Nick Leonardi
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Favorite Jazz Artists

All Reviews/Ratings

12 reviews/ratings
JOHN COLTRANE - A Love Supreme Post Bop | review permalink
CHARLES MINGUS - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Progressive Big Band | review permalink
MILES DAVIS - In a Silent Way Fusion | review permalink
PAT METHENY - Pat Metheny Group : The Way Up Fusion | review permalink
RETURN TO FOREVER - Romantic Warrior Fusion | review permalink
PAT METHENY - Bright Size Life Post Bop | review permalink
COLIN STETSON - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
PAT METHENY - New Chautauqua Post-Fusion Contemporary | review permalink
PAT METHENY - Secret Story Fusion | review permalink
RETURN TO FOREVER - Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy Fusion | review permalink
PAT METHENY - Pat Metheny Group : Speaking Of Now World Fusion | review permalink
PAT METHENY - Day Trip (feat. Christian McBride & Antonio Sanchez) Fusion | review permalink

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Fusion 6 3.75
2 Post Bop 2 4.25
3 Post-Fusion Contemporary 1 3.50
4 Progressive Big Band 1 5.00
5 World Fusion 1 3.00
6 Avant-Garde Jazz 1 3.50

Latest Albums Reviews

MILES DAVIS In a Silent Way

Album · 1969 · Fusion
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"In a Silent Way" is one of the essential Fusion records. A landmark achievement that never seizes to be so powerfully stunning.

“In a Silent Way” is for many Miles Davis’ magnum opus, the album that officially started the Fusion genre. Some may even say it’s the greatest Jazz record ever created, and as a matter of fact, if such a prestigious title would ever be officially labeled to any album, “In a Silent Way” would have a great chance in obtaining it. The famous musician just needed to get an absolutely stellar ensemble of musicians, almost all just as talented as he was, to reach such great heights.

As the first Fusion record, “In A Silent Way” starts off the genre quite smoothly: the music on the legendary album is quiet, peaceful, and never getting louder than it is. A record that for this reason might be a hard pill to swallow on the first spin, and might take several listens before it magically clicks. Fusion fans cannot deny that the basic, essential elements of the genre are present: electric guitars (by master John McLaughlin), electric keyboards (two legends, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea) and the organ are always strong characteristics of the album, all three instruments of course playing very smoothly and delicately. Miles’ trumpet is as usual sublime, haunting, with a seducing, sensual feel to it and with still a strong power of virtuosity. The crispy drums by Tony Williams give a suspended touch, while Dave Holland’s bass grumbles like a beast. Not to forget another great, Wayne Shorter on saxophone, even though admittedly his contributions are not as essential as the others.

The two tracks, that cover the entire space of the album dominate each side, starting with “Shh/Peaceful”, a relaxing, chill piece that remains of the same toned down mood for the entire eighteen minutes. The most curious thing then is how Miles managed it to sound constantly enjoyable. The song’s musicianship is flawless, ir has an innovating structure, almost identical to the second side: The first part, “Shh”, is somewhat climactic, where starting from an organ note almost all the instruments come in one at once a while before Miles’ trumpet steals the show. The song then evolves almost unnoticeably into “Peaceful”, the second section, with a great performance by John McLaughlin. The last minutes of the suite are dominated by repeating “Shh” identically. The second side, with the title track , has a very similar mood and feeling, however it is much more accessible in it’s form and more melodic sounding, with once again the repetition of the first part of the song in the final minutes.

“In A Silent Way” is a revolution in Jazz music, an album that at the same time never bores and always intrigues and fascinates. The electric Miles Davis will go on and create other masterpieces like “Bitches Brew”, but “In A Silent Way” is simply unforgettable, timeless, and still highly entertaining, even for someone who isn’t familiar with Jazz music.

RETURN TO FOREVER Romantic Warrior

Album · 1976 · Fusion
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"Romantic Warrior" is one of the key Fusion albums of the mid seventies-late eighties.

After several successful albums, Return to Forever go with “Romantic Warrior”, their fifth studio LP(without counting Chick Corea’s famous album that gives the name to the band). “Romantic Warrior”, even though it isn’t one that all fans would love, is one of the greatest albums by the band and one of the key albums of mid seventies to early eighties Fusion.

“Romantic Warrior” has a much more straight forward feel than other RtF albums, like “Hymn To the Seventh Galaxy”: even though this 1976 album doesn’t feature any vocals, it manages to be quite memorable, throwing in some Latin music, Funk, and some Progressive Rock (the cover album implies this last influence). The melodies are extremely cheerful, especially when Chick Corea’s keyboards drive the song. But then the bass and guitars sound extremely lively all the time, giving the album an extremely colorful and ambitious tone. Some rhythms come pretty close to actual Funk music, as mentioned, but others are a little more serious and concentrated on the Jazz more than anything else, but frankly these moments aren’t that many, which might have turned off some Jazz purists.

Basically, “Romantic Warrior” does what Al DiMeola will manage to do well in his outstanding “Elegant Gypsy”. No surprise in this case to see that the guitarist is featured on the album, giving amazing performances. But all the musicians give amazing contributions, and somehow manage to stay in equilibrium one another, all of them being truly terrific at what they do, from Stanley Clarke on bass to the just mentioned Al DiMeola (on guitars) and Chick Corea (on keyboards), but not to forget Lenny White, who can easily accompany all of these musicians without being overshadowed.

“Romantic Warrior” is an extremely solid release, that has, as mentioned, something for every Jazz fan: while “Medieval Overture”’s colorful sounds bring back Progressive Rock memories, the epic title track is a successful Fusion exercise with moments that would make any fan of the genre drool in delight, as also the even more epic track, one song divided in two, “Duel Of The Jester and the Tyrant”, that once again shows some Prog Rock influences, especially in it’s structure. The more straight forward songs like the subtle funkiness of “Sorceress” or the crazy moments of “Majestic Dance” and “The Magician” are almost danceable and almost easy to whistle to, even if they show noticeable medieval influences and very fast playing in many parts.

“Romantic Warrior” is overall one of the great albums by Return To Forever, and also one of the most fun Fusion albums. A perfect balance between Rock and Fusion, between colorful naiveness and almost cold virtuoso playing.

RETURN TO FOREVER Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy

Album · 1973 · Fusion
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"Hymn To The Seventh Galaxy" is one of the most important albums for Chick Corea and Return To Forever's career.

Chick Corea is one of the most well known figures in Jazz Fusion, as well as one Jazz greatest keyboardists. After the well acclaimed debut album “Return To Forever”, which gave the name to the band, and the almost as seminal “Light As a Feather”, “Hymn To the Seventh Galaxy” comes to some as a somewhat disappointing release. It isn’t the usual third album that suddenly becomes the magnum opus of the band, but it definitely gives some new elements to Return To Forever’s music that will persist during their whole career ahead of them.

On “Hymn to The Seventh Galaxy”, Return to Forever go towards a direction more faithful and coherent to the term Jazz Fusion, abandoning all vocal tracks. However, like many bands of that day, they throw in their music, as they did before, various influences, from Funk, to Rock, to Latin music, to Psychedelic and Space Rock. The rhythms are always strong and constantly busy, the guitars and bass somewhat abrasive and fuzzy, and Corea’s swelling electric piano gives to the music an undeniable touch of uniqueness, dragging all the other instruments to follow him. The best melodies as a matter of fact are created out of the Corea’s fingers, more than anybody else’s.

“Hymn To The Seventh Galaxy”’s heavy tone is always a delight to listen to, the band’s various pathways they take in the course of a song is always fascinating. This album has some very high points, some however can’t help to fall behind the shadow of the first few, marvelous tracks. For being more precise, the first side of the LP is close to being masterful, while the second side is more disappointing and not exactly up to the task of maintaining such high levels.

After the self title intro to the album, the two masterpieces of the LP come in, Stanley Clarke’s song “After The Cosmic Rain” and the even more intriguing “Captain Senor Mouse”, possibly the best song of the album. Both of these songs are long but absolutely worth the listen. The second side, as mentioned, does not contain such high quality tracks, however, the overall resultant still maintains a solid amount of credibility, especially thanks to tracks like the two parts of “Space Circus” and even the final track “The Game Maker”, both of them overall pretty interesting and accessible.

“Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy” maybe will not go down in history as a quintessential Fusion album, but it’s one of those LPs that you can’t miss, especially if you’re a Jazz fan. On this album there is so much to learn from, and people seem to forget how important this album really is for Return To Forever and Chick Corea’s career that will follow.

PAT METHENY Pat Metheny Group : Speaking Of Now

Album · 2002 · World Fusion
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"Speaking Of Now" is a forgettable and at the same time unforgettable album for Pat Metheny.

"Speaking Of Now is one of jazz guitarist Pat Metheny's most recent albums, precisely 2002. As we all know this musician is known among the jazz community as a constant innovator concerning his own sound, morphing differently from album to album. But, to my surprise, I find "Speaking Of Now" something that I've heard before from this musician.

When I first listened to "Still Life (Talking)", (by Pat) released in the late eighties, I was convinced that it was of much more recent years, because it's sound was strikingly similar to "Speaking Of Now": both of them had vocals in more than one spot, both of them are largely influenced by Fusion, as also many of his albums were. But the similarity of those two pretty similar albums, very separate in time, made me praise "Still Life (Talking)" and criticize "Speaking Of Now": on this album, I didn't hear a thing that was new to me. However, I can't deny the enjoyment I had by listening to this, in few spots quite a bit, others most definitely less. Highlight tracks include songs like the ten minute "Proof", greatly structured, and the opener "As It Is". The other songs have some high points, as well as low ones. But the thing that did it for me, the thing that turned me on about these songs, are the vocals, which give in my opinion a very precious addiction to the music.

Overall, a decent album, but nothing really special at all, something that honestly didn't do anything for me, if not some enjoyment. It is yet another Pat Metheny obscure little album that has shining moments, but nothing at all that makes it an essential listen. Forgettable in a way, unforgettable in another.

PAT METHENY Secret Story

Album · 1992 · Fusion
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“Secret Story” is one of Pat Metheny’s most ambitious, unique, and progressive works.

One of Metheny’s highest and most interesting points of his career, “Secret Story” is not your usual guitar oriented jazz album. There’s as a matter of fact something to it that makes it one of this guitarist’s most ambitious, unique, and frankly progressive works.

This kind of jazz is labeled by some smooth jazz, but it’s actually much more than that: there are tons of synthesizer sounds (played by Pat himself, with nothing but his guitar, and of course MIDI cords), tons of world music influences, especially African and European, the latter one by chance being part of the most melancholic side of the LP. This is Metheny exploring and experimenting, and he does it so well that it is always enjoyable to hear him do so. The musicianship surrounding him is decent, but not memorable, as obviously Pat is the center of the album, and all the noticeable sounds (except for drums) are created by him.

“Secret Story” to me is one of the perfect examples of Metheny’s favorite themes, such as travel and being on the road: the world music influence is the exquisite proof. But we also find this theme in moods themselves, cheerful, full of hope and excitement, but at times also full of melancholy and even sadness. It literally is an adventurous albums that visits different sounds textures and new horizons. My only complaint is that it is way too long, clocking in almost 80 minutes in length, and I strongly feel that the results would have been the same if it was a half an hour shorter. However, the longer episodes seem to be more appealing than others: “Finding And Believing”’s ten minutes are pretty epic, thanks to the outstanding African-esque vocals that create a wonderful atmosphere, “The Truth Will Always Be” a greatly structured song, with a nice, calm hook that echoes along the nine minutes of the entire track. “Antonia” is a shorter, but extremely nostalgic piece, of soothing beauty, “Cathedral In a Suitcase” a brilliant evocation and summary of the general moods that the album as a whole creates.

“Secret Story”, despite it’s excessiveness, is a great treat, an album that a Pat Metheny fan will love dearly, for sure. I never had so much emotions brought up by listening to one of his albums.

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