81CD - Keith Tippett - The Unlonely Raindancer
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A re-issue of Keith's first solo piano double LP from 1980, originally released on the Universal Productions label.
The Unlonely Raindancer is undoubtedly a beginning, it is also an enigma. More than its means. The seminal first solo album by Keith Tippett released by Universal Productions in 1980 is a live recording from the previous year’s short tour of the Netherlands. The audience applause was edited out, leaving the listener with the intensity of one lone musician literally improvising into composition.
The word ‘unlonely’ could be described as uneven grammatically, but given nuance by juxtaposing the reality of a man ‘on the road’ vs no family or friends to accompany him (except producer, engineer and driver Rob Sötemann). The title of track 3, Thank God For My Wife And Children bears witness to the yin and yang of loneliness turned under, celebrating being ‘unlonely’. Forty years on, it returns as a circle dance of choreography; in 2016 Discus Music released Keith Tippett Octet’s The Nine Dances Of Patrick O’Gonogon.
Mr Tippett recently told me he believes Raindancer “set the template” for all his later solo performances. The two Tortworth Oak performances are probably the most explicit evidence. The 1980’s trilogy of lone Mujician performances are classics within his portfolio. They were followed by three other key solo sessions, The Dartington Concert (1990), Une Croix Dans L’Ocean (1994) and the ‘jazz art’ wonder that is Friday the 13th (1997). Then came 2012’s poignant, Mujician Solo IV Live In Piacenza.
Aspects of all these recordings have their roots in what took place on that ‘unlonely’ Netherlands tour in 1979. No money to pay for his usual sidekicks, instead a road trip into Europe where Keith Tippett connected with the solo strength of his own psyche (or if you prefer - soul). For any artist/musician who takes that journey it’s a distance longer than any list of one nite-stands. Ride the speed of The Muted Melody; discovery is dizzy.
Thinking back I must have bought my double vinyl copy of The Unlonely Raindancer around the end of 1980. Trying to recapture that first earful forty years on is not easy. In the preceding decades I’ve travelled to many concerts, hung in on the recordings, watched as well as listened to the Dancer. Now I steer the ears to a unique miniature, The Pool. Under five minutes, it was the first track on the final side of the double LP. I distinctly remember every time the track completed taking up the hi-fi arm and placing it back on the edge of black vinyl. I couldn’t let it pass, something to do with the lyrical repetition being periodically bombed at that deep bottom end. Listening again, it still holds a terrible beauty for me and why I believe it is important that Martin Archer has now produced Raindancer in a digital format.
The Unlonely Raindancer is not being re-released to complete a piece of the past. Tomorrow will forever be our history and dance is our beyond.
Steve Day, February 2019
Discus may just have released the most important reissue of the decade. I should not write about it, for this is one of the milestones in both Keith Tippett’s career and the history of solo piano at large; plus, the album’s origin is narrated in the liner notes and on the web, so we won’t repeat it here. But the urge to invite anyone who is not yet acquainted with this remarkable music is too strong..... The ones in need of relieving a brain from the noise of someone else’s words.
Random thoughts, made more touching – as I am typing – by the ongoing cascades of arpeggios in the wonderful “Thank You God For My Wife And Children”, which for some reason I tend to associate to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. We’re at that level of expressive intensity and sheer internal vibration. Maybe even a superior level; this piece could easily move a sensitive individual to tears.
When Tippett loses himself into Sound, he calls everybody in. The perception of his technical mastery is almost forgotten, the stunning strength of the mass of harmonics elicited by his instrument in total command of the space. It’s not really comparable to other jazz-rooted pianists; rather, the feeling is similar to what’s normally experienced when Charlemagne Palestine attacks a Bösendorfer to induce a healing harmonic trance.
We are lucky to have people who preserve jewels like this for the posterity; and luckier for having lived in the same period of such an artist. When this writer/fan had the chance of thanking him following a concert in Rome, the emotion was so deep that I simply forgot to introduce myself (including Julie, who hadn’t performed but was there). Hopefully – before forgetting me a minute later – they understood my embarrassed rudeness.
Being still in awe of this recording today is a veritable consolation. Not everything has gone wrong in this time-wasting earthly existence, after all. - Massimo Ricci TOUCHING EXTREMES