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jazz music reviews (new releases)

EVAN PARKER Evan Parker & RGG : [email protected]

Live album · 2017 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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In a world of modern technologies one need just to have a wish and make few easy steps to establish a new jazz label. Music market is overloaded with releases, many of them are just a memorabilia for artists friends and families, but some contain really great music.

Polish young and ambitious label Fundacja Słuchaj! for some time releases (mostly) live recordings of Polish and world known advanced jazz musicians, many albums contain really impressive music. One of their very fresh releases presents quite unorthodox quartet, formed for one-night concert in probably Polish most renown jazz club Krakow's Alchemia.

British sax player Evan Parker doesn't need introduction. Being one of the living legend UK's free jazz, he plays and record really a lot, but mostly with avant-garde musicians. Polish contemporary jazz trio RGG are known and really popular collective in Poland playing music influenced by their great compatriot Tomasz Stanko and ECM-style European chamber jazz in general. Here on "[email protected]" Parker and RGG play four free improvised compositions and its works surprisingly well.

First of all, Evan Parker doesn't steal the show but plays as equal collaborator with trio and it saves the gig from being just another "Evan Parker plus supporting local band" night. From other hand, RGG staying melancholic tuneful typical Polish piano trio play freer and groovier than on their regular recordings. In fact, RGG build melodic and rhythmic basis for tasteful and surprisingly lyrical, but always energetic Parker's sax solo improvisations.

Album's music is perfectly recorded and well edited - one can find here that rare balance between accessibility and adventuress which saves any jazz release from being both far too "out" and boringly predictable. True label's success, bravo!

THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues

Album · 2017 · Swing
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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The Microscopic Septet is one of those eclectic downtown NYC combos that got their start in the early 80s during the so-called ‘knitting factory scene’. The band disbanded in the late 80s, only to reappear a few decades later for today’s NYC scene that still leans toward eclectic influences and a quirky sense of humor. Microscopic has always favored a swing feel in their music, but not in a nostalgic or museum sense, instead, they often infuse their music with bits of the avant-garde, as well as polkas, tangos, cartoon music, punk rock and whatever else may be laying about. On their latest album, “Been Up So Long it Looks Like Down to Me”, the Septet leans heavily on their swing roots as they present eleven originals, plus two covers, that sound like they could have come from a swing dance club in the 40s. All the same, don’t confuse this album with that whole bothersome ’swing revival’ that came out of San Francisco in the post grunge mid 90s. Microscopic’s music is way more informed about what swing was, and can be in the future, than most of the heavy handed dull trend followers that made up the fortunately short lived ‘revival’.

The basic makeup of the Septet is a four piece saxophone section backed by a three piece rhythm section. Right off the bat this gives the band a sound similar to the Four Brothers, the famous spin off combo from Woody Herman’s big band. Other comparisons to the Microscopic sound could be found in the smaller combos led by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Sun Ra. The fact that most of the members of the Septet are dedicated to this one band gives their horn section a nice cohesion and flow that is often missing from many modern ensembles whose players have to play in many bands just to pay the bills.

There are lots of great cuts on here. “Dark Blue” has a ‘talking’ bari solo that gets into some call and response with the other horns, “PJ in the 60s” opens with a fierce free solo before settling into some excellent Duke flavored riffs, “Migraine Blues’ features some hard driving Count Basie riffs topped by another wild bari solo, and “Quizzical’ has an interesting arrangement that seems to modulate through many keys in a sort of Don Ellis meets Ellington effect. If there is one song that doesn't seem to fit, it would be, "When its Getting Dark", a campy RnB number that sounds similar to the the theme from the old Batman TV show. I guess its only similarity to the other numbers is that, like the rest, it uses blues changes for its chord progression. The song does redeem itself towards the end when it builds up to four saxophones soloing frantically at the same time.

It seems lately that it has become somewhat hip for avant NYC bands to take another look at the possibilities in pre-bop jazz. The result has been some interesting ’hot’ music that gets away from the dry intellectual sound of modern post bop. If this re-examination of early jazz results in imaginative and swinging albums like “Been Up So Long…”, then it can only be a good thing.

CHRISTIAN SCOTT (CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH) Ruler Rebel

Album · 2017 · DJ/Electronica Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott made his name during the last few years on the wave of jazz crossovers oriented to young rock, RnB or techno fans, during an explosive growth of popularity (Kamasi Washington with his triple CD is another great example).

I happened to see Scott playing live two years ago during his European tour - he demonstrated his showman and leadership abilities leading his young musician's band, and being much more than a virtuoso trumpeter. He spoke a lot (really more than he played trumpet), mostly about racial problems in his hometown of New Orleans.

Two years later, in 2017, Christian Scott announced releasing a trilogy dedicated to "re-evaluation of the social political realities of the world through sound... slavery in America via the prison industrial complex, food insecurity, xenophobia, immigration, climate change, gender inequality, fascism and the return of the demagogue". Not surprisingly, the trilogy's first album "Ruler Rebel" goes deeper into electronics/hip-hop culture and demonstrates sounds that are more usual for London clubs than for New Orleans streets.

Christian Scott leads basically almost the same band as on his previous album, with flutist Elena Pinderhughes on board. The music on here is a quite beautiful mix of African rhythms, heavily adapted to modern urban culture's ears with wide use of samplers and rhythm machines. There are lot of Scott's trumpet soloing on this album, mostly all straight-ahead clear tones flying over electronic rhythms/samples somewhat similar to smooth jazz trumpeter Chris Botti's manner. Probably the main attraction in this album's music is a quite successful mix of New Orleans positive energy and modern urban electronic sound. Not strange is that Scott is even more popular in London clubs than in native America - what may sound as exotic in New Orleans is very close to most modern London youth club's sound standards, with conspicuous difference since similar British bands are usually rooted in Caribbean rhythms.

Not so much a jazz record, this new album's great mission is first of all to introduce young communities, often associated with different musical traditions, to jazz culture and its modern possibilities.

UTOPIANISTI The Third Frontier

Album · 2016 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Third time is a charm for UTOPIANISTI as they reach the pinnacle of their creative energies on THE THIRD FRONTIER. Once again band leader and head honcho Markus Pajakkala seeks out another cast of musical talent for a whole new jazz-rock fusion experience that reels the listener in with heavy horn-laden hooks and groovy driving percussive rhythms and delivers a sonic splendorous jazzy journey through the jungles of sound. While the previous album had a whopping 31 musicians and vocalists clogging up every possible nanosecond of the album, this one was trimmed down to a mere 7 instrumentalists and two additional vocalists. While the other albums were self released this one found a home on the Pohjola Records label, former label of none other than the legend Pekka Pohjola himself. THE THIRD FRONTIER refines all of the ideas, compositional styles and genre blending to perfection. One of the reasons this album works so well is that much of the material was played live previously allowing the band members to simmer the material down into a scrumptious consummation of content. Gone is the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach and instead we have a perfectly balanced jazz-rock fusion album that still channels the zeitgeist of classic 70s fusion while remaining steadfastly contemporary replete with outstanding musicianship crafted with crystal clear production and mixing. The musicians on THE THIRD FRONTIER basically recorded this album live in a cabin by a lake in the Finnish countryside where they were all entrenched in the charms of their own personal Rancho Relaxo where they ate good food and hit the sauna before bed time. It sounds like my kind of party actually :)

After a psychedelic sounding intro the feisty cover depicting title “Voodoo Mammoths From Neptune” showcases the first seductive swanky sax groove that gently beckons the guitars, keys and bass in a game of tug-of-war to see who can carry the melodic development in a pass the torch kinda way. This whimsical Canterbury styled jazz-rock scene is only one of many jazz styles on display at the Pajakkala sonic museum of jazz-rock. While swing is in no short supply on the album, its dance with psychedelic organ runs on “Dr. Gravity’s Evil Plan” is just divinely delicious as the saxes, flutes and clarinets slowly ratchet up the tension to a climax that once dropped brings a fuzz guitar and bass out of the murky din to expose a most satisfying heavy psychedelic rock underpinning. While Canterbury whimsical titles are the name of the game on THE THIRD FRONTIER, further references to the greats like Hatfield and the North come fully into play with the erratic tinkling keyboards on “Universe For Dummies” that also showcases the angelic diva Suvi Väyrynen doing her best Amanda Parsons and adding an extra dimension to the track that takes the wild and groovy bass and drums culminating with a tasty guitar solo in the clouds and above. The following short track follows the Hatfield and the North theme with Dave Stewart inspired keyboards on “White Dwarf” that basically serves as an intro for the next track.

“Life As We Thought We Knew It” gracefully ratchets up the Canterbury styled jazz-rock with psychedelic touches and remains reserved in the tempo as it simply creeps along with oddly shaped time signatures punctuating a rather sparse canvass as the dominate bass and drum groove allows the swing style horn section to blurt out the recurring melody. “A Hundred Rabbits” on the other hand heads into funk rock territory as the bass and guitar deliver the solid rhythmic background with Latin-jazz flavored percussion and a sultry sax sizzling around every musical curve with Suvi Väyrynen once again joining again with her over-the-top siren vocals sending the track into heavenly bliss territory. “Spanking Season” picks up the steam with an avant-jazz-blues groove with a great Captain Beefheart vocal impression by Pharaoh Pirttikangas and is a sequel to the track on Utopianisti II but has different vocals and different musical parts even though it has similar riffs.“13 Demons In The Disco Dimension” is my favorite track on the album with a groovin’ synth funk basis and hard driving rhythm and addictive melody including vibraphone and marimba that includes the most dazzling guitar solo i’ve heard on a jazz-fusion album since John McLaughlin dazzled the world in his Mahavishnu Orchestra as Antero Mentu delivers one of the most off-kilter stylistic guitar solos i’ve heard in a long time. The album closes with the more subdued closer “The Last Reflection” that ends the album with the listener gently coming down from the jazz-fusion heavens and delivered back to Earth in a mellow mint-under-your-sleepy-time-pillow sort of way.

I can understand why some jazz-fusionists may not find this appealing. UTOPIANISTI is all about groovy, catchy melodic rhythmic developments that swing and allow a whole series of instrumental interactions to reach their full potential and may even find it slightly over-calculated in how slick it’s all pulled off. I, on the other hand, LOOOOOVE this album and find it to be sheer perfection for what is intended. The grooves and hooks are instantly addictive. The complexities of instrument interplay add layers of sonic tension and there are just enough progressive twists and turns carefully laid out in the right places to make this one extremely satisfying experience. As with the previous two releases, if crazy psychedelic reality distorting jazz-fusion is what you’re craving then this won’t fill the bill. If you crave a warm and welcoming swinging sultry good time of seasoned musicians having the time of their lives making great music together at a cabin on a lake and creating a diverse palette of retro meets contemporary, then this will not disappoint. Every track on here is carefully crafted and polished to perfection. I can’t seem to get enough of this one lately.

RON BOUSTEAD Unlikely Valentine

Album · 2017 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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It would seem that jazz instrumentalists are far more expected to come up with original material than their vocal counterparts. Many new vocal albums will come out this year with the expected collection of well known standards, which isn’t such a bad thing, but it would be nice to hear more original tunes now and again instead of an umpteenth version of “You’ve Changed”, which is why “Unlikely Valentine”, the new CD by Ron Boustead, is such a treat. Of the first five songs on here, four are originals, and on the remaining cuts Boustead presents re-workings of known tunes, plus one more original.

One of the first things you will notice about Boustead is his sharp rapid fire diction. Boustead has a voice that would work great in voice-overs, as a radio DJ, or maybe even as a middle-aged rapper. When Ron wants to, he makes words fly by at a rapid rate like a be-bop saxophonist, but every word is always crystal clear. The next thing you’ll pick up from his originals is that this guy is very witty, with some occasional laugh out loud lyrics, particularly on the satirical “I Won’t Scat”, on which Boustead pokes fun at more indulgent jazz singers. Boustead is proud to point out that the main influence on his vocal style is Mark Murphy, but in his clever lyrics you will hear traces of Mose Allison and Bob Dorough. It comes as no big surprise that Dorough’s, “Love Comes on Stealthy Fingers” closes out this album.

In addition to being a vocalist, Ron is also a sound engineer, which might explain why this CD sounds so crisp, clean and well balanced. Boustead is backed on here by a soulful rhythm section that includes a Hammond B3, plus three horn players which gives the songs a swinging big band flavor. Many singers who are more well known than Boustead will release albums this year, but “Unlikely Valentine” is already one of my top picks for male vocal performance in 2017. Hopefully Ron will be releasing more albums in the future, he is a singer who deserves much wider recognition.

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MADHOUSE 8

Album · 1987 · Jazz Related RnB
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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MADHOUSE was a pseudonym of the late great purple funk master Prince who was much more famous for dominating the pop charts and cranking out one R & B hit after another in the 80s and 90s. However it is little known is that all throughout the 80s, the purple one was quite interested in releasing an all instrumental jazz-funk album that resulted from extra tracks that were created from countless other recording sessions. Originally intended to be released as a band named The Flesh with an eponymous album title, the idea was scrapped and it was modified to MADHOUSE. Two albums were released. The first one titled 8 and the second 16. While the second album was more of a band effort with contributions from Sheila E, Matt Fink and Levi Seacer Jr, on 8 it was basically a one man show with PRINCE handling all instrument duties except for the sax and flute parts which were covered by Eric Leeds. There are 8 tracks and each one is simply titled 1, 2, 3 etc.

8 is somewhat of a mellow lounge lizard mid tempo affair and never really rocks out. Think Weather Report and you’re getting close. The music generally consists of a steady drum beat with the jazzified rolls accenting cadences accompanied by a thick atmospheric synthesized sound swooping around in the background. PRINCE shows off his funk chops with sinewy bass riffs and masterful piano playing techniques. While the music flows freely and doesn’t get into the complexities of highly adventurous jazz-fusion bands such as Return To Forever, there are little outbursts of syncopation and familiar jazzy riffs with the funk features never far from the dominating flow of things. Although this was a PRINCE dominated album, this was a band in a live setting and they actually opened up for PRINCE himself and donned Godfather type costumes that added a gansta imagery to their persona.

I’m amazed at how i’ve missed this one in the past being somewhat buried under the bulk of the gazillion albums PRINCE released during his truncated life. This one offers a a glimpse into the purple one’s deeper musical appreciation into more progressive arenas with jazz dominating his R & B soundscapes. However well done MADHOUSE 8 is, it still lacks a certain distinguishing originality and merely proves PRINCE was capable of musical styles beyond the funky pop hits he was churning out in the 80s. The emphasis is more on the pop side than the jazz despite those elements popping up in impressive outbursts from time to time. After all is said and done i would prefer if there were more upbeat tracks and that really let it all loose. Everything on 8 seems a little reserved and a tad too easy listening oriented for its own good and could easily be tagged with the oft loathed “smooth jazz” tag. Still though, MADHOUSE 8 is a decent listen that all PRINCE fans should acquaint themselves with.

JAMEY AEBERSOLD Volume 19 - David Liebman

Album · 1979 · Jazz Education
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Sometime around 1967, saxophonist and jazz educator, Jamey Aebersold, came up with the brilliant idea of putting out records with well known jazz tunes for aspiring musicians to jam along with. These records would only provide the rhythm section, (often played by well known musicians), while the student would play the melody of the tune, and then improvise over the changes. It was like having a night club full of top notch musicians in your home to help you learn how to solo. Early records featured songs and styles by the expected suspects such as bebop with Charlie Parker and hard bop with Miles Davis. By the time the late 70s rolled around, a record featuring Herbie Hancock tunes started getting into more abstract post bop territory with tracks like “Eye of the Hurricane". By the time we get to 1979, there is a bit of a surprise when the slightly lesser known Dave Liebman was given a record that featured his post bop creations, and probably the first play along session featuring a no-chord-progression free jazz workout with the tune “Lookout Farm”.

To the seasoned music student, having a free jazz workout on an educational record almost borders on humorous ironic kitsch. The point of these records was to help aspiring musicians navigate difficult chord progressions, and match the right scale to the right chord. Any student of the genre knows that free blowing is just that, you dig in and play what you feel, no chords or expected scales to worry about, just let it rip. But there it is on track eight, Richard Bierach, Frank Tusa and Al Foster doing their best to keep a free rhythm section interesting without any soloist to follow, and they do a pretty good job of it too. The rest of the record is more what you would expect, some fairly difficult post bop numbers for the young horn player to struggle with.

These educational records also serve another purpose for the home recording enthusiast. Its very easy to take any of these rhythm tracks and orchestrate your own tunes over them, something I did with another Aebersold record while making a requested ‘jazz song’ for a friend of mine’s animation soundtrack.

VP (VYACHESLAV POTAPOV) Water World

Album · 2012 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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VYACHESLAV POTAPOV or simply shortened to VP is a one man show from Almaty, Kazakhstan who released a series of albums in the 2000s in his own DIY fashion. WATER WORLD is his sixth release and what a major improvement in terms of both production and compositional finesse. When i say one man show i really mean that. Not only does VP construct all the tracks in his own eccentric style but plays all the instruments. One will hear guitar, bass, piano, drums and other percussion and many forms of sampling. Not only is VP gifted as a musician but is also responsible for his own cover art and this one depicting three green children on lily pads and intricate detail of waterfalls is not only a beautiful vision of the fantasy in the true progressive rock spirit. With WATER WORLD, everything came together and VP not only caught the attention of the prog world for his exquisite compositional and production skills but has been solicited by other artists for album artwork as well. While WATER WORLD is the sixth release of VP, it is the first to be issued on a physical format. The digital album was released in 2012 but the physical copy albeit lagging behind its initial release is finally seeing the light of day in the tender year of 2017.

Despite being a totally instrumental album, WATER WORLD is actually a concept album about two different civilizations on a planet in some far away place. They are known as the Krokuts and the Hunty. While it is impossible to comprehend the story through a mere listening of this sophisticated and dizzying complex music, VP has given me the green light to give his little story behind each track that hopefully will translate the music ideas into the heads of those who aren't music nerds! WATER WORLD is quite the eclectic mix of sounds and honestly is totally unique as i can't think of anything else i've ever heard that is an equivalent. Musically this one is all over the map with jazzy fusionist tendencies that also incorporate symphonic touches, ethnic influences, tribal drumming and absolutely bizarre transitions as one style tends to overlap with others and sometimes change things up quickly. This is music for musicians as the time signatures are so bouncy and ever changing that its practically impossible to predict where any given musical meandering will lead. Overall there is a strong jazz-fusion component in how the tracks are constructed with everything from Weather Report airy passages playing out to more erratic Return To Forever type of craziness but instrumentally speaking this is more of a rock / electronic hybrid with guitar and bass shining through in times of heaviness but ambient and ethereal atmospheres also permeating throughout.

I could have NEVER figured out the storyline by the music alone. It's far too nebulous and only with the tutelage of VP could i ever hope to assemble a sense of meaning to each track. To make this easy i have listed each track with the thematic explanation of VP in his own words. His English is very poor and i left his Google translations intact as not to corrupt the meanings. I explain a bit of the music afterwards.

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FIRST track "Intro (Unusual Island)"

ship was off course and got lost in a thick fog. In the morning when the fog, the sailors saw a miracle-island. In the center of this island stood a giant size lot of trees woven together and resembled a huge castle.

Musically: starts out as ocean sounds. Waves churning, seagulls with a simple piano line providing the musical setup and ends with a crazy guitar entering at the last second and fading out

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SECOND track "Vegetational Town - a: Great & Magnificient"

landed and began to explore unknown lands. All the flora and fauna differed from what they knew before.

Musically: begins the complex time signatures and changes in tempo with a frog croaking in the background. A funky bass line picks up a rhythm and then all prog hell breaks loose with mellotrons providing atmosphere, a jazzy rock with avant-prog touches. The music meanders into very complex arenas. I hear some Steve Howe inspired guitar licks, Zappa-esque jazz-fusion and even Chic Corea style keyboard runs and ultimately ends with crickets chirping in the background.

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THIRD track "Vegetational Town - b: Stem"

the study, the sailors met a miracle of nature - the tree, the stems of which gave off a glowing liquid that flowed on the ground and freezing was a very beautiful crystals. People have greed began to fill the backpacks and pockets of this strange breed. They do not know that for the local inhabitants it was the sacred tree, and exuding a fluid sacred tears of the gods.

Vegetational Town - including: Invasion of the Field Mice Night, when the sailors took a break. During a night's sleep, they are attacked by hordes of rodents. So people know that the island is not only beautiful but also dangerous.

Musically: begins with an ambient swirling effect of synthesizers in the background and then a jazzy interaction between the guitar and bass. Sounds somewhat like a psychedelic Return To Forever type of sound. The track continues mostly in jazz-fusion mode but picks up tempo with more rockin' percussion and bass.

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FOURTH track "Night Revelation Of Antackena"

about the uninvited aliens, the tribe Khunts turned for advice to his sorcerer Antakhena. Night Adelroth did the ceremony and learned that the aliens had defiled gods currently taking tears of the gods. He got really pissed. It gave people the rodents to scatter them around the island.

Musically: Tribal drums in frenetic speeds are joined by a much slower bass line but picks up fairly quickly and jumps into a frenetic jazz-fusion riff of the guitar with heavy bass and percussion staying chilled out in comparison. It picks up steam at midpoint

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FIFTH track "Geyser"

the same time. Race Krokus also held a ceremony. In their bogs were sacred geyser through which they learned about the aliens.

Musically: starts out slow with clean Floydian guitar lick and cymbals that quickly jump into a more jazz-fusion oriented mood setting. It becomes quite the frenetic jazz-fusion track with all the instruments creating a tempestuous rhythmic dance. The track goes through several shifts of rhythm changes as well as the usual eclectic mix of heavy bass lines with syncopated jazz-from-hell type keyboards

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SIXTH track "Games of Herbs"

beginning of a new day or early morning. I describe as rostitel'nost'û wakes up with first rays of the sun. As dew plays on every blade of grass and every leaf.

Musically: starts off with birds singing as a guitar line gently emerges into the limelight and has a rather Baroque J.S. Bach type of feel to it. Lots of different keyboard sounds dance together. Perhaps a lost Brandenburg Concerto? Well for a while at least. Remains classically rhythmic but becomes jazzy. Really amazing musical mixture here.

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SEVENTH track "Wandering"

a new day and two tribes are feuding with each other Khunts (humanoid) and Crokus (crocodilopolis) gathered for talks. They decided for a short time to stop the war in order to join forces against the aliens. They decided with General witchcraft to inflict on people the magic that has the property of oblivion.

Musically: a steady beat guided by frenetic guitar and groovy bass line. The keys provide atmosphere and tension builds as the recurring groove ratchets up. A brief pause and the keys become the frenetic rhythmic caffeine addicts for a while. While the general rhythmic drive stays the same, it's quite brilliant how the instruments pass the baton taking the lead and carrying it. In the middle of the track everything stops and a drumming display gradually gives way to a new jazzy guitar segment with heavy rockin' drums.

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EIGHTH track "Water World"

: The Taming of  the Geysers ii: ... and on the Water Surface To finish the job they collectively appeal to the mistress of the watery World. Mistress of the watery World through a ritual of "dance on water", which the sailors fall into oblivion. At first this dance is energetic and contains convulsively. The dance Mistress of the watery World produces the Taming of the Geysers. Then the dance turns into a plastic and beautiful ritual (... and on the Water Surface).

Water World. - iii: Detection woke up on the deck of his ship. They can't remember what happened with them before. Around thick fog. At this time two children of the tribe take care of Khunts found by a sailor, whom they found in the woods at night. That is why the sailor left on the island, about him no one knew.

Musically: morning sounds as birds and wolves do their thing and then a quickened groovy bass line meets a piano that seems like it's in its own world. Many counterpoints going on very early. Jazz-fusion feast of the senses with this one. There are many breaks in mood but tempo remains rather steady throughout. Style stays in jazz-fusion as well with a steady rock drum beat allowing the keys and guitars to perform jittery acrobatics all around it. Like most of this album, words don't do it justice. Too removed outside of the listener's experience to convey any sense of musical progressions.

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The good: WATER WORLD musically is a brilliant blend of electronic rock and jazz-fusion dished up with heavy doses of avant-prog sensibilities and sounds like no other album i've ever heard. The compositions are quite good and sophisticated and really do deliver an exciting flow of ideas within the context of the genre fusions mentioned.

The bad: unfortunately despite leaps and bounds above previous albums, this still sounds like a homemade product and in need of a more sophisticated production level. Often DIY albums sound as such because they are lacking the proper percussive drive and i feel that is also the case with WATER WORLD. The drum antics are adequate but it sounds programmed. Also i found it impossible to glean any sort of concept album as it's all instrumental and relied on the artist's input to understand it.

When all is said and done, WATER WORLD is an excellent piece of instrumental music that lover's of electronic rock, classical and jazz should appreciate quite well as the complexities of weaving these styles together is phenomenal however this is a rather heady album that requires extreme attention paid to the details for any sense to be had from it. There are really no periods of breathing room and is indeed a challenging album to appreciate, however if you are looking for something unique from an isolated geographical setting of the world, then by all means check out this fascinating sci-fi tale of different worlds all told in a Pekka Pohjola sort of narration by notes sort of way. It's really worth the effort.

JOE HENDERSON Barcelona

Live album · 1979 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Steve Wyzard
If you're a Joe Henderson fan, his 1980 (re-released twice since) trio album Barcelona can be recommended but with one caveat. Let it be known this album is nothing like the string of tribute albums he released in the 1990's that resurrected his career. While casual listeners might immediately dismiss it as avant-garde, Barcelona is actually an improvisatory, exploratory statement that might best be described as THORNY. Simultaneously, it is also an experiment in minimalism (just sax/bass/drums), yet one that will repay repeated listening, especially for those who are already familiar with Joe's style.

The 28-minute title track is divided into two parts (to accommodate its original pressing on vinyl) and was recorded at Wichita State University in 1977. It opens with a long, occasionally abrasive duet between Henderson and bassist Wayne Darling, who arco playing summons a Vitous-like fury. Drummer Ed Soph soon joins in, and this sprawling track moves through a variety of moods, including a very rhythmic section at the 13-minute mark. Part 2 is fast and ferocious, and includes Soph's solo. The audience seems mesmerized until the very end, and occasionally Joe will stray from his mike, but otherwise the sound is good for a not-very-high-profile live recording.

The album's other two tracks, "Mediterranean Sun" and "Y Yo La Quiero" both run about five minutes each, and are much more accessible. Recorded in a German studio in 1978, these showcase Joe at his minimalistic best: no drums, just Joe's wonderful soloing backed by Darling's bass.

Once again, this album is definitely not for first-timers, nor is it background music. The extended title track may be rough going at first, but speaking for Joe's fans we can be thankful these dates were saved for posterity. Free? No, it might set you back a bit (especially if you're looking for the original cover with Gaudi's architecture), but well worth the time and effort spent tracking it down. Every time I listen to this album, I like it more.

FREDDIE HUBBARD Outpost (aka Freddie Hubbard -Amiga Jazz)

Album · 1981 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Steve Wyzard
As most Freddie Hubbard fans know, his discography can be divided into two distinct categories: 1) his highly acclaimed pre-1975 recordings, and 2) his far-less-acclaimed post-1975 recordings. What happened in 1975? He signed on with Columbia and released a string of albums that can best be described as soul/funk/disco rather than jazz (and I'm attempting to be diplomatic here). Visit any good used record store and you will find truckloads of these albums carefully filed behind Freddie's name.

Then suddenly, in 1981, he released Outpost, his only album on the Enja label. This recording harks back to his classic sound, almost as if those Columbia albums had never happened. With Kenny Barron on piano, Buster Williams on bass, Al Foster on drums, and a very ECM-ish cover, Freddie declares in no uncertain terms that he is back (even if he never really left).

Outpost opens with "Santa Anna Winds", a brooding yet turbulent Hubbard composition with an exploratory center section that highlights his fiery trumpet tone. The flugelhorn ballad "You don't know what love is" will not make anybody forget his performance of "Here's That Rainy Day" (from 1970's Straight Life) but is still far above the crowd. The straight ahead "Outpost Blues" features Freddie at his swinging best. The uptempo "Dual Force" gives composer Buster Williams a chance to shine on the bass. Eric Dolphy's "Loss" closes the album with Freddie putting his own virtuosic stamp on some challenging material.

And now for the disclaimers: 1) the credits on this album clearly read "Freddie Hubbard: trumpet", but the man is very obviously playing the flugelhorn on both "You don't know what love is" and "Dual Force". 2) piano master Kenny Barron gives a fabulous performance throughout this album, but is sadly buried far too low in the mix. At the same time, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster are almost too loud, and many times are drowning out Barron's piano work (credit: producer Horst Weber, engineer David Baker). If you can overlook these faults, you should have no problem enjoying this album. With a back-catalog like Freddie's, it's easy to condemn with faint praise, but I can definitely recommend this album even if it's not one of his Blue Note/Atlantic/CTI classics.

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