John Klemmer






In hindsight, it is easy to absorb schemes and developments that are easy to dismiss for contemporaries: Eruptions by composer and saxophonist John Klemmer (born 1946) is one of his earliest works, recorded right after the landing on the moon when Klemmer was just 23 years of age… and he still leads an octet on this record and comes up with majestically sophisticated filaments of the electrifying-galactic kinds. Released in 1970 on Cadet Concept Records, with all of its eight long tracks written and architected by Klemmer himself, the dismissal comes in the shape of doubt, as such a youngster cannot possibly accomplish what he is about to do. But after the space race fueled the imagination, affirmative applause accrued eventually.


Eruptions is a behemoth of an album, spawning multiple stacks of ionic superresonances, multinucleate nematodes and salubrious saxophone steam aplenty. While the melodies – if you wanna call them that – are unapologetically labyrinthine, there are moments of pristine clarity to cherish, and even on the way to this purified state, the textures lure and enchant. Encapsulating New Age, Funk and Cool Jazz in equal parts, Eruptions features the following personnel: saxophonist and flutist John Klemmer at the helm, drummer John Dentz, guitarist Art Johnson, organist and electric pianist Mike Lang, vibraphonist Lynn Blessing, dedicated percussionists Gary Coleman and Mark Stevens as well as bassist Wolfgang Melz. Here, then, is a closer look into the aureate abyss.


Alright, most of the filthy jokes about the planet have been made back in the 70’s already, and since then the bile has only increased, so let’s move right along and behave like adults, shall we? Gardens Of Uranus (who’s still sniggering?) is some sort of benchmark if you will, as it both encapsulates John Klemmer’s fluvio-lacustrine flow electronics-wise and relies heavily on the pyroclastic perapsis on the alto saxophone. Mike Lang’s galactic punctilio on the keyboard sprinkles gelid stardust on the eyes, John Dentz’s performance on the drums is tastefully oblique, and the many umbrageous interstices laden with Art Johnson’s guitar solos make this one a free-form epitome. Running on all cylinders for over eight minutes, it is the centerpiece… right in the opening spot.


The adjacent Summer Song takes the listener back to Earth, although the clandestine saxophone echoes and their ultramafic afterglow in the darkness remind of an even eerier polarimetry. But no harm is ultimately done: one minute into the song, the quasi-Middle Eastern tone sequences are soon replaced by the silky mélange of the megacity, emitting Lynn Blessing’s vibraphone bokeh as prominently as John Klemmer’s aliphatic arabesques. With Regions Of Fire, the octet offers a comparatively strolling and benignant outlook whose title doesn’t seem to fit. Lang’s amicable electric piano sparks seem much more refreshing than cryovolcanic, drummer Dentz interweaves stop-and-go bursts, even Klemmer’s helicoidal haze isn’t as protrusively chlorotic most of the time… or gently toned down by the vivid circumambience of this melodic mica. Rose Petals rounds off side A with another visit to the big city: lava organs, pulmonary phoresy of the sax and sleazy vibe vesicles make this the prowler of the album, heating up the earthbound asphalt quite a bit.


With Lady Toad, side B opens in a New Age kind of fashion, even though this genre isn’t much older than Funk in these early days. John Klemmer replaces his saxophone with a flute during the anacrusis, with percussionist Gary Coleman adding wind chimes to the delicious still life. Soon enough, the arrangement gains velocity via car horn organs, argentine cymbals and playfully turbulent sax protuberances. On a microbial level, this fluvio-processed creature remains enchanting and comparatively accessible. Likewise, To Mon Frer Africain is open to scrutiny as well, a beatless Ambient piece made of opalescent percussion, recondite nullspaces and Klemmer’s towering saxophone which, as the song progresses, is increasingly enshrined in a reticulation of nutritious vibes and caramelized chords of the guitar.


The playfully titled La De Dah then succumbs to carbonaceous gluons, electric piano droplets and sax spirals, aka the same cornerstones as ever, but integrated anew and airily so, allowing longitudinal ventiducts and orthogonal timbres to bubble and pulsate quite orderly before the finale Earth Emancipation – fraught with meaning but fond of the cosmos – offers a trip of seven and a half minutes that ranges from crimson-colored vibe/guitar macronutrient over apoplectic sax telomeres to that state of laissez-faire which is not necessarily a specific trademark but nonetheless quasi-ubiquitous in John Klemmer’s productions.


Eruptions is a great name for any album, but it’s not a given that it fits within John Klemmer’s offered raging storms and metallic magnetotails. Indeed, the album is neither exclusively noisy nor an avantgarde art house amethyst. It is the balance between soothing strata and raucous rhizomes, the tumbling countermovements of breezy melodies amidst the epigenetic tumults that make Eruptions seem so portentously apollonian and on an even keel. That this very keel is floating in space is of no importance in the bigger picture of Klemmer’s complete works. The material is cleverly arranged, a necessity in the face of complex-convoluted maneuvers and long periods of multiplex frequencies.


While the actual melodies can be counted as Third Stream Space-Age fermions, it is the textural variety that erases any doubt that the traveler ipso facto encounters prismatic galaxies, lilting icosahedral and the occasional fibroblast when the album’s intrinsic rules go havoc. The surfaces and patterns make this gem delightful in the end, even strongly so when there is no catchy base to hold on to. The gap between 1970’s Eruptions and 1979’s electric Exotica epithelium Brazilia is humongous, but I believe that both albums – and everything in-between – are great space-oriented artifacts to cherish… with the occasional esoteric eclecticism few and far between. Eruptions, sadly, is only available on vinyl for the time being.


Exotica Review 430: John Klemmer – Eruptions (1970). Originally published on May 2, 2015 at