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Sirius Respect

Nate Dorward

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Just had a pleasant surprise in the mail--I was wondering why on earth I'd be getting a review copy from Mode Records (great label, but their focus is on the contemporary classical world not jazz), but opened it up to discover the Respect Sextet's latest disc, Sirius Respect. People who participated in my 2nd blindfold test (not the most recent one--the one before) may recall a long, seriously groovy track on there by these guys, a cover of Fred Anderson's "3 on 2". Anyway, the new one coincidentally gave me flashbacks to a not-so-charmed meeting between the Art Ensemble of Chicago & Hartmut Geerken on a dual tribute to Sun Ra and Mynona (an author previously unknown to me), which had its moments but was really trashed by Geerken (who seems to have decided to chop up the tape to his own satisfaction). As a double tribute Sirius Respect works a hell of a lot better, as you can imagine. I'm no Stockhausen expert--I have exactly two albums of his music--but the main thing I'd say, listening to this, is that it really sounds beautifully stitched together, not like they've simply alternated tracks by the two composers. This is largely because they're drawn on Stockhausen's more "open" pieces, including 3 from Tierkreis and one from Aus Den Sieben Tagen (a purely verbal score). Actually, I could have used more Stockhausen here (only 5 brief tracks), maybe some of the more formal writing, though I can understand the band's wanting to make this work as a project, & as jazz. Which it does. -- The Sun Ra covers are really spirited, imaginative reworkings, the kind of thing that sounds like an arrangement that's accreted intuitively over many performances rather than just being decided on top-down. & they pick many of my favourite tunes too, like "Velvet" and "Saturn". Plus "Angels and Demons at Play", which if I'm not mistaken they played at the Toronto gig of theirs I caught a few years back--it's one of those slow-burn Respect performances, making good use of the band's predilection for "little instruments" and incidental percussion, a 5/4 bossa that fans out softly like moonrays. "Lights on a Satellite" is all gorgeous-melancholy chords, like Gil Evans arranging for the Arkestra.

Incidentally, this has got more of a fusiony aspect to it than other Respect albums I've heard (Red Wierenga plays electric keyboards on many tracks), so I'm thinking that they must be obliquely referencing Miles Davis's interest in Stockhausen in the early 1970s.

The band:

Eli Asher, trumpet, melodica, percussion

James Hirschfeld, trombone, tambourine

Josh Rutner, tenor sax, bass clarinet, melodica, radio, percussion, trombone

Red Wierenga, piano, keyboards, "redspectronics" (!), percussion

Malcolm Kirby, bass (Matt Clohesy on the last track)

Ted Poor, drums

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The Tierkreis pieces are precisely notated.

Does it say which 3 pieces they play?

This is what the pianist says about the pieces in the notes:

Stockhausen's output is staggeringly immense and much of it is written for large groups with specific instrumentation and, frequently, staging. A good portion of it is not particularly conducive to improvisation. However, importantly, some of his most influential works, the "intuitive pieces" and Tierkreis, entail some form of improvisation intrinsically. In the case of Tierkreis, Stockhausen gives specific suggestions for techniques of variation to be used on the written material. In some sense, this is related to the typical jazz performance practice of improvising on the fixed-length form of a composed tune. In the case of the intuitive pieces, while the performers aim to follow the written directions given by the composer, the basic musical decisions--instrumentation, pitches, rhythms, playing technique, dynamics, form, etc.--ultimately belong to the performers. So, both these collections were natural candidates for the project.

Tierkreis (Zodiac, 1974-75) is a cycle of twelve melodies, each one representing a sign of the Zodiac. Each melody/sign is centered on a different pitch and the instrumentation is open. Aus Den Sieben Tagen (From the Seven Days, 1968) is a famous sequence of text pieces with no musical notation but instructions on how to perform each piece. From this cycle the band chose Setz die Segel zur Sonne (Set Sail for the Sun).

The track listings:

1. Jet Flight (Ra)

2. Leo (Stockhausen)

3. Shadow World (Ra)

4. Dienstagslied (Stockhausen)

5. Angels and Demons at Play (Ra)

6. Lights on a Satellite (Ra)

7. Pisces (Stockhausen)

8. El Is the Sound of Joy (Ra)

9. Set Sail for the Sun (Stockhausen)

10. Velvet (Ra)

11. Capricorn (Stockhausen) / Saturn (Ra)

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Thanks Nate. It gives me a bit more perspective on where they're coming from.

Mode just sent out info to those on their mailing list with details on the recording.

Text for Setz Die Segel Zur Sonne:

Play a tone for so long

until you hear its individual vibrations

Hold the tone

and listen to the tones of the others

- to all of them together, not to individual ones -

and slowly move your tone

until you arrive at complete harmony

and the whole sound turns to gold

to pure, gently shimmering fire

The page that Alexander mentions is from an old friend named Bob Price.

The upper text is NOT a Stockhausen statement. It is a text that Bob has placed there.

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Nate, I'm curious what you generally look for in reviewing discs.

Of course, sound quality and, possibly general interest, but are there

other criteria such as how freely interpretive a performer or group of performers are, etc.


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No particular criteria, really, beyond sheer pleasure, intellectual delight or some combination of the two.

OK, just wondering. If you were to use much more than what you've described above,

then there would be "sirius" issues with this disc that you could consider for your review. :g

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No. I'm probably going to, reluctantly, buy it.

I like Brian and I like nearly everything on his label proper

(as opposed to the "Avant" series) and so that's incentive.

I'm curious about the performance, but lots of things about it

make me skeptical - to put it mildly - about what I may be in for

once that disc starts spinning. The liner note excerpt that you posted...

the smattering of Tierkreis amongst (and within in one case) the tracks..

the mention of "improvisation" as having anything to do with either Stockhausen work

(or cut-and-splice bits to be more accurate)...are giving me pause in considering this disc.

The idea of "respect" may be there to a shallow degree,

but devoting some time to learning about the pieces and their proper performance

would show the utmost in respect. ;)

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Well, I suspect if you're looking for faithful versions of Stockhausen pieces there are other places to go. I'm approaching the disc primarily as someone who's been following this band for several years (this is their 3rd formal CD release, though there are CDRs & downloads too), & also as a fan of Sun Ra's music. As I said the Stockhausen pieces are very brief--no more than about 15 minutes of running time--& the main compositional weight falls on the Ra tracks.

Anyway if you DO get it then needless to say I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on it...!

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