Greetings from Kartoonistan
|In 1990 ex-members of Kaleidoscope reconvened to record "Greetings from Kartoonistan (We Ain't Dead Yet)" for Gifthorse Records. (David Lindley was invited to participate, but declined.) Steve Cahill, a musical associate of Chris & David since the Mad Mountain Rambler Days, photographed the sessions for the CD booklet.
Taxim Records has just reissued the album. Click here for more information. Thanks to Taxim for these two samples. A Real Player is required.
Stu Brotman & Chris Darrow have kindly agreed to provide some fresh commentary on these sessions.
Many thanks to Steve Cahill for providing the photos.
The Kartoonistan album was conceived as the 25th anniversary of Kaleidoscope's first album, Side Trips. Bill Straw, at Gifthorse Records approached me and asked if we would be interested in doing such a project. So Chester Crill and I contacted everyone from both the first and second incarnations of the band to see what his thoughts were. Everyone agreed, at the time, so it was a go. We asked for submissions for material and everyone came through with their own brand of Kaleidoscopian ideas. Chet and I became the clearinghouse for it all and somehow we were able to concoct a CD that was true to the original nature of the band yet was up to date as well. That is, each member had certainly developed individually in the ensuing years and that became very apparent as the recording commenced.
Solomon became more flamenco and less middle eastern and Stu Brottman did more of the stuff that Solomon would have done in the old days. Plus, Stu’s Klesmer Suite brought a whole new area to the band’s regional milieu. We did very few original pieces this time out excluding the Suite. I, however, chose to sing, as my only solo piece, a Frizz Fuller song, "Martians at the Window."
We chose an Ellington song, "Wild Man" as our homage to Duke, and Down In Mexico as our Leiber and Stoller composition. Chet and I always need to do at least one song from both of those sources every time out. Our concession to psychedelia was a cover of a great 60’s song "Talk,Talk", a Music Machine tune. To my knowledge it had never been covered and was perfect fodder for a Kaleidoscopian interpretation. Ouds and slide guitar with a taste of slithery violin, along with Sol’s distinctive voice make this my personal favorite cut on the CD.
Chester and I have been very much influenced by the Pasadena R and B duo Don and Dewey and did our own distinctive version their "Jungle Hop." "Layla, Layla", a classic from the Persian world and Gitano Fino, a flamenco jewel, show Solomon’s expertise to perfection. The cut, "African Market Place", a Dollar Brand (Abdulla Ibraham) instrumental, tops off this excursion into the ever-growing world that is now called “World Beat”.
The Kaleidoscope is not only a band but a concept, for each rendering of a piece of material leads to the same place, a place called Kartoonistan.
Chris Darrow 2002
The sessions felt great. Chester and Chris were producing, and a lot of the basic tracks were already down. Sol and I were brought in to add our own tunes, and for sweetening on the other tracks. There was an encouraging atmosphere for creative input. Sol laid down some authoritative Flamenco guitar and singing, and set up a dance board to add some hot heel-work. Lagos got us into Cuban rhythm feels, an area he's particularly strong on. I got to play some out-of-the-ordinary instruments, like cimbalom, gadulka and zurna, and tilinca, a Romanian shepherds' flute with no finger holes (which got elided in the original credits with my bass into "bass flutes!"). The cimbalom saw good use, especially on my Klezmer Suite. I loved Sol's violin playing on the Blue Doina; he was conceptually there immediately, intuitively doing everything it needed, and with just the right bow touch. Same with Chester on the jazz violin parts in the second section; exactly the right player for the job. I enjoyed being able to pull off what I wanted on accordion, which I don't pretend to play, in the second section, and on baraban, the Yiddish bass drum-with-cymbal-on-top. I also added some rhythm fiddle, another instrument Ashkenazic Jews share with their Eastern European neighbors.
I enjoyed composing the Klezmer Suite. The last section was a tip-of-the-hat to my father, a carpenter, who still (at 91), sings old pop and folk songs and plays banjo and guitar, and who writes Mickey Katz style mixed English and Yiddish parodies. He sings his own take off of the old American fiddle tune Old Joe Clark with bluegrass banjo. He (as I) was born in Philadelphia, also the home of Philly Joe Jones (with whom Lagos studied); thus the title and melodic impetus for "Philly Joe Carpenter." I also brought in a jazz tune by Abdulla Ibrahim (Dollar Brand), "African Market Place,” which a friend, jazz pianist and santouri player, Lisa Rose, recommended we try as a Macedonian brass band tune. It ended up with cimbalom and Moroccan zurna instead, and a rollicking good time it is!
Stu Brotman 2002