Sandy Bull
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Fantasias For Guitar & Banjo (1963), 8/10
Inventions For Guitar And Banjo (1965), 7/10
E Pluribus Unum (1970), 7/10
Demolition Derby (1972), 6/10
Jukebox School Of Music (1988), 6.5/10
Vehicles (1992), 6.5/10
Steel Tears (1996), 5/10
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Le "blend" di Sandy Bull costituiscono una sintesi prodigiosa di idiomi antitetici e una delle conquiste più durature del folk d'avanguardia. Lontano da Nashville quanto lo si può essere, Bull non ebbe nulla da spartire con il nascente movimento country-rock, ma la sua lezione di individualismo creativo fu fondamentale per aprire nuovi orizzonti al genere che sarà chiamato "american primitivism".

Il banjoista e chitarrista newyorkese Sandy Bull comincio` come folksinger alla Woody Guthrie alla fine degli anni '50 a Boston, dove stava studiando composizione, ma, tornato a New York nel 1961, divenne presto una delle attrazioni fisse dei club d'avanguardia (sia folk sia jazz) del Greenwich Village.

In locali come il "Gaslight Cafe", dove suonava fin dal 1961, venne in contatto con il nascente free-jazz, e ne rimase profondamente influenzato.

Enfant prodige della chitarra e del banjo, studente di jazz e di musica indiana, nel 1963 Bull incise il suo primo disco, Fantasias For Guitar & Banjo (Vanguard, 1963), con il solo accompagnamento del batterista di Ornette Coleman (Billy Higgins), permettendosi il lusso di una suite di ventidue minuti, Blend, per chitarra accordata come un banjo e batteria. Influenzata dal suonatore di oud Hamza El Din, con cui aveva condiviso un appartamento nel 1963 a Hollywood, Blend è una sintesi cadenzata di improvvisazioni jazz, sincopi raga, accordi arabi e melodie folk, un trascinante excursus sonoro che esplora mondi favolosi filtrati dalla sensibilità di un cantastorie popolare, alternando fasi lente e trascendenti a jam furibonde. L'atmosfera e` spesso psichedelica, due anni prima che nascesse la psichedelia. Fra gli altri brani del disco si distinguono alcuni arrangiamenti di musica classica per solo banjo o sola chitarra.

A questo capolavoro diede un seguito con Blend II, sul successivo Inventions For Guitar And Banjo (Vanguard, 1965), registrato nel 1964.

E Pluribus Unum (Vanguard, 1970 - Sutro Park, 2009), registrato in gran parte nel 1968, e` il suo disco psichedelico. Suonato con una chitarra dal suono metallico, secco, ispido, antitetico al twang di Duan Eddy, il segnale elettrico e` diviso per quattro amplificatori diversi. Il disco contiene due lunghe meditazioni: Electric Blend (una "blend" per chitarra elettrica il cui segnale è amplificato in quattro modi diversi), suite proiettata da accordi spaziali che continuamente salgono e scendono, preghiera intensa e soffusa scandita a ritmo di processione dai tamburi indiani, con la chitarra ad imitare le note nasali del sitar; e No Deposit No Return Blues, jam vibrante per chitarra, basso, batteria, oud, cimbalo hi-hat, cowbell, che si svolge in un lento ritmato crescendo di tocchi, di vibrazioni, di contrappunti,di echi, di rumori percussivi.

Demolition Derby (Vanguard, 1972) completa la trilogia dell'epoca d'oro.

Re-Inventions (Vanguard, 1998) raccoglie parte del materiale di quei primi tre dischi.

La tossico-dipendenza ne distrusse la carriera nel 1972, obbligandolo a dieci anni di silenzio (durante i quali peraltro imparo` a suonare il sarod da Ali Akbar Khan) prima di riuscire a incidere altre "blend" su Jukebox School Of Music (ROM, 1988): Truth (la reunion con Billy Higgins, dopo un quarto di secolo) e Continuum For Guitar.

Bull tornera` ancora a incidere con Vehicles (Timeless, 1992), una raccolta di brani strumentali degni del suo passato, all'insegna di un raga-funk per orchestra etnica, accompagnato dal percussionista senegalese Aiyb Dieng.

Steel Tears (Timeless, 1996) e` un album di "canzoni" che sono in gran parte dedicate alle sue radici culturali e interpretate da alcuni ospiti.

Still Valentine's Day (Water, 2006) documents a live 1969 performance.

Sandy Bull & The Rhythm Ace documents a live 1976 performance.

Bull died of lung cancer in april 2001.

Sandy Bull was probably the single most original performer of the early 1960s. Alas, he was 30-40 years ahead of the rest of rock music, and therefore was still neglected at the end of the century. While the Merseybeat bands were flooding the charts with idiotic three-minute ditties, Bull was already composing 20-minute long raga/jams that belonged to no known genre. These "blends" marked the first fantastic fusion of eastern and western music, even before western musicians learned what a sitar was.
Virtually no encyclopedia or history of music mentioned his name, but Sandy Bull is probably one of the few musicians of the 1960s who will be mentioned in every encyclopedia and history of music centuries from now.
The musical "blends" of Sandy Bull constitute a prodigious synthesis of antithetical idioms and one of the most lasting conquests of the vanguard folk. Away from Nashville how much him can be been, Bull didn't have anything from to divide with the dawning movement country-rock, but his lesson of creative individualism was fundamental to open new horizons to the kind that will be called " american primitivism ".

Banjoist and guitarist Sandy Bull started as folksinger a` la Woody Guthrie at the end of the 1950s in Boston, where he was studying composition. When he returned to New York in 1961, he became one of the fixed attractions of the vanguard clubs of the Greenwich Village.

In clubs such as the Gaslight Cafe, where he played since 1961, he came in contact with the dawning free-jazz scene, that deeply influenced him.

Enfant prodige of the guitar and the banjo, student of jazz and Indian music, in 1963 Bull cut his first record, Fantasias For Guitar & Banjo (Vanguard, 1963) with the lone accompaniment of Ornette Coleman's drummer Billy Higgins, indulging in the luxury of a suite of twenty-two minutes, Blend, for guitar tuned as a banjo and battery.


(Italian text translated by Tobia D'Onofrio)

Blend, influenced by oud player Hamza El Din who shared a Hollywood flat with Bull in 1963, is a rhythmic synthesis of jazz improvisation, raga syncopations, Arabic chords and folk melodies, an infectious sound excursus that explores fabulous worlds filtered through the feeling of a folk story-teller, alternating slow and transcendent parts with furious jams. The atmosphere is often psychedelic, two years before the psychedelic movement was born. A few classical arrangements, for banjo or guitar only, stand out among the other tracks of the album.

Bull wrote a sequel to this masterpiece with Blend II, a track recorded in 1964 that featured on the following album Inventions For Guitar And Banjo (Vanguard, 1965).

E Pluribus Unum (Vanguard, 1970), partly recorded in 1968, is Bull’s psychedelic album. Here he plays a guitar characterized by a metallic, sharp, rough sound, antithetic to Duan Eddy’s twang; the guitar’s electric signal was divided into four different amplifiers. The album features two long meditations: Electric Blend (a “blend” for a special electric guitar whose signal was amplified in four different ways), a suite propelled by space chords that keep progressing up and down, an intense and mellow prayer with a processional rhythm marked by Indian drums and a guitar that imitates the sitar’s nasal notes; and No Deposit No Return Blues, a vibrant jam for guitar, bass, drums, oud, hi-hat cymbal and cowbell, that goes on in a slow rhythmic crescendo made of touches, vibrations, counterpoints, echoes and percussive noises.

Demolition Derby (Vanguard, 1972) completes the trilogy of the golden years.

Re-Inventions (Vanguard, 1998) compiles material from the first three albums.

Drug addiction destroyed Bull’s career in 1972, forcing him into ten years of silence (in those years Ali Akbar Khan taught him how to play the sarod) before he was able to record other “blends” on Jukebox School Of Music (ROM, 1988): Truth (the reunion with Billy Higgins, after a quarter of a century) and Continuum For Guitar.

Bull went back in a recording studio for the album Vehicles (Timeless, 1992), a collection of instrumental tracks worthy of his past numbers, in the name of a raga-funk for ethnic orchestra, accompanied by Senegalese percussionist Aiyb Dieng.

Steel Tears (Timeless, 1996) is an album of “songs” interpreted by a few guests. The songs are partly dedicated to Bull’s cultural roots.

Still Valentine’s Day (Water, 2006) documents a live performance from 1969.

Bull died of lung cancer in April 2001.

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