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48 reviews/ratings
YES - Drama Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
PHISH - A Picture of Nectar Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
PHISH - Slip, Stitch and Pass Jazz Related Rock
TRAFFIC - The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
PHISH - Rift Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
DAVE BRUBECK - Time Out Cool Jazz | review permalink
PHISH - Billy Breathes Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND - Before These Crowded Streets Jazz Related Rock
JAN HAMMER - Jan Hammer Group : Oh, Yeah? Classic Fusion | review permalink
PHISH - Lawn Boy Jazz Related Rock
PHISH - Junta Jazz Related Rock
PHISH - Joy Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
DEDALUS - Dedalus Classic Fusion | review permalink
RETURN TO FOREVER - Romantic Warrior Classic Fusion | review permalink
TRAFFIC - On the Road Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
KING CRIMSON - Red Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
BÉLA FLECK - UFO Tofu World Fusion | review permalink
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND - Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King Jazz Related Rock
RAY CHARLES - Genius + Soul = Jazz Jazz Related RnB
STEVE WINWOOD - Roll With It Pop Jazz/Crossover

See all reviews/ratings

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Jazz Related Rock 30 3.87
2 Cool Jazz 4 4.50
3 Classic Fusion 3 4.67
4 World Fusion 2 4.50
5 Nu Jazz 2 4.00
6 Pop Jazz/Crossover 2 4.25
7 Swing 1 4.00
8 Vocal Jazz 1 4.00
9 Jazz Related RnB 1 4.50
10 Avant-Garde Jazz 1 3.50
11 Bop 1 4.50

Latest Albums Reviews

JAN HAMMER Jan Hammer Group : Oh, Yeah?

Album · 1976 · Classic Fusion
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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.


Album · 1971 · Jazz Related Rock
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The snag.

"Jumping the shark" is a common phrase that references when a television show, in danger of losing it's audience to the ever-decreasing quality of the program, does something ridiculous to rekindle interest. Named after a moment in an episode of Happy Days in 1977 where Fonzie, clad impractically in his signature leather jacket, takes a water- ski jump over a lake-area in which swims a shark. In the long-run the show didn't have much to worry about because it took seven more years to kill the damn thing, nonetheless the term stuck around and was subsequently applied to pieces of entertainment which acted similarly.

However even before Happy Days and the Fonz, new shining stars of the progressive rock scene Emerson, Lake & Palmer decided to jump the proverbial shark with Tarkus in 1971. For many progressive rock bands, jumping the shark was a common thing to the eighties. Exhausting their creative muscle in the 70s, many bands got burnt out and fell back upon the 80s pop-rock music scene instead, and as many saw it went inadvertently into retirement from the business. However this wasn't the 80's -- as mentioned before Tarkus was in 1971, a period where albums like Meddle by Pink Floyd and Nursery Cryme by Genesis continued to emerge with gusto. Appearing less than seven months after their debut and following a European tour, Tarkus came to a young and craving fan-base happy with almost anything the band produced at the time. For all intents and purposes the album could not have been timed better, but timing is a factor that rarely has bearing on quality. In quality-terms however, Tarkus is vastly inferior to it's predecessor.

One glaring and inadmissible trait the album has is it's VERY obvious pompous nature. ELP went from a mild release with a bit of grandstanding to a overblown and ultimately ridiculous concept album in one fell swoop. Tarkus, and by that I mean the 20 minute title-track suite, follows the adventure of a sentient armadillo tank as he battles his way through a universe filled with ludicrous characters, spotlit ones including a manticore and an aquamarine version of Tarkus himself, so cleverly referred to as "Aquatarkus", the latter to which he ultimately loses against. This concept sounding ridiculous on paper is unsurprising, but what really matters is how the band adapts this concept to sound good. And if you were envisioning something tough, explosive, and chivalrous to depict such a surrealist battleground, you'll be disappointed. On the other hand however if you yearned for an overbearing collection of synthesizer, constant and sometimes heavy guitar noodling and lackluster vocals, then consider yourself acquainted with Tarkus. In simple terms, 'Tarkus' is an out-and-out mess. The song, while mostly being a fast-paced journey riddled with inconsistent progressive ramblings with Carl Palmer rattling around much more flamboyantly than necessary, does have it's odd enjoyable moments. For instance in the latter half there is a short-lived space rock section, but it's quickly pushed aside in order for misplaced quirky keyboard. A dichotomy I mentioned in my review for ELP's self-titled was where each band member seemed like they were trying to out-do each-other with their respective medium. If that was prominent on the first album, then it is even more so on Tarkus. Each member practically trips over eachother, almost like their playing different songs at the same time. It creates an unpleasant mishmash of half-baked ideas that becomes a drag after listening to the same inconsistency for 20 whole minutes.

What's this? A second side? It almost seems strange that there even exists a second side, but even after Tarkus seemed to have gone through each checkbox, ELP continued the album anyway. Unsurprisingly, the second side is just as if not more monotonous than the title-track. Not much is different, other than that Emerson uses some sort of Barrelhouse-esque piano on a few of the early songs, which sounds absolutely horrendous because of a tendency of ELP to turn the keyboard up higher than the rest of the instruments until it becomes overpowering. There is one exception to the second side, however. 'A Time and a Place' is a bit of a throwback to the self-titled, along the lines of the 'The Barbarian' or 'Knife-Edge'. Heavy and atmospheric, this track is so powerful that I've listened to it multiple times with continued interest. Greg Lake's vocals are at their best on this track, his blistering screams channeling Burton Cummings of the Guess Who with their raw intensity. It is truly a memorable piece of music, but unfortunately remains solitary on the second side as the only one noteworthy.

Tarkus is not only a big disappointment, but is also an excuse for ELP to continue to become more and more vapid and self-aggrandizing than they already are with it's widespread success. Some hope still remains, however. The next album may be able to rectify the problems created with this one. Right?

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Album · 1970 · Jazz Related Rock
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The Carousel Ballroom, a San Francisco-based music venue that mainly held blues performers such as B.B. King and other African American jazz artists in the 1960s, found itself under the control of a musical conglomerate composed of bands like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, among others in 1968. These bands intended the venue to be a socio-musical experiment to attract audiences in the San Fran/Haight-Ashbury area. Needless to say, the idea wasn't too successful. Former promoter, Bill Graham, took the reigns in '68, hoping to achieve some success similarly with the hall. However the seating capacity of the hall was lackluster at best, and was not nearly grandiose enough to attract the atrophying community surrounding it. In New York City, Graham owned a similar auditorium by the name of Fillmore East which he had acquired not four months earlier. Deciding to seek a better location, the newly-born Fillmore West was born less than a mile away from the original Carousel Ballroom's location. Fillmore West would go on to host a variety of performances, such as Californian regulars the Grateful Dead, as well as Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, etc. It should be noted that this performance hall came at a very special time, one known to birth many prolific rock bands all across Europe and North America -- the late '60's. Taking place well into what was colloquially referred to as the Psychedelic Era, rock bands of the time were keen on trekking the globe on large extensive tours, where droves of audiences happened to follow them wherever they went. One of the younger of these acts was King Crimson, who, in December of 1969, co-headlined concerts at Fillmore West with London-based jazz rockers The Nice, a band apart of a similar progressive mindset as Crimson. It was there that keyboardist Keith Emerson from The Nice and bassist Greg Lake from King Crimson met and struck up a quick and steadfast friendship. As their series of performances came to a close, Emerson and Lake were already discussing the prospect of forming a new group. The one musician the band the two needed was a drummer, and after a series of unsuccessful tryouts and careful consideration, the band decided on Carl Palmer, known for his work in both The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Atomic Rooster. The trio was now set in stone, and a debut album was set in motion. Lake, similarly to how he had in King Crimson, acted as producer, began collecting songs performed previously in the band's gigs, and began executing them in the studio format. Thus, in November 1970, the band's self-titled studio work was born.

Emerson Lake & Palmer, and by that I do mean the album, is perhaps the purest form of skill, intelligence, and understanding of zeitgeist the band ever cared to show. With a 6-track runtime (par for the course for any semi- self-conscious progressive rock band in 1970), the album doesn't exude any overbearing smugness that the band would come to be criticized for. From beginning to end the album is very poignant musically, aside from hitting a few snags and some inopportune times. Starting with the crunching proto-metallic surge of 'The Barbarian', a rock arrangement of ethnomusicologist Béla Bartók's 'Allegro barbaro', ELP manages to pack a big punch in a short amount of time. Unlike many latter releases, ELP's debut does not contain huge quasi-orchestral suites, instead opting for simply semi-lengthy tracks. The majority of the tracks tend to be a mix of clear songwriting and extensive jams. This is clear from the second track, the epic 'Take a Pebble'. Also clear is a certain dichotomy that only got more pronounced as the band aged; because the band is comprised of only 3 admittedly skilled musicians, each member makes what is almost a silent effort to outdo each-other in terms of unabashed bravado. This especially rings true for Keith Emerson, who not only has a luxuriously no-holds-barred piano solo what seems like every 3 minutes, but also permeates the rest of the album with a multitude of synthesized soundscapes that, with multiple listens, can get extremely grating. This relationship between the band members also can create unenjoyable pandemonium, which it seems the band is blissfully unaware is in fact unenjoyable, especially on songs like 'The Three Fates' (said pandemonium occurring funnily enough directly after one of Emerson's solos). This is all prone to subjectivity though, as the band still manages to hit some rather great points. The heavy riffs that the band occasionally pumps out like on the aforementioned 'The Barbarian' and 'Knife-Edge' are much in the vein of Greg Lake's parent band Atomic Rooster, and are thus very well received. 'Tank' may pleasure me with a bias -- as a drummer and a certain fan of Greg Lakes work I'm easily enraptured by a drum solo from the man coincided with some bouncy synth. 'Lucky Man' seems to hold a certain amount of bad blood with prog-fans, however I personally found myself rather warm towards the track's cheesy qualities, not to mention I'm a sucker for some good vocal harmonies.

Upon release, this album was hailed as a mighty fine one, and it's not hard to see why. Right out of the gate Emerson, Lake & Palmer is passionate and alight with unbridled genius. ELP now had a tight grasp on the attention of the outside world, and nearly everything was set up in anticipation for the band's next big hit.


Album · 1996 · Jazz Related Rock
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To say that Dave Matthews Band is well known is an understatement. Approximately two decades after their formation, they had sold over 30 million record copies worldwide, and are one of if not the only group two have 6 consecutive albums hit number one on the Billboard chart. Whilst DMB is known for their most radio friendly tracks like 'Crash Into Me', the band has a profound set of epic material on much of their early albums. Believed to be the band's first stellar hit was that of 1996's Crash, an album with much to offer and little to take back.

Described mainly as part of the 'jam' band scene, Dave Matthews Band encompasses a handful of different genres into their live performances, the more prominent of these being jazz. Dave Matthews has stated in interviews that his jazz influence came from the likes of Abdullah Ibrahim and Miriam Makeba. While these artist's jazz aspects originate entirely from Matthew's preferred South African scene, these African influences aren't exactly prominent on Crash. Instead, there's a more warm-blooded, swaggery style of pseudo-jazz rock that brings elements from commercial pop rock to make a wonderful twist. The album, while not as profound as say Before These Crowded Streets (1998) with it's grandiose complexity, Crash has it's fair share.

Admittedly Crash is a primarily alternative rock release. There is a clear Barenaked Ladies or R.E.M., or even Phish influence on tracks like 'Say Goodbye' and '#41', especially when it comes to Matthew's guitar playing. These tracks sort of meld into each-other if they become to dull, which they entirely can, but being what the band is primarily known for, the pop-rock songs are played extremely well and are full of heart and emotion. But when the album hits more complex music, lord does it hit well. The beast that is 'Two Step' is perhaps one of the greatest songs to come out of the 1990's, with it's melodramatic tone, somber choruses, fantastic hooks, and of course that bari-sax! It's truly one of DMB's best and is of course my number one recommendation from the album. Now 'Two Step' is really the only song that goes all-out in the vein of progressive music but there are numerous aforementioned alt-rock slammers that are well-known- for good reason. '#41' blends eclecticism with flashy film-score emotional value to great affect. 'Crash Into Me' is by far the most well known song from the band's repertoire, and it's not bad. It's by far one of the more simple songs from the track list, but it's cheerful tone and playful lyrics are enough to make it notable. 'Proudest Monkey' is a very interesting song, clocking in at a whopping 9 minutes, but it hits numerous structural high points throughout it's run time. Imagine 'Crash Into Me', but longer, more improvisational, and more interesting lyrical quality. That's basically what the song is, and to someone like me that's greatly appreciated.

The greatest thing by far about Dave Matthews Band however is Dave Matthews' Band. This band has what I think to be some of the most talented musicians ever put on an album. Now personally I think soppy songs for them are a restriction of true perfection in the long-run, but I'm always happy with what I've got, as well as solace of more illustrious material in their near future after Crash. On board with Dave Matthews' throaty howl is electric guitar god Tim Reynolds (a highly underrated musician), Stefan Lessard on bass, and LeRoi Moore and Boyd Tinsley as the two-man orchestra between the violin and the horn section. My only partial complaint is Carter Beauford's drumming. To say he's bad would be a denial of reality but I can't help that think that on this album (and consecutive ones), he's way overdoing it. You're playing pop, man; keeping it simple creates catchier material, at least for me. Simple drum fills could easily keep a good balance with the material provided, but I suppose going overkill works just as well financial-wise. Granted it does get much more fitting on later albums, but for this the over-complexity just seems abnormal when sitting next to something like '#41'. Just a thought. Even with that though the band has such a wonderful, unspoken cohesion that just makes them play so well. It truly is one of the highlights of the band in general.

Crash, while slightly entry-tier for someone more willing to get into it's progenitors' material, is still a colorful, inspiring release. Slow down to check this Crash out.

TRAFFIC Far From Home

Album · 1994 · Jazz Related Rock
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Traffic is by far one of my favorite bands of all time. The innovative music they cranked out in such an early stage of progressive rock was nigh unparalleled by many other bands. Traffic split up rather early in the seventies (in '74), but at the same time had released a studio album practically every year up to that point since their debut in 1967. The split couldn't be more appropriate. Traffic was releasing great material seemingly effortlessly, until that year with When The Eagle Flies, debatably their weakest album of the period. They went quiet for three decades until in 1994, they released a sudden comeback album out of the blue. This was none other than Far From Home, a haphazard assemblage of 90's pop rock and very vague progressive undertones. Was it as great as any of the classics? No, not really. Now you could say that with such an old band as Traffic, thinking that an album released thirty years after their golden era would be as great as when the band was young is wishful thinking. I don't believe that Far From Home should match any of their old albums in the slightest. To me, a comeback album is one that is more of a callback to old material, replicating it slightly but with other sounds and gadgets to make up for weak points. This is especially the case when an album is such a flash-fire like Far From Home was (the band released and nothing subsequently). But this didn't happen. FFH was a complete overhaul of Traffic's sound, demolishing the eclectic folk influence, the progressive construction, and any semblance of what made Traffic Traffic. If every element of the band was removed, then what exactly was left? Nothing particularly remarkable.

Far From Home, in layman's terms, is a glorified Steve Winwood solo album, the only difference being that drummer Jim Capaldi from the original lineup joined him on it. The album is over-saturated, much like Winwood's albums, with harmonized synth keyboards, slow echoing drumming, and soul backing vocals. To call Far From Home a prog record would be a stretch, but you could make a case for it. The album does have many Latin and salsa jazz influences, no matter how badly used they may be. Funnily enough this album features some of Traffic's longest tracks, which have little-to-no experimentation in them; this may be a trap for you if you're going into the album looking for some hardened progressive rock, so it's better to be aware. Winwood's vocals in their early stages were quiet, yet when required were able to belt out power notes. However after spending the 80's successful with just using the latter, Winwood's over-enthusiastic yell became the centerpiece of the vocal arrangements. Capaldi, who I know is a great drummer, is restricted within this genre with slow, linear drum patterns that rarely shift from their solid mold. Mick Dolan and Davy Spillane appear as newcomers to the band, on rhythm guitar and Uilleann pipes (a type of Irish bagpipe) respectively. Even with their presence though, it's undoubtedly primarily Capaldi and Winwood doing the work.

The album has some pretty good moments, the title track is stand-able and features one of those super-filtered guitar solos from Winwood at the end of the song. The tracks that I always come back to are that of 'Nowhere Is Their Freedom', a punchy film-score esque epic, and the wonderful closing instrumental 'Mozambique'. The other tracks are forgettable, but I wouldn't necessarily go so far as to say they wouldn't appeal to anybody because this music definitely still has an audience.

Far From Home is not a fantastic record. It has more ups than downs, and unfortunately isn't that great of a resurrection of such a classic band. Yet if you are open minded I'm sure this album would have it's fans. My two- cents don't mean anything in the wider picture. Happy listening.

To think of it, maybe Traffic needed a little more Mason after all. If anyone can do campy right, it's him.

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aglasshouse wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I agree, it's quite the highlight from the 80's, it also sort of marked an era of hard rock for the decade, which I really admire in it.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I like this album a lot. Yes has many phases, not all good but this one is. Probably not my favorite but i do dig this album


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