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Live album · 2021 · Fusion
Cover art 4.09 | 2 ratings
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The series of live recordings recently released for Allan and his various incarnations of trios and quartets are outstanding. This one from 1997 shows Allan in Germany with Chad and Dave. The album is dedicated to Allan and the late Dave Carpenter (1959 - 2008). The first track: The Sixteen Men of Tain is one of Allan's best late compositions. He also includes his classic tracks such as Letters of Marque, Looking Glass and House of Mirrors. Phenomenal musicianship permeates this session. For any fan of electric jazz guitar this is a must have. The legato is flying. 4.25 stars

BINKER & MOSES Feeding The Machine

Album · 2022 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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"Feeding The Machine" is the fifth album from London's sax/drums duo, Binker & Moses. They started in singer Zara McFerlane's support band, both duo members built an extremely successful career on the burgeoning London new jazz scene of the time, as a duo and collaborators as well. They are probably the best representatives of the movement's leftfield, combining minimalist orchestration with complex techniques and spiritual jazz of the late 60s tradition.

"Feeding The Machine" in realty is recorded by a trio, not duo. The addition of bassist Max Luthert (who played with Sara McFarlane as well) is really significant for the album's sound and common atmosphere. Luthert plays here actually not bass, but modular synth and operates live electronic loops as well. His sound, being always a bit on the back, builds very unique tasteful aerial atmosphere behind the mid-tempo knotty Boyd's drumming and flying free over the birdcalls-like Golding soloing saxes.

This album recalls for me very much the cult work of another times - "Beyond Recall", a masterpiece of sorts, released in 1991 by one of Berlin's electronica school geniuses, Klaus Schulze (who died just a few weeks ago). Huge orange sun of the last sunshine moments over the sea waters and two ducks small silhouettes, very graphical, with the sun behind them. Probably, one of the very last really impressive Berlin electronica school releases, it was mature, almost sounded tired, with a touch of melancholia, but in general very calm. True, it was a pure electronic one.

"Feeding The Machine" sounds very much as a "Beyond Recall" of Generation Z, or music for fans who were born when "Beyond Recall" had been released, or after. So, "Feeding The Machine" sounds more "organic" (or acoustic + analog), slightly less emotional and a bit more energetic, but still that feel of maturity and light melancholy combination is quite similar. Each generation has their own music, which usually changes from explosive creative bravura at the early stage to more well balanced, calculated and matured (at least according to optimistic scenario) moving towards the end of the cycle. London's "new" jazz isn't all that young anymore. It gave to the musical world a lot, partially returning streetwise youth culture in Europe to jazz as a fresh and creative music. This music is still really popular, but another new thing is already probably not too far. "Feeding The Machine" is still no way a swan song of the musical sub-culture, but very possible it's one of its mature monuments.

NICOLAS MEIER Nicolas Meier World Group : Magnificent - Live - Stories

Album · 2021 · World Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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On Nicolas Meier’s latest album he decided to give his fans an extra treat, in that what we have here is not one, or two, but three CDs of excellent music. First there is “Magnificent”, a studio album featuring his ‘World Group’ ensemble, then there is, “Live”, which is the same group recorded in concert, and finally, “Stories”, which is Nicolas performing solo. The group is the same one that recorded the previous “Peaceful”, Kevin Glasgow on bass, Richard Jones on violin, Demi Garcia-Sabat on percussion and Nicolas on a variety of guitars. In fact, “Live” is made up of the same tracks that were featured on “Peaceful”, only performed in front of an audience this time around.

Nicolas’ compositions draw from a mix of Spanish, Turkish, Balkan, Middle-Eastern and North African influences. His ensemble, with its mix of violin, unfretted guitar, high end fretless bass and hand percussion is perfect for this style of music. Much of the music from the aforementioned cultures leans heavily on unfretted string instruments that allow for the colorful ornaments that are added to the melodies. We are all familiar with western artists such as Paul Simon or David Byrne who plunder other cultures and then cast them aside. Such is not the case with Meier who displays a deep understanding and commitment to the cultures he is interested in. His original compositions breathe these various musical styles in a very natural way. Nicolas is an excellent composer with a gift for remarkable melodies that capture the sounds of the different regions that inspire him, which he then presents with art pop gem like structures reminiscent of artists like Brian Wilson or Brian Eno.

The band has very balanced interactions in which soloists and accompanists blend to make an ensemble sound of intertwining voices. Particularly noteworthy is how Jones will add counter melodies on the violin behind Meier’s guitar solos. On the live CD, Jones occasionally uses an echo device which gives the band an expansive psychedelic sound. On the solo CD, Nicolas covers several jazz standards and shows he is no slouch on the jazz tip with his broad open sound similar to Pat Metheny or Bill Frisell. One surprise is a reading of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” which becomes a jazz standard with a few chord extensions here and there.

JORGE GARCIA Dedicated To You

Album · 2022 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Guitarist Jorge Garcia has worked with many top names in jazz and pop, including Tony Bennett, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Jon Faddis and many more. The reason that his name is not better known has to do with the fact that his current album, “Dedicated to You”, is only his second album as a leader. Jorge is a top notch guitarist who may remind some of rugged boppers like Joe Pass and Barney Kessel, but he is also adept at playing the nylon string acoustic in Brazilian style settings as well. “Dedicated to You” brings out all the styles that Jorge enjoys as this album is put together from many different recording dates and groups.

The album opens with smoking hot bebop with Richie Cole on alto sax. Richie is no longer with us, but he was a master of the Charlie Parker sax-speak, with a dose of springy Eric Dolphy exclamations. Its too bad Richie is only on two tracks, because these are the album’s highlights. After these openers, Jorge moves into more of a Brazilian vibe, including an imaginative remake of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” featuring vocalist Wendy Pederson. Harmonacist Hendrick Meurkens supplies a solo on the Bossa Nova flavored Jorge original, “With You Always”. In a Bossa setting, the harmonica almost takes on an accordion flavor for a European café jazz vibe. Recorded in a trio setting, “S’Wonderful”, brings back Garcia’s blazing bebop chops. The album closes with a beautiful original ballad on which Jorge is backed by Phil Banman on the string synthesizer. Jazz guitar fans need to check out Jorge, he’s a great player and also an excellent writer as well.


Album · 2022 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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“Truce 2” is the second installment for the Markus Reuter led trio known as Truce. The making of this album was supposed to take place almost two years ago, but with the pandemic and its fallout going down, things got postponed for quite a while. “Truce 1” was mostly free form jazz rock jams in a style somewhat similar to Robert Fripp’s King Crimson circa mid-70s. When Reuter and his crew, Fabio Trentini on bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums, got back together after the long break, they tried to pick up where they left off in a similar fashion, but soon found that they had all changed considerably and this Truce 2 was going to be an entirely different beast. This time around, rather than just playing unedited free jams, the band decided to organize things a bit, and they also indulged in some editing and overdubs as well. The end result is a more powerful and direct musical statement, and the music itself also changed. Although there is still some of the funk-rock jams of the first album present, this second album is much more metalish, industrial, noisy, abrasive and intense. “Truce 2” may have less jazz fusion, but in many ways it’s the better of the two albums. The power and intensity of this music will slam you upside the head for real. Even in this album’s quieter ambient moments, there is a feeling that the damn may break and unleash a torrent at any moment.

Its hard to come up with artists with a similar sound, but maybe some of the more metal oriented John Zorn projects might come to mind, as well as guitar heavy avant-garde fusion groups like Last Exit and Power Tools, as well as Miles’ “Dark Magus” and the 90s version of King Crimson. Although they do hit a groove now and again, much of this album has a constantly shifting focus in which musical ideas are presented for a while and then hastily cast aside for something else. You can listen to Truce 2 many times and still hear things you missed before. Markus is still one of today’s top soloists, and he often reels off Pete Cosey style sheets of rapid fire stinging guitar shrapnel. Band mates Fabio and Asaf have also grown in confidence and offer musical ideas far beyond what happened on their first outing. Sure, some fans are going to miss the more familiar sound of their first album, but give “Truce 2” a chance, it is one helluva a ride, totally devoid of clichés and expectations.

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Album · 2011 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Portuguese trumpeter, Susana Santos Silva, is one of today's leading European jazz female trumpeters (ok, there aren't many around). She is based in Stockholm and collaborates with many creative artists from Northern Europe, regularly releasing quite experimental albums as leader as well.

"Devil's Dress" is her debut, released eleven years ago. From a decade's distance, it's interesting to hear where it all started. Containing solely her original compositions, "Devil's Dress" sometimes sounds a bit raw and directionless, but on the strong side, one can find there are a lot of unusual combinations of acoustic strings and popular at the time simplified rock song aesthetics against complex "compositions", and all the time Silva's trumpet, breaking the rules and trying to fly free. Predominantly mid-tempo, often meditative, the music here isn't easy listening as it probably looks from the first impression. Silva's trumpet sounds warm, but easily producing dissonant sounds as well, there is not even a single composition where she avoids playing free at least for a few moments. This music is hardly a classifiable genre which hardly helps it to find a wider attention. For listeners who know Silva from her later works, and who like them, "Devil's Dress" is probably interesting as historical evidence about "where all that started".

CLARE FISCHER Thesaurus (aka 'Twas Only Yesterday)

Album · 1969 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Its kind of interesting how some great jazz musicians get slated for immortality and some do not. Clare Fischer was a top notch modern big band arranger, if he is not in the same class as Gil Evans, Don Ellis or Quincy Jones, he is very close, yet you don’t hear about him near as much as the others. Part of Clare’s problem is that he was putting out big band, Latin and post bop albums during an era when record companies were banking all their money on fusion acts with rock star vibes. Yes, Clare looks pretty conservative on the cover of “Thesaurus”, but the music contained herein is just as dynamic and creative as anyone else during this era. Fischer is also an accomplished writer as well as arranger, with four songs on “Thesaurus” written by himself, as well as two by his brother, trumpeter Stewart Fischer.

Side one opens up with “The Duke”, with Clare making it clear that the Duke is one of his favorite arrangers and the tune does carry some Ellington influence, but with a larger brass section than the Duke usually had. The Latin flavored “Miles Behind” does not seem to channel Miles Davis much, with trumpeter Conte Candoli turning in a bright solo that is almost the opposite of Miles. The top track of side one though is Lennie Tristan’s “Lennie’s Pennies”, a brilliant tune that takes bebop to a new modernist level. This is also Fischer’s best arrangement with Gary Foster and Warne Marsh presenting very different takes on this song’s interpretation.

Top tracks on side two include “Bitter Leaf”, a moody tone poem that features Clare’s impressionistic electric piano blending with the tone colors of his band in a style almost more French impressionism than jazz. Also noteworthy is his arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s complex, yet swinging, “Upper Manhattan Medical Group”. The album closes with a brief but moving ballad dedicated to the then recently assassinated Kennedy brothers. Fans of big band arranging from the 60s to today should take note, Clare Fischer’s “Thesaurus” rates up there with the best of them.

FRANK ZAPPA Joe's Corsage

Live album · 2004 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 2.92 | 3 ratings
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"Joe's Corsage" is a full-length album release by US avant garde rock act Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention. The album was released through Vaulternative Records in May 2004. "Joe's Corsage" features archive material recorded in 1964-1965. Some or probably most of it while the band were still called The Soul Giants. The album was compiled by archivist Joe Travers. Most of the material are demo recordings of tracks that in their final form would appear on the band´s debut album "Freak Out! (1966)", but also a few tracks that would appear on "Absolutely Free (1967)" and "We're Only In It For The Money (1968)". In addition to the demos there are also a couple of live cover tracks by Righteous Brothers and Marvin Gaye. There are also a couple of interludes on the album where Frank Zappa speaks of the origins of the band and his influences, taken from interviews from the sixties.

If you are already familiar with the early material by the band and the doo woop/r´n´b style of tracks like "Anyway the Wind Blows" and "Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder" you pretty much know what to expect from "Joe's Corsage". The versions on this album vary from the ones that ended up on the studio albums, but for the most part the tracks aren´t terribly different from the studio versions. A track like "I'm So Happy I Could Cry", which ended up being titled "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" on "We're Only In It For The Money (1968)" featuring a new set of lyrics, is one of the tracks that sound a bit different from the studio version, but otherwise I think there are little here that´ll be of interest to anyone but the most hardcore collectors. Still the recordings are of good quality with a, for the time, remarkably good sound production and of course there´s nothing wrong with the quality of the material either, so a 3 star (60%) rating is fair.

FRANK ZAPPA Orchestral Favorites

Album · 1979 · Third Stream
Cover art 2.82 | 13 ratings
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"Orchestral Favorites" is a live album release by US artist Frank Zappa. The album was released through DiscReet Records in May 1979. It´s the successor to "Sheik Yerbouti" from March 1979. All material featured on "Orchestral Favorites", was originally meant to be featured on the shelved "Läther" box-set, but ended up being released as one of four individual album releases, instead of the collective work that would have been the "Läther" box-set.

The 5 tracks featured on "Orchestral Favorites" were recorded during three sessons on the 17th-19th of September 1975, at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus with conductor Michael Zearott and the 37-piece Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra. The first two sessions were recorded as concerts with an audience, while the last session was done without an audience. Zappa spliced the best parts from the three sessions together and added an overdub guitar solo on "Duke of Prunes". It´s a combined classical orchestra and rock group performance, so in addition to the classical music instruments like violin, oboe, and clarinet, the music also features regular rock music instrumentation of guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums. The music is fully instrumental.

The melodic, dynamic, and symphonic "Strictly Genteel" opens the album. An early version of this composition with vocals was included on the "200 Motels" (1971) film and soundtrack. Themes from "200 Motels" (1971) are also used on the closing track "Bogus Pomp". "Pedro's Dowry" and "Naval Aviation in Art" are avant garde tinged classical music pieces, showing Zappa´s more experimental side. "Duke of Prunes", which was originally featured on "Absolutely Free" (1967), is featured here in a re-arranged classical orchestra/rock group version. The above mentioned overdubbed guitar solo is pretty intense, featuring an almost constant near feedback noisy approach.

While "Orchestral Favorites" certainly features a couple of intriguing moments, it´s arguably the least interesting release culled from the shelved "Läther" material. According to Zappa he spend around $200,000 on this project, and honestly I can´t say I think those money was well spend. A 3 star (60%) rating isn´t all wrong though as there are enough great elements to warrant that rating.

FRANK ZAPPA Sheik Yerbouti

Live album · 1979 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 3.47 | 21 ratings
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"Sheik Yerbouti" is an album release by US artist Frank Zappa. The album was originally released in March 1979 as a double vinyl release through Zappa Records. It was the first release on Zappa´s own label after his acrimonious split with manager and business partner Herb Cohen in May 1976, which meant the end of their co-owned DiscReet Records and a host of lawsuits and disagreements over the remaining part of their distribution deal with Warner Bros. Records. "Sheik Yerbouti" bridges the gap between the two last (out of four) individual albums that Warner Bros. Records released featuring material which was originally meant to be released on the four-LP box set Läther. A box set which was shelved and split into four albums and released by Warner Bros. Records without Zappa´s full consent. The two albums bookending "Sheik Yerbouti" are "Sleep Dirt" from January 1979 and "Orchestral Favorites" from May 1979.

"Sheik Yerbouti" ended up being Zappa´s most commercially successful release and it laid the foundation for the mainstream success (well...relative mainstream success) he had in the 80s. Most of the basic tracks were recorded during 1977/1978 live performances and later spliced with studio overdubs. In typical Zappa fashion it´s most of the time impossible to hear where the live tracks and the studio overdubs start and end. What you´ll experience as a listener is just a very well produced album, featuring an organic, professional, and detailed sound production, helping the material shine like the best quality productions always do.

"Sheik Yerbouti" is loved by many but loathed by just as many as a consequence of the sexually explicit lyrics (although some of them are hidden behind secret words and descriptions) and lyrical topics poking fun at union workers, disco, a certain type of Jewish women, egotism...etc. "Jewish Princess" is considered particularly controversial and even some interpret it as anti-semitic. Zappa refused to apologies though and maintained that he just described a certain type of women that he had observed. "Bobby Brown" is another song which is often considered controversial because of the sexually explicit lyrics which includes stereotyping of lesbians, golden showers, rape, and anal sex. It´s all done with a gleam in the eye and the great social satirical angle that Zappa was known for.

"Sheik Yerbouti" is overall a very eclectic release featuring pop/mainstream oriented songs, which could have been played on commercial radio (and were in some countries), if it wasn´t for the explicit lyrics, rock songs, progressive rock songs, avant garde pieces, jazz/fusion, punk, and silly spoken word dialogue from the band members. Featuring no less than 18 tracks and a total playing time of 71:40 minutes, there are a lot of material and minutes for Zappa to guide us through the many different sounds and styles of "Sheik Yerbouti". The vocal part of the album deserves a special mention. It´s primarily Zappa himself and drummer Terry Bozzio who sing the lead vocal parts on the album, but Napoleon Murphy Brock is credited for singing lead vocals on "Wild Love" (along with Tommy Mars) and Adrian Belew sings the lead vocals on "Jones Crusher" and "City of Tiny Lites" (as well as performing the Bob Dylan impersonation on "Flakes"). Bassist Patrick O'Hearn is also credited for performing some lead vocalst. Naturally with that many lead vocalists and a host of backing vocalists, the vocal part of the album is equally as eclectic in nature as the instrumental part of the material.

It would be wrong to call any Frank Zappa related release an easy listen or mainstream oriented, but parts of "Sheik Yerbouti" are probably the closest you´ll get to that with Zappa. However the eclectic nature of the album ensures that the listener is constantly kept on his/her toes and challenged by the clever compositions and high level musical performances. Are some of the lyrics offensive or in bad taste? I guess it depends on the ears that hear and the morale and political/social values of the listener. Personally I find the lyrics quite brilliant, and in my opinion even the most silly and borderline mean lyrics should be understood as social commentary rather than hateful rantings. Upon conclusion "Sheik Yerbouti" is one of the essential albums in Zappa´s discography, and especially essential if you´re looking for his most accessible comedic/satirical releases. A 5 star (100%) rating is fully deserved.

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