My version of church this Easter Sunday: a sideways but endearingly sincere take on the Catholic mass via an Italian psych/beat/rock band called either I Barritas, The Berets, or The Little Berets, depending on which part of the liner notes you’re looking at.
A quick snippet of those liner notes, which were written in March of 1969:
All over the world, adults have been and are concerned about the seemingly increasing lack of concern by today’s youth, of spiritual and moral values. Perhaps this is not really so. Perhaps, they simply don’t accept ours and are searching for new ways of expression which relate to their own everyday lives. With the new music of the pop field has come a new spirit, which has suggested an intense need for peace, war against violence, freedom for all peoples, a struggle against prejudice, against any special privilege or advantage … which motivates the youth of the whole world.
It is a good or bad sign that those words ring so true 50 years later? It’s hard to say. But Easter is about hope and new beginnings and who knows … maybe 2069 will be a little better than 2019.
I realized on Wednesday night that I’d been hearing Kuhl’s saxophone with a remarkable regularity over the course of the last week. Thought I’d share the timeline:
Last Friday, I set a new personal record for earliest Record Store Day arrival time, motivated primarily by Known About Town: Library Music Compendium One — the snazzy Coke-bottle-green vinyl compilation that pulled together tracks from the quarterly Library Music cassettes the Spacebomb House Band released throughout 2018. How motivated was I? Back on February 28, the day Spacebomb announcedKnown About Town, I emailed Bill at BK Music to say “I may end up setting a new personal record for earliest RSD arrival time this year.” I made it to BK a little before 5:30 a.m., when it was still dark and raining cats and dogs. Fortunately the Stratford Hills Shopping Center has a covered walkway perfect for a line of lawn chairs, and even more fortunately, I was near enough to the front to snag one of a few signed copies of Known About Town. Guess who contributed sax to the album? J.C. Kuhl.
Two days later, in the considerably comfier environs of my couch, I took in a live set by Mekong Xpress & the Get Fresh Horns. The band has started streaming their regular Monday night sets at The Answer via Facebook, and joining in has become a weekly ritual. It’s not the same as being there in person, which happened more regularly when the YHT crew lived just a short bike ride from the Mekong/Answer epicenter, but I love that I can still stay connected to the group, which is as stacked and sensational as any in town. And who’s there on sax, whipping songs into a frenzy with screaming solos that make you feel like you are there in person? J.C. Kuhl.
Two days later, Mrs. YHT and I made it out — got a babysitter and everything — to the Tin Pan, excited to see fellow University of Richmond alum (and my former bandmate, briefly) Andrew Schutte play bass with the Latin Jazz Messengers, a group led by trumpeter and UR professor Michael Davison. We were seated front and center and treated to an excellent set, which ranged from standards like “Caravan” and “Guantanamera” to a few unfamiliar tunes I’m looking forward to getting to know better. (I’m especially excited about having heard “The Preacher” and “Sister Sadie,” a pair of Horace Silver compositions that I’m hoping will serve as an overdue entry point to Silver’s body of work.) And guess who was there — and I mean right there, just a few feet away from our table, sipping red wine and trading solos with Davison and the rest of the gang? I think you see where I’m headed here.
J.C. Kuhl: a player for whom “known about town” couldn’t be more fitting.
Thought I’d pass along an interesting Goodwill find — Winter Light, an album released in 1974 by the jazz ensemble Oregon.
I picked it up in late March, and I can’t seem to file this thing away. The sounds are so varied that it always feels like I’m getting a fleeting glance at something. Songs dart back and forth between classical, jazz, folk, and fusion. Sounds from varied musical traditions show up, disappear, and reappear like pedestrians criss-crossing a quiet intersection at night. A quick list of the instruments mentioned in the liner notes: English horn, French horn, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bass, piano, violin, flute, classical guitar, 12-string guitar, tabla (one of my absolute favorite drum sounds in the world), pakhawaj (another Indian drum), sitar, congas, clay drums, hands (sure, why not), and some dulcimer for good measure. Guess it wasn’t such a quick list. And it’s all credited to members of the four-person ensemble.
You’d think the result would be cluttered or overwhelming, but there’s never too much going on at once. Just one thought-provoking small arrangement after another, each sonically distant enough from what came before that it feels like the music is constantly in motion. The album’s title strikes me as especially fitting in that sense.