Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Paul Horn - Cycles

 © Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

According to Leroy Ostransky in The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz [Barry Kernfeld, ed/1994], Paul Horn, Paul (1930 - 2014] was a flutist, clarinetist, and saxophonist. He learned piano from the age of four and took up saxophone when he was twelve. He studied flute at Oberlin College Conservatory [BM 1952) and received the master's degree from the Manhattan School of Music (1953). He then joined the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra as tenor saxophone soloist. 

From 1956 to early 1958 he played in Chico Hamilton's quintet, and later worked in film studios in Hollywood. In 1965 he was the principal soloist in Lalo Schifrin's Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts, a role that brought him national publicity, and shortly afterwards he performed with Tony Bennett (1966). 

In 1967, after studying in India, Horn became a teacher of transcendental meditation. The following year he recorded unaccompanied flute solos in the Taj Mahal at Agra, India, using to full advantage the acoustic properties of the building, where the reverberation time is nearly half a minute; he also played in the Great Pyramid of Cheops, near Cairo. A collection of transcriptions of Horn's solos on the album Inside was published as P. Horn: Inside (New York, 1972). 

He moved in 1970 to an island near Victoria, British Columbia, where he formed his own quintet; he also had his own weekly television show and wrote film scores for the Canadian National Film Board, from whom he received an award for his music to Is and Eden. Horn toured China in 1979 and the USSR in 1983, and from 1981 he has managed his own record company, Golden Flute. His experiments have included recording the sounds made by killer whales as an accompaniment to his playing, but, although such innovations have earned him many admirers, critics have generally not been enthusiastic. Horn's style is cool and restrained, and he refers to his work as "universal" music.”

Surprisingly, not included in the discography accompanying Mr. Ostransky’s annotations about Horn are a series of recordings that Paul made from circa 1959 to 1965 with a quintet he front for the hifijazz, Columbia and RCA labels.

In addition to featuring his artistry on alto sax, flute and clarinet, Paul’s primary group at the time the hifijazz and Columbia albums were made was made up of Emil Richards on vibraphone, Paul Moer on piano, Jimmy Bond or Victor Gaskin on bass and either Billy Higgins or Milt Turner on drums.

The group’s 1960 hifijazz album - Something Blue - was one of the first recordings to combine the modal [scalar] approach introduced in Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue with the unusual or odd time signatures from the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out. Both recordings were issued in 1959.

As a result of his meetings with the sitar player Ravi Shankar a third element began to feature in Paul’s music in the early 1960s - transcendental meditation.

You can get a sense of the presence of the TM influence by reading the following introduction by Paul to his 1965 RCA recording Cycle.

Also reflected in Cycle is Paul’s growing interest in ethnomusicology which, along with his practice of transcendental meditation would help to transition him to the world or universal music which played such a large role in his later career.

Although the instrumentation for Paul’s quintet would remain the same - reeds/woodwinds, vibes, piano, bass and drums, on Cycle Paul brought onto his band some of the younger guys who were beginning to make a name for themselves in L.A. Jazz circles in the early 1960s and they are introduced in the following notes by Marv Newton.

I’m still wondering about the inclusion of bagpipes on two of the tunes on Cycle? Perhaps they can be attributed to the ethnomusicology influence?

“Everything is a cycle. The universe is a cycle. Life is a cycle. Evolution is a cycle. All is one. One is all. All is God. God is all. God is love.

Love is the motivating force behind creative expression. Music is God's love expressing through his creations to his creations. Music from any period of time and from any part of the world when played with the spirit of love is homogeneous and will be understood. Music is love's messenger. Love is God's message. 

The very gifted young musicians with me—Lynn Blessing, Bill Plummer, Mike Lang and Bill Goodwin-all have a message for you. Come listen with us. 



The horizons of jazz in our time stretch into the infinite. They are bound only by the imaginations of such jazz-makers as Paul Horn. At thirty-five, Horn is one of the most vigorously creative artists in the field. Ever discontented with, and intolerant of, the static in jazz, Horn is constantly probing, search-home that point.

There is more than a scent of Highland heather in two of the selections here, Greensleeves and In the Bag. Not for the sale of mere novelty, but for a valid musical reason, Paul Horn made a marriage between his jazz quintet and the Scots bagpipes of master pipers John Turnbull and James Thomson. The result is for the listener to judge, yet we're certain of one thing: this is modern jazz with a difference — modern jazz with an excitement rarely heard on recordings. Only on one track, Cycle, is Horn's alto saxophone employed; the album in effect serves as a showcase for the leader's capacity as one of the leading flutists in jazz. In Shadows, he is heard on alto flute, exploiting that instrument's rich, velvet sound in these two tracks dedicated by Horn to Ravi Shankar, virtuoso Indian sitarist and that nation's leading composer. "I decided to do Shadows," said the leader, "on the spur of the moment. I thought of it at 7 p.m.; we recorded it at 8." His thinking, he says, was guided by consideration of the problem often posed: where does writing end in jazz, in music generally, and improvisation begin? Thus, while the opening statement of Shadows is the same on both tracks, the mid-section is wholly free-form improvisation between flute, vibraharp and bass. The dedication, Horn said: “Is because of my recent meeting and recording with Ravi Shankar and because he is one of the greatest musicians in the world.” Hence the inner spirit of the piece. One hears the vibraharp simulate the manner by which a sitarist strums periodically the basic tone row or scale of the Indian raga to establish a tonal base for improvisation. And one hears also the slurring string bass intoning, murmuring, commenting on the flute’s intentions. Oh his decision to release both takes of Shadows in the same album, Paul said: "Both were so good and so different, I couldn't make up my mind in the editing. So finally we decided to use both."

There is evident in Paul Horn's playing now a maturity that manifests itself to a great degree in his flute sound on Chim Chim Cheree, hard and penetrating, challenging the instrument's natural tone; it makes the difference between the pastoral pipe and the jazz horn. And in Cycle, the dry and driving sound of his alto sax is also illustrative of this growth.

Horn discovered the bagpipers, he says, following "some research" into the matter that disclosed a regular Tuesday night piping session at a rendezvous in Santa Monica, California. When approached by Paul with his rather unorthodox notion, the two pipers, he said, "were quite willing to try it." At the session, a pitch problem developed immediately, the pipes being a full half tone sharp, necessitating the Quintet's transposing. "At first," recalled Paul, "it looked like instant panic but we worked it out in the end." The other musicians in this album — "a group of young, talented fellows from the Coast," according to Paul-bear watching, Lynn Roberts Blessing, the vibraharpist, was born December 4, 1938, in Cicero, Indiana. At the age of eight, he had already decided on music as a career and started out on drums. At seventeen, he switched to vibes. Arriving in Los Angeles in 1959, Blessing played with the groups of Joe Loco and Ray Crawford before joining the Horn Quintet in June 1963.

Michael Anthony Lang [pianist] was born into a show business family in Los Angeles, December 10, 1941. His father, Jennings Lang, is a TV executive at Universal City (MCA, Revue Productions); his mother is Monica Lewis, the singer-actress. Mike began piano study at the age of four-and-a-half and continues his studies to this very day despite a B.A. in music and numerous awards. Mike has worked with Jack Montrose, Terry Pollard, Howard Rumsey, Leroy Vinnegar and Red Mitchell.

William "Bill" Plummer (bass) is a native of Boulder, Colorado, born March 27, 1938, but has lived in Los Angeles most of his life. A bassist for eighteen years, he studied music throughout school, making music his major subject at Los Angeles City College. Bill played with Miriam Makeba, Mavis Rivers, Herb Jeffries, Anita O'Day, Pete Jolly, Buddy De Franco, George Shearing, Shelly Manne and Nancy Wilson, among others, before joining the Horn Quintet in July 1963. He has been studying sitar for some time with Hari Har Rao, a former pupil of Ravi Shankar.

Bill Goodwin (percussion) is a native Los Angelean, born January 8,1942. He heard jazz as a child, he says, and "became interested." His late father was a jazz record collector,records led in turn to study of piano and saxophone, then to drums at the age of fifteen when he proceeded to teach himself percussion. Among those with whom Bill has worked are Frank Rosolino, Bud Shank, Art Pepper, Clare Fischer, Shorty Rogers, and the Lighthouse All-Stars.”

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