Ars Nova — Ars Nova
(Sundazed SC 6207, 1968/2004, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2005-03-01
If you name your band “Ars Nova” you have to be: a) Serious Artists; b) Sarcastic reactionaries; c) Into psychedelic drugs; or d) Japanese. It’s Latin, for goodness sake, and means “New Art.” This particular manifestation, hailing from New England in the late 60s, is probably type a and possibly a bit of c. But in 1968, it was okay to be a Serious Artist, so Ars Nova ended up on Elektra with support to record an ambitious album of psychedelic rock. Prominent use of trombone and trumpet sets the band apart from the run of rock bands of their (or any) era. They also borrowed liberally from Classical music, either directly by adaptation or stylistically, using guitar and organ parts reminiscent of eras from Baroque to Romantic. Badly done, such things could be disastrous, but in this case the result is almost universally successful. The Beatles had used trumpet (think “Penny Lane”) and here was a band with two trained brass players as members, and no need to hire outside musicians. In additional to the Classical shadings, there are elements of West Coast country rock and vaudevillian swagger, which makes for a unique whole. It holds together amazingly well due to the sophistication of the writing and imagination in the arrangements. Management and label difficulties left this outstanding album without the backing it deserved, and the band only recorded one other (with different personnel for a different label) before dispersing. Lovers of elaborate psych, don’t miss this one.
Related artist(s): Ars Nova
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more