Album: Recollections: Volume 1
Artist: Robert Slap
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of writing about Robert Slap’s mystical journey of an album entitled, Atlantis Trilogy: Brave New World. Now, with the release of his new recording Recollections: Volume 1, I’m equally enthused. While the Atlantis Trilogy album was a trip into the mists of the ancient past, Recollections: Volume 1 also does a bit of time traveling, although not quite so far back. Robert has been a prolific recording artist and performer, and last year marked his 50th anniversary in the music industry. This new album is a 12-song collection of instrumental tunes recorded over the last several years, along with a couple of gems from earlier recordings.
Robert’s history in the music world is quite diverse, evolving through a number of different genres over the years. I must say, as a fellow guitarist of around the same age, I feel somewhat of a kindred spirit with Robert, having both grown up on soul, R&B, and Motown (he in Detroit and me in Philly), later transitioning into rock, jazz, and funk, and eventually into new age music. However, Robert’s credits and experience are quite impressive, to say the least. Starting with the early days, Robert has toured with The Animals, Dave Clark 5, Herman’s Hermits, Bob Seger, Mitch Ryder, MC5, The Drifters, and David Ruffin of The Temptations, among others. Although, a change in direction occurred in 1982 when Robert went on to spend 10 years as music director at Valley of the Sun Publishing in Malibu, CA. who handled recordings in the then-fledgling new age music genre. Robert’s interest in Atlantis began at that time and he released the first two albums of The Atlantis Trilogy back then which put him on the map as an early artist in new age music. Now, at this point in his career, Robert has accrued over 40 album credits.
With regard to his new album, Robert shared: “The music is a collection of some favorite tunes that I have written, but not connected in any way, just a recollection and reflection on the different styles and moods I have been in, and just kind of waiting for the time to bring this out. Much of this material was developed through live performance while others were derived from my work with film and video soundtracks. It has always been hard to describe my music since I crossover many styles in my compositions. You will hear elements of jazz, world, rock, electronic and film music on this recording.” He went on to say: “I have always tried to bring a lot of “Soul” into my music. What that means may be different for other people, but I try to evoke that spiritual element through my playing. Growing up in Detroit made it easy to feel the soul in music…that magical quality that touches people in their heart.”
I’m always interested in an artist’s creative process and inspiration, so when I asked Robert about his, he replied: “I try to focus on the positive as much as possible, although growing older tends to make one a bit more cynical, I am still an optimist at heart, and a child of the 60’s peace generation. Music comes to me in melodic spurts either while sleeping or driving, so I’ve always traveled with sheet music so I can write it down before I forget. I have to turn off the world around me to focus on the inner voices that still speak to me. I have always been a creative artist type, and have delved into music, theatre, and other forms of art. I’ve never really had any other ambitions except to follow my heart.”
And there is certainly a lot of heart and soul in the music on Robert’s new album. Track 1, entitled “Looking Glass” kicks things off on an upbeat jazzy note that is sure to get your toe tapping. In addition to Robert’s tasteful guitar rhythms and solo, this song, as well as others on the album, features long-time collaborator Bray Ghiglia on flute, with a solid rhythm section of bass and drums providing the groove. Robert often opens his live set with this song, so it felt natural to put it first on the album. The term “East meets West” could best describe the next song, which is entitled “Zen Morning.” Robert cites Ryuichi Sakamoto and Charles Lloyd as having influenced his music in this blend of jazz and Asian sounds, with Bray Ghiglia’s smooth sax adding a sensual vibe to the mix. On a jazz-fusion track called “Tsunami” Robert gets funky and does it on his own, playing all the parts, including keyboards, drum programming, guitar synthesizer, and more. Back in the 80’s Robert was one of the few guitarists using the guitar-synth, along with Pat Metheney, Robert Fripp, and Alan Holdsworth.
One of the many things I like about Robert’s music is the way he adds dashes of world music influences into his jazzy compositions – just enough to provide a bit of exotic flavor without it trying to be an authentic indigenous sound. A few examples are “Sahara,” whose inspiration can be guessed from the title, “Carnaval,” reflects the spirit of this festival celebrated all over the world from Rio to New Orleans, and “Lateral Movement,” whose percussive energy and flute reminded me a bit of Indonesian gamelan music. While Robert plays all the instruments on many of the pieces, on others such as this, his 12 string and synth-guitar are accompanied by special guests such as flutist Suzanne Arthur, Karl Schaffner on fretless bass, and Marie Matson on marimba/percussion. I was particularly aware of Robert’s compositional skills on a track called “Voodoo” which flows through three distinct movements and includes some very tasteful guitar playing, from funky to floating. I also really liked the compositional structure of “Voyager,” which had the feel of a film soundtrack.
Also reflecting a bit of Eastern vibe is “Aspara (Angel Dance)” which is Robert’s interpretation of one the ancient dances of Siam, the Dance of the Angels, and is one of the quieter, more meditative tracks on the album. Coming from a somewhat different perspective to bring the album to a grand finale is “Pas De Deux,” which Robert imagined as a contemporary modern dance duet when he wrote it. He also cited the influence of Tangerine Dream on this song and his music in general, which is evident in the more electronic soundscape ambiance of the piece, compared to some of the jazzier tracks.
Recollections is a masterful mélange of diverse musical flavors. I loved the intertwining roots of Robert’s guitar styles, which incorporated jazz, rock, fusion, ambient electronic, and world music. And I was as impressed with Robert’s flair for composition and arranging, as I was with his impeccable guitar playing. I’ll leave the final words to Robert who shares his personal perspective by saying: “Music is made to generate emotional response; life is a tapestry of ever-changing moods, colors, textures, and emotion. It reflects life and touches our souls’ strings, pulling feelings out with passion into the open. It is the only medium through which I can truly express my innermost feelings.”
Click the links below to hear samples, and/or purchase this album: