Those who may have been chagrinned that Arti y Mestieri keyboardist Beppe Crovella's very good and very atypical last venture (here) wasn't the circle of surreal atmospherics and insane chops they may have expected or wanted can take heart with this, a tribute to the singular Soft Machine electric organ speedster cum sonic painter Mike Ratledge. The idea is a great one, MoonJune label owner Leonardo Pavkovic's brainchild, and Crovella, when it was suggested, jumped at the chance to handle the tribute.
Ratledge was the most intense of Terry Riley's aesthetic children and his completely unique style has never been emulated or equaled, another Allan Holdsworth in that respect. He was also brainburned by John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor, completing a holy trio of influences. Crovella, to his great credit, doesn't try to become Mike #2 but rather interprets Ratledge's intense work much as Isao Tomita did with Ravel and classicalism to such stellar success in his own electronic forays. In following such particular lights thusly, Crovella also incorporates the spirits of Ratledge's recently deceased bandmates Elton Dean (horns) and Hugh Hopper (bass), traces of whom can be discerned though the 16 cuts, 10 of which are takes on numbers originally written by the Soft Machine's keys handler and recrafted to bring out various shades, nuances, and re-imaginings, the last 6 Crovella's own.
However, in doing this, no resort to analog or digital synthesizers or other digital keyboards was made. The action forced the musician to work within Mike's own confines and be just as crafty and resourceful. Like Holgar Czukay, however, Crovella erects some weird timbral contrasts and often mixes muso-environmental spaces, only to frequently wander back to completely copacetic terrain. Tarabos flows into Chloe and the Pirates in precisely that manner only to, halfway in, warp and turn inside out again. Like Soft Machine's blessed raven-haired maniac, Beppe's reaching well beyond convention to see what happens.
Ratledge, as mentioned, found much inspiration in Coltrane, and a fellow NY music journalist has suggested that the saintly John is overdue for a fusion tribute on just such a label as MoonJune, an elegy that could number Holdsworth, Yoch'ko Seffer, Christian Vander, Crovella, and a cavalcade of other top drawer talents. I'm more than inclined to agree and hope to one day see it, especially given this sort of CD. There are so many who need to be properly enshrined, including two of my favorites: Anthony Braxton and Butch Morris, so thank the muses in their odd heavens that Ratledge was finally cornered and paid homage.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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