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TYSHAWN SOREY The Inner Spectrum of Variables

Album · 2016 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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In the modern jazz scene its the drummers who are changing the world, I'm serious! For last few years most current and probably most interesting trend on both sides of Atlantic is growing interest to jazz composition. And starting from influential beginners The Claudia Quintet (led by drummer John Hollenbeck) followed by ECM artist drummer Ches Smith and Canadian drummer Harris Eisenstadt, there are drummers who's bands are on a forefront of new movement.

Than it's not a strange at all that Roscoe Mitchell, Steve Coleman and John Zorn drummer Tyshawn Sorey on his fourth album as leader switches towards composition. Just as with some other Sorey works, he does it on his own radical manner. "The Inner Spectrum Of Variables" is six-movement suite, released as double CD-set and composed by Sorey,which recorded by two collectives - piano trio and strings trio. Besides of composition Sorey participates as conductor and only minimally - as drummer.

Even more unusual - music presented is based mostly on classic tradition (coming from early 20th century with feel-able romanticism influences and even baroque touches) and in big part has nothing in common with any form of jazz. Movement III is a first place (after half an hour of beautiful if not dark classical intro) where one can hear some avant-garde jazz drumming and dissonant motives in band's music, but very soon it fades to already expected classic piece.

There still will be few more explosive complex inserts till the end of the CD 1, but second disc opens with ambient drums and cymbals bringing listener more to chamber hall than on jazz scene again. Movements IV-VI, filling bigger half of second set's part, are quite dark but still tuneful chamber music hall compositions, all tasteful if having nothing too much with jazz.

Unorthodox album, which is difficult to evaluate strictly from jazz fan point of view, "The Inner Spectrum Of Variables" is more universal work removing accurate genres' frames. Sorey demonstrates here his great abilities as composer and besides of similar stylistic Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Threadgill most current works, this album is with no doubt one of the best releases for open ears listeners, coming from 2016.


Album · 2016 · World Fusion
Cover art 3.90 | 3 ratings
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kev rowland
Just a year on from his debut, Dwiki returned with an album that featured not only a totally different group of musicians, but a quite different approach. Instead of a whole series of keyboards, here Dwiki used just a piano. On bass, he brought in Yaron Stavi, who used an upright throughout the album (apart from one song on the second CD), while on drums he used Asaf Sirkis, so the rhythm section has a very different approach, style and sound. He didn’t bring back fellow Indonesians Tohpati and Dewa Budjana on guitars, instead using Mark Wingfield and Nicolas Meier. Add to that some Gamelan instruments plus clarinet and sax, and from the outset this is very different indeed.

It is not surprising therefore, as to just how different this album is from the previous. It is also a double CD, which gives the guys the chance to expand on their ideas (and amazingly was recorded in just two days). With this release Dharmawan wanted to try something different. "Indonesia is the place of 'ultimate diversity,'" the pianist says. "Here, the urban cultures accelerate the 'acculturation' process, which generates changes in cultural patterns and creates new forms of musical expression. ‘Pasar Klewer’ is the answer to my search for 'the difference,' and also a valuable answer to our modern crises and urban uprooting. The album's distinctive sound originates from an ancient Gamelan tonal system called Salendro, known in the Karawitan traditional music of the Sundanese, Javanese and Balinese. Based on the Gamelan tonal system, I also adapted, as my inspiration, other musical elements from all over the Indonesian archipelago, as well as the western diatonic system."

I do have to take his word for it, as all I know is that I haven’t heard anything quite like this before. This is world fusion on an epic scale, bringing jazz together with progressive tendencies, and then wrapping it up on a musical form that is quite different to western ears as he mixes it all up with styles from his home. There is a freedom and space within the music, that makes it feel live a living breathing entity, and very quickly the listener is immersed in a brand-new world. It is full of energy, full of life, and is an amazing musical experience


Album · 2016 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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When Erroll Garner’s long time agent, Martha Glaser, passed away in 2014, she donated her archive of unreleased Garner recordings to the University of Pittsburg. In 2016, Glaser’s niece, Susan Rosenberg, began to release those recordings to the public, with the first installment being the CD/LP, “Ready Take One”. Its great that Garner is getting a second shot at recognition as his legacy has faded a bit over the years, an undeserved fade at that because one listen to “Ready Take One” will convince any music fan that Garner was a remarkable genius blessed with a technique that is very difficult to imitate.

Erroll came up during the swing/stride era, when pianists were expected to imitate an orchestra with a big full two handed approach, much different from today’s post bop world (with Matthew Shipp and a few others being an exception), where a more minimal and lyrical approach dominates. When bebop came along in the 40s, Garner willingly participated, but always kept his original older style intact. What is interesting about the recordings on “Ready Take One”, all of which were made in the late 60s, is that apparently Garner did take an interest in 60s soul jazz, with many of his originals on here sounding a lot like Les McCann or Gene Harris, but with Erroll’s very personal approach. A lot of fans of jazz piano probably didn’t even know that Garner played in this soul style, which is all part of the revelatory nature of these previously unreleased recordings.

If you are looking for an introduction to Garner’s music, this CD would be a great place to start, with about half of the tunes being classic standards in the older swing style, and the other half being more modern originals in the 60s soul style. Both styles blend well as Garner displays his formidable technique based around his ability to play in one time signature in the left hand, while another in the right. Throughout this album, Garner’s rhythmic sophistication is mind boggling and will have many aspiring pianists thinking they will never achieve these heights. None of this music sounds overly technical though, in his heart Garner was always a bit of a pop musician who loved to entertain with a generous, gregarious attitude often missing from today’s pianists. Another salient feature to Garner’s playing are his solo intros to the tunes that often pull from modern concert hall music. For instance, the opening to “Chase Me’ almost sounds like Schoenberg, while the opening to “Wild Music” may remind some of Rachmaninoff.

All of the cuts on here are outstanding, with some of the best being the almost avant-garde take on “Caravan”, and the sublimely beautiful original bluesy ballad, “Back to You”. It doesn’t hurt that the recoding quality of all these tracks is quite good.

THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues

Album · 2017 · Swing
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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kev rowland
The complete title of this album is ‘Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues’, and was recorded in just two days last May. The Micros were originally formed in 1980, but split up in 1992 after releasing four albums. These were then reissued as two double CD sets by Cuneiform in 2006, which were so successful that it prompted the band to reform (with only one line-up change). Since then they have released three other albums, and are now back with their fourth. There is only one problem, now that I’ve heard this one I’m going to have to go back and get all the others! When playing jazz recorded before 1960, something I’ve been doing a lot of over the last few years, there are some bands that come close to the boundary with blues, providing a swing and feeling that interweaves the two genres, and that is what I am listening to right now.

This is class Golden Age jazz being taken into blues and creating music that is incredibly accessible, enjoyable, and just so damn soulful all at the same time. My father introduced me to jazz when I was young, encouraging me to listen to Jack Teagarden, Gene Krupa, Bunk Johnson and others, and I know he would get a real kick out of this release as it is right up his alley. They’ve listened to the orchestrations of Duke Ellington, and the way that Thelonious Monk played piano, and brought all this into an incredible album that I can listen to all day. Strangely enough, the song that made the most impression on me is not a blues number as such, but instead is a rather well-known carol. I can honestly say I’ve never heard “Silent Night” played like this before. It starts with just piano, but there is dissonance and chords that don’t quite fit, but actually do very well indeed. This moves into a full band piece that is always recognisable but is taking the song into very new directions indeed. This is a wonderful album, and for details on this and many more invaluable releases visit the label


Album · 2016 · Latin Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Socrates Garcia is the Director of Music Technology at the University of Northern Colorado, and a long time participant in the music industry as a composer, arranger, keyboardist and guitarist. Despite a lengthy and successful career, Garcia has released only a couple of albums; a fusion album in 2005 called “Suenos”, and this year’s Latin big band extravaganza, “Back Home”. For someone who does not put out many records, Garcia certainly decided to aim high on “Back Home”. Ambitious to say the least, this CD seeks to incorporate rhythms from Garcia’s native Dominican Republic into massive big band charts that include a multi-movement three part suite. Big bands that utilize Afro-Cuban rhythms are somewhat common, but big bands working with Dominican forms are far less common. The Cuban influence can be felt here, especially in the montuno style figures in the piano and horn charts, but the base rhythms are mostly based on Dominican styles, such as the steady thump of the merengue, and the more syncopated bachata.

It’s a stellar band that Garcia has assembled here, with many of the musicians, particularly the percussionists, hailing from the Dominican Republic. Garcia’s complex arrangements tend to dominate the proceedings, but there is still room for some hot solos. One of the best solos appears on the opening track on which pianist Manuel Tejada unleashes a jaggedy Eddie Palmieri influenced assault on the ivories. Unfortunately this is Tejada’s only lengthy solo, it would have been nice to hear more from him. Other hot spots include Brad Goode’s screaming trumpet on “Bachata for Two”, Goode is definitely comfortable in the upper registers, and Wil Swindler’s high speed turn on the soprano sax on the album closer. Another album highlight happens on “Homage to Tavito”, on which classic bebop horn arrangements dance on top of a driving merengue beat, a fusion that really clicks.

Much of this album represents Garcia’s attempts to recollect musical fragments based on childhood memories of Dominican culture. “Back Home” presents a long journey and a lifetime labor of love for Garcia, and the amount of work he put into the arrangements reflects that respect and devotion. The icing on the cake is the sound and production, this album sparkles like a big shiny new automobile, everything is crystal clear and larger than life.

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Album · 1972 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
It was all the way back in the late 60s that the seeds of BRAINSTORM were planted in when four school buddies in Baden Baden, Germany discovered rock 'n' roll in the late 60s and soon they would form a band called Fashion Pink (after their psychedelic heroes Pink Floyd) where they would nurture all their musical fantasies. First they started out merely as a blues rock band but after future Guru Guru member Roland Schaffer decided to yield his guitar hero worship to indulge in the sax and clarinet, the band focused on a much more aggressive jazzy style of rock with bands like Soft Machine, The Mothers of Invention and Caravan as the main influences. The band also latched on to aspects of the burgeoning Krautrock scene in their native Germany and as a result managed to craft some extremely demanding and exquisitely designed jazz-fusion chops tinged with vestiges of 60s psychedelia lurking around unexpected corners between sizzling sax solos and flirtatious flute melodies.

While still Fashion Pink, the band gained popularity as a stellar live act but one fateful day the band was involved in a serious accident which left them injured and dismayed so of course they decided to change their name to Fashion Prick! With German labels sniffing out new talent the new name was deemed unacceptable when it was at last their turn for a record deal and the new name BRAINSTORM was quickly adopted before the release of their first album "SMILE A WHILE." This album has it all really. "SMILE A WHILE" is one of those rare releases that manages to successfully stew many ingredients into the cauldron and have the end result a musical delicacy that retains its tastiness decades after its release. While heavily inspired by the free jazz greats of the era such as John Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders, the wild complex polyrhythms bring the top dogs of the jazz fusion era to mind and BRAINSTORM has been rightfully called the German equivalent of France's Moving Gelatine Plates. Add the passion of rock with Hendrix inspired blues rock and the Krautrock influences that incorporate ÜBER bizarre harmonics and you are in for some serious royal treatment with this one.

The sheer diversity of style is the album's strongest attribute with different styles of jazz intermingled with rock, blues and even tango! The Kraut elements are never far behind as slinking 60s organ runs collide with Soft Machine frenzied distorted sax runs and Hatfield and the North styled vocal jazz styles before the supergroup ever came to be (courtesy of Soft Machine no doubt.) The tracks also vary in length from the feisty barely over 2 minute "Snakeskin Tango" to the 15 and a half minute epic Krautjazz title track that goes through no less than six movements. "SMILE A WHILE" is a true gem for the audacious audiophile who loves a good musical workout. With adventurous tight groovy rhythms chock full with 5/8 and 7/8 timings and beyond, the jazzy prog fusion workouts are replete with unpredictable variations in dynamics, tempo and style. It simply amazes me that this brilliant gem from 1972 hasn't been more highly regarded. Yeah, it's the ghastly album cover is to blame i'm sure. Not only do the members don grandma's underwear with a rather bland blank background but the album is filled with other photo ops with the group posing in their ridiculous regalia. For sure i give the album cover artwork a dismal 1/2 star on the dismal scale of doom but the MUSIC is what counts and BRAINSTORM whipped up a veritable musical smorgasbord of rock and jazz fusion like no other. I'm amazed at how much i love this one and can't recommend it enough. Just close your eyes when you reach for it and pull it out of the packaging!


Album · 2015 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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kev rowland

Dwiki Dharmwan is one of Indonesia’s most prominent musicians – a cultural icon in his homeland. Dwiki is an accomplished pianist, keyboardist, composer, arranger, performer, peace activist, and a true cultural ambassador of his beloved country. He has forged a very successful career (one that already spans more than 30 years), performing in over 60 countries with both solo and collective projects. (Dwiki's band, Krakatoa, remains one of Indonesia's most famous bands ever.) This 2015 release was his first on a major Western label, Moonjune, and he has found a home that really suits him. Not only has this given Dwiki the opportunity to have his work heard by a far wider audience, but has allowed him access to some incredible musicians. So, while he contents himself by providing Fender Rhodes Electric Piano, Mini Moog, Hohner Clavinet, Hammond Organ, Korg Synth, Acoustic Piano and vocals (the album is mostly instrumental), he is joined by Jimmy Haslip (bass), Chad Wackerman (drums), Dewa Budjana and Tohpati share guitar duties (although not on the same songs) plus Jerry Goodman provides electric violin on one song. It is often a very Western sounding album, but I Nyoman Windha (Gamelan Jegog, Balinese Kendang, Suling vocals) also has an important part to play/

This just doesn’t sound like an album that has been released in the last few years, but sounds as if it is a lost gem from the Seventies, bringing forth influences and touches of bands such as Weather Report and John McLaughlin. While some of the songs sound highly rehearsed and tight, there are others such as “Jembrana’s Fantasy” that are far more free and improvisational and style, and it is here where the guys move away from classic fusion into an area far move Gamelan influenced.

The sound is warm throughout, aided by the incredible warmth of Jimmy’s bass, and his partnership with Chad cannot be understated, as they seem to always know exactly where each needs to be to provide the support for what is happening above. Highly recommended for anyone who loves classic fusion


Album · 2007 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Steve Wyzard
There I was, minding my own business and listening to my local jazz radio station (remember jazz radio?) when suddenly I heard a very gifted piano trio playing a bopish cover of James Taylor's quintessential hit "Fire & Rain". Why hasn't anyone else done this before? I wondered in stunned amazement, completely forgetting about Hubert Laws' version on his 1971 album Afro-Classic. Only later was I to discover that this trio was led by drummer Tad Britton, with pianist Marc Seales and bassist Jeff Johnson, and had recorded this outstanding album for Seattle's Origin Records in 2007.

"Fire & Rain" was unavoidable if you lived in the USA during the 1970s, even if you didn't regularly seek out the music of what came to be known as "the singer-songwriters". Clocking in at 10:46, this version is an absolute show-stopper. Starting slowly, the trio moves through four verses and choruses. Each time around, Seales picks up the tempo and ranges farther and farther from the famous melody line. Then Johnson takes his best solo on the album, and the group runs through one more repeat of the verse and chorus. An extended coda follows, and suddenly you'd swear Keith Jarrett is sitting in, bluesily vamping it up like never before. Finally there's a quiet fade, and all one can say is, "WOW!"

So what of the rest of the album? In spite of a well-rounded variety of moods and tempi, there's almost an ECM Records-like aura to these performances. Britton (who originally hails from South Dakota - thus the album title) does an excellent job in choosing material and allowing Seales and Johnson to continuously steal the show. This is not a typical "drummer's album", and Britton is content to let each song dictate the necessary percussion. There's a rousing, rambunctious version of Bill Evans' "Time Remembered", a more leisurely take of George Duke's "Love Reborn", and an uptempo cover of Steve Swallow's "Falling Grace" that strays very far from more familiar versions. A brief run-through of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" is sure to bring a smile.

There are some recording/engineering issues with this album that prevent it from being an out-of-left-field (left coast?) masterpiece. On Jeff Johnson's ballad "Dark Kiss" and the peaceful closer, "The Windmills of Your Mind", Britton's brushes are miked too closely and are far too loud: it sounds like there's a windstorm or crashing ocean just outside the studio. On Britton's one brief solo piece, "Red Drum", the toms are overly resonant to the point of distraction. Throughout the album, Johnson is not recorded to his best advantage, and even when soloing seems buried too far low in the mix.

Some might complain this album is too short (48:35), but this is just the outstanding discretion of not overworking a good studio session. In spite of its minor imperfections, Black Hills is definitely a keeper and worth your while if only for "Fire & Rain", and for resisting the obvious temptation to cover Vince Guaraldi.

CHARLES TYLER Charles Tyler/Ensemble : Voyage From Jericho

Album · 1975 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Bari sax player Charles Tyler, one unsung hero of early free jazz generation,met Albert Ayler when them both were just a teens. Tyler moved to New York after Ayler and soon find himself playing in Ayler's band. Tyler recorded "Bells" and "Spirits Rejoice" with Ayler and recorded two albums as leader for legendary ESP (in 1967-68). Than moved to LA for few years where played with Arthur Blythe and David Murray among others. In mid 70s Tyler returned back to New York where he played and occasionally recorded some more albums. Being one of most significant baritonist of his generation (besides of more known Hamiet Bluiett) Tyler never received serious fame or following. In early 80s he toured Europe with Sun Ra Archestra and stayed in Denmark, than relocated to France where passed away in 1992.

"Voyage From Jericho" is Tyler's first in line of albums, released in mid 70's. Excellent quintet,containing Arthur Blythe on alto, acoustic bassist Ronnie Boykins, trumpeter Earl Cross and drummer Steve Reid plays five free-bop originals, warm, groovy and tuneful. As on some other albums, Tyler successfully mixes Ayler's early jazz roots and free reading with Eric Dolphy's free-bop and Pharoah Sanders spiritual jazz. Quite simple,not overloaded music radiates original beauty and naturalism, both were often missed by later generations of free jazz musicians.

Great place to start for fans of Ayler more accessible recordings or Dolphy's free bop. The album has been reissued in France in 1993 (by Bleu Regard) but still stays real obscurity though.

JAN HAMMER Jan Hammer Group : Oh, Yeah?

Album · 1976 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.06 | 7 ratings
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Mahavishnu Orchestra's first (and arguably most prolific) incarnation came to a painful end in 1973, as a sudden rise in popularity and a series of calamitous recording failures suddenly turned the great Mahavishnu into less of what they originally were into more or less the John McLaughlin Group. The band's original lineup, however, was so bursting-at-the-seams with talent and skill that it's members couldn't help but go on to form formidable solo careers -- Billy Cobham would traverse the jazz fusion path himself with Spectrum in 1973, and Jan Hammer, after collaborating with fellow musician Jerry Goodman, debuted his own solo material with The First Seven Days in 1975. The album was well-received, and showcased the excellent skill Hammer obviously had. He continued on with the jazz- fusion shtick until the 80's, where he found himself composing film and television scores for such programs as Miami Vice. For the time being however Hammer really got in the swing of things and, not but a year later, delivered the facetiously titled Oh, Yeah? in 1976.

It's common for musicians to take an album or two to really get going, and get going Hammer did. Oh, Yeah? is a romp through some of the most thought-provoking and challenging sides of the jazz rock genre, whether it be the thumping bass/timbale combination of 'Bambu Forest', the eclectic and insane callbacks to Mahavishnu on 'Twenty One', or the driving openers and closers, 'Magical Dog' and 'Red and Orange', respectively. Almost every single song has something different to say in their own right, such as the throwing in of drummer Tony Smith's soulful vocals on 'One To One'. Jan Hammer and his band utilize an almost proto-80s synth culture to design Oh, Yeah? to be a sort of generational bridge that sits on neither side of the waters. A culture clash it may be, but it's a good one. Jan Hammer himself is the main pioneer in this regard, and with his effective use of a gamut of different synthesizing and keyboard effects it's easy to see why his more progressive electronic leanings make a greater impact than the likes of new age artists like Jean Michel Jarre did.

Towering and powerful, Oh, Yeah? is a can't-miss album, not only of the jazz fusion genre but of 70's music in general. It is the definition of a passion-project and is justly the penultimate release of Hammer's career.

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