Harisongs, Chants of India

The year was 1972, I began attending the University of New Haven. My first class was Intro to Music held on the basement floor of the main building.

I walked in and chose a place to sit. Sitting in front of me was the music professor, barefoot, cross-legged on the rug. He had an Indian sitar on his lap. When we were all assembled, he said not a word as he began to play this marvelous instrument. I soon felt a wonderful sense of peace. I decided at that moment to minor in music at UNH. I later took a course on the music and culture of India. I learned about ragas and the tintal beat (16 beats actually in a rhythmic cycle).

Little did I realize how influential that time would become in the spirituality and the healing power of my soul.

George Harrison introduced us to Ravi Shankar through his recordings and at The Concert for Bangladesh. Their friendship has come full circle. I miss them both.

I first saw a Facebook post shared by Dhani Harrison about Harisongs. It led me to the George Harrison estate. Why don’t I let George Harrison and Ravi Shankar tell you more, Namaste’.

The George Harrison estate is happy to announce HariSongs, a new label created to celebrate the Indian classical music George loved and believed would “help as a balance towards a peaceful daily life.” HariSongs launches today with two reissues in honour of both Ravi Shankar’s birthday (b. 7th April, 1920) and Ali Akbar Khan’s birthday (b. 14th April, 1922) this month.

Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan’s In Concert 1972, and Ravi Shankar’s Chants of India, are now available for the first time via streaming outlets, as well as to download.

In Concert 1972

Then after I posted this article this morning I got an email from George Harrison titled, “Proudly announcing HariSongs”. I loved the picture it contained as well as these words from George.

RaviandGeorge

A Statement By George Harrison 

In 1966, through the grace of God, my life was blessed and enhanced from the sudden desire to investigate the classical music of India. Although intellectually, I could not comprehend it – the music, (which happened to be Ravi Shankar and the sitar) made more sense to me than anything I had heard in my life. When I read Ravi saying he felt he had only started, I was overwhelmed, humbled and encouraged to try and understand the music and the man much more. Miraculously I met Ravi Shankar and felt an even greater attraction to him, the music and later the tradition and self-discipline of India, without which, my life would be empty and pointless. In 1966 I heard music which had been written by Ravi Shankar some years before (Nava Rasa Ranga). It was performed by Ravi, along with some other musicians, for All India Radio. Until then I had not heard Indian classical music in any form other than solos or duets, and the beauty has haunted me for the past eight years and still haunts me today. I hope this Music may help a little, to nurture the wealth of the West. God only knows. – George Harrison, 1973

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The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Jazz Rock/Fusion

The year was 1972. I was moving up from my associate degree at Norwalk Community College to complete my bachelor’s degree at the University of New Haven. It was an exciting time in my life. I enrolled in my junior year classes that fall. Little did I realize that the course I signed up for last-minute, Introduction to Music, would open before me an incredible path of music discovery and direction.

The music teacher started our class by playing sitar in the middle of the room for 30 minutes as he welcomed us to world music and eastern influences. He went on to articulate what he had been taught and experienced as a student himself at Wesleyan University. I was so hooked on what he had to say to us that morning. I decided right then and there that I would minor in music. I took six music classes at UNH, all ably taught by world music professors and alumni of Wesleyan University.

One recording we heard often in my first music class was Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Inner Mounting Flame. The record grew on me as we were permitted uninterrupted, meditative listens during class. I had never heard music so powerfully stated yet so eloquently executed. If it wasn’t for this music class, I may have never discovered jazz rock/fusion at its core from Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Left to right: Jerry Goodman, Jan Hammer, John...
Left to right: Jerry Goodman, Jan Hammer, John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Rick Laird (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I listen to The Inner Mounting Flame 41 years later, still intrigued by its rich textures, that machine gun guitar from John McLaughlin and the powerful drumming of Billy Cobham. The layered effect of Jerry Goodman on violin, coupled with the driving bass and sharp tones by Jan Hammer. A once in a lifetime collaboration. My favorite song on this recording is, “You Know, You Know”.

File:MahavishnuOrchestraBirdsOfFirealbumcover.jpg

The Mahavishnu Orchestra followed The Inner Mounting Flame with Birds of FireI didn’t think it was possible for jazz rock/fusion from The Mahavishnu Orchestra to soar any higher. It took off for the stratosphere on Birds of Fire. I did my college term paper (which I so wish I still had somewhere) on Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. He afforded me a wonderful interview from his Jamaica Queens apartment. We recorded it on high-end reel to reel on a Scully Tape system at the WNHU-FM radio station. Alas that has been lost to me too, sigh.

 Thankfully I saw The Mahavishnu Orchestra live at Staples High School in the summer of 1973. They were very skillful in their concert. I can still visualize John McLaughlin arched to the heavens playing the double neck guitar. I can also see Billy Cobham playing behind his massive plexiglass drum kit.

A Festival of Serious Fun Awaits You In New Haven

Fest2012_MainPage

Last night we attended the International Festival of Arts and Ideas season preview which is scheduled to take place June 16-30, 2012 all around New Haven. New Haven continues to figure prominently in my world music consciousness.  I minored in music at the University of New Haven in the early 70s. Many of my music professors were graduates of the prestigious Wesleyan University world music program.

This blog post will highlight the major music events announced that interested us. Please note the entire schedule of events which features 900 artists from 17 countries will be available at the end of April on the  official International Festival of Arts and Ideas Web site.

The music events have two major themes. The Music At Dusk series is a paid ticket. This series will be held at the Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Hall at the Yale School of Music. The music event that intrigues is 34 Punaladas an Argentine tango guitar quartet. They sound delightful and fresh.

The other major theme will be the free concerts, Headliners on the New Haven Green. We have been to several free concerts at this picturesque, historic setting. Its fun to bring a picnic basket, chairs and a blanket as you listen to live music in the fresh open air.

The free concerts we contemplate are:

  1. Asphalt Orchestra – June 17  (7 pm)- I love their rendition of Frank Zappa’s Zomby Woof
  2. The Carolina Chocolate Drops – June 23 (7 pm)
  3. Red Baraat & Noori – June 24 (7 pm) – Red Baraat is a fiery blend of raucous Indian bhangra combined with funky New Orleans brass
  4. Roseanne Cash – June 30 (7 pm) – I am excited that Roseanne Cash will perform The List, a paean to her father, Johnny Cash.
Now that the Litchfield Jazz Festival and the International Festival of Arts and Ideas plans are announced, I have one more 17th annual Connecticut music festival to learn about 🙂  Monday, April 2nd the line up for the Gathering of the Vibes festival in Bridgeport, Ct will be unveiled. Then I will be able to author my, “How I spent my summer music vacation” paper for back to school in the fall 😉

Love Goes To Buildings On Fire – Will Hermes

Radio Ethiopia
Image via Wikipedia

This is the time of year I catch up on music journalism and associated listening. I have several books at my disposal that are raising my music consciousness

One such read is an authoritative and extensively well researched book by Will Hermes, entitled Love Goes To Buildings On Fire. My son, Matthew, gave it to me as a Christmas present this year. Matthew and I have an inherent music connection that we actively share. I am proud of what he has accomplished with his skills in graphics design and music production.
I had browsed the two New York Times articles about Love Goes To Buildings On Fire, 1) “Books of the Times: When Dreamers Were Breaking The Music Apart” by David Gates and 2) “The CBGB Effect” by Gerald Marzorati earlier in the month. I had made a note to reconnoiter with this book in the music aisle of Barnes & Noble. Thankfully my son picked up on that interest and took the step for me.

I am not far along enough in the book to divulge how pivotal these five years of music evolution in New York City have been.The premise of the book as the cover art wildly articulates is that New York is an entertainment petri dish that cultures music genres with great aplomb. The era from 1973 to 1977 flourished music in fervent splendor.

I recall and relate to this era of music with my music industry past.

I was senior at the University of New Haven in 1973. I had an afternoon radio show that I did on WNHU-FM 88.7, West Haven, Ct. My goal when I graduated in 1974 was to work in artist and repertoire (A&R) for a record company. I sent my résumé to every record company in New York City. 1974 was a recessionary time. I received 23 rejection letters from each record company. I never did get to realize that dream.

I also recall it was a time that I would hop the Conrail train to New York City and go record shopping for hours on end. I would visit the East Village, Greenwich Village and the Park Row (J&R Music World) record haunts. I would come home with bags of loot that contained specialty EPs and vinyl LPs by such artists as The Talking Heads, Television, and The Patti Smith Group.

I plan to write more about Will Hermes book when I have completed reading it. I look forward to more revelations and flashbacks to follow.

My one regret with the hard copy edition of this book is that I can’t hyperlink to the citations as I would like to do. It slows down my reading to cross-reference the references.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal is ever-expanding his musical capabilities with rich textures gathered from across the world stage. Taj ranges with natural motion from the blues, through calypso, diving into reggae and swaying us  like palm trees with island music.

It has been 37 years since I last saw Taj Mahal perform live at The Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Ct on October 30, 1974.  I spent quality time with Taj Mahal that evening as I interviewed him for a local music magazine. He played a National Steel Guitar underneath the interview as we talked in his dressing room. Sitting right outside his dressing room that night was James Cotton who joined Taj Mahal  softly on his harp. That is one of my fondest backstage moments when two pivotal blues musicians broke out in improvisational song as background accompaniment in my presence.

I also saw Taj Mahal open for the Mahavishnu Orchestra at Staples High School in Westport, Ct. 1973. Taj Mahal had Howard Johnson on Tuba with him that evening and Taj’s set was reminiscent of The Real Thing recorded live at The Fillmore East in 1971.

My lovely wife Rosemary purchased tickets to see Taj Mahal and Los Lobos live at The Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport, Ct. on Saturday February 19th. My modus operandi before I attend a concert is to immerse myself in that artist’s music and read as much as  I can about them and their art. I enjoy researching the artist’s Web pages, catching up on what has been written and learned about the artist. Its going to be both fun and a challenge assimilating Taj Mahal’s 40+ year legacy in the next 10 days 😉 Thankfully I have Zune to help me do that 😉

When I attended the University of New Haven(1972-1974) I took a music course that covered the blues extensively. I chose to write my term paper that semester about Taj Mahal. Having established a nice working relationship with Ed NaHa at Columbia Records in New York City, I availed myself of CBS Record’s research department utilizing press release and extensive artist background information files. Ed was a tremendous help to me in 1973 and 1974 when I needed background information on Mahavisnhu John McLaughlin and Taj Mahal. Ed made me feel right at home at the Big Black Rock as CBS was known as in those days. He understood it was my desire as a student majoring in business and minoring in music that I wanted to work for CBS Music when I graduated. That dream never did materialize for me but I always stayed in direct touch with music as best I could over the years.

So today’s WordPress post is dedicated to old friends and the ever unfolding music of Mr. Taj Mahal. 🙂

Taj Mahal’s latest recording is Maestro, give it a listen soon 😉

 

Instant Karma Released 41 Years Ago Today

Instant Karma!
Image via Wikipedia

I subscribe to the Moonalice legend on Facebook and today’s posting caught my eye.

According to Moonalice legend, John Lennon released the classic “Instant Karma” in the UK 41 years ago today. It ranks as one of the fastest-released songs in pop music history, recorded the same day it was written, and arriving in stores only 10 days later. John remarked to the press, he “wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch, and we’re putting it out for dinner.”

We would call that a viral music release in today’s world of the Web. When  I hear or read about “Instant Karma”  I always associate with my first college radio station show on WNHU-FM 88.7 in West Haven, Ct. It was 1973 and I was attending The University of New Haven, where I majored in business and minored in music. My goal when I graduated Brien McMahon High School in 1969 was to be a radio personality. I went right from high school to Career Academy Broadcasting School in New York City.  I commuted on the New Haven Railroad from Norwalk, Ct. to Grand Central Terminal for four months. It was an exciting time in my life moving through the hustle and bustle to my school at 8 West 40th Street, which overlooked the New York Public Library and Bryant Park.

I was an inaugural year afternoon FM disk jockey on WNHU-FM. My radio show was entitled, “Instant Karma”. I would begin my Tuesday/Thursday 2-5 p.m. show with the 45 r.p.m. Apple Records single by John Lennon.

That was against the grain of the radio programming I had been taught because “Instant Karma” was a rock and roll vocal.  You were supposed to use an instrumental to begin and end a radio show. I am a non-conformist what can I say 😉

“Instant Karma” by John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band never gets tired or old.

We all shine on, Love You John and Yoko

Peace,

Ed

World Music and Wesleyan University, Daily Post 2011 #8

“When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school

It’s a wonder
I can think at all

And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none

I can read the writing on the wall

“Kodachrome”  – Lyrics by Paul Simon, Copyright 1972, Paul Simon Music

High school didn’t teach me very much. College was the real education, especially when I minored in music at the University of New Haven, from September 1972 – June 1974. I was exposed to audio experiences from music professors who were graduates of Wesleyan University‘s World Music program. Their knowledge of world music sounds, cultures and instruments expanded my horizons in ways I never imagined before.  I took courses on the music of the Far East, where we studied such countries as India, China, Tibet, Bali and Japan. We studied Black Music, diving deep into the eras of jazz, deciphering John Coltrane and gaining a full appreciation for Miles Davis. We studied the music of Africa and its relationship with American blues and jazz.  My favorite book we discussed and read was Savannah Syncopators: African retention in the blues by Paul Oliver . We also studied the music of Europe, especially the music of the gypsies and Django Reinhardt.

The term “world music” was coined in the 1960′s at Wesleyan University by ethnomusicologist Robert E. Brown.Robert E. Brown, who passed away in 2005, was one of the first students to receive a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from University of California Los Angeles. He was appointed assistant professor in Wesleyan’s Music Department in 1961 and joined the tenured ranks of the faculty in 1966. He introduced Carnatic (South Indian) music to Wesleyan.

Brown wrote that he: “… invented the term ‘world music’ … to avoid using … ‘ethnomusicology’ for a new graduate program we were cooking up, and to emphasize music and music performance as the core of the program, as opposed to musicological research.” (Robert Brown, letter to the editor, “His fault,” Folk Roots (208 Oct. 2000), 1-2.).

I also had Paul Simon to thank as he championed world music in exciting, innovative ways.  Simon’s relationship with world music began with  Bridge Over Troubled Water, which featured an Andean song called el Condor Pasa.  Then in 1972, when his first solo album Paul Simon was released he created the reggae influenced hit, “Mother and Child Reunion”. He continued on that path by adding layers, textures and world music influences by recording much of Graceland in South Africa.

Paul Simon continued to imbue world music cultures into his music, for example he moved on to the music of Brazil with The Rhythm of the Saints recording.

Another famous Wesleyan graduate, John Perry Barlow has worked with Gilberto Gil, Brazil’s Minister of Culture to create an online music archive to catalog all the music of Brazil. It is an open source initiative that I heartily embrace as it will make all the music available for free download.

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters – Daily Post 2011 #1

Herbie Hancock performing at The XM Sonic Stag...
Image via Wikipedia

My son, Matthew, got me a $50 gift certificate for music at Cutler’s Record Shop in New Haven. I took him to this store last year and he really liked it, which made me very happy :), as I used to hang out there frequently in my college years from 1972-74, as a matter of fact its a frequent music haunt in my travels still 😉

My wife, Rosemary told me the money was burning a hole in my pocket and she was right of course ;).

This is the first of the three recordings I purchased. I’ll write about the other two recordings tomorrow and Monday…

Herbie HancockHead Hunters, the Jazz Masterpiece originally released on October 13, 1973.  I recall that I played Chameleon and Watermelon Man often when I was an FM disk jockey at the University of New Haven, on WNHU-FM. I minored in music at UNH and learned a great deal from my world music college professors who all came from Wesleyan University. We analyzed Head Hunters in my jazz class extensively, which was one the freedoms of taking free form music classes that  I dug in the early 70s.

We’d learn things like the quote below which further increased my interest in ethnomusicology, “On the intro and outro of the tune, percussionist Bill Summers blows into a beer bottle imitating hindewhu, a style of singing/whistle-playing found in Pygmy music of Central Africa. Hancock and Summers were struck by the sound, which they heard on the ethnomusicology LP, The Music of the Ba-Benzélé Pygmies (1966), by Simha Arom and Genviève Taurelle.[11]

Herbie Hancock’s historic “re-imagining” of the classic Headhunters band took place on the Bonnaroo stage in 2005.

The 20-bit remastered edition on CD plays better than I even remembered from music class and radio days. I’m listening to it now as I write this blog post 🙂

The Herbie Hancock Group

Herbie Hancock – Keyboards, Synthesizers

Bennie Maupin – Sax (Soprano, Tenor)

Paul Jackson – Electric Bass

Harvey Mason – Yamaha Drums

Bill Summers – Percussion