Greg Howard

AZUL (with John D'earth and Brian Caputo) 2013 CD $12.
Espresso, Charlottesville, Virginia

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Musicians
John D'earth - trumpet, flugelhorn, voice
Brian Caputo - drums and percussion
Greg Howard - Grand Stick

Greg's new release is a lives session of spontaneous composition in the studio, drawing on elements of jazz, rock, ambient, funk, and Eastern music, performed on trumpet, drums and Chapman Stick. Recorded without overdubs, all improvisations presented in the order they were recorded.

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Emmett's take on AZUL

Azul, a trio of strings, wind and skins, of three ancient instrumental families now brought together with only the strings electrically powered for the lightest two-handed touch. Three musicians with a sense of acoustic space who play daring improvisational games, creating distinct songs on the fly.

The trio is compact, easy to fly, but the orchestral scope is broad. Each instrument is sovereign in its own sonic space but each musician is listening to the whole, observing the present past, the "remembered present" (a sensation of following the intervals more than the notes themselves). This is what communicates in a language of their own making.

Greg describes The Stick as "a high-speed idea conduit" and "an improviser's dream axe". In this seminal trio, he is in the process of defining the Stick's pivotal role in an improvising ensemble - very close to my heart as Stick creator. His "idea conduit" allows him full control over the harmony (the chord progressions and hints thereof from the bass on up) as well as the rhythm, texture, orchestration, counterpoint, overall mood, and an occasional lead solo as well.

This is an inspired (and inspiring) group that can draw you right into their conversations, and there are many musical subjects under discussion - much mileage ahead.

"Wave after Wave after...", video of the studio recording session, May 14, 2013

Track Listing total time: 68:11

 1 Wave after Wave after... 10:18
 2 Night Birds 6:35
 3 Boys Make Noise 3:48
 4 Seared, the Seer Soared 5:58
 5 Wildlands 9:42
 6 Tear Jay 5:02
 7 Don’t Be a Baby (note to self) 6:59
MOBY SUITE
 8 Queequeg 4:36
 9 Whales Versus Ships 9:15
10 Ahab’s Release 5:58



Ether Ore 2005 CD/DVD $12.
Espresso, Charlottesville, Virginia

The subtitle on Ether Ore reads "Live Sonic Expeditions on the Chapman Stick" and, indeed, this record provides the listener with a collection of concert improvisations performed from October, 2003 to December, 2004. Greg alternates between 10-string Bari Melody and Matched Reciprocal Grand Stick, through his live effects rig, using no synthesizers, overdubs or "static" looping devices.

The recordings themselves are spectacular, with a clarity that is better than a lot of studio recordings, but the music is where it's at. Ether Ore opens with the beautiful and spacey "The First Day" and then moves into the title track, which starts off as ambient as the opener but then quickly makes it's way down Howard's signature avenue of twists and turns carrying the listener from the ambient to the rhythmic to the nasty along with everything in between. The tracks range from short textural vignettes, like the tribute tracks "Tim was Here" echoing Tim Reynolds's delay-based groove jams, and the pseudo-loopy "Snow Falling on Eno," to the 25-minute+ "Freedom of Expansion," The variety is stylistic as well as sonic, as Jim Reilly writes in his liner notes, "just when I think I'm starting to think I know where Greg is going he grabs me by the ear and takes me somewhere else."

The audio disc is only the beginning of what Ether Ore has to offer, though. As an added bonus, the package includes a live DVD featuring a Dan Chapman video of yet another Howard improv entitled "Big Bang #4965." This piece was recorded at the 2003 World Stick Seminar in San Jose and offers the viewer the visual that comes along with a Howard performance. That alone is worth the price of admission and a "must see" for Stick player and non Stick player alike.

Read John Edmonds review of "Ether Ore".



Stick Figures 1993 (remixed in 2004) CD $12.
Espresso, Charlottesville, Virginia

More than a decade after creating one of the most definitive solo Stick recordings to date, Greg Howard has released a completely remixed version of his 1993 debut CD Stick Figures.

There is a reason why this one is on every Stick player's list of desert island recordings. It is a beautiful collection of solo pieces, all performed on 10-string Stick with no overdubs and just a touch of reverb, and features several Howard favorites like "Charmed Life" and "Big Meadows." Each piece was a solo performance from start to finish and each track stands as a solid work on its own, from the upbeat, opening "Morning Song" to the time-shifting "Blue Ridge." The beauty of the compositions is supported perfectly by the simplicity of the arrangements and lyrical soloing. Even though it's a studio recording, there is a pronounced "live" feel throughout.

The differences in this new release of an old staple jump right out. The level of the entire record is higher and there seems to be a clarity and a "jump" to the entire work that wasn't there before. This new mix complements the performance perfectly. A clear, warm tone, ample space, and slight panning of each side of The Stick create a clear picture of what each hand is playing in the arrangement.

For those already familiar with this work, the remixed version of Stick Figures more than does justice to these pieces. For those who are new to this record, you've come along at the perfect time to pick it up.



Sol 1997 CD (remastered in 2002) $12.
Espresso, Charlottesville, Virginia

Greg is a soloist and band leader in this Latin and Spanish-inspired CD. Sol is energizing and fun listening, especially for a Stick player, as The Stick is everywhere. Greg's compositions and arrangements open windows to all manner of Latin landscapes and connections to Arabia and Morocco, Africa, Brazil, to Spain itself, and even "south of the border".

The core ensemble is a trio of Stick, drums and Latin and African percussion (Robert Jospe - drums, Darrell Rose or Kevin Davis - percussion), with some tracks including trumpet (John D'earth) saxophones (Greg - alto, Jeff Decker - tenor) and guitars (Tim Reynolds). Seven originals and Greg's crowd-pleasing arrangement of Erich Ferstl's "Guitarresque".

Newly re-mastered version released in October, 2002.



Lift 2000 CD $12 (temporarily out of stock)
Espresso, Charlottesville, Virginia

The debut CD by the new Greg Howard Band. Stickist Greg Howard collaborates with three skillful but soulful Dutch musicians in a conceptually new approach to making music, forging their quartet in a series of live improvised concerts in Holland and the US.

After mastering various relaxed and energized states of group improv using all electronically enhanced instruments, they recorded "Lift", a CD of eleven compositions produced by Greg and now being released on his Espresso label. They apply their new found sound to radically arrange six of Greg's compositions and to improvise a suite of five songs starting with "Chrysalis".

Not only has The Greg Howard Band discovered a new direction in musical communication akin to progressive jazz and progressive rock, but there's also an altered chemistry of sound, rhythm and orchestral cohesion (blend) created by this playful democracy of four.



Water on the Moon 1998 CD $12.
Espresso, Charlottesville, Virginia

A one-hour uninterrupted solo Stick improvisation with extended motifs and powerful concentration on thematic statement, development, variation, and morphing to a transformed theme - exactly the elements of musical composition. Each element is introduced through the judicious use of electronic effects in contrast to the clean Stick tone. Greg's hour of live nightclub performance is a spontaneous creation in finished form, a full, solo, live "orchestration" with all manner of contrapuntal combinations, great ideas creeping out of every segment from each hand.



Code Magenta 1995 CD $12.
Espresso, Charlottesville, Virginia

Code Magenta is a trio with Greg on Stick, keyboards and MIDI pedals, Dawn Thompson on voice and percussion, and Dave Matthews Band saxophonist Leroi Moore. The music features spoken word over vicious grooves, drum loops, ethereal keyboards and some great soloing. The spoken poems blend nicely with the music, most of the pieces were done as live semi-improv pieces. This is an album which will appeal not only to Stick players, but also to anyone who values cutting edge music and great playing.



Shapes 1994 CD $12. (currently out of print)
Espresso, Charlottesville, Virginia

Greg has extended his very live acoustical Stick presence (see Stick Figures) toward a broader and bit more ambitious album production, duo settings predominating. Throughout the wide variety of warm jazz and Latin rhythms his jazz piano influences are apparent, now channeled through The Stick with two-handed contrapuntal keyboard stylings and bass solos overlapping melody lines. There are outstanding contributions by jazz musicians on trumpet, drums and percussion.



Sticks and Stones 1987 (remastered 2001) CD $12.
Espresso, Charlottesville, Virginia

Sticks and Stones is a collection of improvisations by Greg Howard and guitarist Tim Reynolds. Originally recorded in 1987, the tapes were remastered in 2001 for release on CD. On this recording, Greg plays his 10-string Stick along with alto saxophone, hand and foot controlled synths, and various other "treatments". In addition to Greg, Tim Reynolds plays guitar and also adds some treated voice parts.

The pieces on Sticks and Stones are more ambient in nature compared to Greg's work that would come later. Using various instruments, (including Stick) to lay down textures, Greg plays melodic improvs over the top on both Stick and alto sax. Tim Reynolds also provides improvisation over the textures on this record with some wonderful processed electric guitar work. While the work somewhat reflects other similar works of the times (Eno, Fripp, Summers), Howard and Reynolds really gel as a duo and explore a whole variety of sonic avenues. As a retrospect of Greg's career, this record provides unmistakable glimpses of what was yet to come.

In the end, Sticks and Stones lives as an essential piece of the Greg Howard discography completing the story of his music from the beginning to present day.