Writings About Music

Red Licorice

A radio host at a local station, who was also a producer affiliated with a major label, enjoyed playing selections from my Hamoa album on his show, excited by the new sounds and forms, and then invited me to visit him at his studio. Once there, he asked if I would create an album related to Hamoa, but including dance music rhythms. It sounded like a fun challenge, and during the next few weeks of 1995, I composed a new piece, Topaz, and also prepared altered versions of Untitled, Black Pearl, Red Licorice and Razor Moonlight for the album.

After sending a copy to the producer, he invited me to meet him at a Santa Monica club one evening to discuss it. Once there, I spotted him, and approached to say hello. He had a terse look on his face, stating: It surprised me and turned away. My immediate impression at the time, perhaps mistaken, was that he was somehow offended by the vocal exclamations at the beginning and end of the title track. Regardless, I am grateful to him for inspiring me to create what remains a unique part of the Azure Miles Records 109 album oeuvre.

Every few years or so, I still get a kick out of listening to this album, ultimately named Topaz, with the concluding section of the title composition invariably conjuring the extended coda of Layla by Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and Jim Gordon, together with a court jester organ recalling sixties surf music. The orientation of my music for trumpet timbres, here and elsewhere, grew out of studying the recordings of Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Morgan, Chet Baker, Donald Byrd, and others I found to be the epitome of that instrumental tradition.

Topaz, the album, is not what it appears to be on the surface, or on a cursory listen, with elements of naiveté and introspection emerging from the aural brew together with a finely calibrated timbral palate. Worked on while deep into my studies with revered teacher Harihar Rao, the senior disciple of Ravi Shankar, whose other students included Don Ellis, Lalo Schifrin, Ed Shaughnessy, John Densmore and George Harrison, Columbo-touched listeners will detect Hindustani music (and jazz) influences appearing at surprising moments.







- Michael Robinson, May 2017, Los Angeles


© 2017 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).