In 1993, after having left Dog Neutral to find more vocal pastures, I'd pretty much given up any thoughts of working with those particular musicians again- at least for the time being. Much to my surprise Hyam Sosnow decided to reverse his staunch anti-vocal stance and the two of us set out to put something together.
During the first few months, the vocal idea stuck; we did a number of my newer songs, from Darkland Express, and also several cover songs, including "You Don't Love Me" (from Mayall and the Bluesbreakers "A Hard Road"), King Crimson's "Easy Money", and Deep Purple's "The Mule". We also worked on some of the instrumental pieces from Darkland Express. But when after a point it became obvious that we weren't going to find the rest of the band any time soon, we started to really concentrate on what we could do as a two-piece.We were recording everything- as usual- and so we also began to concentrate on new instrumentals, with arrangements suited to just the two players. Before long we began to see that we really could pull it off by ourselves without much difficulty. We even resurrected instrumentals from Cold Sky and Dog Neutral, the ones which I'd written either the melodies for or the entire song.
Hyam and I are big fans of Indian music, and we liked the idea of the tabla/sitar set-up transferred to the west as guitar and drums. We didn't have a name for the band yet, but wanted to find out if the Indian version was called anything in particular. One day at work Hyam asked a Pakistani fellow if he knew of such a term, and without blinking the man said "Jugalbandi", meaning an event with music played by two instruments, mostly improvised. Hyam suggested the name to me, I liked it, so now the band had a name- albeit one that few English-speaking people could pronounce without being told how.
In that first few months, we recorded some really superb stuff. One of the highlights was a new piece, "Uncle Sun", which clocked in at around 30 minutes. It was completely improvised to tape. Subsequent versions have remained predominantly improvised (probably only the first minute is structured, and average time remains at around 30 minutes).
Before we had time to develop any further, Jugalbandi phase one came to an abrupt end. The exact details escape me as to who found out first, but basically Leon and Barry both discovered what we were doing and demanded to know why they weren't involved. A meeting ensued where I laid it down to both of them: I had very specific ideas for what was and wasn't acceptable, what I wanted to do. Hyam had already agreed to them. They could agree and join or not agree and leave things as they were. This wasn't to be, as Leon thought, Dog Neutral with just me and Hyam. It was to be something very different, more a cross between Cold Sky and Dog Neutral. To my complete amazement, both of them agreed to my terms.
What followed was probably the best situation I have ever participated in, musically. Leon and I finally got a few compositional and ego snags straightened out between us, and for a few rehearsals there was a new Dog Neutral which was everything I'd ever wanted out of a band. It truly did feature the best elements of Cold Sky and Dog Neutral, and had it continued it would have been an amazing thing to hear.
Unfortunately, not long after this began, I was hit with a series of personal catastrophes so great that I was faced with a choice of continuing to stay in Los Angeles in total poverty and dependency, or the possibility of starting a new life somewhere else. Sometimes life has to come before art- no matter how militant we might like to be- and this was one of those times. There are only two things I regret about my decision to leave Los Angeles: leaving my family and friends behind and killing this band.
Hyam and I stayed in touch of course- the friendship goes beyond the music- but for obvious reasons we couldn't work together. Barry stayed in touch with Hyam for a while and Leon unfortunately dropped out of touch pretty quickly.
A few years after I relocated, Hyam and I tried a long distance experiment. He taped himself on drums, playing a part based on a musical impression of a word pulled out of the yellow pages at random: "Retirement". Meanwhile I improvised a couple of guitar tracks based on impressions of the same word. He then sent me the tape, which I transferred into my 4-track, onto the remaining 2 tracks, without having heard it first. The first time I heard it was when I transferred it in. Lo and behold, we sounded like we were in the same room, making the changes together. A very interesting and successful experiment.
That's where things stood until 1999. In May of that year Hyam came for a visit and brought his drums. I booked us a rehearsal studio and a gig. The gig was set up at a church as a benefit for a food bank. This gave us the opportunity to play as long as we wanted to, with no other bands on bill and plenty of time to set up for taping. We finally got to do some double drum pieces- two full kits, with both of us going at it, something we'd wanted to do since we'd started working together. There was one new piece with our standard drum/guitar set up. The vocals were dropped entirely, and for a change I was very happy with that, I didn't feel a need for it. We recorded at the studio and the gig, all live to 2-track DAT, and ended up getting good takes of the new stuff and really superb versions of some of the old material- a few were, in my opinion, definitive versions. The entire venture was successful enough that we planned on doing it again the following year.
So we did. In April of 2000 I went to L.A. with guitar and pedalboard and we recorded "Jugalbandi 2000", a 3 disc set culled from 7 hours of material. (These are: "The View Is Better From The Top Of The Food Chain", "Yellow Star Mailing List", and "The Cram And Stuff Method". For more info on these, please check out the Jugalbandi web site.)
Since the 2000 set, we have released 2 CDs from the 1999 sessions ("Jugalbandi: 1999" and "Jugalbandi: 1999 Deep Cuts"); and in October of 2003, we recorded 4 more discs ("Night Crazy", "Laydown Delivery", "Bid For Legitimacy", and "Mount Pinatubo Sunsets"). "Jugalbandi Classic", featuring performances from 1993, came out a few years after the release of the '03 sessions. And there are a couple of projects on the drawing board that will be unusual even for us. This page won't be updated that often- follow the home site at jugalbandi-music.com and stay tuned for further developments. That is all. We now return to our regularly scheduled program.
Illustration: photo of the ITC model kit "Neanderthal Man with Skeleton", from "Classic Plastic" by Rick Polizzi, with musical additions drawn in by GS. This was used on the flyers for the Jugalbandi food bank benefit show.
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