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TOM WOLFE Solerovescent

Album · 2014 · Post Bop
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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KWGMusic
On Tom Wolfe's latest studio effort, "Solerovescent," Tom Wolfe has assembled (IMHO) the perfect rhythm section for this particular project: Wolfe (guitars), Tim Goodwin (acoustic bass on all tracks that include horn), Chris Kozak (acoustic bass on all guitar trio songs) & Danny Gottlieb (drums on all tracks). On "Solerovescent," Wolfe's composing & playing both reach a new high & there is not one "filler track," which many CDs (including jazz) do contain. Every song takes the listener to a unique place. Plus, the 10 tracks on this CD are in what seems to be the perfect song order - reminiscent of more of a SUITE than simply a collection of songs. All is very well thought through, mood wise, energy wise & even KEY wise. "Solerovescent" hasn't left my car CD player since I got it a few weeks ago & I cannot see replacing it with any other CDs anytime soon... VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - 5 SOLID STARS!

THE WRONG OBJECT After The Exhibition

Album · 2013 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.02 | 3 ratings
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Sean Trane
To be honest, by the start of the last calendar year ('13), after a four to six year silence, I thought that TWO was a dead thing. It sure seems like the project certainly went through a delicate phase, since there remains only two members from the line-up that had recorded the awesome Stories From The Shed. Indeed only leader Delville and drummer Delchambre remain, the main change being the addition of Antoine Guenet (ex-PaNoPTiCoN and presently also in the new Univers Zero line-up). Actually, if memory serves, most of the newcomers come of PaNoPTiCoN, which never had a fixed line-up anyway, due to the concept of the project. Elsewhere Pollard gave way to Mottet on bass, and Melia and Lourtie are now blowing the horns, and the always excellent vibraphonist Benoit Moerlen appears as a guest on no less than four tracks. So, something did happen, and TWO's rebirth six years after is a sweet gift, courtesy of the great Moonjune label.

Despite the heavy line-up changes, you'll have no problems recognizing instantly TWO, but I would not call ATE just another Wrong Object album. This is probably the band's most "prog-rock" album, despite retaining its heavy JR/F and Zappa atmospheres. The heavy Detox Gruel is a mix of riffs and gypsy jazz music. The three-parts and almost 17-mins Jungle Cow is the centrepiece of the album, but hardly the most accessible, as the first two movements are often bordering on dissonance, but it remains reasonable, and the third really delivers the good with some cool dramatics. The following Glass Cubes features female vocals, and though it brings a breath of fresh air, though the start has a "déjà-entendu", but the second part sounds like a cross of Gong meets Kate Bush.

A fine return to affairs from a group most of us thought dead (or at least dormant), although it doesn't reach the perfection of Stories From The Shed. While ATE might not be the most representative of their usual soundscapes (given the important line-up changes), it's still very much a worthy TWO album, and ranks in my top 5 album of 2013, among with Maalouf's Illusions and Setna's Guérison. Definitely worth investigating

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THE WRONG OBJECT Stories from the Shed

Album · 2008 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Sean Trane
Third or fourth album (depending whether you consider the Elton Dean session as a TWO album) from this Liège group, still with the same line-up as before, but this time the album was released on the great Moonjune label. Once again guitarist Michel Delville is the main songwriter, though all four other members have at least two credits or co-credits. There is no real explanation for this very forest- infested album title and artwork, and to be honest, the dominance of green on the digipak doesn't match the music, which tends to red hot, even more so than the woman's red hairs ion the artwork.

Opening on a few bars of a Klezmer-Manouche tune (like we've all hear a thousand times before), Sonic Riot veers a tad Gong-esque with an excellent closing passage with spacey electronics and trons. 15/05 is building on that feeling and the electronic gizmos are gaining in importance. As the album progresses with every new rack, one can only be captivated with the typical British jazz and JR/F scene of the 70's. Indeed, the shadows of Elton Dean, then Harry Beckett and Annie Whitehead (all participants to the band's previous efforts) seem to hover all over the album, much to our delight. There is a real tension that gradually builds up through tracks like Sheepwrecked (Crimson circa Lizard meets Wyatt) and following blistering Acquiring The Taste and Lifting Belly, where a Canterburian feel seep through via fuzzed-out instruments. The adventurous explorations continue, from the trashy Matching Mole-ish Malign Siesta to the lava-boiling Waves and the out-of-this-world Saturn. The album ends with a rework of Delville's Unbelievable Truth from the Elton Dean session album of the same name.

If you must own only one album from TWO, it would be a die-hard choice between the Dean collab and this one, but if you're into a more classical progressive, their latest album After The Exhibition, which is some kind of rebirth (given the important line-up changes, we can almost guess the band came close to a term) is also quite an awesome realisation. Personally, Shed is my personal fave from these guys

CHARLIE HADEN The Golden Number

Album · 1977 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.95 | 2 ratings
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snobb
Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett's bassist for decades, and one of the last living "jazz golden age" legends, Charlie Haden passed away two weeks ago. Besides countless collaborative works, he left numerous collections of his own albums. For decades, his projects such as the Liberation Music Orchestra or Quartet West were among the most popular on the international jazz scene.

Besides the aforementioned groups, Haden also released a series of duets, which even if they were not so well-known, often contain a lot of interesting material. Haden's first duet sessions took place in early '76, when four compositions were recorded. The first four songs (duets with Keith Jarrett, Paul Motian, Ornette Coleman and Alice Coltrane) were released that same year as "Closeness" on the tiny Horizon Records And Tapes label. A year later, Horizon released the rest of the material (the choice of compositions for the former release is a bit strange since the outtakes, released later, are quite often stronger than what was released first).

So, the album of four "outtakes", each contains a Haden duet with either Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman or pianist Hampton Haves. What a great time it was, when such compositions were counted as "outtakes", for the coming decades, even leading jazz albums will hardly contain such material!

"The Golden Number" opens with Haden's tuneful composition (all but one song on this album are Haden's, the other one - Coleman's) on which Cherry's trumpet flies over Charlie's almost lazy bass. Cherry's trumpet solo is quite lyrical and with no doubt one of his most beautiful ever played (he plays flute on this song as well).

The second and final composition on side A is a duet with tenor Archie Shepp - and it's a bomb. Twelve minutes long, this song is driven by Shepp's soulful and bopish sax from the very first seconds. In the mid-70s Archie Shepp was in transition leaving his early explosive free sax attacks and searching for new ground. Similarly, with his own albums of that period, he plays something between free-bop and balladry, still quite free though. On this duet, Haden is obviously on back-up, supporting Shepp's speech-like sax soloing.

"Turnaround" is originally an Ornette Coleman composition, but here it is played by Haden and pianist Hampton Hawes. Hampton Hawes is a great pianist, but the more traditional of all the collaborators on this album, so the whole thing sounds really nice, but a bit out of place between the others. Haden demonstrates his hard-bop abilities (Hawes is the obvious leader anyway). After "Golden Number", Haden's next release will be a collection of duets with Hampton Hawes, which sounds better all in one place (probably because the music on this next album is more homogeneous, not contrasting as on here).

The closer is the almost thirteen minutes long title composition, the duet with Ornette Coleman. Surprisingly, it's very tuneful and lyrical, even sentimental, not what you usually can expect from Coleman. Having been collaborators for years, Coleman and Haden demonstrate excellent communication and rare emotional relations, making this song an excellent final for this great (if too short) album.

Charlie Haden's fame comes not from his formidable technique, but from his tunes, collaborations, and the variety of collectives he founded and led, from the emotional atmosphere of his music and his naively optimistic political manifests. "The Golden Number" may not be Haden's best record, but it may be the right candidate to listen to now, just for remembering Charlie, because of its intimate atmosphere and bare-naked simplicity, which is so close to greatness.

All eight duets, recorded in 1976, and released originally on two Horizon vinyls, were later re-released on one CD, which is probably the easiest way to listen to this music.

RAYMOND SCOTT The Music of Raymond Scott: Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights

Boxset / Compilation · 1992 · Exotica
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
RAYMOND SCOTT is known as the man who made cartoons swing and although he is hardly a household name, his music has most likely been heard by everyone in one form or another. This compilation RECKLESS NIGHTS AND TURKISH TWILIGHTS showcases the earliest stage of his career when he lead his band the RAYMOND SCOTT QUINTETTE. It is this period where he composed some of his biggest hits which proved to be big sellers in their time and immortalized forever after he sold his music publishing to Warner Bros in 1943. The music director Carl Stalling would then adapt his music to the extensive Loonie Tunes catalog. Over the years his unique brand of exotic jazz has become a staple for that cartoony feel and his music has found its way into the likes of The Simpsons, Ren And Stimpy, The Oblongs, Batfink and Duckman as well as the never-ending reboots of Looney Tunes cartoons themselves. All the compositions on this compilation were recorded from 1937 to 1940.

RAYMOND SCOTT's intent was to lead his Quintette in order to revitalize the swing in jazz music. He was unorthodox in his approach and irritated many a jazz purist for his disregard of what was thought to be “proper” jazz. His compositions are energetic, busy and complex yet always catchy and although improvisation went into the creation of his music, once finished, the music remained exactly as completed. SCOTT had an affinity for incorporating classical music into his mix as well. No other track is this as obvious as his version of Mozart's “Rondo Alla Turca” which finds itself adapted into a jazz context and titled “In An 18th Century Drawing Room.” Another attribute that set SCOTT apart from most other jazz musicians of the day was the fact that although he was the leader of the band, he rarely took the limelight of performing solos himself and left that to the other members of the band. SCOTT was a pianist and the focus is mostly directed on the brass.

To my ears, RAYMOND SCOTT's music has many diverse influences ranging from the classic dixieland jazz, to the early piano jazz of Art Tatum with other sounds being borrowed from Western classical music, Klezmer and Middle Eastern music. The brilliance is in how well it is woven together seamlessly into a cohesive whole and despite the complexities of the music always comes across as a gleeful sonic stomp throughout imaginary lands which lends itself perfectly to the cartoon world in which it has been used the most. This cartoon swing sound in the RAYMOND SCOTT QUINTETTE would not persist though as in the beginning of the 40s he would take on new projects including collaborating with Les Paul and Mary Ford to record pop songs and would eventually take on the entirely different musical world of electronic music in its infancy.

The true legacy of SCOTT won't be from the scant few recordings that he would release but from the influence he laid down leading to a wealth of samplings, reinterpretations and covers finding its way into the disparate artistic arenas of film, television, theater and countless different musical genres. For example, samples can be found on albums by the trip hop group Gorillaz, the progressive rock band Rush, hip hop acts such as J Dilla, indie rock acts such as TV On The Radio and even in ska by the the band Save Ferris. A truly underrated jazz icon who may not have found the biggest success under his own name but achieved it in a rather strange roundabout under-the-radar way. On this compilation you can hear his own version of his own music as originally released.

DUKE ELLINGTON Soul Call

Live album · 1967 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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js
The lengthy opening cut to this album would make a great subject for one of those blindfold tests. Who are we listening to here … Mingus … Sun Ra? Julius Hemphill or the Art Ensemble of Chicago with a few guests might have been good guesses too, but they weren’t on the scene yet when this album came out. All of those previously mentioned artists would be glad to point out that Duke Ellington was a major influence on them, and on the excursion called “La Plus Belle Africaine” from Ellington’s “Soul Call”, its clear, at least in the case of Mingus and Sun Ra, that influence may have come full circle. The lengthy “Belle African” opens with some jagged African lines on the piano and drums before a massive horn attack announces the main theme, Mingus fans will recognize the base power of this simple line. As this song snakes along with a relaxed and sometimes dissonant African hum, John Lamb plays a dronish solo on the bowed double bass and Harry Carney follows with a bluesy solo on the baritone pushed by extra horn arrangements and more jagged piano from Ellington. When things get a little more quiet again, Jimmy Hamilton enters with a sublime snake-charmer solo on the clarinet that sounds more like Rimsky-Korsakov’s old school exoticism than jazz. Its one more of those odd juxtapositions of the old and the new that make this album unique.

The opener is the highlight, but the rest of the album is no slouch either, and longtime fans may find the band a little easier to recognize now too, ha. Side one closes with “West Indian Pancake”, an up-tempo number with a syncopated Carribean rhythm, and an extended solo for Paul Gonsalves. Side two opens with the high speed bop of “Soul Call”, which is followed by the well known vehicle for drummer Sam Woodyard’s soloing, “Skin Deep”. The album closes with “Jam with Sam”, a fast paced track which allows Duke a chance to announce soloists while they take a quick few bars, its good cheezy fun and played with chaotic abandon by the band. Along with the great music on “Soul Call“, you also get Duke’s discreetly funny ‘charming’ in between song patter that veers between sarcastically suave and borderline self satire. His lines can contain sexual and racial innuendo designed to entertain his band-mates and sail right over the heads of his audience. The crowd noise seems to be a mix of real and canned supplement.

Ellington fans will certainly enjoy this, but particularly those who like some of his more unusual output. Fans of odd albums, such as Sun Ra’s “Angels and Demons at Play”, that mix old and new elements in jazz, might want to give this a shot too. There is also a CD re-issue of this LP available that features many additional tracks.

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE A Whole New Thing

Album · 1967 · Funk
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
SLY & THE FAMILY STONE weren't kidding around when they titled their debut album A WHOLE NEW THING which hit the market in 1967. The San Francisco band wasn't only a cutting-edge band musically by fusing soul, funk, rock and psychedelic music, but they were also one of the first successful bands to have a racially mixed lineup that had both girls and boys playing together like good little kids should. Despite all this groundbreaking effort though, the album went virtually unheard by the listening public at large but it was an immediate hit for musicians and those lucky enough to find it on their turntables. A likely story. The material wasn't “commercial” enough and because it was so different and didn't fit in with any radio formats thus receiving no airplay and despite being on a major record label, little was done in terms of promotion. Sly was urged to write more radio friendly tunes and soon after this release of this album, “Dance To The Music” was released which got the band recognized.

Musically this album is far from a throwaway. It shows a promising young act with a whole heap of strong tracks here. Although the songwriting isn't quite as strong as the following two albums for this first phase of S&TFS's career, it certainly has a few winners such as “Underdog,” “Turn Me Loose” and “Run, Run, Run.” In fact most of the album is quite pleasant with the exception of a couple out-of-place mediocre ballads that interfere with the flow. Certainly not the best album the FAMILY came up with but considering how revolutionary this sound was at the time and that there are plenty of interesting tracks to be had, this is required listening in my book.

EVAN PARKER Time Lapse

Album · 2006 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.55 | 2 ratings
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snobb
British living legend sax player Evan Parker is the same guy who (together with Derek Bailey) founded the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and played on Peter Brotzmann's "Machine Gun". Since then he has developed extended techniques, circular breathing and has released a lot of albums as leader.

His solo sax recordings are not a rarity, but "Time Lapse", released on Zorn's Tzadik label, is different - here Parker uses overdubbing, playing against himself (less significant-he debuted on this album as an organ player as well).

In fact, during the last few decades Parker's music hasn't changed much - he still plays the same repetitive improvised constructions without paying much attention to tune or structure, But the way he does it is always impressive and it doesn't seem to matter if it's your first or tenth listen.

This album often sounds as if there are two or three musicians participating, and this seems to hold true whether there is overdubbing or not. Throughout Parker plays in his signature manner - not screamy, noisy or too "out", but well organized, with a lot of attention to details. It's hard to apply a genre label to this music, is it 'contemporary' jazz or avant-garde, thats how well prepared his improvs sound.

No way revolutionary for Evan Parker, this album represents his current music and can attract everyone interested in original solo sax improvisational music.

ALAN SILVA Luna Surface (with Celestrial Communication Orchestra)

Album · 1969 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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snobb
In one of his interviews, Alan Silva said this about this album: ""Luna Surface" is my idea of landing on the moon". This probably sounded a bit different in 1969, when this album was recorded, but it does give some idea of what one can expect.

Bermuda-born (to a local father and Azorean/Portuguese mother) Alan moved with his mother to New York when he was 5 and grew up in Harlem. During the 50s and 60s he played with many leading jazz musicians, including Sun Ra, Charles Mingus and Albert Ayler among others. "Luna Surface" is Silva's debut as a leader, and one of the most extreme albums of its time (even if that time was full of extreme music).

First of all, this is the first release from Silva's led Celestrial Communication Orchestra - a loose collective which will later play better structured and organized progressive big band music, and often written and conducted by Silva (he wouldn't perform himself on some later albums). The initial line-up contained the high adventure jazz stars of all times, including Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp, Kenny Burrell, Graham Moncur III, Malachi Favors, and Leroy Jenkins among others.

This album's concept was extreme freedom - everyone plays whatever he wants with no relation to what others do. In other words, each musician was a soloist, and all were soloists at the same time.

As a result, we got a noisy dissonant music which starts nowhere, and being high energy and dynamic, goes nowhere as well. One long piece (28+ minute) without even imitation of structure, development or any scenario. Peter Brotzmann's "Machine Gun" sounds like a well developed and organized work compared with "Luna Surface" (both albums were released at the same time).

But open eared listeners (with some experience in 60s free jazz or just brutal improv fans) will probably find its own beauty in this chaotic sound. To be honest, the main attraction comes from the two violins (Silva himself and Leroy Jenkins), soloing at the same time all album long (Silva plays the violin as a vertical bass, using a lot of the highest frequencies). The rest of the orchestra, most of the time, just produces over-orchestrated musical noise, where it is almost impossible to investigate who plays what. Still, at moments multiple sound layers demonstrate how better this recording could be by reducing the number of members and by using more progressive sound recording technologies.

In all cases, not the album for everyone, "Luna Surface" has been re-released many times and has historical value for sure. It's always interesting to know how some artists more than half a century ago imagined what landing on the moon would sound like.

NEIL ARDLEY A Symphony of Amaranths

Album · 1972 · Third Stream
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Sean Trane
Amongst the rare works of Neil Ardley that hadn’t received a reissue (CD or other), Symphony Of Amaranths was a major gap, and it finally found its way on Dusk ire in 2012 (much to my relief), though I didn’t find out until a few months ago. Along with its predecessor, Greek Variations, these two albums feature Ardley as a leader of Third Stream fusion (classic and jazz), and it is little wonder some draw comparison between Ardley and Gill Evans or Duke Ellington (as thought of with the previous Greek Variations). Retrospectively billed as the second staple of his “trilogy”, I find Amaranths much closer to Variations than to Kaleidoscope, but also less thrilling than the first. As for musicians, we’ll find the usual suspects, , from Lowther, Carr, Beckett, Barbara, Rendell, Heckstall-Smith, , Tracey,and Jenkins to Ricotti, Clyne, Hiseman, and many others. And in the string dept, you’ll find most of the names found on Variations as well.

The sidelong instrumental title track suite (dedicated to GE and DE) is the main course of the album, and is a good mix of classic music melted in a twirling happy big-band jazz music. The long piece goes through almost every mood, alternating between the string section and the horn section, but never afraid to cross-pollinate and present a hermaphrodite product that can either overjoy or repel the listener. Indeed, the barrier-breaking fusion can be seen as groundbreaking, but can also appear as a sell-out “Night Of The Prom” thing for those who don’t have the historical musical landmarks in mind.

The flipside opens with a big surprise with poems declaimed as narrative Dong And The Luminous Nose: I’m generally wary (if not even dismissive) of such musical cheesy exercise – even worse when rock music is involved: Tull’s Hare in Passion Play or Wakeman’s Journey or Round Table or Procol’s Something Magic - but in this case, we’re dealing with a very well written piece over texts from Edward Lear, James Joyce and Lewis Carroll that avoids cheesiness or ill-attempted humour and involves the spoken words (courtesy of Ivor Cutler) evolving to singing or almost rapping (ala Gill-Scott Heron), partly because the pace is gradually and dramatically increasing throughout, backed some tremendous instrumentation like Ricotti’s vibraphone. Ardley goes one further with Three more Poems, this time sung by the unavoidable Norma Winstone with a fun-time big band, though in this case, we’re closer to crooner singing, if it wasn’t for the advanced un-mainstream arrangements of the music behind her.

Of course, with the fad of bonus material added on to classic albums, they often don’t add up to much or are completely out of context and it is the case here, with the God Saves Tango version. Forgettable and best forgotten, really, as it kind of ruins the experience of the album.

Though SoA and GV are very audacious albums (if the present is a tad syrupy, because of the string section being too present), Ardley would go one step further (if not two) with Will Power (subtitled Shakespeare Birthday Celebration Music), but that is simply a step too far for yours truly. Thankfully enough, Ardley found the light and went back to safer grounds with the excellent Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows (76) and Harmony Of The Spheres (79), though both were quite unique and Ardley-esque in their own rights. In the meantime, Amaranths is a very solid (and unsettling) album that deserves to be heard by all Third Stream fans. And if you’re curious about the slogan of “Britain’s answer to Evans and Ellington”, you might want to check it out, to see if it isn’t usurped. Though Duke might seem a bit of a stretch (the recording technology and time lapsed is too big), comparisons with Gil are certainly valid. OK, Dusk Fire, bring on “Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe”, the last brick in Ardley’s wall.

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