A brief personal recollection by David Mash (a work in progress)
I had the good fortune to play with and write for Ictus, a progressive electronic jazz-fusion band, from 1976 – 1983. Ictus began when I needed to record a rhythm section for an orchestral project I was working on in the Spring of 1976. The piece explored changing, complex time signatures (17/16, 11/8, 9/8…) and I sought out some of the best Berklee students and faculty I could entice for the session. The session featured Gordon Radford on Piano, George Kozub on Bass, Denny Carlson on Drums, Phillipe Saisse on Vibes, and me on Guitar. Click here to hear the recording that started it all: “All for Susan.”
The recording went well, and everyone had so much fun with the music that the group began rehearsing more of my tunes, as well as those by pianist Gordon Radford. Needing a fuller ensemble, we added drummer percussionist Ray Frisby and saxophonist Dean Mochizuki. By the late fall of 1976 the band started playing Boston Clubs and took on the name Ictus, meaning strongly accented downbeat.
Ictus in 1976
From left, Front row: Dennis Carlson, Drums; George Kozub, Bass; Dean Mochizuki, Sax/Flute. Rear row: Ray Frisby, Drums/percussion, Gordon Radford, Piano, and David Mash, Guitar.
In May 1977, George Kozub graduated from Berklee and returned home to Canada and Bruce Gertz joined the band playing bass.
In June 1977, I had a ‘minor’ hand surgery to remove a ganglion cyst on the tendon of the joint of my middle finger and left hand. The surgeon made a mistake, and cut the tendon and some nerves and I lost the use of my left hand. After a second surgery failed to correct the problem, Doctors told me that not only would I have to live in the constant pain I was experiencing, but that I would never again play guitar. Needless to say, I went through a period of depression and temporarily left the band.
Soon after, Dean Mochizuki returned home to the west coast.The band was struggling to stay together, and Bruce Gertz arranged for a demo session to try to get a recording deal. George Garzone joined as saxophonist and Bill Frisell took over the guitar chair that I had vacated. Click below to hear my tune, “Temporarily Untitled” from that session.
That lineup did a couple local gigs at a club called Pooh’s Pub, and Cambridge’s 1369 Jazz Club. George Garzone was busy with his many other musical pursuits and Bill Frisell moved to New York to pursue his playing career. Bruce Gertz invited his friends Bob Zung and Bob Schlink to join on saxophone and guitar. Shortly afterward, I re-joined Ictus playing synthesizers.
In 1978, Ictus got a gig opening for Dave Brubeck and that began a relationship with the Brubecks, their management and record label, and plans began to record an LP using direct-to-disk technology, with Darius Brubeck producing Ictus for audiophile label Direct-to-Disk Labs. As preparations for that recording began, David Weigert joined to replace Denny Carlson on drums. As fate would have it, just before the recording session was to take place, the small label went out of business due to the fact that audiophile recording technology had begun to shift to digital, and Direct-to-Disk Labs responded too slowly to the change.
Gertz left the band and was replaced by Emmanuel ‘Chulo’ Gatewood. The band forged ahead and began to work as much as possible in the NorthEast region. Here is a video from Boston’s “All That’s Jazz” TV show from summer of 1978. This is “All for Susan,” the piece that brought Ictus together in the first place, now arranged for the smaller ensemble.
Here is another video from a second stint on the “All That’s Jazz” show, Mash’s “One of Two.”
In 1979, Mark Snyder replaced Chulo on Bass, and Ictus went ahead to record “Future Winds” for their Airborn Records label. The sessions were co-produced by Ictus and David ‘DB” Butler for his “OTL Productions.”
In the Middle of the sessions, Gordon Radford was replaced by Dick Odgren. The group then was:
Ictus Sanctus (Mash)
Venus’ Face Unveiled (Schlink)
Temporarily Untitled (Mash)
Future Winds (Schlink)
Listen: The Words are Gone (Mash)
Soon after the record was released, Bob Zung headed to New York and Dick Odgren’s brother Jim sat in on saxophone. Dave Weigert left to join a gigging disco band. By late 1981 both Odgren’s had moved on to focus energy on their own tremendous band called “Out at Home.”
Ictus then added Matthias ‘Teese’ Gohl on keyboards and Bruce Nifong on saxophones and flute and trimmed down to become a sextet, by not replacing the second drum/percussion seat vacated by Dave Weigert. Teese and Bruce’s new vitality and excitement energized the band and Ictus entered its most vigorous gigging phase. This ensemble lasted perhaps the longest of any single Ictus lineup.
Ictus 1981 – 1983:
From left: Bruce Nifong, Sax/Flute; Ray Frisby (in front), Drums/percussion; Mark Snyder, Bass; Bob Schlink, Guitar; Matthias ‘Teese’ Gohl, Piano; and David Mash, Synthesizers.
Ictus plays their Boston Home-base club: “Ryles.”
Here are a couple of recordings by this Ictus:
One of Two (Mash)
In 1982 I married Erica Mack, a week after returning from Ictus gigs in Europe. The band’s touring schedule was getting more intense, and in early 1983, I decided to leave the band to focus on my family and work at Berklee. I’d been a full-time faculty member since 1976, and Berklee Provost Bob Share invited me to build a new major at the college, focused on synthesizers and performance. That work eventually resulted in Berklee’s Music Synthesis Department, the country’s first 4-year degree major in MIDI and synthesizer performance and production, now known as Electronic Production and Design (EPD).
Soon after Bruce Nifong and Bob Schlink followed suit and the left the band, and Ictus entered its final phase:
Ray Frisby, Drums/percussion
Mark Snyder, Bass
Matthias ‘Teese’ Gohl, Piano
Bruce Arnold, Guitar
Aaron Heick, Sax/Flute
In late 1983 Ictus played its final gig at Ryles in Cambridge with members from every phase returning to play together. What a scene! After that gig Ictus members dispersed with great memories of fun music, great playing, and lifelong friendships.
Bruce Nifong brought band members back together for one last fling to play behind him when he did his final recital for his Masters in Music Performance degree at New England Conservatory, November 15, 1994. Bob Schlink, Mark Snyder, Dave Weigert, and I played, and our friend and Berklee colleague Orville Wright filled the piano seat.
However, Dr. Millendar told me he thought he could fix it and the odds were good that I would not only lose the constant pain I’d been living with, but also be able to play guitar again! So I underwent a third surgery, wherein they removed a vestigial tendon from my left arm, and rebuilt my hand with it. Thanks to Dr. Millendar, today I can play guitar and have combined my years of synthesizer work with my guitar playing by using Godin Guitars with their synth access. Life is good!
Where are they today?
Matthias ‘Teese’ Gohl
Bob also teaches at Berklee College of Music.
Emmanuel “Chulo” Gatewood
Harry Belafonte, Ojoyo, Eileen Ivers, and Hugh Masakela