Stuff of mine

Here's a tune that I composed and play soprano saxophone on. From the 1991 recording by The Balkan Noyz Boyz (Dan Auvil, Allan Cline, Bill Cope, Steve Finney, Ruth Hunter, Kip McAtee). The entire album (originally released on cassette) can be found on Youtube.

Pamela's Ruchenitsa

I was very flattered when Andy Irvine covered this on his 1996 "Rain on the Roof" album, in a medley with two traditional Balkan tunes. Amusingly, he learned both "Pamela's" and the "Gruncharsko" from a tape I had sent him of a pick-up band that performed one 25-minute set at Mendocino Balkan Camp in 1988, under the name "The Sex Potatoes" (Kip McAtee, Erik Butterworth, Jerry Kisslinger, and me). For historical purposes only, those original versions are provided here. "Pamela's" includes what is possibly the first performance of a Johnny Cash song in a 7/8 rhythm since Earth 1.0 was released.

Pamela's Ruchenitsa #2


I was also flattered when Medna Usta asked me to play kaval with them for a few reunion gigs: the first times they'd performed together since 19...ahem, ahem. Here's an instrumental from a 2014 gig at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley (Dena Bjornlie, Ruth Hunter, Anne Cleveland, Christos Govetas, me). This tune also appears on their "All Dressed Up" recording (it's in a slow 9 rhythm, counted 2223).

Kavrak Eleno

TUNE IN PROGRESS (Sep, 2016): I've been meaning (for a Long Time) to compose a few tunes and then record them with some basic overdubbing. Since I've been dragging my feet on actually taking it seriously, I'm going to quickly post a few versions of a piece that is somewhat interesting (at least in the genre of Bulgarian-Celtic tunes in 5/8). The first is a 2-minute live solo improvisation with drum machine, synthesizer chords played with foot pedals, and kaval (Bulgarian end-blown flute). The second is an improv kaval overdub onto the first version. Recorded at home with a small ZOOM digital recorder.

Very preliminary, but I think it has potential as a 3-part tune.

Edgewood1 (a)

Edgewood1 (b)

Stuff from others

A version of a Punjabi tune played by Brooklyn-based brass band "Red Baraat".

Apna Punjab Hove #1

What I assume is the original Punjabi version (by Gurdas Maan). I have no idea of the political context of the video.

Apna Punjab Hove #2

The "Golden Record" on the Voyager spacecraft. The ultimate, physically instantiated, "Desert Island Disk". Featuring Valya Balkanska, Chuck Berry ("Send more Chuck Berry"), Bach, Pygmy, Gamelan, Stravinsky, and Blind Willie Johnson, but not the Beatles because EMI objected. There's good info in the Wikipedia article on the Voyager Golden Record, and the following link allows you to play all the content (click on the large round object in the upper left).

Golden Record

Nikolay Doktorov CD

The kaval (a Bulgarian end-blown flute) is a very cool instrument, and my friend Nikolay Doktorov is an wonderful player. As far as I know, there is no album-length recording of solo Bulgarian kaval, so in 2019 I decided to create one. Dan Auvil did an amazing job on the artwork, Jerry Summers did an excellent job on the sound and mastering, and Margaret Loomis helped a lot with the liner notes. Alas, no one seems to be interested in physical CDs any more, and CD Baby has shut down their online store. If you're interested in buying one, send me an email (Amazon, and perhaps other web sites, sell the .mp3's).

Here's one of the tracks, followed by an image of the cover.

Kabilenska Ruchenitsa


Wardell Gray

Wardell Gray (1921-1955) is one of my favorite saxophone players; here's some miscellaneous trivia and commentary about him.

The entire melody to Twisted (the song with Annie Ross lyrics made famous by Joni Mitchell) is Wardell's composition and **improvised solo** over a bebop blues chord progression (many people are surprised to discover it's not a Joni Mitchell composition). In addition to the released take, there are 4 alternate versions; transcriptions of all of them are available at Jeff Rzepiela's excellent website. One of the alternate takes on Youtube (JRC46A ) had not been previously released on the Prestige "Wardell Gray Memorial" CD.

Recordings such as The Chase (this version has a little rehearsal at the beginning not on the released version) and The Hunt are often described as "duels" or "battles" or "cutting contests"; that seems inappropriate in this case. They seem to me to be more of a cooperative work, where Wardell and Dexter Gordon are having a blast completing each others melodic lines (a continuous melody without circular breathing!). I expect that what went on in some of the late night jam sessions one reads about was much more competitive :-).

Wardell and Dexter's "The Hunt" is mentioned twice in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" (here, from the scroll version published by Penguin books in 2008, with unaltered names).

(p 215) "They ate voraciously as Neal, sandwich in hand, stood bowed and jumping before the big phonograph, listening to a wild bop record I had just bought called 'The Hunt', with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing their tops before a screaming audience that gave the record fantastic frenzied volume."

(p 228) "To the wild sounds of Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing 'The Hunt' Neal and I played catch with Louanne over the couch; she was no small doll either."

Bill Moody has done a series of jazz-oriented mystery novels. "Death of a Tenor Man" (1995, Walker Publishing Company) is a fictional story of a contemporary detective and jazz pianist investigating the suspicious circumstances of Wardell Gray's death in Las Vegas.

A ridiculously thorough Wardell Gray discography is available at

Jefferson Airplane's "Crown of Creation"

Many of the lyrics for the (magnificent!) song "Crown of Creation" (on the 1968 album of the same name) were creatively adapted by the late Paul Kantner from John Wyndham's post-apocalyptic novel "Rebirth". (Here's a lipsynced version on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968). If you know the song, the following passages should seem very familiar (page numbers from my 1978 Ballantine paperback edition). It adapts very well to 60's counterculture :-).

(p 168) "Your work is to survive. Neither his kind, nor his kind of thinking, will survive long. They are the crown of creation, they are ambition fulfilled, they have nowhere more to go. But life is change, that is how it differs from the rocks, change is its very nature...Soon they will attain the ability they strive for, in the only form it is granted--a place among the fossils"

(p181) "In loyalty to their kind they cannot tolerate our rise; in loyalty to our kind, we cannot tolerate their obstruction".

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