Steve Tibbetts – Compilation: Acoustibbetts/Elektrobitts/Exotibbetts v1.0 – Frammis (3 CDs)

by | Feb 10, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Steve Tibbetts – Compilation: Acoustibbetts/Elektrobitts/Exotibbetts v1.0 – Frammis BZZ-10, CD 1: 73:46, CD 2: 79:01, CD 3: 67:40 ****:

(Steve Tibbetts – guitar, kalimba, synthesizer, piano, gimotron; Marc Anderson – congas, percussion; Marcus Wise – tabla (CD 1 & 2); Claudia Schmidt – vocals (track 5, CD 1), voice (CD 2); Tim Weinhold – percussion (track 8, CD 1), vase (CD 2 & 3); Jim Anton – bass (track 17, CD 1; CD 2), electric bass (CD 3); Steve Cochran – tabla (CD 2); Bob Hughes, Eric Anderson – bass (CD 2); Jan Reimer, Bruce Henry, Wendy Lewis – voices (CD 2); Mike Olson – synthesizer (CD 2); Anthony Cox – acoustic bass (CD 3); Michelle Kinney – cello (CD 3); Chöying Drolma, Deki Chödron, Lodro Zangmo, Sonam Drolma, Sherab Palmo – voices (CD 3); Knut Hamre, Turid Spildo – hardingfele (CD 3))

Composer/guitarist Steve Tibbetts’ music is a combination of repose and unease. Part of the reason is that none of Tibbetts’ releases – his discography goes back more than three decades to his self-released, self-titled 1976 debut – have been straightforwardly devoted to a single genre. All sorts of descriptions, from improvisational, ambient and progressive to New Age, world beat and fusion have been utilized to define Tibbett’ music, which encompasses everything he has ever heard, from Balinese gamelan to Jimi Hendrix and from Tibetan chants to jazz.

The three-CD compilation, Acoustibbetts/Elektrobitts/Exotibbetts v1.0 has over three hours of remastered music culled from 11 records and is meant as an introduction to Tibbett’s far-reaching imagination and to whet the appetite for his back catalog and future endeavors. There is continuity and flow to the 50-track collection. A few cuts are in chronological order but mostly Tibbetts’ work, from the seventies to his most recent undertaking, Natural Causes (2010), is dispersed. Tibbetts has such a regulated range and steady texture, though, that the package has a harmonious undercurrent.

The first CD, Acoustibbetts, showcases Tibbetts’ extensive acoustic guitar authority, from the subtly impressionistic “Chandogra” to the Ralph Towner-inspired “The Big Wind,” a larger-than-life piece which breathes slowly in and out, mimicking an urban backdrop of snow, trees and rivers. There is a rich quality and tenderness pleated into Tibbetts’ poetic pulses. There are also precise dynamics at work, such as during “A Clear Day and No Memories,” where wordless vocals and longtime collaborator Marc Anderson’s hand percussion provide a stratum which Tibbetts exercises as a foreground and background for moments of shifting intensity. One highlight is a folk-inclined, tabla-tinted rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Mountain Side,” in which Tibbetts and Anderson mingle as one as they take Jimmy Page’s composition from the English countryside to an Indian terrain.

The second CD, Elektrobitts, is more explosive as it demonstrates Tibbetts’ electric side. His plugged-in guitar screams boldly but without the clichéd power chords or hard rock conventions used by other electric guitar players. Tibbetts scours and slashes through the tribal “Name Everything” with raucous passion. “Full Moon Dogs” continues Tibbetts’ custom of blending nonverbal voices, Eastern percussion and a gradual build-up to a purposeful conclusion. The aptly named “Hellbound Train” is darker, louder and longer and features Tibbetts’ chameleonic six-string changes which are akin to Hendrix, positioned atop a plethora of pounding percussion. The ten-minute “Black Temple” is epic in every sense of the word, a bundled entity which runs the gamut from an amped-up roar to nearly subliminal.

Tibbetts’ Asian and Indian influences as well as his full-figured creativity come to the fore on the third CD, Exotibbetts. Tibbetts expresses his compositional breadth on the eleven-minute three-part suite “3 Letters,” where he mixes in chanting monks, Tibetan cymbals and horns and Nepalese children’s voices to create a documentary-like cadence. On the exotic “Padre-yaga” Tibbetts employs the kalimba to shape harp-like characteristics and maneuver through bent notes and brief fragments of silence to generate a reflective and hybridized environment. The melancholy and ghostly “Burning Temple” has an auditory vastness that glides with hidden strength and proves that ambience is not necessarily frail in the right hands.

Greg Reierson’s remastering job helps smooth out some of the roughness in Tibbetts’ earlier recordings and accentuates the bits that were obscured or scrimmed on the original albums these tunes come from. Long-standing fans probably have some material presented here, but this comprehensive collection is worth acquiring by neophytes ready to discover Tibbetts’ multi-genre accomplishments.  

Disc: 1
1. Chandogra
2. All for Nothing
3. Black Mountain Side
4. Wish
5. A Clear Day and No Memories
6. Climbing
7. Night Again
8. My Last Chance
9. The Big Wind
10. Aerial View
11. Interlude
12. 100 Moons
13. Start
14. Mile 234 (excerpt)
15. Lament
16. Threnody
17. Tal

Disc: 2
1. Full Moon Dogs
2. Hellbound Train
3. Black Temple
4. Chandoha
5. Lochana
6. Roam and Spy
7. Nyemma
8. Forget
9. Name Everything
10. Your Cat
11. Ur
12. Sphexes
13. Ten Years
14. Vision

Disc: 3
1. Going Somewhere
2. Kuladzokpa
3. Wait
4. 3 Letters 1
5. 3 Letters 2
6. 3 Letters 3
7. Running
8. Burning Temple
9. Kyamdro Semkye
10. Ngani Tröma pt. 1
11. Ngani Tröma pt. 2
12. Nubchok Dechen
13. Senge Wangchuck
14. Kangyi Tengi
15. Palden Rangjung
16. Kyamdro Semkye
17. Ishvarana
18. Padre-yaga
19. Fjellmangjenta

— Doug Simpson

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