Music Writing by Carson Arnold

 


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(Photos courtesy of "Inside An Hour Glass")

 

GOING INSIDE THE HOUR GLASS- PART II

 

First off, out of all the penthouses, doghouses, houses, bridges, caves and decimated bomb shelters and complexes that are spread across all over this world, the thought never occurred to me that Ricky Lawrence, the eight-year-old rattling comet and son of Arnie Lawrence's 1970 Inside An Hour Glass, the very punk that I've been scathing and scraping across the face of the earth to locate and question, would miraculously, and somehow, live in the same exact state as I do. And whoops, don't stop there, would also be living an easy forty minutes away from the very spot where I had once stood scratching my head, sighing, parting and saying, "goddamn, now what?".

 

And so after many howls at the moon, when I received a short letter from Ricky the next morning, the very day after I had ended all such attempts to find him and his Hour Glass comrade, Dickie G. Davis, simply stating that he was indeed Ricky Lawrence- now Erik- and left a phone number similar to mine followed by a long resume of musical contributions post-the album that was evidently driving me insane, no longer was it a search, mission or mere assignment. No, far more shrill, I was healed, the sickness gone, no longer imagining, I was inside the hour glass, reliving, living and soon to tell. Let the seconds pour down, and goddamn, now what? No times for the blue-bluff now, kiddo, step on it and go. I called an hour later.

 

"Is this Erik?", I asked as a hoarse voice answered half way through the answering machine.

 

"Yep". Not quite the person I was expecting, being used to hearing for the past three weeks, giggling, playing whistles and horns, running about with bells circling around Arnie and crew. Not quite. After a while, it was even difficult to even remotely take him with any seriousness, knowing that this forty-year-old man was now a smashing professional of the sax, yet it didn't matter. All I religiously cared about was some noisy scat he'd produced and left far behind when he was eight years old. You could say I essentially knew him as a boy. Realizing he had grown-up, matured and ventured on to be what we're fond in calling "something" was almost disturbing and dearly frightening. And hell, especially after I got hold of Richard Davis and Herbie Mann, who both had slim ounces of recollection towards the album, nevermind what I wanted to know, I knew then, that Inside An Hour Glass was almost a bizarre, twisted family skit of the 1970 drop-out trend, and a rip into the rungs of a torn curtain that would hopefully produce a high cadence of abstraction odder than the abstraction itself that was just beginning to pre-curse and dock at that very time.

 

And did the hour glass proceed onto the next hour? Or was it merely our job to turn it over? Erik admitted he felt the album had fallen into somewhat obscurity since. Some college stations played it but "who knows how many were pressed anyway". Nevertheless, rapists that we music writers are, I tore into the intimacy and turned over the glass once again...

 

"God, I haven't listened to that album in years", Ricky replied.

 

"Have many people tried to track you down?", I asked.

 

"No, never, no, not for that".

 

He went on to say Ricky was just a cute nickname, and hasn't really been called that since those times of the Embryo delicacy. "Probably your reason why you couldn't find anything about me", he noted and laughed. Later saying, "I'm just a New Yorker trying to fit in up here".

 

We talked for a good chunk of a half an hour concerned with the light of Erik's past material briefs; companionship with Sonny Sharrock's last days, Chico Hamilton works, the Clinton inauguration; and overall, cranking out the wheeling imagination behind the cryptic album from a distilled eight year old perspective thirty-three years late. It was obvious his persona was drawn much like his father's, and as Erik would describe Arnie and his leading members of that album and time, as sources of incredible "in-demand".

 

"They were playing on the Tonight Show at that point", he would remark.

 

"Well, I suppose the album is quite an odd foursome".

 

"Yeah, I guess now it is, you know".

 

You could feel and sense the waves of a potent euphoria in Erik that had combed the record then with the flawless lining and had left it since with the same care and interest as the day he had entered it. It was the blood, creation and fertile explosion of the record, capturing not only the innocence, but the calm chaos of a spontaneous experience, that made the eccentric ensemble an ambient vision of faith. 

 

"I started playing the sax when I was like five. My father came in and just said, play what you feel". We talked about the album's contemporary "out there" attributes of both the past and present, and how Herbie Hancock had once told Arnie in a elevator that it was his favorite record. "Well at least at that time", Erik reminded me.

 

Assertive in finding out anything I could about Dickie G. Davis, the answers reported from both Erik and Dickie's father, Richard, were humble, yet distant, inaccurate, and unfortunately no further leads were connected or established to the already dead-end mystery. Holding the record in the palm of my hand and noticing a tear sliding down the face of Dickie's cheek on the back cover, I asked Erik if he had gotten along with ol' Dickie during those particular sessions.

 

"Oh yeah, sure, I remember going to his birthday party afterwards". He remarked on how Dickie was the one responsible for rolling about the screechy violin throughout the daddle spat of the album, supposedly his father's idea, and at one point during the recording (heard on the first side, when all the music suddenly breaks and stops), played an on-the-spot impressive drum solo of which all the musicians stepped back, smiled and gleamed, "whoa!".

 

"Nobody cared about all these little kids running all around", Erik remarked, chuckling. I questioned him numerously on virtually, whose idea it was exactly to have children racing and jumping about playing total improvisation within the hour of the record. I was usually replied with the same response that simply, the expression and concept of this or any album similar to this was strictly free, random, absolute, without question and ultimately forbidden none. Erik remembered doing only one performance with the Children Of All Ages soon after. The world premiere of Dick Hyman's bogging mini-moog at the Museum Of Modern Art where the concert was a shattering trance of a few wild children plucking and banging everything in sight of the roaring stage. As for the mastermind behind Ricky and Dickie's rippling sound of aqua fog, perhaps it was a genuine coincidence that Arnie and Richard just happened to bring their two sons along on that rare day.

 

The Inside An Hour Glass sessions were undoubtedly recorded all live as suspected. Better yet, and most profoundly, rumored to have been the first cut at Media Sound which was shadowed in old a church located on New York's 57th Street, illuminating the album's chamber of screaming hush-lush. Ironically, as Erik now admits, the place now is presently surrounded in the downtown heat as a chop-chop dance club under the name, Le Bar Bat. 

 

I called this place in the middle of the night, greeted by a young girl who took a long, long pause in understanding why indeed anybody was interested in the club's architectural information at such a hot unholy hour. She replied that it was better off if I called back later 'today', but by the background rumble of the lounge atmosphere and thrilling meat-music, none of this seemed necessary, for in the twinkle, kink and crash of the plates, glasses and screams, the spirit and sensibility of what Inside An Hour Glass was meant to conceive, propose and holler was still in the structure, still there, living live. Yes, the hour had played on...

 

As an Atlantic division, Embryo lasted two years enough to juice up Herbie Mann's intentions, including the release of free-soul riders, Brute Force, and gain some good, however bare, considerable attention. "I don't know if Herbie was in the studio", Erik pondered over. He went on to explain and cover all the angles of conceptual jazz that producers are yes, meant to fund, but not willingly imposed to hinder musically, this is rather explored by the marvel of the instrumental creation itself.

 

Mainly, the album was a brief, quick and courageously generous experiment of exploiting jazz efficiency (of which all the musicians then were currently responsible and buddied to). This was realized, but I also pleaded and expressed to Erik that the grit impression and everlasting romance of the record would no doubt have fewer roses if not for the rush of both him and Dickie, or at least without the brilliance of a dazzling variation at that.

 

Reportedly, no specific talk of exact detail was involved during the recording. The formula was as anti-spectacle and as pro-incidental as one could get.  In, record, out, listen. No duel, no conscience. A sort of sweet hypnosis captured under the weightless cerebrum of belief, commitment and love. It was sad but true that these fine musicians were one of the last breeds of radical discipline who indeed possessed and sang what others would now soon kill to find, reap and threaten for.

 

"Dick Hyman was a very open-minded person", Erik said abruptly in the middle of the conversation. He soon followed revealing the secret emerald behind the title itself, fondly remembering the time when all the musicians were sitting back in the control room listening to the tracks undress themselves, and Ed Shaughnessy passed a note to Arnie that read, "this should be called Inside An Hour Glass".  Ahola.

 

And there you go. Inside we are. Goddamn, now what? Where now? Behind or beyond this raving time warp? Erik and I hung up and parted on a note that I'll never forget. On the back cover of Inside An Hour Glass it shows a picture of him playing the pennywhistle, sitting down, looking ahead. He went on to tell me he actually teaches this same instrument to a group of young, little kids, the same age as he was "in that photograph", as he pointed out.

 

And right there, folks, that unbroken circle and prime paradox, is where we know that the hour glass went on, proceeded and told. Turned over to the next hour. Kept going. Still going. Inside. And on we go.

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

 

--Carson Arnold - April 15, 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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