Friday, 16 August 2019


Looking yet again at Woodstock for its 50th anniversary, I was struck by the full lineup of musicians who played – those who missed the cut for the movie have assumed a sort of ghost form in the public memory. What jumped out at me was that you could have formed a nice ECM-style trio there.

Tim Hardin lived in Woodstock, and because he was there the organisers apparently wanted him to open when scheduling acts were showing up late because of the traffic jams. But Hardin had two longer journeys to make that day: first he was a junkie and second he suffered from stage fright. It is not inconceivable those two conditions were related.

He played with a band the first day that included Ralph Towner on guitar and piano and Glen Moore on bass. A year later, those two would found Oregon, which preceded the jazz-rock fusion with a kind of acoustic, eastern-influenced jazz that prefigured both ECM and, at the other end of a similar spectrum, the new age mood music of George Winston. Towner’s Solstice band included Eberhard Weber and Jan Garbarek and was a regular on my turntable as I wrote the poems of my master’s thesis.

Hardin’s use of jazz musicians wasn’t unusual. His album Tim Hardin 3, the year before, had included Mike Manieri on vibes, Warren Bernhardt on piano and Eddie Gomez on bass (as well as warning, in the liner notes, about the bells drummer Donald McDonald was wearing being audible! But I remember Bernhardt explaining once that because of nerves and being strung out, Hardin would rarely play as rehearsed, missing beats, adding things, and there was often as sense of their being out of time with him. This is also how his set at Woodstock was described, and it’s a shame, because the band also included Richard Bock on cello: Hardin was way ahead of his time in bring a wider palette of sounds to what had been 'folk' music: another  junkie Tim, Tim Buckley, was doing something similar too.

Arlo Guthrie played the next day and his drummer was the late Paul Motian, another of the mainstays of ECM but someone who had already played with Bill Evans, Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett before a brief stint with Arlo that included the festival. Interestingly, he would go on to play mainly with guitarists in small group situations, including an amazing trio with Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano, and wonderful stuff with bassist Charlie Haden.

Towner, Moore and Motian would have been a fantastic trio. I’m not sure if there would have been a smooth way to fit David Sanborn into that group, but of course he would go on to a huge career in jazz fusion. At Woodstock he was still playing in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s horn section, with Gene Dinwiddie and drummer Philip Wilson. I’d maybe float them bassist Jim Fielder, one of the overlooked great rock bassists, and trumpeter Lew Soloff from Blood Sweat and Tears and make them some sort of fusion group. 

It's not surprising that google reveals little in the way of pictures of back-up bands from Woodstock. It would have been nice to illustrate this exercise in building fantasy band lineups from 50 years ago...


Anonymous said...

E M Forster, not Maugham.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that should have been a comment on "The Silent War" post.