I really don’t know where this piece came from – it just started coming out, and before I knew it, it was there. I’d been inside under COVID lockdown, like millions of others, but I was writing and playing music in a more focused way, writing and recording every day, getting faster with my tools (Logic Pro X is my DAW) and playing guitar, and then the music just starts to come through me, I get into the flow and come out a few hours later and then – this is there! During COVID I got into rituals, washing my hands, disinfecting surfaces, washing food as we brought it home, and even with my music making. And so, the name. As usual, Bruce Nifong lent his incredible Alto Saxophone playing to this piece. I played all the other instruments.
Echoes of the Muse
I wrote this piece for my band Ictus, back in 1981. Although I have a live recording of this from one of the many many concerts we played, I’d never recorded this in the studio, nor made a public release. Talking with Bruce Nifong about all the tunes I’ve written that have never been recorded or released, he mentioned that this was one of his favorites. So here it is – the first public release of this piece. I took it to some new places, with new sounds, but the head is exactly as originally conceived and written. Bruce plays flute and alto, and I play everything else.
Listen: The Words Are Gone/Lament for Jeff
I wrote these two pieces in 1978 right after a very good friend of mine, Jeff Weisberg was killed in a hit and run accident. Jeff was an amazing poet, and we had a band together with his brother Roger (piano) and Eddie Tann (Drums), where Jeff played bass and sang and I played guitar. Jeff got his PhD in poetry from the University of Michigan by the age of 21, and already had 3 books of poetry published by the time he was killed at age 26. Hence the title of the first piece “Listen: The Words Are Gone.” That was my first attempt to write a piece with no time, no bar lines, but in a way that would always sound like this piece. The players have to listen to the melody player and follow along improvising from the chord symbols. Another reason, the piece is called “Listen:…” There are lots of recordings of this with different instrumentation, and its always recognizable as this piece. I won a Jazz Composition Fellowship from the Mass Council of the Arts in 1980 for this piece, using the recording from the Ictus album “Future Winds“
This recording (and video) is from a live performance at the Berklee Performance Center for the A3E conference in 2014. Bruce’s saxophone sound is being modified in real time by Dan Moore who is using an iPad with software by Richard Boulanger to morph the reverb and eq. I am playing guitar synth and bass pedals. The second part of this video, Lament for Jeff, is from studio sessions for the Radioactive album with Bruce Nifong again on Saxophone, recorded in his home, and I am playing all the remaining musical parts, recorded in my home studio.
Lament for Jeff was written at the same time, but when I took it to the band to play, they felt it was too dark and sombre to play in clubs (probably right), so this piece had never been performed in public – this is the very first recording. And although this was me and Bruce in our home studios, I wanted to merge the two pieces into the whole that I’d originally conceived, as one work in homage to my friend Jeff.
You can also watch a video of Pamelia Stickney playing this on Theremin at the TED conference with me on guitar/synth and Makoto Ozone on Piano. I am never in the video because I had to stay so far away from her to avoid my movement interfering with her pitch!
During the time I was making this album, I was being treated for Prostate Cancer, and had radioactive seeds implanted. This was because during COVID, it was thought not advisable to go to the hospital every day for five weeks for external focused beam radiation treatments, so instead they chose to do Brachytherapy where you only go into the hospital once, for the surgical implantation of the radiation. I was radioactive externally for about six weeks when I needed to avoid close contact with pregnant women and young children, a drag because I have five grandkids that I had to avoid. Anyway, this album was a result of this period, hence the title “Radioactive” and the title for this tune “Radiation Blues.”
I wrote this piece back in 1974, and this arrangement was written in 1975 for the Berklee Jazz in the Classroom album, for the Herb Pomeroy Jazz Orchestra. Although they ended up recording two of my pieces, this one was not chosen. Ictus played it a bit in concerts, but it was never recorded or produced. In this refreshed arrangement with more electronic elements, Bruce pays EWI and soprano sax, and I play everything else.
Originally written for Gordon Radford, the original pianist in Ictus, the piece really came into its own when Teese Gohl joined the band, and he took it to new places. Here it is closer to the original concept, and I have written an all new orchestration for it, and for the first time it features guitar in the open solo section. Here is a video of Ictus playin the tune in 1978, with Gordon on electric piano, and Bob Zung on soprano, and I’m on the synths (from the TV show “All That’s Jazz”):
Blue on a Grey Afternoon
I wrote this originally as part of my work for Berklee, during 1980 – 1982, when I was teaching and had part of my load reduced so that I could write charts for the Ensemble Library. This is actually straight from the original arrangement, with some new sounds in there. During this period, I had met the woman who would become my wife. We had started dating, and I’d fallen in love with her, but she decided to move home to New Jersey. I had the blues. We always joked about my color blindness so I was aways naming tunes with colors in the title. Fortunately she returned to Boston and we got married soon after. I’m still color blind, and I still write blues tunes (See Radiation Blues, above)…
This is part of a set of two pieces that includes “One of Two,” featured on the Mashinations album, and this one is the second of that set, aptly named “The Second”… also never before recorded or performed. My co-producer Peter Bell is not a fan of this tune, but he still helped in the mix!
Through The Galaxy
Brand new for this album, although written in the early 2000s (that time is a blur to me). This one started out as a kind of space exploration – between piano and the synths, but then the guitar emerges and it takes off like a rocket, through the galaxy and beyond!