29 March 2011

Ken Hyder's Talisker - Land Of Stone

Ken Hyder's Talisker - Land Of Stone
JAPO 60018 (1977)

Back in February, I posted the "Après La Marée Noire," a collaboration between folk musicians from Bretagne and Francois Tusques and the Intercommunal Free Music Dance Orchestra. I'd like to stay at the intersection of jazz and folk music a little longer, but now we'll move to Scotland and Ken Hyder's Talisker. Their first record was done for the Virgin label in 1975, rereleased on Reel Recordings a few years ago. So we'll move to their second record, released on the Japo label in 1977 and to my knowledge not made available on cd. This record was made possible by a grant from the Arts Council of Great Britain which enabled Hyder to do research in the Scottish Highlands and the Western Isles.

To properly describe what's on this record, the best I can do is to reproduce Charles Fox's instructive sleeve notes:

The Strathspey King celebrates J. Scott Skinner, king of Scottish fiddlers at the start of the century, as devoted to syncopation as an Afro-American. Hebridian choral music provides the basis for the The Men of Barra, with Minton, Nichols, Eley and Armstrong singing either individually (in that order) or as a group. All ten performers sing at the start of Close the Windows, using the rhythms of a 'waulking song', originally sung by island women as they worked the tweed. See You at the Mission begins and develops like a Gaelic psalm, unitil, once again, instrumentalists take over from singers.

Derek was Only a Bairn, shifting from the pentatonic scale to the Aolian mode, is linked by the bassists to Pibroch In Three Parts, inspired by Ken Hyder's conviction that Scottish bagpipe playing originally involved improvisation. The MacCrimmons were hereditary pipes to the clan McLeod and the scale used in this section corresponds to a bagpipe scale. The drone changes for the next part (the Lydian scale employed here was a favourite of Coltrane's), while the final section (for Ayler) is the freest and loosest of all, with Davie Webster's solo communicating that emotional intensity which seems common to both jazz and Scottish music at their finest.

Side 1

1. The Strathspey King
(drum solo linking passages)
The Men of Barra Know How To Drink But The Women Know How To Sing
2. Close The Window And Keep It Down
3. See You At The Mission, Eh, If It's No' Full

Side 2
1. Derek Was Only A Bairn
(bass duet linking passages)
2. Pibroch In Three Parts
a) for the Mac Crimmons
b) for John Coltrane
c) for Albert Ayler

Ken Hyder drums
Marcio Mattos bass
John Lawrence bass
Dave Webster alto saxophone
John Rangecroft tenor saxophone, clarinet
Ricardo Mattos soprano and tenor saxophones, flute
Maggie Nichols vocals
Frankie Armstrong vocals
Brian Eley vocals
Phil Minton vocals

Recorded April 1977 in London
Mixed at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg

Philological footnote: "Bairn" is very close to the Scandinavian "barn", meaning "child" in modern English, and is still used in Scotland and parts of Northern England.


kinabalu said...
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kinabalu said...

As the pieces on the B-side run together, I've put in track markers to indicate where I think each piece/part begins. These are, by the nature of things, only approximate.

gilhodges said...

Kinabalu, I adore Hyder's first record (and the wonderful Reel for re-releasing it), so you know how thrilled I am to see this one. Thanks.

Your comments about the intersection of jazz and folk leads me to think of Albert Mangelsdorff's gorgeous "Wild Goose" record, which, as luck would have it, is still available at Magic Purple Sunshine here. After DLing this gorgeous record, scroll through the comments at the MPS posting for a rather fascinating interchange amongst readers expecting "jazz" struggling to accept the introduction of "folk" into the improv equation.

kinabalu said...

Thanks for the tip. Fascinating read. Adjusting your head (and your preconceptions) can be heavy work. More intersectional stuff to come!

david_grundy said...

I have to say that I agree totally with the comments praising Hyder's 'Dreaming of Glenisla' (the album which was re-issued on Reel Recordings) and Mangelsdorff's 'Wild Goose'. One might suppose, if one hadn't heard the music, that these would be based on opportunistic conceptual conceits - dated 60s and 70s attempts at yanking together unsuited genres in an attempt to broaden market appeal (like jazz artists being made to cover Beatles tunes)- but, in fact, they make connections between folk and free jazz *felt* through the force and conviction of their musical argument and development. Gil Hodges mentions listeners who might struggle "to accept the introduction of "folk" into the improv equation", but, in fact, I wonder if one might describe free improvisation as in itself a form of folk music; not in the sense that it uses traditional melodies or forms, but that it shares similarities on the level of practice. Theoretically, any freely improvising musician can play with a group of other free improvisers, without having met or spoken to any of them previously, and still create a coherent piece of music; music as a truly universal language/grammar. Here one is reminded of the way that a folk musician could pick up their fiddle, or hurdy-gurdy, or guitar, go along to a pub, and play along with anyone else on tunes that all know, as part of their common heritage; free improvisation offers an even freer variation on this practice. But, even on the level of sonic similarity, there are clear connections between folk and (moving on) free jazz: take, for example, Pharoah Sanders (and others') use of African traditional instruments, techniques and rhythms; Albert Ayler's use of marching-band melodies; Ornette Coleman's adoption of sounds that don't conform to western notions of fixed, unbending pitch, and are much closer to the rougher, more harmonically-ambiguous sounds found in much folk singing and playing (here one might also think of the blues, and the comparison Robert Palmer makes between Ornette and Robert Johnson in his liner notes to the 'Beauty is a Rare Thing' boxset). Looking forward to any more free jazz/ folk albums that you may have up your sleeve!

Anonymous said...

i only know the vocalists nichols and minton in this group, and those two alone are enough to convince me to listen to this.

david grundy's comment above i found very appealing. i have a special crush on european folk musicians who cross-over to improvised musics, like basque vocalist benat achiary, french hurdy-gurdy player valentin clastrier, composer/reedist michael riessler, or mandoline player patrick vaillant.

the italian egea and the french silex label are good examples of music between improvised and folk - although you speek of 'free jazz', which for me is a more unfocused term.

gilhodges said...

Mr. Grundy makes some wise observations. I personally make no distinction between "folk," "jazz," "avant garde" and other limiting labels that serve mostly to drive a wedge in the human heart of the music. People are people; sound is sound. Screw the labels.

Another of my favorite performers in this particular cross-polinated area is the guitarist Mike Cooper who recorded some marvelous sessions with the elite of the South African ex-pat improvisors (Pukwana, Feza, Harry Miller, Moholo, etc.) Maybe there's a Cooper gems or two in your old satchel, eh Kinabalu?

kinabalu said...

Gil, your rhetoric is showing. Yes, something along those lines could be done ...

matt w said...

Excellent stuff -- thanks for posting this!

Phil Minton's solo on the first track made me smile. It fits exactly into the Celtic melody but is so unmistakably Minton.

øשlqæda said...

just arriving at this one now after the overwhelming & highly distracting cramps flood. i was similarly late on après la marée noire & that's been like the discovery of the year fer me thus far, so i have high hopes fer this one. never have heard his first record but i do love me some 'wild goose' & am certainly an advocate of cross-pollination, especially when executed as perfectly as the aforementioned. heart thanks

Art of Peace Collective said...

Thanks for more madness!

John said...

This is an old favourite of mine, and I still have the vinyl (but the digital rip is very welcome, as I've never got around to digitizing my LPs). I even used "The Men of Barra" in a performance piece at the Pyramid Club in NYC in '82 (talk about recontextualizing!). The concept could be considered kind of academic, but the results transcend it.

gidouille said...

Interesting, this is pretty much Voice with Talisker, albeit with Armstrong in place of Tippetts. I have the Reel reissue of Dreaming of Glenisla, but had never heard this one.

Mona said...

Hi kinabalu
Is there any chance of a re-up of this one, I did grab it before and burnt to disc and friend I lent it to mangled it beyond belief and I didn't keep a copy of the file *gah!*

kinabalu said...

Sure thing!


Next time, don't forget a backup!

kinabalu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mona said...

Thank you SO much (and I am going to make three :)

tpfkaa said...

Can this re re-up? Thanks.

kinabalu said...

New link:


tpfkaa said...

Thank you kinabalu!

Charlie Naked said...

This is The Last Battle! Though it's pretty nice getting that one too.

kinabalu said...

Indeed it is! Here's the right one:


It's not bad getting a bonus, eh?

Charlie Naked said...

It's AWESOME getting a bonus. This is my introduction to this group, so now I've got two examples of their work.

Solomon said...

Thank you!