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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lazy Sunday Afternoon disc - Alan Seidler's "The Duke of Ook" on Blue Goose

Alan Seidler first attracted widespread attention in 1975 with his Blue Goose LP The Duke of Ook. On its cover, an unflattering caricature by R. Crumb gave the impression that Seidler was a frowsy nut-ball, and his "Oozing Cyst Blues" seemed to bear out that assumption. Years later, the Albany Records release of The Mystic Trumpeter: Vocal and Choral Works 1990-2006 and the posting of Seidler's own online biographical musings revealed a profoundly poetic and philosophically inclined individual. A life-long non-Unconformist, Seidler grew up in the '50s, received piano tuition at home, and began composing at the age of seven. One primary influence was Frederic Chopin. By the time he was ten he had inadvertently emulated Darius Milhaud by penning 21 short symphonies and three very brief operas. Thanks largely to his grandmothers, young Seidler also fell under the sway of early 20th century popular music. At 17 he enrolled at Juilliard where he majored in composition, learned orchestration, wrote art songs, studied music theory with Vincent Persichetti, and devised an overture in the form of an homage to Charles Ives.
Encountering considerable opposition to his setting of Walt Whitman's The Last Invocation, Seidlerresponded with Tracks for Orchestra, a challenging work of gargantuan proportions. Tiring of the constraints inherent in musical academia, he began collaborating with renegade musicians and creative theatrical artists, coming up with dissonant vocal contortionist works like Why Cover Pigeonholes with Fortuna? Although Sonnet, the first of his collaborations with poet Timothy Aurthur, was well received at Alice Tully Hall, inside Juilliard, Seidler's deliberately iconoclastic works met with considerable resistance. His final Juilliard opus, Three Profundities for Screaming Unison Chorus, was angrily dismissed by Elliott Carter as "the worst piece of music ever written in the State of New York."
After more or less getting himself thrown out of one of the most prestigious music schools in the country, Seidler indulged in his favorite pastime which consisted of playing piano in bars while singing like an old-time vaudeville tenor. He also absorbed live jazz in the clubs, played a lot of intermission piano, and appeared regularly as guest musicologist on WBAI FM, discussing antiquated pop music with Ian Whitcomb. According to music historian Stephen CaltSeidler was the original co-composer of Al Green's gospel hit "God Is Standing By," but lost out when his collaborator Jeff Dews sold the song to Johnnie Taylor for 50bucks. In 1972, after creating a new score for F.W. Murnau's classic vampire film Nosferatu, Seidler signed a six-year contract with Nick Perls and his Yazoo subsidiary Blue Goose Records, and teamed up with John Fahey to back British vocalist Jo Ann Kelly on two old-time blues tunes, Bo Carter's "Pigmeat Blues" and Lucille Bogan's "Tricks Ain't Walking No More." He also sat in with composer and ragtime piano legend Eubie Blake. In 1974, he presented a vaudeville revue at Carnegie Hall and recorded a solo piano album for Takoma Records, Morning Impromptus/Evening Bacchanals, but it was only released on eight-track tape. (NoB-that's why it's sooo rare!!!)
Seidler's first nationally observed achievement was his neo-vaudeville and blues album The Duke of Ook, released on Blue Goose in January 1975. In addition to "Never oh Never Whatever You Do, Sing a Gorilla Song" (composed in 1963) and several delights co-written by Aurthur (including "Oozing Cyst Blues" and "Oozin' Just Oozin' for You"), this cult classic contained several examples of Seidler's personal language ("Puv Hooves," "Fash," "What Sort of a Vuv," and "The Universal Uk"), which cropped up in other works like Cast into the Flowing Pea Soup of Vonaglona and Three Mute Kaws. Years later, The Duke of Ook appeared on CD in a pricey Japanese bootleg edition, and the first authorized reissue was slated to appear in late 2009. After providing backup support on recordings by Rory Block (1976) and Roy Bookbinder (1977), Seidler composed music for Broadway and Off-Broadway theatrical productions including C.V. Peters ' murder mystery R (1977) and Julia Cameron's Public Lives (1983).

Nick Perls was a genius... and his Blue Goose label a goldmine.

I gave a listen to my mint vinyl original copy today, after decades... WOW!

What a disc, folks... living ragtime and vaudeville: amusing, witty, entertaining... and what a recording!

... and "what" a cover, too... by Robert Crumb, also a Nick Perls' affiliate with his "Cheap Suits Serenaders".


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