About this Recording
86041-2 - RAMSDEN, Mark / LODDER, Steve: Above the Clouds

The duo:
Mark Ramsden - saxophone
Steve Lodder - organ

All of the music on this album was recorded on two Mondays, the day named after the moon. I wanted to create fluid, nocturnal music that would soothe and uplift – a sort of aural aromatherapy, although hopefully with the sort of kick more usually provided by strong drink or recreational chemicals. I wanted this CD to be instantly appealing. There should be no need for some supposedly intellectual aesthetic to justify this music – it should simply sound good and have emotional depth.

Luckily for us, the warm, natural reverb of St Thomas Church, Clapton Common, London, enhanced everything we played. Although I have always been a jazz musician, at the time of this recording I was more used to battling against a barrage of drums or monitor systems designed for rock groups. It was a rare pleasure just to be able to hear the real sound of the music we were playing. (I had been involved with commercial music for about fifteen years before I found out that the reason why so many stage monitors had metal grilles fitted was to enable heavy metal guitarists to stand on them.)

On the original release, an extremely limited edition, the critics were positive and people who don't usually respond to jazz – except to avoid it wherever possible – made a point of telling me how much they enjoyed the music. Perhaps as a result of growing up listening to the Beatles and folk music I have always tried to write melodies. After some musical education I usually combined these melodies with compound chords, hoping to try and make complex harmonies more accessible.

One critic was kind enough to suggest that our arrangements were ingenious’. In fact, much of this music is improvised – we simply tried to respond to each other. Drummer Bill Bruford once referred to jazz as being a reactive music’; this is not always the case but it certainly should be.

This recording and the subsequent performances would have been impossible without Steve Lodder rock-solid support and invaluable guidance at all stages of the production. He found Retrové and Flos Vernalis, two pieces of dance music from the Robertsbridge codex in the British Museum – the earliest surviving collection of organ music, circa 1325. Steve composition Sainte Chappelle was written especially for this project, and shows an appreciation of classical form as opposed to my more song-based structures. Steve was an organ scholar at Cambridge University and has gone on to perform in a wide variety of musical contexts, always turning in a flawless performance. He is best known for his work with Andy Sheppard, George Russell and Carla Bley, also for helping Paul McCartney with the creation of his recent symphonic work.

I have toured and recorded with artists such as Jimmy Witherspoon, Bert Jansch, Tom Robinson, (hit single War Baby) and have been involved in many worthy, if obscure, jazz projects, including the recent Tribute to Paul Desmond with Dave Cliff (on 33 records).

The final track Above the Clouds features Roland Perrin beautiful string arrangement. It is dedicated to my father John Ramsden 1929–1991.

Mark Ramsden, Wolfsmoon, 1999

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