Rock Around The World July 1977   29


by Rashad L. Bean

Who is Marshall Simpkins and why does he love Timestream? Simpkins is co-owner of the Inn Square Men’s Bar (ladies invited), a funky little place in Cambridge’s Inman Square that has become one of the favorite night spots for that town’s sophisticated music freaks. And Timestream? Timestream is a band that has regularly played the Inn Square, knocking people out with a sound that is original and exciting, intelligent yet accessible, and strong enough to set even the most jaded Cantabrigian hearts to thumping and feet to dancing.

In less than six months of gigging, Time-stream has developed a hard-core group of fans who follow them from club to club, town to town, to help spread the word on what could be the next big group to break out of the Northeast. And in an area suddenly swamped with punk-rock bands playing three-chord cole slaw at earthquake volume, Timestream cooks up a gourmet feast of new-age fusion music, merging elements of jazz, funk, pop balladry and commercial rock into something unique, timely and solid.

Timestream is Diego Bianco–alto and tenor sax, flute and percussion; Peter Gitlin–keyboards, percussion and vocals; Roger Ebacher–lead vocals, recorder, fife and congas; Barbara Frake– lead vocals and string synthesizer; Captain Jack Leyden

guitar and percussion; Denny Pelletier drums; and Beaver Swift–bass and vocals. All are exceptional musicians, but what first strikes the listener is not that any one person dominates, but that these diverse personalities and styles jell into arrangements that stress the unity of the performers and the music being performed. (I must admit, though, that as a part-time dabbler in music myself, it almost hurts to know that Leyden and Pelletier are only 20 and 21 respectively. These cats are young–but they burn.)

On stage the music soars and swoops like an eagle in flight; riding the currents of musical energy as the band tears through “Summer Samba,” a long Latin-flavored instrumental featuring some incredible flute pyrotechnics from Bianco, and then comes down to the long and introspective “Father of the Forest,” with its dramatic changes in mood and vocal texture. The range of music Timestream can play in one set, no less one night, is nothing short of astounding. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to someday hear someone like Tony Bennett do a cover version of “Angeline,” a simple and beautiful ballad of love.

Perhaps the epitome of Timestream’s musical spirit is “Karma/Brittle Nerves.” Starting out with a slow flute melody, it gradually builds with the addition of

electric piano and synthesizer. There’s a piano solo, the melody returns on alto sax, and suddenly the song is transformed into a honkin’, swingin’, screamin’ 6/8 jam with solos, percussion, and a hook to bring it all together. It’s tight, but with an arrangement free enough to give every band member room to blow and space to grow.

Balancing the music of Timestream are their lyrics. Embracing slice-of-life stories, love songs, songs of joy and songs of sadness, Timestream conjures up visions of freedom, flying saucers, dreams, reaching the stars and reaching for your lover. Some bands are lucky to have one lead vocalist, but Timestream has two, and whether singing alone, together or in four-part harmony with the hand, Ebacher and Frake have the expressive voices to fully realize the lyrics. My favorite lyrics are from “Dreaming.”

“I held you in my arms last night

And dreamed that we had taken flight Like the hawk and like the wind

Searching for some nameless friend.” This verse can almost be taken as a metaphor for ,an evening with Timestream, one of those perfect evenings when the band is hot and loose, the room packed and the lights low. As the energy builds and the music gets higher, the band and audience seem to become one, feeding energy back and forth and taking flight together. Time-

stream is a band that responds to its listeners as much as the listeners respond to the music.

Peter Gitlin. who currently does much of the writing for Timestream, feels that this group is the climax of years of individuals searching for that magical combination of talent and personality that gives Time-stream such potential. This band is trying to break down walls–the walls between people and the walls we build inside ourselves. When it’s all flowing and the band is tight, the music, even in its most frenetic moments, seems to come from some quiet place far removed from the hassles of daily life. As Gitlin says, “It’s like we don’t play the music–the music plays us.”

I’ve heard Timestream at Sandy’s Jazz Revival in Beverly, where the usual fare is straight jazz artists like Earl “Fatha” Hines and Dexter Gordon, and at a number of clubs where bands usually do their Areosmith impersonations, and Time-stream has gone over equally well. Success is guaranteed no one in this crazy business, but with a little dose of luck to go along with their talent and drive, it might not be long before Timestream is more than just a local phenomenon, and we’ll all be saying “I knew them when . .

As Marshall Simpkins of the Inn Square says, “This hand is top shelf.”