Like many folks’, Neil Hobkirk’s musical preferences formed haphazardly through lucky record store finds and salutary exposure to campus radio.  Several moments in particular were seminal: in elementary school, finding a copy of King Crimson’s In the Wake of Poseidon at his parents’ house; in high school, receiving two recordings of Franz Liszt—Les Preludes (cond. Bernstein) and A Faust Symphony (Solti)—as gifts; and, prompted while still in high school by a college radio jazz program, buying John Surman’s Such Winters of Memory at Sam the Record Man.

That same Sam’s in London, Ontario, would furnish many further ECM recordings.  Likewise, Records on Wheels yielded Hawkwind and heavy metal on imported vinyl; The Madrigal, works by British, Austrian, Scandinavian and Russian composers; and Dr. Disc, a seemingly endless stream of Zappa, Peter Hammill and other progressive rock.

A change of scene to Kingston, Ontario allowed listening opportunities still more diverse, anchored by the record store House of Sounds and the NPR station WCNY, broadcasting from nearby Syracuse.  Hobkirk became enthralled by Canadian jazz artists and served as judge for the Juno Awards in two categories, Traditional and Contemporary Jazz.  Lately his tastes have embraced progressive metal outfits Opeth, Dream Theater and Headspace; Soviet composers Weinberg and Karayev; and solo albums by Gregg Allman.  What next?  Contributing to Wall of Sound will no doubt point him in new directions.

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