The Stolen Hour refers to the year 2000 when, succumbing to pressures of the international media, Australia's government decided to commence Daylight Savings Time over three months early to better synchronize so that the televised Olympic Games could be seen at more acceptable times by other countries. Bassist Hugh Hopper, of Soft Machine fame and more recently numerous other projects including his intriguing Jazzloops series, collaborates with American artist Matt Howarth for a multimedia project that combines Hopper's music with Howarth's comic book (included as a PDF file on this enhanced CD) to examine the impact the event had on the Australian public, and one fictitious character in particular.
Hopper creates a diversity of rhythm loops over which he layers bass, guitar and the occasional synthesizer, providing a backdrop for a variety of guest artists to contribute, including ex-Soft Machine band mate Robert Wyatt on cornet and vocal loops, and ex-Gong woodwind multi-instrumentalist Didier Malherbe. Ranging from the direct funk of "Some Complications at Work" to the more hypnotically propulsive and aboriginally-textured "Craig's Distended Train Ride," Hopper builds twelve pieces that coexist with Howarth's art, telling the story of technology worker Craig's encounters and frustrations with the change in DST before heading to the Outback to escape the confines of time. There he meets The Old Spirits, who offer some spiritual revelations, and experiences a series of fatigue-and-hunger-induced hallucinations before encountering Mia, another political rebel who has come to the Outback for the same reason. Everything ends on a happy note with Craig and Mia watching the sunset together, operating on a schedule untouchable by governments and business concerns.
Hopper began experimenting with loops as early as the late '60s, and he introduced his uniquely personal concept on the now-classic 1984 (from '73). But both technology and experience have come a long way since then. Experimental in its multitudinous textures yet approachable in its trance-like nature, Hopper's looping experiments bridge the boundary between abstruse structural innovation and improvisational freedom. Sometimes feeling rhythmically akin to the jungle density of Miles Davis' mid-'70s work on "Yearning for the Stolen Hour," other times tranquil and majestic on "Compatibility," Hopper's compositions are often ambiguously linked with Howarth's images. But as far back as his days with Soft Machine, Hopper has never been one to make things easy. The concluding "Sharing the Stolen Hour" revolves around an energetic John Marshall drum loop and soaring-but-slightly-outré sax work by Pierre-Olivier Govin that manages to be obscure yet emotionally uplifting at the same time.
One of Hopper's strengths has always been in creating music that is less than obvious. With rhythm loops consisting of samples that seem to include more than a few found sounds, Hopper creates an audioscape that feels otherworldly, yet is rooted in the here and now by its viscerally-driven rhythmic nature. The Stolen Hour ultimately makes for an engaging listen that is accessible enough to reach out to a significant audience, yet oblique enough to interest listeners interested in exploring new territory.
Track Listing: Craig's Distended Train Ride; Complications at Work; An Inescapable Encounter with Mrs. Pry; Yearning for the Stolen Hour; The Long Drive; An Unregulated Sunset; A Sideways Peek at Dreamtime; Snide Wisdom Involving the Immateriality of Time; The Stuff He Sees; Mia's Timely Emergence from the East; Compatibility; Sharing the Stolen Hour
Personnel: Hugh Hopper (guitar, bass guitar, rhythm loop, midi programming) With guests Robert Wyatt (cornet, voice loops on "Craig's Distended Train Ride," "An Unregulated Sunset," "Mia's Timely Emergence from the East"), Frank van der Kooy (saxophone on "Complications at Work"), Pierre-Olivier Govin (saxophone on "Craig's Distended Train Ride," "Complications at Work," "Yearning for the Stolen Hour," "The Long Drive," "The Stuff He Sees," "Compatibility," "Sharing the Stolen Hour"), Simon Picard (saxophone on "An Inescapable Encounter with Mrs. Pry," "A Sideways Peek at Dreamtime," "Snide Wisdom Involving the Immateriality of Time"), Jan Ponsford (voice on "A Sideways Peek at Dreamtime"), Didier Malherbe (flute loops on "A Sideways Peek at Dreamtime"), John Marshall (drum loop on "Sharing the Stolen Hour")
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.