Monday, December 18, 2017

Neil Ardley - 1976 [2005] "Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows"

Considered by many to be one of the greatest British Jazz recordings of the 20th Century, this acclaimed 'Lost Masterpiece' has only had limited availability on CD. It was beautifully recorded in 1976, featuring the cream of British Jazz musicians including Barbara Thompson, Tony Coe, Ian Carr & Paul Buckmaster. This Dusk Fire recording was 24 Bit 96 k/Hz digitally-remastered by Miles Showell at Metropolis Mastering, London, December 2004, using original master tapes. Famed DJ Gilles Peterson has championed the recording! 2005.

I bought the LP of Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows in the late 70's following the recommendation by a friend who loved great jazz. This album includes several styles though, and it is simply captivating for the interplay of tone and rhythm.

It is an absolute joy to hear this carefully remastered 24bit/96khz version on CD. Every pop and click on the LP was a tragic distraction, but it is immediately obvious just how sonically superior the Dusk Fire Records (2005) CD version is when compared to the vinyl. You really do hear SO much more of the intricate detail of the ensemble. You can also fully appreciate Paul Buckmaster's superbly crafted production.

The booket includes Neil's original comments from the LP cover, plus "an introduction" by Peter Muir (December 2004) which includes a detailed biography of the late Neil Ardley and "an appreciation" by Neil's long time(1964 - 2004) musical collaborator Barbara Thompson, who plays alto and soprano flute on 6 of these 7 tracks.

Surely no collection of seventies jazz could be complete without this album - and this particular CD presents the timeless work perfectly.

I am more than impressed - I am in love with this music all over again. By John Frame.

Neil Ardley was one of the most distinctive composers of the British jazz scene. His work was always melodic and accessible. This 1976 album was hailed as a masterpiece when it came out. The All Music Guide described the album as "one of the great musical achievements of our age." Kaleidoscope of Rainbows drew in contributions from Ian Carr, Paul Buckmaster, Tony Coe, Dave MacRae, and Barbara Thompson, the very cream of what was then a vibrant UK jazz scene. To quote Dave Gelly in the Guardian "Kaleidoscope of Rainbows is a classic, not just of British jazz, but of 20th-century music."

The music is developed from the basic five note pelog scale used in Balinese music. The suite has seven movements, ranging in mood from the gentle and pastoral to the fiery and urgent. There are similarities to Pat Metheny's Secret Story which had a Cambodian influence. This was the first album in which Ardley explored electronic music. By David Lindsay.

Kaleidoscope of Rainbows starts out scrupulously restricting itself to the Balinese pelog (?) scale with an ever-shifting background reminiscent of the gamelan, setting down a theme that it recalls at the very end. As the sections go on, they gradually add back more of the chromatic scale we Westerners are accustomed to. The journey is thoroughly enjoyable; as a sucker for the melancholy, my favorite has to be Rainbow Four, featuring a heartbreakingly beautiful sax solo from Barbara Thompson.

I'm certainly no scholar of jazz, and can't properly place it in a list--if such a list even makes sense. I can say that this is gorgeous music, and I think you'll enjoy it. By James Jones.

Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows sounds as fresh, as inventive and as exciting today as it must have done back in '76, first time 'round.

Rainbows was the third album in a trilogy recorded by composer/bandleader Neil Ardley which started with '69's Greek Variations, reissued last year on Impressed, and continuing with '71's A Symphony Of Amaranths, rumoured to be up for reissue later this spring. In each of these albums, within different contexts, Ardley was concerned with, as he put it, "integrating the warmth and individual feeling of improvised music with the formal beauty of composition to the benefit of both." The context for Greek Variations was a series of variations on a Greek folk song, while for Amaranths it was settings of poems by Yeats, Joyce, and others.

For Rainbows Ardley nodded back to Greek Variations, this time developing the suite from the basic five note pelog scale used in Balinese music. It was also the album in which he first explored proto-electronic music—there are three, count 'em, synthesisists here—which became a key interest of his in the late '70s/early '80s.

The suite's seven movements, ranging in mood from the gentle and pastoral to the fiery and urgent, are seriously enjoyable through-compositions in their own right, and also the settings for a series of glistening solos from Ian Carr, Brian Smith, Dave Macrae, Geoff Castle, Paul Buckmaster, Barbara Thompson, Tony Coe, Ken Shaw, and Bob Bertles—with Buckmaster's electric cello on "Rainbow Three," Thompson's soprano on "Four," and Coe's clarinet on "Five" approaching the sublime.

With pin-sharp 24-bit remastering, and a solid twelve-page booklet which includes Ardley's original liner notes and an appreciation of his life and work (he died young, just over a year ago) by Barbara Thompson, Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows lives up to every myth that developed around it during its wilderness years. A landmark album in British jazz. By Chris May.

Neil Ardley (1937-2004) was not so much a jazzer, more a gifted composer who enjoyed hanging out with jazz musicians. Coming out of the fertile and creative British scene of the 1960s and 70s, Ardley's mode of working anticipated a younger generation who now move happily between contemporary, world and electronic music, commercial sessions and improvisation.

Kaleidoscope of Rainbows (now digitally remastered) applies the methods of both formal composition and systems-based modernism to motifs and scales Ardley found in recordings of Balinese music. The score is performed by an augmented version of Ian Carr's Nucleus; guests include Barbara Thompson and Tony Coe (reeds) and producer/cellist Paul Buckmaster. Ardley wasn't interested in "fusion" - he wanted to make a serious, extended work with a broad palette of sound and performance methods. And that required synthesizers, a state- of-the-art studio (beautifully recorded by engineer Martin Levan) and musicians who could play the dots, improvise and get the feel right.

Ardley was a state-of-the-art composer, determined to make richly textured, thought-provoking music whatever the context. Kaleidoscope is still "accessible", with pretty melodies, catchy riffs and retro grooves, but it wouldn't work without a tough compositional skeleton. By John L Walters.

Track listing:

1. Prologue/Rainbow One;
2. Rainbow Two;
3. Rainbow Three;
4. Rainbow Four;
5. Rainbow Five;
6. Rainbow Six;
7. Rainbow Seven/Epilogue.


Neil Ardley: director, synthesiser
Bob Bertles: alto, soprano, flute
Paul Buckmaster: acoustic, electric cello
Ian Carr: trumpet, flugelhorn
Geoff Castle: electric piano, synthesiser
Tony Coe: tenor, clarinet, bass clarinet
Dave Macrae: electric piano, synthesiser
Roger Sellers: drums
Ken Shaw: guitar
Brian Smith: tenor, soprano, flute, alto flute
Roger Sutton: bass guitar, electric bass
Barbara Thompson: alto, soprano, flute
Trevor Tomkins: percussion, vibraphone