Is that really legal?
“Psychedelia, Progressive Rock, Folk and Free Jazz in One Box!”
Miloš Latislav Interviews Clint Bahr
23. 3. 2023
"Clint Bahr, one of the Greatest, Long-standing, Pioneering, Gracious, Influencing, Enduring and Hard Working 12 String Bass Players in the World
Miloš: New York bassist, singer and multi-instrumentalist Clint Bahr was twenty years ago a member of the wild free-rock trio TriPod, whose eponymous album was one of the first titles of the MoonJune Records label (other TriPod members were saxophonist Keith Gurland and drummer Steve Romano). In the spring of 2022, Clint released the album Puzzlebox on MoonJune Records, which features a very diverse line-up of musicians: ex-members of the legendary progressive rock bands King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and Flash as well as personalities of the avant-garde jazz scene. Clint and I talked about the album and other connections in an email interview.
Clint Bahr has worked in concert and on studio projects such as Andromeda, 40 Familys (he particularly appreciates this line-up with his long-time partner, drummer Billy Ficca), Menage á Trois, and Eartha Kitt. He also recorded the song “One More Red Nightmare” for the eponymous album tribute to King Crimson. In 2021, he received a grant from the New York City Artist Corps to lead a concert of free improvisation at Pyramid Studios. Videos of three songs from the evening are on his YouTube channel.
The new album is the first output of Bahr's changeable project Puzzlebox. He invited three members of the prog rock band Flash from the early 70s: original Yes guitarist Peter Banks (who died in 2013 and is represented by one guitar solo sent to Bahr by his friend and Banks' manager George Mizer), drummer Mike Hough and singer Colin Carter. Other participants in the colorful puzzle are saxophonist and flautist David Jackson (VDGG), violinist David Cross (King Crimson), drummer Billy Ficca (Television), renowned (free) jazz pianist Marilyn Crispell, trombonist Dick Griffin (Sun Ra, Roland Kirk), saxophonist and oboist Jeff Schiller (The Roots), and sitar and violin player Dan Parkington (Andromeda).
What were Bahr's musical beginnings like?
Clint: I became a professional musician in 1968, when I was only fourteen years old. We won the Battle of the Bands with my old musical partner Dan Parkington, who plays violin and sitar on my album. Since then, I have gone through countless different projects in areas such as rock, jazz, folk, avant-garde, free jazz, cabaret, etc. It's not unlike the diversity of Puzzlebox.
In the early '70s, I moved from Eastham, Massachusetts to London. I found the British music scene much more interesting than what was happening in the States, with a few exceptions. London was a complete hotbed back then. There was so much music coming from there, it was just amazing. After rehearsals, I went to the Marquee Club and carried a bass case with me, so I rarely paid the entrance fee, which was only 50 pence at the time! The first band I made contact with was Flash. We became friends and we still are today. Sadly, guitarist Pete Banks (ex-Yes) left us... I miss him a lot! The next meeting was Wild Turkey with bassist Glenn Cornick (ex-Jethro Tull). He was a great guy and we also became good friends. So I met and jammed with a lot of really wonderful musicians and amazing people... Those were great times!
Miloš: Bahr was at one time even a member of Flash, who released the comeback album Flash featuring Ray Bennett and Colin Carter in 2013.
Clint: I joined them in their reincarnation between 2008 and 2009 and then I had the idea to create Puzzlebox as a band that would play half free improvisation and half composed songs. Mike Hough and I also played on Colin Carter’s solo debut, ‘One’.
Miloš: Harmonium, Acoustic Guitars, Piano and Theremin, plus various trinkets in addition to 12, 8 & 4 string basses, and sings on five of the twelve tracks. His vocal performance is somewhere between John Lennon, John Wetton and David Bowie. He is the author of all compositions except for three collective improvisations, in the spirit of adventurous psychedelic free jazz. In them, Clint plays mainly the Stick and his teammates include Marilyn Crispell, Dick Griffin and Jeff Schiller, among others.
Where did he meet these jazz personalities?
Clint: Marilyn Crispell is a dear friend of mine who I've known since the mid-seventies, when we both lived and made music in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where I grew up. I met Dick Griffin here in NYC on a bus trip. We chatted and became friends. Jeff Schiller is a great guy I've known for over 30 years from the New York music scene. This year we will be working together on a new record of Puzzlebox.
I rotate and use certain instruments because of their different sound qualities for each recording. It's a confluence of circumstances that, for example, I used the Stick on the album in improvisations. It was a natural choice for “Plate” and “As Tympani Melt In The Greek Heat”, as its wide tonal range blends really well with piano, trombone, woodwinds and violin. I used different basses in composed pieces because of their heavy rock nature. The songs themselves usually dictate what instrument needs to be played.
Miloš: In addition to the four songs and two short atmospheric instrumentals, the album is completed by the opening and closing drone miniature Tabula Rasa 1 and 2 with tambura, sitar, flute and violin, the short psychedelic “Oslo” with Stephanie Feyne reciting, and the beautiful acid-folk piece “Lifeguard in the Rain” with harmonium, acoustic guitar and oboe.
“Tabula Rasa 1 & 2” frame the album and feature David Cross, David Jackson and Dan Parkington. Their relaxing nature is on the opposite end of the dynamic spectrum from the above-mentioned rock songs.
Clint: The themes of the lyrics are rather dark, dealing with nuclear domination (“New Design”), child abuse (“Shelter”), prostitution (“Fall From Grace”), loneliness (“Lifeguard In The Rain”), sex in politics (“Kicking The Wasp's Nest”), and infidelity (“Oslo”). The lyrics will soon be published on www.puzzlebox.band.
Miloš: The sound and genre diversity of the album directly evokes the listener's attention and although the first impression may be somewhat disorderly, after a few attentive listens you can fall in love with the diversity. Despite all the ingredients that Bahr put into his Puzzlebox, or perhaps because of them, we can call this a progressive rock work in the pure sense of this expression.
Clint: Puzzlebox is a complete album from start to finish. I didn't plan to focus on a single style. I wanted the record to be half vocals and half instrumentals, to put it together in such a way that it was a flow of sound and atmosphere. Also, the keys vary as much as possible from song to song to make the experience more interesting for the listener. Whoever listens to the album in its entirety will experience the flow of how one song connects with another. And that's how the record is supposed to be heard.
Miloš: Finally, I asked Clint if he knew any musicians from the former Czechoslovakia and if he had any message for Czech listeners and readers:
Clint: Yes. Although I don't know him personally, I'm a big fan of Czech bassist Miroslav Vitous from Weather Report - he's an amazing musician! The Czech Republic is the only country in the region where I haven't played yet. I toured Europe several times and performed in all the countries near yours, but surprisingly no one arranged for me to play in the Czech Republic. I would really like to perform there and meet the people, I hope it will work out. In conclusion, I want to thank you for this interview and warmly greet your listeners and readers... I'm sending love from New York City!!!
“It is a fascinating project with lots of intriguing music to absorb. Congratulations on achieving something experimental and innovative in a challenging musical climate!”
Interview CLINT BAHR for Highlands Magazine, France
Questions by Marie MESMER
Marie: Hello Clint BAHR, I have just reviewed your album Puzzlebox, a marvel of surprises from title to title. To get to know you better, tell us about your story since the beginnings with TRIPOD and your musical itinerary since 2003.
Clint: Thanks Marie!
TriPod was just one cog in a very long musical career that has included a variety of genres (rock, jazz, folk, cabaret, big band, experimental, blues, to name a few).
Since then, I’ve been busy with multiple acts, performing, recording, and composing.
Puzzlebox is the culmination of many diverse musical experiences.
It’s great to come full circle with my friend Leonardo and MoonJune Records – having both TriPod and Puzzlebox on the label.
Marie: When was the recording of Kicking The Wasp's Nest with Peter BANKS, which is revived on your album?
Clint: Pete and I were old friends from the early London ‘70’s, along with Colin Carter & Mike Hough (Flash). I wanted to pay tribute to Pete on the album. My good friend George Mizer (Pete’s manager) supplied me with his brilliant recorded solo. Pete’s spirit was with me in the studio when we tracked “Kicking the Wasp’s Nest”.
Marie: Over how many years was the recording of your album PUZZLEBOX?
Clint: It was a very long process, for sure. The recording began in late December 2017 and finished in 2021 due to the musicians’ schedules and the fact that recordings occurred in the USA & UK. Not to mention the complications of COVID-19 sweeping through our world.
Marie: Are you talking about your three beautiful improvisations Plate, As Tympani Melt In The Greek Heat and Triangles, Circles And Squares, how did you organize everything?
Clint: The improvs were just that, music made in the moment with no script or discussion. I chose to put various instrumentation together for these tracks so that it would be an interesting balance.
All of the players are my friends, musicians of the highest caliber…top of their class. Improv is an unspoken language amongst us.
Marie: On what criteria did you choose your 12 guest musicians?
Clint: For this album, I wanted an eclectic array of sounds, instruments, rhythms, tones, and atmospheres. I asked musicians whose artistry and sensibility I love and trusted to be open to creating such an album.
I am honored to share the record with them.
It’s a happy coincidence that there are 12 musicians and 12 tracks.
Marie: Sublime instruments run through your album, you play a lot of instruments nevertheless, for fun, tell us which instruments you don't play?
Clint: Haaaaa…I don’t play brass, but I do like to dabble on various instruments when recording an album. I was able to play over 20 individual instruments on Puzzlebox. In addition, I relished performing all the percussion on the record – some of my favorite moments.
Marie: Tabula Rasa 1 and Tabula Rasa 2 opens and closes the album giving it its multidimensional prog-rock colors in formats of excellent compositions. In your opinion, what do the improvisations in Puzzlebox bring, compared to the compositions?
Clint: To me, improvisation is the freedom, communication, and the love of being in the moment -speaking with each other without talking. Whereas the compositions are structured and thought through. So, I like having the two entities side by side…it’s a nice balance.
Marie: Do you have other album projects in preparation, as well as stage projects?
Clint: Yes, Puzzlebox is not only an album, it’s also a band. It is an international collection of artists that allows for structure and flexibility in performances. We will record and tour.
Clint: There is a Puzzlebox EP that will be released later this year – with a different line up – recorded “Live” in the studio for the City of New York. Three eclectic improv instrumentals…lots of fun!
New Yorker Clint Bahr and Moonjune Records' relationship goes all the way back to the early days of Leonardo Pavkovic's label. The bassist/singer/multi-instrumentalist was the captain of the power trio TriPod and the album named after the band was Moonjune's fourth release in 2003. Bahr and his label boss celebrate their 20-year union with “Puzzlebox”. Bahr collaborates with 11 fellow musicians from the progressive and avant rock world (such as former King Crimson violinist David Cross and former Van Der Graaf Generator saxophonist David Jackson), as well as from free jazz circles (such as pianist Marilyn Crispell). We assume that Bahr has collected these recordings, which sound quite raw at times, over the years, because original Yes guitarist Peter Banks can also be heard and we lost him 10 years ago. The musical material can be divided into short sketches, longer (free jazz) improvisations and song-like material. If you want to give a reference for the latter group of songs, it is to the last months of Van Der Graaf, at the time of the live album “Vital”, when Hammill spit his lyrics with a raw throat over partly quite distorted instruments: punk prog, but with absolutely subtle and thoughtful sides. Just listen to “Fall From Grace”, on which Bahr himself can be heard on no less than 3 different bass guitars (with 12, 8 and 4 strings respectively), as well as acoustic guitar, Mellotron, Moog Taurus pedals and percussion. The Graham Smith-like violin part is not by David Cross, but by Dan Parkington.
Inextricably linked to the label, the 2003 self-titled debut of Clint Barr's seminal NYC-based power trio, Tripod, was MoonJune Record's fourth release. Harkening back to the same "reaching beyond" mentality which defined the work, Puzzlebox - bassist / vocalist / composer / multi-instrumentalist Barr's long-awaited epic - is a fitting way to document this most special of occasions: seeing both artist and label going full circle, and in grandiose style!
Delightfully blurring both stylistic and structural approaches, the tight-knit unit Barr has assembled proves as unpredictable as they are adept, articulate and convicted. Described as "a genre-defying global collaboration of artists; a cross-pollination of diverse instruments and talents," Puzzlebox recalls prog in its early heydays: when albums as uninhibited and offscript as King Crimson's Lizard and Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica were celebrated, and the Canterbury renaissance was in full swing. Brilliantly arranged and produced, Clint Barr has delivered a multi-faceted, timeless epic ... at such a time as this.
CLINT BAHR's Puzzlebox’s release culminates a 20-year relationship between Clint Bahr and Leonardo Pavkovic, as TriPod’s eponymous CD was the fourth album released on MoonJune Records in 2003.
Puzzlebox is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Clint Bahr (former member of TriPod, Andromeda & Flash).
Puzzlebox is a rock band, a multidimensional “Tabula Rasa” in both compositional and improvisational formats.
Puzzlebox is a genre-defying global collaboration of artists, a cross-pollination of diverse instruments and talents.
Clint Bahr - basses & vocals (TriPod)
Peter Banks - guitar (Yes)
Colin Carter - vocals (Flash)
Marilyn Crispell - piano (Pharoah Sanders, Anthony Braxton)
David Cross- violins (King Crimson)
Stephanie Feyne - dialogue (The Dotes)
Billy Ficca - drums (Television)
Dick Griffin - trombone (Sun Ra, Roland Kirk)
Mike Hough - drums (Flash)
David Jackson - woodwinds (Van der Graaf Generator)
Dan Parkington - sitar & violin (Andromeda)
Jeff Schiller - woodwinds (The Roots)
Delightfully blurring both stylistic and structural approaches, the tight-knit unit Bahr has assembled proves as unpredictable as they are adept, articulate and convicted. Described as "a genre-defying global collaboration of artists; a cross-pollination of diverse instruments and talents," Puzzlebox recalls prog in its early heydays: when albums as uninhibited and off script as King Crimson's Lizard and Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica were celebrated, and the Canterbury renaissance was in full swing.
Brilliantly arranged and produced, Clint Bahr has delivered a multi-faceted, timeless epic ... at such a time as this.
Inextricably linked to MoonJune Records, the 2003 self-titled debut of Clint Bahr's seminal NYC-based power trio, TriPod, was the label's fourth release. Harkening back to the same "reaching beyond" mentality which defined the work, Puzzlebox - bassist / vocalist / composer / multi-instrumentalist Bahr's long-awaited epic - is a fitting way to document this most special of occasions: seeing both artist and label going full circle, and in grandiose style!