1. Mount Pinatubo Sunsets (9:06) IL1
2. Atmospheric Distortion, Part 1 (8:41) IL2
3. Checkered Synthetics, Part 1 (7:40) IL2
4. Clinically Alive, Part 1 (2:16) IL2
5. Checkered Synthetics, Part 2 (14:55) IL3
6. Atomspheric Distortion, Part 2 (8:30) IL3
7. Smells Buttery (2:50) IL2
8. Clinically Alive, Part 1 (1:55) IL3
9. Late Nights (14:39) IL3
10. Clinically Unplugged (4:14) IL3
Mount PinatuboSunsets (IL1)
(HS): While Greg was playing the intro I got a very strong idea for where I thought this piece should go, and from the moment of my first cymbal strike I think Greg and I were 100% headed in the same direction. The build-up that begins at 1:12 gets things moving with a very controlled feel until Greg downshifts us into a lower gear at 3:36 with some wonderful volume pedal work. After this things continue in a very relaxed, almost self-assured feel. The passage Greg begins at 6:37 reminds me of his work on “Yellow Star Mailing List”, from the Jugalbandi 2000 sessions. (Cool.) I do wish we’d been able to stick the ending, but them’s the hazards of improvisation.
The title was inspired by
Mount Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption that spewed a tremendous amount of ash into the stratosphere, creating brilliantly colorful sunsets all over the Earth for almost a year. The disc’s cover photo shows the ash layer as seen from the Space Shuttle. Makes you think about just how small a planet we all live on.
(GS): In Portland, there is a local organization that supports “outside” jazz who refused to give Jugalbandi a gig when Hyam was up in ’99, using the argument that we were rock, not jazz. Listening to the beginning of this piece and hell, a huge chunk of what we’ve done I find myself frequently thinking that it has much more in common with jazz development than rock. (Probably because we have improvisation at the core of what we do.) But hey, there ain’t no saxamaphones! And my technique frequently tastes more of acid and grit than saccharine. (Ooh, won myself some fans with that one.) OK, we’re rock, I guess. Honestly, I don’t give a rat’s ass what we are, as long as it’s good. But don’t you think some fans of modern fusion would get something out of this?
2. Atmospheric Distortion, Part 1 (IL2)
(HS): Before I even had arrived at Mahoozie Manor for these sessions I had an idea for creating a bunch of “cymbal stacks” by placing smaller cymbals directly on top of larger ones, which I did during our first day of recording. Striking the different stacks with various types of mallets and sticks created short bursts of white noise at various pitches that inspired me to create all sorts of melodic and rhythmic patterns that sweep back and forth between left and right in the stereo spread (a good example being the one that begins at 3:39). Note that the arpeggios that Greg begins at around 7:16 form the musical basis for “Atmospheric Distortion, Part 2”.
While the cymbal stacks sounded great and opened-up all sorts of musical possibilities for me, they turned out to be quite a bit louder than the cymbals were on their own, somewhat overpowering Greg’s bowed device and guitar in the mix. Correcting for this required a bit of ‘clever dick’ audio manipulation during mastering, since these sessions were recorded live, direct to DAT (which doesn’t allow the levels of the individual instruments to be adjusted once the performance has been recorded). So while mastering these cuts I ran the original stereo tracks through a Dolby Pro Logic surround sound decoder that I set to the 3-channel (left/center/right) mode. Since the guitar amp was panned directly to the center of the stereo mix, this produced a center channel signal that still contained all the instruments, but with the guitar/bowed device noticeably louder than they were in the original 2-channel stereo mix. When I created the final master of both Part 1 and Part 2 of “Atmospheric Distortion” I mixed-together all three Dolby Pro Logic channels, and was able to significantly improve the presence of Greg’s instruments by increasing the level of the center channel relative to the left and right channels. Although such manipulation technically violates Jugalbandi’s “live to DAT” mantra, Greg and I feel that the results actually deliver “Atmospheric Distortion” more closely to how we intended it to sound when we performed it.
(GS): ‘Yam did a good job of bringing out my otherwise somewhat buried tracks here, and, stickler though I often am, I don’t see his efforts violating anything. There are no additional notes, no overdubs, only a bit more volume for what was already there.
The always creative ‘Yam gave me a pleasant surprise with the stacked cymbal idea, which I thought he used beautifully here.
The opening bits on the bowed device seem to have a lot in common with parts of “Looking For Paradise”, from “In Search Of The Fantastic”. Most likely it was still in the same tuning.3. Checkered Synthetics, Part 1 (IL2)
(HS): As we did on “Rest Stop” from the Jugalbandi 2000 sessions, Greg and I enjoy trying to create a different mood by playing something with a slower and jazzier feel. Since the 2000 sessions I’ve done a lot of practicing to improve my brush playing, and not to sound immodest, but I think it shows here. I particularly enjoy the strolling feel that we got to me it sounds like you’re taking an afternoon walk through
Central Parklate on an autumn afternoon.
(GS): As people know me very much for my work with effects, in Jugalbandi I occasionally like to push myself to do things without them, particularly extended pieces like this. It both challenges my skills (to keep things interesting without varying the sonic texture) and proves a point. A win-win situation, when it works, as I feel this one does. And of course Hyam holds the whole thing up like Atlas.
4. Clinically Alive, Part 1 (IL2)
(HS): This piece really doesn’t have a set meter, although it seems to spend more time in 7/4 than anywhere else. I love the freedom of being able to place accents without worrying about having to support a metric structure. To me, music that has very long metric cycles (northern Indian classical music, for example) or no set meter (common in Jugalbandi’s music) really feels like it floats, elevating me above Earthbound concerns. Disregarding meter allows me to more ‘become one with’ the music’s pulse, which exists independently of its meter. (Sorry for using a hackneyed new-age cliché, but it’s appropriate here.)
(GS): This is the kind of nice, melodic, quiet little piece that I really wanted to make sure got scattered throughout these sessions. It was something we hadn’t done much of previous to ’03 well, not enough of, I think and it (and its structural cousins) provide a nice counterpoint to the longer, heavier, stranger moments (of which we never seem to run short, and I’m not complaining there).
5. Checkered Synthetics, Part 2 (IL3)
(HS): After Part 1 turned out so good Greg and I decided to try “Checkered Synthetics” again. Before we began I asked Greg to “try something more dissonant”, and I think what he came-up with here is totally brilliant not at all what anyone would expect from listening to my intro passage. Greg’s playing early-on in this piece really opened the door, allowing us to take “Checkered Synthetics, Part 2” all over the musical map. In fact, I think that this piece covers a wider variety of musical territory than any other single piece we played during all of the 2003 sessions. The loops that creep-in starting around 4:18 really make things sound like they’re teetering on the brink of anarchy, but we never relinquish control. The ‘snap’ at 7:32 is a digital glitch in the master. (Do not adjust your set.)
I love the way the whole piece turns-around beginning at 8:36 and just takes-off in a totally different direction towards fusion jam land, until we make yet another detour at 11:08, this time into fusion half-time land, with Greg serving-up some particularly tasty passages starting at 11:52. By the way, I played this entire piece using nothing but a pair of Regal Tip ‘Blasticks’, which are plastic brushes. At some point I flipped them over and used the handles, and by the end of the piece I was playing so hard that I wound-up completely destroying them in the process. (It was totally worth it.)
(GS): Try something more dissonant, he sez. What, me worry? Had me lickin’ my chop, I tell yas. My stipulation was that we really ought to try to include both pieces so that the full effect of the contrast between the two approaches could be appreciated. It was hard to hold back the laughter as I launched in with the opening weird, twisted guitar sound over the mellow brushes. Note also the use of slide for a somewhat other than blues/country approach. Yeehaw. Can’t help it, I love doing stuff like that. I’d forgotten he’d destroyed his Blasticks on this piece.
6. Atmospheric Distortion, Part 2 (IL3)
(HS): The opening four minutes of this piece is one of my very favorite things Jugalbandi has ever played I think the juxtaposition of Greg’s beautiful melodies against the stacked cymbal patterns played over the droning loop is absolutely magical (especially the melody Greg begins at 3:03). I also like how even after Greg switches back to the bowed device his playing still ties-in with what he established during the first few minutes. Starting at around 7:00 I play the gong with one hand and cymbal stacks with the other, then I abandon the metals altogether, and at 7:48 walk around to the front of the kit and play some rolls on the front bass drum heads. After all, no sense letting any part of the kit go to waste.
(GS): I like how the structure of the two parts of this dovetails bowed device to guitar to guitar to bowed device. I had been worried at the time we did it that one of the pieces wouldn’t work, spoiling the intended purpose. But it came off. The rattling sounds you hear starting around 6:30 are made by shaking the whammy bar handle on the bowed device, but having it connected so loosely that it doesn’t move the bridge at all, but serves instead as a rattle. Feed that into the loop delay, mess with it some, and it becomes all sorts of other sounds.
7. Smells Buttery (IL2)
(HS): The always-anticipated tabla/slit drum duet. I really like how the lead seems to shift back and forth between Greg and me, along with the clarity of our rhythmic and melodic interplay. The tabla work in this piece is my favorite from the entire 2003 session.
(GS): Another piece that came off. Even in the weird fills around 1:00! The acoustic stuff was really fun to do and I definitely want to do more of it in the future. Love the way the beat turns around at around 1:45 can you tell we’re both fans of live Cream and Indian music?
8. Clinically Alive, Part 2 (IL3)
(HS): On this version I kept time on the floor tom instead of cymbals (just looking for something a little different). It certainly gives Part 2 a darker feel and sound than Part 1, doesn’t it?
(GS): Nice to be able to use this electric12-string again for a live recording. The last time that happened was on “A Raft On The Sansar”, from Paper Bag’s “Music To Trash” CD. I liked Hyam’s use of floor tom here. Gives everything a nice powerful pulse.
9. Late Nights (IL3)
(HS): I hadn’t heard Greg’s solo version of “Late Nights” when we recorded this in fact, I didn’t even know it existed. So I was free of any preconceived notion of what to play and decided on an approach for the opening section that was in unison with the guitar part. I love Greg’s audacity at making the 180-degree change at the 4-minute mark (definitely keeps me on my toes, that’s for sure). Except for the motif that I introduce at 7:35 “Late Nights” really has Greg firmly in charge throughout.
(GS): You’d think that having recorded the studio version of this piece that year that I could just pull it out and wail on it, but it didn’t work that way, and I found myself really sweating the intro, although I think it came off fine. I felt myself waking up and laying into it once the structure disappeared. Often, that’s just the way my head works. I like the places this goes, and it’s probably some of the most “in-charge” playing I did during these sessions. Even when that’s the case though, I never feel that Hyam is just following me, any more than the rest of the body is just following the brain. It’s always an interdependent effort, and both always define the whole. And by “in-charge playing”, I mean essentially aggressively plowing into and through the music in a way, creating a huge secure channel for the music to flow through, using muscles/exertion/assertiveness to do it. Ego is certainly in there but if it isn’t more in the musculature than the head, you trip over it while you’re playing. Hmm… I don’t know if I’ve really captured what I mean here. Very difficult to put into words.
Oh, and I love the ending. Proof that no matter who’s leading at a given moment, if we’re both not on top of things all the way it won’t work and if we are…you get an ending like this. Two to tango, three to get ready, go cat go.
10. Clinically Unplugged (IL3)
(HS): The late-at-night acoustic version of “Clinically Alive”, with some wonderful acoustic guitar work (open tuning?) and great interplay between us. Who says you have to plug-in to have fun making great music?
(GS): Oh yes, itsa very nice. And the tabla’s in tune with the geetar. So glad he brought it. If I recall correctly (haven’t played it since that day), the guitar isn’t actually in open tuning, I’m just using the open strings in a standard tuning.
This concludes the Jugalbandi ’03 sessions releases. Greg, Hyam, Jed, Granny, Jethro and Ellie May would like to thank y’all for kindly droppin’ in.