Posts Tagged ‘Will Ackerman’

Shambhu Brings Windham Hill Sound to Echoes Tonight

January 7, 2014

Guitarist Shambhu Plays Live on Echoes Tonight.

Shambhu, Premik Tubbs, Eugene Friesen on Echoes

Shambhu, Premik Tubbs, Eugene Friesen on Echoes

Windham Hill Records hasn’t been around for many years, but their influence remains strong.  Today, we’ll hear from another guitar player whose music was shaped by the recordings of Will Ackerman and Alex De GrassiShambhu is one of those musicians. In fact, Windham Hill founder Will Ackerman produced his album, Dreaming of Now.  His actual name is Neil Vineberg but he uses Shambhu as his stage name, which was given to him by spiritual Dreaming of Nowleader Sri Chinmoy.  He comes into the Echoes Living Room with famed cellist Eugene Friesen from the Paul Winter Consort and windplayer Premik Tubbs.  They’ll play live tonight on Echoes.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

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Will Ackerman Then & Now: 5 Best CDs

August 6, 2009

Five Best Will Ackerman CDs

Will Ackerman @ Echoes

Will Ackerman @ Echoes

There are a few people of whom I can say, if not for them, I wouldn’t be here.  And that’s the case with Will Ackerman.  He founded Windham Hill Records, still a cornerstone of the music you hear on Echoes.  That would probably be enough, but he also launched the finger-style guitar renaissance.  It had already begun, as Will said in my liner notes to 41d1HFtQ2zL._SL500_AA240_A Quiet Revolution: 30 Years of Windham Hill Records: “You know there was a lot about that whole Takoma Records/John Fahey thing that was a beacon to me.” He meant that in terms of starting a label, but also, playing acoustic guitar. Fahey and Kottke opened the door, but Will Ackerman built the house.  His open-tuning approach is now dominant among finger-style guitar players.  But his influence has gone beyond that.  A new generation of rock musicians are listening to their parent’s record collections and bands like Balmorhea and Hammock cite him as an influence.

In Search of the Turtle\'s Navel I first heard Will Ackerman in 1975.  I was Music Director at WXPN in Philadelphia when I read a review of Will’s debut, The Search for the Turtle’s Navel in a radio trade sheet called Walrus.  I recall the album having a brown cover, before he changed it and the title for In Search of the Turtles’s Navel the next year. I’m not even sure it was even  Windham Hill Records yet.   Surprisingly, I didn’t meet Will until 1990 when we had the first of many extensive and wide-ranging interviews.  He’s been on Echoes many times since and has become a great friend of the show.

As we head toward our 20th anniversary, we’re listening back to some of the signature artists of Echoes.  On Friday, August 7, we’ll feature Will Ackerman: Then and Now.

Will has made a lot of records.  Surprisingly for an artist who has been recording for over three decades and whose early work is nothing if not seminal, I prefer his later and more mature recordings.  Sadly, most of his catalog is currently out of print, a criminal state of affairs for such a major artist.


Returning: Pieces for Guitar 1970-2004 1 Returning (2004)
In 2004, Will Ackerman went back and recorded many of his signature tunes.  And you know what?  They sound a lot better now.  Cynics might view this as a ploy to retain control of his catalog, which since it was his first non-Windham Hill recording, it kind of was.  But his playing and the recording quality are sharper here than on those old Windham Hill favorites and Ackerman’s compositions have rarely sounded more poignant.   Returning sounds like your memory of that music.

51e-Yg-Z9CL._SL500_AA240_2 Hearing Voices (2001)
As I said in my Billboard magazine review in 2001, this is a brave album.   Ackerman enlists a group of singers including Samite, Happy Rhodes, Curtis King and Heather Rankin, to intone his quiet meditations.  Sometimes with English lyrics, just as often in Native tongues and imaginary dialects, Hearing Voices has a hymn-like quality.  It also features Ackerman’s only electric guitar playing on record at the time.

R-150-1350675-12119164073 Past Light (1983)
This is the earliest album in my list and another departure for Ackerman.  He weaves his guitar between the yearning lyricon playing of the late-Chuck Greenberg from Shadowfax, the tone-bending bass of Michael Manring, guitarist Michael Hedges and a few other WH stalwarts as well as Kronos Quartet.  A CD of intimate ruminations and conversations.

The Opening of Doors 4 The Opening of Doors (1992)
I really liked Will Ackerman’s music from the beginning, but this was the album that made me a fan.  I was seduced by Ackerman’s plaintive songs and simple but ornamented motifs that come across like sky paintings.  Ackerman surrounds himself with keyboardist Tim Story, oboist Paul McCandless and it even features metal monster guitarist Buckethead (Guns ‘n’ Rose, Bill Laswell).

Sound of Wind Driven RainSound of Wind Driven Rain (1998)
Sound of Wind Driven Rain has the familiar earmarks of earlier Ackerman albums with wistful  melodies flowing over a finger-picked trellis of arpeggios.  In addition to the usual accomplices — violinist Charlie Bisharat, oboist Paul McCandless and bassist Michael Manring — is Ugandan musician, Samite. His soaring voice lifts Ackerman’s “Hawk Dreaming” into a soulful hymn.  “Unconditional,”  played on a parlor guitar given him by Michael Hedges, has that timeless introspection that has made his music so enduring.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

25 Essential Echoes CDs for 2008

December 11, 2008

Digitonal Tops the 25 Essential Echoes CDs of 2008

Save Your Light for Darker Days The Echoes Listeners Poll is still open for less than a day, but here are the CDs we thought were essential for the year as judged by me (John Diliberto) and the Echoes staff. It’s not based on the most played CD, CDs of the month or any other “objective” criteria. These are the CDs, out of the 2000+ we received, that consistently inspired us over the year. Some years, it’s difficult to find 25 CDs that warrant being on the list, but this year, even more than a great year like 2007, the dividing line between the first and 25th choice has never been thinner. 2008 was just a great year for music.

I write more extensively about the 25 Essential Echoes CDs in an article on the Echoes website. It’ll have lots of links to soundfiles, pics and features on these artists.

Sumner McKane's What A Great Place To Be

Sumner McKane's What A Great Place To Be

For now, let me say that Digitonal’s Save Your Light for Darker Days floored me from the start and became deeper with each listening. It was the most sophisticated, intoxicating, inventive and emotive album of the year and defined that meeting of classical chamber and ambient music. It was nearly a toss-up between that and Sumner McKane‘s What a Great Place to Be. Like Digitonal, it was a CD of the Month and an album of deeply moving, but strangely nostalgic psychedelic Americana.

This was the soundscape of Echoes, 2008. The full list is below.
You can read my personal Top Ten Albums and Top Ten Songs in the Echoes Blog.

Be sure to make you own list and vote in the Echoes 2008 Listener Poll. There’s only a day left. You’ll be entered into a drawing to win all 25 of the top listener selections. Without giving anything away, I can assure you that many of the Essential titles will be in the listener poll.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))


1. Digitonal Save Your Light for Darker Days Just Music

2 Sumner McKane What A Great Place to Be Don’t Hit Your Sister Records


Balmorhea Rivers Arms Western Vinyl

4 Fernwood Almeria Self Released

5 Saul Stokes Villa Galaxia Binary/Stokesmusic

6 Jamshied Sharifi One Ceres Records

7 Ahn Trio Lullaby for My Favorite Insominac Sony BMG

8 Lights Out Asia Eyes Like Brontide N5md

9 Jami Sieber Unspoken Out Front Music
10 Bombay Dub Orchestra 3 Cities Six Degrees Records

11 Nik Bartsch’s Ronin Holon ECM Records

12 General Fuzz Soulful Filling Self Released
13 Qntal Qntal VI: Translucida Noir (Big Daddy)
14 Marconi Union A Lost Connection MU Transmissions

15 Hammock Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow Darla Records

16 John Gregorius Heaven and Earth Spotted Peccary

17 Gerry O’Beirne The Bog Bodies and Other Stories Self Released

18 Johann Johannsson Fordlandia 4AD/Touch

19 Ronn McFarlane Indigo Road Dorian Recordings

20 Biomusique The 10,000 Steps Kosmic Music

21 Anja Lechner and Vasillis Tsabropoulos Melos ECM Records

22 California Guitar Trio Echoes Inner Knot

23 Darshan Ambient From Pale Hands to Weary Eyes Lotuspike

24 Kevin Bartlett Glow in the Dark Aural Gratification

25 Alu Lobotomy Sessions Alu Music

Echoes Top 25 for September-Ambient Leads the Way

October 6, 2008

Digitonal tops the Echoes Top 25 for September, and will no doubt be near the top for the next several months. But right behind is Marconi Union, topping their own record as the highest placing digital download recording on Echoes. October’s CD of the Month, Sumner McKane’s nostalgia-tinged ambient americana masterpiece, What A Great Place to be, is already near the top in September at #4. New Entries include Darshan Ambient, Jeff Pearce, General Fuzz, Anja Lechner & Vasillis Tsabropoulos , Peter Kater, and Wolfert Brederode.  Over-all, another month of chilled moods and exotic grooves from across the Echoes spectrum. It’s been a good year, and it’s not over yet.  You can read print reviews and hear audio reviews with music from several of them,  including Sumner McKane, Digitonal, Marconi Union, Ron McFarlane, Michael Brook & Djivan GasparyanOttmar Liebert, Solas, and General Fuzz.

John Diliberto

SEPTEMBER 2008    

1. Digitonal Save Your Light for Darker Days Just Music
Read the Review!
2. Marconi Union A Lost Connection MU Transmissions
3. Ronn McFarlane Indigo Road Dorian
4. Sumner McKane What A Great Place to Be Don’t Hit Your Sister Records
5. Darshan Ambient From Pale Hands to Weary Eyes Lotuspike

6. Michael Brook/Djivan Gasparyan Penumbra Canadian Rational
7. Ottmar Liebert The Scent of Light Spiral Subwave Records Int’l
8. Solas For Love and Laughter Compass Records
9. William Ackerman Meditations Compass Productions
10. Fernwood Almeria Self Released
11. Hans-Joachim Roedelius & Tim Story Inlandish High Wire Records

12. Niyaz Nine Heavens Six Degrees
13. Jeff Pearce Rainshadow Sky Jeff Pearce Music
14. Jesse Cook Frontiers Koch Records
15. David Cullen Guitar Travels Solid Air
16. General Fuzz Soulful Filling Self Released
17. California Guitar Trio Echoes Inner Knot
18. Peter Kater Cloud Hands Point of Light Records
19. David Arkenstone Echoes of Light and Shadow Gemini Sun Records
20. Joan Jeanrenaud Strange Toys Talking House Records
21. Anja Lechner and Vasillis Tsabropoulos Melos ECM Records

22. Michel Banabila Traces Tapu Records
23. Forastiere Why Not? Candyrat Records
24. V/A Harp Guitar Dreams Harp Guitar Music
25. Wolfert Brederode Quartet Currents ECM Records
Digitonal’sSave Your Light for Darker Days

was the Echoes CD of the Month
for September 2008


Arrested Musical Development: The 60s are over, the 70s too.

August 11, 2008

The midsummer of 2008 has been a trip down Memory Lane for live concerts. In the last two weeks, I’ve seen, or will be seeing, Alex De Grassi, Return to Forever, King Crimson and Manuel Göttsching/Ashra , all acts who came to their greatest renown in the 1970s.  It got me wondering about our penchant for both over-glorifying the past while also about acknowledging music that withstands the capriciousness of popular tastes.

In the midst of an Echoes Chamber session with Return to Forever guitarist, Al Di Meola, the 54-year-old musician went into a subdued rant about the music we heard as kids.  “We grew up in the greatest era ever, the 60s,” he proclaimed. “We still love the music we listened to when we were kids.  Our kids aren’t going to be able to say that. They’re going to be listening to the music we listened to when they get older.”

There is some truth to what he said, at least in regards to pop music. Certainly the music of the 60s and early 70s continues to hang on, powered by classic rock stations and turned into dogma by places like The School of Rock. But there’s also Rock of the 70s and Rock of the 80s format radio stations and I’m sure that 30 years from now, there will be a Rock of the 2000s format. I think every generation holds on to the music they heard in their teens and college years: 60s acid rock, 70s progressive rock, 80s punk, 90’s grunge.

Di Meola is mostly referring to pop music, because otherwise, he’s continued to explore new sounds and technology throughout his career as a listener and creator. But a nostalgic aroma was ever-present at the Return to Forever show I saw at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia. I was wondering why RTF en mass felt it was necessary to wave the flag for “live” music and rail against iPods and YouTube to a full house of some 4,000 people. The Anthology And Chick, baby, despite your claims that RTF got no radio airplay in the 70s, I know they got boatloads of spins from commercial jazz stations that were still around then, including WRVR in New York and WWDB in Philadelphia. College stations, like WXPN in Philadelphia, played this music to death and got RTF many of their fans, as evidenced by the 50-something demographic dominating the reunion audiences.  RTF’s performance thrilled those fans.  They didn’t play any new compositions other than the opening tune-up piece, and except for a mangled version of “Romantic Warrior,” they stuck to the recorded versions of most of them pretty faithfully, including the same somewhat dated synthesizer sounds that Corea used.

.De Man IaAlex de Grassi’s audience was substantionally smaller, but they to, were thrilled to hear this veteran of the finger-style guitar renaissance at Sellersville Theater.   Like RTF, much of his set was drawn from older material made during his glory years at Windham Hill Records. It was good seeing Alex playing solo, although nothing new was being revealed, something I wouldn’t say for his world fusion DeMania trio.

I’m hopeful, but not expectant for Manuel Göttsching who performs in Philadelphia and New York over the weekend of August 15th. New Age of EarthI know that he plans on playing classic music from Inventions for Electric Guitar  and New Age of Earth up through E2-E4. The most recent piece he’s reported to play, Die Mulde, dates back to 1997 and that’s very much in the 1970s sequencer style.  However, I’m still looking forward to that show, since Göttsching, like Klaus Schulze, has never played in the US.   It’s music I’ve never heard performed live, but I’m not expecting any revelations. It will probably be like seeing RTF, who I also didn’t get to see in the 70s. (BTW, can somebody update Ashra’s Wikipedia entry? It is woefully skimpy and inaccurate).

Of them all, King Crimson has continued exploring new dimensions in their heavy metal future shock sound. I’ve seen them twice in this millennium and both were exhilarating, ear-shredding performances full of precision, spontaneity and new music.  While their audience will certainly be from the same demographic that will attend De Grassi, RTF and Ashra shows, Krimson’s music continues to be exploratory, without pandering .

I too, love the artists of my formative years, and Echoes also maintains a loyalty to the pioneers we played early on like Will Ackerman, Tangerine Dream, Andreas Vollenweider, George Winston and Klaus Schulze. That music, along with Hendrix and the Beatles, Coltrane and Miles, Ultravox and Siouxsie & the Banshees, Philip Glass and Steve Reich  is all in my musical DNA.

But I don’t want to exist in a musical past like some artists and audiences who are in an arrested state of musical development, living a terminal adolescence with the music that informed their youths. I don’t want to think that the best music I’ll experience for the rest of my life came out 30 or so years ago.  When I see teenagers who are enthralled by the sound and imagery of the sixties, I don’t sometimes feel validated in my youthful tastes. but just as often, I feel like telling them to listen to your own music.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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