Wednesday, March 18, 2015

MICHAEL MANTLER – No Answer (LP-1974)

Label: WATT Works ‎– WATT/ 2, Virgin – WATT/ 2
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: UK / Released: 1974
Style: Contemporary Jazz
Recorded and Mixed At Blue Rock Studio, 1974.
Design – Paul McDonough
Engineer – Eddie Korvin, Frank Owen
Engineer [Assistant] – Richard Elen
Mixed By – Eddie Korvin
Photography By – Gregory Reeve, Jerry Bauer, Valerie Wilmer
Producer – Michael Mantler

        Number Six
A1 - Part One . . . . . . . . . . 4:55
A2 - Part Two . . . . . . . . . . 4:50
A3 - Part Three . . . . . . . . . 5:45
A4 - Part Four . . . . . . . . . . 2:05
        Number Twelve
B1 - Part One . . . . . . . . . . 7:35
B2 - Part Two . . . . . . . . . . 4:05
B3 - Part Three . . . . . . . . . 2:00
B4 - Part Four . . . . . . . . . . 2:55

Composed By – Michael Mantler
Words By – Samuel Beckett From "How It Is", 1964

Carla Bley – piano, organ, clavinet
Don Cherry – trumpet
Jack Bruce – voice, bass

A Beckett-like "Endgame" atmosphere, a feeling of hopelessness, pervades the work ... a very demanding, exceptionally intelligent production ....

No Answer marks the recorded beginning of Michael Mantler's fascination with the texts of Samuel Beckett as well as a long association with former Cream vocalist/bassist Jack Bruce. Here, with the spare instrumentation of voice, electric bass, keyboards, and trumpet (the late, great Don Cherry in outstanding form), he sets words from How It Is to accompaniment that ranges in style from bleak and spacy to almost funky. Bruce, with his high, plaintive voice, does a superb job here, investing the cynical, bitter text (example: "and the mud yes the dark yes the mud and the dark are true yes nothing to regret there no") with conviction and the right inflection of sorrow. On a couple of pieces, his bass kicks in for a momentary groove that sounds as though it was recalled from the type of Cream session that produced "I'm So Glad," but Mantler doesn't allow such relief to continue for long, antithetical as it would be to the Beckettian world he's conjuring. The songs aren't structured as pop pieces, however; they owe more to contemporary art songs despite the instrumentation, making the affair challenging to the listener expecting a rockish album but relatively easy compared to his earlier work with the Jazz Composer's Orchestra. The contributions by Cherry and Mantler's then-wife, Carla Bley, are crucial to the success of the album, each playing in a stark style that befits the matters at hand. No Answer is an unusually fine melding of theatrical text and music and one of Mantler's best efforts in this genre. Recommended.


hard to believe too yes that I have a voice
yes in me yes when the panting stops yes
not at other times no and that I murmur yes
I yes in the dark yes in the mud yes for
nothing yes I yes but it must be believed yes

and the mud yes the dark yes the mud and
the dark are true yes nothing to regret there no   

so things may change no answer end
no answer I may choke no answer sink
no answer sully the mud no more no answer
the dark no answer trouble the peace no
more no answer the silence no answer die
no answer DIE screams I MAY DIE screams
I SHALL DIE screams good

Instrumentation is sparse and somber, occasionally heavy on Bley's organ drone. Cherry's presence is comparatively brief, but he's his usual compelling, challenging self, the most distinctive trumpet voice around. Bley and Bruce carry the weight with virtuoso performances. ... This is music of great strength, created by a master composer who needs to be heard. Mantler's music demands the support of open, intelligent ears everywhere.

"No Answer" was a bold step into new territory. Jack Bruce, bassist/vocalist from rock group Cream, had proven himself much more than a pop singer on the epic "Escalator Over The Hill", Carla Bley's "chronotransduction", produced by Mantler between 1968 and 1971. On "No Answer" Bruce was given Samuel Beckett's tense/intense texts from "How It Is" to sing, Beckett is celebrated by some commentators for his grim humour. This, however, was never his appeal for Mantler: "I don't care for what people see as the satirical side of Beckett. I don't like the way the plays are produced, for instance. I like to see Beckett's work on a page, printed almost graphically - as a series of events. True, 'Watt' itself is a very funny book, but I never considered putting it to music. I was always so much attracted by the dark side, that was always enough. Enough material for a long time, to stay with that."

Bruce's voice, multi-tracked, soars and dives through Beckett's blackest moods, tellingly set by Mantler. An extraordinary performance. There is also intense keyboard work from Carla Bley, without a trace of the whimsy cultivated in later years, and bubbling, speeding trumpet work from the late, great Don Cherry.

If you find it, buy this album!


  1. MICHAEL MANTLER – No Answer (LP-1974)
    Vinyl Rip/FLAC+Cover


  2. One of the most successful attempts by Mantler. Still a good listen some 40 years later. Thanks, Vitko!

  3. Many, many thanks for this one!

  4. Thanks, Vitko!! Have wanted to hear this for ages.

  5. Thanks for this listen Vitko. I have the vinyl but haven't had a table in years!!!

  6. Thanks Vitko! A really nice look at Beckett´s world. I also recomend Morton Feldman "Neither" and, less famous, György Kurtag "What is the word"

    1. Oh yeah, it's great you remembered. Thanks Javier Roz. I do not have those two albums, but on YouTube can find almost everything.

    2. Thank you. You´re doing a great work here. Congratulations!

  7. Wow! I had no idea this existed. Looking forward to hearing it. Beckett without humour? Bet he missed a couple of jokes. Thanks.

  8. It's a good record - the lyrics are sometimes impenetrable, but saved by Jack Bruce.
    Still ... other Mantler albums have better instrumentation and both "Movies" and "The Hapless Child" are strongly recommended over this one - especially for beginners, as this is not an easy listen - much like Carla Bley's "Tropic Appetites."