REISSUE : spiritual psych-folk :
The Entourage Music & Theatre Ensemble

LP (1973), LP (1975) -> costume CDR (2007)







Folkways Rec.  The Entourage Music and Theatre Ensemble -costum made cdrs!!- (US,1973)***'

Entourage was a kind of holistic group of a kind which could or would only be developed well in the right times, the early seventies. It was very much a multi-media ensemble with music and dancers in a theatre context as a way to create an experimental-spiritualistic environment. Like in Noh-theatre, certain movements could become like a language to mobilize, visually and with music, certain dynamic capacities of a global, almost abstract conception.

The group was active from 1970 to 1983 until the sudden death of one of its members, Rusti Clark, and released 2 albums (1973 and 1975). On the first album, the group consisted of founder and director Joe Clark (Joh) on E-flat soprano sax, electric keyboard, piano and percussion ; Rusti Clark on viola, guitar and percussion and Michael Scott Smith (who later would become a famous jazz drummer) on drums, percussion and thumb piano.

Most of it sounds very improvised with certain sections of I think are developed musically from ideas on certain moods.

This first track sounds like a cross of Brother Ah and Third Ear Band : moody improvised acoustic music based upon acoustic guitar, thumb piano and what sounds like a jazzy oboe (the soprano sax). The second improvised track has the use of a -typical for 70s- over-effect of echo with percussive sounds and flute mostly. A similar effect is also added on the next, rather meditative, part with improvised guitar, piano, viola, organ, drums. The somewhat longer fourth part, with piano and viola sounds like a more emotional driven piece, which is slightly classical but still from an improvised nature. Two small viola improvisations alternate with small sections. The first time this viola improvisation uses different harmonic pitches, and improvises, slightly contemporary but not too complicated around certain notes and chords, an introduction before a more oriental dance (with oscillating viola, percussion, and a soprano sax improvisation), like a sort of a folk dance (comparable again slightly to Third Ear Band’s early work). This goes over in a percussive improvisation, and then an electric viola improvisation of another contemporary vision, with a bit of piano and percussion added. The last track remains very improvised piano with viola, hand percussion, bells, of which the last few notes on guitar sound koto-like.

Audio of 1973 album : http://www.smithsonianglobalsound.org/trackdetail.aspx?itemid=22823
Folkways Rec.  The Entourage Music & Theatre Ensemble : The Neptune Collection (US,1975)****

By the time of the second album, the group had one more musical member, Wall Matthews, who played acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, dulcimer and temple bells ; Joe Clark played E-flat and B-flat soprano saxophones, electric keyboards, acoustic piano and gong ; Rusti Clark played viola, acoustic guitar, gong, bird and rabbit ; Michael Scott Smith played assorted percussion instruments and did a druid dance with his fists, knuckles and finger pops.

The second album clearly took a step away from pure moody improvisation, to more developed advance, composed and musically rich music. The tracks hang more together, there’s more dialogue, as if they are now cooperative composers involved with the group, more than separate improvisers in a group entity. This is also due to the extra, talent in acoustic guitar playing which has a more composed character, which is enriched with other more improvised arrangements. But also the piano is more descriptive as before, showing waters and rivers of evolutions. Also the tracks have more focused titles which have also a meaning outside the improvised context. And also the continuity and flow between the tracks has developed with the advantage of experience. “Druid Dance” for instance sounds like a next step to the folk dance of the previous album, which with the extra guitar, and the sophisticated hand driven percussion is rather special.  “Neptune Rising” has an interesting contemporary acoustic guitar picking lead which shows touches of, -still meditative-, avant garde, mixed with a sort of koto-like guitar, glockenspiel and percussion, with a beautiful interactive creativity. Other tracks are rather chamber-folk-like (an area which is slightly comparable to some Quebec groups of that time, although in a different context). Just one of the parts, near the end becomes a bit weird, called “Space Needle Suicide”, with a series of notes played with electric guitar and viola. It is really a shame to know this was the last recording of the group. I think they deserve a proper reissue, with a decent booklet.

For those interested, the music is made available by Folkways but I must warn that it still is rather expensive (17$) for what is a good quality standard digipack with sticker, with liner notes of the booklet on downloadable PDF-format, only a custom-made cdr which looks like a normal CD, from which I just hope that it really is from a superior quality, so that I can keep it safe for a lifetime.

PS. Live the group had a flexible size. Another member was for instance Ara Fitzgerald.

Audio of 1975 album : "Tar Box Poltergeist", "Euphoric Bells"
Audio of 975 album : http://www.smithsonianglobalsound.org/containerdetail.aspx?itemid=1983
Homepage : http://www.entouragemusic.com
Info : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Entourage_Music_And_Theater_Ensemble
Other review of 1975 album :
http://waxidermy.com/2006/07/23/the-entourage-music-theatre-ensemble-neptune-rising/
About dancing member Ara Fitzgerald : http://www1.mville.edu/dancetheatre/DTHFacStaff/Biographies/fs02.htm
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