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I've got some titles from the ever-awesome Holidays Records on my pile this week, and the first one I've gripped comes from the seemingly-bottomless Hartmut Geerken archives. This one's from 1977, towards the tail end of cultural ambassador Geerken's Kabul period ('72-'79), and sees him teaming up with none other than Danish saxophonist John Tchicai, who appeared on some important '60s free jazz r ...

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Hindukush Serenade by Hartmut Geerken / John Tchicai
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9/10 Mike Staff review, 12 August 2014

I've got some titles from the ever-awesome Holidays Records on my pile this week, and the first one I've gripped comes from the seemingly-bottomless Hartmut Geerken archives. This one's from 1977, towards the tail end of cultural ambassador Geerken's Kabul period ('72-'79), and sees him teaming up with none other than Danish saxophonist John Tchicai, who appeared on some important '60s free jazz records alongside the likes of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Don Cherry (including Coltrane's 'Ascension').

On 'Hindukush Serenade' the two are playing live at Goethe Institut Kabul with an intimidating array of instruments at their disposal. Tchicai on alto sax, soprano sax, flute, voice, Bulgarian bandura, Tibetan boo-chals and tchinkas, bells, lion roar (string drum), piano, agogo, African drumgs, Egyptian cymbal. Geerken takes piano (both prepared and, erm, unprepared), Sun Harp (a gift from musical deity Sun Ra), short wave, Peking opera gong, boo-chals, Egyptian dar, baz, African drums. Phew!

As for the music, on side A 'Invocations for Angels and Demons' begins with a focus on spiritual piano and sax meanderings, but soon Tchicai switches over to flute while Geerken drops some flowing arpeggios and subtle piano-string strums and before you know it John's thrown out the flute and starts singing in a full-throated holler over the piano which rises to a swooping falsetto with a very Middle Eastern feel to the melodies. Then Hartmut gets a turn in the spotlight with some bold mystical piano plinking that eventually rises in tempo to a giddy silent-movie-chase-scene stumble that disintegrates into chaotic ivory-hammering...and that's just the first side! Cheekily anarchic and charmingly self-assured free jazz then, pretty much as you'd expect.


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