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Album · 2016 · World Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Although Dwiki Dharmawan has been a well known performer in Indonesia for over 30 years, he only recently received more international recognition in 2015 when he released “So Far So Close” on the MoonJune label, a label which gave him much more access to a western audience. That album was broad and ambitious in itself, but on Dharmawan’s new CD, “Pasar Klewer, Dwiki takes the idea of ambition to a whole new level with a sprawling cinematic soundscape that could be called the “Sgt Pepper” of Indonesian fusion. There is literally a ton of intricate music on these two CDs, and the number of styles that are fused on here take us on a trip around the world, and several times at that.

Sprawling tracks like the opening title track, and track three, “Tjampuhan”, are like Indonesian fusion symphonies that mix gamelin, free jazz, electric fusion, prog rock and movie soundtracks in multi-movement suites that build to energetic climaxes, only to subside and build again. Dwiki is an intense pianist with a very developed technique and a massive sound that can recall McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Vijay Iyer and Matthew Shipp. Master Indonesian musicians provide gamelin and traditional Indonesian instrumentation and vocals, while Mark Wingfield burns on electric guitar and Nicolas Meier on acoustic. Gilad Atzmon’s clarinet lends an oriental/East European slant to the international mix and Boris Salvoldelli brings his odd art rock vocals to a couple cuts, including a cover of Robert Wyatt’s “Forest”. Although there are plenty of high energy tracks on both CDs, on CD 2 Dharmawan includes a couple of ballads, including a Hank Marvin styled guitar instrumental of the afore-mentioned Robert Wyatt cover.

LAURA JURD Dinosaur : Together, As One

Album · 2016 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Fresh wind from England - young London-based trumpeter Laura Jurd's new project Dinosaur just released their debut album, and the album sounds great!

On new album,four young guys play fun and full of positive energy jazz fusion, that kind Miles presented to the world on his music,coming from late 60s-early 70s, but with removed psychedelic component,so characteristic for "Bitches Brew" time. Instead Laura demonstrates attention to composition and as a result them all sound almost as pop (or rock) songs.

For sure it is not a level of innovation or experimentation what attracts in "Together, As One" - just there are already a few generations of listeners for whom "In A Silent Way" says close to nothing. Laura and Co. reinvent original jazz fusion (Miles Davis type) for Z-Generation using Miles legacy very carefully but at the same time making it sounding attractive for today's young listeners.

Mostly on every song Laura's trumpet flies over Hammond / Rhodes passages with tasteful and inventive support from rhythm section. Compositions are quite catchy and it is not strange first album reviews and massive live gigs program both already received very positive media around UK and in partially in continental Europe.

With no doubt one among most significant jazz releases coming from Britain this year.

GENE ESS Absurdist Theater

Album · 2016 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Award winning guitarist, Gene Ess, draws upon a sundry of experiences and a unique background to form his personal sound. Studying classical piano, Gene’s early years were filled with sounds of Beethoven and Chopin. Originally from Tokyo, Japan Ess grew up on a U.S. Air Force Base on Okinawa, Ess was deeply and simultaneously receiving a mix of influences: from the indigenous music of Okinawa - to the pop and jazz music coming out of the clubs for the American soldiers. These beginnings would send him on a lifelong quest to reach for creative heights in his music.

His new album, Absurdist Theater, is slated to be released late September, 2016. Drawing upon his working group Fractal Attraction, Gene is joined by Thana Alexa (voice), Manuel Valera (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Clarence Penn (drums). This set of new compositions continues Gene’s exploration of using voice as an instrument in a chamber group setting.

The album begins with a new and appropriately titled opening, “Out of the Ashes” signaled with Thana Alexa’s poignant and powerfully evocative voice. Gene begins the ascent of greatness, his guitar pulses the path and both Valera and Ess create a colorful fabric of intricate note choices, tension and forward motion. The gritty electric sound of Ess’ guitar is warm and round creating a muscular tautness and then release, that gives way to Valera’s colorized building choices. Penn uses his kit to create peaks and valleys to propel the track to a complex, yet rich sound that clearly sets the album in modern jazz territory.

“Circe’s Compassion” gives the listener a chance to hear Ess on nylon strung guitar, the group delicately supports, while not over bearing the acoustic sound. Like a story of life, each section begs its own story; Alexa’s voice is warm yet commanding and is exclusively used as an instrument; this is where Ess’ ideas are and have been ahead of their time on his Fractal Attraction outings and way ahead of the curve, though many groups are beginning to use a vocalist in the instrument seat, it is Ess that as an instrumentalist saw and understood the value of the human voice in what is typically known to be an instrumental only setting by utilizing the strengths and uniqueness of Alexa’s instrument as a leader (group member) in the collaborative band sound.

Ess spent time in San Jose which is about 30km from the city of Almeria, which is on the southern coast of Spain, it was here he composed much of what is comprised within the hallows of Absurdist Theater. “Déjala Que Pase,” a product of this time, begins with darkly hued lyrics that explore the meaning of existence, and features Alexa in full lyric vocals, her voice is filled with a story quality with abilities to transition from head voice to chest voice with ease of shift. The group creates a flurry of notes and crashes to build to a transition that soars into ethereal heights of transcendence. One feels as if they are on a journey of “themselves” while listening. A musical dynamic release brings the lyric back into play as each word is treated with loving delivery for its most poignant message.

The closer “Upward and Onward!” is a hard-swinging fast paced burner that also gives the listener compositional twists and turns of rhythmic interludes. Each player is more than up to the task, and each display a tightly woven interactive feel that pushes forward with intensity and excitement. Jazz can be an emotion filled listen in the right hands, and Ess and Fractal Attraction have certainly brought this sound to the forefront in Absurdist Theater, the next generation of jazz makers are like their predecessors, pushing the envelope, and this is a letter I love to read. Well done, expertly executed, making absurdity lose its sting to the sheer joy of beautiful music.

MUSIC SOUP Cut to the Chase

Album · 2016 · Hard Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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You don’t hear a lot about jazz music from Greece, which is a shame, as they apparently have a very happening scene there. Music Soup may help heighten awareness of Greek expertise in the jazz world with their new CD, “Cut to the Chase”, which features a self-proclaimed ‘eclectic’ approach that covers hard bop, RnB, fusion and more. Music Soup is essentially B3 organist Evgenia Karlafti and guitarist Nestor Dimopoulos, with Vagelis Kotzabasis taking the drum chair for most of this outing. A couple tracks on “Cut to the Chase” also feature a small horn section. Both Evgenia and Nestor are virtuoso performers. Evgenia sometimes has the expected bluesy soul jazz sound often associated with the B3, but she often takes on the more abstract post bop sounds of Larry Young, and even some European jazz-rock along the lines of Dave Stewart. Nestor reveals that he is a fan of Wes Montgomery, Pat Methanay and others, but often his mix of abstract harmonies and rhythmic blues may have you thinking John Schofield.

“Cut to the Chase” opens strong with the title cut that mixes driving post bop with Greek influenced odd-metered fusion. This is an excellent direction for the band to pursue, and they return to a similar sound on “Senior Citizen” and “A New Start”. Other instrumental cuts include the bluesy groove of “Movin” and the Bossa-Nova flavor of “Skywalk”. The remaining four tracks feature Evgenia’s vocals on songs that range from ballads to dance oriented RnB. Evgenia is a great singer, and the vocal numbers probably add a lot of interest and variety during live shows, but for the home listening experience, I think a lot of B3 fans would rather hear more numbers like the opener. Overall “Cut to the Chase” makes for a great introduction for Music Soup, and the flow of the tracks is very much like a live show.

JEFF BECK Loud Hailer

Album · 2016 · Jazz Related RnB
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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You have to admire an artist who can keep changing and challenging themselves, even late in their career. After decades of fusion and instrumental rock albums, Beck has thrown us a serious left turn curve here with the recent “Loud Hailer”. Its as if Beck has discovered political punk rock 40 years after the fact, but its never too late to try something new as “Loud Hailer” turns out to be one of the hottest and most emotionally charged albums of Beck’s very successful and lengthy career. The way this album came about is interesting in itself, apparently Jeff was at a party, thrown by friend Roger Taylor, at which the ‘entertainment’ was the noisy post-punk RnB of vocalist Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg. Jeff was so impressed with what he heard that he invited them to help make his new album, and also enlisted their producer, Fillipo Cimatti.

Not much from Jeff Beck’s past could prepare long time fans for this new album. Although Jeff is well known for his virtuoso guitar solos, there is very little of that on here, instead the emphasis is on Rosie Bones and her angry and passionate political musings. Beck’s supporting guitar work is rough and bluesy, drawing heavily on rootsy Missippii delta riffs that are turned into massive industrial sledge hammers via Fillipo Cimatti’s very modern and bigger than life production. Although the sound on here is thoroughly modern, the rawness of the music recalls classic hell raisers like Iggy Pop, the MC5 and early Funkadelic.

Some have been critical of Rosie’s lyrics, possibly searching for something more eloquent and definitive, but great rock lyrics are never about surety, instead the random energy of doubt, frustration, and confusion have been the hallmark of rock’s passion since the early days of ‘My G..g..g..generation". Along with her anti-’new order’ anarcho political lyrics, Rosie also sings about current vacuous pop culture, difficult relationships, the price we pay in pursuit of carnal pleasure, and some hope for the future. It helps that Rosie is a great singer who can veer from punky raps to sweet melodies and anything else in between. The icing on the cake is Fillipo Cimatti’s massive industrial strength production. Jeff Beck’s guitar has never sounded so huge and destructive, and the beats supply the crushing blows to back it all up.

Those looking for Jeff Beck’s fusion guitar playing best pass on this one, but if you are looking for raw angry poetic gut level rock/RnB that combines the best of John Lennon, Iggy Pop, Curtis Mayfield, Curt Cobain and Black Flag, then you have to come to the right place. “Loud Hailer” will be one of the best rock records to come out this year. Put this in the car and turn it up loud and I bet people will get out of your way, this music is an unstoppable tidal wave.

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jazz music reviews (older releases)

TRAIN Coo-Coo Out!

Album · 1977 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Just when you think you've heard it all in the world of fusion comes this obscure German group Train (not the American band who did "Meet Virginia" and "Hey Soul Sister") who only released one album in 1977, Coo Coo Out, and that was it. This is all over the place, and that's why I really enjoy, too many fusion albums end up sounding too samey in the end. At times they'll remind you a bit of Passport, thanks to the presence of sax, or perhaps Weather Report (the sax playing isn't as cheesy as Klaus Doldinger's frequently was), perhaps a bit of Soft Machine, the acoustic-side of John McLaughlin, and perhaps Chick Corea's Return to Forever. It's not the most original, but there are some really great and creative passages making this an album worth investigating. Sadly this was never reissued, so you'll have to fork the money for an original LP, as that's the only way you can get to hear this on solid format. The music is on the mellower side of fusion, but I'm happy to say it never falls into Fuzak territory, but on the other hand it doesn't go full-on Mahavishnu either. Is this a lost gem of fusion? You bet it is!

ORNETTE COLEMAN The Shape of Jazz to Come

Album · 1959 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.56 | 23 ratings
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Since the first grooves, "The shape of jazz to come" (1959) shows all the alloy of a masterpiece. A son, this one by Ornette and Donald, lovely brooded by two creations that came before: "Something else!!!!" and "Tomorrow is the question". Should both vinyls be listened to - and loved - linked together, as the two moments have common roots, and that's more than a story or a concept: it's the developement of a large extended view. As Bob Palmer of "Rolling Stones" will write on the back of Ornette's "Science Fiction" at the beginning of the Seventies, the first thing in Ornette's appearing "is that it grabs you inside before you 'undestand' it intellectually. Ornette doesn't wait for introduction". At the same time all that should be unattainable and dumb without Coleman and friend's "years of discipline and determination". Here we are more on a Davis' side than on a Coltrane's, and we certainly don't speak of abnegation and sacrifice (taken for granted) , but of clearness of purposes. Being, the aim, in Ornette and Miles, the return to the core of music, to the African root: well different the shape of path, but very similar under the "weight", the proportions, the rigour of the output (in the meantime Trane "lays out" meditating on the meaning of it all). The '59 masterpiece (in this case "The Shape...", not "Kind of Blue"!) finds brilliantly and easily the prints let in "Tomorrow...": first tune, "Lonely woman", has that bitter taste found in "Lorraine", with its funeral march atmosphere (that will be unbeatable in "Beauty is a rare thing" from "This is our music"); and from "Focus on Sanity" (also in "The Avant Garde" with Coltrane and Cherry) to the ending "Chronology", Coleman's "speech" gives demonstration of itself without any need of utter explanation. At the same time, the severe placement of mics for capturing the sound of the combo, finds a sort of acoustic resolution of the project. Each horn a channel, the rest for sublime machine Haden and Higgins, immune from the fear of empty spaces. Here the silence is coinceived like a 5th sideman, or more. And silence has been one of great Miles' best friends too...

ORNETTE COLEMAN Something Else!!!!: The Music of Ornette Coleman

Album · 1958 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.33 | 11 ratings
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"What a new avant garde musician we have on the jazz scene. His name is Ornette Coleman". So they said (better: somebody said) many years ago, when the young man - come from Texas - began to give his records titles like "Something Else!!!", the shakespearian "Tomorrow is the question" and "The Shape of jazz to come" (for somebody was Nesuhi Ertegun, Atlantic executive, to christen the third of the records as "The Shape..."). Words, the latter, that contained the promise of a revealed future. Or the future itself. But in in 1958, year of the first record, the couple Coleman - Cherry seemed to remind - in a grotesque way - the famous duo Bird an Diz. "Bird and Diz" is Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, together in a studio on June, 6th, 1950. With them, Monk on piano. No need of other words. Eight years after, paladin and revolutionaries' defender Cherry, played his little trumpet for Ornette, the last promise, the more interesting surprise of those years. Trumpet, little, and not a toy: yes, smaller than the usual horn, but a perfect old dented instrument, B flat tuned. And what about Ornette's sax, a plastic alto, maybe? Ornette, a life of music and sacrifices, had all the reason to be angry and hungry: but in "Something Else!!!" discontent seems intellectulized and more ironical (in relation to Bird and Diz - and Diz never liked Ornette's music, even if, in some moments, he seemed more raged than Coleman), while joy (the relation is the same), tends here, in 1958, to a somehow out of tune and stilyzed dance; everything is thinner and bathed in a clear light, so poor of shadows. And things are on the same path in the sophomore lp, "Tomorrow is the question" (in the meantime piano disappears and funeral tones move across the grooves) . And today what do we have of all that jazz? A shining piece of precious vinyl, shining even in re - prints and digital discs. Five stars. And "Something Else!!!!" is only the beginning of a book, one of the richest books in all jazz history.


Album · 1997 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Coming at ya with the complexity of a calculus equation on a physics exam in the rocket science department at MIT, the mastermind himself behind the extreme metal band Meshuggah unleashes his first solo outing to the world under the moniker FREDRIK THORDENDAL'S SPECIAL DEFECTS. Apparently not satisfied with the strangeness and angular extreme metal that Meshuggah delivers on a regular basis, THORDENDAL really lets it all loose on SOL NIGER WITHIN, which not only takes the jazz elements and high tech metal approach of Meshuggah but increases everything exponentially and adds all kinds of delicious ingredients to make one uniquely strange and satisfying edition in the world of djentology.

Some of this music itself doesn't sound too overly different than the jazz metal fusion that i have heard from Buckethead on occasion but on this release we get a lot of diverse elements that incorporate a djent based guitar riffage with shrieked black metal type vocals that remind me a bit of Cradle Of Filth's gothic take on the subgenre. Although the album is broken down into 29 tracks on the original release and include two extras on the 1999 re-release titled SOL NIGER WITHIN: Version 3.33 with a few changes like the organ missing, the album really comes off as one continuous track that morphs and evolves from one phase to another. The track listings are fairly unimportant as it really seems like they were randomly imposed on the musical flow.

While this is usually complimented to THORDENDAL as a solo project, this is in fact very much a conglomerate of musical talents that create some interesting avant-garde metal. Amongst others the most notable talents on board here include Morgan Ågren (drums) and Mats Öberg (keyboards) who were both performing with Frank Zappa at one point. Other non- metal instruments include the sax, church organ and yikaki, which is a long wooden instrument played by Australian Aborigines. While most tracks have their feet in the extreme metal world, some such as "Cosmic Vagina Dentata Organ" do not. This all church organ track was nixed from the 3:33 version for whatever reason. I own the first release and find the jettisoned track to be a very interesting intermission in the flow of the album.

While the subject of the lyrics involved seems to be based in the sci-fi world reminding me of the world of Voivod, there is an alien theme i detect going on here as well and the term SOL NIGER, which means the black sun, was referred to by alchemists to reflect the psyche's feeling tone under the frigid and unrelenting influence of the planet Saturn. Some tracks like "Sensorium Dei" are just sublime in how it utilizes strange mathematical timings with tripped out guitar solos and deftly balances silence with extreme noise. This is a highly recommended slice of avant-garde metal heaven if you are seeking the strange, unorthodox and built-by- intelligent-design world of FREDRIK THORDENDAL which utilizes philosophy, mathematical musical construction and all the extreme metal brutality you would expect from his output.

While i don't own the 3:33 version, i did find myself impressed enough with this album to check out the two extra tracks on this version for the sake of comparison. The two extra tracks are "Missing Time" which clocks in at 11:31 and "Ooo Baby Baby" which is only a mere 1:15. This version also emits "Painful Disruption" which is merely a 29 second freaky guitar frenzy that sounds like something Steve Vai would conjure up with a Zappa type of feel. "Missing Time" sounds more like a more recognizable jazz-fusion guitar piece with some narration about alien abductions. "Ooo Baby Baby" is a highly aggressive dent guitar assault that is short and to the point. It has a nice strange ending. Overall, i say stick to the original. The extra tracks are nice but i like the omitted ones more.

TRAFFIC Far From Home

Album · 1994 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 2.34 | 4 ratings
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Traffic is by far one of my favorite bands of all time. The innovative music they cranked out in such an early stage of progressive rock was nigh unparalleled by many other bands. Traffic split up rather early in the seventies (in '74), but at the same time had released a studio album practically every year up to that point since their debut in 1967. The split couldn't be more appropriate. Traffic was releasing great material seemingly effortlessly, until that year with When The Eagle Flies, debatably their weakest album of the period. They went quiet for three decades until in 1994, they released a sudden comeback album out of the blue. This was none other than Far From Home, a haphazard assemblage of 90's pop rock and very vague progressive undertones. Was it as great as any of the classics? No, not really. Now you could say that with such an old band as Traffic, thinking that an album released thirty years after their golden era would be as great as when the band was young is wishful thinking. I don't believe that Far From Home should match any of their old albums in the slightest. To me, a comeback album is one that is more of a callback to old material, replicating it slightly but with other sounds and gadgets to make up for weak points. This is especially the case when an album is such a flash-fire like Far From Home was (the band released and nothing subsequently). But this didn't happen. FFH was a complete overhaul of Traffic's sound, demolishing the eclectic folk influence, the progressive construction, and any semblance of what made Traffic Traffic. If every element of the band was removed, then what exactly was left? Nothing particularly remarkable.

Far From Home, in layman's terms, is a glorified Steve Winwood solo album, the only difference being that drummer Jim Capaldi from the original lineup joined him on it. The album is over-saturated, much like Winwood's albums, with harmonized synth keyboards, slow echoing drumming, and soul backing vocals. To call Far From Home a prog record would be a stretch, but you could make a case for it. The album does have many Latin and salsa jazz influences, no matter how badly used they may be. Funnily enough this album features some of Traffic's longest tracks, which have little-to-no experimentation in them; this may be a trap for you if you're going into the album looking for some hardened progressive rock, so it's better to be aware. Winwood's vocals in their early stages were quiet, yet when required were able to belt out power notes. However after spending the 80's successful with just using the latter, Winwood's over-enthusiastic yell became the centerpiece of the vocal arrangements. Capaldi, who I know is a great drummer, is restricted within this genre with slow, linear drum patterns that rarely shift from their solid mold. Mick Dolan and Davy Spillane appear as newcomers to the band, on rhythm guitar and Uilleann pipes (a type of Irish bagpipe) respectively. Even with their presence though, it's undoubtedly primarily Capaldi and Winwood doing the work.

The album has some pretty good moments, the title track is stand-able and features one of those super-filtered guitar solos from Winwood at the end of the song. The tracks that I always come back to are that of 'Nowhere Is Their Freedom', a punchy film-score esque epic, and the wonderful closing instrumental 'Mozambique'. The other tracks are forgettable, but I wouldn't necessarily go so far as to say they wouldn't appeal to anybody because this music definitely still has an audience.

Far From Home is not a fantastic record. It has more ups than downs, and unfortunately isn't that great of a resurrection of such a classic band. Yet if you are open minded I'm sure this album would have it's fans. My two- cents don't mean anything in the wider picture. Happy listening.

To think of it, maybe Traffic needed a little more Mason after all. If anyone can do campy right, it's him.

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