Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Seventh Century from 1971

Reading that blurb on the back gives you all the information you need to know, which, moreover, is utterly lacking from the individual who contributed to their discogs entry.  One gets an idea from rateyourmusic how little known this incredible find from one of my far-flung friends is-- at least until now.  I'll say it in a nutshell, this is progressive music at its finest moment, full of inventive composition and ingenious additions of baroque, jazz, and other inputs.  First of all let's have a look at aforementioned blurb (how I hate that word, still in use today in publishing):

15-piece seventh century offers promising new blends of sound (by John S. Wilson)
A 15-piece orchestra that ranges, musically, from Renaissance to rock played at the Village Gate on Sunday.  The band, called the Seventh Century ("because this is the seventh century of organized, written instrumental music" explained Alan Raph, a bass trombonist, who leads the group), is one of a series of new, contemporary groups that will perform at the Village gate on Sunday nights.

"We're using all the elements that exist today to make music",  Mr. Raph said in summarizing the group's intentions.  "We're dipping into Renaissance and pre-Baroque music.  We're using rock for rhythm, some jazz and a modal type of jazz improvisation."

All these elements were evident in the band's performance Sunday night.  Flute, organ and a seven-piece brass section sometimes sounded like a heraldic halloo at a medieval castle.  But as the dreams moved in with a rock beat, the attack of the brass changed to swinging jazz.  Two electric guitars joined in to extend both the rock sound and the nigh cry of the brass and as the ensemble boiled to a swirling tempest of sound that reflected the brassy influence of Stan Kenton, an alto sax rose into soaring solo that was pure jazz.

The compositions, all originals by Mr. Raph and Lee Holdridge, usually gave the band an opportunity to run its full gamut, a practice that tended to make them sound somewhat repetitious.  But the concept of a band as a whole is so unusual that it can afford to be repetitious while it is establishing its identity...

One thing regarding the above I wanted to point out, because it's so absent today.  Why not make a melting pot of all the best music we have created, collectively, as a species, since the dawn of time, and see if the amalgam can take what's best from everywhere?  Thus from pop we have songs and melodies, from jazz the improvisation and rhythms, from rock the energy and electric instruments, from classical the more mathematical fugue-like elements... but no, it's impossible today, isn't it?
Also notice how they played a gig regularly there every week.... Wow why couldn't I be back in that era?  What happened to that progressive spirit?

Notice that the first three compositions collectively are called "Trinity" are were the score for a ballet in New York City.

JOFFREY BALLET... In 1970 the Joffrey Ballet Company premiered "TRINITY" a ballet in three parts. For the next 20 years, the ballet was performed every season ... it became the Joffrey's "signature" piece. In March 2000 it was revived in Chicago by the company to enthusiastic reviews and warm/lively audience response. 
Other Joffrey Co. ballets: "Mingus Dances" (choreographed by Alvin Ailey... music of Charles Mingus transcribed and arranged by Alan Raph) and "Sacred Grove on Mount Tamalpais" (music & lyrics by Alan Raph). 

This Alan Raph was evidently a very prolific trombonist back in the day, have a look at all the records he has played on.  I see that he was involved in my all-time favourite jazz record, Charlie Mingus' Let my children hear music.   Today he is 80 years old, and at the time of this highly progressive music he was already 41.  I have to believe that somewhere there in his discography there are other such gems waiting to be unearthed.  The other gentleman, Lee Holdridge, was equally prolific, but as a composer became big in sountracks.

Given the resumes these guys have amassed, what a surprise this little gem isn't more well-known.

Here's the first track


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Hello, thanks for posting my father's album and your opinions of it, it is one of my favorite albums. However, I am bothered that you have posted it here publicly for free download and I would appreciate if you would kindly take this link down.

    2. no problem and please accept my apologies!!!

  2. a really great post Mr Ryan..many thanks
    if you can send it lossless i would be appreciate it...

  3. Julian: Thanks for writing this piece. I just found a copy of this album in the basement of my father-in-law Jack Gale, who played trombone on the album. Jack doesn't have many specific memories of the performance (or performances...?) at the Village Gate, but he fondly remembers many of the other musicians on the album. Glad you enjoy it.