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KEIJI HAINO Peter Brotzmann, 灰野敬二 Keiji Haino, Jim O'Rourke: Two City Blues 1

Live album · 2015 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
Japanese guitarist Keiji Haino is a cult figure on country's traditionally influential alternative music scene. Started playing guitar in early 70s, he developed Derek Bailey and his compatriot Masayuki Takayanagi free-improv guitar music adding rock-machismo image what probably doesn't look all that casual but fits well to Japanese underground jazz/rock/improv music tradition.

During last few years Haino increased his international notoriety prolifically playing and recording with such genre leaders as Oren Ambarchi and Jim O'Rourke.

Here on his newest live release from concert at Shinjuku Pit Inn in Tokyo,recorded in 2010, Haino plays with Jim O'Rourke and European free jazz icon German sax player Peter Brotzmann. Everyone familiar with prolific Brotzmann's legacy knows how dominating he is even on collaborative recordings, surprisingly here on "Two City Blues 1" he isn't.

Combination of two free-improvs electric guitarists and free sax player could sound weird, but generally it works quite well. "Two City Blues 1" isn't first common work for Haino and Brotzmann, their "Shadows",released on Japanese DIW label are quite well known. Guitarist Jim O'Rourke is regular musical partner for Haino for some last years as well. Still fully improvised music sounds a bit raw, it often sounds like each of three musicians just plays his own music without paying of lot attention what two others do.

As it was already mentioned above, surprisingly Brotzmann (or any other trio's member) doesn't dominates and both two compositions sound as three equal musicians recital. Music is not too fast,not too noisy (at least - not for Brotzmann,Haino or O'Rourke standard), even meditative in moments, but main problem here is there is absence of true communication between artists here.

"Two City Blues 1", actually released few months after the release of "Two City Blues 2" (which was released on CD and vol.1 as vinyl only)is another album in massive collection each of three trio's members already has released,Haino followers will probably enjoy it but generally it is far not his best work (even more same could be said about Peter Brotzmann).

LIGRO Dictionary 3

Album · 2015 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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js
Although they are still not well known internationally, when it comes to guitar heavy jazz-rock trios, Indonesia’s Ligro is about at the top of the game. There is a 5 star album lurking within these guys somewhere, they just haven’t put it altogether yet. Their new “Dictionary 3” finds them improving their sound with a rock solid wall of noise that could probably blow many other similar bands off the stage, but unfortunately, the high level of writing that they achieved on the previous “Dictionary 2” seems to have dropped off a bit.

“Dictionary 3” opens with “Bliker 4”, a very 70s sounding fusion number that features the young pianist phenomena, Ade Irawan. Its an okay number, but it comes across more as an attempt to take advantage of Irawan’s popularity than a true meeting of musical minds. Irawan may not be the best fit with Ligro’s guitar heavy sound, but they manage to pull off an okay fusion jam. The following cut, “Pentagonal Krisis”, opens with avant-ambience centered around traditional Indonesian instruments before the band hits a gamelan influenced groove for guitarist Agam Hamzah to solo over. Gradually the tune slips into full throttle noise rock assaults of a severe, yet very musical nature.

“Tragic Hero” also starts quietly before the band brings the noise again, while “The 20th Century Collaseu” skips any quiet intro and goes full throttle for most of its eleven and a half minutes. Album closer “Lonely Planet” is a bit anti-climatic as it features mostly some space-blues noodling on the guitar. It sounds nice, but it seems like filler compared to what this band is really capable of.

So the change with the band this time around amounts to more experimental avant-garde moments, both quiet and also very loud, and a way more intense and heavy sound when they do decide to go that direction. Despite Hamzah’s dense sound, the versatile rhythm section of bassist Adi Darmawan and drummer Gusti Hendy can play it heavy, or as loose, limber and funky as any jazz fusion outfit. All three band members have serious chops to spare. “Dictionary 3” has many moments where the band shows off their ability to write, arrange and improvise, but there are also some moments that come across as filler. “Dictionary 2”, by comparison, did not seem to have much filler at all. As mentioned earlier, this album is good, but this band can do better. Still, the many good parts on "Dictionary 3" are very, very good. For possible references, think of this album as a blend of Fripp/Bruford jam sessions, Pete Cosey on “Dark Magus”, Fred Frith’s Massacre and Sonny Sharrock with Last Exit, but with a modern metallic sound.

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CHARLES MINGUS Mingus Three (aka The Wild Bass)

Album · 1957 · Hard Bop
Cover art 3.48 | 2 ratings
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js
1957 was a very productive year for Charles Mingus, a year that found him knocking out three very ambitious albums, “The Clown”, “East Coasting” and “Duke’s Choice”, plus one more that was a little more on the fun side, “Trio”, with Hampton Hawes on piano and Dannie Richmond on drums. This album is a bit different from the more experimental works that Mingus was producing at this time, more of a jam session really, “Trio” finds Mingus on Hampton Hawes’ turf; tough gritty hard bop blues played with a jazz man’s finesse and creativity. This almost comes across as more a Hawes album than a Mingus one, but then there are enough bass solos to remind us that it is Mingus’ date.

There are four standards on board, plus two Mingus originals and one by Hawes. Of the two Mingus originals, “Back Home Blues” is a straight up blues that almost sounds more Otis Spann, than jazz. His “Dizzy Moods”, on the other hand, features some of the rhythmic change ups that Mingus had been experimenting with. Hawe’s “Hamp’s New Blues” may have just been a group jam, but it’s more jazz oriented approach to the blues has a lot of energy and is one of the album’s best cuts. All of the standards are treated imaginatively, with Dannie Richmond’s Latin fusion beat transforming the sometimes wore out “Summertime”. After six blues oriented numbers, “Trio” closes with the ballad, “Laura”, which is handled beautifully by Hawes.

“Trio” is a great sample of late 50s hard bop piano bordering on soul jazz and should easily appeal to fans of Hampton Hawes and his many followers. Mingus fans may want this too, just know that this one is more about Mingus blowing off some steam in a bluesy jam session

MANU KATCHÉ Neighbourhood

Album · 2005 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.75 | 2 ratings
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Steve Wyzard
Album of the Year 2005!

Surprise! This is not only one of the greatest jazz albums of the first decade of the 21st century, but also one of the most archetypal ECM albums ever made. Yes, it really is that good! But wait, the naysayers insist, it's not over-the-top intense or in-your-face. True, but Manu Katche's Neighbourhood is an exquisite, pristine example of the late-night/winter afternoon chamber jazz that has enthralled ECM listeners for 4-1/2 decades. Thought-provoking? You bet!

Trumpeter Tomasz Stanko is billed first, and he almost steals the whole album. He adds dissonances to songs such as "Lullaby" and "Lovely Walk", a "Milestones"-ish riff to "Take Off and Land", and a mournful line to the haunted impressionism of "February Sun" (a perfect ECM title). But the duets with Jan Garbarek are what really stand out, particularly on "Good Influence". Garbarek and his distinctive tones only appear on 5 tracks, but they are all among the album's best. It's easy to take the excellent pianism of Marcin Wasilewski for granted: this is the perfect medium for his work. Double-bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz provides the melody line on the trio number "November 99", and drives the uptempo "Number One". As for the "leader", Manu Katche is content not to dominate the proceedings - the closest he comes to a solo is in the center section of "Lovely Walk". Make no mistake, this is not a typical drummer-as-leader album. But listen to his cymbal work and rimshots throughout, even when it sounds like not much is happening - pure magic! Highly recommended!

STEVE LACY Explorations (with Subroto Roy Chowdhury)

Album · 1987 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
"Explorations" is an obscure album, credited to Indian sitar player Subroto Roy Chowdhury and soprano sax player Steve Lacy, but actually its Chowdury's trio playing with Lacy as a guest artist.

Subroto Roy Chowdhury made his name in India and Europe during the 70s as a traditional raga player, even if his main scenes in Europe were mostly jazz festivals. Here on this unorthodox recording he shares the leader role with jazz avant-garde rooted sax player Steve Lacy, and surprisingly it works perfectly.

This album was recorded in Tonstudio Bauer (main German studio servicing ECM artists for decades). On "Explorations" three tracks, only Tabla player Shibsankar Ray and Patricia Martin (on Tambura) play on all three. Basically all three of these tracks are ragas, or based very much on ragas, but what differs from track to track is who leads, Lacy on sax or Chowdhury on sitar. On opener "Saxoraga", Lacy takes the lead as the rhythm section builds and provides a rhythmic basis for Lacy's soulful and thoughtful improvisation. Many a 70s musicians dabbling in Indian music from outside the tradition could be accused of 'esoteric noodling', but "Explorations" is absolutely free of that. Lacy is a well-known student of Indian composition and did not enter into this recording session lightly.

On the second composition "Spontaneity", Subroto Roy Chowdhury plays his usual raga music as a trio leader (Lacy does not participate). After the expected quiet opening, this one eventually builds to an intense torrent of rhythms. Some may find this somewhat similar to ragas they have heard by Ravi Shankar or Ali Akbar Khan.

All of side B is filled with a twenty-two minute long composition on which all four musicians play. Subroto Roy Chowdhury and his trio lead, while Lacy's sax adds excellent small ornaments to their music, which as a result sounds more cosmopolitan and modern.

This album has been released on vinyl and CD in 1987 by the tiny German Jazzpoint label, and never re-released after that. "Explorations" is recommended for Lacy fans, as well as for those with interest in Indian ragas. This album can become an excellent discovery, opening a new, unusual side of Lacy and Subroto Roy Chowdhury both.

YES Relayer

Album · 1974 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 4.73 | 6 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
Hot on the heels of their “Tales From Topographic Oceans” tour Rick Wakeman decided to jump ship from the mighty YES due to creative differences with “Tales From Topographic Oceans,” the whopping double album that dipped too much into the ethereal imagination of vocalist Jon Anderson. In order to find the proper replacement to fill Wakeman’s hard-to-fill shoes, the band searched high and low and even auditioned Vangelis who didn’t quite fit in with this crowd. After the dust settled they settled for the Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz whose only real band experience was with the progressive rock band Refugee. The band sallied forth without Wakeman and without him conjured up one of their most complex and challenging albums of their career with RELAYER. This album is really perfect in every way. It takes all the complexities and diverse elements found on pretty much all of their previous works and stitch them together in creative new ways while still adding a lot of experimentation to the mix. This is probably one of the most complex albums that took me the longest to appreciate. The music is so jittery and bombastic that i didn’t know what hit me the first time i heard this. I couldn’t understand why anyone would like this. Granted it was one of the first progressive rock albums i got into along with other YES albums, but happily after a gazillion and one listens to this i can honestly say not only has it aged well, but it has gotten better after each subsequent listen and continues to do so to this very day.

There are many similarities with previous albums although there are many more differences. The album attempts to take the variety of diverse complexities from “Tales…” and condenses them into a single three track album which in that regard is similar to “Close To The Edge” where the first track “The Gates Of Delirium” takes up a whole side on the original LP and side two consists of two tracks. There is less time for spaced out wandering and more focus on extremely tight band interactions that spiral out a healthy amount of variations on different complex melodies. After the mixed reviews of “Tales…” the band returned to the top of the charts with RELAYER as it was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic. This is probably one of the most complex albums i can think of to actually hit the top 5 on the Billboard album charts and be certified gold soon after its release. Obviously YES had no problem carrying on without Wakeman and i believe that without him is the reason they could experiment even more leaving behind the classical keyboard approach and taking on harder sounds where the keyboards were more designed to be a surreal fugue behind the guitar and bass.

The album begins with the monstrous behemoth “The Gates Of Delirium” which at 21:50 remained their lengthiest single track for much of their career. The track is based on Leo Tolstoy’s “War And Peace” and has different sections that run the gamut of symphonic progressive rock, hard rock, experimentalism and even some musique concrète. The very last section called “Soon” was actually released as a single. This song was designed to convey the feel of a battle scene where each section segues into the next ranging from the chaotic to the melodic as heard in the “Soon” section which concludes the horrific battle with a melodic prayer offering hope for the future. The battle scene is notorious for the crashing of car parts that Alan White and Jon Anderson would collect and hang up to randomly bang upon. There is one chaotic part where Alan White pushes the whole collection over creating a massive cacophony.

The second track “Soundchaser” is easily one of my all-time favorite pieces of musical magic. This track embodies virtually every possible trait of progressive rock that i could imagine. It shows deep emotional connection, outstandingly technical prowess, consonance, dissonance, fantastic structure, OMG soloing, perfectly balanced dynamics between the bombastic and subtle and an excellent adaption of adding funk and jazz-fusion to the YES sound. It is just perfectly paced with Steve Howe’s guitar solos being amongst the strongest highlights of an impressive-in-every-way track. The slide guitar adds a slippery slide feel with proggy time sigs to die for with punctuated vocal interruptions a la Jon Anderson’s “cha-cha-cha’s” . I really want this to be a twenty minute track as well as its mere 9:31 isn’t quite enough musical bliss for me!

The last track “To Be Over” is the most accessible track on the album that creates a complex melodic arrangement of the guitar and electric sitar. It starts out as a lovely ballad with dreamy vocals accompanied by slide guitar and a nice mellow break after the frenetic outbursts of “Soundchaser.” The counterpoint soloing keyboards are heaven on Earth. This song builds in tempo and breaks into a more hard rocking sound while retaining the overall mellow feel of the introductory melody only with more energetic guitar, bass and drum action. A great way to wind down one of the most bombastic symphonic progressive rock albums in all of history.

And if all the music wasn’t enough. RELAYER has one of my favorite album covers of all time by Roger Dean. The silver and grey wrap around ice cavern scene offers up a dreamy fantastical Tolkien type landscape that complements every aspect of the music. It offers the placid otherworldliness with the contrasting hues of grey with the dangers that lurk ahead as witnessed by the serpent that stands in the way of the path to the magical kingdom. I really don’t have desert isle lists and the like because my musical tastes are as fickle as a breeze changing at the drop of a hat. I find most music can be satisfying at some particular moment and then not so at others but RELAYER is an album that satisfies anytime, anywhere and as frequently as i want. I still have a hard time retaining these melodies in my head yet they are as pleasant to hear every single time, therefore RELAYER is without doubt my current all-time favorite YES album and a mandatory desert-isle pick for its ability to be the musical gift that never stops giving me what i want out of it. 5 stars to the 5th power and beyond. It doesn’t get much better than this.

GANELIN TRIO/SLAVA GANELIN New Wine

Live album · 1983 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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snobb
"New Wine..." is an album in voluminous series of Lithuanian Ganelin Trio albums, released by UK-based Leo records in early 80s. Actually, Leo label has been founded by Russian Jew Leo Feigin,who left Soviet Union for Israel in 1974 and soon find himself working in London for BBC Russian Services, mostly to promote unknown in the Western world free jazz from Soviet Union.

Ganelin Trio were main artists pushing Leo Records ahead at label's early stage. Since there were no legal possibility for artists (at least - jazz and rock musicians)from Soviet Union to release their recordings outside of Soviet Block, almost all Leo releases of that time are actually an authorized bootlegs, mostly semi-pro live recordings from different,often underground gigs. Recorded tapes crossed the border usually in an illegal way to become later vinyl albums which were not available for purchase in Soviet Union.

"New Wine..." contains one long composition (divided on two parts because of vinyl album's limitations) recorded in Latvian capitol Riga (part of Soviet Union at the time of recording) in summer 1982. Even usually tagged as "free jazz" band, Ganelin Trio always played well organized music, their own mix of classic composition, complex virtuosic improvisation and almost childish Art Ensemble of Chicago-like playfulness. Trio sounds as bigger combo here, it's almost unbelievable that this complex high intensity music is played by three musicians. In addition to Tarasov's drumming machinery, Ganelin besides of his usual piano plays electric guitar,horn and percussion when Chekasin demonstrates unique abilities combining two saxophones (simultaneously),trombone,horn and clarinet.The very same year I (still a student) saw Chekasin playing live solo concert in my University (I have been lucky to live and study in the same town where Ganelin Trio has been founded and based), he played simultaneously two saxophones and electronic device-based highly improvised night which made me,originally AC/DC and Deep Purple fan, an jazz adept for life!

"New Wine..." isn't trio's best gig (they sound a bit too formal here and sound quality could be better as well)and one can find them playing same material on some other releases. But at the same time this album is another great evidence of excellent musical occurrence, unexpected and unique in their own way,when repressive regime can initiate a birth of extremely free and impossible to control music which than becomes a part of the all world's cultural legacy.

CHARLES MINGUS East Coasting (aka Charlie Mingus)

Album · 1957 · Hard Bop
Cover art 3.86 | 6 ratings
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js
“East Coasting” is one of the more overlooked and under-rated albums in the Mingus discography. I think it slipped under the radar for a lot of jazz fans because it came out when Mingus was practically releasing a new album every couple months. Also, “East Coasting” doesn’t have a particularly artsy album cover or a unifying album theme like some of his other albums that have taken on legendary status, outside of the jazz world, with the art rock crowd and post-mo hipsters. Still, on a purely musical level, “East Coasting” holds up well against some of his more famous albums that might appear more ambitious at first.

Five of the six tunes on here are Mingus originals, and its on those five that Mingus displays this album’s salient feature; well developed long line melodies filled with interesting rhythmic changeups that sound like no one else. There is a bit of Ellington and Monk in these melodies, but these tunes remain as evidence that Mingus is still one of the better writers to this day. A nice surprise on here is the presence of Bill Evans on piano, not someone you expect to see on a Mingus album, and he sounds great, both with his silky impressionism on the ballades, and his hard jaggedy rhythmic figures on the up-tempo pieces. The three horn soloists are all solid, although maybe not as ‘out there’ as some other Mingus sidemen who will come along on later albums.

All of the cuts on here are good. You get one pastel ballad, three hard driving bop numbers and a couple other cuts that experiment a bit with changing tempos, and/or two different tempos playing at the same time. Overall, "East Coasting” holds up well against anything else Mingus was doing in the mid to late 50s. On a side note, its odd that this album is credited to 'Charlie' Mingus, as I understand he didn't like being called 'Charlie".

PHISH Fuego

Album · 2014 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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VerticalUprising
That'll do, Phish, that'll do. The band's 2014 release of Fuego promised many fans a comeback for those in want and need of a new record. For me, at least, on listening, they delivered. Although the band seems to be tightrope walking on their guitar strings and seem to be trying harder to do a bang up job, they do accomplish just that. In fact, it somehow seems that they are trying to revive the progressive flare that the band had back in the early 90's.

The one track that I absolutely adore is the opening title track. It is extremely memorable, and the band has quite a lot of energy going towards it. From the jazz-rock highlighted opening to the downright prog rocking middle and end, this song signifies Phish's reincarnation. But alas, this song is the most memorable, because the rest of the songs follow the same path of the time-weathered sound the band had and has still. Another great thing about the album is that, for the most part, the alternative-style that they had taken on with their early-late 2000's that I never really enjoyed.

So, all in all, this album was not a flop, whatsoever. For an example of something that wasn't as satisfactory is the band Boston's release of Life Love and Hope in the year prior. Now this was an album that the band sort of shriveled up and died, mostly due to their overwhelming irrelevancy in the market. However, even though Phish may be even less known today, they're still able to make a great album to please their fans no matter what. For my rating, I'd give it somewhere between 3.5/5 and a straight out 4. But, for the sake of Phish, I've rounded it to give them the benefit. Here's to them.

PHISH Rift

Album · 1993 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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VerticalUprising
If you thought that Phish's first three releases were progressive, then this album is the creative peak of the band's specific progressive style. Not to say that this is any better than the album prior to this, A Picture of Nectar, which happens to be my favorite album by the band, but this is definitely more along the lines of what the usual prog-lover would enjoy. This album is more akin to something like an early 80's/late 70's band as opposed to a 90's jazz rock band. Taking that into account, let's dive into the review. The title track starts well enough, with a very cliche-style Phish sound of racing cowbell and lighthearted a Capella. I started to quickly notice that it had a much more dark and feel, almost like Rift was trying to contain a story within it. It was such a surprise, it hooked me to the rest of the album. 'Maze' is the song every talks about, with it's 'Llama' style quick pounding rhythm with melodic quiverings in the background. 'My Friend, My Friend' and 'Weigh' are two songs that are great jazzy blues numbers, and are A+ style songs for the Phish peruser. 'All Things Reconsidered' is a spin on the National Public Radio's iconic theme-song for their show titled "All Things Considered". It's an actually quite strange mix if you think about it, but nothing really surprising seeing as we're talking about Phish. 'Mound' has probably the best a Capella the members have performed in all of their time. It speaks the story of a "broken old man in a world unkind", and is really actually quite heart-touching. Quite fantastic if I do say so myself. That's all for true highlights that got me really hard, but trust me, the entire album is fantastic.

If you're looking for a highlight of the 90's, look towards the first four album of Phish's studio discography. This album has joined the ranks of the majestic three respectively. Go give it a listen.

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