The Merry Frolics of Satan is a recording of eight scores for the amazing silent films of George Méliès , the French pioneer of the fantastic. They are performed by The Transparent Quartet, and were originally premiered with the films at the Walter Reade Tjeatre at Lincoln Center in New York City on Nov. 15, 1997. They have subsequently been performed at the Clevelan Institute of Art, the Wexner Center, the Teatro Verdi in Florence, the Erie Art Museum, and Etnafest in Catania, among others. This CD was originally released on Koch Jazz, but has now gone out of print. It is the second CD released by The Transparent Quartet.
Phillip Johnston - soprano, tenor saxophones.
Joe Ruddick - piano, baritone saxophone.
Mark Josefsberg - vibraphone.
David Hofstra - bass, tuba.
Artist: PHILLIP JOHNSTON
A saxophonist, composer and arranger of both jazz and new music, Phillip has been a significant figure in the underground music scene of New York’s downtown since the beginning of the 1980’s. He has composed extensively for film including Paul Mazursky’s Faithful, Philip Haas’ The Music of Chance and Money Man, Dorris Dörrie’s Paradise and Geld, and, recently, Stolen Life by Peter Rasmussen & Jackie Turnure & Noise by Henry Bean. He has also written for silent film, including Tod Browning’s The Unknown, The George Méliès Project, Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Page Of Madness and F.W. Murnau’s Faust. His theatre composition credits include Measure For Measure, War Of The Roses, The Comedy Of Errors, The Merchant Of Venice and Macbeth for Bell Shakespeare; Young Goodman Brown with Richard Foreman, Venus with Suzan-Lori Parks, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Ruysch and The Falls with Hilary Bell, and Drawn To Death: A Three Panel Opera with Art Spiegelman. Dance credits include Karole Armitage’s The Predators’ Ball and Keely Garfield’s Minor Repairs Necessary for which he won a ‘Bessie’ in 1999.
Throughout, he has maintained a parallel career as a saxophonist, both working with others and leading his own bands. During the 1980’s he led the Microscopic Septet, and in the 1990’s he led Big Trouble and The Transparent Quartet. He has recently toured internationally with with the seven-piece Fast ‘N’ Bulbous: The Captain Beefheart Project, featuring Gary Lucas, for which he arranged and conducted, and the reanimated Microscopic Septet. Phillip’s recordings include Tales From the Cryptic (Winter & Winter) with Guy Klucevsek; Pork Chop Blue Around The Rind, and the recent Waxed Oop (Cuneiform) with Fast ‘N’ Bulbous, and Seven Men in Neckties & Surrealistic Swing (Cuneiform), a four-CD retrospective of his work with the Microscopic Septet, which was followed up recently by Lobster Leaps In, their first new recording in 20 years. He lived most of his adult life in New York City, until 2005 when he relocated to Sydney, Australia with his wife, Australian playwright Hilary Bell, and their two children, where he performs with SNAP, a saxophone quartet, and Phillip Johnston and the Coolerators.
"Saxist Johnston is a conceptualist with a sense of humor and history. Here, he and the Transparent Quartet present spirited music for short films by silent-cinema pioneer Georges Melies. Jazz wriggles in, as do cabaret, klezmer, avant garde, and pop stylings evocative of the early 20th century, sounding fresh on the brink of the 21st."
- Josef Woodard, Entertainment Weekly, Dec '99
"Johnston is a composer of considerable wit and seemingly boundless imagination. The wit, which permeates the music like the smell of good coffee does a cafe, mostly manifests itself in the unlikely textural combinations he draws from his band, The Transparent Quartet....Overall this has as much in common with, say, Erik Satie, as it has with jazz, and certainly the emphasis is on composition rather than improvisation – compositions which form a chain of constant surprises."
–John Shand, The Sydney Morning Herald, July 2000
"It's hard to say whether saxophonist-composer Johnston has a good ear for movies or a good eye for music. Either way, this CD of music for the silent films of George Méliès perfectly captures the humor of the French film pioneer's short, whimsical fantasies.... For instance, "Trip to the Moon" cycles through a march, a tango and a foxtrot, with quiet interludes for piano and vibes playing in a two-beat rhythm, but the melodies are full of angular leaps and little dissonances that are closer to the music at the turn of this century than the turn of the last one."
–Ed Hazell, Jazziz, December 2000
"During the last 15 years, improvisers have been putting their stamp on silent films. Johnston's been one of the field's leaders."
–Jim MacNie, Downbeat, March 2000
"Johnston has his own voice on the soprano saxophone – sweet, rich and a touch of mellowness...the tunes are a fine balance of the cerebral and the swinging – imagine the Modern Jazz Quartet playing Raymond Scott, or Thelonious Monk grooving with Igor Stravinsky after a wild night on the town."
–Mark Keresman, JazzReview.com/Muze, Jan 2000