Richard Warren FieldRichard Warren Field - Writer/Musician

On this page, I will offer composer’s/performer’s/producer’s notes on all of the “Issa Pieces” that I recorded between 1988 and 1990, as well as one minute clips from all of these pieces. Thirteen of these twenty-three pieces have been released on “Issa Music” in December of 2011. . It has been over twenty years since I produced this music, but as I listen to the music, much of my creative process has come back to me: 

Set One #1 “Mystic Jam” 3:31 (1 on “Issa Music”)

Set One #2 “Celestial Rumble” 4:04 

Set One #3 “Meditation” 4:47 

Set One #4 “Eastern Boogie” 4:49 (10 on “Issa Music”) 

Set One #5 “Nirvana” 6:05 

Set One #6 “Hectic” 3:37 

Set One #7 “Mystic” 4:53

Set One #8 “River of Flow” 4:43 (2 on “Issa Music”)


Set One #9 “East Meets West” 6:41 (12 on “Issa Music”)

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Set Two #1 “Voice in the Wilderness” 6:55 (11 on “Issa Music) 

Set Two #2 “Chasing Shadows” 4:32 

Set Two #3 “Skeptic” 5:46 (4 on “Issa Music”) 

Set Two #4 “Darkness to Dawn” 6:44 (7 on “Issa Music”) 

Set Two #5 “Seventh Hell” 4:50 (8 on “Issa Music”) 

Set Two #6 “Children’s Day” (5:46)

Set Two #7 “Pace by Pace” (7:22) (5 on “Issa Music”) 

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Set Three #1 “Daylight” (8:21) 

Set Three #2 “Flight of Fantasy” (4:42) 

Set Three #3 “Temptation” (6:12) (6 on “Issa Music”) 

Set Three #4 “Summer Palace” (5:52) (3 on “Issa Music”) 

Set Three #5 “Prism of the Soul” (6:00) (9 on “Issa Music”) 

Set Three #6 “Crowd Pulse” (5:46) 

Set Three #7 “West Meets East” (6:02) (13 on “Issa Music”)

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Set One #1 “Mystic Jam” 3:31 (1 on “Issa Music”)

This was the first piece, #1 of Set One of “Issa Music.” I was playing with the equipment to see what I could generate, how close I could get to my concept. (See the liner notes and information at my website for more information about the concept of “Issa Music.”) I started an underlying rhythm with the idea that the jam would take place in one tonality, basically in a Mixolydian mode (major key scale with a ♭7). I shifted background tracks, drums and other harmonies, to vary the mood within the tonality. I then improvised over this background, winding out a small motif into longer passages, playing the improvisation along with the shifts I had put into the background tracks. I still like this as a calling card for this musical concept, but I have expanded the concept since then (I had to—it would have been a limited concept for me if I had held on to nothing but this narrow idea.)

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Set One #2 “Celestial Rumble” 4:04

This is the second piece of the Issa pieces. I will admit, this is one of the least successful, maybe the least successful of all. I have a bass line that moves from V to I over and over. I overlay it with arpeggios and changing percussion textures as well as voices moving in and out improvising over that backdrop. I do have one motif that recurs occasionally. But it does not remain interesting enough musically. A couple of times, when the drum tracks come in, there are shifts in mood that bring some interest to the track. But I was not satisfied with it, and I am not likely to offer it publicly unless I decide to offer every single piece I recorded within this “Issa Music” concept.

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Set One #3 “Meditation” 4:47

This was piece three from Set One of the “Issa Music” pieces. After feeling my concept was too narrow, I decided to try a new approach. I laid down some block chords in a slow three and put a melody over the top. This gave me chords to improvise over. The chords are quartal harmonies with a very simple backing rhythm. I brought in some choir sounds to add some emotional shift to the B sections. This piece served to open my parameters for this project. But other of these Issa pieces are stronger, so I have not released this one with the thirteen included in “Issa Music.”

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Set One #4 “Eastern Boogie” 4:55 (10 on “Issa Music”)

This piece, the fourth Issa piece created in Set One, took the “Issa Music” concept into a new direction. I felt I wasn’t getting enough “East” into my East-West fusion concept. So I went exotic modal, using a scale with some augmented seconds in it, and with the flat second of the scale, but keeping the major third. I came up with an exotic little ditty that seemed to work well. The bass line fit nicely under it, a bass line that allowed a lot of room for improvisation. The A section seemed to lead logically to the B section, which was derived as a sort of harmonic mirror image of the A section. The bass line for the section starts away from the tonality but slides back into it. The melodic part of the section seemed to grow right out of it. So I simply introduced the A and B sections, then improvised over the bass lines to those sections, running up and down and in an out of those modes. I used the technology to vary the timbres, instruments and textures of the backing tracks and leads. Now I had a pattern I could follow throughout the project—opening sections introducing a theme/mode/harmonic setup, followed by improvisation with exotic instrumental combinations utilized to develop the musical ideas.

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Set One #5 “Nirvana” 6:05

The fifth “Issa Music” piece of Set One was another attempt to use a very simple tonality/chord structure, improvising over the top, over changing percussion and background textures. I made a lot of use of the Yamaha TX module pitched drums. This piece was supposed to represent inner peace and satisfaction. I was not entirely satisfied with this. It seems unexciting musically. This is also a piece I felt was one of the least successful, one I will also not offer to the public unless I offer all of these pieces at some point in the future.

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Set One #6 “Hectic” 3:37

The sixth “Issa Music” piece from Set One was an attempt to get more modern funk-jazz into the concept. With the fourth piece, I offered a really Eastern sounding mode. Here I wanted to offer a Western/modern jazz style. We have a fusion jazz style melody over a funky bass line with synth solos played over the groove. We don’t really get Eastern until the very end. I was satisfied with the rhythms and juxtaposition of the sounds, but did not feel this was strong enough to be one of the thirteen pieces offered in “Issa Music.”

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Set One #7 “Mystic” 4:53

The seventh “Issa Music” piece from Set One was another attempt to craft a melody over exotic block chords, like Set One #3, “Meditation.” I was happy that this seemed to me to be a more successful use of this concept. The chords shift in a rising, exotic way, allowing opportunities for some unique improvisations. In the final analysis, I did not find it quite strong enough to offer in the eighty minutes of space available for “Issa Music.”

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Set One #8 “River of Flow” 4:43 (2 on “Issa Music”)

With the eighth “Issa Music” piece from Set One, I wanted to produce a happy, flashy piece, utilizing the concept crystallizing since “Eastern Boogie,” Set One #4. I used a simple chord progression over a 5/4 rhythm and created a melody over the top. I created an A and B section and set a number of varied textures for the solos and for recapitulations of the melodic statements of the A and B sections. I was extremely happy with the way this piece came out. The shifts of texture, the joy of “River of Flow,” the improvised solos I performed—I consider this a signature piece of “Issa Music.” Also, there were three times during my recordings of these pieces over the time period between 1988 and 1990 that I felt I slipped “into a zone” as I improvised. This occurred once during each of these sets. This is a rare feeling where something else seems to take over, another power, somehow coming from somewhere else but from within at the same time. The notes glide out—no thought processes involved—the music just happens and I’m at a loss to explain how I got there, or even to recall in detail playing it. It was during the second improvised section, an exotic D50 setting, from 1:45 to 2:50, that I hit the “zone” during “River of Flow.” Notes flowed and thank God a tape recorder was there to capture it. This piece made me feel I was hitting my stride with this music.

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Set One #9 “East Meets West” 6:41 (12 on “Issa Music”)

This was the ninth and final “Issa Music” piece of the first set, completed in late 1988. The title explains what I was trying to do here—to depict a contrast musically, a collision as “East Meets West.” “West” is first—a powerful brute force wall of sound starts it off. Exploding gongs, a big pipe organ, joined by a choir, arpeggiating strings and eventually synth brasses, state these block chords that form a simple melodic line, fanfares eventually sounding above. It sounds like triumph, like overpowering triumph and strength. This is followed by the “East” answer. It’s the same chord progression, even the same melodies, now stated over an unassuming rhythm, less assertive, more complex, more subtle. A strange trumpet line joins the second half of this section as if trying to fit into the “East” idea, but not totally comfortable. Section One is restated a second time, just to remind us of that brute power again. But we end with the “East” statement of the same harmonic idea, as if it will outlast the big power theme of “West.” But the exploding gong at the end asks us—will it?

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Set Two #1 “Voice in the Wilderness” 6:55 (11 on “Issa Music”)

Here is the first of Set Two of the “Issa Music” pieces recorded, the tenth Issa piece over all. This piece was created with a similar concept to the very first piece, “Mystic Jam.” We have a motif strung out in improvisations over a simple tonal backdrop, in a Dorian mode (basically a minor key but with the major sixth and flat seventh of the scale). For this piece, I had a specific visual in mind inspiring me. “Voice in the Wilderness” concerns the Christian biblical reference to John the Baptist. “Wilderness” refers to an uncivilized area where few humans live. It is a place suited to singular meditation and contemplation. I had an image of hermit-like holy men sitting on top of high brown column-like fomations, raised up, overlooking an arid terrain, looking out from their lonely perches. They all have different flutes, and they play the piece’s motif back and forth to each other, as if exchanging their lone spiritual/mystical visions through the motifs. The piece migrates through various textures, some thin, then building to thickness. Different ideas come and go, but always moving back to that original motif. One of my favorite “Issa Music” moments comes between the third and fourth minutes. The background builds, with percussion, choir sounds, adding to thicken the sonic texture. Then, as if crying out for attention, a lone pure synth sound breaks over the top, as if it is the “Voice in the Wilderness,” begging for listeners to consider what it has to say. Originally I chose fourteen pieces for the “Issa Music” CD. This was not one of the original pieces. But whenever I thought of this music, I thought of that moment, that cry from the mystical/spiritual wilderness, and I knew this piece was the epitome of “Issa Music.” I had to include it, and make a painful choice to cut two others to make room. This piece captures that feeling of believing you have something meaningful to say, something that could be truly helpful to people, and you cry out for your words, your ideas, to be heard and considered. It operates at a gut level, with very simple musical ideas spun out to create the effect.

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Set Two #2 “Chasing Shadows” 4:32

The second Issa piece of Set Two, eleventh overall, is a cerebral piece, nearly the opposite of “Voice in the Wilderness” that I completed just before it. It consists of a descending upper riff over an ascending lower riff in a basic blues progression. The theme is presented with canonic imitation on its reprise when first introduced. I then take it through a flurry of style and texture changes, including a jazz combo and a loud synth blast over rolling bass/piano notes just before the final capitulation of the theme. As an execution of the idea of working themes through Eastern and Western settings, I was pleased with it. I included “Chasing Shadows” as one of the original fourteen pieces intended for “Issa Music” CD. But when I decided to go with the more emotional, less clever, “Voice in the Wilderness,” I had to make room (only eighty minutes on a CD). This piece was reluctantly dropped.

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Set Two #3 “Skeptic” 5:46 (4 on “Issa Music”)

This is the third piece from Set Two of the Issa pieces, the twelfth piece overall.  I made full use of the Yamaha TX synthesizer modules on this one. Those TX modules play great pitched drum sounds. I started “Skeptic” off with low pitched drums, with the pitches barely distinguishable. The marimba sounds start to outline a tonality, but it still seems wonderfully ambiguous. The melody then comes storming in, with horns in the background, with a funky jazz fusion feel. From there, I moved back and forth through textures, calling on different combinations of pitched drums, working over the funky fusion theme within the concept of this music.

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Set Two #4 “Darkness to Dawn” 6:44 (7 on “Issa Music”)

This is the fourth piece of Set Two of the “Issa Music” pieces, the thirteenth piece overall. After the emotional peaks and valleys of “Voice in the Wilderness,” the cerebral complexity of “Chasing Shadows,” and the thundering funky quality of “Skeptic,” I set out to create something quieter, mellower, simpler, more contemplative. I set up a chord progression with some nice shifts and a simple, motivic, cell-like melody. The music moves through a minor key, migrating to major chords at cadence points (to capture the “Darkness to Dawn” feel). In the process of improvising over the various sections and changes of mood that wind out through the piece, I had my second “in the zone” experience. (See “River of Flow.”) Again, I felt like something else was involved with my playing—I barely recalled playing the passage and had to hear it back to become aware of what I had done. This is the D50 shakuhashi solo from 2:20 to 4: 05. I was very pleased with this piece, a simple piece with interesting chord changes and the characteristic changes in texture and timbre emblematic of “Issa Music.”

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Set Two #5 “Seventh Hell” 4:50 (8 on “Issa Music”)

In the fifth Issa piece of Set Two, fourteenth overall, I made optimal use of the programming capabilities of the MIDI and Roland Mesa software to create a rollicking background for a wild theme in 7/8, and a B section in 3½/4. For the A section, I programmed a complex bass/TX module drum ostinato. Over it, I placed a deliberately disturbing, disjointed melody line. The B section is a twisted waltz, still with a seven feel, but in a more graspable 3½/4 than the 7/8. But the twisted waltz is not intended to instill peace and tranquility. It has a mocking quality, as if the devil is welcoming the listener to “Seventh Hell,” saying “Welcome to my world. What did you do or fail to do to deserve to be here?” The piece ends with the juxtaposition of the 7/8 and the 3½/4, climaxing with huge blows of disturbing cluster chords, pounding through rising lines that seem to rise up just to get sucked back into those big chords. That section took a long time to get just right. It may sound disjointed and unsettling, but it is my experience that disjointed and unsettling are harder to get just right than easy flowing fours and eights.

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Set Two #6 “Children’s Day” (5:46)

This was the sixth of Set Two of the Issa pieces, the fifteenth overall. I pictured Jesus/Issa with children, something he was noted for. The background is playful enough, but I was not satisfied with the melody I put over the top of it (too many pitch bends). It was an easy decision not to include this in “Issa Music,” and I will not offer this to the public unless I offer all of the 1988-1990 Issa pieces at some time in the future. The piece follows a blues type progression with the main theme. I did put it through some fun transformations, including a jazzy section with a walking bass, and a huge rock section with a big synth solo. But this is not one of the most satisfying of the Issa pieces

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Set Two #7 “Pace by Pace” (7:22) (5 on “Issa Music”)

This final/seventh piece of Set Two, sixteenth overall, is a melody set over a simple riff basically in a Mixolydian mode, but with a shift to a ♭III chord within the riff, throwing in a variation to the Mixolydian feel. I also had a strategically placed pitch bend in the bass that gave “Pace by Pace” an exotic feel. I was thrilled with the way the flute melody floated nicely over the riff, counterpoint in an intriguing and satisfying way. It seemed fairly simple to wind out a B section from that A section to punctuate the riff and to offer some other options for improvisation. I was so happy with this piece that Carrie and I played it at our wedding as background music before the ceremony began. (I had produced specific music for the wedding ceremony itself.) I worked this through a variety of textures and timbres—with a riff like this, there were many possibilities from Yamaha TX exotic drum sounds to funky clavinet over a jazzy bass and driving drum track. Also, I have long sections of improvisation over a single tonality. I give credit to Greg Christiansen, a fellow musician/student at University of Pacific (in the mid-70s) for our conversation about Miles Davis—“Bitches Brew” in particular. I said I wondered just how tough it is to improvise over a single tonality. Isn’t it harder to hit chord changes just right? No, he said. Improvising over one tonality is the hardest. Then it hit me—of course it is. The musician has to supply the creativity. There are no chords to act as a catalyst for the improvisations. Improvising over just one basic chord/tonality is challenging—keeping it fresh, moving in and out of that tonality in just the right way to keep it musically interesting, but not so wild that it sounds aimless and pointless. During those long stretches on one chord/mode/tonality, I thought of Greg’s point, and sought to create lines that stayed fresh and caught the mood of “Pace by Pace.” As I said earlier, I was happy with this result.

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Set Three #1 “Daylight” (8:21)

This is the first Issa piece from Set Three, the seventeenth overall. With this piece I went back to the original idea of an underlying rhythm with a jam. I put together a gentle, but driving, backing rhythm. There is a repetitive motif that frames these backup tracks. I created some changes throughout the basic underlying music. I took some time to set up so there were clear shifts of mood to give me something to play off of for the improvised sections. I then improvised over the top. I played a few dry runs. Then, I had my third “in-the-zone” experience (see “River of Flow” and “Darkness to Dawn”). I played in one continuous take the entire lead/improvised section of “Daylight.” Again, I got lost in it. I just kept going, with my head into reacting to the backing tracks. As with the other “in-the-zone” episodes, I had little real memory of what I played or how it had happened. Something other than me was playing those notes, or was at least collaborating. I do love this piece, but it has no memorable melody line, and I could not find room for it on the “Issa Music” CD. I would love to offer to the public, and may yet do so.

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Set Three #2 “Flight of Fantasy” (4:42)

This is the second piece I produced for Set Three, the eighteenth overall of the Issa pieces. I was very happy with the way “River of Flow” came out using the 5/4 rhythm, so I took another shot at 5/4. I love this result as well, though matching “River of Flow” was a tough result to hope for. I originally had this set for “Issa Music,” when I had selected fourteen pieces from the three sets (23 overall). There was so much to like about “Flight of Fantasy”—the rising melody line, the solos, the changes of tone and timbre. But I had to make room for “Voice in the Wilderness.” “Flight of Fantasy” owed a lot to “River of Flow”—“Voice in the Wilderness” was a distinct, emotional piece in the “Issa” style. This is another one that just missed the cut. I would love to offer it someday.

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Set Three #3 “Temptation” (6:12) (6 on “Issa Music”)

This was the third piece from Set Three, nineteenth overall of the Issa pieces. When I thought about having these recordings converted from analog tape to digital, this is one of the pieces I thought about the most, that I really wanted to become acquainted with again. I used that strange mode/scale again, strange to Western ears, with a ♭2 and major third, among other little quirks (see “Eastern Boogie,” Set One #4). I slipped down to the vi chord for the B section, which allowed for some adventurous melodic invention and improvising, playing with blues scales and surprising common tones to bring a strange unity to this quirky piece. And “Temptation”—the exotic nature of the piece was intended to match musically the idea of “temptation.” My intention with this piece was to call up a wide concept of “temptation.” Sure, we think of temptations of pleasure; sex, overindulgence in food and drink, tempted to do wrong for riches. But for me, the idea goes even further. My biggest temptation is anger. I suspect many people get caught up in that same temptation—quick to anger, quick to fall into lashing out when a more patient behavior could bring a more successful outcome, and a more satisfying inner feeling. Add other temptations—self-pity, impatience, pride at the expense of love, even worry—this piece summons all of these temptations musically. Through the piece, I moved in and out of utterly electronic settings to settings with more conventional sounds. At times, the solos scream. But there are also sections like the flute solo, and the flute coupled with a low synth, weaving in a serpentine flow, as if calling forth that lust for pleasure. And there is the trumpet, blaring above the fray, as if too proud to blend. The string ensemble seems to scold the trumpet, and a synth solo laments the dilemmas temptation brings before we return to the main theme. Yes, this is one of my favorites of these pieces. When I find myself angered, or impatient, I summon this music into my head, and try to bring temptation under control.

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Set Three #4 “Summer Palace” (5:52) (3 on “Issa Music”)

The fourth Issa piece of Set Three, 20th overall, is “Summer Palace.” After the intensity of “Temptation,” with its edgy scales and unsettling harmonies, I decided to lighten the mood. I envisioned a “Summer Palace,” with privileged families cavorting carefree in the sun, basking in luxury. The idea was to convey a sense of frolic and fun, but also the power of the privileged at the palace. I introduced the main fanfare-like theme, then simply wound out improvisational sections using the chord progressions of the theme introduced at the beginning. I do scramble chord sequences to give the sections some variety, almost like a classical development section. I did that more with his third set, and it will be a feature of the new Issa pieces I intend to produce.

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Set Three #5 “Prism of the Soul” (6:00) (9 on “Issa Music”)

This was the fifth of Set Three, 21st of the Issa pieces. Very much like “Pace by Pace,” I start with a short riff and with a melody that interplays with the riff, almost in an opposite contour, effectively creating a whole from two contrasting parts. For this piece, I delved more and more into set instrumental choirs and timbre changes, like moving from a brass choir into a shakuhashi solo over non-Western instrument sounds (accept for an acoustic string bass sound), then moving right out of that into a funky fusion beat laying the background for a synth-brass/flute solo. The idea here is a prism, shifting in the light, giving off different reflections, different visual results off the same object. The soul is a very complex concept and this piece is intended to capture that idea musically. Here we have different musical results stemming from the same musical idea. In my next Issa pieces, I will look for more opportunities to juxtapose completely different musical settings playing the same basic music, as I did with “Prism of the Soul.”

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Set Three #6 “Crowd Pulse” (5:46)

This is the sixth of Set Three, 22nd overall of the Issa pieces. This started with a fairly complex riff of quartal harmonies, with a melody superimposed over it. This piece is more cerebral than emotional, with notes in the right place, but more mechanical than I have been reaching for with these pieces. The idea here was to summon the mood of trying to work through a crowd, maybe hurrying to get somewhere, or just wanting to get out of the claustrophobic feeling of being among too many people. The piece works through various combinations of instruments and timbres. I was pleased with my development of the basic ideas, and the changes in moods and settings. The big bass drum heartbeat for the end was a fun, unique touch. But this was not good enough to make it into the thirteen pieces I chose for “Issa Music.”

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Set Three #7 “West Meets East” (6:02) (13 on “Issa Music”)

This was the seventh and last of Set Three, the last, the 23rd overall of the Issa pieces recorded between 1988 and 1990. This was a great way to culminate what I had been working on with these pieces. We have a ton of “classical” influences here, along with the jazz/Eastern instrumental component. I start off with a simple rhythmic statement, something akin to the beginning of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Yes, the ability of the equipment to pitch those tympani drums, and thunder them through the opening statement was a great option to have. I then wound that out into a full-blown classical development section with counter melodies springing out of the original theme and moving around each other through shifting harmonies. The thundering two-measure rhythm of the opening now becomes the soft underpinning of the development section, always there, if well into the background. That short development section comes back to the original statement. This is then followed by an Eastern development section, over the same harmonic structure as the Western “classical” development section, but with improvised lines of exotic woodwinds over pitched drums and syncopated rhythms. The woodwind lines are doubled with strings, bringing a little bit of that “West” into this “East” section. This shifts through timbres and harmonic progressions until we return to the opening statement a third time. After the third statement of the opening theme, there is a short development section that blends the first “Western” “classical” section with the second “Eastern” “improvisational” section. We then finish with a final statement of the main theme, topped off with a thin repeat before concluding. For most of the Issa pieces, I blended jazz and a little pop and rock, with Eastern instruments and modes. I hinted at “classical” style development but only hinted. With “West meets East,” I brought “classical music” elements into the music as a full partner. I was very pleased with the result. I’m not saying every new Issa piece will partner “classical music” techniques with jazz and Eastern as much as “West meets East.” But I will look to do more of this. I’ve begun collecting themes for future pieces.

I have well over enough themes for at least two or three more Issa CDs. I will try to build on “West Meets East,” and the other 22 pieces I produced just over 20 years ago.

Richard Warren Field
December, 2011

 

Songbook CDs
Mystic jazz productions of vintage rock using modern sounds and technologies ─ familiar songs offered in a fresh way; new songs offered in a familiar style.
The Swords of Faith Trilogy
Stories set in the past featuring dilemmas familiar to the present with consequences resonating into the future.
Issa Music
Mystic jazz celebrating the “Issa legend” – the idea that Jesus may have visited India and learned some of his history-altering spiritual insights there.