Thursday, July 16, 2009
"man, the destroyer"
AUSTRALIAN JAZZ - THE LIBRARY CONNECTION #3
Some jazz, some bossa rhythms, and some easy-listening-musique-concrète soundtrack all in the one package. What a bargain!
John Sangster's fascinating soundtrack album for a series of nature documentaries is buried behind one of the one of the worst, most generic titles of all time - not to mention the skanky record cover, which doesn't even have his name on it - but that was the lot of the commissioned library/soundtrack composer in 1970s Australia.
On the upside, that's probably a factor that allowed me to grab it for $3 at a street market a few months back, rather than having to pay the hundreds of dollars that some of his albums go for. Anyway, it's something of a buried treasure that we'll try and dig up today.
John Sangster was a vibraphonist, percussionist and composer who started out in fairly straight-ahead jazz groups as a cornettist, releasing two albums in the late 1940s. During the 1960s he developed an interest in the avant garde and then broadened his listening and composing to latin and other musical forms, releasing three albums that are now quite hard to get hold of - "The Trip" (1967), "The Joker Is Wild" (1968) and "Ahead of Hair" (1969).
The last of these was an idiosyncratic, percussion-laden take on the musical "Hair", recorded while he was working as a drummer in the Sydney stage version alongside prog-rock group Tully. Here's the title track (thanks Reza!) :
"Hair" - John Sangster
DOWNLOAD TRACK - not included in album download
During the mid to late 1960s, Sangster was also a member of the Don Burrows Quartet, and played on the album "The Jazz Sound Of the Don Burrows Quartet", previously featured on this blog.
That group, combined with Sangster's vibes, formed the core sound for a series of soundtracks by renowned soundtrack composer Sven Libaek, including "Inner Space" and "Solar Flares".
"Australia and All That Jazz" was commissioned by the Australian Museum - a museum of natural history - as the soundtrack for a series of 16mm wildlife documentary films by the museum's filmmaker Howard Hughes (no, not that one). Working here with the Burrows group and three additional woodwind players, Sangster himself plays vibraphone, an array of percussion and occasional simple fender rhodes (see the "Rain" preview at the top).
Ironically, the bulk of the funding for the project was provided by mining company BHP, perhaps as a payback for the fact that they were ripping up the Australian landscape at the time and wiping out much of the wildlife being celebrated here.
Sangster had previously worked on Sven Libaek's soundtrack for a series of nature documentaries that ran under the title "Nature Walkabout". Libaek's 1965 soundtrack had followed the standard formula, applying "human" drama to the scenes of animal activities and the power of nature.
For a nature documentary score, Sangster's approach here is radically different to that of Libaek - he incorporates the sound of nature itself into the soundtrack, via field recording, tape manipulation and melodic scoring for instruments - including Don Burrow's flute utilising echo-delay - that reflects the calls of birds, other animals and the elements.
While these are techniques that were common to the work of classical and experimental composers of the time, it was unusual to hear them both in a jazz context and used in such a lyrical fashion. Later on the the 70s and 80s these sort of techniques were used and abused in a range of appalling "new age" music, but here there's still a freshness.
Nature's drama is also reflected in rhythmic sequences that reference occasional latin and afro-style beats, in the time-honoured 70s library tradition of non-european cultures being seen as 'wild', but also stemming from Sangster's genuine love for and engagement with a range of musics.
The first of his albums to cross over with his environmental interests, it's divided into two sides : "Where Water is Plentiful" and "Dry Australia", referring to the titles of two of the films the music was originally scored for. This album took the structures of and ideas behind the original recordings and developed them further in the studio.
"man, the destroyer"
I've got several albums by Sangster and others to follow in a continuing examination of the "library connection", so I hope you enjoy this one. The WAV and MP3 downloads in the comments both include scans of the four page internal booklets from the album.
All tracks written by John Sangster except Track 1 by Don Burrows.
SIDE ONE - "WHERE WATER IS PLENTIFUL"
01. 'first light'
The bush comes to life
The rising sun brings to life the flowers' colours - the Waratah, Gymea Lily and Banksia. This composition features Don Burrows' bass flute.
03. 'the birds'
features Graeme Lyall's tenor saxaphone
04. 'procession of tadpoles & waterstriders'
Don Burrows on alto flute
Errol Buddle on bassoon
06. 'forest with birds'
John Sangster on vibraphone and Don Burrows on alto flute
07. 'man, the destroyer'
Tony Buchanan's bass clarinet depicts the destruction of this beautiful environment - but with care, it will survive.
SIDE TWO - "DRY AUSTRALIA"
08. 'the desert'
Don Burrows - bass flute
09. 'skull & bones'
The sun-bleached remains of victims of drought
10. 'the sand swimmer'
Sangster on vibraphone slap-mallets
Water brings the desert to life. John Sangster on fender rhodes.
12. 'the knob tailed gecko'
Errol Buddle on tenor saxaphone
13. 'the centre'
Vibraphone improvisation by John Sangster
14. 'the city'
Even the distant city-dweller has his responsibility to preserve this land
John Sangster - vibraphone, electric piano, quijada, bells and windchimes, bongos, conga drum.
Erroll Buddle - flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, tenor sax
Don Burrows - Concert, alto and bass flutes; clarinet
Tony Buchanan - Flute, clarinet and bass clarinet
George Golla - classical and electric guitars
Graeme Lyall - Flue, clarinet and tenor sax
Derek Fairbrass - drums
Ed Gaston - bass
Cherry Pie Records
Recorded at Cherry Pie Studios, Sydney, 1971
Recording Engineers - Warren Mills, Max Harding
Studio Technician - Godfrey Gamble
Cover Design and Layout - Adrian Baine
Photography - Howard Hughes
Front Cover - Darke's Forest, New South Wales
Back Cover - near Bourke, western New South Wales
AUSTRALIAN JAZZ AND THE LIBRARY CONNECTION
#1 : Don Burrows - "The Jazz Sound of the Don Burrows Quartet" (1966)
#2 : Don Burrows - "The Tasman Connection" (1976)
#3 : John Sangster - "Australia and All That Jazz - Vol. 1" (1971)
Vinyl rip, scans and text by Simon666
Thanks to Reza for the mp3 of "Hair".
Other blogs referenced here are The Manchester Morgue, Fine Folk and Rafter Lights.
Please thank these folks if you visit them and download their records - comments keep music blogs alive.