American Clavé | Anthology 1980 – 1992

An anthology of musics – Double CD-Set

(sequences of angers, passions, sexualities made audible and intelligible by music) formed by the labor of Kip Hanrahan, Jack Bruce, Astor Piazzolla, Allen Toussaint, Don Pullen, David Murray, Paul Haines, Milton Cordona, Ishmael Reed, Steve Swallow, Taj Mahal, Sting, Andy Gonzalez, Arto Lindsay, Giovanni Hidalgo, Fernando Saunders, Leo Nocentelli, Pablo Ziegler, Fernando Suarez Paz, Bobby Womack, Robert Wyatt, Alfredo Triff, Peter Scherer, Lester Bowie, John Tchicai, Lucy Penabaz, Puntilla Orlando Rios, Robbie Ameen, George Cartweight, Elysee Pyronneau and others informed by, but irreverent of, expected form; but informed by and not irreverent of passionate cause and intent… 1980 – 1992

Recording and mixing engineers: Jon Fausty, David Rodriguez, Joe Furla, Dacid Stone, Roger Montenot, David Baker, Mike Krowiak. Mastering engineer: Greg Calbi. Packaging and design by the Rounder art department (Fran Gonzalez, Nancy Given and Scott Billington) with capoeira graphics and special help from Julie Ebel; photos by Charles Reilly. Special producer’s thanks to Rounder (Bill Nowlin, Duncan Browne and especially, really, Scott Billington. (c) (p) 1993 american clavé

Double CD Box-Set incl. 40 pages booklet.


Red Disc (1026)

1. Meaning a Visa (excerpt) (Kip Hanrahan) Steve Swallow (electric bass); Elysee Pyronneau (electric guitar); Arto Lindsay (electric guitar); Alberto Bengolea (electric guitar); Jody Harris (electric guitar); Puntilla Orlando Rios (percussion); Kip Hanrahan (percussion) / recorded 7/82 / from AMCL 1008/1009

2. Two (Still in Half Light) (Kip Hanrahan) Jack Bruce (electric bass, voice); Andy Gonzalez (bass); Milton Cardona (congas, checkere, quinto); Ignacio Berroa (trap drums); Giovanni Hidalgo (quinto); Steve Swallow (electric bass); Kip Hanrahan (checkere)/ recorded 7/84 / from AMCL 1011

3. Soledad (Astor Piazzolla) Astor Piazzolla (bandoneon); Fernando Suarez Paz (violin); Pablo Ziegler (piano); Horacio Malvicino (electric guitar); Hector Console (bass) / recorded 5/88 / from AMCL 1021

4. Fool-ology (The Song) (Lester Bowie, Ishmael Reed) Lester Bowie (voice, trumpet); Molly Parley (voice); Brenda Norton (voice); David Murray (tenor sax); Elysee Pyronneau (electric guitar); Jamaaladeen Tacuma (electric bass); Andy Gonzalez (bass); Frisner Augustin (congas); Milton Cardona (congas); Billy Hart (trap drums) / recorded 8/83 / from AMCL 1005

5. A Lover Divides Time (To Hear How it Sounds) (excerpt) (Kip Hanrahan) Lisa Herman (voice); Daniel Ponce (congas); Jerry Gonzalez (congas); Ignacio Berroa (trap drums); Anton Fier (trap drums); Jamaaladeen Tacuma (electric bass); Arto Lindsay (electric guitar) / recorded 2/81 / from AMCL 1007

6. India Song (Carios d’Alessio, Marguerite Duras) Carla Bley (voice, piano); Bill Laswell (electric bass); Chico Freeman (tenor sax); Orlando DiGirolamo (accordian); Billy Bang (violin); Carios Ward (alto sax); George Cartwright (flute); John Clark (french horn) / recorded 1/81 / from AMCL 1007

7. Poem for Gretchen Ruth (Paul Haines, George Cartwright) Alex Chilton (voice); Wayne Horvitz (piano); David Hofstra (bass); Bobby Previtte (drums) / recorded 10/86 / from AMCL 1014/1018

8. New Fast (Ikue Mori, Tim Wright, Arto Lindsay) Ikue Mori (drums); Tim Wright (bass); Arto Lindsay (guitar, voice) / recorded 3/80 / from AMCL 1003

9. Velasquez (Kip Hanrahan) Jack Bruce (voice); Steve Swallow (electric bass); Puntilla Orlando Rios (congas); Ignacio Berroa (trap drums); Anton Fier (trap drums); Elysee Pyronneau (electric guitar); Arto Lindsay (electric guitar); Jody Harris (electric guitar) / recorded 7/82 / from AMCL 1009/1008

10. There Aren’t These Things (Paul Haines, John Tchicai) John Tchicai (tenor sax); Andrew Cyrille (trap drums) / recorded 1/90 / from AMCL 1014/1018

11. Leijia’s Game (Astor Piazzolla) Pablo Zinger (piano) / recorded 8/87 / from AMCL 1019

12. Shadow Song (Mario’s In) (Rene Hernandez, Kip Hanrahan) Jack Bruce (piano, voice); Steve Swallow (electric bass); Ignacio Berroa (trap drums); Puntilla Orlando Rios (congas, bongo); Milton Cardona (congas); David Murray (tenor sax); John Stubblefield (tenor sax); Mario Rivera (baritone sax); Ned Rothenberg (tenor sax); Lew Soloff (trumpet); Richie Vitale (trumpet) / recorded 2/84 / from AMCL 1010

13. Geography (Kip Hanrahan) Robbie Ameen (trap drums); Fernando Saunders (electric bass); Lucy Penabaz (voice); Leo Nocentelli (electric guitar) / recorded 2/90 / from AMCL 1016/1017

14. Prelude to the Cyclical Night (part two) (Astor Piazzolla) Astor Piazzolla (bandoneon)/ recorded 8/87 / from AMCL 1019

Gold Disc (1020)

1. Salute to Elegua (traditional, arranged by Milton Cardona) Milton Cardona (iya); Hector “Flaco” Hernandez (checkere); Steve Berries (itotele); Jose Fernandez (okonkolo); Sandra “Fela” Wiles, YomiYomi Awolowo, Carole Awolowo, Paulette “Nirvana” Buckley, Amma Oforiwaa Agyapon, Denise Ola DeJean, Jean Evans, Amma Dawn McKean, Teresa Gomez (chorus) / recorded 8/85 / from AMCL 1004

2. Tanguedia III (Astor Piazzolla) Astor Piazzolla (bandoneon); Fernando Suarez Paz (violin); Pablo Ziegler (piano); Horacio Malvicino (guitar); Hector Console (bass) / recorded 5/86 / from AMCL 1013

3. “…when I lose myself in the darkness of love, no, this love…” (Kip Hanrahan) Fernando Saunders (electric bass); Giovanni Hidalgo (quinto); Milton Cardona (congas); Robbie Ameen (trap drums); Ignacio Berroa (trap drums); Kip Hanrahan (percussion); Diahnne Abbott (voice); Andy Gonzalez (bass); Alfredo Triff (violin) / recorded 8/89 / from AMCL 1016/1017

4. “…she turned so that maybe a third of her face was in this fuckin’ beautiful half-light…” (Kip Hanrahan) Giovanni Hidalgo (quinto); Milton Cardona (congas); Robbie Ameen (trap drums); Ignacio Berroa (trap drums); Kip Hanrahan (percussion); Andy Gonzalez (bass); Fernando Saunders (electric bass); Sting (electric bass, voice); Alfredo Triff (violin) / recorded 2/90 / from AMCL 1016/1017

5. ‘Sputin (Ishmael Reed, Leo Nocentelli, Alien Toussaint, Kip Hanrahan) Leo Nocentelli (guitar); Steve Swallow (electric bass); Bobby Womack (voice); Allen Toussaint (piano); Robbie Ameen (trap drums); Lenny Pickett (tenor sax); Olu Dara (trumpet); Hamiet Bluiett (baritone sax) / recorded 2/89 / from AMCL 1015

6. Jes’ Grew (David Murray, Ishmael Reed) Taj Mahal (voice, guitar); Ejaye Tracey (voice); Don Jay (voice); Olu Dara (trumpet); David Murray (tenor); Jean-Paul Bourelly (electric guitar); Allen Toussaint (piano); Steve Swallow (electric bass); Jamaaladeen Tacuma (electric bass); Billy Hart (trap drums); Puntilla Orlando Rios (percussion) / recorded 9/83 / from AMCL 1006

7. Make Love 2 (Jack Bruce, Pete Brown) Jack Bruce (voice, electric bass); Steve Swallow (electric bass); Ignacio Berroa (trap drums); Milton Cardona (congas); Puntilla Orlando Rios (congas); Peter Scherer (synclavier); Arto Lindsay (electric guitar); David Murray (tenor sax) / recorded 2/84 / from AMCL 1010

8. Ah, Intruder (Female) (Astor Piazzolla; arranged by Kip Hanrahan and Astor Piazzolla) David Murray (tenor sax); Pablo Ziegler (piano); Andy Gonzalez (bass); Alfredo Triff (violin) / recorded 5/86 / from AMCL 1012

9. Prelude to the Cyclical Night (Part One) (Astor Piazzolla) Astor Piazzolla (bandoneon) / recorded 8/87 / from AMCL 1019

10. The First and Last to Love Me (2, December) (Kip Hanrahan) Steve Swallow (electric bass); Jack Bruce (electric bass); Andy Gonzalez (bass); Giovanni Hidalgo (congas); Milton Cardona (congas); Ignacio Berroa (trap drums); Fernando Saunders (voice); George Adams (tenor sax) / recorded 10/85 / from AMCL 1012

11. Ebioso (traditional, arranged by Milton Cardona) Milton Cardona (lead singer, atchere); Hector “Flaco” Hernandez (checkere); Steve Berrios (congas, checkere); Jose Fernandez (checkere); Sandra “Fela” Wiles, YomiYomi Awolowo, Carole Awolowo, Paulette “Nirvana” Buckley, Amma Oforiwaa Agyapon, Denise Ola DeJean, Jean Evans, Amma Dawn McKean, Teresa Gomez (chorus) / recorded 8/85 / from AMCL 1004

12. The Author Reflects on his Thirty-fifth Birthday (Ishmael Reed, Steve Swallow) Bobby Womack (voice); Steve Swallow (electric bass); Don Pullen (organ); Alien Toussaint (piano); Robbie Ameen (trap drums); Eddie Harris (tenor sax); Leo Nocentelli (electric guitar); David Murray (tenor sax); Olu Dara (trumpet) / recorded 9/87 / from AMCL 1015

13. Curtsy (Paul Haines, Robert Wyatt) Robert Wyatt (voice, keyboards, percussion); Evan Parker (tenor sax) / recorded 8/86 / from AMCL 1014/1018

14. At the Moment of the Serve (excerpt) (Kip Hanrahan) Jamaaladeen Tacuma (electric bass); Arto Lindsay (electric guitar); Daniel Ponce (congas, iya); Jerry Gonzalez (congas); Anton Fier (trap drums); Ignacio Berroa (trap drums); Kip Hanrahan (percussion); George Naha (electric guitar); Carlos Ward (alto sax); Chico Freeman (tenor sax) / recorded 1/81 / from AMCL 1007


Begin with two measures of music: three rhythmic strokes in the first measure, two in the second, sounded by wood on wood. You have then the Clave, the basic building/block of salsa, of Afro-Cuban jazz. But what magic transformation occurs when you think of musics under the umbrella of a label like “American Clave?” A rashly superficial assumption runs: salsified jazz, perhaps improvised Tin Pan Alley standards bongoed-up, Sten Kentonized-up, blaring brass choruses meeting a small battalion of percussion. That would be an easy enough music to create and sell, the “how to” established in recording studios and recording company executive suites for a half century. Thank the gods that Kip Hanrahan is one of those who the poet Rilke would have identified as a “lover of the difficult.” This recording project refused that easy way out, that casual slide Latinizing American standard tunes would have represented. This is a story of a musical visionary embracing an American spirit of radical invention, taking on the alchemy of how to make an American Clave.

Listen to the beats of different drummers under the enchantment of gods who still ponder what kind of experiment America is…

Suppose the Clave is more than a literal rhythmic cell. Suppose the archetypal energies of a Latinized America stream from that rhythmic configuration. Think about what comprises a “south- of-the-border” sensibility. Lorca nailed a key aspect when he heralded duende, that dark spirit of the earth he thought most poignantly manifested in powerful music and dance. South-of-the- border consciousness = carnival consciousness, eros-toward-death consciousness, the tropics asthe locale where individual souls make their journeys to the heart of darkness. This is metaphor. You can go south of the border and never leave Manhattan. This is a journey across several states of mind. American Clave is the only recording company I know of that embraces the full spectrum of musics from south-of-border, the only recording project that takes on the mythic implications of musically bending your inner ear southward. How? These recordings are sonic gumbos based upon mixing musical styles and personalities most recording categories would treat, if at all, as separate entities. There is always high risk, artistic, economic, in mixing together conventionally unmixed styles. How many music consumers worship monolithically a single sound, a safe and secure sound replicated year after year? American Clave recordings are for the tight/rope walkers, the high/rollers, those for whom any one fixated style is an evasion. Here’s a task and promise: beat on two wooden sticks a rhythm that will bring about a dissolving of the walls separating dream from waking…

You can produce recordings from various sets of musical assumptions. But try this: go into a studio with the musicians you most love, whatever their usual musical persuasions, and imagine that you’re creating a film, specifically a film noir. You want smoking sounds, the dark tones of duende, night/sweat symphonies, seductive funky blues that you could imagine a 1992 Baudelaire or Vallejo improvisings prose/poetry to. If you’re making a film in the recording studio, shift into a filmmaker’s language of jump/cuts, clean splices, shifting sets and dissolves. Now bring the actors to the microphones: Jack Bruce, Milton Cardona, David Murray, Arto Lindsay, Steve Swallow…

Producers can, often do, impose their concepts upon musicians. The very best, count Hanrahan among them, seem to coax, to call forth a concept for a recording, drawing upon talents hitherto unrecognized in the musicians. Who would have thought that bassists Jack Bruce could be even more of a world-class vocalist? Who would have imagined how touchingly jazz saxophonist David Murray could enter into the secret heart of the tango? Who ever thought Lester Bowie’s speech could add some spice to Ishmael Reed’s peppery poetry? When you hear the pulse of an American Clave, be prepared to drop habitual musical habits. The rewards? Nothing less than a renewed appreciation of the spiritual freedom that the very best American music has promised and sometimes even delivered.

These percussive rhythms, drawn from New Orleans, Cuba, Argentina, the African inner city of Manhattan, are determined to change your life. The vocal and instrumental cries which spring forth from storm/clouds of these rhythms are oracular warnings, praise/songs, riddles. If music is as crucial to your quality of daily life as food, call these rhythms manna, the singers and players on these sessions the messengers bringing manna into your kitchen. And now that this intellectual rhapsodizing to the sounds of American Clave is over, I tell you, if you wish to know the how and why of this label, begin dancing. To… — Norman Weinstein

You want to talk frustration?

In 1984 my best friend and I were all packed and ready to take off on a cross-country trip, it was a ramble; we were just going to zig-zag everywhere: the Crescent City, big sky country, the Utah Canyonlands, Marin. The itch to leave was fierce, but there was a snag. Conjure, Kip Hanrahan’s salute to poet Ishmael Reed, was due out any day, and the pre-release scuttlebutt made it sound like it would be perfect for an excursion across America. One day went by, then another and another — still no record. Just as my pal was gassing up to leave me behind, Conjure hit the racks. We weren’t even out of Jersey when we heard the cackle of Lester Bowie’s vocal on “Fool-ology” and realized that the wait had been worthwhile. It was an auspicious beginning.

When records on the American Clave first started showing up in the early ’80s, they sounded like nothing prior. This stunning singularity was a result of label boss Hanrahan’s restless nature and unique vision. A keen facilitator, he judiciously shaped his manifold interests: Latin rhythms, jazz improv and poesy-speak were all merged into an incomparable swirl. He was a catalyst as well: under his direction, musicians were rubbing shoulders with colleagues who were previously off limits. Connotations quickly emerged. Uncovering cultural relationships that were once obscured, imbuing them with a nervy personal logic, Hanrahan insisted that American Clave carry the exhiliration of life’s implicit gamble. The label became home to a music of nuance, a music of inflection, a music of risk. Its tacit suggestion was that we’d been duped by business as usual, desensitized by the emotional standardization of big-money pop. Hanrahan’s melange worked overtime to rupture such orthodoxy, packing a formidable and unanticipated wallop that accented global pluralism.

His first two records, Coup de Tete and Desire Develops An Edge, framed a picture which exalted momentary actions without attempting to define them. Heralding the instinctual, they scrutinized our personal motivations and celebrated our collective foibles. Hanrahan’s ruminations were articulate but evasive; his ideas came around corners, hung out in the shadows, and spoke in snippets. A confrere of fervor, he sweated the details, imbued them with consequence, and made ephemera tangible. As you’ll hear on this compilation, most American Clave artists appreciate a similar tack. “You talk to me with words, but I talk to you with emotions,” states Diahnne Abbott somewhere in the middle of the proceedings, and that method of communication is what the label still projects as it moves into its 14th year. The diversity of artists speaks for itself, and/, to a track, stimulation abounds.

A curt Clavé from master percussionist Milton Cardona’s Bembe (a Cuban santeria ritual which captures the ardor of divine belief} leads into “Tanguedia III,” the robust and dignified opening track from the late Astor Piazzolla’s stunning Tango: Zero Hour. The downpour of percussion which nourishes a come-hither taunt by Diahnne Abbott swells into Sting’s soliloquy from Hanrahan’s Tenderness — “She turned so that maybe a third of her face was out of the shadow, and for just that second, just for that one fuckin’ second I could see that fear around her eyes, around her mouth, dissolve into this…wonder, yeah, wonder…”

A massive sense of humor and relentless yen to funk you up marks the next two pieces from the Conjure series. “Sputin” and “Jes’ Grew” boast a skewed, irresistible backbeat; Taj Mahal’s smoky growl on the tatter is unforgettable. At the opposite end of the vocal spectrum is Jack Bruce’s cooing on “Make Love 2,” from Vertical’s Currency, which Hanrahan has facetiously called their “Smokey Robinson record.” The sensuous stealth of a melody that David Murray claims as one of the most gorgeous themes he’s ever heard is next in Piazzolla’s piece, “Ah, Intruder (Female).” It comes from Kip’s Days and Nights of Blue Luck Inverted. It’s a perfect intro to Hanrahan’s disclosure/plea/fantasy, “The First and Last To Love Me (2, December).” A back-and-forth choir exchange from Bembe drops into Reed’s “The Author Reflects On His 35th Birthday.” Its corporeal demeanor — “make me Dracula mean, Beethovenian-eyebrows mean, Miles Davis mean” — is at odds with the ghostly tone of Robert Wyatt’s vocal and Evan Parker’s horn on the next track, “Curtsy.” It’s from a various-artists collection of Paul Haines’ poetry due out in ’93.

“No matter how softly we touch, we seem to bruise” is the refrain from “Two (Still In Half-Light)” from Desire. The drum pulse is as sure as Bruce’s adamant disdain for a “three-sided symmetry.” Piazzolla’s “Soledad” could be a dirge if it didn’t adroitly blend several other emotions into its guileless melody. The aforementioned “Fool-ology” is infamous for the puckish way that Reed deals out his wisdom: “First moral: don’t do business with people for whom April 1 st is an important date.” The wonderfully wry Bowie was the perfect choice as vocafist. It’s tough to decide what’s more intriguing on “A Lover Divides Time {to Hear How It Sounds)” — Lisa Herman’s torrid vocal, or the scintillating drum web created by Daniel Ponce, Jerry Gonzalez, Ignacio Berroa and Anton Fier. We move from anger to ennui — watch out for the mock sighing that dots Carla Bley’s update of Marguerite Duras’ “India Song,” the track which luminously closed the first side of Coup de Tete. “Poem for Gretchen Ruth” is another Haines ditty, its optimism sprightly blossoming in Alex Chilton’s voice. “Velasquez” from Desire floats along as well, but in a decidedly ominous manner.

The subtlety and invention of the sax-and-drums improv by John Tchicai and Andrew Cyrille indicates that Hanrahan has an ear for jazz’s impetuous grace. A rhapsodic interlude by pianist Pablo Zinger offers some breathing room before Jack Bruce muses and muses and muses over the existential flat tire in “Shadow Song” from Vertical’s Currency. The band’s intricate merengue is brilliant. Lucy Penabaz then discerns that the strategies for gaining political power and sexual entitlement are seldom dissimilar and usually costly. Some exquisite Piazzolla filigree provides an apropos finale.

Sometimes delicate, sometimes ravishing, this outstanding collection is distilled from an extraordinary body of work. Praised when they first arrived on the scene in the early ’80s, the individual discs have lost nary a whit of their radiance; it’s great to have them available again. Their reemergence and vitality substantiates one of Ishmael Reed’s most irrefutable thoughts: “Things in motion have a tendency to stay in motion.” — Jim MacNie October, 92, NYC


Double CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)

$ 25.00
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