Ahora Mazda was a Dutch ethno/psych band that released a self-titled album on Catfish in 1970.
Members: Peter Abbink (guitar, vocals, piano, trumpet, organ, bass), Rob van Wageningen (flute, saxophone, vocals, percussion, kalimba), Tony Schreuder (bass, percussion), Winky Abbink (drums, 1969-71), Paul van Wageningen (drums, percussion, 1971)
Ahora Mazda evolved from the Free Art Group, an unrecorded jazz trio formed in 1965 by reedist Rob van Wageningen, bassist Peter Abbink, and his drummer brother Winky Abbink. They were influenced by American avant-garde jazz bandleaders like John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Sun Ra.
In 1968, they became a four-piece with bassist Tony Schreuder. Winky switched to guitar and the band renamed itself Group 67/68. They became a resident act at the Fantasio in Amsterdam. The club’s manager, Ruud Tegelaar, suggested a new band name, Ahora Mazda, a corruption of Ahura Mazda, the wise god in the ancient Zoroastrian faith.
1970: Ahora Mazda
Ahora Mazda signed to Bovema-sublabel Catfish and released their singular, self-titled album in May 1970. It features six numbers, three composed by Peter Abbink (“Spacy Tracy,” “Timeless Dream,” “Power”) and three co-written between P. Abbink and Wageningen (“Oranje Vrystaat,” “Fallen Tree,” “Fantasio”). In addition to guitar, Peter plays piano, jew’s harp, cup-muted trumpet, bells, and rattles. Wageningen adds percussion, slide whistle, and kalimba on select passages.
“Oranje Vrystaat” (7:32) starts on a circular kalimba pattern, gradually woven with billowing sax, cymbal mist, and spine-tingling pick-slide guitar. The middle is a desolate stretch with drop-in/dropout bass, random percussion, and remote layers of slide whistle and plucked, vibrato high notes. Later, the volume swells amid dissonant chords, roaming drums, and vaguely thematic sax.
“Spacy Tracy” (8:31) appears with a distant, hollow-body wah-wah riff, soon anchored with a rattling rhythmic pattern. Midway, Peter Abbink scales and shreds into a haze of fuzz and feedback, which melds into a sparse, free-form stretch of tinkling piano and hissing percussion.
“Power” (6:50) consists of a slow, distant, bobbing bassline and mildly distorted, discorded riff (primarily in E♭ minor), overlaid with flowing flute. Four minutes in, Abblink takes over with another scaly, hazy round of fuzz licks, swallowed at the end by a shrill, churchy organ echo.
“Fallen Tree” (9:16) begins with a barren vocal passage, followed by a repeating vocal/flute melody over a low bassline pattern (B♭-C#-E♭-F#). Gradually, Winky Abbink tightens the song’s rhythmic foundation. Midway, Peter asserts with soaring bends and held notes on the lower fretboard. Later (6:20-ish), Van Wageningen cuts in with a fluttering flute improv, eventually wrestled back to the song proper.
“Fallen Tree” appeared that year on the Imperial multi-artist comp Hey June along with tracks by Brainbox and September (pre-Cargo).
Ahora Mazda was produced by Joop Visser (Tortilla, Solution) and engineered by Pierre Geoffrey Chateau (Unit Gloria) at Bovema Studio. The cover features design and typography by one Rik Lina. Along with Solution and titles by Sweet Smoke and BJ Ward, Ahora Mazda was one of only a dozen Catfish LPs released during the label’s initial 1969–72 run. The album was also released on the French Pathé label.
To fill their sound in a live setting, Ahora Mazda added guitarist Jan Landkroon and bassist Michiel Krijnen (Bag, Tarantula). In 1971, Winky cleared out for Rob’s drummer brother Paul van Wageningen, who’d played in Groep 1850. However, the new lineup folded by the end of that year.
Rob van Wageningen also played on the 1970 Catfish release Candy Clouds by Hans Dulfer and Ritmo-Natural. Schreuder co-produced the 1971 free-jazz album Pleasure One by pianist/clarinetist Kees Hazevoet. Paul van Wageningen rejoined Groep 1850 and played on the 1976 album Fontessa by ex-Drama guitarist Frank van der Kloot. He then moved to the US and played on jazz-funk albums by John Payne and Bill Summers & Summers Heat.
Ahora Mazda was first reissued in 1999 by Dutch archivists Pseudonym. The CD adds five demo tracks recorded in January 1970. In 2013, Pseudonym issued a double-CD containing the original album and demos, including a 10-minute version of the rarity “Try to Forget,” plus a second disc of alternate versions of the pre-released material.
- Ahora Mazda (1970)
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