Back in the Day (1970s & 80s)

A selection of some of the solo and ensemble work I was doing back in the day.

The Great Accumulation (Live)

(July 2, 1989) Live performance by Terrain, with Eternal Wind, in the Elizabeth Park Rose Garden, West Hartford, Connecticut. Personnel—Tim Wolf, sanza; Adam Rudolph, tabla; Eric Segal, electric bass; Sue Fisher, keyboard; Anon, keyboard; Ralph “Buzzy” Jones, bass clarinet; Charles Moore, trumpet; Fredrico Ramos, electric guitar.

I first composed and recorded this as a solo piece in 1981 (listen below). Since that time I’ve performed it with various ensembles, including this performance in an outdoor concert I produced to interpret studio projects done as a duo with a larger, live ensemble. I invited the Los Angeles-based ensemble Eternal Wind to share the concert with us. The two groups joined together to perform this piece.

Despite the limitations of the live mix, the music shines through. It deserves a full listen to hear the wonderfully understated solos by Charles Moore on trumpet, Freddy Ramos on electric guitar and Buzzy Jones on bass clarinet.

This concert was funded by grants from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts and the Evelyn Preston Memorial Concert Fund.

Mbira Berimbau

(1987) Tim Wolf: sanza, vocal; Tony Vacca: balafon, blekete drum, talking drum; Tim Moran: alto flute.

Over several years I had the privilege of performing and recording with Tony Vacca and Tim Moran. This is one of my pieces that we would perform. After playing on their LP, “City Spirits” with Don Cherry, they returned the favor and came into the studio to record this piece with me.

Fast Walking Sanza

(1986) Sanza (thumb piano) x 3

Mbira, sanza, likembe, whatever type of African thumb piano it is, this is representative of the style of music I was always drawn to make on these instruments: repetitive cyclic phases. Improvised for the most part. This piece was recorded with three, perhaps four, tracks on a wonderful sanza a friend picked up up for me at Benin African Imports in Los Angeles in the early eighties. Sometimes I would bolt it to a large, empty cooking oil can or prop it inside a large calabash as a resonator.

The Great Accumulation (original)

(1981) Sanza, likembe, Appalachian dulcimer, alto and tenor saxophone

My original four-track recording of this piece done at Cal Arts. A live version can be heard further up on this page.

Pandemonium (udito-ium)

(1978) Tim Wolf: alto sax, khaen, steel tube; Tom Taplin: camera; Robert Grasmere: sound.

After seeing a performance piece of mine at the California Institute of the Arts in early 1979, CalArts film student Tom Taplin asked me to collaborate on what he hoped would be a larger work around the idea of “pandemonium.” In the performance Tom had seen, I was playing saxophone while dancing on stilts. I extended on that performance with a variety of costumes and instrumentation.

Tom selected the historic, yet deteriorating, art deco entrance of the Pan Pacific Auditorium in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles as the location—one that became an integral part of this series of three short improvisations.

Tom kindly made a 3/4 inch video copy of the raw 16mm black & white footage for me at the time. Over three decades later I had the videotape digitized and finally made a basic edit of the film in 2018. I have no idea if Tom ever did anything else with this film.

Tragically, Tom died in an accident in 2015 that could be expressed by the word pandemonium. I hope this more youthful Pandemonium is a better expression of creative collaboration that Tom can be remembered by.

This video can also be viewed on YouTube.

Fort Warden Sax Solo

(1978) Tim Wolf: alto sax; Elliot Porter: video.

In the summer of 1978, I went to work for my friend Elliot Porter who was the director of Montana Media, a video content producer in Western Montana. I was part of the crew. That summer, we travelled to Fort Worden State Park on the tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula to tape readings and interviews with poets at the Centrum Writers’ Conference.

When we weren’t taping writers, we were on the lookout for opportunities to record unique projects, and I usually had my saxophone handy. One afternoon, I descended into a dark, 200 foot diameter underground cistern (today known as the Dan Harpole Cistern) to play my sax in an ethereal space with a 45-second reverberation time. It was a profound experience, but not one easily recorded to video.

Still keen to record, we walked a stone’s throw from the cistern to the old Fort Warden bunkers, and this is where the recording you are listening to took place.

It was recorded in two takes with a single shotgun microphone on 3/4 inch U-matic tape. A digital transfer was done in 2016. The quality of the audio and video show signs of magnetic tape deterioration. My thanks to Elliot for holding on to the tape all these years and sharing it with me.

The music, and the movement, is improvised.

This video can be viewed on YouTube.

Rahsaan Rolling Kelp

(1978) Tim Wolf: copper pipe with tube kelp; Elliot Porter: video.

On the way to the Olympic Peninsula in the summer of 1978 (see description of Fort Warden Sax Solo on this page,) my friend Elliot Porter and I stopped at the Boeing surplus store outside Seattle where I picked up an array of scrap metal, including a length of copper pipe, to make into instruments.

During our time at Fort Worden, we headed to the beach where I found a piece of tube kelp washed up on the shore. I attached this to the end of the newly acquired copper pipe and with a saxophone mouthpiece improvised an homage to the great instrumental innovator and seeker, Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

This was recorded in a single take on 3/4 inch U-matic tape. A digital transfer was done in 2016. Again, thanks to Elliot for holding on to the tape all these years. And thanks to whomever provided the Japanese umbrella.

This video can also be viewed on YouTube.