Wednesday, 14 February 2018

NTSU's The Zebras in The Spirit Soars from 1980

Here's some fantastic fusion that I can guarantee you've never heard before, at least not here before, again from the North Texas State University-- what a hotbed of jazzical musicality!  Checking in the database here you can see this dynamic group comprised a number of keyboard players, with the producer being Dan Haerle (who wrote some of the tracks).  The reason for all this is clear from the back blurb:

"In Feb. 1980, Dan Haerle, associate professor of music and a member of the jazz studies faculty at the NTSU school of music formed an electronic keyboard ensemble, appropriately called The Zebras.  The ensemble consists of 5 keyboard players, a bass player, drummer and percussionist, all students at NTSU.  Each of the k. players plays two or more instruments such as electric piano, organ, clavinet, string or bass ensemble and monophonic or polyphonic synthesizers.  This versatility results in up to 15 different keyboards being played at the same time in concerts.  The musical effect is that of a well-produced record album that requires extensive overdubbing of parts in a recording studio, but can be created in a live performance by The Z.  The original purpose of The Z., was to provide advanced k. players in the jazz studies program at NTSU with an intensive reading situation typical of contemporary studio work.  Also, the music performed by The Z. is usually new and related to current music idioms that involve electronics, such as funk and fusion styles.  The scope of The Z. repertoire, as evidenced on their first album, is quite varied, and ranges from Bach to bebop and 'space music'.  The Z. have performed at the Wichita (Kansas) Jazz Festival and at the National Association of Jazz Educators' Convention in Chicago in January 1982 where producer Vince Morette heard them for the first time.  It was as a result of this first hearing that Mark Records was fortunate enough to bring to you: The Zebras."

And fortunate we are to hear them too, with this their sole release.  Consistently excellent from beginning to end in my opinion, the high energy and the differences in sound, as mentioned due to the use of various keyboards, make this a fantastic slice of the college band days -- R.I.P...

An amazing composition from one of the keyboardists, Bill Howard, called M-87, reminds me a lot of pro New Zealand fusioneers Dr. Tree, with its madly mobile dissonances riffing over the thumpingly off-binary bass rhythms:

Yeah, the Spirit surely soared, back then-- fer shure...



  2. Hi Julian
    I have a request, could you post some of these krautrock rarities ( found in blog with link below)?

  3. Hi
    Thank you for this great band with a festival of keys !