Marshall Allen / Kash Killion: “Two Stars In The Universe”

Posted in 33 rpm, Free Jazz, jazz, Marshall Allen, Sun Ra with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2014 by crownpropeller

As vaguely announced at the end of this post, my friend Hubi and me along with sound engineer Dario went to Poschiavo in summer 2012 to see the Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Maestro Marshall Allen and make a recording of  Allen to be released on a limited edition vinyl LP.

Crown Propeller’s blog announces that this record, “Two Stars in The Universe”, featuring duets by Marshall Allen with masterful cellist, bolon/bolong and sarangi player Kash Killion, will now be released as Little Rocket Records LP001 on May 22nd!

So what does it sound like? Have a glimpse at our little  promotion video to get an idea:

Note though, that the sound on all video clips in this blog post is directly from the camera’s microphone. The LP sounds much better. A short mp3 excerpt from the original master can be had on request.

cover-goldLittle Rocket LP 001 will be released on May 22nd, 2014

So how did this come to happen? My friend Hubi  and me are long time devotees of that cosmic being called Sun Ra. And we both developed a deep love for the idiosyncratic sound of  alto saxophonist and now Arkestra leader Marshall Allen.

So when in spring of 2012 we heard that the Arkestra will be accompanying two theatrical productions during three days at the Uncool Festival  in Poschiavo (at the the south-eastern end of Switzerland), we had the idea to record Allen playing solo, since we wanted  to capture his sound pure and unaccompanied. Since we both are also what you would call vinyl junkies it was decided there and then that we will be trying to release a limited edition vinyl LP and found a little record company that will exist until the copies are sold out.

allen:killion_black_gold

Marshall Allen and Kash Killion in Poschiavo, June 21, 2012

We decided to try to reach Marshall via Cornelia Müller who runs the Uncool Festival. Finally a week before the Poschiavo event,  Marshall let us know through Cornelia that he was ready and willing. Cornelia promised to get a room organized for thursday, June 21. So Hubi, me and our engineer Dario on wednesday made the six hour car ride to see the Arkestra’s evening show and record Marshall the next day.

road

On the way to Poschiavo in the beautiful Poschiavo valley

I had become sick a day right before our trip and had a bad fever when we arrived in Poschiavo and were told by Cornelia that it was hard to organize a room and that maybe we should ask around the small village for a room to record in on the next morning. I thought: ok, this is the end of our little adventure, as I could not imagine knocking at unsuspecting people’s doors and asking them if we could maybe record some free jazz in there barn or their living room. Nonetheless I managed to enjoy the three hour Arkestra gig that evening. Marshall – at that time 88 years old – was blowing, directing the band, singing, dancing all evening through without ever sitting down for a minute – clearly music is his fuel. Excerpts from that concert can be found here.

marshall_on_stageMarshall Allen fronting the Arkestra in Poschiavo, June 20, 2012.

marshall_on_stage_2Marshall Allen on stage in Poschiavo, June 20, 2012.

I had a sleepless, fevery night and on the next morning Dario, our italian speaking and good looking sound engineer, talked a hotel maid into letting us use the Hotel’s diner room. But then on our way to breakfast we met Cornelia again who told us that she managed to get a room anyway and Marshall would be ready to meet us at 12 o’ clock.

 

spazioLo Spazio in Poschiavo

The room turned out to be Cornelia’s living room in her house and artists’ space “Lo Spazio”. The room had very beautiful acoustics – so we were happy. But then Marshall appeared and told us he really was not in the mood for playing solo since he needs (an)other person(s) to react to: “I am a band musician”. So this again sounded like the end of it – but we had the  idea to ask Marshall if there is someone in the band he’d like to record in a duo context with. Marshall said that yes, he’d like to record with Kash Killion who is playing cello with the Arkestra on and off since 1991. This sounded very promising to us, so we gathered some more cash together to be able to pay Kash something as well.

dario_allen

Sound engineer “Il Nuovo Presidente” Dario and Marshall Allen

We phoned Kash who was ready to come over from his hotel at once and brought along his cello, a Sarangi – the queen of indian instruments because it is so close to the human voice (Killion has studied  the instrument with the great indian master Ali Akbar Khan) – as well as a Bolong (also spelled Bolon) – a harp from west africa that also functions as a percussive instrument when you hit the neck and the gourd.

setting_upSetting up: Dario, Marshall Allen and Kash Killion in Poschiavo, June 21, 2012.

Marshall and Kash played beautiful improvised music for two and a half hours without ever talking about what to play next and visibly having fun all the while. We just sat there in awe not daring to interfere or make any suggestions like true producers are supposed to do (or are they?).

sessionOff we go: Marshall Allen and Kash Killion at the Little Rocket Records
recording session, Poschiavo, June 21, 2012.

Here’s a little view into the recording session, Marshall Allen on flute and Kash Killion on Sarangi playing an improvisation they later titled “India Reflections”:

happyIt’s done: Marshall Allen, Armin Büttner, Hubi Horst and Kash Killion,
Poschiavo, June 21, 2012.

¨allenkilliondarioAfter the session: Marshall Allen, Dario and Kash Killion

 Apart from choosing the tracks for release we did not do any editing or massive post production. We just choose complete tracks as Dario recorded all of this so perfectly – standing in a half bowed, body devastating position in front of the musicians all this time, a little digital recorder in his hands.

“Two Stars in The Universe” as the LP was titled by Marshall and Kash is a beautiful, surprisingly quiet and moody but also very joyful record of many colors. Besides alto saxophone and flute Marshall also plays one of those old small Casio keyboards. I always think he is channeling messages from Sun Ra with it. If you listen to his Casio playing on “Cosmic Blues-Life Of Two”: Hearing the rattling sound of it’s keys struck by Marshall, you’ll notice that he uses the same fluttering up and down hand movements  that he uses when producing the freaky alto sounds he is known for. Here is an excerpt from “Cosmo Blues-Life of Two”:

 

I had to be back at the office the next day, so we had to return. But after I told my girlfriend about the experience, she went down to Poschiavo for the last Arkestra show a day later. After the – again very long concert – Marshall and Kash Killion sat down stage front after most people had already left and played kora and bolon for a while. You can see again that they really enjoy playing together:


(Video courtesy of The Sun Ra Arkestra)

All 250 copies of the 180 gram vinyl  LP  “Two Stars In The Universe” have handprinted (silk-screened) covers. Some are printed in gold on black, some in silver, blue, or white, we think it came out very nice. Here is a little clip from the silk-screening process. Music for this video is an excerpt from an unreleased track, recorded with a photo camera after session for the LP had already ended.

silk_screenBeautifully designed (thanks, M.!!!) and freshly silk-screened

Unfortunately this did not make the thing cheap. This beauty will cost 35 Dollars (postage – which is high – not included). This will hopefully allow us to get back our expenses if nothing more.

The record will be officially released at the Arkestra concert in Zurich on May 22nd, Sun Ra’s 100th Arrival-on-Earth-Jubilee. Since there is no real distribution, the way to go is contact me directly if one wants to obtain a copy. Please use the comment section of this post to get in contact.

Enjoy!

Meeting Mr. Andrew McGhee

Posted in Andy McGhee, jazz, Lionel Hampton with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2014 by crownpropeller

DSC_5552(Click to enlarge):Andy McGhee (ts) and Claude Diallo (p) at Schloss
Wartegg, Rorschacherberg, January 26, 2014. Photo: Armin Büttner

Two weeks ago alto saxophonist and jazz researcher Mario Schneeberger, his wife Christel and me went to the Schloss Wartegg in Rorschacherberg for a CD release party by swiss born pianist Claude Diallo who is a Boston resident now. This afternoon concert was a bonus event to a mini-tour of switzerland that Claude Diallo had organized for legendary tenor saxophonist Andrew “Andy” Mc Ghee (born in 1927). McGhee was a member of Lionel Hamptons’ orchestra from 1958 to 1964. He then played with Woody Herman until 1966 when he joined the faculty of Berklee College of Music, where he still is listed as Professor Emeritus. Continue reading

Again! DJ Crown Propeller meets Herr Wempe!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 30, 2014 by crownpropeller

Why, you might ask, why is this Crown Propeller guy promoting a little DJ gig in a little club in this little country called switzerland on the internet – where billions of people can see it?

wempe2bkl

The answer is: No matter where you are, it’s definitely worth the trip to the Helsinki Klub this Saturday! Because Herr Wempe (aka DJ Soul Sonic) and DJ Crown Propeller (yours truly), the most beloved vintage black music DJs in town, will be soothing your soul with fine swing, bop, r’n’b, soul, funk and blues roughly from the years 1940 to 1970.

Get dressed, they are doing it again!

Hope to see you (bar opens at 20h)!

R.I.P. Roy Campbell jr.

Posted in Billy Bang, clips, jazz, Roy Campbell with tags , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2014 by crownpropeller

royRoy Campbell jr. in Leverkusen, November 1, 1986

It is only just now that I hear of the passing of trumpeter Roy Campbell jr. who died on January 9th – the same day that Amiri Baraka passed. Campbell only reached the age of 62. I saw him playing on two or three occasions in the 1980s and remember liking his playing very much. Wanting to listen to him again now, I find to my surprise I unfortunately have not one record featuring him. But only some weeks ago I happened to digitize a brilliant 45 minute TV broadcast with the quintet of another Great Black Music Legend, Billy Bang, who already had left us in 2011.  Campbell is the other main solist besides Bang.

So here is the Billy Bang Quintet at the Jazztage Leverkusen on November 1, 1986. Besides Bang and Roy Campbell the band contains Oscar Sanders (g) William Parker (b) and Zen Matsuura (dr).

Enjoy!

Have you seen the jazz yesterday?

Posted in Abdullah Ibrahim, Chico Hamilton, clips, Eddie Harris, jazz, Lou Donaldson, Solomon Burke, Soul with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2014 by crownpropeller

louLou Donaldson on a Swiss TV show, 1987

Maybe it is unfair to say “there was a time when more jazz was featured on TV”. I would not really know, because I stopped watching TV a while ago. Of course here in switzerland there is still some jazz on the public TV, late at night at some time.

But in the 1980s there was still some jazz to be seen and witnessed by people who did not expect to be treated with jazz when they turned on the TV. There were some broadcasts on swiss TV which you could say were in some kind of “magazine” format. Maybe some news from different regions, a talkshow guest, a funny report — you get the picture. At the end they always had a short slot for musical artists of every genre that  happened to be in Switzerland – just a few minutes to promote their tour.

My friend, the late jazz researcher Otto Flückiger, must have scanned the TV program magazines every week to see if an interesting (interesting to him that is) band or musician would appear – since he managed to tape quite a lot of this jazz, blues and soul bits. I am offering you a little potpourri here of different things you could see – if you were aware when and where to look.

Continue reading

More Wild Bill Davis in Rheinfelden (1986) (part 6: finale)

Posted in clips, Jimmy Tyler, Wild Bill Davis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2014 by crownpropeller

flyerwbd(from the collection of Thomas Schicker)

Those that have waited patiently can now finally rejoice, because here is the sixth (and final part) of the 120 minute private video from a concert Wild Bill Davis gave at the Hotel Schützen in Rheinfelden, Switzerland in 1986.  The other members of Davis’ quartet were saxophonist Jimmy Tyler, the legendary Dickie Thompson on guitar and drummer Clyde Lucas.

Again: If someone who was involved in the making of this video reads this, I would like to hear from you so I can give proper credit.

So here is the Wild Bill Davis Quartet playing “Heaven” by Duke Ellington, “Bottom’s Up” – and a Basie-style “April In Paris” coda.

Enjoy!

P.S.: If You want to see the whole concert, go to my archive pages for Wild Bill Davis.

Bill Doggett Live!

Posted in Bill Doggett, clips, R'n'B with tags , , , , , , on January 9, 2014 by crownpropeller

You may never catch me sitting at home intensely listening to an Bill Doggett LP. But when I am am doing a DJ gig, one of those old King LPs has to come with me. After more than fifty years the famed Doggett Beat is still irresistible.

Considering that Doggett really was really well known, there is surprisingly very little footage of the man in action.

On one of Otto’s VHS cassettes I found around thirty minutes of a Bill Doggett combo playing at as part of the Newport Jazz Festival on tour in the Cimiez Gardens in Nice in July 1978. I had already posted “Honky Tonk” from this concert a while ago, but well: the more the better!

So here you have Bill Doggett on organ, the legendary David “Bubba” Brooks on tenor, guitarist Pete Mays (who also sings), Larry Trott on electric bass and Howard Overton on drums.

 Enjoy!
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