Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Emil Richards and the Microtonal Blues Band

Journey To Bliss
impulse! A-9166

Recorded 1968

Side One

1. Maharimba
2. Bliss
3. Mantra
4. Enjoy, Enjoy

Side Two

1. Journey to Bliss - Part I
2. Journey to Bliss - Part II
3. Journey to Bliss - Part III
4. Journey to Bliss - Part IV
5. Journey to Bliss - Part V
6. Journey to Bliss - Part VI


EMIL RICHARDS; marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, percussion
DAVE MACKAY; piano, various percussion
MICHAEL CRADEN; percussion
MARK STEVENS; percussion
HAGAN BEGGS; narration

Have you heard the music of Emil Richards? No, I hear you say. Ever seen a movie? Well in that case you probably have. One of the most prolific performers of film music ever (see this link for a complete list), and owner of possibly the world's largest collection of percussion instruments (check out the 'instruments' section on Emil's homepage), Emil Richards also had a brief career as a jazz musician in the 1960s, playing under his own name as well as on dates with Gabor Szabo and Tom Scott.

This album, recorded in 1968 and released on the impulse! label, features Emil's characteristic percussion densely layered into a set of psychedelic-pop-jazz tunes that manage to sound very much of their time, while still remaining enjoyable today. Side one is superior - the pace rather drags through side two's long 'Journey To Bliss', the unwelcome narration making it sound like a straightlaced 1970s documentary on 'hippie music' or somesuch.

Where this album is really interesting musically is in the use of percussion, and specifically microtonal percussion. Microtonal music fills the spaces between the notes used in traditional Western music (it's part of Gamelan and Indian classical music), creating sounds that are often unfamiliar to the western ear. This 'filling of the cracks' in the score leads in this case to a dense sound that really is unlike anything else in jazz. The microtonal concept was also taken up by free-jazzers, but as far as I know this is the only example of such music played on percussion in recorded jazz. For music that is very dissonant in places, it's also highly accessible due to catchy melodies and strong rhythms.

Sadly it's out of print and very tricky to track down, but keep looking on eBay for long enough and a copy is sure to come up. Meanwhile enjoy the sounds of 'Maharimba' and come back tomorrow for some more Daily Jazz.

(By the way, have you ever wanted to play a slightly out-of-tune vibraphone? - well thanks to the miracle of flash, on Emil's Homepage, you can!)


Tim said...

Interesting to see the late Tommy Tedesco, Dennis Budimir, and Joe Porcaro on that. They were all top LA session musicians at the time. Tedesco is a contender for the title of most recorded guitarist in history, having played on untold numbers of tv, movie, and album dates. Porcaro's sons Jeff, Mike, and Steve also became session players as well as members of the rock group Toto.

PS said...

Nice blog ...I;m just posting this today if anyone wants :)