Greg Howard Band Lift (Espresso Records, 2000) Chapman Stick player Greg Howard has recorded solo albums and gigged his often Spanish influenced electric jazz in Charlottesville, Virginia for over fifteen years. The Chapman Stick, a 10 or 12 stringed electric instrument invented by Emmett Chapman in the 1970s, contains low and high pitched strings for playing bass lines and melodies simultaneously. The strings are tapped with a fingertip, not plucked like a guitar or electric bass, giving the sound a bouncy quality unique among stringed instruments. Frequently collaborating with area musicians such as trumpeter John D'Earth and saxophonist LeRoi Moore, Howard's most prominent national exposure has come on recordings and tours with the Charlottesville native Dave Matthews Band. Howard departed from his usual solo project style after meeting several Dutch musicians while touring Europe, inspiring him to form the Greg Howard Band. In addition to Howard on Stick and synthesizer, the Greg Howard Band also includes Jan Wolfkamp on drums, Hubert Heeringa on saxophones and violin, and Jan van Offen on fretless and fretted bass, with guest musician Louis Gerrits on EWI and saxophones. They recorded Lift in Holland in 2000. Lift begins with several snappy tunes, including the 5:8 time romp "Dissent" and the rolling "Cross Country." The crisp opening tunes give way to a more subdued second half of the record, including the experimental sounding "The Offering" and the spacey "Still Water," which segues into the rising jam of "The Effect of Marco's First Lekker Bakkie in the Morning." Except for "Restless" and the re-recorded, older Howard tune "Blues for Ayman," the mellow tunes lack the energetic fire of the opening songs like "Dissent." The writing duties split evenly between Howard alone and Howard band members, but the more mellow songs are mostly co-written with the band. Howard's bass lines on the Stick and van Offen's bass occasionally overlap, since they fill the same tonal space and frequency range in the sound, but the bouncy timbre of the Stick and the purr of the fretless bass help keep the instruments distinct. The saxophones, particularly the soaring wail of the soprano sax, brilliantly compliment the more ethereal sections, and the crisp snare drum sound matches the bounce of the Stick. Compared to Greg Howard's previous solo records, engaging but often sparse in instrumentation and interaction, Lift expands on these aspects of his music by combining Howard's writing and playing with a band of additional musicians. The interface with additional musicians and the deepened tonal palette leave Howard's music sounding more rich and developed than ever before. Reviewed by Scott Andrews [firstname.lastname@example.org] Lineup:
Greg Howard: Chapman Stick, synthesizer
Jan Wolfkamp: acoustic drums, ddrums, loops
Hubert Heeringa: soprano and alto saxophone, violin, wind controlled synthesizer
Jan van Offen: fretless and fretted electric basses
Louis Gerrits (Guest): EWI, tenor, and soprano saxophones More Info:
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Greg Howard: Water on the Moon (CD, 59:14); Espresso ES-9851 I own a few of Howard’s Stick recordings and have sampled others but this release is a significant and wonderfully successful departure from his norm. Those of you familiar with guitarist Michael Brook and his Live at The Aquarium release will understand the principle of sample-hold-repeat with live improv overlay*. Howard jams with sampled Howard for a solid 59+ minutes and never loses steam nor bores my improv-critical ears. This is got to be some the most fascinating and tour de force Stick artistry I have ever heard -- period. Howard even gets into seriously overdriven, fuzzed out, and echo-delayed modes that Hendrix, Torn, Durant, or Fripp would applaud. I can hardly see how all this is done so seamlessly with no overdubs. Imagine Michael Hedges, Tony Levin, Stanley Jordan, Victor Wooten, Michael Brook, Jon Durant, Pat Metheny, and Jeff Beck tradin’ licks. Howard’s live composition even has space rock and ambient elements. Amazing effort and a hands down winner. Somebody unplug that guy! ~ John W. Patterson
From: Stickist@aol.com Date: Tue, 10 Aug 1999 19:13:58 EDT Subject: Re: WOTM [Espresso ES-9851] To: email@example.com Hey John, Thanks so much for such a wonderful review. I'm compelled to point out a basic problem with the review however, and that is that I only used loops for the first six minutes or so; after that everything is completely live (with a few rhythm oriented echoes here and there, but no loops). This is the true magic of The Stick and of Emmett Chapman's revolutionary technique. If it's not too late for you to change this in the review I would appreciate it. Thanks again for your support of independent musicians. Sincerely, Greg Howard
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