When our beloved musicians die, we feel bereft because we know we’ll never hear anything new from them. An archivist may discover some buried treasure, but that’s not the same…

“Mumps” by Hatfield and the North: Canterbury Singles 2

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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash This came up when I searched for “Hatfield” on Unsplash. No idea why. But cream doughnuts and coffee — perfect match.


It might seem odd to characterize a 20:31 composition as a single, but “Mumps,” which exemplifies Canterbury long-form, is as tightly constructed as a 2:30 Brill Building pop hit, or the first movement of a classical symphony. I’m choosing it for The Riff series because of Phil Miller’s tremendous guitar riff. But the song has many virtues. If you love intelligent, emotionally engaging music, you’ll be hooked after a few plays. Headphones recommended.

The Band

Canterbury groups and musicians are famous for constantly recombining. Hatfield and the North consist of consummate players from a number of interrelated Canterbury groups, who later reformed…

A boomer remembers. And digresses.

Their Satanic Majesties Request cover
Their Satanic Majesties Request cover
Original lenticular cover (from Discogs)

Reader Beware: I’m giving a lot of background because people who’ve grown up with downloads and streaming and online playlists may not be aware of what it means to anticipate and savor an album. I hope youngsters of all ages can find something to enjoy. I’ll put most of the digressions at the end here (because everybody loves footnotes, right?).

As a 60’s teen, I didn’t buy many records. Most of the music I heard came from the radio, which meant popular hits. Back then, if you liked a song, you might buy the single (99 cents) or less often…

Canterbury Singles #1

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Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

No, “Canterbury Singles” isn’t a dating service for Anglicans; it’s the first of a series looking at important (but often neglected) works in an important (but neglected) genre: Canterbury Progressive Music, with its unique combination of complexity and whimsy.

I’m going to keep things short. For a brief history of Canterbury, check out the Prog Archives profile, or this video from a young prog enthusiast (and take a look at the 300+ comments there, which will show you how fanatic Canterbury fans are). The holy grail of websites is Aymeric Leroy’s Calyx. …

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Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

Beloved jazz pianist who could play anything

It’s been a rough time for fans of jazz piano. Over the past year, Ellis Marsalis, McCoy Tyner, Stanley Cowell, and now Junior Mance have died. Although these giants played for decades and have left a rich legacy (Mance’s discography includes over 50 albums and compilations, with performances from the early 1960’s to 2015), their passing is still regrettable because they never received the acclaim their talent deserved.

But we can use these sad occasions as an opportunity to explore great music we have overlooked. I’m reading about and listening to Junior Mance…

Subversive post-minimalist composer.

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Photo by Philippe Bout on Unsplash

English classical composer, double bass player, b. 1/16/1943.

If Gavin Bryars is a “post-minimalist” composer, is he a maximalist? Categorizing modern music is a fool’s errand, certainly with a complex figure like Bryars. He’s capable of writing lush, orchestral textures, and he’s equally comfortable undermining lush, orchestral textures.

How do we classify this early Bryars work, “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” — simple, incremental orchestration superimposed onto a repeated phrase from a street singer?

The star here is not the repetition (as it would be in a minimalist piece) and/or the variation, but the repetition…


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Photo by Cinescope Creative on Unsplash

The Rolling Stone obituary refers to Michael Fonfara as “Lou Reed keyboardist” (from 1974–1980), and the subtitle mentions that he appeared on Foreigner’s single “Urgent” (providing “keyboard textures”). But the story doesn’t mention Fonfara’s work on David Ackles’ first album (sometimes titled “Road to Cairo”), which features one of my favorite organ solos of all time.

On the verses of David Ackles’ antidote to despair, “Be My Friend,” Fonfara uses brief organ phrases to suggest longing and hope. …

Steven Hale

Music: Discovering the lost and forgotten. Politics: Exposing injustice. Screenwriting: Emotional storytelling.

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