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HENRY THREADGILL Old Locks and Irregular Verbs

Album · 2016 · Third Stream
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Henry Threadgill's "Old Locks And Irregular Verbs" is an exceptional album, one among few released this year. Living AACM legend, Threadgill is high respected not only among avant-garde jazz fans. His music is almost always tuneful, well structured and being adventurous as rule is quite easy accessible.

"Old Locks..." are different best though. It's a tribute to "improvisation conduction" pioneer Butch Morris, and it represents Threadgill as a composer (he doesn't play here at all). Four parts suite is played by a bit unusual (but probably expected from Threadgill) band - two star-pianists(Jason Moran and David Virelles), two alto saxophonists,cellist,tuba player and drummer. Music itself is closer to Threadgill's AACM colleague Wadada Leo Smith's more current monumental works, but perfectly avoiding later's often bombastic monumentalism.

In fact, "Old Locks..." are one of quite rare successful examples of brewing (modern) classics and jazz - being pre-composed, all album sounds extremely fresh and dynamic, full of jazz swings and freer soloing.Strictly looking, it is not jazz mixed with classics anymore, it is the new music rooted in both but distanced far enough from both to be accepted as independent genre.

Quite different from more regular Threadgill recordings,this music has his signature with no doubt - in tunes, light and optimistic atmosphere surprisingly successfully combined with New Orleans funeral marches echoing. It's not like such work is exclusive for Threadgill - everyone familiar with his obscure Zoid's debut album remembers for sure how strange it sounded offering two amorphous percussive pieces closer to minimalism than to usual Threadgill's full-blood pulsating jazz (tuba player Jose Davila plays on both above mentioned albums). But for listeners waiting for "another Threadgill" who's expectation are based on his more regular music, this album brings a surprise.

One can hardly mention bad or even average album, released by Threadgill, "Old Locks And Irregular Verbs" is not only good, it opens some new horizons. Not often such thing happens on modern jazz scenes.


Album · 2016 · Latin Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Jason McGuire is a native Texan who, over the years, has built a strong international following for his fiery flamenco guitar style. In the past, Jason has usually worked for other artists and dance companies, but with his new group, Terceto Kali, McGuire shows he is ready to step forward as a band leader and composer of considerable skill. Although rooted in flamenco, Terceto Kali’s music features so many diverse influences that it could easily be considered a new genre of flamenco-fusion. Although most of us are used to hearing flamenco performed with guitar and handclaps, McGuire builds more of a jazz combo type effect by adding Paul Martin Sounder on bass and Maruion Aldana on drums. This trio’s sound is more similar to modern post bop and Latin fusion than what we would normally expect from a flamenco artist.

Along with the complex and nuanced rhythms of flamenco, McGuire and his group pull from a variety of other rhythms based in Latin America and the US. “Mira Mira” finds the rhythm section hitting a rumba groove while McGuire floats his improvised melodies on top. On “Tico Paco”, McGuire pays tribute to his idol, Paco de Lucia, with a traditional alegrias, which is then transformed with elements of gospel and RnB. “Romance” is a delicately performed melodic ballad with hints of modern folk and neo-soul. On closing cut. “Motivation”, Jason and his group play a free improv avant-garde form of flamenco, possibly a first, and it works surprisingly well.

Jason is considered one of the top flamenco guitarists today, and his rapid and precise technique will not disappoint anyone, but this is flamenco music for a brand new era. McGuire has built an imaginative musical world on Terceto Kali, a world where flamenco is being taken places that it has never gone to before.

JAZZFAKERS Hallucinations

Album · 2016 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Free improvisation is probably the oldest music tradition known to man. No doubt this is where it all began, back when early humanoids tried to figure out what to do with some hollowed out logs, reeds or bamboo. As music developed throughout the globe, some forms of improvisation remained in many cultures, but not so much in the Western world. Flash forward a few centuries and a new generation in the US and Europe 'discovered' free improvisation, both in the concert hall domain, as well as in the worlds of jazz and rock too. Moving into the 21st century, the worlds of 1960s free jazz and 80s post punk noise collided into new improvisational hybrids, which leads us to The JazzFaker’s new CD, “Hallucinations”. The JazzFakers are a talented bunch who know their chosen genre well, and I would imagine their live shows are good, and some of that comes across on the new CD, but some parts of this CD are undermined by sound issues.

Probably the biggest concern many have about ‘free improv’ is that they assume the musicians are playing this way because they lack the technique or discipline to play anything else. That may be true of some post punk wannabes, but not the Fakers, especially drummer Matt Luczak, saxophonist David Tamura, and bass player Raphael Zwyer, who all have decent chops and maybe have even taken some ‘giant steps’ somewhere along the way. There is no lack of skill here, but there is something lacking in the mixing and production department. The biggest problem is that the sound of the drum set lacks definition and presence, mostly you can only hear the cymbals, which is a shame, as Matt sounds like a good drummer, if only you could hear him a little better. Another problem is the use of overly loud clack-clack-clack persistent mechanical rhythms, probably played by a looping device of some kind. This problem mars both the beginnings of track one and two. When the band is allowed free reign without the repetitive sounds, they sound great. Some highlights include an incredibly creepy violin solo on “Delirium Tremens”, a classic free jazz drums vs. sax duo on “The Sacred Disease”, and excellent all out mayhem on the closing track.

The JazzFakers are a good band, and “Hallucinations” shows that in many places, but it could have been better with a different mix. All the same, this is good enough to recommend to those looking for something in between 70s Sun Ra, Stockhausen and early Pink Floyd, but in a modern NYC stylee.

BELEDO Dreamland Mechanism

Album · 2016 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Fans of uber jazz fusion guitarists like John Mclaughlin and Alan Holdsworth have a new reason to rejoice in the rising star of Uruguayan guitarist Beledo. Actually Beledo is not new, he has been a star in Latin America for some time now, and in recent years has been working with some well known North Americans such as Randy Brecker, Adam Holzman and Gary Husband. If Beledo’s name is not known yet, signing with MoonJune records in 2013 should help give him more exposure. So we come to 2016 and Beledo has released a new album of powerhouse virtuoso classic fusion called “Dreamland Mechanism”.

The first three cuts on this CD reveal that Belado is not only a formidable guitarist but he can also play keyboards with the best of them as well. On these three tracks, Beledo is a one man mini-orchestra, double tracking guitars, violin, accordian and keyboards while backed by the rhythm section of Lincoln Goines on bass, and Gary Husband on drums. Opening track, “Mechanism”, is a highlight with its late 60s styled heavy riffs reminding us how much early jazz rock came from the hard blues centered riffs of Jack Bruce and Cream. On track four, “Lucila”, Belado shows his interest in poly-rhythmic Indonesian fusion by bringing on Sundanese percussionists, Endang Ramdan and Cucu Kurnia. “Sudden Voyage” continues the complex rhythms as Husband plays something very akin to an Afro-Cuban ensemble on his drum kit.

For the rest of the album, Beledo puts away the keyboards and sticks to his ample guitar skills as they fire off some more classic fusion tracks, and one more with Indonesian flavor, “Budjanaji”, which also features a solo from Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana. Beledo sites Alan Holdsworth as an inspiration, and his influence shows, but Beledo is far from a copyist and has developed his own signature sound, one that should start becoming more familiar to the international fusion crowd. Fans of high quality jazz-fusion guitaristics should check this out, this is not just mind-numbing shredding, Beledo has technique to burn, but he can be tastefully melodic and expressive as well. You will hear plenty of intense fret work on "Dreamland Mechanism", but Belodo always puts the music first.

KENNY BARRON Book Of Intuition

Album · 2016 · Hard Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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What an album name! A mysterious title like "Book of Intuition" didn't fail to catch my eye. The album cover is pretty cool too.

According to the linear notes, Kenny Barron has been playing with this trio for the last several years but hasn't made a studio recording with them until now. Now I personally haven't listened to Kenny Barron's other groups so my expectations were pretty open.

Regarding the lineup, one thing I struck by was the amount of intensity in the drummer Jonathan Blake. He didn't play particularly loud or in the way, but managed to add a lot of energy to Kenny Barron's playing. "Cook's Bay" has a memorable moment where Kenny plays a short lick with both hands two octaves apart, giving it a distinct samba-type sound. Blake responds to it immediately with a samba-type fill.

Most of the tunes on the album are Kenny Barron originals. The others are two Thelonious Monk tunes (Shuffle Boil, Light Blue) and a ballad by Charlie Haden (Nightfall). Although I have enjoyed Kenny Barron play Monk tunes in the past (he's quite good at imitating him), I found these to be among the weaker ones on the album. Kenny's own tunes, such as "Magic Dance," "Cook's Bay," or "Lunacy" are filled with a lot of fun harmonic colors that give this album a nice taste. "Cook's Bay" in particular is my favorite track on the album.

Kenny Barron is a fantastic soloist, but I couldn't help but feel like many of his solos had too many long lines. There comes a point in his solos when it sounds like an idea would need to end, but would keep on going like a run-on sentence. I don't want to overly critique Kenny Barron, but it makes the listening experience less accessible.

Overall, "Book of Intuition" is a fun album. Kenny Barron and his trio offer the modern jazz world a nice album that gives original sounds within a more traditional vocabulary.

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Album · 1971 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.64 | 60 ratings
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The primal flame to really fused jazz and rock?

This is perhaps what a volcanic eruption may sound like...

First effort of one of the big 3 fusion bands of the 70's, with WEATHER REPORT and RETURN TO FOREVER, "The Inner Mounting Flame" can be considered as the first record to genuinely combine the raw fury of hard rock with free unconstrained jazz. Of course, funk, jazzy rock or jazz incorporating rock elements have already been heard since the end of the 60's, but I cannot think any other artist went so far in this fusion of genres before. Compared to pioneering records such as Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way" or Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats", "The Inner Mounting Flame" marks a clear evolution. This debut album is a pure magma, an acoustic and electric maelstrom sculpting heavy musical mantras inside mountains. Jazz, rock, blues and Indian ragas find themselves melted together to fuel an unique loud, rapid and mystical fire, with multiple uncommon time signatures and complex rhythms.

Like most line-ups from this time period, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA's members are all virtuosi in their respective instrument and form a true dream-team: incredible guitarist John McLaughlin, who just spent 2 years at Miles Davis' school to record no less than pioneering albums, organist Jan Hammer, who will later compose Miami Vice theme, whirlwinding violinist Jerry Goodman, bassist Rick Laird and extraordinary drummer Billy Cobham. The fast and spiritual aspects of the music is logical when you know John McLaughlin was the only composer as well as a disciple of the Indian guru Sri Chinmoy. That's certainly where these stylistic choices come from.

The disc opens with the incandescent "Meeting Of The Spirits". Violin and drum explodes in a lava of burning guitars. Wow! After all this condensed fury, "Dawn" arrives as a welcomed spacey pause. A calm beautiful jazzy and bluesy kind of ballad. Then appears the raging "Noonward Race". This high-speed delirium jazzy hard-rock can stand for an overboosted jam. In contrast, "A Lotus On Irish Streams" is the perfect soundtrack to wander barefoot in peaceful hanging gardens. A bit mystical and dominated by Jan Hammer's relaxing keyboard textures, this track is a delicate and soothing passage.

Back to life with "Vital Transformation", maybe the hottest and grooviest composition of the album. Not really sounding like an ancient Center American ritual, "The Dance Of Maya" starts with a dark oppressive pattern. This first half tends to become a little repetitive though. Then it surprisingly mutates into a heavy blues-rock! The slow desert jam "You Know, You Know" is enjoyable, nonetheless not varied enough. The record finishes in fireworks with its wildest track, "Awakening". A thundering and breathtaking piece, fast-paced, with multiple breaks and corrosive moments. Guitar, bass, violin, keyboards, drums, each musician displays his virtuosity here!

As the debut opus of a legendary band, "The Inner Mounting Flame" was already, and still remains nowadays, a true sonic blast, stunning and innovative. Such an advanced mixture of hard rock with complex time signatures in the improvisational jazz mold was never heard at the dawn of the 70's.

Simply an essential listen for anyone interested in fusion music. Not the most accessible MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA offering, but undoubtedly their rawest!

JIMI HENDRIX Axis: Bold as Love (Jimi Hendrix Experience)

Album · 1967 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 3.88 | 16 ratings
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At the beginning of 1966, JIMI HENDRIX was struggling to even make minimum wage playing R&B covers. By the end of 1966, he had finished recording his first album “Are You Experienced?” and released it to great success as THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE band giving the rock world a must needed kick in the arse. By the beginning of 1967, the band was famous worldwide and penuriousness was replaced by every pressure known to the successful musician and piled upon the trio due to contractual obligations, thus a second album was demanded to be released within the same year of 1967. Sooooo THE EXPERIENCE rushed into the studio and recorded their second album AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE which came out in December, 1967 in the UK but was held back in the US because it was feared it would interfere with sales of the first album, so it was released in May of 1968. Typical record company malarky of the day!

AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE basically continues offering the same psychedelic, energetic and innovative blues rock concoctions that HENDRIX was so successful in constructing on album number one with his elegant display of melodic expansion in the most creative ways. The fact that this band so deftly and proficiently pumped out a majorly spectacular array of brilliant songs is a testament to the power of JIMI HENDRIX and explains how he was able to record decades worth of music in a very short time span when new material is still being released almost fifty years after his untimely passing. The tracks on this album were done with a healthy dose of studio recording techniques of the day and as a result most were never performed in a live setting with the exception of “Spanish Castle Magic” and “Little Wing” but THE EXPERIENCE successfully conjured up a brilliant followup to their spectacular ground breaking debut with grace.

Neck in neck with The Beatles in innovating rock’n’roll, AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE begins with the lysergic mind expansive trip of “EXP” which takes the art of microphone and harmonic feedback to new extreme levels for the day and simulates a strange close encounter of the third kind with extraterrestrial contact. After this strange album introduction, we get some more familiar HENDRIX action with a psychedelic funk rock narration of concerned extraterrestrial life returning to the Earth concerned of the abuses of the top dog species, namely, homo sapiens and how they are degrading the ecosystems upon which their lives are dependent. HENDRIX was totally in tune with the ecological issues plaguing humankind and was ahead of the rest of the world in adapting these issues to music. That would have made a great concept album actually but the album continues on a track by track basis with each song having its own theme and meaning.

Brilliantly THE EXPERIENCE eschews AXIS: from being a clone of “Are You…?” Instead it creates a somewhat similar but more nonchalant way of incorporating the recent upgrades in the rock universe with the usual psychedelic rock guitar riffage of HENDRIX himself with the jazz inspired drum workouts of Mitch Mithcell while the bass guitars of Noel Redding provide the most stable and grounding attributes of the music with the occasional jazz inspired methods as well. The album also adds lots of new instruments to the mix adding a more diverse feel from the debut. HENDRIX contributes piano and recorder, Mitchell adds some glockenspiel and Redding offers his best foot stomping percussion. AXIS: also has the best album cover of all THE EXPERIENCE years releases!

THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE is certainly an archival type of band beyond most our musical experiences unless you are well into you 60s at this point. I did not start out loving this album by any means. In fact i always thought HENDRIX was fairly boring! However, there is something about these albums including this second one that has the power to burrow into the future and into my DNA that has infected me with admiration. True this is not technically as adept as what has come to develop over the decades that follow, but this was truly innovative at the time and if the listener simply resonates with the music, it will surely reveal its time period prowess and charm with merely a few attentive and open-minded listens. I now regard this album as much as a brilliant masterpiece as the debut. The musical elements sewn together with the concepts are outstanding and considering this was a trio makes it all the more impressive.

JIMI HENDRIX Are You Experienced (Jimi Hendrix Experience)

Album · 1967 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 4.58 | 27 ratings
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Most of the time in music history progressions are made by tiny increments of experimentation where an artist tries something new and it is incorporated into the works of others and so forth and so on but the 1960s were one of those decades that was a musical equivalent of the big bang of ideas and innovation and JIMI HENDRIX and his EXPERIENCE were one of the innovators of this musical explosion with a totally new sound, style and approach on the musical landscape.

ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? was an immediate and outstanding success. Only a year before Jimi was struggling to survive covering R&B songs as a back-up guitarist but as his latent talent was gestating he managed to capture the attention of Keith Richards' girlfriend who ultimately introduced him to Chas Chandler (of the Animals) who catapulted him from rags to rock'n'roll riches in a very short time.

This album took the world by storm. Jimi perfected the feedback guitar sound that the psychedelic world only hinted at and delivered a burst of energy to the whole musical industry that single-handedly inspired the whole world we know today. He was the prototype for heavy metal as well as blues rock, psychedelic music and outlandish stage antics such as his famous burning his guitar on stage or playing with his teeth. Mr Hendrix literally dropped the equivalent of a musical bomb on the world which reverberates into the present world. Although it took me a while to appreciate the album as a whole (I always liked a few cuts) I now can't imagine how the world of rock music would be the same if Jimi hadn't contributed his signature sound to it and this album has grown on me. The varied influences ranging from soul, blues and total freakouts conspire to make one of the most influential releases in the entire history of music.

This is another one of those albums where the UK and US versions differed substantially. The UK version had the rather uninspiring black backdrop with the members posed while the much better US version had the Summer-Of-Love psychedelic cover. The track listings were different as well. For some strange reason the most familiar songs “Purple Haze,” “Manic Depression” and “Hey Joe” were left off the UK version despite being huge hit singles there.


Album · 1970 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kosuke Mine is a Japanese reeds player better known by his collaboration on sound early Japanese advanced jazz albums, partially playing in pianist Masabumi Kikuchi late-60s sextet and percussionist Masahiko Togashi more straight band few decades later.

Mine released some albums as leader as well, some earliest releases are high-rated obscurities between Japanese jazz collectors. "Mine" LP is important not only as early Kohsuke advanced release,but even more as very first album released on just established Japanese legendary label Three Blind Mice,known by his audiophile quality and accessible but advanced repertoire (especially during first years of existence).

Full-Japanese quintet play quite characteristic for the time hard/post bop hybrid with anchoring mainstream rhythm section and freer soloists, especially Kohsuke on alto/soprano sax and keyboardist Hideo Ichikawa. Three sextet originals plus Joe Henderson "Isotope" all sound pretty nice, with delicate and restrained rhythm,melodic but freer Kosuke solos and tasteful Rhodes licks. Well-balanced mix and uncompressed sound are both pros too on this not too original but professional and well-played album.

Not on the level of adventuress of Japanese avant-garde jazz of the time, "Mine" is nice work for those searching on advanced mainstream jazz of 60s or 70s,rooted in Dolphy's free-bop.

SUN RA The Sub-Dwellers

Album · 2011 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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There was a time when Sun Ra recordings were rare and fans and collectors had to look far and wide in obscure places to locate them. Somewhere in the mid 80s, all this changed as certain small labels found there was a market for Ra’s strange music, and thus began an outpouring of all sorts of previously unreleased Sun Ra music, some of it of fairly dubious quality, which leads us to the 2011 archival release of “The Sub-Dwellers” on a vinyl LP. “The Sub-Dwellers” consists of recordings of Sun Ra reciting his poetry in a very low-fi setting. Hardcore Ra fans may find this interesting, but probably not too many others will.

Side one of “The Sub-Dwellers” was recorded in 1982, while side two was recorded in 1966. On side one Ra’s voice is backed by incidental music played by synthesizers and the whole orchestra. The sound is ultra low-fi as it sounds like the music is coming from a portable cassette player that Ra may be holding while he recites his words. On side two the accompaniment seems to come from two or three performers on African instruments. The sound on side two is even more low-fi than the previous side. The poetry itself is an acquired taste, sometimes very clever and profound, while other times it seems like Ra may be pulling our leg. Much of Ra’s content has similarities to ancient holy books like the Bible, Koran or I Ching, other times he seems to delight in word play, almost child-like in its repetitive petulance, like Dr Suess run through a LSD blender.

There is definitely an audience for this future obscurity. First of course are fans of Ra’s poetry and collectors who need everything Ra ever recorded. Also, there are those who seek particularly odd recordings and low-fi field recordings who will find this record to be a treasure. Finally, home recording artists looking for s spoken word snippet to go on their latest spaced out groove will find plenty of quotable quotes on “the Sub-Dwellers”.

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