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Reviews of CDs,mp3s,videos,and books by Stickists.

"Stickistas:A compilation of the art of Hispanic Chapman Stick players and composers"

Various artists/The Stick Center

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Photography by Simon Levin

In a recent e-mail correspondence with Emmett ,we discussed the Stick Center release of the compilation CD "Stickistsas". This is a collection of 22 compositions by various Stickists from the Hispanic/Latin/Chicano community. I will quote directly from the e-mail and also add a bit more "spice" here and there and lend this "re-review" a bit of journalistic flair.
Guillermo Cides' Stick Center in Spain has done much to promote the Stick and it's artists in the Spanish speaking countries of all continents and the release of "Stickistas" is just on facet of proof on a diamond of passionate evidence.The "Stickistas" CD is outstanding! The variety and scope of styles is what I like about great compilations,and this is no exception.I am particularly interested in what the Stick Bassists are up to.I,being a bassist of 25 years,am seriously thinking about adding the Stick Bass to my arsenal so these pieces get a lot of play!The SB8 finds it's niche well among some of the more Spanish sounding tunes.To quote Emmett:

"Exactly! The SB8 comes through like an acoustic Spanish guitar."

There are a few Stick Bassists on the CD:
"Crónica" by Andreas Guenther of Brasil (Stick Bass) is wonderful in it's simple melody and beautiful refrain.Has almost a slow tango feel.Very cosmopolitan.
"Gauchito" by Argentinean Miguel Lopez (Stick Bass) is another tune with a great theme which moves along at a convincing pace with a flamencoesque flair..Giutarists M. Torres sits in on this one.
Gustavo Vidal, from Argentina as well, (Stick Bass) gets a fretless sound on his "Los Recuerdos". I am not sure if perhaps he has a fretless Stick Bass or it's in his technique,but it imparts a serene quality to this lovely solo.The ocean waves transport you right away to a magical memory.Emmett informed me that there are " no fretless SB8s out there,yet.". Anyone feel adventurous?
There is a beautiful and understated piece in "Stick Duo" by Mexican 10 string Stickists Maurecio Sotelo and Hugo Santos.Check out the great interplay in the bass as these artists weave a tapestry as intricate and colorful as a Zapotec wall hanging.
Bernardo Dominguez of Argentina (10 string) teams up with drummer E. Dominguez in a jazz fusion workout. A great bass line propels the melodic chordal progressions (which has and Andy Summers feel) as the solos glide in and out of the harmonic structure. This is another on of my favorites on the CD. E's drumming is superb and in the pocket with enough pause for effect.A well recorded and performed tune.
There is always a Stickists willing to push the boundries of processing and come out shinning.Argentenean Matias Betti (10 string) breaks out all the stops on "El sostenido y veriginoso avance del tiempo". Loops are used to great advantage here as are what sounds like a heavily squeezed envelope filter,wah,distortion,chorus, and delay.No abuse here,just music...
Linda Cushma and Guillermo Cides team up on "Amor de Badoneón" where Linda gets to flex some bilingual vocals.Very melodic bass marks this entry with Guillermo's signature "Stickscapes".
"Soul Cycle" by Miguel Menocal (10 string,Spain) delivers a gitano infused melody and dreamy tectures. Here is a wonderful solo with deep orchestration and sincere understanding for harmony.One of my favs.
"Alrededor del Chapman Stick" is on fire with a Gypsy passion! Gualberto (10 string,Spain) has captured the feel of the streets of Madrid of yesteryear.There are even tinges of Mid-Eastern melodies (an influence on the Spanish/French gypsy music,listen to any "Gypsy Kings" albums) in the addition of sitar and other Indian stringed instruments.
The opener,"Concerto for Stick" by Juan Serna (10 string,Spain) caught my attention right away.I know that this is an arrangement of a classical piece of which the name and composer escape me at the moment.However,I also recognize the tune from the soundtrack to "Napoleon Dynamite",only that version is done on guitar. This version is such a pleasant and tranquil moment that one forgets the complexity involved here must have had Juan's fingers in a knot!
There is of course the album closer and bonus track "Gonnawannaland". Guillermo Cides once again teams up with another Stickist.This time Emmett Chapman takes the lead role with conviction.Emmett has the flair and soulful grace that makes the Stick sing like no other.Now here is a tune that is infused with the spirit of Segovia and the fire of Santana! Guillermos loops have a Fripp like quality which adds the right amount of "meloncholy" to Emmett Chapman's soloing.This is a great piece.Tremendo!
One thing I noticed about the Hispanic Stick community is their penchant for ballads and minor key compositions,especially those from South America.Maybe it's just me,but I like it.
There are so many great tracks here that to try and express my feeling on every single artists would tax this review as ego stroking to this reviewer's attempts at journalism!.The truth is that I find this CD to be an inspirational tool as much as it is entertainment.After a good listen,I am apt to reach for my Stick and just play.Man,I need to get my rear in gear and submit a piece for the next volume.Perhaps Stick and Native American Flute?We'll see...

As Emmett himself said,

"See, that's the best reaction an artist can hope for. I've done it myself - walk off before the set ends, muttering, "I've got to
practice." "


"Stickistsas" inspires.Period.

Juan R Leon
Strada-Sphere Radio

The Artists

1 Diego Blanco (Argentina)
2 Gustavo Vidal (Argentina)
3 Matias Betti (Argentina)
4 Xavi Oro (Spain)
5 Dirseus (Argentina)
6 José Albarracín (Argentina)
7 Andreas Guenther (Brasil)
8 Miguel Menocal (Spain)
9 Teddy Baxter (Spain)
10 Silvio Paredes (Chile)
11 Juan Serna (Spain)
12 Zecharies-Boismenu (Uruguay)
13 Gualberto (Spain)
14 Germán Fas (Spain)
15 Mauricio Manchón (Argentina)
16 Sotelo-Santos (Mexico)
17 Pablo Gigliotti (Argentina)
18 Bernardo Dominguez (Argentina)
19 Pat Benadón (Spain)
20 Cides-Cuhsma-Alexander (preview future album)
21 and 22 Cides and Emmett Chapman (Bonus track)

"The Spaghetti String System" by X-Ray Simon

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This review is long overdue since I received this disc back in July. So my apologies to X-Ray for the long delay.



The Spaghetti String System is an extremely polished and well produced album sporting 16 tracks of Stick,percussion,and "noises". X-Ray Simon plays all of the instruments and recorded the album "@ various nice places around the world and Headbeat Studio,Frankfurt,Germany". The mix is superb and the CD packaging is slick and appealing.



The album opens with "Driving in a Noisy Bus". A driving tune with a subtle yet commanding bass line and ostinato punctuations. The melody kicks in along with the drums and holds the tune together like an industrial epoxy. You can hear a slight envelope filter/Mutron in the midrange which imparts a subdued yet convincing funkiness to the movement of the piece.



"Jeff is in the House" is the album's sophomore offering. Another funky beat accompanies this melodic,spy-like composition as a reggae counter point is offered

in the mid register ala Andy Sommers.



"Spaceway to Mars" finds X-Ray using some overt yet well administered effects. This may possibly be my favorite tune of the lot. It's a relaxing and melodic tune with a beautiful atmosphere. My only quip? It's too short!The shortest on the CD at only 2:28. Good things come in small packages...



Back to the funk and more convincing grooves as the first chords of "Herbie's Funky Kitchen" opens with some serious distorted and filtered bass lines. Somewhere Bootsy Collins smiles...



"Tony's Birthdayparty" is a Trey Gunn-ish tune with a dark,almost ethereal feeling.The drums are solid and compliment the bass-line's percussive attack with accurate precision.



Another slow and funky tune is awaiting us in "The Green Coated Frog". The melody here reminds me of an excursion into an Oriental Disco. Indeed the tune has a 70's vibe to it. At times it is reminiscent of the Brothers Johnson or even Chuck Mangione. Very laid back and easy on the senses.



"Spaghetti Strings" is the 7th song on the disc,and is a mellow interlude which joins both halves of the album in an understated fashion. Here's a composition which relies on a strong rhythmic drive to propel and accent the sparse chords and new age-like melody.



The 2nd half of the album starts on a percussive note as X-Ray provides a Max Roach like intro to "A Night in the Desert". Here's a track which could be suited to any movie's soundtrack. With it's legato-like melody and dark bass, I found myself imagining a dark, rain soaked alley in an old gum-shoe murder mystery.



X-Ray's strong sense of melody and uncluttered composition shines in "Rainbow Speedlimit". Not a busy riff or wasted note on this tune, just solid Stick and drum work.



"Timeless Move" sounds like a track which Allan Holdsworth might have included in his 1980's, Synth-Axe heavy, "Sand". A sparse tune which reflects the versatility of the Stick in an ambient setting.



"Comfort Class" sets X-Ray's Stick against a pallet of electronic percussion and moves along at a relaxed pace. The Stick's tone really shines here as every note is well executed and every chord rings with the clarity of a brass bell.



"Shaking the Strings" finds X-Ray executing some dark Stick bass from the Tony Levin school. There's even some string popping going on here! The tune graduates into a quickened pace and finds the Stick's bass lines dancing around some Gunn-ish melody before descending into darker regions only to reestablish the original melody and rhythm.



More dark and eerie melodies creep into your ears as "Scary Soapbubbles" attaches itself to your lobes.



"Waka Waka" and "Subway to the City" find X-Ray returning to the funky theme of the album.



"Digging in the Dust" pays homage to track fives cool bass lines. More finely executed melodies and chords abound as the albums closer draws the curtain on this collection well thought out tunes.



X-Ray Simon has brought together a fine collection of Stick and percussion tunes. There is nary a "solo" on the CD but one really does not need them. After-all, the whole album is a solo project.This is an effort which focuses on composition,harmony, and melody rather than on mere shredding and mindless soloing. I give it 3 1/2 Sticks out of 5.

"Jimmy Nobody" by Jim Kam

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Jim Kam has released his first CD of all Stick music. "Jimmy Nobody" features 5 pieces of finely executed and wonderfully recorded compositions. Jim's Stick is faithfully reproduced ( without overdubs) and his voice is sonorous and passionate.



"Daydream" opens the album with a tranquil mood.Jim's tone is deep and rich with a clear,bell-like quality.His melody lines weave in and out of chord progressions with ease and never detract from the harmonic flow of the piece. No rapid fire,machine gun licks here folks. Just a deep sense of melody and a delicate touch.



"Tender is the Night" features Jim's haunting yet gentle voice. There is almost a reverent quality to his vocals which immediately puts the listener at ease.Once again the Stick comes through with shining posture.



"Summertime" is Jim's version of the classic Gershwin/Heyword jazz standard.Jim's firm grasp and understanding of melody and harmony are apparent as he executes each line with masterful aplomb.My only quip is that it is too short!



"She Moved Through the Fair" once again features Jim's vocals on this interpretation of a traditional arrangement.But the Stick is not far behind.Jim delivers on demand with beautiful,deep bass and and his signature clear melodies.His voice is somewhat reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot as he sings with the conviction of a passionate troubadour.



"Remembering Allison" is by far my favorite offering from Jim. The sustaining volume swell of the intro reminds me of a lone cello which firmly fixes itself in the background as Jim carries out a sorrowful melody as strong and gentle as an eagle in flight.The liner notes describe this song as "a lament,an expression of one parents grief over the lost of a child".Indeed,the composition moved me into a place of contemplation over the tragedy of such loss. A wonderful closer to a wonderful album.



"Jim Nobody" is a collection of dreamful states of consciousness,of music that is almost "sacred and worshipful" if I may be allowed such bold a statement.It is also a portrait of an artist who is not afraid to follow the calling of his own muse.A calling which has led him to express his art with the Chapman Stick.I look forward to a full leangth album from Jim as this E.P. left me wanting for more.I only hope he doesn't make us wait too long!Way to go Jim. Highly recommended.5 out of 5 Sticks for an incredibly lush production and heartfelt performance.

"Live the Music" by Irene Orleansky

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I have a little program installed on my Mac called "Clutter". It finds CD covers and displays them in a floating window/player.You can drag the album cover to the desktop from the window and leave it there.When ya want to listen to an album you just click the cover and Clutter will play the album using i-Tunes.I have about 35 album covers "cluttering" my desktop.This is a rather prestigious honor as I hate desktop messiness (Windows,anyone?) but I find album art to be,well,artistic.I just added Irene Orleansky's album "Live the Music" to my beautiful mess.
Irene Orleansky is a musician with the heart of a gypsy.Ever searching,ever passionate,and ever inspiring,Irene has a lot to say when it comes to music.She is at once a complex person who paints images in a simple way.Her use of the Stick as a true artistic tool is evident in her 1st solo recording "Live the Music".
Recorded in various places around the globe such as Russia,Isreal,and Spain,A studio and internet project,"Live the Music" transcends genres and avoids all of the clichés that plague many debuts.No over the top "Hey,check me out!" showboating,this is an artistic statement of pure art and deep passion with a generous amount of joy thrown in.
Irene's Stick playing is confident and inspired.Not only is she an accomplished player,but her sense of harmony is integral to why this album can be described as having a dream-like quality.He own voice leaves no room for second guesses as she sews her own tapestry of sweet and melodious vocal arrangements.Gentlemen,this lady can sing!
The production is lush and represents Irene's Stick tone with deep regard.The mix is tight with just the right amount of compression to really make every nuance transcend the average listening experience.
Irene employs the talents of some highly regarded musicians for this project.Vocalist/programmer Kirill Malahov lends his Gabriel-eque voice to several tunes.The Russian musician shines on "Deep Within My Soul",imparting a deep and confident tonality that compliments Irene's own silk-like voice.The compliment works well and is never trite or abused.
Guillermo Cides lends his unique Stick voice to "The Child of Music" and "Karev Yom (Come the Day)".The latter being a traditional Jewish Passover Song in which Cides' processed Stick adds the right amount of color.
Fellow Israeli and renowned DJ Asi Kojak works his "House" magic on a club remix of "Dance With the Music of Your Heart (club remix)".From the opening four on the floor House beats to his reworks of Irene's vocals,the Club Remix is sure to get your heart racing and body moving.
Don Shiff's "Deep Within' My Soul" gets a beautiful rework by Irene and Kirill.
There is a solo piece in "Meditation". A beautiful and atmospheric Stick arrangement by Irene that allows her to step into the spotlight as a musician with a unique voice all her own.
In her debut,Irene has lit a fire that burns with grace and spirit."Live the Music" is a collection of luminous passages that allow us to navigate her world of expression and passion.Irene has been know to say that the Stick helped her find her voice as a musician.Her 1st album should have most of us being inspired into finding our own voices and yearning to "Live the Music"

Juan R Leõn
April,2006