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Music | Al Neil
Vancouver Art in the Sixties

Music

Neil’s work in music is the beginning and the core of his practice; the other forms move out of it. Starting in the post-war period, he was influenced by bebop and in the 1950s helped open Vancouver’s first experimental jazz club, the Cellar on Watson Street near Main and Broadway. Throughout the ‘50s, this club brought many strong improvisational artists to Vancouver including Art Pepper, Don Cherry, Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman. By 1960 Neil had stopped performing in public but a couple of years later, in the early ‘60s, he returned as the Al Neil Trio with Gregg Simpson on drums, percussion and sound effects, and Richard Anstey on bass. Over the next ten years this group produced some of the most inventive work ever developed in Vancouver.

A vinyl recording titled Boot and Fog, produced by Music Gallery Editions, Toronto, 1980, is available via email at

In 1958 Kenneth Patchen Reads with Jazz in Canada was produced as a vinyl and is now available on CD at www.locustmusic.com

In addition to the music on this site, in 2001 Gregg Simpson released the two-CD set Retrospective with 21 other tracks. Order here: www.greggsimpson.com/CDOrdering.html


Al Neil Trio - Gregg Simpson's Studio West Vancouver 1967

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Track one is Voices Breathing by the trio using voice and piano. The short soundscape is two minutes and 55 seconds and uses tapes and voice in conjunction with the instruments.

Track two is a short excerpt by the trio quoting Auld Lang Syne. The thirty two second works starts slow and then move quickly to a short, fast piano run.

Track three features Al Neil on piano and harmonica against a backdrop of toy instruments. Space Object Box (for Joseph Cornell) is a moody two minute twelve second soundscape accented by the brightness of the toy instruments.

Track four, Rock Drill (for Antoine Pevsner) is a two minute fifteen second track. The work features strong ensemble work by the trio.

Track five, Laughing, is a two minute forty seven second work featuring taped soundtracks, toy instruments and Al’s laughing voice. The work is delicate and complex.


Al Neil Trio Live at Intermedia 1968

Track one, Dog Space is a ten minute eight second work featuring Al reading a text piece against a soundscape by the trio. In the beginning Neil chants the text against sparse musical elements then moves into a piano solo and then finishes with text.

Track two, Water Babies is a five minute twenty three second work featuring toy instruments. The sparse soundscape uses percussion and tape elements.

Track three features the band improvising their work Birds Lions and Dogs. The second part of the seventeen minute fifteen second work features Fucking Exercises with Neil reading from a sex manual against a backdrop of improvisation.

Track four, Chums is a twelve minute eight minute work and features Neil reading from his unfinished novel against a backdrop of improvisation.


Al Neil Trio Live at the Vancouver Unitarian Church 1969

Track one, Blue Voodoo Glue, is a twelve-minute fifteen-second work featuring voices and Neil’s piano. Gregg Simpson does a drum solo with the Neil adding percussive elements.

Track two, Money Lenders, is a four-minute fifty-nine-second soundscape using taped overlays of Neil’s voice. Taped elements work with Neil’s piano improvisation and voice creating an intense layered work.

Track three, Love Loka, is a nine-minute one-second track featuring Neil's voice and piano. The text-driven piece employing Neil’s chanting voice against a simple piano and percussion background speeds and slows as the sometimes melodic passages are tempered by discordant elements ending with a straight ahead piano and drums finish.

Track four is Standing Still (untitled improv) and features Neil's piano improvisation against a backdrop of Gregg Simpson’s tapes. The six-minute twenty-eight-second piece moves from a frenetic start to a sparse piano led soundscape.


Al Neil Solo Live at the Vancouver Art Gallery 1972

Track one, titled Solar, is six minutes and forty-five seconds and features Neil solo at the piano. The sparse arrangement uses minimal vocals and sound elements focusing largely on the piano solo.

Track two, Round Midnight, features Neil solo in Monk’s 1944 classic. The twelve-minute twelve-second cut focuses on Neil’s improvisation skills at their peak.