In May of 1999, Hyam packed up his drums, some mics, a mixer, his DAT recorder and a bunch of blank tapes, and drove up to Portland for a week. We booked a rehearsal studio, (for which a name was never given-we call it "the unnamed studio") and a gig at a church, the proceeds of which went to a food bank.
The studio was 3 flights upstairs over an auto garage, and we had the luck to get the main room during the year's first heat wave. The air conditioning barely worked and at times when we weren't playing, we could hear people rehearsing in the other studios. There was also a friendly guy who not only worked but lived in his little lockout space. This meant he had to walk in and out past us while we played, and he managed to make concentration extremely difficult for Greg a number of times, especially first day.
One advantage to the studio's location in a commercial area was our ability to play at any hour of the day-in fact, the first day's session didn't end until after daylight the next morning. Being able to play-through as long as we wanted gave us a sense of freedom that was essential to the creation of many good performances.
The main room's size and construction gave it a very good balance of acoustically reflective and absorptive surfaces, resulting in the most realistic recording of Hyam's drums on any of the Jugalbandi releases so far. (The entire kit-which is quite large-was picked-up using only 4 microphones.) Overall the "Jugalbandi: 1999" studio recordings reveal more of the band's musical and sonic subtleties than any of the three 'Jugalbandi 2000' discs, which were recorded at the Dog Pit (a much smaller room that had minimal acoustic treatments).
We were unable to get all the gear into Hyam's SUV, so we rented a moving van for a few days. The studio wasn't a lockout, which meant we had to load the gear in and out after each session (up and down those 3 flights of stairs), and back into the truck, where with fingers crossed we left it locked in overnight.
On the 2nd day Hyam came down with the flu, which is why there were no recordings from the 24th. Instead, he recuperated as best he could, and we got on with things the next day, nailing down a few more recordings good enough to include here.
The gig turnout was less than expected, due partially to the fact that the place was really difficult to find. Many people told Greg the next day that they'd driven past it 4 or 5 times and couldn't find it, and that they'd finally had to give up and go home. Hearing this from one person this might be an excuse, but from numerous people it's almost certainly the truth; plus there's the fact that even we had trouble finding the church when we first went to check out their stage. Nonetheless, the people who did attend were very much into it, and we gave it our best shot for them.
When we recorded "Jugalbandi: 1999", we had not played together in 6 years. In fact, Greg hadn't played much guitar in that time either, and what he had done was mostly unplugged- the effects rig had only been used a handful of times during that period. We do not think that shows at all in these recordings; we think they're very powerful musical statements. In fact, both of us feel that this was the culmination of the previous work we had done together.
Among the objectives for these sessions was to get some definitive recordings of pieces we'd been doing for years. I'm not sure we succeeded, because I doubt the wisdom of that goal now: how does a primarily improvisational band get a "definitive recording"? The goal doesn't match the entity. It may as well have been the quest for perfect chicken lips. That said, there are versions on these discs that, if it was someone's "get acquainted" listen with a piece- and perhaps the only version they were going to know for a long time- I would feel just fine about it. I suppose this as close to definitive as a primarily improvisational band might come. Of course in some cases we've still hedged our bets with multiple versions! It goes back to the nature of what we do: the two versions of "Uncle Sun" are 90% different from each other, for example.
There were also two new pieces. The various "Elmer Season" takes hint pretty well at the kind of things that were to develop during the Jugalbandi 2000 sessions. And "Drums Stop, Very Bad" allowed us to try something we'd always meant to do but never tried, when we lived in the same city: double drum kits. We also used this on the old Dog Neutral standard "Atomic Research In The Quiet Bunker".
In a way, it's fitting that we managed to do one set of recordings just on either side of the millenial divide. And the form they took seems fitting too: J99 is primarily older pieces (for us), and J2K was all new. A very nice symbolic gesture. And here we are screwing it all up by releasing this in 2003. Proving perhaps that good material only dies if you let it; and I admit, despite my grumblings and semi-retirements, in the long run I've never been very good at that. This stuff deserves to be heard, and for our fans and friends, I am very glad you will now have the chance.
The music on "Jugalbandi: 1999" (J99) mostly has a different genesis from the music we played on any of the "Jugalbandi 2000" (J2K) discs. Greg and I had been playing most of the music on J99 together as far back as 1988 in one form or another, while all of the music on J2K was original to the sessions we did in April of 2000.
When Greg and I decided to begin making music together as a duo in Jugalbandi, it was natural for us to use the music we were already familiar with as a framework. In fact, during the year or so Jugalbandi was together before Greg left L.A. in 1993, the only completely new piece we played that has remained in our repertoire was "Uncle Sun"; all the others were pieces we had played together in Cold Sky or Dog Neutral. So when I went up to Portland in 1999, Greg and I intended to get definitive Jugalbandi versions of this older material. Although neither of us spoke of it at the time, I think we were both anxious to take Jugalbandi in some new musical directions, and getting 'definitive' versions of the older material helped give us the freedom to do just that in the J2K sessions.
Additional note: The ILCS (Improvisation Level Classification System) has undergone a change and is now divided up into 6 levels. For those who find this sort of thing fascinating and want to know the details, go to our page on the system; the rest of you, read on.
1. Uncle Sun (21:13) Recorded 5/23/99.
GS: This piece came into existence as an IL1 in 1993, and the result was so pleasing to us both that we knew we had to try it again. We ended up doing three versions in '99, of which this was the first. In my opinion this has the best performance and variations on the opening melody out of all 4 recordings.
HS: The opening motif always feels very calming for me to play, and puts me in a space where I'm clear of preconceptions, something that has helped push all the versions of 'Uncle Sun' we've ever played in unique musical directions. You can hear how this one takes-on a clear direction right from the beginning, and how that direction changes by the end of the third minute. By the time we hit 13:00 we've already covered a lot of ground, and at 14:02 Greg introduces a killer motif that leads us into further adventure. The unison groove that appears at 15:01 is one of those magical happenings that makes hauling a few hundred pounds of drums and recording equipment up three flights of stairs a small price to pay indeed.
2. Atomic Research In The Quiet Bunker (edit) (7:53) Recorded 5/23/99.
GS: This one got its name from some typos in a couple of ads I placed back in '88, through one of which Hyam and I hooked up. I was looking for a drummer and a keyboardist; in the drummer's ad, "Clive Bunker" became "Quiet Bunker", and in the keyboardist ad "Atomic Rooster" became "Atomic Research". Combine this with Hyam's and my collective interest in things nuclear and you get a song title. I had the riff laying around for a while and I believe it was Hyam who suggested doing it in 5. It was one of the first things we played together, before we even assembled Cold Sky- so, 2 bands before Jugalbandi (3 if you count the SOS sessions). This arrangement features double drums towards the end. It was our first time ever attempting this, and the reason we broke with our usual practice and edited the piece is that we went on way too long trying to get a feel for it. But we felt the first part was too good to lose, so out came the digital scissors and here you go.
HS: I must admit that my approach to my instrument makes it rather awkward for me to play along with other drummers, and I think you can hear a little of that here. However, "Atomic's" 5/8 and 6/8 shuffle feel provides a pretty sturdy framework for the two of us, and during the part of the piece included here we don't stray too far from home. Things did break-down a bit after that, but we've left-in the best bits for you.
3. Elmer Season (#1) (5:16) Recorded 5/25/99.
GS: We thought it was important to try to work on some new ideas. We were going after a basic impressionistic thing here. I remember having a fairly set order for what I did, but no set duration.
HS: At the time we played the 'Elmers' my mind wasn't nearly as set on what I wanted to do as Greg's seems to have been. At the beginning I was basically responding to what Greg was playing, until I bring in some melodic patterns. From that point on, I think the counterpoint bears some of the seeds of the version of "Approaching Readiness" that we recorded a year later (released on "The Cram And Stuff Method"). However, this version of "Elmer" has a very relaxed, almost deliberate feel to it, as opposed to "Approaching's" frenetic, chaotic energy.
4. MIRV Gryphon (14:35) Recorded 5/23/99. Take 2.
GS: This is our 2nd try from that day and we think it's particularly tasty. This one was around from the Dog Neutral days and came out of a rhythmic idea of Hyam's and a riff I'd stumbled over in a jam a few months previous to my bringing it in to the band.
HS: Actually, my original idea for the piece wasn't rhythmic as much as it was atmospheric. I had an idea for something with with a legato melody and a loose feel, with a 'swirling' keyboard part filling-in the space, and Greg's melody was just the sort of thing I had in mind. In Jugalbandi we've simply dispensed with the keyboard part and use what remains as one of our more composed frameworks for improvisation. I've always loved the sound of big swish cymbals, and MIRV is the perfect vehicle for that particular wash of sound. Greg pulls-out his "Rock God" chops at 8:09, and his Earl Scruggs chops at 12:26. I pull-out my fondnes for small cymbals at 13:34.
5. Mach Turtle (5:28) Recorded 5/25/99.
GS: Another Dog Neutral tune, during which at one point the rest of the band used to drop out while Hyam and I did frantic unison starts and stops, followed by a high speed jam, after which the band would rejoin us. After gigs it was common for people to come up to me and declare that the best part of the show, which was one of the things that led us to keep it a duo in the formative days of Jugalbandi. We decided that for these sessions it would make a good vehicle for a drum solo.
HS: At Dog Neutral's live performances Greg and I would turn this into a bit of guitar/drum hysteria a la early Mahavishnu Orchestra, and this gives you a good helping of that. I must confess to not being terribly fond of this drum solo, but if you ever heard Dog Neutral play live it's likely you would have heard a solo similar to this one, so I think it's worthwhile to include here as a record of what my approach to the drums was at that time. (I'm currently in the process of completing a CD of solo drum performances that will serve as a good example of my current approach to the instrument. Stay tuned to this site for info about its release.)
6. Elmer Season (#2) (4:37) Recorded 5/25/99.
GS: Pretty much the same story here as track 3.
7. Under The Bridge (17:12) Recorded 5/25/99.GS: This one has a long history and predates even Paper Bag. It came out of my first experimentations with open tunings and was played in very fluid arrangements from around '82 or '83 up until getting together with Hyam in 2/88, at which point I finalized the sections so that someone other than me could follow them. This piece was a staple for Cold Sky, but was dropped for Dog Neutral. It seemed a natural for the Jugalbandi setup though, so we brought it back. There remains a lot of room for improvisation, despite having quite a few identifiable sections- how we get to those in any given version is always open, and sometimes sections are even skipped. We did several takes during these sessions, the best two of which made it to disc.
HS: Although it's one of the longer pieces we play, "Under The Bridge" is also one of the more structured, consisting of several different motifs that have evolved over ten or so years. Occasionally things get wild and wooly (as they do here starting at around 6:00), but no matter how many different times we play it, "Under The Bridge" always manages to sound like itself.
recorded live to DAT at the unnamed studios, and at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Portland, OR
1. MIRV Gryphon (13:48) Recorded 5/23/99. Take 1.
GS: When we were looking to get "definitive" versions, we realized we wanted to do another one after this, because the composed sections in this verson were good but weren't "definitive". Meanwhile the improvised portion after the main body of the song was so good we thought about including it as an edit and calling it "Headless MIRV". When we abandoned the idea of trying to make a single ultimate version of anything and decided to include several if they were good enough, the composed section of this take suddenly appeared to be very good. We definitely prefer to use unedited takes, and there was time, so you get it all here.
HS: Greg's loop in this version lends a lot of forward motion to the head section-it seems to be pulling the drums ahead along with it. At about 8:15 the time changes to 11, but after a minute or so the piece transmutes into having no definite meter, which we stick with until the last 30 seconds or so.
2. Drums Stop, Very Bad (#2) (2:57) Recorded 5/25/99.
GS: There are a total of 4 of these, at least 2 of which are good, but radically different, compositionally and in length. This is the short one, the longer being around 9 minutes. Which might be great fun for the drummers in the audience but without a 3rd disc, not our pick for release.
HS: In 1995 Greg and I did an experimental piece where I recorded a drum track and sent it to Greg for him to add a guitar track to without ever listening to it or knowing anything about what I played. (The result, called "Retirement", was quite successful, and will see the light of day on an upcoming "Classic Jugalbandi" collection.) My initial drum melody for "Retirement" forms the basis for this version of "Drums Stop, Very Bad".
3. Uncle Sun (18:26) Recorded 5/25/99.
GS: This take really illustrates just how different things can get between versions. I sound like I've slipped back into a 1986 Paper Bag headspace throughout most of it, and in comparison to the version on disc one this is downright weird. Which of course we were very happy about.
HS: From the opening drum pattern, this version of "Uncle Sun" is more aggressive than the version on the other "Jugalbandi: 1999" CD, and at 4:00 I shift gears and things really start going 'where no Uncle Sun has gone before'. Around 7:00 I shamelessly borrow from Carmine Appice's drum part on Vanilla Fudge's version of "Elenor Rigby", with Greg's pitch bender putting an end to my tribute about a minute later. The rest of the ride maintains a real high level of energy, and culminates in "The Closing Riff That Refuses To Die".
4. Clear Day (7:32) Recorded 5/25/99.
GS: This started off its life as a one man studio jam for my "Water From The Moon" album in 12/86. For Cold Sky, I solidified and added to the arrangement, including parts for short drum, bass, and eventually keyboard solos. This was the only song to carry over from Cold Sky to Dog Neutral, and we frequently opened sets with it. Doing this piece with Jugalbandi was a bit of a challenge because it really was meant to have at least one other instrument. We tried to make up for this by playing it as fiercely as possible.
HS: Even in Dog Neutral I always tried to play "Clear Day" as fiercely as I could. In spite of a few clams here, I've always liked the Cobham-esque drum part. When we began playing this piece in DN I improvised a different 8-bar drum break at each performance, but soon realized that it would sound better composed, so I worked one out that I liked and have played it note-for-note ever since (including here).
5. MIRV Gryphon (8:19) Recorded 5/25/99.
GS: Yes, another version, which again goes places the other two don't. Here it serves to tie things together with a few repeating sections, lest the CD's very structure fly apart in the anarchic squall of improv. Yeah, yeah, structure....that's the ticket.
HS: This is one of the more unusual "MIRVs" we've played, with us extending the head itself, rather than playing an extended section after the head. Playing the closing section of the head at the end ties the whole thing together, and this version winds-up feeling a lot like something the Coltrane quartet would have played during the early 1960s, which is most cool by me. (Recording note: The drum recording on this piece in particular is the closest I've ever been able to capture how my drums really sound live in a room. If you had been standing 4 feet in front of me while we played this version of "MIRV", this is what you would have heard.)
6. Under The Bridge (19:21) Recorded 5/26/99 during live performance at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Portland, OR.
GS & HS: This was the only thing from the live show to make it to these CDs. (As you can hear, the recording quality isn't quite as good.) Truth be told, about half the performances were stale and tired in comparison to the week's studio work; of the other half, this is the highlight. This was the last piece we played, and you can hear that by the end of the show we were really just getting warmed up. Rest assured though, this is not included here just as a token of the live show- We think it has moments of excitement that rival any other version of the song, again going places even we didn't expect.