PANTECHNICON: The Album

 

Guy Hatton’s PANTECHNICON is the first jazz album released under my own name. After nearly thirty years working in bands in a number of stylistic contexts, some more jazz-related than others, writing music for different media and contributing in numerous ways to a lot of other people’s records, it’s with enormous pleasure that I’m able to present this recording. I’m especially delighted by the fantastic contributions from the other members of the band: Phil Meadows on saxophones, Graham Clark on violin, Dave Evans (keyboards), Roger Inniss (bass) and Jose Williamson (drums). Also, my old friend Graham Young at Mutts Nutts Recordings played a vital role in making this record as great as it is, both by applying great skill (and patience!) at the tracking stage, and also by having the foresight to possess an excellent Mark I Fender Rhodes Stage Piano from the 1970s, which became an integral part of the sound.
This set of compositions originated in a plan I had to make a recording based on my previous quartet GHQ. That group specialised in performing what I think of as “post-standard” tunes: Wayne Shorter’s ‘Nefertiti’, Chick Corea’s ‘La Fiesta’, for instance, as well as lesser-known pieces by composers such as Terje Rypdal, Lars Janssen and Derrick Hodge. I decided on two departures from this formula: Firstly, I would invite a number of other friends to contribute additional parts, and I would include some original compositions.I started writing using Logic Pro, and fairly soon came up with the idea of building the recording on top of and in place of the parts I had put on the computer in the course of writing the tunes. The other musicians would add their parts wherever and whenever they could, so there would be no band tracking sessions in the normal sense.While I was still writing and grappling with the technical details of how the finished product could be achieved, I received a call from promoter and music journalist Graham Chalmers which turned the whole project around. Graham told me that he had taken on the role of Artistic Director for the 2010 Harrogate International Festival fringe, and would I like to curate a jazz event – something a bit out of the ordinary. I made a shortlist of my favourite musicians who I thought might like to perform, and in doing so, realised that it made sense to try to put them together in one group, and to use my new compositions as the basis for the performance. So was born PANTECHNICON.
The project went ahead with the usual issues: attempting to coordinate the schedules of a number of extremely talented and in-demand musicians, finding time to rehearse etc. After much juggling, a lineup was settled: the same as that on this album, except for the substitution of Emlyn Vaughan on bass guitar. Rehearsal was very difficult to organise, involving a number of meetings with individual players to go over parts, some via Skype, some in person, one actual rehearsal session with two-thirds of the band, and so on. The first time the entire band had played together was when we hit the stage at the festival. Although a little ragged in places, the overall result was staggeringly and gratifyingly good. Feeling vindicated, I went ahead and set up another performance in Leeds later in the year, and decided that I absolutely HAD to have a studio-quality recording of this band and these tunes.That recording took place at Mutts Nutts Recordings in Leeds over three all-too-brief evening sessions on October 25, November 15 and December 6 2010. Graham Young engineered, and the recordings were made in Cubase 5, and then later transferred to my Logic rig for overdubs (Graham Clark was unable to attend the first session, and so it was decided to overdub all his parts once all the basic tracks were in the can. This was eventually done in one session on April 11 2011), editing and mixing. The basic tracks involved the five members of the band playing live together in the studio, with no overdubs.
PANTECHNICON track-by-track:
Track 1: Pantechnicon

This was the first tune written for the project, and was built initially on a synthesiser chord sequence, before the melody was added. It was originally intended as a slow, “floating” piece, but fairly early on in its development, I happened across the fast drum rhythm which now characterises the tune. The tempo is around 270 BPM, but there is also an implied half-time layer to it, and the long tones in the melody retain some of the original floating feel. The title was chosen simply because I liked the word: as well as being a removal van, it also means “of or pertaining to all the arts and crafts”.

Track 2: Halcyon Hill

Named after what is in every other respect a nondescript residential street in Chapel Allerton, Leeds! This is an unusually happy tune for me; that’s not to say I’m miserable, just that I normally tend to go for things a little darker-sounding. I particularly love Phil’s alto solo on this track.

Track 3: The Middle Of The Outside Of Nowhere

I don’t seem to be able to let a pretty tune go without “roughing it up” a bit somewhere – as the end section of this track demonstrates. One of only two places where Dave was allowed to play piano rather than Rhodes. He’s very understanding ;-) (Didn’t Miles keep telling Chick Corea ‘the piano’s over, man’?). The title derives from an occasion where my partner Helen and I were trying to find an adequate description for how lost we were in the car (with satnav).

Track 4: Six Four Eight Seven Four

This tune is in 6/4 time (strictly, 3/2, but that’s another story), and ‘64874’ used to be our phone number at home when I was younger. I have no real explanation for how I managed to contrive a connection. The ring modulation and looping were added to the guitar solo at the mixing stage, otherwise the performance is exactly as it went down on the night.

Track 5: Waiting For Godard (And Wenders)

A nod to my favourite movie, Wim Wenders’s ‘Der Himmel Uber Berlin’ (‘Wings Of Desire’). The grafitto ‘Warten Auf Godard’ is seen on a Berlin wall in one shot, and I was merely amused by the pun on Beckett’s ‘Waiting For Godot’, and the unexpected reference (presumably) to the French film director Jean-Luc Godard. Maybe Wenders put the writing there himself as some kind of homage, who knows?

Track 6: Turf War

Written in response to a suggestion that the project needed something a bit more ‘edgy’. The composed sections are very tightly defined (including a fully-notated piano part; I tried to derive a chord chart from what I had on the computer, but it was so convoluted as to be more hinderance than help), while the solos are left wide open. There is an alternative take of this tune which turned into a full-on free jazz blow-out in the middle: maybe I’ll make that available at some point.

Track 7: Mendocino Redwood

Titles for instrumental music can be hard to decide upon. This slightly gospel-tinged piece gets its name from a random Wikipedia article – honestly! Once again, the prettiness of the tune is deliberately offset by Graham Clark’s bionically-enhanced violin solo.

Track 8: On Hill Cliffe

When I very young, and before I had even heard of Sonny Rollins, let alone his penchant for practising on the Williamsburg Bridge, I used to take my guitar up to the top of Hill Cliffe (near where I lived) and practise while taking in the views of North Cheshire and South Lancashire. I think the specific place I used to use has been fenced off by the water board these days. This is my favourite track on the album, and showcases a wonderful soprano saxophone solo by Phil Meadows.

Bonus track: Turf War (Radio Edit).
The musicians:
Guy Hatton: Guitar/Composer Phil Meadows: Alto & Soprano Saxophones, Electronics Graham Clark: Electric Violin Dave Evans: Fender Rhodes, Piano, Synthesisers Roger Inniss: Bass Guitar Jose Williamson: Drums

DOWNLOAD the Electronic Press Kit for Guy Hatton’s PANTECHNICON¬†(PDF, 12.2MB)