” the guys had grown up listening to and playing.

“It was through this musical network that Chuck’s—and Shadowfax’s—Big Break arrived. Robit had met another guitarist, Alex de Grassi, in London, where he was playing music in the streets, subways and folk clubs during the summer of ’73. Robit had kept in touch with Alex and had been urging him to collaborate somehow with Chuck.

Meanwhile, Alex had established himself as the premier solo instrumental guitarist on the seminal New Age label, Windham Hill. As Windham Hill cofounder Will Ackerman’s cousin, Alex was in an influential position, something that did not go unnoticed by Chuck. He admired Alex’s artistry and was eager to meet him. The feeling was mutual; Alex sent Chuck the tape of a guitar part to a new piece he was working on and invited Chuck to contribute a lyricon part. Chuck was only too happy to oblige. Then one day in the latter part of ’81, Chuck, Robit and I drove up to San Francisco from L.A. in Ruby. I dropped them off at Alex’s house in Noe Valley and went out to visit some friends while Chuck and Alex rehearsed some tunes for Alex’s upcoming album Clockwork. When I returned later, I heard a gorgeous melody emanating from Alex’s as I parked the car in front. It was the song, “Clockwork.”

Alex was impressed as well. They ended up recording two pieces. “Everybody went apeshit,” Alex said.

Indeed, they did. It seemed that all who heard Chuck’s lyricon were enchanted. Alex’s album Clockwork scored a big hit on radio and at retail, as well as with the powers at Windham Hill. As a result of its success, Chuck was emboldened to propose an album to Will Ackerman, who initially believed that Chuck wanted to do a solo project. Chuck’s task became convincing Will that what Will really wanted was a Shadowfax album, something he managed to accomplish without Will’s ever hearing the band play.

Chuck sensed that Will would not approve of the “outside,” heavily electrified, screaming-for-attention tunes that had been recorded by Shadowfax on Watercourse Way. It just didn’t jibe with the primarily acoustic, mellow, laid back sounds for which Windham Hill was gaining recognition. And Chuck knew better than to invite Will to a showcase and see this “electric fusion monster quartet”—the antithesis of Windham Hill music—live. It would have been an invitation to disaster, sending the self-avowed hater of electronic music running for cover. Will’s interest in recording Chuck was based upon Chuck’s essentially acoustic approach to Alex’s record Clockwork. To accept this offer on the basis of Will’s perception, completely ignoring the nature of his label’s musical direction, and to present him with an electric manifesto, would have been unfair to him and deal suicide. No, meeting and hearing Shadowfax was definitely not the way to get a deal with Will.

However, the band had a card up its sleeve—one it could play without any negative sense of compromise or loss of musical integrity. There had always been an acoustic side of the band that they very much enjoyed but that was never allowed to come to fruition. Now they simply took advantage of the opportunity to explore it further, creating a discipline that was at once challenging and creative. Chuck figured out how to convince Will that Shadowfax would be the perfect ensemble addition to the label’s roster of solo artists.

Fortunately, Will Ackerman was so smitten by Chuck’s lyricon from the moment he heard it that he was willing to go ahead with Chuck’s plan to record. “Suddenly there was this indescribable, ethereal sound,” Will said. He and Alex were sitting in a park in Silicon Valley, listening to “Clockwork,” and this “unbelievable sound, the music of angels.” Alex told him that “the angel responsible for this sound was one Chuck Greenberg, and that the instrument was called the lyricon.” When Chuck joined Alex in concert at the Great American Music Hall, Will was there, and “there was that sound of angels again.” After the show he spoke with Chuck, who promptly told him about Shadowfax, and it was decided, more or less on the spot, to record a Shadowfax album.

At first, I was incredulous that Chuck would want to go to all the extra trouble to get the band back together: At this point I had never heard them play live.

“Why bother with them when you have the chance to do your own thing?”

“Because,” he said, “I will always have the opportunity to do my own thing, but I may not always be able to work with this band. And we never finished what we started out to say.”

Track Listing

Side One 18:02

  1. Angel’s Flight 4:00 C. Greenberg
  2. Vajra 4:20 G.E. Stinson
  3. Wheel of Dreams 4:46 G.E. Stinson & C. Greenberg
  4. Oriental Eyes 4:56 P. Maggini

Side Two 16:23

  1. Move the Clouds 3:08 G.E. Stinson
  2. A Thousand Teardrops 4:15 C. Greenberg
  3. Ariki (Hummingbird Spirit) 3:10 G.E. Stinson & C. Greenberg
  4. Marie 5:50, G.E. Stinson

Samples

Stream the entire album via MySpace

Shadowfax

Emil Richards, circa 1970's. photo courtesy Phil Maggini.
Emil Richards, circa 1970’s. photo courtesy Phil Maggini.

Additional Instrumentation:

  • Emil Richards: contra bass marimba, conga, Thai vibes on Ariki; kelon vibes anvil, gong on Oriental Eyes, contra bass marimba, rhythm logs, bell tree, tambourine on Vajra; vibes and crotales on Wheel of Dreams, windchimes and bells on Angel’s Flight. The percussion ensemble on Ariki was arramged by Emil Richards.
  • Alex de Grassi: 12 string acoustic guitar on the right channel of Vajra
  • Scott Cossu: piano on A Thousand Teardrops
  • Jamii Szmadzinski: violin and baritone violin on Move the Clouds and Marie
  • Bruce Malament: Fender Rhodes on Oriental Eyes

Credits

  • Produced by Chuck Greenberg
  • Recorded in May and June of 1982 at Studio America, Pasadena, CA
  • Recorded and Mixed by Joe Pollard
  • Second Engineer: Max Reese
  • Assistant Engineers: Pitt Kinsolving and Shep Lonsdale
  • Original Half-Speed Mastering by Jack Hunt, JVC Cutting Center
  • Matrix and Pressing by Record Technology Inc., Camarillo, CA
  • Cover Photo by Greg Edmonds
  • Design by Anne Ackerman

This recording was made on a modified MCI JH 16 recorder at 30 inches per second, and mixed to a Studer Mark III half-inch two-track recorder, using no noise reduction, limiting or compression.

Thanks to Joy Horner, Dave Below, Marty Lishon, and World Percussion. Thanks also to Sherman Clay Pianos for the use of the Kimball Bosendorfer Grand Piano, and to Zeus Audio Systems. Special thanks to Joe Pollard, to Emil Richards for the magic, and to Windham Hill.

  • All Selections Greenshadow Music (BMI)
  • Administered by Windham Hill Music (BMI)
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Productions Inc.

(c) (p) Windham Hill Records 1982

WH-1022

WHS-C 1022

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 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 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

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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