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MATTHEW KAMINSKI Live at Churchill Grounds

Live album · 2016 · Hard Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Matthew Kaminski is a jazz organist with an interesting ‘day job’, he plays the stadium organ for the Atlanta Braves, supplying all the well known baseball ballpark clichés that are as a much a part of the game’s tradition as the seventh inning stretch. On his new album, “Live at Churchill Grounds”, Matthew and his quartet play the music they are known for playing at jazz clubs, funky soul-jazz and swingin hard bop grooves. Kaminski displays the sort of Jimmy Smith/Groove Holmes type riffs we expect from a soul-jazz B3 player, but he also shows some influence from Hammond based jazz rockers like Tom Coster and Brian Auger. Matthew is a great soloist, but he is almost upstaged by the fiery tenor work of Will Scruggs, a great blues based player in the Stanley Turrentine and Grover Washington tradition. They are also joined by vocalist Kimberly Gordon for about half the set.

This CD opens strong with a lengthy jam on the Beach Boy’s “Sail on Sailor”, which is followed by their top track, a James Brown influenced up-tempo funk number called “Hot Dog”. “Midnight Special” follows with another blues groove, and then its time for Kimberly to join the band for the next six tracks. Kimberly is a remarkable singer with a strong personality, Kurt Elling calls her “the ultimate swing lovers singer”, but the music definitely changes when she joins the band. With Gordon in front of the quartet, the high energy funkiness is replaced with a more easy going swing feel, which is a more suitable backing for her vocals. The solos from the instrumentalists are also much briefer during the vocal numbers. After Kimberly’s six numbers, the band closes with a Jack McDuff classic, “A Real Goodun”.

In many ways, the instrumental and vocal tracks on here almost seem like two different bands. If you are looking for the one-two punch of Kaminski’s B3 and Kimberly’s vocals, then you have come to the right place, but if you want to hear only Matthew’s B3 chops, then you might want to check out one of his earlier studio albums. On an interesting side note, Kaminski also has an album out where he plays popular baseball stadium clichés on a ballpark Hammond, a great album for people looking for classic samples in that tradition.

ÉMILE PARISIEN Émile Parisien Quintet feat. Joachim Kühn : Sfumato

Album · 2016 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Sax player Emile Parisien is probably brightest young French rising jazz musician. His international success begun two years ago with release of international debut album on respectable German ACT label. I saw his quartet playing live right after on European tour and to be honest wasn't too much impressed. Young French musicians had great communication (not surprisingly for active band,playing together for almost ten years),their music was well balanced containing tuneful elements and improvs,and being accessible,they didn't sound boring. Emile himself even did some show on stage, but at the end of the day I couldn't recall even small memorable moment of all gig.

Last week Parisien played in my hometown again - this time with another French rising star accordionist Vincent Peirani (who just released his album of duets with German star-pianist Michael Wollny). Parisien new album, just released on same ACT label, contains Peirani participation as guest as well. "Sfumato"(that's new album's title) already received rare five-star review in "The Guardian", so - is it really all that great?

First of all, Parisien after ten years of activities disbanded his original quartet and formed totally new band - a quintet with German piano veteran Joachim Kuhn (who lives in Paris for years). Fifth member (besides of Parisien quartet's classic sax-piano-drums-bass formula) is French electric guitarist Manu Codija, known by work with Henry Texier and Erik Truffaz among others.

Than, there are two guest stars participating on four of eleven compositions - French scene veteran Michel Portal on bass clarinet and already mentioned above accordionist Vincent Peirani.So - on his second ACT album Parisien plays with larger and technically much more potent band.

Musical changes are significant as well. From quite accessible but unmemorable and often loose compositions of former quartet,Parisien moved towards complex and more pre-composed material (new band plays his old trilogy "Le clown tueur de la fête foraine", two Joachim Kuhn songs and one Parisien-Kuhn collaborative composition as well). From French urban music influenced improvisational pieces with soloing sax on the front Parisien music made a visible step toward complex European modern jazz. Peirani accordion still adds that trade-mark French chanson -like feeling, but it works more like spices in sophisticated brew, than main accent. Kuhn's piano and Codija's rock-like guitar are excellent ingredients,making Parisien music more replete,complex and partially refined.

Still not a masterpiece but serious step forward, "Sfumato" is one great example of best modern European jazz.

MICHAEL GAMBLE Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders

Album · 2016 · Swing
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Mike Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders is the name of an all-star group of swing enthusiasts, and its also the name of their new album. There was a time back in the 90s, when the so-called ‘swing revival’ was in full bloom and many an aging rock musician tried to cash in by putting together what they thought was a swing band. Many of those ill-informed artists were presenting re-tread rockabilly and garage band level jump blues as if it was actually ‘swing’. Fortunately, in the new century, the trend eased off and the wannabes moved on leaving the true swing lovers to enjoy their art without any further mis-guided dilution. Which brings us to the talented Rhythm Serenaders and their new album. There are no wannabes here, these are guys who know the music and play it well, no heavy handed or cheap reproductions are allowed. Their recording techniques are authentic as well, as every tune here was recorded live on the spot with no overdubs or studio trickery.

There is a nice selection of tunes on here, and a smart avoidance of the over-played and predictable. As can be expected, it’s the top writers of the day who supply the most sassy and infectious riffs. Some of the best include; Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian’s “Seven Come Eleven”, Goodman and Lionel Hampton’s, “Pick a Rib”, Count Basie’s “Sweet”, and the Ellington influenced slinky noir of Ben Webster’s “Woke Up Clipped”. A couple tunes feature the exuberant vocals of Russ Wilson, who battles it out with busy New Orleans/Dixieland type polyphony with all the horns soloing at once. On four other tracks you get the coy Billie Holiday influenced vocals of Laura Windley. Every tune on here is at least good, there are no duds. The solos on here are good as well, but as typical with ‘revival’ bands of any genre, the soloists seem to be a little more polite and careful in their execution, as opposed to the gut busting musicians from that era.

This is music for dancing and partying, but it works well for just listening too. In an interesting side note, each track comes with a bpm number, just like a modern dance record. So basically a DJ or mixing artist could use this CD of re-constituted older jazz music in a modern dance mix.


Live album · 2016 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Russian inventor of French descent Léon Theremin (who invented one of a very early electro-acoustic musical device known as Termenvox, beloved instrument of French electronic music artist Jean-Michel Jarre till now) once said on Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin: "Stalin wasn't bad. . . . It was mostly other people did all the killing."

American band which chose this citation as their name must have a lot of (risky) humor, and yes - they have. Quartet of skilled musicians did their name playing tributes-parodies on known jazz albums from the past, incl. Art Blakey's A Night in Tunisia (Blue Note, 1960); Ornette Coleman's This Is Our Music (Atlantic, 1960); Roy Haynes' Out of the Afternoon (Impulse!, 1962); Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert (ECM, 1975).Their "Blue" is a note-for-note reproduction of the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue.

With growth of members' solo activities, band themselves don't release a lot, "(live)" is their the only album released this year. More important, containing material comes from as far as autumn of 2012,when the concert has been recorded in Poland during Jazz & Beyond Improvised Music Festival in Katowice.It's a bit strange that it is released just now - during all these years band enjoyed high popularity and they have released only two live albums till now ("live" is band's third).

Anyway, new album contains well recorded music based mostly on band's four first (and as many will agree most raw and funny) albums, "President Polk" comes from upcoming in 2013 their album "Slippery Rock!" though. Musicians are in great form, they obviously enjoy playing to dedicated public, so band music's fans get MOPDTK at their best - almost burlesque-like high energy tuneful jazz-punk circus. 75-minutes long it doesn't last like such what is always a sign of non-boring and truly entertaining show.


Album · 2016 · World Fusion
Cover art 3.86 | 2 ratings
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Although Dwiki Dharmawan has been a well known performer in Indonesia for over 30 years, he only recently received more international recognition in 2015 when he released “So Far So Close” on the MoonJune label, a label which gave him much more access to a western audience. That album was broad and ambitious in itself, but on Dharmawan’s new CD, “Pasar Klewer, Dwiki takes the idea of ambition to a whole new level with a sprawling cinematic soundscape that could be called the “Sgt Pepper” of Indonesian fusion. There is literally a ton of intricate music on these two CDs, and the number of styles that are fused on here take us on a trip around the world, and several times at that.

Exspansive cuts like the opening title track, and track three, “Tjampuhan”, are like Indonesian fusion symphonies that mix gamelin, free jazz, electric fusion, prog rock and movie soundtracks in multi-movement suites that build to energetic climaxes, only to subside and build again. Dwiki is an intense pianist with a very developed technique and a massive sound that can recall McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Vijay Iyer and Matthew Shipp. Master Indonesian musicians provide gamelin and traditional Indonesian instrumentation and vocals, while Mark Wingfield burns on electric guitar and Nicolas Meier on acoustic. Gilad Atzmon’s clarinet lends an oriental/East European slant to the international mix and Boris Salvoldelli brings his odd art rock vocals to a couple cuts, including a cover of Robert Wyatt’s “Forest”. Although there are plenty of high energy tracks on both CDs, on CD 2 Dharmawan includes a couple of ballads, including a Hank Marvin styled guitar instrumental of the afore-mentioned Robert Wyatt cover.

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MATCHING MOLE Matching Mole's Little Red Record

Album · 1972 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.59 | 8 ratings
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"We are determined to liberate Taiwan!"

Soon after their eponymous debut, Matching Mole hit the road and toured western Europe, appearing on various TV shows and festivals. It was at that time that David Sinclair left the band to play with Hatfield and the North and later on Caravan's For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night. He was replaced with Dave MacRae, a jazz keyboardist from New Zealand, who was already credited as a guest on Matching Mole's debut album. In July of 1972, about half a year after their first work, the band entered the doors of London's CBS Studios to record Matching Mole's Little Red Record. The release was produced by Robert Fripp of King Crimson. In addition, the band invited Brian Eno, the pioneer synthesist, to guest on their album.

The title of the release is an allusion to Chairman Mao's Little Red Book, known as the Maoist bible of the cultural revolution period. The cover art portrays the band members on what looks like a Chinese communist propaganda poster. The inspiration for the cover painting came from a Chinese postcard with a caption that read "We are determined to liberate Taiwan!" Despite a lot of controversy, the group, in fact, had nothing to do with idea for the album art, as the drawing was designed by CBS' graphic designers. Robert Wyatt even admitted that he did not particularly like the design. Wyatt's lyrics on Little Red Record have also been an object of heated discussion. The artist declares that the fight for the righteous socialist world should also be expressed in music and confesses that his beliefs are closer to the Chinese communist world rather than the degenerated capitalist west.

Musically, Little Red Record is a quintessential Canterbury scene album. Matching Mole's style is notably different from their debut album. The group got rid of the song-oriented ballads almost entirely and introduced an even higher amount of jazz-fueled improvisation to their music. However, showcasing the group's members' musical skill does not seem to be the aim of the numerous improvisational passages that appear so frequently on Little Red Record. The heavy repeating passages, which often do provide a base for instrumental solos, create musical tension, which makes the music on this record incredibly moody and full of distinctive mysticism. The typical tongue-in-cheek, Canterbury-styled arrangements are common. This becomes evident with pre-recorded voices and sounds of various conversations played over the band's music, giving the album an eccentric appearance.

The high amount of jazz influences on Little Red Record compared to Matching Mole might partly be caused by the new keyboard player, Dave MacRae. His extensive use of Fender Rhodes electric piano adds a very fusion-esque element to the band's sound, at times similar to the one of Soft Machine. Similarly to Dave Sinclair, MacRae is extremely proficient in many diverse musical situations ranging from as far as subtle drone touches to accurate rhythm keyboard play to rapid, pronounced solo parts. Robert Wyatt's drumming is very dense. He finds himself comfortable playing heavy, varied rhythms in odd time signatures. His characteristic vocals also appear, but more often in a spoken word scenario. Although it may not seem like it at first, Bill McCormick's basslines play a crucial role in Matching Mole's sound, building a strong musical foundation for other members. David Sinclair's fuzz organ solos are replaced with those on Phil Miller's guitar, which he plays with an astonishingly precise touch. Brian Eno with his VCS3 synthesizer is responsible for ambient, electronic passages, creating striking, mystic soundscapes.

The album opens with "Starting in the Middle of the Day, We Can Drink Our Politics Away", which features a male choir supported by a repeating piano passage. The lush, surrounding organ sound builds up tension, which is discharged with a loud, rapid jazz jam on "Marchides". The next track, "Nah True's Hole" is based around a repeating pattern with a conversation in the background. In fact, the female voice belongs to Julie Christie, a famous English actress, who is credited as Flora Fidgit. The things she says are erotically-charged and work particularly well with the passage in the background. On "Righteous Rhumba", Robert Wyatt's lyrics talk about the utopian socialist vision and his repellence towards the capitalist world. "Brandy as in Benj" is a jazz-based piece, aimed at displaying the instrumental skill of Matching Mole's members. "Gloria Gloom" starts out with Brain Eno's lengthy synthesizer texture and resolves into Robert Wyatt's politically-charged song. Towards the end, Eno's input comes back, closing the song in a dark, agitating manner. "God Song", the only acoustic piece, sounds a bit like song-oriented tracks from Wyatt's solo releases. "Flora Fidgit" is another jazz jam, in ways similar to what Soft Machine were doing at the time. The album is closed with "Smoke Signal". The track features tense ambient soundscapes with Robert Wyatt's drum solo. Towards the end, one is capable of hearing soft melodies, sounding as if trying to break through, which eventually fade way.

Matching Mole's iconic Little Red Record could best be described as an eccentric political jazz statement with great musicianship. The controversy the band caused with its appearance and title may partly be responsible for its success. The concept and performance is very interesting and original. This is a legendary Canterbury scene album and is without a doubt a must-listen! Recommended!

TCHANGODEI Tchangodei And Steve Lacy ‎: The Wasp (Duo Live)

Live album · 1984 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Pianist Tchangodei is a mysterious figure on French jazz scene. Born in former French colony of Dahomey (now-Benin) in late 50s,he emigrated to France.Self-taught piano player for decades, he is almost totally ignored by domestic jazz community, but regularly played with France-based expatriates like Archie Shepp,Steve Lacy,Mal Waldron or Japanese trumpeter Itaru Oki.

His playing techniques is intuitive minimalism based on some repetitive drones (closest example could be a renown Waldron "drones") and fast short separate passages. Probably such ignorance of any roots (doesn't matter is it jazz techniques or so influential in Europe classic background) led to Tchangodei almost underground status in France - there are a very few local artists who ever played with him together (Louis Sclavis and Henry Texier are two names and I can hardly recall any more).

Tchangodei lived (and probably still lives) in Lyon where he ran small bar (where he played every night himself) and releasing his recorded music predominantly on his own Volcanic label. All obscurities,his albums contains piano solo music and Tchangodei collaborative musicianship with Louis Sclavis,Archie Shepp,Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron,among others.

"The Wasp" is one of such recordings - live recorded Tchangodei Steve Lacy (on soprano) duo playing behind small but enthusiastic auditory, most probably at Tchangodei's bar in Lyon. There are no credits, but most probably at least part of compositions are Lacy's. Generally music sounds as not much correlated gig of saxist and pianist. Lacy (less explosive and dynamic than usual) plays his trademark vibrato-less soprano solos without paying much attention on what happens around. Tchangodei piano is busy but produces mostly series of very short passages. Sometimes sax and piano sounds mystically click together, more often all music remind quite chaotic soloing of two musicians where each of them doesn't care much about what happens around. Still Lacy doesn't dominate here and altogether it works not so terrible as it looks on paper.At least even experienced listener can hardly remember if he ever heard such a strange duo.

Unfortunately many earlier Tchangodei recordings have been never reissued on CDs (and original vinyl versions are obscure) so it's not an easy job to find them to listen. Starting from mid 90's his new music is released on CDs,so as rule is more accessible. Not of star level, Tchangodei is an interesting example of "non-systemic" improvising pianist with his own musical face.

THE MUFFINS Manna/Mirage

Album · 1978 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.29 | 9 ratings
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The Muffins were formed in 1973, in Washington D. C., soon after a keyboardist and saxophonist Dave Newhouse, a guitarist Michael Zentner, and a bassist Billy Swann found a common unorthodox and anti-commercial approach to music. The group, however, remained nameless until a few months later when they named themselves The Muffins, allegedly after one friend of theirs shouted, "The muffins are here!" while bringing them blueberry muffins and more importantly giving an idea for the name of the band. One year after their formation, they were joined by Thomas Scott, a saxophonist with a big-band background. In 1975, Stuart Abramowitz on drums joined, only to leave one year later with Michael Zentner. While playing a concert in 1976, they stumbled upon a drummer Paul Sears, who stayed in the band. The Muffins founded their own independent recording label, Random Radar Records, under which they released their debut album, Manna/Mirage, in 1978.

With influences of acts such as Hatfield and the North, Henry Cow, National Health, Soft Machine, Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention, and even Caravan, The Muffins have shaped their own, distinctive Canterbury scene-inspired style. Although the United States has always been far from being the heartland of the subgenre and recognized it relatively late, the group's music sounds incredibly natural and authentic. Characterized by strong emphasis put on improvisation, The Muffins go far beyond being just another Canterbury-tinged jam band. The extensive use of woodwind instruments such as clarinets, flutes, recorders, and oboes, rather than brass winds, gives the band a varied, unique, almost chamber-like sound, at times reminiscent of Henry Cow's Legend. Keyboard instruments also play a prominent role with smooth, dreamy Fender Rhodes electric piano, reminiscent of Dave Stewart and Tim Hodgkinson-inspired Farfisa organ. Free jazz passages, very much in the vein of Sun Ra or Albert Ayler, are also common, enriching the album with even more of a diverse, varied style. In short: Manna/Mirage is a perfectly balanced mélange between classy avant-garde progressive rock and jazz-influenced Canterbury sound.

The album opens with "Monkey with the Golden Eyes". A calm repeating passage on electric piano is supported by a great interplay of flute and clarinet. Gradually, more instruments are added - xylophone, drums, organ, resulting in an almost ambient texture. In the beginning, "Hobart Got Burned" features just a little part of the previous track until it loses itself in chaotic, quirky, free-form mayhem. At one point, all of the instruments participating in the madness meet and, as if finally entering the same alley, present a theme which would not be out of place on an album by Hatfield and the North. Side One closes with the 15-minute "Amelia Earhart". The piece starts out with mystic, meditative sounds of a wide plethora of percussion instruments, which dissolve into a merry Caravan-like melody. Later, the listener encounters a brief free passage and various different segments of the piece, perfectly displaying the flawless work of every instrument in different musical circumstances. Side Two is fully occupied by a nearly 23-minute suite "The Adventures Of Captain Boomerang". The track begins with an interaction of woodwind instruments supplemented by accompaniment on Fender Rhodes. Then, a more energetic, louder motif dominated by saxophones kicks in. What follows is really inexplicable. Let me just say that the piece is dripping with complex arrangements, contrasted segments, dynamically, rhythmically, and instrumentally varied parts, numerous different themes, lengthy improvisational passages, and proficient instrumental work. The Muffins seem to have a well-thought plan for every second of the suite and make use of their recording time perfectly.

Manna/Mirage is an absolutely exceptional record in the history of the Canterbury scene. While in 1978, its sound might have radically drifted towards jazz fusion, this one American band, that seemingly appeared out of nowhere, skillfully carries on traditions set by bands such as Henry Cow, Soft Machine, and Hatfield and the North. The release is incredibly consistent, mature, and most of all deeply fascinating. A true gem of the Canterbury scene. Highly recommended!


Album · 1971 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.86 | 25 ratings
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In October of 1970, Soft Machine started recording their fourth studio album. Their previous, two-disc release, Third , contained four long epics, each with its distinctive flavor. Robert Wyatt's piece, 'Moon In June', which was the only vocal track on the album, clearly showing his own musical vision, quite different from one of his band-mates. In fact, on his first solo album, The End of an Ear, Wyatt described himself as an "Out of work pop singer currently on drums with Soft Machine". The jazz-fusion oriented path Soft Machine had taken undoubtedly did not please his musical sensibilities. For their upcoming album, the group invited a double-bass player, Roy Babbington, who had previously played with Keith Tippet. A horn section, different from the one on Third, was also added, consisting of Alan Skidmore on tenor saxophone, Jimmy Hastings on alto flute and bass clarinet, Nick Evans on trombone, and Mark Charig on cornet. Fourth was released in early 1971 and was followed by Robert Wyatt's departure from the band.

Soft Machine's style on Fourth may appear as radical compared their first two works from 1968 and 1969, but is in fact merely a natural development they made from Third. The recruitment of a double-bass player, however, is a breakthrough and a turning point in the band's career. This might be interpreted as a definitive cut-off from rock. Yes, they probably still could rock out, but they were by no means a rock band anymore. The group creates a unique blend of elements of Miles Davis' mid-late sixties post-bop, free jazz of Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, and Charles Mingus, and ambient music, that could be connected with pioneering bands such as Popol Vuh. Fourth also has a one-of-a-kind, inexplicable flavor that indicates that Soft Machine is a European outfit and differentiates them from contemporary groups from the United States. Similarly to Third, Fourth is largely focused on improvisation, therefore showcasing the instrumentalism of the musicians.

The newly-recruited horn section helps the band in reaching a certain amount of versatility in their sound. Although Elton Dean's alto saxophone and saxello is still dominant in the band's soundscapes, they are now enriched with sounds of a flute, a trombone, a cornet, and a tenor sax. Most often, these instruments play together, creating an interesting 'metal wall' of horn sounds, but solo parts on each of them are not uncommon. Mike Ratledge's keyboard rig is extended with a Hohner pianet, which the virtuoso finds particularly useful on parts, where strong rhythmical background is needed. His signature fuzzed-out Lowrey organ sound, which is one of the few common elements between Soft Machines debut and Fourth, plays an important role on his break-neck speed solos. With a double-bass player onboard, Hugh Hopper's contribution might seem limited, but the bassist's unique style and bass timbre is still crucial to Machine's sound. Robert Wyatt, who quite rightfully might not have been happy with a direction his band took, proves how much of a versatile drummer he was with his accurate and precise drumming.

Side one of Fourth is occupied by three tracks. The work starts with Ratledge's composition 'Teeth'. It starts out with a complex theme, which smoothly dissolves into a jam (which at parts reminds me of 'Hope For Happiness' from Soft Machine's debut). Then, we are approached by Hopper's piece 'Kings and Queens', which despite following a simple structure is one of the most memorable tracks from the album with a slightly gloomy, melancholic feel. Side one is closed with 'Fletcher's Blemish', a loud, atonal, horn-driven jam that lies just on the border of being classified as free-jazz and fusion. Side two comprises Hugh Hopper's four-part suite 'Virtually'. Part 1 is kept in a traditional jazz feel and is based on improvisation. Part 2 builds up tension, which leads to an atonal jam with Elton Dean's saxophone in the foreground. Part 3 opens with dissonant noises achieved by manipulating instruments with studio equipment on dreamy electronic ambient basis. Part 4 is basically an extension of Part 3 with smooth passages fading until the end of the album.

Fourth marks the end of Soft Machine's Canterbury scene years and begins what is known as group's 'classic' era as a jazz-fusion act. The music on the album might not be very compelling, at least in my book, but is a much-needed listen and is crucial to the development English jazz to come. A lot of the times, one will find their thoughts drifting far away from the music, which might be a testimony of its' well, soporific aspect. The album is more than decent in its own right, but is rather stodgy, insignificant, and unmemorable at the same time. No wonder why Robert Wyatt left Soft Machine. However, it is recommended to listen to the album and forge your own opinion.


Live album · 2013 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Phlox was formed in Tallin, the capital city of Estonia, in 1999 by a guitarist Kristo Roots, percussionist Raivo Prooso, drummer Rainer Kapmann, and bassist Priit Holtsmann. Despite numerous personnel changes, since its very early days, the band's sound has been shaped by the Canterbury scene bands such as Hatfield and the North, National Health, Gilgamesh, and even Soft Machine. After four official albums, in 2013, Phlox released the live-cut Vali which as of June 2016 is their most recent album. Vali was recorded and broadcasted live for Areaal, Estonian Classical Radio, in April 2012.

There is undoubtedly something that saves Phlox from sounding like just another Canterbury-style jazz-rock outfit. And yet, there is no other way to describe the band's music. Take the best instrumental elements of the music of Hatfield and the North, mix them with the improvisational qualities of post-Wyatt era Soft Machine and soft, mellow smoothness of National Health's music. The dish that is already tasty is seasoned with straight-up jazz-rock influences of Nucleus and Mahavishnu Orchestra. And voilà , you're being served modern Canterbury sound of the highest order! The music of Phlox is largely improvisation-based, Vali is dripping with lengthy saxophone jams and synthesizer solos. In addition, the band has a great dynamic range. They can go from a delicate, dreamy parts on Fender Rhodes electric piano to heavy, noisy, and wild workouts in a great taste. At times gentle, mellow and calming, at times unsettling, loud, and disturbing - Phlox has got a very wide variety of flavors in store for the listener.

The keyboardist Pearu Helenurm could very well be regarded as the engine of the band, allowing it to go to the Canterbury scene-oriented territories. His virtuosic style shows evident inspiration of keyboardist such as Dave Stewart, Alan Gowen, and Mike Ratledge. His extensive use of electric piano is intermingled with a synthesizer, usually used as a solo instrument. Kalle Klein, a virtuoso saxophonist, handles alto and soprano saxophones with great ease. His playing may remind one of that of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, especially on the dissonant, free-form parts. Ravio Prooso with his "thumpy" bass guitar tone provides great grooves for the rest of the band to work on. Madis Zilmer's is characterized by heavy and dynamic rhythms. The band's guitarist, Kristo Roots, rarely finds himself playing rapid Phil Miller-like guitar solos, his guitar most often plays a role of a rhythm instrument, which lays down a theme for the rest of the band to work on. Allan Prooso enriches the group's sound with percussion instruments such as wood blocks or a triangle. All in all, Phlox without a doubt consists of skillful musicians with great amounts of technical know-how.

Vali opens with "80 000 ljööd Maa All", a heavy Canterbury-inspired jazzy jam, which at one point or another displays work of every instrument. Next up, "Almus" begins with an almost pop-like intro on Fender Rhodes, which dissolves into improvisation with a loud distorted guitar, synthesizers, and a high-pitched saxophone. "Küttearve Päikeselt" is another one that opens with a mellow passage on electric piano, this time put through a tremolo effect. Then, drums and saxophones kick in and the track loses itself in improvisational madness and a great interplay of Roots' guitar and Klein's saxophone. Later on in the piece, Pearu Helenurm gets a brief synthesizer solo. "Hülge Hing" is the first track to feature a grand piano - a much-welcome variation. "Paigalelend" opens with a dry guitar riff, which returns in between jams throughout the tune. "Hunt (5 Minutes to Armageddon Version)" starts with a somewhat mellow feel, which slowly descends into heavy, noisy, jazz-fueled mayhem. The last track on Vali, "Kurehirm (Doom Night Ornithology Special)" begins with a quiet interaction between percussion (which sounds a bit like frogs in a swamp), Rhodes, and a saxophone. Being the lengthiest piece on the album, saxophone gets some naked solo parts without any other band members accompanying.

Vali is by far the only live release from the Estonian outfit Phlox, showcasing their energetic, inspired, and vigorous sound. It raises a smile to see a contemporary band play fresh, interesting jazz-rock to a high degree inspired by Canterbury scene bands such as Hatfield and the North, National Health or Gilgamesh. Highly recommended to fans of the Canterbury scene!

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