Friday, February 27, 2009
Time for another rhodes album ... this has been around but I wanted to up the bitrate quality because it's a fine album, and also dig into the life of the fascinating Mr Johnson ...
LaMont Johnson appeared as a post-bop pianist in the 1960s, playing on albums like "Demon's Dance" (1967) for saxophonist Jackie McClean, and winning the Downbeat Magazine Jazz Critic's poll as "New Pianist of the Year" in 1968.
Johnson was something of a renaissance man : He was an accomplished recording engineer, and built Downeast Recording Studios, the first studio in the lower east side of NYC. He put out a German-language book of poems in the early 1960s called "Schwarzer Zweifel" ("Black Doubt"); and was a co-designer of some animation techniques for Hanna-Barbera. I'm considering calling him to see if he can fix my stove as well.
In 1972 he released "Sun, Moon and Stars", on which he started experimenting with electric keyboards, bending an organ out of shape, experimenting with synths and mixing in rhodes on others. The tracks range from post-bop to funky jazz, and their titles seem to suggest some dabbling in astrology. Grab it from Ile Oxumaré. He also scored a B-film called "How Come Nobody's On Our Side ?", in which two bikers turn to astrology and drug-smuggling to get money. As you do.
Later in 1972 he helmed an ambitious independant soul-funk album called "Speed Of Light" by Mokie, J.J. and R.O.B. This time around, Johnson produced, wrote most of the tracks and played keyboards. The styles range from southern soul to orchestrated, string-and-multi-tracked vocal pieces that suggest a slightly funkier Fifth Dimension.
There's a thankyou to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard on the cover credits for "Speed Of Light" - Johnson had also composed music for a 1970 Church Of Scientology short film called "Freedom", based on Hubbard's writings. He went on to form the first branch of the church to minister to celebrities. When he later rejected Scientology, he faced the full force of their renowned "Fair Game" revenge policy, including, it is said, having his studio burnt down.
'Thunderfist' - opening theme
DOWNLOAD TRACK as long as you don't mind a mid-section of German dialogue, a safe being cracked, the occasional gasp ... .
Moving into both film production/distribution and film composition, Lamont Johnson had an early success in 1973 with his kung fu feature "Thunderfist" (aka "Lightning Fists Of Death"), for which a promo 7" single was released. I also managed to download a section of a German-dubbed torrent of the movie, so the track in the player above is ripped from the opening sequence (but is not on the EP). I'll translate the film for you, like, next year or something ....
Between 1973 and 1976 he concentrated on film production, started two film distribution companies, and composed music for commercials, for which he won nine major awards. He continued producing kung fu films up until 1983's "When Dragons Collide".
In 1976 he came back to recording with this album - "Nine : A Mystical Music Alllegory". You can see from his cosmic notes below that numerology was now all the rage, but let's just say that Lamont would probably not have been Obama's next pick for Commerce Secretary, and get into the music.
Imagine a Lonnie Liston Smith 70s cop movie ("Calypso After Nine", "The Cat and Nine Tomorrows"), filled with rhodes, great soundtrack-like string arrangements ("Nine") and the occasional Bl*ck J*zz-ish soul-jazz workout ("Benign Beginning", "Dare To Be Different") - and you'll get an impression of this fine album. Previews above if you missed them.
It's got superb production but is never too slick, and it's got modal harmonic structures mixed with interesting touches like plucked/scraped piano strings and toy pianos. Johnson's rhodes work is dense and flowing, fully in control of the dynamics in the way he used the in-built effects.
In the string arrangements for the Karmazyn String Ensemble you can really hear that Johnson's been working on film action structures in the past few years - in fact, his co-orchestrator is Gordon Konkle, who had worked with him on the "Thunderfist" soundtrack. Other musicians include Ronnie Laws, Rudy Johnson, Ndugu Chancler and Blue Mitchell, who'd been on the "Thunderfist" soundtrack.
Check it out!
01. 'Benign Beginning' (5:53)
The sound of love, enchanted lovers - the energy of beginning Life
02. 'Nine' (12:51)
a) 'Philosopher's Stone' - The first statement of the concept of Creation - "I AM"
b) 'Alchemy' - Positive and negative forces moulding and changing Creation - "I CREATE"
c) 'Touchstone' - The test against all odds, and arrival at Truth - "I AM INDEED"
03. 'Calypso After Nine' (5:54)
A lovers' dance, swirling, floating through spirals of Time, infinitely
04. 'The Cat And Nine Tomorrows' (13:28)
For the Cat, each moment is an eon, and he continues and continues
05. 'Dare To Be Different' (7:37)
Throughout the universe, each species exalts in his beingness
06. 'No, I Never End' (3:15)
Infinity achieved and exposed for all, through the knowledge of SelfAll tracks composed by LaMont Johnson
LAMONT JOHNSON SAYS
"NINE, the spiritual number, added to another number does not change the number, subtracted from a number gives you the number, and when multiplied by another number gives you itself. Explore, and you'll find many more properties for NINE.
Eight (8) represents the unity of two totalities - 0 and 0. Turned on its side, eight becomes the symbol for infinity (∞), or the Universe.
One (1), of course, is Man, or the Individual.
In composing this music, I let NINE be made up of 1 and 8, where 1 represents you (or me), and 8 represents your infinite capability (or my own). The music makes the statement - YOU AND YOUR INFINITE CAPABILITY (1 + 8) ARE GREATER THAN THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE (∞). NINE is a song to You and Me - sublime, infinite Beings flowing and growing through time, infinitely. I sing my song to you and share with you the moment eternal.
You are infinite as am I, and we endure longer than litany, mantra, chant or prayer. I send you my love through my music, as others send me their love and one sends us his all.
- LaMont Johnson."
Keyboards, synthesisers, percussion - LaMont Johnson
Moog programming - Paul Beaver
Acoustic Bass - Stanley Gilbert
Fender Bass - Chuck Rainey, Stanley Gilbert
Drums - Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, Nate Neblett
Flugelhorn - Alex Rodriguez, Richard "Blue" Mitchell
Flute - Ronnie Laws
French Horn - Chris Boyle
Guitar - Tony Drake
Harp - Richard Kade
Sax (Soprano) - Rudy Johnson
Sax (Tenor) - Ronnie Laws, Rudy Johnson
Trumpet- Alex Rodriguez, Richard "Blue" Mitchell
Woodwind - John Kip
Strings - The Karmazyn String Ensemble
Recorded and released in 1976
A MasterScores production
Produced by LaMont Johnson & Gil Rosoff
Assistant Producer - Caroline Judd
Orchestrations - LaMont Johnson and Gordie Konkle
Cover Art - Gil Rosoff / MasterScores
Photography - Bev Kelly
Artist Management - MMG-Taylor and Associates, San Diego, CA
Special thanks to : Diane Millett, Sandy Rosen, Stan Gilbert, Gordie Konkle.
Rip by Simon666Thanks to Fraykerbreaks for alerting me to this album.
Album links within the text go to Jazz Disposition, Ile Oxumare and Fraykerbreaks.
Please thank these guys if you visit them.