Saturday, November 25, 2006

Signs of Life

Next in the record collection- Peter Apfelbaum & the Heiroglyphics Ensemble, Signs of Life.

I was hipped to this band by Fred Sturm, my jazz writing professor at Eastman, when I was 19. I was at a point in my development where "new" was the most important thing to me. (Of course, in hindsight, precious little of what I was doing was new at all, but I was young enough to cling to that illusion.) Peter was incorporating a lot of "world-beat" influences into his music, and his band had a fairly unusual instrumentation, featuring bassoon and multiple percussionists. (I hadn't heard Gil Evans' 70's band either at that point, so that seemed really new.) So I bought two CDs, thought they were okay, didn't know what to make of them, and put 'em away.

Listening to it now, I like it a lot more than I did then. Both the harmonies and the line writing smack of Fela Kuti and other Afro-pop, which I hadn't really heard any of at the time. Back then, lack of linear development = not good enough. Now, the grooves are a lot of fun- "Walk to the Mountain" is in a big, heavy spacious 3/2 (that's how I feel it, how they actually notated it I don't know) The only vocal track, "The World is Gifted" shifts from an almost Argentinian, guitar-driven groove behind the (rather silly, sadly) vocal, to a thick 12/8 feeling horn romp, to a ridiculously twisting half-time section. (with the time shifts and stop times, this is probably the most interesting writing on the album) The blowing is solid but unspectacular (probably another strike against back in the day), with Peter and trombonist ____ taking the best star turns. Now, the music, especially the grooves, seem to hold up well on their own.

Recently, Peter has released a new Hieroglyphics record, It Is Written, with a scaled down (11-piece), New York version of the band. Hope to hear it soon, and if anyone has it, let me know what you think.

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