A professed "aural pangaea," the latest effort by Boston's Birdsongs of the Mesozoic certainly conjoins more than its share of musical continents. The quartet features personnel first documented on 1995's Dancing on A'A, plus five additional guests who mostly round out the percussion department. Notably present is ex-Mission of Burma icon Roger Miller (piano on two tracks). Miller played an instrumental role in getting the group off the ground back in the the '80s, along with pianist Erik Lindgren. Since that time players have popped in and out, but the current lineup (Lindgren plus Ken Field, Rick Scott, and Michael Bierylo) seems quite stable and sympathetic. Everyone plays multiple instruments both electric and acoustic.
The Iridium Controversy is serious and rather self-conscious music, but not without ample moments of levity and celebration. Half the pieces are penned by Lindgren, the rest consistent enough to render facile comparisons pointless. After the eager and rather forward opener, the first of two title tracks (subtitled "Before") departs from this rocking energy toward a docile chamber sound that's almost baroque in its counterpoint and clarity. Its successor, "After," builds on military beats to assemble an optimistic prog-rock colossus, high-riding melodies alternating with periods of restraint.
Bierylo next interrupts this seeming clarity with a pointed collection of polyrhythms. Rick Scott's appropriately titled "Tectonic Melange" goes from deep held notes to an upbeat group improvisation. The most openly rock-oriented piece is "Sherpas on Parade," while "Race Point" offers yet more orchestral textures. It's a very strange combination of approaches, heavy on composition but often quite light in tone. Since it's often hard to distinguish the voices involved, Birdsongs melds into a shifting, shimmering entity.
Pangaea or Panthalassa, it's all the same. Lots of connections from lots of places. A fitting fusion for four restless spirits who refuse to settle down.
Track Listing: Primordial Sludge; The Iridum Controversy: Before; The Iridium Controversy: After; Make the
Camera Dance; This Way Out; Lost in the B-Zone; Tectonic Melange; Sherpas on Parade; 100
Years of Excellent; Race Point; Centrifuge; The Beat of the Mesozoic, Part 1.
Personnel: Erik Lindgren: acoustic grand piano, washboard, acetone organ; Ken Field: saxophones, flutes,
percussion; Rick Scott: synthesizer, piano, percussion; Michael Bierylo: guitar, programming, sound
design, floor tom. Guests: Larry Dersch, Terry Donahue, Roger Miller, Eric Paull, Ken Winokur.
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.