Evoking The Past And The Present In Word

Miguel Algarin and Albey Balgochian's Soul To Sol Reveals All

Soul to Sol (Ruby Flower Records, 2011) is the premiere release on the Ruby Flower Records label from Nuyorican (New York-Puerto Rican) poet Miguel Algarin and bassist Albey Balgochian.

Ruby Flower Records, a label that includes Cecil Taylor and Balgochian (who is also Taylor's bassist) as Artistic Directors, is releasing  the first album by Balgochian and the important Puerto Rican poet Miguel Algarin. The album is of spoken word and bass, and each piece was recorded in one take. Algarin's expressive poetry, spoken by the poet himself, is accompanied by the bends, squeals and percussive sounds of Balgochian's bass in a cohesive aural fusion of New York and world-wide life and experiences.

The record features a number of shorter pieces with perhaps the most highly visible being a description by Algarin of a visit to William Burrough's place, entitled "61 Year Old Junkie". From the opening, where Algarin relates how he and his friend stood outside the bell-less Borrough's residence and shouted up to the  author in his "morphine-bathed and hydrochloric acid balance". They enter the "author's haven", engage with Burroughs, and ultimately exit into the street afterwards, leaving a living picture of the experience on the album.

Meanwhile, unlike in the case of the other pieces on the album, Balgochian's sliding bass almost disappears from the consciousness as Algarin's story leaps from the speakers. However, as the visitors enter the night air at the end, Balgochian leaves the seven minute piece with high pitched harmonics, perfectly matching the fading street scene of the poet.

Algarin is an Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Rutger's University and a leading literary figure in America. He was a friend of the play-write Miguel Pinero, whose famous play "Short Eyes" was the first by a Puerto Rican to be put on Broadway. He founded the award-winning Nuyorican Poets Cafe in Manhattan in 1973 (with Pinero). The album will be premiered there.

Balgochian is a magician of the bass, conjuring vibrato-ed harmonics and groaning slides from his instrument that echo both the avant-garde string quartet of the German composer Von Biehl, (performed at the Darmstadt Festival in 1963 and which sounds like an advance carbon copy of Jimi Hendrix's later sounds), and Hendrix himself. His bass on the album also frequently accompanies Algarin percussively, as on the track "Relish"/"Body Be Calling", where Algarin refers to "broken American flags torn by the acid corruption of state".

The last phrase highlights a facet of Algarin's art, the insertion of similar-soundng but far more descriptive words: in print, "acid" is of course usually accompanied by the word "corrosion", but here the word "corruption" fits perfectly. Associative words and alliteration also stand out in Algarin's poetry, as current social ills are addressed and warnings made about them. The vision of a nations's flag eaten in at the sides by self-interested corruptive influences is a strong one.

The Spanish word "sentir" (spanish for "to feel") introduces 'Sabrosura" ("tastiness" or "pleasure"), which is accompanied by Balgochian's Hendrix-style slides and high-pitched harmonics. Another Spanish piece is "Un Desafio".

"Fiery Saxophonist/Dematerialization"is another major piece. Algarin speaks of the problems of communication, with superb sliding bass and harmonics from Balgochian, vibrato here, then a slide. Algarin again utilizes word repetition, shuffling the same word across different meanings, for example "understanding that standing under struts...", and so on. This kind of literary device also adds extra unity to a piece, almost like a musical melodic phrase or sequence. "See me and love yourself, see me and see yourself... see yourself and see me..." adds Algarin.

"But With A Difference" opens with a big Hendrix-style bend, then fades to quiet to let the poetry begin. There is alliteration, then percussion from the bass.

Music and spoken word collide in adventurous and questioning expositions on "Soul to Sol", which like its title includes considerations of both the soul and the physical and sensory aspects of life. The album is sonically challenging and pleasing. Miguel Algarin and Albey Balgochian have recorded an album that contains plentiful reminders of what it is to be free as an individual, and to have the freedom to express what you will how you will.

Tracks: Relish/Body Be Calling; Sabrosura; Materialization; Life; Un Desafio; Nuyorican Angel Voice/Don't Busy My Desires; Fiery Saxophonist/Dematerialization; 61 Year Old Junkie; Mientras Morazan; Allegro Brillante; Fear; Miedo; But With a Difference; A Tres Vaqueros; Proem lll; Y En Los Eeuu/Aunque Ya; Life/Slight Return   
Personnel: Miguel Algarin, voice; Albey Balgochian, bass



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Simon J Harper