Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Henry John Kaiser III, 19 Sept. '52, Oakland CA) Guitarist and broadcaster. Scion of the US industrialist family of the same name with buildings around the San Francisco Bay area to remind him. Worked as film producer but became an underwater scientific researcher by trade, and also a prolific improvising recording artist. Devil In The Drain on SST '87 was largely a solo excursion for guitar and Synclavier keyboard, with accompanist Bruce Anderson on 'Roadside Picnic'. Crazy Backwards Alphabet '87 from former Captain Beefheart drummer John French, Kaiser, Michael Maksymenko and Andy West had the lineup augmented by other musicians. That year became part of an occasional partnership comprising French on drums and guitarists Fred Frith, Kaiser and Richard Thompson; Live, Love, Larf And Loaf on Rhino (US)/Demon (UK) '88 consisted mainly of originals in an experimental vein but also veered into ethnic music or World Music territory with a cover of Okinawan Shoukichi Kina's 'Hai Sai Oji-San', sung by Thompson in Okinawan. Re-Marrying For Money '88 back on SST drew on material recorded '82--3 and released on the German Minor Music label as Marrying For Money; augmented by tracks incl. 'The Last Of The Few' with Bill Frisell recorded live at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco '85. Those Who Know History Are Doomed to Repeat It '88 found him covering two songs by the Grateful Dead, 'Dark Star'/'The Other One' and an officially unreleased song of theirs called 'Mason's Children' which was unusual for its guest appearance by lyricist Robert Hunter. Former Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten began to sit in regularly with Kaiser. Alternative Versions '88 incl. an alternative take of 'Mason's Children' and 'I'm Glad', a foretaste of a work then in progress from Sergei Kuryokhin and Kaiser, and a collaboration with Scott Colby called 'Special Rider Blues'. The jointly-billed Kuryokhin/Kaiser album Popular Science appeared on Rykodisc '89. (Kuryokhin, b 16 June '54, Murmansk, d 9 July '96 of heart cancer, was a Russian keyboardist, multi- instrumentalist and composer, a bright light in contemporary music extinguished all too soon.) Kaiser contributed four tracks to the Japanese anthology Drive To Heaven, Welcome To Chaos on Statik '89; the Henry Kaiser Band recorded a live double album Heart's Desire '89 for Reckless, the band consisting of Anderson on guitar and vocals; Constanten, keyboards and vocals; Hilary Hanes, bass and vocals; John Hanes, drums; Kaiser, guitar; and Cary Sheldon, vocals; a diverse and eclectic repertoire included covers of compositions by the Band, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Richard Thompson mixed with original material.

Kaiser joined forces with Bob Weir of Grateful Dead '89 to record the title track for If 6 Was 9 on Imaginary, an album of Hendrix tributes, as the Obsequious Cheeselog, the production process mistakenly changing it to Obsequious Cheesecake. The French/Frith/Kaiser/Thompson team reconvened '90 to record Invisible Means on Demon (UK)/ Windham Hill (USA). Far too many Kaiser combinations have contributed to various artists' anthologies to be listed; Kaiser performed 'The Needle And The Damage Done'/'Tonight's The Night' and 'Words' on the Neil Young tribute album The Bridge on Caroline '89. The Henry Kaiser Band covered 'Play With Fire' and 'Tell Me' on Stoned Again on Imaginary Records '90, an anthology of interpretations of songs by the Rolling Stones. Spin-off band Adams, French, Kaiser and West covered Richard Thompson's 'Madness of Love' on Circle Dance '90, a track from a double album's worth of material still languishing in the can. Hope You Like Our New Direction on Reckless '91 rounded up the usual suspects and more, in total featuring some 27 musicians including David Balakrishnan, Danny Carnahan, Raymond Kane, Jin Hi Kim, John Oswald and Thompson, the best general introduction to the sheer diversity of Kaiser's recorded work. Concurrent with his other activities he began hosting a long-running World Music radio programme on a West Coast station mid-'70s, still running in the '90s. Kaiser has continued to work in the vague orbit of the Dead with live performance work in Japan with Bob Weir '94 as well as compiling The Music Never Stopped: The Roots Of The Grateful Dead on Shanachie '95, an anthology of material performed as cover versions by the group, and working with Constanten on Eternity Blue for the same label '95. With David Lindley Kaiser put together collections of field recordings from Madagascar and Norway as well as A World Out Of Time, Vol. II, also on Shanachie. The Five Heavenly Truths was on Ponk; Lemon Fish Tweezer on Cuneiform was a compilation of Kaiser guitar solos '73--91; a jackdaw of all trades and masthead of none, Kaiser's work as an improviser runs from the noodling to the inspired, and his enormous output of recordings, sessions and boundless energy seems destined for the record books.