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11 reviews/ratings
THE CLAUDIA QUINTET - Royal Toast 21st Century Modern | review permalink
JEAN LOUIS - Jean Louis Eclectic Fusion | review permalink
JOHN COLTRANE - Ascension Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
CHARLES MINGUS - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Progressive Big Band
THE MUFFINS - Manna/Mirage Fusion | review permalink
MEDESKI MARTIN AND WOOD - Notes From the Underground Eclectic Fusion | review permalink
ALTERED STATES - 4 Jazz Related Improv/Composition | review permalink
THE MUFFINS - Chronometers Fusion | review permalink
SAX RUINS - Yawiquo Eclectic Fusion | review permalink
JACO PASTORIUS - The Birthday Concert Fusion | review permalink
GONG - 2032 Jazz Related Rock | review permalink

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Eclectic Fusion 3 4.17
2 Fusion 3 3.67
3 Jazz Related Improv/Composition 1 4.00
4 Jazz Related Rock 1 3.00
5 Progressive Big Band 1 5.00
6 21st Century Modern 1 5.00
7 Avant-Garde Jazz 1 5.00

Latest Albums Reviews


Album · 2009 · Eclectic Fusion
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So far, this is the only Ruins album (that I know of) which doesn't have an incredible bassist playing. Instead, it has no bassist, and instead has Ono Ryoko playing saxes and flute, hence the band name (Sax Ruins). All of the tracks present here have already been recorded previously by Yoshida in the original Ruins format, but this puts a new spin on things. Where the originals are noisy, intense, heavily distorted pieces of drum and bass complexity/insanity with bizarre, fun vocals, all played at breakneck speeds, this album is...intense, noisy avant-jazz style music played at breakneck speeds, and just about as much fun as the originals. As expected, Yoshida's drumming is second to none, and Ono plays a mean set of saxophones and flute. If you want to check out Ruins but don't want to hear the bizarre vocals or any of the top notch bass-playing, this is definitely the best choice for you - the only choice, at that. I expect that most people who check this album out will already be very familiar with Ruins, though.

The album is a lot of fun. It's also, as far as I can tell, much more accessible than the original Ruins style. I really enjoy the music here, but (as a bassist) I still prefer the original style. Three and a half stars is what I'd like to give this album, because it's not quite everyone's cup of tea but I think it's a great album for anyone who is interested in hearing some intense, high-speed squonking.


Album · 1965 · Avant-Garde Jazz
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More than anything else, music for me is all about expression, the artist being able to present listeners with music for music's sake. More often than not, artists are bound by traditional structures, meter, melody, that kind of thing. Free jazz in general, and this recording specifically, really worked its way around those conventional restrictions and let the artist and the music do the talking.

This is an album which is full of life, full of spontaneity and (big surprise) a large amount of freedom on the part of the musicians. As the liner notes state, Marion Brown said that the sessions "had that kind of thing in them that makes people scream." For me, it's easy to see why, because the recordings seem to have some life of their own which is still a rare thing after all these years. Coltrane assembled a top notch lineup for this recording, with excellent performances from everyone involved. It's impossible for me to point out a particular high point as far as the soloing goes, because they all bring something unique to the table.

This album is not tame. It is not music you would want to play on a first date (or second, or third, basically it's not an album for lovers). It will almost definitely not reveal itself to you after only a few listens, but rather it will test your patience and resilience to the squonking and squealing which is often associated with free jazz. It's definitely not a great starting point for the genre either, but once you've gotten to know free jazz a bit then this one is an absolutely essential addition to your collection. The album is really something special, and based on my still expanding viewpoint of jazz, it's easily one of the masterpieces among masterpieces, one of the best of the best. No hesitation from me in giving this one five stars, it will blow your mind.

Note: as for the two versions which are on the CD I have, I can't say I really prefer one above the other. The first one presented (Version II) is Coltrane's preferred version of the work, but I'm just about equally pleased with both.


Album · 2008 · Eclectic Fusion
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Jean Louis definitely started their recording career off very strongly with this album. It's is an intense ride through jazz, rock, and avant-garde styles, pulling you in from the very first notes and not letting you up for a breath of air until it's all over. All of the members of the band have come prepared to really let loose on their respective instrument. Aymeric (trumpet) and Joachim (upright bass) both run their instruments through so many effects that sometimes they're not recognizable. Sometimes, in fact, I even mistook the bass for trumpet and the trumpet for bass. These guys know how to ride a groove in the way you'd least expect. Joachim is a really smart, agile bassist. How he does some of the stuff he does, I don't know, as I've played upright for a while and I can't come anywhere near the skill required for what he plays on this album. Aymeric is definitely an intensely skilled trumpeter as well, though he doesn't go quite as far beyond what's humanly possible as often as Joachim does on the bass from what I can tell. Last but certainly not least is Francesco's drumming...he's really great as well. He manages to keep up with the other two and really knows how to hit the skins, and he always holds down a good beat without sticking to it. The music on this album isn't exactly what you'd expect to hear from a trumpet/upright bass/drums trio, instead it's something a lot more intense and, as far as I know, original. There aren't any bad tracks on this album, but among all the highlights I have to give special mention to "Zakir", "Airbus" and "Kasams", they really blow me away every time I listen.

So overall this is really aggressive, jazzy music from three guys who play exceptionally well together, and whose future works I'm eagerly looking forward to. This is undoubtedly one of my favorite albums of the past decade and my favorite from 2008, specifically. The album is deserving of a solid and strong rating from my point of view - easily a masterpiece of modern avant-fusion.


Live album · 1995 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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This album was my first purchased release by Altered States. It's a great, 50+ minute long session of nothing but improvised rock by this amazing trio. A lot of the music doesn't even sound like improvisation to me, the band members are really good together. The album is three tracks, two of which pass the 20 minute mark and one of which is just under 6. The longer tracks see the band stretching out a bit more and showing off their skills, and the shorter track is a bit more focused around some shorter themes and quirkiness. The group mixes jazzy tendencies and rock together incredibly well on this album, maybe not as much as on some other recordings, but regardless they sound comfortable playing this sort of music, like they're enjoying themselves as well.

Of the five albums I've heard so far from the group, this one is likely my second favorite - Bluffs is a far more impressive (and lengthy) show of what they can do while improvising. I'd recommend this album (and group) to fans of avant-rock and/or avant-jazz, could be a good entry point for newcomers to jazz already familiar with Japanese avant-garde music. Four stars for this one.


Album · 2010 · 21st Century Modern
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Royal Toast has been one of my favorite discoveries this year. Upon reading about the Claudia Quintet on Wayside Music, I was intrigued by their descriptions, so I ordered the band's latest album. What I got was a thoroughly pleasing mix of modern jazz and bits of chamber music sound. The group's core lineup has remained the same throughout the many years they've been recording, but on this album they were joined by pianist Gary Versace. He's been collaborating with Hollenbeck for quite a while now, playing with him in his Large Ensemble and other groups, and Hollenbeck has said that "what he plays is exactly what I would I be doing if I could play piano really well." This really plays to the advantage of the group, and he fits in so naturally that if I didn't know better I'd say he's been with the group for years.

The music on the album was mostly composed by Hollenbeck, and so it's all very rhythmically complex. The group manages to maintain this complexity without detracting from the listenability of the album. I really like the style of music on display here. It's both melodic and based on the various rhythmic ideas present in the different pieces. One of the most unique things about this album is the short interlude pieces "Ted vs. Ted", "Drew with Drew", "Matt On Matt", and "Chris and Chris". On these pieces, the musician in the title was asked to improvise a duet with himself, an experiment which worked out very well in my opinion. The musicians didn't even know that the pieces would be played together, and each line was recorded separately. Along with these experimental duets, the rest of the tracks are some incredible avant-jazzy compositions sure to please slightly adventurous listeners, and quite possibly beyond. It always manages to get my toes tapping along to the beat (though my feet sometimes get lost in the shuffle).

This album should have something for just about everyone, and as far as avant-jazz goes, it's really not all that "out there." This is easily one of my favorite albums from 2010, and I have no hesitation in giving it the full five stars.

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