Friday, 27 December 2013

Maori folk pop with a hint of Hawaii: The Fabulous Howard Morrison Quartet (1960)

Although the fabulous Howard Morrison and his quartet were all New Zealanders playing traditional Kiwi songs, there’s a definite Hawaiian feel to this four-track EP. It seems obvious enough why they would take this stylistic route; Hawaiian music was huge in the sixties, these fellow denizens of the Pacific must have felt a kinship with its culture, and why not take advantage of a musical trend while you can? 

The songs on the EP all showcase the strong multi-part harmonies of the fabulous quartet and are all sung in their native Maori tongue. My favourite is the upbeat closing track, Haere Haere Ra E Hine, which features some sweet, reverby sixties guitar playing.

Label: La Gloria
Released: 1960

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Our man of many trumpets: John Robertson and his Multi Trumpets – John Robertson (196?)

John Robertson was a classically trained trumpeter, originally from New Zealand, who emigrated to Australia in the fifties or sixties. Despite a strong reputation as an orchestral player, he also cut a few popular LPs such as this exotica/Latin record from the mid-sixties. The reference to ‘multi trumpets’ seems to simply refer to Robertson using multi-tracking of trumpet lines and accompanying himself on most tracks – fairly standard practice, I would have thought, but I guess you’ve got market your instrumental trumpet LP somehow.

Most of the information I’ve been able to find about Robertson has been from a conversation on a trumpet forum from 2005. They’ve got some solid information about Robertson and some good stories such as this one about the musicians who were playing at Sydney’s famous Trocadero jazz venue: One of their numbers had each musician playing some novelty trick... Robbo's gimmick was to hold a high C for 16 bars revolving the trumpet on his lips, while the band played chords underneath. Apparently all the Sydney musicians would crowd in to see him do this act - couldn't believe the lack of mouthpiece pressure. And [trumpeter] George Dobson commented later about these days saying each night he (still seated) would be covered in 'a fine spray of spittle as Robbie (standing) went into act'!

Anyway, John Robertson and his Multi Trumpets is a fine set of instrumental standards played with great skill by Robertson and arranged beautifully by Thomas Tycho. The first track to really make an impression on me was Sugar Plum Cha-cha, an adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s piece of (more or less) the same name. Yes, it’s twee as fuck, but the bass and percussion is swinging and it’s ultimately quite a well executed interpretation.

Label: RCA
Released: 196?
Players: John Robertson: Trumpet and flugelhorn
Thomas Tycho: Musical director and arranger
Don Andrews: Guitar soloist on La Spagnola