CD Review: Tony Scott – Music for Zen Meditation

5 stars

Artist: Tony Scott
Album: Music For Zen Meditation
Label: Verve
Released: February 1964

Musicians: Tony Scott (clarinet), Shinich Yuize (koto), Hozan Yamamoto (shakuhachi)

This music is ideal for: meditation, ambient music for the home, yoga class and individual yoga practice.

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The Essence of ZEN Music…

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this album should be in every serious music lover’s CD and MP3 collection. The reason? This album is the real deal as far as Zen Meditation music goes. If there WAS a true example of ZEN in music this is it; and two of the musicians are renowned Japanese musicians playing shakuhachi and koto respectively; at the height of their artistry at the time of this recording.

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About Tony Scott

Tony Scott was a celebrated jazz clarinetist who gained prominence in the 1950’s, but after recording this album in 1964, focused more on ethnic music of the Orient and delved into meditational music.

The First New Age Recording?

Well, there are so many New Age albums out there (many with the same title or similar) but none are as authentic and pioneering as this one. And it’s not really that this is a New Age album per se, but some claim that this was probably the very first New Age album, and one that helped inspire the whole New Age movement and thus, is of cultural and historic significance as well.

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Excerpt From The Liner Notes

In the spirit of ZEN, this music is the result of an “enlightenment” or Satori with my fellow men. This music was totally improvised with no premeditation or rehearsal. All the more amazing because in Japanese Classical or Traditional music, improvisation is an unused and unheard of element. —Tony Scott, New York City, September 1965

This superb record is not only a delight to the ear but an event in musical history. For it took Tony Scott, Western jazz clarinetist, to coax two of the greatest masters of traditional Japanese music to join him in an unrehearsed session of purely spontaneous playing.

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About ZEN…

ZEN is a way of living (not a theory) through which people experience themselves, not as separate beings, but as one with the whole universe, of which every individual is a unique expression.

The Zen artist, therefore, puts both his skill and his instrument — flute or harp, brush or potter’s wheel — at the disposal of the Tao, the Way of Nature, so that his art becomes as natural as the clouds and the waves — which never make aesthetic mistakes.

Personal Thoughts

This recording is a long-time favorite of mine. I originally bought the Vinyl LP in my college days, and bought it again when it came out on CD.

The “spirit” of the album is one of peace, serenity, emptiness, lots of space between musical notes and long tones. And the sound recording is remarkably clear and open for the age of the studio recording.

The natural earthiness of the shakuhachi comes out very well, and the plucking of the koto is simply unbelievable! Surprisingly, Tony Scott’s clarinet playing blends in so well with the authentic Japanese masters, that many times one is not able to tell apart the clarinet from the shakuhachi. All three musicians are improvising at a very deep, profound level of artistry.

If you do buy this album, listening closely to The Murmuring Sound of the Mountain Stream. This is an arpeggiated run performed on the koto that is simply beautifull and breathtaking. But, every track is performed and executed with amazing clarity and intent. This is a beautiful album that I highly recommend, probably more than any other album… capturing the essence of pure ZEN.

I have used this CD many times during meditation and yoga (it is perfect for both), and I even play it as ambient music in the home.

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Track List

  1. Is Not All One?
  2. The Murmuring Sound of the Mountain Stream
  3. A Quivering Leaf, Ask The Winds
  4. After The Snow, The Fragrance
  5. To Drift Like Clouds
  6. Za-Zen (Meditation)
  7. Prajna-Paramita-Hridaya Sutra (Sutra Chant)
  8. Sanzen (Moment of Truth)
  9. Satori (Enlightenment)

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If you liked this CD Review, check out my other post: CD Review: World Is India. Another great CD that gets the 5 star rating!

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Carlos Rull

Carlos Rull is a musician living in the San Diego area. His interests include Yoga, Eastern Philosophy, Zen Buddhism, and Gardening. He plays drums, piano, and composes New Age & Ambient music, and his albums are available on iTunes and Amazon.com.

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