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PETE OXLEY Pete Oxley & Nicolas Meier : Chasing Tales

Album · 2015 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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“Chasing Tales” was released earlier this year on MGP Records, and it seemed to slip beneath the radar and not get the attention it deserved, which is a shame because fans of guitar picking duos may find this to be one of the top albums of the year. Hopefully this album’s re-release on MoonJune might help bring the recognition this CD deserves. The interplay between Pete Oxley and Nicolar Meier, as they field a variety of string instruments centered around nylon string guitar and clean tone jazz guitar, is incredible as they sound very much like one mind. This album is the exact opposite of those sort of chest-beating acoustic guitar extravagances fueled by the likes of Dimeola and McLaughlin, there are no furious trade off solos on here, instead, you get music made through sensitive interplay and co-operation.

The guitar sound on here is of the softer variety, along the lines of Jim Hall, George Benson and Pat Methany, but just like those three mentioned virtuosos, the light tone does not imply light content, instead, this music is complex and holds up very well to many repeat listens. Oxley and Meir display many sources in creating their thick tapestries, besides modern jazz mixes of fusion and post bop, they also pull from art pop, middle eastern music and folk derived finger picking. They share writing duties, with Oxley’s tunes favoring abstract jazz, while Meir leans towards more forthright melodic material. Their compositions tend to alternate in sequence which makes for a great blend. These are all original compositions, and they are for the most part excellent, very original and personal, but two tracks don't seem to fit. "The Bridge" uses a nasal guitar synth sound that doesn't seem to fit the rest of the album, and "Breezin On" uses 'humorous' vocoder vocals that fit even less, but the rest of the album is superb.

Although labeled a contemporary jazz album, “Chasing Tales” probably has appeal far beyond just a jazz audience. Fans of world fusion acoustic guitar summits such as Strunz and Farah will probably enjoy this, as well as fans of that whole acoustic guitar world that includes new grass, Leo Kotke followers and David Grisman's ‘dawg music’. The interplay on here is very special and the compositions are fresh and inventive, hopefully this album will get the attention it deserves.

VIJAY IYER Mutations

Album · 2014 · Third Stream
Cover art 3.93 | 2 ratings
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American pianist Vijay Iyer ECM debut opens with "Spellbound And Sacrosanct, Cowrie Shells And The Shimmering Sea" - solo piano composition,coming from his first ever album, released in 1995 (Memorophilia,Asian Improv Records ‎– AIR 0023). But on "Mutations" this song sounds not like free improv, but as well-composed chamber piece. "Vuln,part 2" coming next changes the mood radically - Iyer's piano sounds are walking over deep electronics pulsation more common on ambient or left-field recordings.

Rest of the album is completed with one long suite,composed by Iyer and played by him (on piano and electronics) and strings quartet."Mutations I-X" is perfect title for music presented under that title - mostly pre-composed,it flows changing its form,mood and timbres but staying generally almost the same. All compositions are minimalist,with lot of space and cross-stylistic by their origin. Strings quartet (cello,viola and two violins) sound sometimes chamber,but more often - dark,dissonant or even streetwise(in places their droning recalls "Apocalyptica plays Metallica" aesthetics). Iyer plays very ascetic piano here and there, more often he's a source of different electronic voices and noises.

Main pleasant surprise with "Mutations.." is that being a product of many (and often polar)influences,music here doesn't sound chaotic or eclectic. All techniques and aesthetics are so carefully used that final product sounds as new unity,tasteful,stylish,ambitious and accessible at the same time.

As many cross-genre recordings of similar origin, "Mutations" isn't music for everyone's ear. Jazz purists wouldn't find much jazz here (probably not at all),chamber snobs will be shocked by flippant use of electronics,noise and drones combining it with string quartet's music,but fans of advanced (and very cinematographic,or probably better to say - modern theater soundtrack-like)music will find lot of joy and new ideas here. Excellent Vijay ECM debut - opening label's already a bit conservative doors wider.

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PRINCE JAMMY Kamikazi Dub

Album · 1979 · Dub Fusion
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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If you ask most lovers of Dub music, what was the album that got them started, or what is still their favorite album, there is a very good chance they will pick Prince Jammy’s classic “Kamikaze Dub”. Jamaican Dub music first appeared in the mid-70s under the guidance of the creative master mind, King Tubby. By the late 70s, two of his top co-workers, Scientist and Prince Jammy were ready to branch out on their own, and they did. Both Jammy and Scientist were poised to take dub to a whole new level, but Jammy’s record came out first, and that’s why “Kamikaze Dub” is often cited as the album that raised the bar for good. After its release, many Jamaican producers aspired to create the same swirling psychedelic sound that Jammy presented on these near perfect tracks.

This music has aged very well, there is a certain economical neatness on here that implies the digital age, but this was all done painstakingly by hand towards the end of the analog era. This is truly a labor of love as each echo and phase shifter is placed logically, no gratuitous tacky effects mar the final product. The intelligent choice of effects adds to the quality of ‘Kamikaze’, I’m not sure if they were using the new Electro-Harmonix small stone phase shifter, but it sure sounds like it, or something similar. The musicianship on here is outstanding as well, with other Dub stars taking part such as Sly and Robbie on drums and bass, Augustaus Pablo on keyboards, Headley Bennett and Bobby Ellis on horns, as well as many others. The bright effects treated piano and organ parts that borrow from art rock and classical music are often the icing on the cake.

As mentioned earlier, when “Kamikaze Dub” came out in 1979, it became the gateway drug for many a future dub addict. At that time, Miles Davis had retired his psychedelic fusion band, and psych-rock pioneers, Pink Floyd, were slipping into corporate sludge, the time was right for something new, and Price Jammy hit the spot.

TERUMASA HINO Hi-Nology

Live album · 1969 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Japanese leading trumpet player Terumasa Hino's "Hi-Nology" is his most commercially successful album and in fact his start to international fame.Released in 1969,it was one of the very first fusion album recorded by country's artists and released in Japan.Sometimes described as "Miles Davis undone step" in reality it isn't that.

Terumasa Hino started as mainstream jazz trumpeter and in 1968 switched from hard bop to more modern post-bop forming Hino-Kikuchi Quintet with pianist Masabumi Kikuchi. Their debut,recorded same year,was released in 1969 only, and few month later Terumasa Hino releases "Hi-Nology" with same band,just with different pianist (acoustic pianist Kikuchi has been changed with Hiromasa Suzuki on electric piano).The concept of electric fusion was just in the air around, and Hino was obviously heavily influenced by Davis re-tuning his quintet for playing more advanced sound.But if Miles very soon brewed jazz improvisation with psychedelic rock jamming,Terumasa stayed deeply rooted in mainstream jazz building his fusion on boppish basis.Miles concentrated his interest on textures against form, Hino demonstrates perfectly framed and structured songs in mainstream jazz tradition.

Released on the peak of fusion "revolutionary" popularity, this album was a true success between both yesterday's jazz adepts searching for new sound and part of rock fans,since very jazzy by its nature album's compositions were not so different from tuneful well-structured rock songs (thanks to thunder-like Motohiko Hino drumming Hi-Nology sounds not all that different from some rock albums of the time).

So,representing just a different (and generally more conservative by its nature) leg of just-born fusion comparing with Miles Davis music of the moment, Hino's quintet plays music which has born under Davis influence. The real reason why it sometimes sounds more advanced is that that hard-bop rooted Hino is more open to another huge moment's influence - free jazz. Miles was known by his negative point of view towards free jazz (what not always means his music isn't influenced by it), Terumasa Hino saw free jazz as part of his music (even if in reality Hino's music as rule is never such free as Miles'). As a result on "Hi-Nology" one can find lot of freer soloing which don't change basic structure but add lot of fashionable free jazz arrangements hardly possible in Miles music. Miles has been never interested in flirting with free jazz, and because of that Hino music for some ears sounds as "Miles undone next step brewing fusion and free jazz". I believe if Miles would be interested to make this step his music would sound much freer.

"Hi-Nology" stays one of the best early Japanese fusion album and start of commercial success for Terumasa Hino. Besides of few other country scene's similar releases it built the basis for plenteous and influential J-fusion movement some years later.

CHICO HAMILTON The Best Of Chico Hamilton

Boxset / Compilation · 1969 · Latin Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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“The Best of Chico Hamilton” is a collection of music that Hamilton recorded for the Impulse label. These songs were recorded between 1963 and 66, and were so ahead of their time, that even though “Best of” did not come out until 1969, most of these songs were still ahead of the curve. Much of that first wave of fusion and Latin fusion that will hit in the late 60s can be traced back to Hamilton’s mid 60s albums on Impulse. Even following the musicians tells a story, as Hamilton’s saxophonist on several of these cuts, Charles Lloyd, will leave Hamilton’s band to form an early proto fusion group with Jack DeJohnette and Keith Jarret, both of whom will eventually join Miles Davis’ early fusion group. You can also hear the beginnings of the west coast Latin rock movement on many of these songs too.

Almost all of these tracks feature a core group of Al Stinson on bass, Gabor Szabo on guitar and Hamilton on drums. Gabor is by far the main soloist, with Charles Lloyd showing up on a few tracks, and Larry Coryell covering guitar on one blues track that sounds out of place with the rest of the material. Most of the cuts on “Best of Chico” are pretty solid, with a few that are not the best, which leads to the question, did the producers of this album pick the best material? Overall it seems they didn’t do too bad of a job; songs like “Forest Flower” and “Conquistadors” are essential early Latin fusion, and “Evil Eye” is an excellent exotic gem, but two well known pop ballades, while played imaginatively, maybe could have been replaced with something a little more substantial. Finally, Coryell’s bluesy “Larry of Arabia” is pure fluff and a waste of space.

Chico Hamilton played a wide variety of styles during the course of his career, and this album is a fairly good, but not outstanding, sampling of what he was up to during the mid 60s.

MASAHIKO TOGASHI Bura Bura

Live album · 1986 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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If you're new in Japanese avant-garde jazz, one of the very first names you will hear is Masahiko Togashi.Drummer from his teens,in 60s he played in internationally most known Japanese jazz man of the time Sadao Watanabe's band.In late 60s together with pianist Masahiko Satoh he became one of icon of Japanese just-born free jazz. In 1969 he lost use of his legs as a result of accident,but stayed playing music using his own percussion techniques.Paradoxically, right from same 1969 he started releasing albums as a leader and has been prolific artist up to the end of the century.

Speaking about his musical legacy,his best works are still his collaborative albums,not solo releases,especially those coming from late 60s - early 70s. After burgeoning early 70s avant-garde jazz scene it was declined very fast in a few years after and never returned back even a part of such popularity again.It's common for almost every Japanese avant garde jazz artist of first generation that in mid 70s after some years of glory they stayed out of place and often out of job. Many changed the direction to moment-fashionable fusion,some switched to most respectable jazz form in Japan - hard bop.Many of them tried to return to more adventurous music later but rare succeeded - as rule having no mainstream jazz roots,first generation's free jazzers just got stuck in their youth music without finding any development possibilities.

Togashi,having hands-only drumming/percussion abilities, from very early step developed his own percussive sound combining African tom-tom and meditative Japanese techniques,just using them both in a free manner.It sounded quite unusual and progressive in early 70s but didn't change much after decades. Few his solo (percussion only) albums were quite successful demonstrating early world music-influenced (or pre-new age) aesthetics,but generally quality of almost any Togashi's album heavily depends on collaborators participated. Being kind of celebrity in Japanese jazz,Togashi always has ability to form strong bands, "Bura Bura" recorded concert isn't exception.

On paper,"Bura Bura" team looks like all-stars quartet where Togashi is supported by Steve Lacy on Soprano, trumpeter Don Cherry and bassist Dave Holland.In real life things are a bit different. If Steve Lace (who was most probably more popular in Japan than anywhere else for decades)was regular Togashi's musical partner playing with bhim during his every of twelve Japanese tours,for Cherry and Holland such collaboration is a new thing.As a result all concert sounds more like jam than improvisational collaboration.Of all ten songs,recorded during concert in Tokyo,only four were used on original "Bura Bura" album - two Togashi's originals and two Lacy's. It's quite understandable since at least Togashi and Lacy were both familiar with that material.

Togashi's originals both are tuneful and very percussive, but hardly memorable. Cherry plays beautiful trumpet solos on "Contrast",but it hardly saves all song - feeling of raw jam session stays all album long. Two Lacy's originals are both well known and easy recognizable, "Wickets" and especially "Flakes" were played and recorded by Lacy himself much more often than once or twice."Wickets" even contains insert from John Lee Hooker's blues with Don Cherry vocals! These songs save album, it's obvious how Lacy compositional abilities change music quality for good(even if common musicianship still sound quite raw).

It's interesting that French release of "Bura Bura" contains quite different selection from the same concert's material - adding Don Cherry original "Mopti" and changing Togashi's "Contrast" to his other song,"Spiritual Nature",coming from his one of the most commercially successful album of the same title,recorded in 1975 (with Sadao Watanabe on board,among others). Most probably such choice is an adaptation for European market.

At last,in 2002 all 10 songs were released in Japan as double CD.Probably good choice for collector,this version has its pros and cons. It contain some better songs than were chosen for original LP,but at the same time it contains around 100 minutes of music,10 loose compositions of which only two are shorter than 11 minutes and far not all music is so interesting.It's not the album you will listen too often for sure.

In all, near average Togashi's album where sound names don't generate expected quality, but still nice listening.

QUINCY JONES Quincy Jones Eight Classic Albums

Boxset / Compilation · 2012 · Big Band
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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These Real Gone Jazz label compilations are so low priced and look so cheap that its hard not too assume that “Quincy Jones, Eight Classic Albums” is just some sloppily thrown together tracks with no particular rhyme and reason, but fortunately, quite the opposite is true. Instead, what get on this four CD set is an almost complete collection of all of Quincy’s early big band music, with no meaningless flotsam and jetsam to clutter things up. The only Jones’ big band album that did not make the collection is “Home Again”, which could be seen as much a Harry Arnold album as a Quincy Jones album, which I assume is why it was probably picked for exclusion. All the other Quincy late 50s to early 60s big band albums are here, including the studio albums from his first up through “I Dig Dancers”, plus two live albums. One of the best features about this comp is that RGJ went the extra step and included a couple albums that were recorded in that late 50s to early 60s time frame, but not released until the mid 80s. Its also nice that the two live albums are isolated on one CD, allowing for a three CD shuffle with just the studio albums if you want.

The music included on here ranges from top notch big band jazz to artsy orchestrated pop music and sometimes somewhat cheezy ‘cute’ dance numbers and other products of early 60s American suburban hipness. The most salient feature of all of Quincy’s orchestral work is the easily recognizable ‘Quincy sound’, a very modern sound that influenced much of the music world for decades to come. The Quincy sound was a bright sparkle voiced with slinky muted horn sections and punctuated with subtle high end tone colors. There are a lot of excellent musicians in these big bands, as well as a lot of great solos from folks like Phil Woods, Zoot Sims and Clark Terry. In fact, a virtual who’s who of late 50s jazz artists seem to find a spot in Quincy’s band at some time or another.

If you have any interest in Quincy Jones’ early career as a big band leader, or if you want to check out one of the more influential ensembles for early 60s jazz and pop orchestration, I don’t think you could find a better compilation than this one by RGJ.

GONG Camembert Electrique

Album · 1971 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 4.11 | 21 ratings
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No this isn’t quite the “Radio Gnome Triology” despite the first short track being titled “Radio Gnome” but despite the lack of Steve Hillage’s spaced out echo guitar trippiness, Daevid Allen in cahoots with Gilli Smyth manages to create a healthy dose of Canterbury psychedelia on his own terms. CAMEMBERT ELECTRIQUE is the second release by Daevid Allen’s GONG and probably one of the most rockin’ of the entire GONG discography. On this release it is Daevid Allen who plays guitar and bass as well as handling the expected vocal duties. BTW although my remastered copy says the first track is “Radio Gnome” i see it listed as “Radio Gnome Prediction” on the very first vinyl release as well as other subsequent releases. How clever, hmmm?

This is an interesting transition album that feels like it has connections to the heavy psych of the 60s while branching out its tentacles into a new 70s space rock style garnished with all the zaniness and humor that the Canterbury scene was so famous for. If you listen to the old Wilde Flowers and Soft Machine demos with Daevid Allen still in the band, you can trace some of these riffs to those days, only with the addition of Gilli Smyth’s famous space whispering and the excellent addition of Didier Malherbe’s excellent sax and flute to create some really good solid musical madness on this one. This is a great example of how to combine the Canterbury whimsy with space rock, progressive heavy rock and healthy doses of anarchic psychedelia with totally original experimental elements.

This indeed was time of the birth of the space age hippie music and Daevid Allen’s decade long roster of ideas that were suppressed and underdeveloped really were allowed to bloom for the first time on CAMEMBERT ELECTRIQUE. This is really a fun album! Musically, lyrically, rhythmically etc. Just look at the zany titles of the songs: “Mister Long Shanks, O Mother, I Am Your Fantasy,” “Dynamite: I Am Your Animal,” “Fohat Digs Holes In Space!” This is just wonderful music being melodic, demented, innovative, unique, experimental, daring, sacrilegious, comical, uproarious and above all spaced out, maaaan! While most of GONG’s discography displays complex band interactions, this is the one that screams out that it’s Daevid Allen’s baby and what a cute and adorable little baby it is! Sadly Daevid passed away recently on 13 MARCH 2015. Thank you Daevid for all this excellent music and R.I.P. No doubt this music will entertain for a very long time to come :)

TERUMASA HINO Group Everything Everything Everything: Hino's Journey to Air

Album · 1970 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Trumpeter Terumasa Hino, the first candidate for best Japanese jazz trumpeter ever,is known quite well outside of his home country,mostly by his Miles Davis-influenced fusion albums. It's less known that during early 70s he was involved in free jazz movement, and almost unknown that during his first ever visit to New York in 1970 he recorded one-shot project's "Group Everything Everything Everything" album (released exclusively in Japan though).

I have no idea if Terumasa has been influenced by Alan Silva "Luna Surface" radical album, recorded and released some month prior to "Group Everything..." session, if not than probably very similar idea just flew somewhere around in that creative and electrified air of late 60s-early 70s. Silva in Paris formed 11-piece band (participating as violinist/conductor) and let musicians to play whatever they want,all at once. Resulted two-sides long track "From Luna Surface" presented kind of organized chaos,collective unframed and uncontrolled improvisation,reflecting creative freedom of the time and having it's own (non-conventional) beauty.

Terumasa Hino formed in New York 12-piece Japanese-British-American band (with Dave Holland on bass,sax players Dave Liebman and Steve Grossman among others)and recorded two-sides long free-improvised composition "Journey To Air" - electro-acoustic tsunami with lot of personal soloing. If Silva's work was more about unlimited freedom, Terumasa's music is better organized,contains more tunes and virtuosic solos and aesthetically is closer to contemporary classic avant-garde than Silva's destructive anarchistic no-wave.

The future of both above mentioned albums are polar different - French BYG-released "Luna Surface" became a cult album (what as rule means everyone heard about it but almost no-one heard the music itself),Japanese-only album "Hino's Journey To Air" became a collectable rarity(in late 70s it was re-released as Terumasa Hino's solo album of the same title)."Luna Surface" was first, "Journey To Air" sounds better - those who like the former most probably will really enjoy the later.

P.S. It's interesting that part of the project musicians (without Terumasa Hino) three months later recorded another similar album (this time as "Everything Is Everything" band,another excellent line-up including guitarist John Abercrombie,bassist Reggie Workman,trumpeter Randy Brecker and drummer Lenny White besides of Liebman/Grossman duo from initial project). Japanese only release as well.

SATANIQUE SAMBA TRIO Misantropicalia

EP · 2004 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
SATANIQUE SAMBA TRIO is a very strange band from Brasilia, Brazil. Their name and imagery suggest a black metal band, but this is more of a parody of black metal because this is nothing even remotely close soundwise. The name is also a misnomer as this is neither Satanic nor a trio. The band throughout its history ranges from five to seven members. This music is actually a hybrid of the avant-prog of such greats as Henry Cow or Univers Zero mixed with traditional Brazilian pop and avant-garde samba jazz.

The instruments consist of guitar, bass, drums, trumpet and cavaquinho which is a small Portuguese guitar with four strings. This music is very avant-garde to say the least utilizing the most dissonant avant-prog and RIO leanings as heard in the strangest offerings of Henry Cow, Art Zoyd or Aqsak Maboul only presented with samba-jazz instrumentation. The weaving of traditional Brazilian sounds into the mix is what makes this truly unique. While the samba sound can be discerned at times, it is often obfuscated and twisted with extremely complex time sigs and electronic manipulations.

While the best of what this band has to offer from their future releases is here on the debut album MISANTROPICALIA, they also have a strange fascination with “The Snow EP” from Coil on a few ambient tracks with the vocals and melody almost identical to that release. If you are not familiar with Coil’s music this could be an interesting addition outside the avant-samba offerings heard here but i find it a little irritating to hear it here interspersed between the regular tracks. It sounds like they just throw in the ambient vocal tracks for filler and it is basically too much of a Coil rip off for my comfort. This is a decent slice of avant-prog-jazz by SST but it is better displayed on the following albums “Sangrou” and “Bad Trip Simulators 2 & 1” where they shine in their fullest avant-garde samba jazz regalia.

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