The Entourage Music & Theatre Ensemble (aka Entourage) were a genuine cult band -- with dancers -- formed by saxophonist/keyboardist Joe Clark in Baltimore, Maryland in 1970. Their compositions crisscross jazz, minimalism, classical music, global folk traditions, and improvisations in a hybrid fusion of their own creation. Entourage left Baltimore first for Millbrook, New York and finally New London, Connecticut. They recorded two albums for Moses Asch's Folkways label, a self-titled trio offering (with Rusty Clark on viola and guitar and Michael "Smitty" Smith on drums and percussion) issued in 1973, and The Neptune Collection, released in 1976 with guitarist/pianist/percussionist Wall Matthews -- a member of the original Baltimore group. In between, they also employed bassist Terry Plumeri. Entourage scored the film Ceremony of Dreams for Nebraska's PBS station, NETV and created the music for the ballet Cleopatra for the Royal Danish Ballet before splitting in 1978. Four Tet's Kieran Hebden, as much a professional crate digger as a musician, sampled the group's "Neptune Rising" for his track "She Moves Me" in 2003.
Tompkins Square Records, in association with Matthews, have assembled this annotated three-disc box from the group's unreleased music. In Entourage's sound, one can easily hear the minimalism of Terry Riley, the just intonation that so affected LaMonte Young, the chamber jazz-meets-world folk music of early Oregon and, on the tracks with Plumeri, the earliest incarnation of Weather Report (check the full version of "The Shores of God"). One can also hear traces of Harold Budd's slurry, jazz-inflected pianism, Laraaji's ecstatic hammered drones, and more. Disc one includes the earliest music the band recorded. Matthews' electric guitar and Clark's hypnotic, pulsing two-chord piano vamp mark opener "Journey by Water" as swooping viola and malleted cymbals and gongs sweep in. It resembles the earliest work of Popol Vuh. The gorgeous interplay between soprano sax, viola, and electric bass on "The Shores of God" creates a spacious, lilting dreaminess. Matthews' fingerpicking on "Sleazy Sue (Love Duet 1 from Cleopatra)" (with Rusty Clark's droning viola) recalls Bert Jansch's work post-Pentangle. The snaky "Outer Tiger" is painted in reverb with pointed soprano saxophone arpeggios, layered kalimbas, and roiling hand percussion. The second and third discs are comprised of outtakes and alternates from The Neptune Collection and the ballet score. The music from Cleopatra is much darker but no less inviting. Highlights on these two discs include the blissed-out "Euphoric Piano," the alternate, knottier take of "Neptune Rising," the two percussion-and-electric-guitar versions of "Military Music," and the layered, near-ambient weave of minimalism, folk, and classical on "Soft Fist." Altogether, this set offers as much revelatory information as their issued albums. It is presented with a fine historic essay by J.D Considine with commentary from Matthews, along with an eight-panel foldout sleeve with rare photos. This is essential and irresistible vintage American weirdness.