Abraxas

JMA Collaborator ·
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 1 year ago

Favorite Jazz Artists

All Reviews/Ratings

45 reviews/ratings
SOFT MACHINE - Third Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
PHAROAH SANDERS - Karma Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
RETURN TO FOREVER - Where Have I Known You Before Classic Fusion | review permalink
JEAN-LUC PONTY - Enigmatic Ocean Classic Fusion | review permalink
MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA - The Inner Mounting Flame Classic Fusion | review permalink
BILLY COBHAM - Spectrum Classic Fusion | review permalink
PAT METHENY - As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (with Lyle Mays) Post-Fusion Contemporary | review permalink
SOFT MACHINE - Bundles Classic Fusion | review permalink
SPINETTA JADE - Alma de Diamante Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
BADBADNOTGOOD - BBNG (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion | review permalink
HERBIE HANCOCK - Head Hunters Funk Jazz | review permalink
JAMIROQUAI - Emergency on Planet Earth Acid Jazz | review permalink
GRANT GREEN - Street of Dreams Hard Bop | review permalink
BILL BRUFORD - One Of A Kind Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
WEATHER REPORT - Weather Report Classic Fusion | review permalink
MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA - Between Nothingness & Eternity Classic Fusion | review permalink
JOHN COLTRANE - Transition Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
DOWN TO THE BONE - From Manhattan to Staten Acid Jazz | review permalink
MILES DAVIS - Filles de Kilimanjaro Post Bop | review permalink
GATO BARBIERI - Fenix Latin Jazz | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Classic Fusion 16 3.72
2 Avant-Garde Jazz 5 2.90
3 Hard Bop 4 3.38
4 Jazz Related Rock 4 4.38
5 Soul Jazz 3 2.33
6 Post Bop 3 3.67
7 Jazz Related RnB 2 3.25
8 Funk Jazz 2 3.75
9 Acid Jazz 2 4.00
10 (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion 1 4.50
11 Latin Jazz 1 4.00
12 Post-Fusion Contemporary 1 5.00
13 Progressive Big Band 1 3.00

Latest Albums Reviews

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Now Here This (with The 4th Dimension)

Album · 2012 · Classic Fusion
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It's rather sad or dissapointing to realize that such great artists run out of fuel with time. It's the case of hundreds, many of the grand 60s and 70s rock bands suffered from it, and also jazz musicians (and equally happens to painters, film directors, etc)

Not everyone is a Picasso or, for jazz sake, a Miles Davis, that with each new stylistic period they turn things upside down and make something of their own.

John McLaughlin is one of my favourite guitarists, his early solo work that meandered through free jazz and psychedelia was superb, while with Mahavishnu and Shakti he was breathtaking. Then the mid 70s came... not everything was lost, but you could clearly notice territories being walked again.

And now we are in 2012. What happened? I'd say production values changed, what's the sound of those drums? He's hitting inflated bags. The keyboards are digital as if we were still in the 80s and buried in the mix. I don't know why, but John since Industrial Zen or maybe even before, decided to add a very artifical distorted sound to his guitar that sounds like.. emm.. samey? undistinguished? The bass is there, doing a billion things, slapping and complex lines, but it sounds like in those various 80s fusion albums that just don't have bite.

In definitive, unquestionably, you hear the talent and the experience of these guys, John is a legend. And no, this is not pop or commercial music, he didn't sell his soul to the devil. But still, I really don't notice where's John's mind and spirit in this. He's having fun, playing energetic fusion, but sounds like plastic, nothing much to digest or even taste.

This probably sounds more interesting live, where the drums have a warm sound, while the rest get a chance to improvise and free their minds. If you don't mind if John isn't doing anything remotely new and that the sound is probably the laziest use of 2000s technology, then check this out; he still has the chops.

RETURN TO FOREVER Romantic Warrior

Album · 1976 · Classic Fusion
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Prog Warrior

Return to Forever's Romantic Warrior has always been a dilemma for me since it features technically perfect musicans and some brilliant instrumental crafting, but the overall result has never striked me as technical Jazz Rock or something really jazzy which is what you expect from Corea & Friends; Romantic Warrior has always striked me as a Prog Rock album played by jazz-leaned musicians. And besides sounding more Prog Rock than Jazz Fusion, it has never been an album I enjoyed much due to its prog-rock-focus (and hey, I'm a big prog fan).

Right away with the opener entitled 'Medieval Overture' with its flashy modern keyboards and the ever-changing times, even including some resemblance to Gentle Giant's medieval roots and weird complexity, you know that Return to Forever is not the jazz rock band which played the raw Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy nor the elegant Where Have I Known You Before anymore.

The second tune called 'Sorceress' is the only part from Romantic Warrior which can be classified as straight Jazz Rock, with its funky but steady rhythm being the responsible of the inevitable addictiveness to the tune. However the main performer is Chick Corea with an excellent blend of various synths, a piano, an electric piano and some floating keyboards, all played with such proficiency and delicacy, you really can't ask for more, except that you could argue that Hancock did this some years before. One of the band's greatest tunes.

As soon as 'Sorceress' finishes the title track begins in a very majestic way with Corea's fascinating piano, Meola's marvellous acoustic guitar and Stanley's upright bass. However that's only the intro, it then gets into a jazzy state with an excellent rhythm base which each member has the chance to step in and make an unbelievable solo. Superficially it may seem very much as a jazz rock tune because the musicians play unmistakably in a jazz rock manner, but the composition itself if you pay attention to the details you'll notice more of a prog-feel than a jazz rock one. It's executed with perfection, but sometimes I feel I'm not getting anything from it.

Next track is 'Majestic Dance' and this tune confirms that this is not Return to Forever playing jazz rock if not prog rock. Meola's catchy guitar riff then accompanied by Corea's synths is undeniably in the prog-vein. Anyway, Meola being the composer, he's undoubtedly the highlight here with his mind-blowing shredding. However the proof that Majestic Dance is inclined to prog rock are the bizarre passages with Corea's synth and a keyboard sound akin to a xylophone which reminds you of Ruth Underwood when playing with Zappa. It's good, but those bizarre passsages are just unnecessary.

Romantic Warrior continues in the prog-vein with 'The Magician'. A frenetic tune full of oddities which reminds you once again of Gentle Giant's medieval influences and bizarreness. Probably the weirdest tune in Return To Forever's catalogue, and that's only because it yells Prog! Technically amazing, though zero pleasure listening to it

The album finishes with the highly acclaimed among Prog fans, 'Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant'. It's a 11 minute piece full of intricating sections varying from completely technical stuff to some soft jazzy-inclined passages to prog-esque stuff. The main performers are Chick Corea and Al Di Meola both dueling with some really fine soloing, however there's also a lot of room for Lenny and Stanley to stand-out. Overall, a Prog instrumental which many prog bands wished they could make, however for my personal taste I would take any simple but addictive funky jazz rock tune to this technical show-off.

The conclusion to Romantic Warrior is a no-brainer for me, it's a refined and complex Prog Rock record made by jazz inclined musicians, however most of it doesn't strike a chord with me, the excessive medieval interludes and solos just seem to show-off and don't fit, it's rather unpleasant in places. I do want to make it clear that if you're looking for the jazz rock Return to Forever, this is not the place to come, either Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy or the even better Where Have I Known You Before are what a jazz rock fan should be looking for. Don't get me wrong I don't consider Romantic Warrior a Prog Rock record because it's technical, The Mahavishnu Orchestra has demonstrated being highly technical and even heavy, yet the jazz rock credentials are very clear in them, unlike in this record, Romantic Warrior with it's prog-esque cover-work and titles from the tunes, but more importantly, the clear way Return To Forever composed the tunes which is in a very prog-manner, so this can't, in my opinion, be considered a jazz rock classic either a masterpiece of that genre.

3.5 stars: Highly recommended to Prog fans, don't fear the Fusion label because anyone will admit that this record has more to do with Prog than with Fusion. For Fusion fans, well I'm sure you already have this, it's a classic because of its commercial success, but stylistically it's not really a Fusion masterpiece as 'Where Have I Known You Before'.

BADBADNOTGOOD BBNG

Album · 2011 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
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The New Standard

Alright then, BadBadNotGood (BBNG), a Canadian trio that comes out of nowhere. Three "kids" that study jazz music together, feel the urge to make music together.

They're young (20 years-old by 2011), they like jazz, they're capable musicians, what are they going to do? That's not the whole story, these guys are also big fans of hip hop, and clearly have a 90s esthetic, what Coltrane's nephew, Flying Lotus (dj/producer), calls "the Nintendo era".

While jazz already had its period of fusing hip hop music to the genre and viceversa, hip hop artists sampling jazz (Madlib being the highest exponent I know), this trio gives that idea a new twist. They feel that it isn't a must to have a rapper, since their music is straight instrumental. So where's the hip hop?

What these guys present to the jazz world is a list of new standards, at least for them. No more ‘Take the A Train’ nor ‘Body & Soul’ nor ‘Summertime’, and no, nothing from the post bop era either. Instead, the trio covers Gang Starr, Nas, Slum Village, from the hip hop world and transform those tunes, yes, because they do much more than simply cover them, into a singular mix of improvised modern-sounding jazz with a strong electronic reliance.

Like most trios, each member stands for something, if one goes down, the whole thing changes drastically. In my opinion, the central pillar is Alex Sowinski, the drummer, who is the one that maintains the whole music with the hip hop grooves and offers a unique way of playing the drums within the jazz genre, who swifts from tight jazzy rhythms to minimalistic ones more related to electronica and hip hop. As a whole, a very unique style of drumming.

The pianist, Mat Tavares, is the one that shows the jazz aspect the most; the way he plays the piano and his korg sv-1 with rhodes sound, it's unmistakably jazz. But hey now, he is also responsible for the electronic and modern sound the band has, in tunes like 'Freedom/Billium Evans' and ‘Camel’ (a Flying Lotus cover) he adds a nice flow of spacey ambiences.

Chester Hansenel (bass) is probably the hardest to define in style; he seems to fit in very comfortably. He can be backing the groove or leading a whole tune, like the Joy Division cover, 'Transmission' without a problem. What I like about his playing is that he doesn't really sound like a jazz bassist, and that’s something the band tries to show throughout the album, that in spite of their obvious jazz-inclinement, one could easily avoid the jazz label just by listening to them live (which I’ve seen through YouTube: place where they began to get known and where they upload high quality material that isn’t featured on their albums).

Now, jazz fans will instantly be stunned with the way the album begins with 'Based is How You Feel Inside'. "Hey, that's not jazz!". With a brief electronic manipulated voice saying "stay creative", Alex introduces the band with a solo spot, with both electronic and acoustic drums, which one wouldn't really call jazzy. So what? Miles Davis would have said.

They conclude the album in a similarly surprising manner, with the following dialogue:

“-Alex, how do you feel about Giant Steps?

-Fuck that shit, everyone’s played it, it’s 50 years old, it sounds like crap, write a new song, and stop playing that God damn song. I don’t care if you can fucking modulate it and change shit up, you can play it in seven, you can play it in nine: it’s fucking boring. That’s what I think about Giant Steps.

(everybody laughs)”

It is certainly a provocative statement that can clearly put Alex in the trash bin by jazz critics. But one should firstly acknowledge the sense of humour these guys have, they're not a serious jazz trio dressed up in black suites. Secondly, that is it, their manifesto. Just like Shape of Jazz to Come was, Bitches Brew was, critics bashed it because it broke with the establishment. I'm not trying to compare the quality or the significance of those albums, but clearly BBNG are trying to make something new, a new way of playing jazz, a new list of standards. And that idea really appeals to this writer. Not everything "new" must be on the avant-garde side of things.

By the way, these guys are introducing jazz to a fresh young audience, something that the genre has always struggled to do with the passing of the years, but they're also introducing modern and classic hip hop, electronic and indie acts to the listener.

Yep, 4.5 stars for this, and while I wouldn't say that there's something here that I'd call mindblowing, it's the whole groove, the chilling parts, plus the great interpretation of the covers, that makes this album so damn good. I mean, they covered a Nintendo-game music and made it one total fab piece with lovely piano work at the beginning that then gets very chilling and jazzy, and finalises with some intense piano chords and rhythm.

This is free for download at the band's bandcamp, you know? That's another thing these guys did right.

SPINETTA JADE Alma de Diamante

Album · 1980 · Jazz Related Rock
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-It's really unfortunate and sad that Spinetta has just recently passed away, at age 62. He was truly one of Argentina's most beloved and greatest artist, having a career that goes from the late 60s to modern times, passing through various genres and succeeding in them, always covered with the man's fantastic poetic lyrics and gorgeous voice. I grew listening to a pair of his records, being my dad a fan and later my elder brother, and although I was turned-off at first, due to his expressive vocals, I later became a fan as well. I've listened to a good bulk of his discography, and he has simply filled me with total pleasure and emotion. The following review is one I wrote a while ago, but would like to post it here in the Jazz Archives to catch some notice of this brilliant man. Rest in Peace "Flaco".-

After the disbandment of Invisible, lead singer and songwriter L.A. Spinetta's most-prog oriented band, he released a solo album in 1978 entitled A 18' Del Sol (At 18 minutes from the sun), one of his most acclaimed solo efforts evoking the future jazz fusion spirit of his later 80s band, Spinetta Jade.

In 1980 the debut of Spinetta's jazziest group was finally released, called Alma de Diamante ("Diamond's Soul"), and damn, what a debut! Of course, it's not a real debut in the sense that it is the first time they compose and play in studio, Spinettta & Co. were already professionals by that time, so expect a very polished debut without the usual flaws of typical debuts.

First, let's state what type of fusion this band delivered. It's a smooth and very melodic fusion, with floating and chilling keyboards, an entertaining and diverse (but not technical-kind) rhythm section, some good emotional soloing from the guitar and synths (not dated!), and, finally, soulful vocals and poetic lyrics that is the band's most unique feature. Comparisons? Well, it reminds me a bit of Holdsworth's 80s solo stuff, the melody department specifically. But no, it's not really a clone or a derivative fusion band.

But what's so good of this fusion? Ah, the whole mixture of the previously stated elements. The instrumentals, 'Amenaber' and 'Digital Ayatollah', show the band in real fusion grounds, but maintaining Spinetta's melodic and cheerful spirit. The rest of the compositions have the lovely vocals of Luis Alberto, but they're not simple tunes though, still a lot going on from the band, powerful melodies, excellent solos, great instrumental parts, all in all making very pleasant and entertaining melodic fusion.

In last place, I'll say why this is in my opinion the band's greatest album. Mainly because this is purely consistent in great material and there's simply no filler or unmemorable parts. But mind you, the remaining three albums of the band are all quite different and worth of listening (with the exception of the last album), Los Niños Que Escriben En El Cielo "plays" a lot with varied time signatures and Bajo Belgrano is a very uplifting record with greater pop sensibilities that don't harm.

5 stars: masterpiece of Spinetta Jade and of Argentinian music. Unique album in this country that I highly recommend if you want to hear what Argentina can offer musically alongside stuff by Invisible and Seru Giran. If you're a fan of the lighter, more melodic fusion, this is a must, however if you are more into the avant-side of fusion like the Mwandishi albums by Hancock and the like, well this album might not be such a necessary record for you to get.

JOHN COLTRANE Meditations

Album · 1966 · Avant-Garde Jazz
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If you read the title, Meditations, then you’re aware about Coltrane's albums prior to this, you also know about Pharoah Sanders' solo albums, and finally you read: "Meditations is an extension of A Love Supreme", you go wild and think you'll listen to one of the greatest 'spritual' jazz albums ever. This is what I imagined: John and Sanders unite to play an anthemic tenor line full of strength and spiritual powder, McCoy gently enters and so does Garrison. Then the double rhythm section create an awesome African tribal rhythm, and the music evolves from there, with soulblowing solos from both sax men.

Sadly, no, it's nothing like that. There's nothing meditative on this album. Coltrane barely plays memorable and original melodies and solos. Sanders is just showing one part of himself, his chaotic side. Concerning this being labelled "..an extension of A Love Supreme", well, only the names of the compositions follows the idea of spiritual elevation and peace.

The music? Ah, it saddens me, slightly. I really don't know what John had in his mind. I mean, I sometimes fear it was the LSD or it was the damn critics that wanted him to fully embrace the "new thing" (free jazz) just for racial/social purposes, that made Trane make such dark and noisy music and yet he went and titled them like 'Compassion', 'Om', 'Love', etc.

I don't completely detest free jazz, I even find the idea pretty fascinating, like Coleman's music. But to create such turmoil, it seems pure rage without a sense of control, just free. And probably that's great for some, I've read that people liked every time John went into even nosier grounds, but I actually doubt he, the artist, was satisfied with that. I don't know why he had so much trouble finding satisfaction in his music, he was a virtuoso at his instrument and as a composer he was great, he also had great ideas, that of fusing Eastern and African music to his jazz, but he never actually did it. He added another drummer, Rashied Ali, alongside Elvin (more than a capable drummer), maybe to have a more percussive backup, but that was not it, it generated a wall of sound. McCoy sounds rather forced in making dissonant sounds, since his soloing is still his usual powerful post-bop one. Garrison could have perfectly not played at all, and we wouldn't notice any difference.

And although John and Pharoah occasionally pick-up some bells and eastern percussive instruments, it has a superficial meaning; it seems that they play them once they got bored of tearing their saxes off.

Mind you, this is not like Om which is: "1, 2, 3, NOISEEEEEEEE stop". Trane did have some ideas on his mind for this album, while restraint is sparse, on each composition you can figure out a sax melody which, however, evolves into cacophony. 'Compassion', for example, has its restrained moments, but it just seems like his older modal tunes with a busier rhythm section, while Tyner sounds so damn nervous he's hitting all the wrong chords.

'Love' and 'Serenity' seem the only tunes which are fairly listenable, with some noteworthy tenor line, although the band is there disturbing rather beautiful melodies.

I'll be sincere, this is not nice music. And I agree, not every music one listens to has to be beautiful, finely polished, etc, but I think Trane at this moment of his life, can be compared to a sort-of death metal band or something alike, it's the artist's deepest and most dark emotions set loose without a minimum conscience of what it sounds.

What really disappointed me was the idea that this album is titled Meditations and all that that I said at the beginning. Yes, now I'll state it: I do think that he made this to prove critics that he belonged to the "new thing", otherwise he could have released First Meditations instead, which is the quartet version of this album, and it's actually what I was expecting this to be.

Fan of free jazz? Get this, you'll hear tenor god, Coltrane, blowing hard, while tenor half-god, Sanders, squeaking like no one else. You'll also hear Rashied Ali and Elvin Jones fight for the drum place. Tyner? He's creating an obscure atmosphere. Garrison? Not there.

If you're not a fan of free jazz, or don't really want to hear much noise from Trane, get "First Meditations, the real extension of A Love Supreme". I’ll just add that it saddens me that Pharoah could never join forces with his master, Coltrane, to make something truly worthy.

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted more than 2 years ago in What Are You Listening To
    [QUOTE=js]Very interesting, nice compositions.[/QUOTE] Thanks!There is some clipping acoustic guitars and keyboards and also each tune varies in volume. 
  • Posted more than 2 years ago in What Are You Listening To
      http://larendiciondebreda.bandcamp.com/album/re-tratoA mix of some of my experiments: beats (sampling), acoustic travels, playing with the Juno D and a Korg synth.
  • Posted more than 2 years ago in What Are You Listening To
    [QUOTE=js]^ I have a copy on pristine vinyl. [/QUOTE] Nice! That must sound... damn, out of this world. (obviously with some good speakers)

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