Music Writing by Carson Arnold

 


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INSIDE AN HOUR GLASS- PART I

 

Sounds of the womb. Hour of the neon Om. Drip like the Sun. A love supreme / a love in dreams: Arnie Lawrence & The Children Of All Ages.

 

You were either a freak, a leader, or a follower after 1970. Not only a pivotal hedge, not only a new decade, but a year at high tide. Somewhat of an ending lifetime. What was once declared, all that was once essential, had lost its anchor, the gale floating, swarming in, drifting off, the good old karma spilt over onto the blowing sand, sinking away.

 

The early salvages marked by the sage of the big-band, the rag, the Bechets, the Coltranes, were now dead, dying, or were to soon pass their last, weathered reeds to the children born out of the Endless Night or into the babies from the Morning After. The sky was melting, glittering with a new hazel of constellations, a curious breed of young rising stars, a production, a body and the shape of jazz to come. The Carters, the Hancocks, the Jahmals. Yet, somewhere within the draw, a lone, dissonant note of instability cursed the scale, stripped the iron wood, and mocked the chord. They were teachers, yes, but something heavier: followers.

 

Arnie Lawrence's album of sonic nothingness on Inside An Hour Glass, is either this same oracle of disturbed time and chant, or just another piece of morbid jazz sweating in the dark room of musical masturbation. Who knows, who cares. The secret stain of this record lies elsewhere within. The place where the horns sleep after the fanfare's been called long, long ago.

 

You got a lot of things tickin' here. Straight off the odd flowers of the Embryo label - indeed a short, prestigious disaster - Inside An Hour Glass was happily doomed from the start. The musicians gathered to this record like the few survivors of some terrible napalm strike. Was Herbie Mann producer of this little gem? You saw right. At this time, Mann's American flute-bop had blown its holes from the Lennon/McCartney sap-covers and was now whistling along the tide of some poof-Persian raga as owner/producer of Embryo throughout the early seventies, allowing him to briefly experiment with his studio personage which evolved like oceanic Hindu bubblegum, as seen in his own, Stone Flute.

 

As Mann kept the Mediterranean trip rolling, the story behind Inside An Hour Glass is a somewhat bizarre toke. For one, sax-wild Arnie Lawrence is still an abstract figure in jazz, whose erratic career between pop-cash and golden contributions have for some reasons made his tale a forgotten word, either only remembered for his few cuts with The Children Of All Ages or his various episode jams scattered around. Nevertheless, like much of the music that landed in that year of havoc and happiness - too late, too early - rarely any wheat is ever harvested about this record.

 

Dick Hyman, jazz hybrid of the moog pipes, plays the freaky sugar as his Joplin piano weaves the album like an accordion wrapped in some celestial rain. It's not sure what Hyman was clearly thinking at these times, escaping, frontiering, who knows, all that's known for sure, is that soon after he trekked back to the traditional basics of the Jelly Roll standards. Course Ed Shaughnessy's chops open the "strangeness" of the record, essentially a standard drummer, however percussion is far from sober here (though, I'm not sure if there's any to begin with. Perhaps not). And possibly the only real sane professional here is Richard Davis, another whose immense sweepings of bass have oddly none but left a sitting dustpile in the corner of all jazz cobwebs. Davis had a good reputation for carrying the hospitable Dolphy attitude; a be-bop man, orchestrated around with Stravinsky, and indeed a fearless career, yet never passed, and continue to dangle in front the icon-successor of the time: Mingus. Though Davis even possesses the excrement beneath the underdog, oddly to this day, he's only remembered as some out-Ron Carter hook. Nice guys finish last, Richard, nice guys finish last.

 

You can bet Inside An Hour Glass was crammed with all the perfect jazz tragedies throughout the dripping seconds. A slaughter of one's previous canvas. Hell, these boys outta the Clark Terry all-star exercise were presently studio-musicians, notably conservative while rehearsing, and still, perhaps thought of as the most least likely pair of talents to ever entertain any sort of eccentric mayhem into an eight hour day. Christ, you snapped your fingers to these guys, not danced in a whirlwind of loco delirium. What was going on here? There had to be something else. Had to be. Course there was, too. Who knows what type of blood was enveloped within these sessions, but children were running about. What? Yes. Noises and cries, whispers and slides, whistles and bells. This is what made the album a landmark to the ages, far beyond the vintage, and damn intolerable to any authority of the jazz elite.

 

Both Davis and Lawrence's two little boys, Dickie and Ricky, three and eight years old, played the drop-jangling improvisation throughout the entire two tracks. As the recording is placed through a massive Spectorish echo, a feedback very unheard of in jazz, the kids race about the room opening doors, hitting drums, attempting every instrument on the floor until finally one demands that he wants to share something and immediately an argument unfolds that never truly settles to a climax. Even at one point Dickie cries over to Ricky that he wants to talk to him, thus, "Ricky, I wanna talk to you" is soon born.

 

Spontaneous mess-hall magic, people. Yessir, it's free-jazz at the most twisted turn of melody. Better yet, a sublime auction of the instrument. A welded "screw you" to classical jazz. Chamber music of some sick C.S Lewis dream, blind mice jangling inside Lewis Carroll's wardrobe.  No wonder this opium voodoo was left out of the bob. No wonder Embryo collapsed near after. And no wonder this same industrial depletion lead The Children Of All Ages to unfortunately grow up, to unfortunately part, and to unfortunately surrender the Inside and pawn the hour glass into the great shovel of the morning after.

 

So where are these kids now? These young prodigies of the goose rainbow? Dead or alive, wanted or convicted? Their premium vistas were one of the few throughout rebel-rebel jazz to gleam and follow the light at the end of the rapture, innocent with a verve uninspired by the two returns of the whiplash.

 

What is it we have here? Fumbling gibberish? An experiment of sensation riddled by four professional recluses and two dazed exiles? Some  phooie trance? Who knows. Enter exiting, or exit entering. Inside An Hour Glass is like brushing through some grown-in, desolate trail searching for the bones of six souls lost in the boundless forest thirty-three years ago. What is recovered and found is not a farewell, not a hello, nor a late meaning. But instead, the remains of a wandering balance of broken branches into the either way of unavoidable nothing. Who cares, who shouldn't, who did, who does? Exactly.

 

(I've been in contact with many of the characters in this article since. Be on the look-out for a Part II very soon).

 

Arnie Lawrence & The Children Of All Ages : Inside An Hour Glass (Embryo, 1970. Produced by Herbie Mann)

 

--Carson Arnold - April 11, 2003

copyright 2003 Carson Arnold


 

H(ear) is an online music column consisting of interviews, articles, and investigations written by Carson Arnold. As a freelance writer for various magazines and liner notes, living in the woods of Vermont with his family, Carson widely encourages one to submit their art, writing or any interesting piece of material that you would like to share. H(ear) is accepting both promos and demos for review or any other valuable music-related subjects. If you wish to make a comment or would like to receive H(ear) weekly by email please contact Carson at poetry@sover.net

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