February 24, 2014

Hotel X >> Flute routes

Hotel X - "Iqbal"
(SST Records, 1997)

I wrote most of this post in 2012 or '13 but never posted it.  I got this album, Routes Music, on used CD in '97 for 2 bucks on a whim and found myself smitten by its haphazard blending of styles into a cohesive subtropical gumbo.  This was not long after I had spent a year at the University of Richmond in Hotel X's hometown.  The name of their first album, A Random History Of The Avant Groove, sums up their aesthetic quite well.  I once did an internet search for the band name (pre-Google... I have no idea what search engine I used back then), and I remember that it was a reference to some movie.  This piece is presumably named after Muhammad Iqbal, who helped create the 6th-most populous country on earth, Pakistan.


The coolest thing in my opinion was that SST signed a band like this.  I'm sure the SST logo is the reason I even picked the CD up and inspected it in the first place.  I only ever got one other album by Hotel X, Residential Suite (1994), but didn't like it very much.  Post-1997, the band is still sporadically together, but they seem to only perform live, not release new music.  Based on the insanely huge amount of people who have done time in the Hotel (62, says their website), it must've been some sort of revolving-door collective, apparently always led by Tim Harding.  To see the full list, click here.

Time to cut and paste...  On this album the band was:
Tim Harding: alto sax, bass
Ron Curry: bass, guitar, trombone
Chris Davis: drums
Pat Best: guitar, bass
Eric Ungar: guitar, flute

With guests:
Billy Fox: timbales, percussion
Steve Matthews: vibes

According to their website, "Hotel X toured regionally and nationally between 1992 and 1997, received reviews in Jazz Times, The Washington Post, Option, The Wire and Alternative Press among others; was nominated for Best Jazz Group by NAIRD (National Association of Independent Record Distributors) in 1996, and participated in the JVC Jazz Festival in NYC, 1997. National Public Radio selected soundbites of several songs from the Hotel X CD Engendered Species for use between news stories during Morning Edition in 1994. Richmond Magazine awarded Hotel X with the Pollack Prize for Excellence in Arts in September of 2005."
And "Hotel X has shared the stage with Bern Nix (Ornette Coleman and Primetime), Greg Ginn (Black Flag), Balla Kouyate (Super Rail Band), Papa Susso (Gambian kora master),The Roots, Gary Lucas (Captain Beefheart, solo), Harvey Sorgen (Hot Tuna), Yellowman, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Ran Blake, Hasidic New Wave, Marc Ribot, Plunky Branch, Wayne Horvitz and Pigpen, Amy Denio, John Bradshaw and Bazooka, just to name a few."

Their website has a photo titled "The Routes Music line up" at the URL http://www.hotelxband.com/page12/files/collage_lb_image_page12_13_1.png, but it won't load.  Oh well.  I prefer to not see what bands look like anyway.  So here's the highly memorable, primitivist album cover:


Here's a great pic I found on Tumblr recently.  If anyone knows what it's from, let me know:


Planets with similar climates: Frank Zappa - "Peaches en Regalia" (1969), maybe some Yusef Lateef (R.I.P.) due to the flute, Gil Scott-Heron, Fela Kuti, '70s Miles Davis, etc.

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