Alan Sondheim

Ritual All 7-70

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Ritual All 7-70 is a curious collection of short improvisations by the multi-instrumentalist Alan Sondheim -- who plays, among others, koto, English horn, electric and acoustic guitars, and various percussion and reed instruments -- and a bassist, percussionist (doubling on tabla and bongos), and drummer, with the wordless vocals of Ruth Ann Hutchinson echoing the horn lines and occasionally spiraling off into the ether on their own. Although they largely sound like live improvisations by a full band, the fact that Sondheim plays the majority of the instruments by himself suggests that these pieces were painstakingly overdubbed. Although Sondheim's 1968 follow-up, T'Other Little Tune, is a largely electronic effort with quite a bit of pioneering synthesizer and oscillator work, this album is much more traditional in its sound and format. Some of these short pieces -- all of them given numbers between 770 and 782 for titles, except for the almost traditional-sounding "June" -- recall John Cage's occasionally harsh '40s and '50s vintage work, when randomness and indeterminacy were the primary focus of his composing method, while the more overtly jazz-oriented works, like the fascinating "780" (which features a rat-a-tat rhythm that may be of electronic or found-sound origin), are more in tune with the usual ESP ethos.

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