Tahsili Consort in Quotes
Their musical telepathy and uninhibited polyphony remind me of the joy of improvising with my least musical son, C.P.A. Bach. --- J.S. Bach
"Journals & Journeys" is a hip on-the-road musical trip. --- J. Kerouac
I loved the times they used my rhymes for playful inspiration. They played with a wit appropriate to a child’s imagination. --- M. Goose
Tahsili Consort plays free verse tone poems. --- R. Strauss
They aren’t Mozart . . . but then who is? --- A. Salieri
Amerei comporre un concerto grosso particolarmente
peri musicisti del Tahsili Consort. --- A. Vivaldi
Less is more. --- M. van der Rohe
About the music of Tahsili Consort
Tahsili Consort acknowledges several key influences on the development of their music. One was the melodic rhythmic free jazz improvisation of the Ornette Coleman group, as documented on “The Shape of Jazz to Come” and “Change of the Century” in 1959. Another was the entire body of work by Keith Jarrett’s American quartet from the seventies, featuring two Coleman alumni. This group’s influence was mostly in the spirit of their improvisations.
Equal in importance to these influences were the many different Miles Davis groups, but especially those with John Coltrane, his classic sixties quintet, and the early fusion groups. It was Miles’ continual exploration of different ways to present his always uniquely identifiable sound that was the biggest influence.
The group Oregon inspired many of the world music sounds and rhythms that can be heard from time to time in Tahsili Consort’s music. More recently, the wide range of musical projects attempted by Dave Douglas encouraged Tahsili Consort’s willingness to experiment simultaneously in a variety of configurations with a variety of styles.
Interestingly, the solo piano concerts of Keith Jarrett are also a major influence on the group. His practice of starting with a completely blank slate and creating an extended musical experience out of nothing opened up the group to their own methods of improvising.
None of the music performed by Tahsili Consort was written down, either before or after being performed. Instead, a member of the group would suggest a motif, a rhythmic pattern, or some abstract musical concept to explore, usually by playing it on his instrument. If it was interesting to the others, they would join in. If it wasn’t, it became a solo piece. Usually it worked, sometimes it didn't.
Tahsili Consort I - The Adventure Begins
Tahsili Consort was the de facto house band at The Living Room (Eugene, Oregon’s premiere venue for free improvisation). They started out cautiously, gaining confidence with each passing month and with each recording. These recordings of their first performances show the group playing it relatively safe and not taking many musical chances, compared to their later CDs.
‘Amontillado Suite’ is the perfect accompaniment to one of my short stories. All it lacks is a glass of sherry. --- E. A. Poe
Amontillado Suite was inspired by Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" and was recorded for later use as incidental music to a reading of a recently discovered longer version of that familiar story. Mostly it's just Butch and L.C. playing, although Bruce did manage to sneak in a few notes here and there.
Aarianos Tahsilianos was inspired by the then recent birth of Bruce's son Aaron. Listen closely and you might hear a lullaby or a nursery rhyme or two.
The Tahsili Consort recordings are delightful in their innovation . . . true jazz experimentations. [Many tracks use] only two or three instruments that . . . respond to the other instruments in an extemporaneous fashion . . . the keyboard will start and, on the spot, the cello, or the bass, or the drums will quickly think of something to play that is in the same key, same jazz style, and same rhythmic pattern. On others . . . the instrumentation will be different and, perhaps, a different instrument will start and set the patterns for response. In all, the tunes are easy-listening jazz . . . set a relaxed and mellow mood.
--- Dave Stauffer, founding member of the classic 60’s rock group The Corvettes; composer / librettist of the epic rock opera cycle “Sow Y’ Oats!”
From its ominously ringing opening bass note through its seven relentless minutes, ‘Ring, Ring, Round’ would have made the perfect counterpoint to my ‘Flight of the Valkyries’. --- R. Wagner
I don’t know what to call the music played by Tahsili Consort – free jazz, classical improvisation, new age, old age, amateurish noodling – but I do know it when I hear it. And I also know that I like it. --- P. Stewart
Tahsili Consort II - Journals & Journeys
The music of Tahsili Consort is both journal and journey. It is a record of daily experiences, impressions, thoughts, feelings, sneaking into sound and structure when no one is paying attention. It is also a going away, sometimes to familiar places, sometimes to strange new places. And, usually, there is a return home, or at least to some place more familiar.
Torianas Tahsilianas is dedicated to Bruce's daughter Tory, who sat in with the group now and then on percussion.
On Tahsili Consort II - Journals & Journeys you’ll hear the soul of a romantic, the playfulness of an over-grown kid and the rhythmic drive of a jazz king. You’ll also find the sounds of more instruments than you can count, the occasional bird, and a traffic cop. Following is my track by track preview.
--- Sharon Schuman, Oregon Mozart Players violinist; Adj. Asst. Prof. of Literature, UO Honors College; occasional columnist.
(1) A dreamy waltz begins “The Kosovo Suite.” (2) Jazzy riffs from xylophone and string bass pick up the pace and take you to a busy street corner. (3) An urgent staccato resolves into a triplet dance, where Baroque meets drunken sailor. (4) Two voices, one floating or scampering, the other in a relaxed amble, manage to end in sync. (5) If chopsticks and a metronome got into an argument, which would win? (6) A five-minute journey begins with militant drums and traffic noises, while a xylophone below slowly rebuilds a more normal life.
(7) Ah, a piano! In “Journals 1-5” widely disparate voices carry on a driving conversation. (8) Aaron Copland seems to be sitting in the side-shadow of a rising, questioning voice. The answer lurks in the drop-like purity of simple octaves. (9) Child’s play. (10) If an instrument were a bird, it would leap from branch to branch. (11) How many ways can two lines meet--walking, searching, together or apart?
(12) “Logo” paints the briefest, jazziest cityscape of “Torianas Tahsilianas.” (13) “Prologue” urges you to put on a top hat and white gloves. (14) “Travelogue” begins fugue-like, then takes you to the land of xylophone, to the Middle East, back to jazz, to the non-metronomic metronome oblivious to rippling runs, and finally to the marching drums of a fast finish. (15) If you haven’t felt like it already, “Epilogue” invites you to dance. Start with this cut.
(16) “Plaintiff” changes pace with a rolling, rippling lament. Lush chords subside into one lone voice from “Carmen,” as we hear what it means not to give up.
(17) “Journeys 1-8” hold a wealth of polyphonic voices. (18) A high, hopeful piano calls out to drums. (19) Snare, bass, and cymbal join in. (20) Tap your toe, the table, the keyboard—but don’t stumble. Heck, just play one note! (21) Don’t blink. (22) Think North Beach, smoke, shades, and a walking bass. Sip your martini. (23) Start in Africa and add layers of sound as you head to the Far East. (24) What if we just lit out for all directions at once?
(25) “Kosovo Reprise” ends where we began—in dream, the imagination, a mental last waltz that “gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.” Except now we also hear in it echoes of distant street-corners, cafes, and hopes.
Tahsili Consort III - Forty by Fifty & The Big Five O
On certain listenings, in certain moods, Forty by Fifty is the group's favorite TC piece. Given the piece's forty five minute length, it had better be.
To celebrate Bruce's Big Five 0, the group asked him to contribute the seven short improvisations that he called Birthday Songs.
The (Extra) Special Theory of (Tahsili Consort Musical) Relativity
--- A. Einstein
E = Excellent
M = Music
T = Tahsili
C = Consort
x = Tahsili Consort CD number
x0 = (Tahsili Consort) IV
f(x) = the “togetherness” of the playing of Tahsili Consort
Next, after listening to Tahsili Consort, it cannot be denied that
T(ahsili) C(onsort) M(usic) = E(xcellent)
If we then assume that
lim f(x) = 1
- (approx)= 1
and, within the limits of freedom
T = C
and, of course
TC = C2
TCM = MC2
E = MC2
Tahsili Consort IV - Lusive Tunes
Just what does ‘Lusive’ mean, why are Eric, Bobby & Richard ‘Out to Lunch,’ and will they really be back in about 15 minutes? Listen closely if you want to find out. Correction - listen closely even if you don’t want to find out. Many think that this is the group's best CD.
Although there is more solo piano on this CD than any of the others, the group still thinks of these pieces as Tahsili Consort pieces, because the playing was done in the context of and under the influence of the group recordings. Just think of the rest of the group as listening attentively in the wings, or as performing very quietly.
It’s clever, but is it art? --- R. Kipling
I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later. --- M. Davis
The greatest harm is done
when the thought is more important than the work. --- Leonardo
An artist who theorizes about his work
is no longer artist but critic. --- H. G. Wells
[Yet no good artist can live without the critic within. --- Delbert Chu]
Wagner’s music is better than it sounds. --- M. Twain
[Our music sounds better than it is. --- L. C. Threebud]
The highest condition of art is artlessness. ----- H. D. Thoreau
[Artless is a good description of much of what we do. --- Butch Elder]
The twelve notes in each octave
and the varieties of rhythm
offer me the opportunities
that all of human genius will never exhaust. --- I. Stravinsky
[So that’s why we are so exhausted after a performance? --- Red Lucht]
All works of art should begin at the end. --- E. A. Poe
[But sometimes the fun is in not knowing where the end lies
or where the beginning will take you. --- Bruce Heldt]
Tahsili Consort V - Freedom : Rules
This CD contains a selection of tracks from the first four Tahsili Consort CDs.
. . . rules? Of what use are they? . . . they restrain [us] . . . from . . . being . . . fools or frauds. --- Leonardo
In the world of music, and especially in that most specialized of worlds known as modern jazz, the phrase “Musical Adventure” very often means that the listener is in for what might be better described as a “sonic nightmare” and the word “freedom” more often than not promises the adventurous musical soul an evening of aesthetic chaos. This, for what it’s worth, has been my experience over the 15 years I’ve been producing concerts and, even more so, throughout the 50 years I’ve been exploring the vast landscape of the musical universe that stretches out so temptingly to the intrepid cultural. Not to say this is always a bad thing. But it did give me pause when longtime friend and co-musical travel companion Delbert Chu handed me an advance copy of Tahsili Consort’s Freedom : Rules, the 5th title in the group’s Musical Adventure. I girded my loins for the ordeal. Quite willingly, mind you. But also on edge; senses alert; guarded against aural angst. What I got was an oasis. A wonderful collection of mental excursions…exotic, intriguing, satisfying, and after three readings refreshingly rich in ideas hidden between the cracks. Reminds me a lot of great moments past while giving me new ones.
Art done right is indeed freedom, but freedom within rules (which is, I suspect, what the Tahsili guys were getting at with the title). Invention only works, I think, when it finds and offers up a new, rich, potent order out of the chaos, an order that compels others. Well, Freedom : Rules certainly compels me. It’s on my active play list. Now I’ve got to find Tahsili’s first four. They are hard to find. Maybe eBay.
--- Jim Ralph, Executive Director of The John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts, Eugene, Oregon.
Although they played together regularly for four years, only a small fraction of their music was recorded. All of the pieces that were recorded are included on Tahsili Consort I - IV.
Since the group’s last recording date in 2001, Bruce Heldt has focused on his solo playing in anticipation of recording a solo piano CD sometime in 2007. He recently did some solo work on a Fazioli piano and would love to find a recording studio that featured one. Bruce also has a number of chamber music compositions in progress, as well as a few that have been completed, and he hopes to follow up his solo piano CD with another featuring these compositions.
The other members of Tahsili Consort have dispersed back to their own individual musical pursuits, but don’t be surprised if some of them return to perform on Bruce’s chamber music CD.
Tahsili Consort wishes to thank the following guest musicians, without whom these recordings would not be the same. It was a pleasure playing with them.
Chet Bluder, trumpet
Ted Bruchel, violin
Beth Curdel, flute
Tory Heldt, percussion, whistle, broken glass
Aaron Heldt, percussion
And a very special thanks to Loi Heldt for the beautiful fabric boxes that the Complete Works Boxed Sets come in.
The Consort Members
Bruce Heldt Piano, Percussion
Bruce studied piano in Chicago with Adaska, who taught him an appreciation for the Great American Songbook and the art of arranging. After taking a few years off to focus on the distractions of high school and winning a math and science award from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Bruce was lured back to the piano by jazz improvisation. His early influences were Jarrett, Corea, Monk and Bley. He began by performing on college campuses from Illinois, where he grew up, to Oregon, where he currently resides. In the 1980’s he briefly turned to composing chamber music, most notably a fanfare that was performed by the Oregon Mozart Players during their tenth anniversary celebration. His most recent solo performances were at the Hult Center lobby during the 2006 Oregon Bach Festival and at the Shedd Recital hall to help kick off their capital campaign.
E.B. “Red” Lucht Vibes, Percussion
Red went to the University of Chicago to study physics, but ended up discovering John Coltrane, The Art Ensemble of Chicago and improvisation instead. He was later accepted into the U of O School of Music, but dropped out before taking his first class. Related by marriage to Chicago violinist “Wild Bill” Lucht, Red’s influences include Bobby Hutcherson and Gary Burton. Red’s nickname is due to his weakness for Oregon Pinot Noir, in support of which he performed at Sokol Blosser Vineyards, long before their outdoor concerts became the in-thing to do. More recently, he was the initial performer in a new concert series at Cherry Hill Winery. Red’s most recent tour abroad ended with a performance at the Café Ile de France before a more than capacity crowd that overflowed onto Carnival Boulevard as far as the ear could hear.
Butch Elder Guitar
Butch’s early influences were Hendrix and Clapton. Later Towner, Pass, and eventually Abercrombie and Frisell, were added. He honed his chops at the Pearl Street Station in Eugene, where live jazz was presented seven days a week and the likes of Gillespie, Brubeck and Mingus played. He also apprenticed for a year at an Oregon vineyard and even today enjoys a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir now and then. Butch has a law degree, but never practiced law. He doesn’t have a music degree, but that doesn’t stop him from practicing his music almost every day.
L.C. Threebud Bass, Cello
L.C. started out playing, both solo and in a duo with Sufi guitarist Baruch Lahaim, at some of Eugene’s funkiest venues: Momma’s Homefried Truckstop, the WOW Hall, and an ice cream parlor that featured live jazz and folk music. He then spent some time touring Canada and Alaska, highlighted by regular gigs at the Stratosphere Lounge and the Celebrity Theatre in B.C. There is a rumor that his introspective style of playing owes more than a little bit to his degree in psychology, but he claims it’s just the influence of Charlie Hayden and Dave Holland.
Delbert Chu Drums
Del discovered his love for the drums by sitting in for the drummer in his fraternity rock band. He played electric organ at the time, but sometimes after practice band members would switch instruments and jam. His influences include Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams and Ginger Baker, but it’s probably Paul Motian who is most apparent in his playing with the Tahsili Consort. Del once played a solo gig at Biederbecke’s jazz club in Eugene. Del studied English in college and still occasionally writes short stories and bad poetry. Someday he hopes to pen some clever, witty, irreverent and highly intelligent lyrics that Bruce can write the music for.
Some say that Tahsili Consort was able to play so freely together because they had known each other for so long.
Others look to the players' common fondness for the music of Anna Graham.
Few realize that it might be because the letters in their names are identical except for their order.
Freedom : Rules
None of Tahsili Consort’s music was edited for content after recording, only for recording quality or to re-arrange individual tracks into longer pieces or longer pieces into shorter tracks.
Recording Engineer - Mark Ten Kurzweil
Recorded at - The Living Room
Mastering - The Digital Sunspot
Duplication - Kunaki LLC
Produced by - Bruce Heldt
Graphic Design - Berl Deutch
Key Grip - Tru Belched
Key Tickler - Bruce Heldt
Boxed Set Fabric Boxes - Loi Heldt
Copyright 1997 – 2001 Formelodia Music
Tahsili Consort dedicates CDs I - IV to the memory of Miles; to the shape of Ornette’s jazz to come; to the melodic courage of Keith Jarrett; and to all “free” improvisers who have exposed their musical souls.
There are fewer than 88 notes in the Tahsili Consort repertoire.
You have the opportunity to hear more than a few of them.
--- Anna Graham