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a listener's guide

Note: Skip Heller's latest record is, basically, a pastiche of styles nobody really cares about, a point driven home by the fact that his record company would not finance it. Mr Heller put up his own money to record it. Mouthpiece Records, who usually have better luck, realized that they were obligated to release it (due to a pesky artistic control clause in Mr Heller's contract).

  1. COUCH, LOS ANGELES -- This piquant little twist number borrows equally from Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts music and early Ornette Coleman, prompting the redoubtable Craig Baylor to ask incredulously, What is this?! This Is Our Surf Music?

  2. SPY PERFUME -- Mr Heller's close affiliation with exotica godfather Les Baxter inspired this. Unfortunately, so did Mr Heller's tolerance for seventies rhythmn&blues instrumental ballads. As if that's not enough, the attentive listener will detect a mutated quote from the opening cannon of Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier. This is the first glimpse of Mr Heller's pseudo-classical prententions, and, sadly, it doesn't end here. In fact, it gets worse.

  3. JELLY -- As Mr Heller was born and raised in Philadelphia, he felt the need to include an organ combo number. He cannot even perform respectfully by the rules of this relatively incorruptible format, using it as an excuse to pay tribute to the Tony Williams Lifetime, largely by playing stuff pilfered from Johnny Guitar Watson, Guitar Slim, and other equally tasteless guitarists.

  4. BAD MOTEL ROOM -- Mr Heller's fascination with the novels of James Ellroy, Raymond Chandler, and their ken has resulted in this bit of mirthlessness. Not even fine solos by Robert Drasnin and Jay Work can lift it out of the gutter.

  5. NUN SEH ICH WOLL -- Is what happens when a huge NRBQ fan performs Gustav Mahler. It should be noted that the venerated Viennese genius never once specified bossa nova in any of his scores, least of all for any of the selections from Songs On The Death Of Children, from where this toe-tapper was taken (probably kicking and screaming).

  6. THE RAYMOND SCOTT MEMORIAL FAKE 78 -- Mr Heller first encountered Scott's music via a cassette of a scratchy 78 of The Toy Trumpet. Why he felt the need for us to relive this sonically unpleasant experience is a mystery best unsolved. While various ensembles have taken to performing Scott's music, Mr Heller seems to be the only one who has taken to composing in the Scott style. With any luck, this will go unnoticed.

  7. JOEY'S AFTER DARK -- Is a very safe piece of lounge music and was designed that way on purpose. For once, Mr Heller has colored inside the lines. For all the good it does anyone who has to sit through the rest of this.

  8. URI, SHPIEL ES NOCH AMOL -- Probably the best cut herein, mostly because it concentrates not on Mr Heller's rather questionable skills, but instead on the formidable talents of pianist Uri Caine. The title is Yiddish for Uri, play it one more time.

  9. LITTLE ROOTIE TOOTIE -- A Monk cover. How exciting and original.

  10. IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD -- An Ellington cover. How exciting and original. It prompts the following question; Why are you wasting our precious time, you asshole?!

  11. TAKE YOUR CLOTHES OFF WHEN YOU DANCE -- That Mr. Heller includes a Frank Zappa number should give us some clue to his pathology. That the guy from the Knack sings on it only makes it worse.

Questions should be directly addressed to Mr Heller, who can be reached by phone at:
(323) 662-1332, or by email at As he is never invited anywhere (little wonder), your communication should be returned fairly quickly.