Monday, March 8, 2010

CD of the Week - "Beppe Crovella: What's Rattlin' On The Moon?"

CD of the Week
Beppe Crovella: "What's Rattlin' On The Moon? (MoonJune CD MJR030) 2010

Rating: ***** (musical performance) ***** (sound quality)
With the sub-title "A Personal vision of the music of Mike Ratledge," keyboardist Crovella takes us in a stunning outer space journey through Ratledge's work, like he explains on the insightful liner notes for the digipak CD cover (see the complete notes below on this post). There's no analog or digital synthesizers or any other digital keyboards on this recording.
Besides a Fender Rhodes 73 electric piano and a Hammond organ M102, Crivella wisely used only such vintage instruments as Mellotron, Wurlitzer E200 electric piano, Hohner clavinet D6, Hohner & Rösler electric pianos and Farfisa Professional.
Concept & idea by Leonardo Pavkovic (MoonJune's head) & Beppe Crovella.
If you love Soft Machine and/or adventurous fusion (or jazz-rock or progressive contemporary jazz), you'll love "What's Rattlin'..." Essential delight! And look for Crovella's name in our next Jazz Station Poll for the best artists and releases of 2010.

...Rattlin' all the time (10 tracks based on compositions by M. Ratledge, re-arranged by B. Crovella)
1. Tarabos 5:10
2. Chloe And The Pirates 7:56
3. All White 6:24
4. The Man Who Waved At Trains 3:54
5. As If 4:14
6. Hibou, Anemone And Bear 3:28
7. Out-Bloody-Rageous 8:36
8. Pig 4:28
9. Esther's Nose Job 6:04
10. Slightly All The Time 9:32
...before the Moon (composed by B. Crovella)
11. Leonardo's E-Mail 4:11
12. Moonvision 2:17
13. Many Moons, Many Junes 3:05
...after the Moon (composed by B. Crovella)
14. Lunar Impression 1:17
15. Circular Lines In The Air 2:46
16. Moon Geezers (to Hugh & Elton) 3:27

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Beppe Crovella at Electromantic Synergy Studio, San Sebastiano da Pó (Torino), Italy, between March and August 2009.
Produced by Beppe Crovella/Electromantic Music. Executive producer Leonardo Pavkovic.
Dedicated to Mike Ratledge.

Video Clips: watch Beppe Crovella on his YouTube page
Album Profile:

With his brilliant new MoonJune Records CD release "What’s Rattlin’ on the Moon," veteran progressive musician and award-winning composer Beppe Crovella (Arti e Mestieri) delivers a heartfelt and long-overdue appreciation of one of the defining voices of the jazz-rock idiom, Soft Machine keyboard player and composer Mike Ratledge. More than any of his more widely recognized former bandmates, it was Ratledge who was truly the heart and soul of Soft Machine, his instantly identifiable sound and forceful, incandescent soloing providing the thread of continuity throughout most of the band’s many incarnations.

At a time when many progressive rock keyboardists were surrounding themselves with ever more elaborate arrays of futuristic, often sterile-sounding keyboard instruments, Ratledge managed to produce music of arguably greater depth and vitality armed primarily with an inexpensive modified Lowrey organ and a Rhodes electric piano. Not for Ratledge the precious neoclassicism and faux orchestral flavorings of the progressive genre—his signature overdriven organ gave even guitarists like Softs touring partner Jimi Hendrix a run for their money and flattened many an unsuspecting concertgoer.

The rawness and intensity of his Coltrane-inspired sheets of sound imbued Soft Machine’s music with a sense of risk and immediacy that tilted the band into the realm of up-to-the-minute jazz, yet he could just as easily conjure more bucolic moods with his ruminative playing on the electric piano. Ratledge also contributed a number of the group’s most enduring compositions in “Slightly All the Time,” “Out-Bloody-Rageous,” “Esther’s Nose Job,” and “Chloë and the Pirates".

Sadly for many Soft Machine enthusiasts, Ratledge has been little seen since he left the band in 1976 — all the more reason to celebrate the release of "What’s Rattlin’ on the Moon," on which Crovella breathes new life into a choice selection of classic Ratledge compositions while adding a number of exemplary Softs-inspired tunes of his own. No mere nostalgic re-creation of the Soft Machine oeuvre, "What’s Rattlin’..." presents a fresh and bracing take on Ratledge’s singular music through novel arrangements and the use of vintage keyboards not normally associated with the Softs, such as (intriguingly) the Mellotron.

Perhaps the most radical break with the past here is the absence of a rhythm section or other melody instruments competing for attention; by placing Ratledge’s music fully in the foreground, Crovella cannily illumines key facets of his subject’s musical personality. The undulating ostinati that underlie Crovella’s arrangement of “Chloë and the Pirates” reveal links to early Ratledge influence Terry Riley, while Crovella’s version of “As If”, with its flurries of spiraling, chromatic lines, underscores Ratledge’s affinity for ‘free jazz’ contemporaries like Cecil Taylor. In some cases (“Chloë and the Pirates”, “Pig”) the arrangements hew fairly closely to the recorded originals; in others (“Hibou, Anemone and Bear,” “Out-Bloody-Rageous”) the source material is creatively morphed almost beyond recognition, yet still bears the inimitable stamp of its author.

Crovella’s choice of vintage keyboards — no synthesizers or digital keyboards of any kind are used on this recording — is particularly inspired, their organic tones aptly evoking the raspy timbres of Ratledge’s fuzzed-out organ and piano. Crovella’s deep empathy with the Ratledge sound ethos is also evident in the six original compositions with which he augments the program. "What’s Rattlin’..." is not only a supremely fitting homage to one of the giants of jazz-rock, but in the spirit of its subject, moves the music forward in bold and imaginative ways. It is that rarest of ‘tribute’ albums, one that captures the unique musical gifts of both its dedicatee and creator.
Liner notes by Beppe Crovella:

"When Leonardo Pavkovic, of MoonJune Records, suggested the idea of rediscovering and portraying Mike Ratledge's tunes á la Beppe, I instantly tuned into the idea.

I've always liked Soft Machine's music and the incredible, unpredictable world of jazz-rock that was born out of their creative galaxies. Mike and Soft Machine send me high ... close to the Moon-in-June ... and in all the other months of the year.

The electric organ – Hammond, Lowrey, Farfisa – has always been one of my greatest friends. Brian Auger was my first idol, and there have also been Keith Emerson, Booker T., Jimmy Smith, and many more organists, but I have been mesmerized by two who really pushed themselves courageously into new areas in 'Organ Adventureland': Larry Young and Mike Ratledge.

Mike went even beyond, creating his highly distinctive sound on his mighty Lowrey organ, starting from a very unusual timbre, distorting it some would say, changing the sound of a noisy insect into that of a wonderful singing blackbird. Few musicians in either jazz or rock have found such an original timbre, rendering it instantly identifiable and so musical.

My approach to Mike's compositions has been totally free, following my own vision - as the spirit of the original tunes was, I felt, in a new unity of time. In making this album, my first rule has been to make no rules! My second rule has been to take molecules of the original Mike and Softs idiom and, while preserving their DNA, to seed them in a new field with the courage of freedom. It has been my land of adventure, my moon and mindscape path.

I've painted the moods of these songs using the colours generated by some close friends: Hammond, Mellotron, Rhodes, Wurltizer, Hohner Pianet, Clavinet, and Farfisa Professional.

The album has two additional 'Moonbonus' sections: The first one is called "before the Moon" and includes three tunes that I composed when still shaken by the intensity and emotion of my new adventure. The second one is titled "After the Moon" and was composed after the reinterpretation of Mike's tunes, and at the end there's a tune named 'Moonfriends,' dedicated to Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean, from my heart."
- Beppe Crovella, San Sebastiano da Pó (Italy), September 2009

This album is dedicated to Mike Ratledge, and, of course, to Leonardo ‘The MoonJune Geezer’ Pavkovic..

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