Guest Post from jazz-fan Pedestroika – the banal and the humdrum, delving into the mid-70s post-modal world of ECM, and Rubisa Patrol, led by pianist Art Lande. I welcome insight from another angle, which hopefully readers will find of interest, and may even have something to say about it.
Selection: Rubisa Patrol
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Rubisa Patrol was a short-lived group that produced an extremely satisfying pair of albums — the eponymous Rubisa Patrol and the sophomore effort Desert Marauders in the mid-to-late-70s for the ECM label.
Some legwork will show that this pair of albums was followed by The Story of Ba-Ku released under the 1750 Arch Records label, but my current belief is that this part solo piano, part collective improv, and part storybook album is far enough removed from this blog’s oeuvre to not merit further discussion/investigation.
Mark Isham and Art Lande are the driving forces behind these albums, though Lande looms large and is credited as the session leader for discography purposes.
Lande, who anchors on the piano, has produced solo efforts, collaborated with other groups, and sustained a successful academic career. Isham, a multi-intrumentalist with the credits reading trumpet, flugelhorn, and soprano saxophone on these two albums, went on to have a long career scoring and contributing to soundtracks and such. Glenn Cronkhite does the needful on drums and percussion on Rubisa Patrol, and is replaced by Kurt Wortman on Desert Marauders (what a world of contrast!). Bill Douglass gets credits for bass as well as flute and bamboo flute. Rubisa Patrol was recorded in May 1976 and Desert Marauders in June 1977.
True to ECM form, the jackets sport pictures of desolate landscapes, something presumably extraterrestrial like a moonscape or a Mars-scape on Rubisa Patrol, and an aerial drone shot of what clearly is a desert settlement of sorts for the second album Desert Marauders. I stumbled into these albums around the same time that ECM appeared on my musical listening radar during a rare visit to Jerry’s Records here in Pittsburgh, PA. ECM is a strange label, and while I am circumspect when it comes to adding ECM albums to my core collection of 10 or so these days, I am a sucker for intriguing album art, and I converged on this group on the basis of a strong-if-not-almost-essential review of Rubisa Patrol on Allmusic.
Serendipitously, my introduction to their discography was a-chronological, and Desert Marauders showed up at my doorstep in need of some loving (more on this below) over 4 weeks before I could source a clean copy of Rubisa Patrol. Although I got to sample Rubisa Patrol on You tube, Desert Marauders resonated well with my soft spot for post-modal searching jazz (inspired in part by the extensive coverage of the Carr/Rendell records on this blog) in the four weeks before my copy of Rubisa Patrol arrived. Modulo this bias, there is a stark contrast between the two albums. The first provides more of a buffet experience in the larger ECM vein, with generous doses of brooding and uplifting atmospheric music rooted in a world music sensibility.
It is challenging music, definitely not meant to be consumed from end-to-end in one sitting. Released two years later, the presence of a different drummer on Desert Marauders showcases what I can call this group at the peak of its form. It is again challenging music, demanding of the listener, but packed with an energy that grabs one from the first minute. Let’s start with the track titles. Sansara? A nod to a core tenet in Hindu philosophy. What next, Moksha? El Pueblo De Las Vacas Tristes? My pidgin Spanish says The Village/Town of Sad Cows.
My selection of
Rubisa Patrol is definitely the longest of all their compositions; it kills two birds with one stone, and showcases all that is great about this group’s music. It is a beautiful track, with some atmospheric parts. I find Isham’s trumpet playing to be imaginative, driving yet driven by some very fine work by Wortman on the drums. Lande’s piano playing is pulsing, and mixed so well that it never flags and takes up just the right amount of space throughout the track. The stop-start dynamics echo shades of Dexter Gordon’s and Donald Byrd’s Shangri-La. Tanya
And the denouement, which kicks in around 12:45, has — to my ears — a Brubeckian
Blue Rondo a la Turk feel to the time signature of the base piano vamping that kickstarts the proceedings, though I am no musician and about as hapless as one can get when it comes to the nitty-gritties of nailing such technicalities.
Sansara is my other favorite track on this record and it bookends what is definitely a standout album in my collection. It holds its own alongside some strong albums in the Cobblestone/Muse, Xanadu, and Steeplechase catalogs (among others).
While I hesitate to call on other reviews, I should bring
this one and ECM’s own posting to my reader’s attention. Moving back to their first album from 1976, one should definitely read the Allmusic review.
My track of choice is
Celestial Guests (Many Chinas), and I will be the first to admit that about the only sense I can make of this choice of name is the bamboo flute that kicks off the tune. Joining the dots using the scant liner notes seems to suggest the intro Celestial Guests is a traditional Chinese melody, and serves as a scaffold/canvas on which the Many Chinas composition is constructed/sketched. Romany is a slow cooker from start to finish, and I hear shades of Davis’ Second Great Quintet’s work (recency bias in effect here).
In summary, I am of the opinion that this album definitely offers something for everyone here and that repeated listening will definitely be rewarded.
Vinyl 1: Rubisa Patrol
Vinyl 2: Desert Marauders:
My promotional copy of the Warner Brothers pressing of Desert Marauders (one of two ECM’s distributors in the USA, the other being Polydor Incorporated) showed up with what looked like spray-paint on the cover. Not an auspicious sign, but the record survived or so it seemed: Who can really tell black spray paint on a black record anyway?
As I was scanning the deadwax, the stamp MASTERDISK and signature letters RL popped out in all their glory. What?! Bob Ludwig? As a Hindustani music aficionado turned jazz evangelist, I was familiar with Bob’s work for the Nonesuch label early in his career. Indeed, there are many Nonesuch albums that sport RL masterings, and my own collection of Hindustani classical music has two such pressings (for the adventurous, try Dhun Khamaj thaat from the album Sarangi / The Voice Of A Hundred Colors ).
Of course, there are the RL masterings of Led Zeppelin II, AC/DC’s Back in Black, and even Steely Dan’s Greatest Hits album (on a different note, who has not heard the Horace Silver Song For My Father bass riff nod in Rikki Don’t Lose that Number or a similar but less discussed lift of Silver’s African Queen in Pretzel Logic?!). All grace my collection, and he is in my pantheon of engineers to worship alongside Rudy/Dowd/Koenig/…
It is interesting to note that the German pressings for ECM were mastered by their in-house mastering engineers: Henry Riedel for Desert Marauders. In 1976, per Discogs, all versions (German as well as US) of Rubisa Patrol were mastered by Jan Erik Kongshaug.
However, I have two copies of this album. The first, “Manufactured and Distributed by Polydor Incorporated”, has the classic MASTERDISK RL on Side 1 and plain matrix codes on the other. The second, a German pressing, is heavier by 15-25 grams with absolutely nothing but record identifiers as archived on Discogs. Maybe another detective story for the LJC community?
NEEDLEDROP AND POST-PROCESSING
Finally, a note on the process of audio capture and transfer here. My playback rig for this post used a Dual 721 with a Shure M97XE cartridge, leading to a modded GFP-555 Adcom preamp. While I do appreciate and sometimes use the “Audacity over a USB” path to sound capture, I have come to rely on my Tascam DA-3000 to make relatively painless and what is — to my ears and sensibilities — near-perfect (OK, let’s call it near-faithful) needle drops. I have had similar success with the Edirol R-09,though this must be qualified with the warning that I never spent too much time with the R-09.
On the Tascam, I capture without clipping and loosely follow the Audacity recipe (a high pass filter, stereo-to-mono folding if necessary, and normalization to leave about 3dB of headroom on the table; click repair as necessary and without automation).
As an aside, I have toyed with Loudness Normalization (at the command line using ffmpeg-normalize script, though I believe it is also native to Audacity) to realize EBU R128 recommendations, but have sometimes found that it requires a lot of fiddling/preprocessing to remove clicks and such. I have also observed artefacts that, in my humble opinion, move needledrops farther from the spirit and sonics of the original capture. In a couple of cases, I have even observed negative artefacts by way of an increased noise floor and enhanced hiss, though at this point, your humble cook may be to blame. Maybe LJC can pen an article and spawn a thread on post-processing? And whereas thanks were due at the start, I deferred this to the close.
I thank LJC not just for the permission to craft this guest post (which was an immensely rewarding experience from start to finish), but for his many years of absolute dedication to this web-site that has helped the likes of yours truly sustain and grow this passion for jazz
LJC: ( blush)
My thanks to
, for creating content of an area I know little about. Any errors in transcription or spelling are my own. Pedestroika Dessert Maruaders, pistachio creme. I know there are other enthusiasts for ECM, because I get a sharp slap whenever fail to give them due recognition.
The origin of “
Rubisa Patrol” is a fascination with distant cultures that dominated the US/ European world music aesthetic of the ’70s/’80s. I was owner at this time of around four New Age records of Stephan Micus, a German musician who put world music centre stage, playing clay pots. The records remain to this day in my loft, gathering dust. They may come back, but for the time being, useful additional loft insulation.
If there is a bee in your proverbial bonnet for other areas of jazz on vinyl I don’t usually cover – 78 rpm shellac?, 70’s jazz rock fusion? (shudder), unbridled free-jazz? Lester Young? We need to share more of the good things that make it worth getting up next morning: currently in short supply. Are you passionate about jazz? If you can write a thousand words (coherently) there are around two thousand readers a day here waiting to hear from you. I’ll look after the publishing minutiae, write to me.