About this album
Organically funky, laced with avant-garde synth textures, and studded with breakbeats, Jeff Resnick’s ultra-rare jazz fusion outlier School for American Craftsmen is a true one-off. After its rediscovery by beat-makers and rare groove seekers, SAC became a much sought-after mystery – why was a sophisticated, heavy and innovative jazz album packaged as a promotional item for a school of arts, complete with a cover showing students engaged in pottery and printmaking? And why was every song named after artists’ mediums such as ‘Glass’ or ‘Metal’, or an area of study such as ‘Communications Design’?
The music that would become School for American Craftsmen first took shape while composer, bandleader and educator Jeff Resnick was Professor of Music at Genesee Community College in Batavia, upstate New York.
While playing a community concert, the young professor was approached by a film-maker from Chicago. She had been commissioned to make a promotional film for Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of American Craftsmen – and the film needed music. Would Resnick like to compose some tone poems to soundtrack the film, one for each of the school’s departments? Jeff leapt at the chance, composing a sequence of five original contemporary jazz compositions. With a tiny budget secured from R.I.T.’s dean to pay for musicians and studio time, Resnick enlisted a trusted crew of Rochester musicians including trumpeter Jeff Tyzik and pianist Sonny Kompanek. A fortnight later, the five tracks of polished soul jazz and modal fusion that make up side A of the SAC LP were put to tape in a single session.
Impressed, the dean immediately commissioned a further four tracks, to illustrate the subjects taught at R.I.T.’s School of Art and Design. This time there was no budget, and Resnick decided to go solo, using synthesizers to build the four new tracks alone in the course of a week. Buffalo saxophonist Dick Griffo featured, but Resnick played every other instrument, multi-tracking the recording at home on his own eight-track. The outcome was a unique set of forward-looking synth explorations, busy electro grooves and fourth-world tropicalism.
Once again, the results were impressive, and the dean of R.I.T. felt the music was so powerful that it could be used as a recruiting tool for the school. Giving Resnick guidance over the project once more, 250 LPs were pressed up. The a-side, titled ‘SAC – School for American Craftsmen’, featured the first five cuts, while the flip – ‘A&D – School of Art and Design’ – showcased Resnick’s multi-tracked solo synth material. The album was privately distributed by R.I.T., who sent it out to high schools, enquiring students, and colleges across the US to promote their programmes.
With such a limited pressing and specific purpose, it was no surprise that Resnick’s visionary music reached only a select few ears at the time. But with its beguiling combination of warm electronics and energised fusion fully restored from Resnick’s master tapes, Outernational Sounds now returns Resnick’s unique vision to vinyl, letting its positive vibes and organic grooves inspire minds and move feet once again!
Jeff Resnick’s School of American Craftsmen is released as a limited, vinyl-only edition on a 180g pressing, with new liner-notes penned by Jeff Resnick himself. Distributed by Honest Jons.