Forty Seven Times Its Own Weight: Cumulo Nimbus (Fable 1975) Jazzman (2019)

Mid-week mildly off-piste post, LJC  wanders briefly off the golden path heading into the fonky mid-70s’, in search of new land, in this case, Austin, Texas.

Selection: Weedhopper (Skiles)

.  . .

Track List

A1  Weedhopper
A2  March Of The Goober Woobers
A3  47 Tears
B1  Jig
B2 Halyards
B3 Cumulo Nimbus

Artists

Spencer Starnes , bass, electric bass; John Treanor, drums, percussion;  Dude Skiles piano, electric Piano; Paul Ostermayer soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Mel Winters, trumpet, synthesizer, electric piano; recorded at Odyssey Sound Ltd. Austin, Texas; engineers John Ingle, Larson Lundahl; producers Mike Mordecai, Patrick Rockhill. (Discogs links)

Origin of band name: (what next from the medicine cabinet – Haemorrhoid Ointment?)

Cumulo nimbus: dense cauliflower-shaped towering vertical cloud, formed from water vapor carried by powerful upward air currents, bringing violent thunderstorms. Umbrella or lightning rod waving not recommended.

Music

In the late 60s and early 70s, spurred largely by the rise of electric amplified instruments, jazz mutated into into a wide-spectrum of hybrids, including  jazz-rock, jazz-fusion, jazz-funk and soul-jazz., and of course, the Latin Variant.

Jazz fusion, or progressive jazz if you prefer, combined jazz harmony and improvisation with rhythmic elements of rock, funk, and R&B. The innovation flourished in unlikely places, one such place being Austin, Texas. These 70’s Texas musicians have no historic connection to the distinctive raw Texas Tenor sax I was familiar with. They rarely ventured outside of Texas, and went on to pursue other careers.

While Forty Seven Times was strictly a Texas group, their only album Cumulo Nimbus delivers something akin to the best European jazz fusion of the ’70s, if not better. The compositions are inventive, lyrical and well-structured long instrumental passages.  The instrumentation creatively combines a predominantly electric rhythm section (fender bass, electric piano and synths)  with an acoustic front line ( tenor and soprano saxophone, trumpet and bass clarinet). into a hybrid ensemble that is quite engaging.

Ostemayer’s soprano sax is an agile focal point, dancing over the rhythm section electronics, while the absence of electric lead or rhythm guitars ensures it does not stray into the well-worn jazz-rock path. Of Forty Seven Times, Juno, the UK DJ equipment and records online store, served up this DJ  buzzword-salad:

“Cutting edge fusion of hard-wired jazz-funk, post-modal fusion, horizontal slow jams and low-slung goodness that pairs free-jazz style solos and spiritual grooves with just the right amount of funk-fuelled instrumentation. The set includes both dancefloor-friendly and laid-back fare, with the jaunty title somehow managing to tick both boxes at once” 

There is some truth in that description, including the most important fusion, that between electric and acoustic instruments. Rhythmically it is quite funky, with a strong groove and busy percussion. Some tracks are more overtly funky than others and pursued for that reason by the DJ/rare grooves crowd – notably, the clavinet/synth-driven  March of the Goober Woobers.

Other tracks, including my selection, show more jazz-roots, and make a refreshing change of mood and pace, progressive jazz.

Vinyl:  Fable F101 (1975) 

Fable Records was a small independent record label, started in Austin, Texas in the early 1970s by a young trombone player named Michael Mordecai. In autumn 1975 he launched a trio of albums by Austin bands 47 Times its Own Weight, Steam Heat and Starcrost, Three Fable album covers shown below.

1000 copies of each were pressed.  All three have gone on to become highly sought after by collectors and DJs around the world. Each of the three have their own distinctive style, and 47 Times is the one most closely  jazz-related, other more obviously funk.

Quirky very ’70s illustration reaffirms the  acoustic instrumentation of Forty Seven  Times, here played by a side order of funky vegetables. Makes perfect sense, if you self-identify as broccoli, or a courgette, pronoun optional.

Pressed at GZ MediaGramofonové Závody = “Record Factory“, Czech Republic, the world’s largest vinyl manufacturer, reckoned to be 60% of vinyl record production worldwide. GZ  depends heavily (as doe the Dutch vinyl giant Record Industry) on two-step DMM Direct Metal Mastering process, their good fortune to be unaffected by the Apollo Masters fire, but otherwise not good. The bulk of GZ vinyl pressings start life as digital audio files, I guess how many of today’s artists record themselves.

The source is not mentioned, which usually means digital. With the exception of the Lansdowne Rendell/Carr boxset (mastered by Colin Young’s  C Y Audio), much of the Jazzman catalogue is digital cut on vinyl. Whatever the process,  the final album sounds  good enough to me. As electric instruments merged with the acoustic, purity of tone and timbre of the acoustic presentation perhaps becomes secondary in the mix. 

Limited Edition: number 0539/1,000. Coincidentally, the original Cumulo Nimbus was also 1,000 pressing run.  GZ media has a price for thousand  12″ LP pressing run of  just over 2,000 euro, my maths says a couple of quid per LP,  quite a small part of the final selling price; perhaps a bit like wine, whose price is mostly packaging, transport, overheads and tax.

Collector’s Corner
Only about a dozen copies of the original pressing of Forty Seven Times have come to auction in the last ten years, typically average auction price $300, but as far up as this copy at $680 (41 bids)

I picked up this re-issue in a record store, out of curiosity. It was one of those days when you want to go home with something interesting, but New Arrivals had little of interest, apart from possibly this. Nothing to lose, I took a lucky dip, and was pleasantly rewarded. A few spins, it returned to the turntable more often than expected. 

Jazzman (Gerald Short) is one of those hipster reissue record producers that specialises in the most obscure and rare tracks from the late ’60s and early ’70s, that lacked recognition at the time (which explains why they are rare). He has one foot in DJ-funk, the other in obscure ethnography, and a surprise  third foot in spiritual jazz. Though not everything is to my taste,  I have some confidence in his ear and knowledge, to dig up music worth listening to.  
 

Collector’s Corner Supplement: Jazz Icons – Nipper

On the post theme of fusion, there is another important fusion in music history: Nipper, who become the RCA symbol when RCA and Victor merged in 1929. Nipper was appropriately a fusion breed – a fox terrier/bull terrier mix.
Following in Nipper’s footsteps – or paw-prints, I introduce the young pretender, Mozart Felintino, trying to break into the music business … 

Mozart showed promise, but, for some reason, was not successful. 

In the 1990s, the iconic image of Nipper staring curiously into the horn of a wind-up phonogram was repositioned for the world of modern consumer electronics, now joined by Nipper Jr., dubbed “Chipper”: watching a more modern family entertainment device – the large colour television set. 

RCA owners Thomson Consumer Electronics outsourced tube manufacture jobs to low-wage Mexico, South East Asia and China, but finally succumbed to international market forces in 2005, and Nipper was finally laid to rest. However His Master’s Voice will continue be heard, forever, on vinyl.

LJC

 

 

3 thoughts on “Forty Seven Times Its Own Weight: Cumulo Nimbus (Fable 1975) Jazzman (2019)

  1. As I side note the original dog that was muse for Nipper is buried in Kingston upon Thames, South West London, his final resting place is unfortunately in a car park behind Lloyd’s bank, there is a plaque to commemorate this.

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