Saturday, 26 November 2016


«I don't think that there is such a thing as the Don Sebesky sound. [...] I think the common denominator here is more an attitude towards music, a willingness to blend various influences without worrying about where they come from. The way I look at music is the way I look at life - I have no pre-conceived notion about either. If today I feel like doing a certain kind of music, that's what I'll do. And tomorrow, I might try a different kind. I think that if I had one sound, if I stumbled on one formula and I had to stay with that one sound and keep pushing it, I'd never be happy. That's why I said that I don't think I have a "sound". But an attitude, an approach to music, definitely, yes.»

[Don Sebesky, from an interview conducted in 1973 by Didier C. Deutsch]

Donald John Sebesky was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, USA, on 10 December 1937; his father worked in a steel-cable factory, his mother was a housewife. At the age of eight he started learning the accordion; he later came to realize that this instrument was the best possible choice he could have made because, as he says, «the accordion is a 'mini-orchestra' and teaches the principles of harmony from the very beginning».

Sebesky soon started learning piano too, and in high school he switched to the trombone to get into the marching band. Then he began commuting into New York from New Jersey to study with Warren Covington at the Manhattan School of Music. His earliest influences were the big bands of Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson.

During the mid '50s he began his professional career playing with Kai Winding, Claude Thornhill, and the Tommy Dorsey Band led by Covington. In 1958 he was hired to play the trombone in Maynard Ferguson's band appearing on their album "A Message From Newport"; on such occasion he signed two compositions: "Humbug" and "Fan It, Janet".

He also played briefly with Stan Kenton appearing on "Viva Kenton!" in 1959, but at the turning of the decade he decided to give up trombone playing and devote himself full time to writing and arranging, working out an individual style based on a combination of Jazz and Classical music.

In 1965 Don Sebesky joined Verve Records when Creed Taylor was still a producer for the label. One of his most distinctive and successful arrangements was for Wes Montgomery's album "Bumpin'" released the same year.

In 1967, when Taylor left the company to launch his own CTI, Sebesky joined the newborn label as staff arranger, giving his precious contribution in creating many hit records.

During the late '60s / early '70s, his orchestral backgrounds helped make artists like Montgomery, George Benson ("Shape of Things To Come", 1968), Paul Desmond ("From the Hot Afternoon", 1969) and Freddie Hubbard ("First Light", 1971) acceptable to audiences outside of Jazz.

Sebesky's arrangements have usually been among the classiest in his field, reflecting a solid knowledge of the orchestra, drawing variously from Big Band Jazz, Rock, Ethnic music, Classical music of all eras and even the Avant-garde for ideas. He once cited Béla Bartók as his favorite composer, but one also hears lots of Stravinsky in his work.

In 1968 he debuted as a solo artist with "Don Sebesky & The Jazz-Rock Syndrome", an albums intended to merge - as per its title - Jazz and Rock music. This record was soon followed by "The Distant Galaxy", a weirder affair that is the subject of the current post.

In the late '60s / early '70s Sebesky also arranged for Carmen McRae, Tamiko Jones (...her album "I'll Be Anything For You" is available here on Stereo Candies...), Peggy Lee, Hubert Laws, Kenny Burrell and Dionne Warwick, to name just a few, but the list is so much longer... In 1971 his song "Memphis Two-Step" was the title track of the Herbie Mann album of the same name.

In 1973 Sebesky released his opus "Giant Box", a double LP for which he employed musicians that makes the term 'all stars' sound like an understatement; this may have been Creed Taylor's most ambitious single project.

Among the numerous artists gathered together for the occasion were Paul Desmond, George Benson, Randy Brecker, Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Freddie Hubbard, Milt Jackson, Airto Moreira, Grover Washington Jr., Jackie Cain and Roy Kral.

The album reached number 16 on the U.S. Billboard Jazz Albums Chart and was nominated for a Grammy. Later on, this step out into the spotlight was followed only by sporadic releases among which we remember "The Rape of El Morro" (1975), "Three Works For Jazz Soloists & Symphony Orchestra" (1979) and "Full Cycle" (1983).

Active as a teacher since the 70s, Sebesky is the author of "The Contemporary Arranger", an authoritative easy-to-understand text covering all aspects of arranging for Jazz bands and other Contemporary / Pop ensembles, which is used in colleges and music schools all over the world.

He has worked with such orchestras as the London Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Pops, The New York Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic of London, and the Toronto Symphony.

As a recording artist and in collaboration with other artists, he has won three Grammy Awards and has been nominated for 27 more, won a Tony and has been nominated for two more, won two Drama Desk Awards and four Clio Awards.

During the years, he has composed and arranged music for Christina Aguilera, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Britney Spears, Chet Baker, Vanessa Williams, Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, Liza Minnelli, Cyndi Lauper, and a host of other pop stars.

Sebesky has composed and orchestrated for several films, including the Oscar-nominated short subject "Time Piece" (1965) starring and directed by Jim Henson (...available here, it is worth your precious time, believe me!), "The People Next Door" (1970), "F. Scott Fitzgerald and 'The Last of the Belles'" (1974), "The Rosary Murders" (1987) with Donald Sutherland (for which Sebesky also conducted), and "Julie & Julia" (2009) with Meryl Streep.

Sebesky's work for television has garnered three Emmy nominations for "Allegra's Window" on Nickelodeon, "The Edge of Night" on ABC, and "Guiding Light" on CBS.

His Broadway theater credits include "Porgy and Bess" (London production by Trevor Nunn), "Sinatra at The Palladium", "Sweet Charity", "Kiss Me Kate", "Bells Are Ringing", "Flower Drum Song", "Parade", "The Life", "Cyrano", "The Goodbye Girl", "Will Rogers Follies", "Sinatra at Radio City", "Pal Joey", "Come Fly Away" and "Baby It's You".

One of the most highly regarded arrangers in the business, Sebesky's work is precise and elegant, yet bristles with ideas and always displays his sure grasp of instrumental potential and the abilities of the performers for whom he writes.

Don Sebesky, exact date unknown, probably mid/late '80s

"The Distant Galaxy" contains the following tracks:

01. The Distant Galaxy (0:16)
02. Dance the Night Away (3:10)
03. The Sound of Silence (4:51)
04. Martian Storm (0:15)
05. Soul Lady (2:56)
06. Reflectivity (0:14)
07. Mr. Tambourine Man (3:01)
08. Cosmic Force (0:21)
09. Water Brother (3:58)
10. Spiral Nebulae (0:23)
11. The Blue Scimitar (3:59)
12. Satellite (0:11)
13. Elvira Madigan Theme / Honey (3:02)
14. Solar Emissions (0:15)
15. Guru-Vin (4:34)
16. I Wish It Would Rain (2:47)
17. Lady Madonna (2:42)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in November 2016 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with complete artwork reconstruction and printable PDF files.

Before burning this album to CD-R using the provided CUE file, you must convert the original FLAC audio file to WAV format using an appropriate software. Please have a look here if you need some help.

As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download link.

Recorded between March and October 1968, and bearing catalogue number V6-5063, "The Distant Galaxy" was released on Verve Records in November during the same year. Just like the previous "Don Sebesky & The Jazz-Rock Syndrome", the record comes in a nice sleeve created by Joel Brodsky (photography) and Acy R. Lehman (art direction). The front cover aptly depicts the album concept, and on the back this is reinforced by the inclusion of a real picture of the Andromeda Galaxy.

As the 'V6' prefix in the catalogue number implies, the album is recorded in full stereo and the mixing offers clear separation of the various instruments. Despite being in near mint condition, my copy suffers from some serious crackling on the left channel and getting rid of it took ages...

Anyway, the album was bootlegged on vinyl sometimes in the late '90s / early '00s, but it never received a proper CD release. As far as I know, only the track "Guru-Vin" was released on a compilation entitled "Psychedelic Jazz", which is part of the "Jazzclub | Moods" series.

In June 1968 the LP was preceded by a single credited to The Distant Galaxy, which included "Elvira Madigan Theme / Honey" and "The Blue Scimitar". In December, shortly after the release of the album, another promotional single containing "The Sound of Silence" b/w "Lady Madonna" was issued. Once again, this was credited to The Distant Galaxy and not to Don Sebesky... It is unclear if this single was subsequently officially released and if it contains mono or stereo mixes of the track.

The following liner notes, included on the back of the album sleeve, were written by novelist David A. Kaufelt.


«The heavens open. The clouds part. And you thrust through. Past the fair moon and the envious sun. Past the red planet Mars and the foggy Venus and the titan Jupiter and the beringed Saturn and the unknown Pluto. Beyond the Big Dipper and Pegasus and Gemini and Taurus and Orion. Suddendly, quite irrevocably, the Milky Way - with its billions of stars blinking like pale yellow eyelids - is behind you and you're tripping 200,000 light years away, passing white dwarfs and mysterium and reptiles with wings and incendiary comets and irridescent meteors and signs of civilizations that reached their nadir one million eons before man's solar system had begun to evolve.

Orange flames and purple bolts and streaks colored from a different spectrum snake across the perpetual night. You've reached your destination, the ultimate synthesis of life, the opposite pole of the universe, THE DISTANT GALAXY.

Where time has never existed. Where stars orbit in a spiral abyss. Where you comprehend that man is not alone in the universe. Where others have conquered war, hunger and disease. Where sounds - both alien and familiar - engulf the at mosphere and tell you of another dimension, another place that exists beyond the farthest reaches of the-mind.

Sounds of violence. Sounds of electrical forces generated by an ultra-sensitive, macrocosmic transmitter. Sounds of Silence strained through instruments and voices you've never heard, you can never forget. Sounds of images that dance before your eye in unrelieved colors of the cosmic soul: Elvira Madigan walking a tightrope of pink gold stretched between twin hexagonal stars... Honey sinking into the organic-tinted waters of a one-dimensional moon... Lady Madonna caught in a koleidoscopic cob-web spun from the diamonds of her own dreams...

Sounds of limitless joys that enable you to Dance the Night Away... Sounds of external sadness that bring you face to face with the Soul Lady... Sounds of loneliness that leave you abandoned on an ebony desert, crying I Wish It Would Rain... Sounds of forgotten exotica (The Blue Scimitar, Guru-vin) transcribed into the fragile filigree of final understanding... Sounds that strike a sympathetic chord (Mr. Tambourine Man, Water Brother) reverberating across the endless reaches of space,
echoing in the endless reaches of your mind...

Sounds of fast, driving, pulsating crescendos that linger on in the inner ear long after the last possible electronic irnpulse. Sounds of jazz progressing deep into the azure blues of the twilight zone. Sounds from THE DISTANT GALAXY. Take the trip. Listen. Allow yourself to be transported, absorbed. And learn why you can't go home again.»

...and to finish this post, here's the complete credits as reconstructed from the original list included on the back cover and the information written on the center labels of "The Distant Galaxy". Additional information about most of the tunes is also included, along with six clips that offer a generous preview of the remastered album... Enjoy!


Arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky.

Produced by Esmond Edwards.

Recorded and re-mixed at A&R Recording Studios, New York City, by Dave Sanders, Phil Ramone, Don Hahn and Tony May.

Electronic effects: Rick Horton of MGM

Director of Engineering: Val Valentin

Cover photo: Joel Brodsky

Art Direction: Acy R. Lehman


The Distant Galaxy
(Rick Horton)
This is the very first in a series of electronic miniatures that are interspersed among the main tracks, whose purpose is to emphasize the out-of-this-world mood of the album...
Recording date: October 3, 1968

Dance the Night Away
(Jack Bruce / Pete Brown)
This song was originally included on "Disraeli Gears", the second album by the British rock band Cream released in November 1967; you can listen to the original version here.
Musicians include: Chuck Rainey, bass - Donald MacDonald, drums - Hubert Laws, soprano saxophone
Recording date: April 14, 1968

The Sound of Silence
(Paul Simon)
Mistitled "Sounds of Silence" on the original back cover of the album, this everlasting Simon & Garfunkel's tune was first released as part of the "Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M." LP in October 1964, and is for sure one of the most well-known songs ever recorded: do you really need a link to the original version? The arrangement created by Don Sebesky is one of the most elaborate and interesting on the album.
Musicians include: Chuck Rainey, bass - Donald MacDonald, drums - Hubert Laws, flute
Recording date: October 3, 1968

Martian Storm
(Rick Horton)
The effect that can be heard on this interlude was probably achieved by operating a tape machine manually...
Recording date: October 3, 1968

Soul Lady
(Don Sebesky)
Here comes the first of three tracks penned by Sebesky. His original compositions really stand the most stressful quality tests; this one in particular is so infused with Soul and offers a very solid groove that also leaves room for a cheesy Moog solo played by the man himself... Simply great!
Musicians include: Chuck Rainey, bass - Donald MacDonald, drums - Dick Hyman, piano - Don Sebesky, Moog synthesizer
Recording date: April 26, 1968

(Rick Horton)
As the title suggests, this is just a short portion of the next track spinned backwards...
Recording date: October 3, 1968

Mr. Tambourine Man
(Bob Dylan)
The original version of this song appears on Bob Dylan's fifth album, which is entitled "Bringing It All Back Home" and was released in March 1965. A live version recorded at Newport Folk Festival in 1964 is available here... Well, I may be wrong, but in this track I happen to clearly hear Vincent Bell's trademark 'underwater guitar' sound as performed by him on many releases, including Dick Hyman's "Moon Gas", Ferrante & Teicher's "Midnight Cowboy" and his own "Airport Love Theme"... Bell in not credited anywhere on the liner notes, but a reference to his name most likely appears in the title of track 15, "Guru-Vin", uhm... Anyway, you can read more details below.
Musicians include: Chuck Rainey, bass - Donald MacDonald, drums - Hubert Laws, soprano saxophone
Recording date: April 14, 1968

Cosmic Force
(Rick Horton)
This is another short and simple interlude performed on a synthesizer that, according to Wikipedia, hints at the force derivable from dark energy that is responsible for the accelerating universe...
Recording date: October 3, 1968

Water Brother
(Don Sebesky)
The second of Don Sebesky's original instrumentals included on "The Distant Galaxy" is another winner, also due to the excellent clavinet and flute solos. Percussions and Moog synthesizer elements significantly add to the final result. I can't help to wonder how great a full album of original compositions in this vein would have been...
Musicians include: Chuck Rainey, bass - Donald MacDonald, drums - Hubert Laws, flute - Warren Bernhardt, clavinet - Don Sebesky, Moog synthesizer
Recording date: April 14, 1968

Spiral Nebulae
(Rick Horton)
Side Two opens with more modular synth extravaganza. This is by far the most interesting interlude on the album.
Recording date: October 3, 1968

The Blue Scimitar
(Esmond Edwards)
This instrumental is credited to producer Esmond Edwards and was previously recorded by pianist Ray Bryant for his album "Lonesome Traveler" in 1966.
Musicians include: Chuck Rainey, bass - Donald MacDonald, drums - Marvin Stamm, trumpet - Richard Spencer, soprano saxophone
Recording date: April 26, 1968

(Rick Horton)
A simulation of an orbiting satellite passing by... Nothing more and nothing less.
Recording date: October 3, 1968

Elvira Madigan Theme / Honey
(Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
This medley includes a reworking of the second movement from Mozart's "Piano Concerto No. 21", that was included as part of the soundtrack to the 1967 Swedish movie "Elvira Madigan", and Bobby Russell's "Honey", a song brought to success by Bobby Goldsboro in 1968. You can watch him perform a playback of the original version here. By the way, the center label on the original album wrongly mention one *Bill* Russell as author instead of Bobby...
Musicians include: Chuck Rainey, bass - Donald MacDonald, drums - Richard Spencer, soprano saxophone - Dick Hyman, piano
Recording date: April 26, 1968

Solar Emissions
(Rick Horton)
A last bit of tape manipulation with added reverb and effects.
Recording date: October 3, 1968

(Don Sebesky)
Here we have, in all his glory, the third instrumental piece composed by Don Sebesky for this album. During the '60s the sitar started being featured in Western Pop Music, Wikipedia hosts a very nice article about it and you can find it here. Towards the end of the decade, the electric sitar was developed by Danelectro, with the essential contribution of guitarist Vincent Bell, (...his name pops up again in this release, please see also the note for track 7, "Mr. Tambourine Man"... - a few posts about him will be uploaded to the blog soon), and its gorgeous sound graces "Guru-Vin", courtesy of American jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. Vocal inputs by Lois Winter are also essential...By the way, I just realized that the song title may be in honour of Mr. Bell, what do you think? Anyway... What a masterpiece!
Musicians include: Chuck Rainey, bass - Ronald Zito, drums - Larry Coryell, electric sitar - Lois Winter, vocals
Recording date: March 28, 1968

I Wish It Would Rain
(Norman Whitfield / Barrett Strong / Roger Penzabene)
This song is one of the most melancholy in the Temptations repertoire. The single was released in December 1967; it reached #1 in the R&B Charts and #4 in the Pop Charts in th U.S. You can listen to the original version here.
Musicians include: Chuck Rainey, bass - Donald MacDonald, drums - Dick Hyman, piano
Recording date: April 26, 1968

Lady Madonna
(John Lennon / Paul McCartney)
The album ends with a Beatles cover. The original version was released as a single in March 1968 and you can listen to it here.
Musicians include: Chuck Rainey, bass - Ronald Zito, drums - Larry Coryell, electric guitar - Marvin Stamm, trumpet and piccolo trumpet
Recording date: March 28, 1968

More information about Don Sebesky and "The Distant Galaxy"is available here:

If you have any other useful information about this post, or if you spot any dead links, just get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!



    If you download this file please consider leaving a comment, your feedback is important!

    Please let me know if the link is broken and I'll do my best to quickly fix it.

    1. What a great blog...Cool music and lovely looking..
      I have this on vinyl but wanted a copy for my mp3 player....
      Much Thanks
      Stay Safe

  2. Great share Candyman. Your transfers are always superb quality, If only you could do this with Dick Hyman's Man from O.R.G.A.N. ;)

    Thanks for sharing your top notch work!

    1. Thank you... I can't promise it will be soon, but I added it on my "to buy" list: don't loose your faith!

  3. Thanks Candyman you're a Gent!

  4. Rightuous! Thanx, man..............

  5. I was looking for this one for ages!!!! Thanks for your work!!!

  6. Thanks everybody for your comments!

  7. the track "Guru-Vin" is killer!

  8. i have another rip of this but I am sure your is superior! thanks so much


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