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Song for Susie -
Good Morning World -
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near journey's end
collective improvisation direct-to-disc
near journey's end marks milestones
Dedicated to my friends Jim Hall and Mike Smith. Both died within 2 months of each other. Jim did the cover art plus T-shirt designs on our web site. Mike was responsible for me playing the drums. He was one of the great drummers in jazz. We all went to school together and were part of a tremendously creative group of people that survived and grew up in a small town in the 60's. Paul McCandlass of Oregon and Paul Winter Consort and Will Rounds who's sculptures can be seen at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and Disneyland in California are two others of significant creative output.
When someone learns a language by choice rather than environment, and then uses that language in its natural surroundings for any length of time, they learn to think in that language. This is synonymous with how most musicians learn music, with thought and speech eventually becoming one.
As musicians learn to think and speak music, they learn to reflect within their music, and create music out of moments of introspection. When given the space to communicate these reflections with other musicians, the results can be as gentle as a sunrise, or as intense as a volcano's eruption.
Near Journey's End begins with one such moment of introspection, one captured as the result of experience. The group J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm, born in the recording studio, quickly learned that any playing should be recorded, lest music escape. During this particular session, with most of the bandmembers on break (drumming especially is sweaty work), pianist Mark Dewalt and saxophonist Phil Papotnik began communicating soulful themes between them. Joined shorty thereafter by guitarist Sheldon Peterson, this unfettered ballad became Song for Susie, the opening track.
Perhaps this opening cut speaks most directly to the theme of Near Journey's End. Honoring two close friends of J.D. who recently passed away, Mike Smith and Jim Hall, the music acts almost as a prayer, or a farewell to those once known, then lost. J.D. counts Mike in his short list of inspirational musicians, people who set him on the path towards this very music. Jim's creations included the Saxophone design that provides the visual art for this Album project. One can only hope that the peace felt in this music represents the peace found by these two souls.
Those who have lived long enough to understand how to honor the dead know the way is to live, fully and with open eyes for as long as time will allow. J.D. and Sons have always created music about life, love and family, the very surroundings that foster that creation. Songs of a Preacha Man sets the tone of joyful celebration indigenous to this collective improvisation ensemble. Preach Freedom of One World Tribe joins in on Djembe, with conga player Joel Polacci, V-Drum player J.D. Hopkins and trap-set player Rickie Hopkins completing the drumming section. Bassist Ralph Rietinger makes the first of many appearances, joined by Mike Ohm on guitar and Frank Singer on electronic piano.
This Latin-Funk-World Music groove moves between chordal guitar themes and solos, and polytonal piano solos, cadencing into the first of two dub sessions, Language of Beauty. As is typical of these track overdubbing sessions, J.D. and Jayson Hopkins put down a rhythm track with either just the two of them, or with Frank adding his first track along with them. Then subsequent tracks are added, often with the oversight of J.D.'s vision guiding the process. Multiple keyboard tracks and a guitar track complete the layers of Language of Beauty, resulting in a contemplative, trance-like excursion which fades into the Free-Swing jam Tail Wind.
Upright bassist David Blaetz makes the first of two apprearances on Near Journey's End, with Rickie swinging the drums and Phil bringing us into the jam. Sheldon Peterson joins in the conversation along with J.D., and after some variations from this quintet, Frank inserts piano into the mix and the variations continue. After a longer free open section of conversant phrases, exchanges and brief duets, including a switch from piano to organ, the music builds in intensity until a spacious cadence led by Phil sees Frank switch off of keyboards and onto acoustic guitar. Sheldon leads the group out and into the fade with a repetitive guitar chord finalizing the jam.
Eight musicians participate in Ode To Peter Gabriel. Ralph returns replacing David on bass, Joel returns on congas, and Jayson joins the percussion section as Frank starts out on organ for this nasty funk groove. Phil states the first melodic exposition as gritty bass lines and grinding funk-guitar rhythm drives home the point. Chromatically liquid organ developments punctuate a break in the horn line, returning to state a theme and clear the way for Sheldon's cadential guitar solo.
The same band minus Jayson takes on a whole different tack in Maltese Falcon, as Phil and Sheldon echo phrygian themes in this 6/8 funk waltz. Frank provides quartal guitar chording as the rolling development moves into Sheldon's capable hands. Passing back to the tenor after a time, things mellow out as Phil and Frank exchange themes and variations. Frank plays electric guitar as the music fades into a final cadence, and into Hello Chris, where we hear from violinist Chris Sedelmeyer for the first time.
Rickie's linear drum groove, Jayson and J.D.'s electronic percussion lines and Frank's electric piano rhythm back up Chris's wah-wah affected violin, grooving until Ralph's bass line enters, locking the funk down. Chris solos over the textural jam, pausing for an articulated and harmonic electric piano solo. Frank switches to clavinet as Chris returns and leads the way into the fade.
One World Tribe Djembe player Baba Raymond Sylla's Senegalise influence is felt in Meltdown, an African-Funk romp that welcomes the first appearance of Cat's A Bear's Tony Stefanelli on bass. Rickie and J.D. join Baba in the percussion section, Frank plays some chromatic Juju guitar ala King Sunny Ade while Sheldon keeps the funk-style rhythm guitar, Phil keeps a running background line going and Mike Ohm returns for a classic shredder's guitar solo. This textural thicket shows the Ornett Coleman influence on some of the J.D. and Sons performers, with the rhythmic connection of the music providing the glue normally provided by harmonic repetition. As the Funk deepens, Phil steps up with the tenor, dialoging with Mike's lead lines in a dual solo. Mike's Townsend-style distortion feedback sets the final climax for side one, leading quickly to fade.
Those of you old enough to remember vinyl records recall having to flip the record over to hear the other side. Albums seemed to solve this problem because they can fit up to 70 or 80 minutes of music, more than enough to fufill the task at the time. J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm provide so much music in each disc set that, instead of turning the disc over, disc one must be exchanged for disc two, where eleven more tracks await.
The first music we hear on side two, Good Morning enters in the midst of an on-going flow as J.D.'s V-Drum groove quickly aligns with Mike's chordal guitar arpeggio. Jayson's sound effects transition into Chris's violin melody as Rickie joins in on traps, joined after a time by Ralph's pedal-point bass line and Frank's electronic soprano sax melodies. Chris and Frank provide melodic themes and counterpoint as the groove players create variations on their parts, including rhythm breaks and rolls swelling and receeding. Frank moves over to rhythm guitar as Mike adds some lines to the mix, dialoging with Chris until the violin leads the way into a warped cadence.
Rickie sets up Cell Block Strut along with Jayson and J.D., gritty funk cycle that Frank quickly adds polytonal melodies to as Tony returns with some straight funk. Sheldon adds some wah-wah style rhythm and Joel grooves on congas as the Strut becomes a polytonal hard-funk jam. Frank plays some 12-tone BeBop over this pressure-cooked melee, coming back to rhythm as Mike keeps it funky with some blues-flavored clusters. After some spacious shredding, Mike leads the ensemble into a rubato close, opening the way for the fade-in popcorn funk of Group Therapy.
J.D. and Rickie keep the heat on as Ralph lays the funk on the bass, Chris and Mike add wah-wah to their instruments, and Frank's percussion-style organ begins to rip lines over the top. This bubbling texture intensifies as Rickie blazes a trap-set groove, Sheldon's funk rhythm ebbs and flows, and Mike jumps in on lead lines. Chris's sound effects take flight as chaos fades into the second overdub session of the Album, Pristine.
In the midst of J.D. and Jayson's World Music groove and Frank's soft keyboard harmonies, Frank plays an acoustic guitar solo in this sweet vision of sunlight. This gentle groove moves as trees in a warm breeze, ending as succinctly as it began, and fading into the deep mystery of Tribal Communications. Fading into a 5/4 World-Beat style groove, Mike's guitar tones create a fanfare introducing Preach Freedom's Djembe, Joel Polacci's congas, J.D.'s electronic drums and Rickie's trap set as Frank riffs on organ over the top. Phil gradually joins in on tenor and Tony takes up the bass line as this musical conversation continues, with exchanges between the organ, sax and guitar. Frank moves onto guitar for some brief chords at the end as the music closes out on a rubato cadence.
Raga Muffins kicks into a straight Funk-Rock jam, pivoting off of the combination of J.D.'s V-Drum groove and Rickie's trap set groove and Ralph's clavinet-like, envelope-follower-affected bass line. Sheldon adds wah-wah guitar, Frank keeps a muted funk riff, and Mike adds spacious echo-effected ascending guitar runs as Phil joins in with melodic tropes, building to a break point. Frank takes the lead with some polytonal shredding while the ensemble plays linear counterpoint, building to the final cadence and fade.
Phil opens Post Modern Lullaby in a clarinet conversation with Sheldon's guitar. They are quickly joined by Rickie's trap set and Ralph's keyboard-like bass effects, and J.D., Joel and Frank on electric piano jump in as the ensemble locks into a spacious jam with Sheldon and Phil continue their exchange. Clarinet themes echo guitar responses as the keyboard adds some blues-like flavor to the modal vamp and the fade paves the way for Phunk Surfing.
J.D.'s V-Drum beat begins this Caribbean-Funk cycle, with Rickie, Ralph and Jayson quickly jumping in. Mike and Frank add complimentary parts, with Mike on guitar and Frank playing guitar-synth with a trombone sound. Chris's violin adds fullness as Mike takes the lead for an extended solo. Ralph stays in the pocket as Rickie finds the common ground between Mike's solo and the groove, carrying this jam into the fade as Mike does some old-fashioned shredding.
The same ensemble is joined by Sheldon in Mental Flight, a 7/8 World-Beat cycle set in motion by J.D.'s V-Drum groove. Frank plays lush harmonies on electric piano with Rickie and Chris providing staccatto accents as Mike fades into a wailing lead. Sheldon and Ralph provide an underlayment of funk throughout, with Jayson's percussive accents shaping the outline of the groove. After a reverberated flourish from Chris the music slows and fades on a quartal guitar chord.
Phil's horn plays the fanfare for the slow fatback start of Political Nightmares. Mike and Sheldon join in with their own wailing guitar sounds, adding to the texture as Jayson, Rickie and J.D. keep the backbeat on time. David Blaetz walks in on acoustic bass as Frank enters on acoustic guitar, moving from foreground to background and back again as the music progresses. The music weaves into a long, etheric cadenza punctuated by drum rolls and guitar chord swells, as each instrument falls slowly into the final harmonic fade.
J.D., Rickie and Joel start out Marching To Different Drummers, grooving until Mike and Frank enter on guitar, Frank doubling on string-pad, and Mike with a multi-delay arpegiated line that turns into octaves. Tony joins in on bass to complete the sextet for the final cut of this 19-track Album release. Mike takes the lead as the processional funk groove makes its way towards the final fade out.
Near Journey's End brings together nineteen more tracks on two discs of J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm. This jamming collective improvisation ensemble once again creates music without a net, relying solely on listening, experience, sensitivity, and a desire to communicate ideas between fellow creators.
NEAR JOURNEY'S END, 19 tracks of music.
©2006 J.D. Records, Richard Carl Hopkins, All Rights Reserved
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