The high-gloss packaging and artwork would tend to indicate that D2R came from a top production company. But in fact D2R is the second self-produced album from percussionist/keyboardist Hal Darling. Mr. Darling’s liner notes are actually as entertaining as his music. If his words are to be believed, he is an overly dedicated musician and composer who just happens to be a self-deprecating narcissistic drunk as well. That combination can work for the rare individual and so it seems to do the trick for Darling. His prose and music suggest that the Nebraskan is the kind of guy who could be inhabiting one of the government's abandoned missile silos, toiling away on his keyboards and computers for hour after hour, day after day, year after year as a 21st century Phantom of the Opera.
D2R is a synthesized orchestral mixture of doom and gloom, augmented by occasional Zappa-esque humor and the driving force of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. (Dare I say there are even hints of Grand Funk Railroad from its “Flight of the Phoenix” days?) It is not jazz in any way but certainly has been influenced by jazz-rock fusion. There are few discernable solos, as Darling would rather focus on the dynamics of the music rather than the individual voices. With his keyboards and studio he is able to create a full synthetic orchestra. But Darling is smart enough to portray the music in that light and does not try to pretend the music is something it is not.
“Clown on Fire” opens the album and is its best piece. Despite its clearly subversive nature, it is rollicking good fun. One can actually visualize a video-game clown with his hair on fire desperately trying to find water to put it out. His life is in your hands. “Prom Vomit” will take you back to your high school days and “Asunder” will put you out of your misery.
Darling is joined by Uri Gatton on guitar and Athan Gallis on woodwinds. Their contributions seem important, but for the most part it is difficult to distinguish them apart from the synthesis that surrounds them. Perhaps the next time out Darling will wander off the range a bit and allow for some more personal expression. Could it be that doing so would betray his vision? We’ll only know if we find a way to remove his mask.
Track Listing: Clown on Fire; Black Rhyme; Prom Vomit; Where Seraphs Despair; Rope of Sand; Aggressive Biological Behavior; An Unsettled Score; Run; Dog Dreams; A Breach of Species- One Through Five; Mr. Smith Shows the Children How to Smoke a Cigarette; Asunder
Personnel: Hal Darling- Percussion and keyboards; Uri Gatton- all guitars; Athan Gallis- woodwinds, brass, MIDI horns
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.