Jazz Music Reviews

JEAN LOUIS Jean Louis

Album · 2008 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 4.41 | 8 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
siLLy puPPy
JEAN LOUIS is a rather unique freeform avant-garde jazz meets avant-prog type of power trio from Paris, France. So original is their sound that they managed to come in second in the La Defense National Jazz Competition in 2007. Their self-titled debut release came out the year following and displays all their interesting fusion styles with a healthy diverse palette of eclectic influences. The band is a mere trio with Aymeric Avice on trumpet, Joachim Forent on double bass and Fracesco Pastacaldi on drums but like any excellent power triumvirate of sound, have the ability to encapsulate a much larger band experience with a huge swath of styles and eclecticism that makes this eponymous debut quite an intriguing listen. While no guitarist on board, Forent manages to make his bass sound as fuzzed-out as a peach orchard often reminding me of bands like Zu or Aluk Todolo in the process.

The rhythms are quite the strange mix of avant-garde jazz with Avice’s angular trumpet playing style and avant-prog type of rhythmic or should i say anti-rhythmic spastic meanderings. So think a mixture of 60s Sun Ra with a Miles Davis flare mixed with Thinking Plague and a noisy math rock band like Lightning Bolt and you’ve got half the picture! This band doesn’t stay still too long and after an intense hardcore workout they delve into extremely psychedelic meltdowns. Just check out the mind bending freakiness on “Airbus.” In addition to the instruments listed i swear there are other sounds to be found on here. My guess is that they use different percussive objects as there are lots of clanking and banging sounds. There is also a distinct cello sound on “Tranche” which means there must have been some studio guests participating.

This album is a major wild ride that has taken me forever to find on physical format as the CD is out of print and quite expensive but can be heard on the band’s Bandcamp site. This is one that must be experienced to be believed. The dynamic shifts from the passively surreal to the full out aggressive assaults on the eardrums is staggering as each member deftly weaves his respective instrumental riffs in a perfect complimentary way. This album has it all. Intricate melodies, scary storms of cacophonous walls of din, distinct jazz parts, avant-prog run amok and progressive workouts of exquisite virtuosity. The members of JEAN LOUIS are clearly aiming for the most ambitious of the ambitious music nerds out there of which i am one of! This is one of those relentless type of albums that just slaps you in the face with one surprise after another therefore I LOVE IT!!!

MICHAEL RABINOWITZ Uncharted Waters

Album · 2017 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
kev rowland
When I saw that this album had been released, I knew I had to hear it for myself: I mean, just how many jazz albums have you come across where the band leader plays bassoon? Michael has been making a name for himself since graduating with a BFA in music performance from SUNY at Purchase in the late seventies. He is highly regarded as an improviser within the scene, and has played with and collaborated in many different settings. He first came across Nat Harris (guitar) and Ruslan Khain (bass) in 1995 at the Kavehaz jazz club in New York City, and the trio developed a sound together while playing across the New York metro area. Ten years later he played with Vince Ector (drums) with the Charles Mingus Orchestra, and from there the band Bassoon In The Wild was born. This is their first album, although it is credited solely to Michael.

I don’t think I’ve ever come across a bassoon as a lead instrument in any musical style, and on hearing this I wonder why on earth not? In many ways, it is similar to a baritone sax, but there is more depth and vitality, as well as a surprisingly high register. Michael is an undoubted master, making this large and ungainly instrument do exactly what he requires. He has an incredibly fluid approach, and the notes seem to sweep into each other, almost as if they are a living being. He is often at the forefront of the sound, but is also prepared to take a back seat and let the others take the lead when the moment is right. This is the type of relaxed jazz where each player is a master, and all know that there is no need to be flashy or play five thousand notes to the bar, but rather [play exactly the right note at exactly the right time to enhance the overall feel.

This album isn’t available until the beginning of July, but anyone who wants some classic jazz with some incredibly warm sounds and memorable playing, should have this noted in their diary.

CRAIG TABORN Daylight Ghosts

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.48 | 4 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
Always working at the forefront of what is new and interesting in today’s jazz scene, Craig Taborn has produced one of the better albums of his career, and also one of the better new jazz albums this year with, “Daylight Ghosts”. Building on the style he established on 2013’s brilliant “Chant”, Craig continues to use repeating rhythmic figures to construct his compositions that some have compared to minimalism. Taborn’s ‘minimalism’ has very little to do with composers like John Adams or Phillip Glass, but instead reflects the timeless music of Africa and Indonesia, as well as composers who pull from that deep well such as Steve Reich. To these insistent rhythms Taborn adds a swinging flow borrowed from today’s post bop, as well as some rhythmic drive from the fusion side of things and the end result is a musical style that sounds like no one else but Craig Taborn.

One of the salient differences between “Ghosts’ and the preceding “Chant” is the addition of Chris Speed on tenor sax and clarinet, a musician who totally gets the Taborn musical vision and interacts with Craig as one mind. Much of the solo space on here finds the two musicians ‘soloing’ at the same time, almost in a method reminiscent of the earliest days of New Orleans jazz. Therein lies the roots of Taborn’s musical creation, Africa and New Orleans reconfigured for the modern age. Another new feature on “Ghosts” includes moments of reflective melody, such as “The Great Silence”, on which Chris Speed’s lonely clarinet sounds like isolated quotes from a Stravinsky recital.

Some of the best cuts on here include the opener, “The Shining One”, which features one of Craig’s best aggressive piano solos, and the hard charging “Ancient”, on which the band’s repeating rhythms take on a rock like push similar to a modern math rock combo. “New Glory” also reveals Craig’s renewed interest in melody with a high flying closing chorus that sounds like Weather Report from their Caribbean influenced mid-70s output . “Daylight Ghosts” is highly recommended for anyone who wants to hear what is new and happening in jazz.

MIRIODOR Signal 9

Album · 2017 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
kev rowland
So the Canadians are back with their ninth studio album, and a slight change in line-up as they move back to a quartet, but as all of the guys play multiple instruments anyway there isn’t a noticeable difference in that area. As with the excellent ‘Cobra Fakir’, the first word that springs to mind is “staccato”, as this is music that is rapidly moving around and for the most part doesn’t have time for long held-down chords but just wants to get on with it. Coming from a RIO/Avant background, they have been listening to some of the early Canterbury bands as well as to King Crimson and Art Zoyd to create something that is always interesting and complex, and just a little different to much that is available within the prog scene, let alone mainstream.

It is the type of album that will polarise opinions, as those who like it will enjoy it a great deal, while others will fall into the “what on earth are you listening to” camp, and won’t give this album the time it both needs and deserves to get the most out of it. This is complex, with lots of melodies and counter-melodies, with Bernard Falaise often crunching the guitar against myriad keyboard sounds, but that can all change in an instant. It is music that does demand respect and attention, and those prepared to do just that will get a great deal out of this, as it is incredibly rewarding.

MIRIODOR Cobra Fakir

Album · 2013 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 4.69 | 4 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
kev rowland
Miriodor formed in 1980 in Québec City, and have been through some different band formats since then, but are currently a trio comprising founding musicians Pascal Globensky (keyboards, synths, piano) and Rémi Leclerc (drums, percussion, keyboards, turntable) along with longtime member Bernard Falaise (guitars, bass, keyboards, banjo, turntable). Miriodor have long been members of the international RIO movement, but what I find amazing is just how immediate this music is, although it is complex in the extreme and some would find it incredibly challenging. To my ears it is a staccato world where not only am I welcome, but it is somewhere that I want to stay as long as I can.

They have definitely given this album the right title, as a cobra fakir is a snake charmer, who uses carefully concocted melodies to put the mighty reptile into a trance from which there is no escape. That is the same here, as once this hits the player nothing else exists. Imagine Gentle Giant and King Crimson combined at their most eclectic and not allowed out of the studio until they have come up with something that is breathtakingly brilliant, and you may be close to what this is all about. There is no doubt in my ears that this is one of the most important albums ever to come from the wonderful Cuneiform stable and here is something for everyone into RIO, prog, avant music, jazz and/or they have an open mind as to where music can take them. In many ways hard to describe, and definitely hard to ignore, this is a compelling piece of work.

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Trout Mask Replica

Album · 1969 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 3.54 | 9 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
EntertheLemming
Well I assure you sir, this thing sucks (Don Van Vliet on selling a vacuum cleaner to Aldous Huxley)

Of the many albums that sit gathering dust, undisturbed in the rack yet are routinely adored by their house proud owners, it is perhaps Trout Mask Replica that best represents the disingenuous litmus test for hipster candidates of 'high' office everywhere. What's odd about its assimilation into the pantheon of 'maverick genius' constructions is that it's not even a rock album at all but rather, a free jazz inspired stream of consciousness 'f.u.c.k the lot of you' diatribe that has more in common with a Cecil Taylor arranged 'To Have Done with the Judgement of god' by Antonin Artaud than an unrequited love letter to any Howling Wolf. That's hardly a picnic with your childhood sweetheart and s.h.i.t.s.u puppy of course but it's still unnerving how far removed from the predictable lumpen plod of rawk (psychedelic, blues or otherwise) this album deviates at its furthest outreaches.

And therein maybe lies the key: Most rock fans including your reviewer get rather uncomfortable when their steady diet of cyclic rhythms and anticipated releases from harmonic tension are not resolved in a timely fashion. Listening to such music is tantamount to a delicately balanced guessing game. If I guess correctly what's coming next too often, I'll get bored and lose interest: If I cannot discern any anticipated patterns I'll dismiss the music as too chaotic or random as too few of my guesses are correct. That's probably why I heartily loathe Cecil Taylor, John Zorn, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, et al as such aesthetic considerations are completely irrelevant to their art. This says more about my limitations as a listener and failing to understand the stimulus to hand but all the same, I want to like this malarkey but erm....am unable. We're also habitually guilty of confusing texture with content e.g. there might be a sax on Brown Sugar but that doesn't make it any closer to Jazz than Rock. The textures at play on Trout Mask Replica have lured many an unwary critic into believing that the electric slide guitars, amped bass and drums menu is consistent with a delta blues themed psychadelicatessen and are invariably frustrated when the Captain and his troops steadfastly decline to serve up such a dish. The only place where texture and content are in accord is perhaps on Hair Pie Bake 1 where Beefheart's solitary soprano sax is redolent of the sort of uncharted musical landscapes of Anthony Braxton. It also explains why so few echoes of Beefheart are present in the music of his avowed wannabees, disciples and acolytes from within the republican realm of rawk like the Residents, Devo, Pere Ubu, Tom Waits, the Fall, PIL etc. The cynical among us would hazard that this is just egregious name-dropping which also lassos Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sun Ra and anyone else who was considered a bit 'out there' but has crucially just died into the R'OK Corral.

The best Captain Beefheart impersonation I have ever heard is probably from Edgar Broughton circa Sing Brother Sing in 1970 but here's the rub, the unwitting approximation by a completly sh*t faced English actor Oliver Reed on Michael Aspel's chat show from 1984 comes a pretty close second. You are cordially invited to check out the 'You Tube' footage at your leisure. Tread very carefully when using 'derangement of the senses is the gateway to wisdom' as an educational paradigm kiddies. (The playgrounds of the US are littered with casualties on a daily basis)

Don Van Vliet's lyrics are at best, inscrutable surrealistic glossolalia and at worst, when they even approach bad beat poetry, crassly and glibly asinine:

Dachau blues, Dachau blues those poor Jews Still cryin' 'bout the burnin' back in World War Two's One mad man six million lose Down in Dachau blues, down in Dachau blues

We know that the good Captain enrolled as an art major in his youth but dropped out after less than 12 months. Draw your own conclusions if you will but thwarted artists with distinctive facial hair have never done the world many favours.

It seems that like Mark E. Smith of the Fall, the Captain ran his erstwhile Magic band circa 1969 similar to a dark satanic mill owner where dissent was treated with ridicule, physical violence and privation in no particular order. The published testimonies of band members appear to attest to the rather unpalatable conclusion that their Don was an uber controlling c.u.n.t of Mansonesque proportions. Revisionist apologists for this alleged behaviour start to sound like those clueless soccer pundits defending a leg breaking tackle who posit that 'without his underlying psychopathic and sadistic nature his talent would have been thwarted by mediocrities' Try telling that to the lads when they've been neither paid or fed for their unaccredited efforts and have to play a man down after their captain's red card for hacking down his own team. (Apologies for milking the footie metaphors there a tad)

I've also never understood why Zappa's mix is so heavily weighted in favour of Beefheart's vocal as most of these conspire to practically drown out the music and only serve to make prolonged listening a considerable chore. That's a shame as all told, there is much innovation and prescience buried in the bowels of this frankly appalling production to warrant a deeper appreciation of the creative input of the assembled Magic band.

There is some speculative evidence to suggest that the Captain refused to record his vocals using traditional headphones and therefore his delivery is commensurately out of sync with a backing he could only hear via the latency of speaker bleed. Being out of time deliberately would at least require some effort methinks? Anointed if you do, anointed if you don't. (He can't lose)

Long story short: This album isn't really a 'best fit' for any particular genre oriented appreciation site. It is too far removed from the prevailing evaluation criteria and is one of the few purported 'rock' albums deserving of being placed firmly in the 'other' basket.

JACK DEJOHNETTE In Movement

Album · 2016 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
Steve Wyzard
SCINTILLATINGLY TIMELESS!

I'm making the assumption that everyone reading this review will KNOW who I'm talking about when I refer to the fathers of Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison. As a longtime DeJohnette listener, I found it VERY compelling that he would elect to record an ECM album with the sons of two legends he had performed with oh-so-long ago. Allow me to say with all the enthusiasm I can muster that while risks have been taken, the results can only be described as an album for the ages.

How can such a claim be justified with mere words? Here's a rundown of each player's performance:

Matthew Garrison: I start with Matthew because he offers this album's biggest surprises. Unlike his father, he plays the electric bass and adds "electronics" to a majority of the eight tracks. For those hoping for a good old-fashioned blowing session, you've come to the wrong place. Yes, the players' pedigrees would lead one to assume this will be a nostalgic look backward, but it just plain is not. Garrison adds spikey yet swirling textures to the title track after opening with an electric solo, and a pulsing, thudding bassline to the spooky "Two Jimmys". He rumbles on "Serpentine Fire" and broods behind the wistfully fluttering "Lydia". The album would most likely have ended up radically different (read: far less modern) without his significant contributions.

Ravi Coltrane: For as long as he lives, Ravi will be a source of amazement for having the utter boldness to play the same instrument as his father. And naturally, for as long as he lives, the two will be compared and contrasted. On In Movement, he plays the tenor on only two tracks (a mournful take of his father's composition "Alabama" and "Two Jimmys"), and soprano on the rest. While the screaming, squeaking tones heard on the title track and "Serpentine Fire" will elicit a smile of recognition, Ravi's playing is unquestionably influenced by his father without being too derivative. Some will no doubt point to his performance on "Rashied" and insist he's trying just a little too hard to recapture his father's snarly, volcanic tone, but Ravi is truly his own man. In Movement is simply not a pale reflection of past glories.

Jack DeJohnette: For someone who has been playing professionally for over 50 years, this album's drumming is downright phenomenal! Listen especially to the scintillating, intricate cymbals on "Alabama" and "Two Jimmys", and the stomping bass drum and imposing snare on "Serpentine Fire". Forget about the idea of taking it easy before sailing off into the sunset: the man has lost none of his ability, and is "all over the place" without ever dominating the material. If you want to be reminded of his fiery playing from the mid-1970s (on albums such as Gateway and Timeless), listen to his intro on "Rashied". There will be grumbling about the two tracks he leads from the piano rather than the drums (a free take of "Blue in Green", and the lightly airy-yet-still-haunting "Soulful Ballad"), but these two offer a reflective change-of-pace, and a nice contrast to the rest of the album.

Because of the players involved, In Movement will certainly be listened to and discussed for some time to come. Let me just restate that this is an amazing album, and an immediate candidate for all "best of" lists. Fans of DeJohnette, Coltrane, and Garrison will be coming back to this one again and again, long after the inevitable media hoopla has died down. Packaging and recording are (as always for ECM) immaculate. And for the cynics who say this is the closest ECM will ever come to releasing a Coltrane album, can I just say, "Thank God!"

AMM Ammmusic

Album · 1967 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
Cover art 4.05 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
siLLy puPPy
Stemming from the classical indeterminacy of artists like John Cage and the free jazz antics of rule breakers like Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor, during the 60s these influences along with other atonal sounds from the musique concrete movement culminated into the experimental noise and free improvisation sounds with the London based group AMM leading the way in divorcing themselves from any remaining melodies, rhythms or predictable musical patterns. The group started in 1965 when Keith Rowe (guitar), Lou Gare (saxophone) and Eddie Prévost (drums) found the commonality of creating free form noise from their instruments that was designed to be spontaneous embellished by unorthodox methods of adding extra touches of weirdness to the mix such as amplifying the abuse of everyday objects, using radio feedback as part of the overall flow of noise and Rowe’s deconstructed guitar techniques including untuned strings. After a heavy rotation of finding musicians who shared the same vision, the group grew to a quintet with Cornelius Cardew (piano, cell, transistor radio) and Lawrence Sheaff (cello, accordion, clarinet, transistor radio) joining the noise seeker ranks.

Because of their ambitions to sound utterly alien, their spontaneous music ensemble succeeded in scoring an opening spot with the then still free improv psychedelic band Pink Floyd at the famous UFO Club and in the fertile experimental fields of the 60s managed to ultimately score them a record deal with Elektra Records which was one of the big wig labels of the day as they were responsible for such hugely successful acts like The Doors. Unfortunately after AMMMUSIC sold virtually zilch amount of records, the band was immediately dropped leaving them to finding their own twisted way in the world, thus keeping them tethered to the deep recesses of the underground world as a cult curiosity for those who relish in the most out-there collections of sounds to be heard. Despite it all the undeterred group continues to the present day continuing their refusal to rehearse their compositions and still only perform spontaneously without previous notice.

The original LP released in 1967 contains two sprawling tracks that both clock in over the 20 minute mark and are utterly unintelligible as they consist of nothing more than constant flows of free improv sounds eschewing every aspect of “normal” music. Nothing even close to melodies, no steady rhythms and absolutely no recognizable structures whatsoever. It makes me think of the interior of the sun with random forces and explosions of sonic decibalage haphazardly punctuating the silence in aimless and arbitrary modus operandi that appear to have some hidden agenda as they swirl and swoosh about but is too removed from reality to understand it. The results of this nasty noise that celebrates chaos, atonality and the ultimate bizarre is like stepping into another reality altogether, suspending all expectations and placing the listener in a mediative state of disbelief with only the recognizable timbres of the instruments tethering consciousness to the world in which we are familiar.

More than a worthy addition to the Nurse With Wound list, AMM has persevered by carving out their own unique niche in the world of noise and improv and hides in the shadows of the popular musical world that dominates at any given moment. While original pressings are always preferred to experience first, some of the newer pressings on CD have extra tracks from the same sessions that add different takes of the two tracks as well as four completely unreleased tracks which are excellent complimentary companions to the originally intended tracks. If you’re looking for weird then look no further than AMMMUSIC. This is the type of sound collage that takes you somewhere you never knew existed and has enough going on so that it’s impossible to get bored.

PHRONESIS The Behemoth

Album · 2017 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
During a decade of their activities, Nordic-British trio Phronesis built a strong reputation as leading UK-based jazz band of new generation. Led by charismatic Danish bassist Jasper Høiby, trio successfully combined renown Swedes EST-influenced contemporary chamber jazz with their own well-composed themes and energetic live performances. After some years of fame, trio members try to find out new destinations where their music could be developed. On "Parallax", their studio album released in 2016, Phronesis for the first time leave safe waters of comfortable and successful music of their early albums and switch to more muscular (and less tuneful/memorable) fusion sound - with mixed success. Seeing them playing live last autumn with program which contained both old (contemporary chamber jazz) and new (fusion) songs, was quite a controversial experience. Older compositions were all much more polished,tuneful and often just beautiful, new muscular songs radiated energy and groove but as rule were quite faceless and unmemorable.

Anyway, this spring Phronesis made another unexpected step - trio released album of their well-known songs recorded with German big band. This time it works without doubts - excellent Julian Arguelles arrangements with lots of horns soloing and perfect muscular big band sound help to show Phronesis compositions' potential in full. There are no tricks or gimmicks in orchestra's music at all - all album sounds as best Gil Evans or Charles Mingus big orchestra recordings. Music is full-bodied, well balanced, tasteful and played with lot of positive energy and enthusiasm.

Excellent generalization of Phronesis first decade of activities - with lot of optimism and looking ahead, not in a past. One of the best big orchestra release I heard for years.

OLIVER LAKE Right Up On

Live album · 2017 · Third Stream
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
kev rowland


Oliver Lake is showing no signs at all of slowing down, even though he released his debut album as long ago as 1974, and continues to play and record with a variety of ground-breaking jazz groups. He has been working with the Flux quartet since 2002, and this album is their first collaboration together. Somewhat unusually, this isn’t a collaboration in the sense one would normally expect, but instead features The Flux Quartet performing seven of Oliver’s compositions for string quartet, and he only joins them on alto sax for three of these.

The result is something that is grounded in jazz, but with real avant-garde and classical stylings. This is as abrasive as it is compelling, and while never easy to listen to has a depth and breaking soul that cries out to be heard. I have never heard strings played as harshly as this, the beguiling sound one normally expects is nowhere to be heard, and instead we have music that wouldn’t be out of place on a kitsch Seventies Italian horror noir. This certainly isn’t music for the fainthearted, yet for those who are brave enough to keep turning this up there is a very special world indeed to be discovered. To my poor old jaded ears this is fresh, invigorating, compelling and immediate. From the first note to the very last I was intrigued and excited, as these musicians combine to create something incredibly significant.

DUKE ELLINGTON An Intimate Piano Session

Album · 2017 · Swing
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
Although Duke Ellington has always been highly acclaimed for his composing, arranging and band leadership, you rarely hear much about his piano playing, possibly because there are not that many recordings available that highlight his skills at the keyboard. That unfortunate situation has been somewhat alleviated recently with this latest release of Ellington archival recordings called “An Intimate Piano Session”, which features Duke, mostly by himself on a grand piano, playing tunes that we don’t hear too often from him. Ellington was not a particularly flashy or technical player, but what he plays is often far more interesting than those who might have greater technical skills. In a recent interview, modern piano maverick Matthew Shipp pointed out that as a developing pianist he avoided the 70s triumvirate of Corea, Jarrett and Hancock, and instead focused on earlier players such as Ellington. No doubt Sun Ra’s path less traveled also revealed a strong Duke influence too.

Some of the best cuts on this CD come with the first four tracks. Here we hear the Ellington harmonic formula; ragtime, blues and stride piano mixed with mid-20th century concert hall music, particularly Debussy and Delius. This mix of blues and elegant impressionism became the predominate musical language of the 20th century, and for much of the current century as well. There are many more great cuts on here, particularly a very moving “Melancholia”, and “New World A-Comin”, which shows Duke at his most extravagant and technically flashy as he seems to be channeling piano virtuosos like Rachmaninoff and Chopin. There are couple cuts that feature vocalists Anita Moore and Tony Watkins. Of these two singers, Moore comes across better, as Watkin’s overly dramatic and operatic tenor sounds like period kitsch in today’s scene. This CD closes with a few cuts that feature Ellington on piano with organist Wild Bill Davis and a small rhythm section. Of these cuts, “The Lake” is sublime Latin exotica, but the rest are hardly essential.

There are a couple cuts on here that could have been left off, track 7 and 17 are unexplainable little song segments that serve very little purpose if any. The version of “Satin Doll” features Duke’s well known rap about finger snapping, possibly amusing if you never heard it before, but most long time Ellington fans have heard this routine a hundred times by now. Also, most of the tracks on “An Intimate Piano Session” are not polished performances, Duke stumbles here and there and attempts things he can’t quite pull off, but really good jazz isn’t necessarily about polish, Also, there is a noticeable tape slip on the second take of “Lotus Blossom”. Overall, this is a good CD that provides valuable insight into Ellington’s harmonic language on the piano, but with a little editing, it could be even better.

EVAN PARKER Evan Parker & RGG : [email protected]

Live album · 2017 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
In a world of modern technologies one need just to have a wish and make few easy steps to establish a new jazz label. Music market is overloaded with releases, many of them are just a memorabilia for artists friends and families, but some contain really great music.

Polish young and ambitious label Fundacja Słuchaj! for some time releases (mostly) live recordings of Polish and world known advanced jazz musicians, many albums contain really impressive music. One of their very fresh releases presents quite unorthodox quartet, formed for one-night concert in probably Polish most renown jazz club Krakow's Alchemia.

British sax player Evan Parker needs no introduction. Being one of the living legend UK's free jazz, he plays and record really a lot, but mostly with avant-garde musicians. Polish contemporary jazz trio RGG are known and really popular collective in Poland playing music influenced by their great compatriot Tomasz Stanko and ECM-style European chamber jazz in general. Here on "[email protected]" Parker and RGG play four free improvised compositions and its works surprisingly well.

First of all, Evan Parker doesn't steal the show but plays as equal collaborator with trio and it saves the gig from being just another "Evan Parker plus supporting local band" night. From other hand, RGG staying melancholic tuneful typical Polish piano trio play freer and groovier than on their regular recordings. In fact, RGG build melodic and rhythmic basis for tasteful and surprisingly lyrical, but always energetic Parker's sax solo improvisations.

Album's music is perfectly recorded and well edited - one can find here that rare balance between accessibility and adventuress which saves any jazz release from being both far too "out" and boringly predictable. True label's success, bravo!

JOE HENDERSON Barcelona

Live album · 1979 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
Steve Wyzard
If you're a Joe Henderson fan, his 1980 (re-released twice since) trio album Barcelona can be recommended but with one caveat. Let it be known this album is nothing like the string of tribute albums he released in the 1990's that resurrected his career. While casual listeners might immediately dismiss it as avant-garde, Barcelona is actually an improvisatory, exploratory statement that might best be described as THORNY. Simultaneously, it is also an experiment in minimalism (just sax/bass/drums), yet one that will repay repeated listening, especially for those who are already familiar with Joe's style.

The 28-minute title track is divided into two parts (to accommodate its original pressing on vinyl) and was recorded at Wichita State University in 1977. It opens with a long, occasionally abrasive duet between Henderson and bassist Wayne Darling, who arco playing summons a Vitous-like fury. Drummer Ed Soph soon joins in, and this sprawling track moves through a variety of moods, including a very rhythmic section at the 13-minute mark. Part 2 is fast and ferocious, and includes Soph's solo. The audience seems mesmerized until the very end, and occasionally Joe will stray from his mike, but otherwise the sound is good for a not-very-high-profile live recording.

The album's other two tracks, "Mediterranean Sun" and "Y Yo La Quiero" both run about five minutes each, and are much more accessible. Recorded in a German studio in 1978, these showcase Joe at his minimalistic best: no drums, just Joe's wonderful soloing backed by Darling's bass.

Once again, this album is definitely not for first-timers, nor is it background music. The extended title track may be rough going at first, but speaking for Joe's fans we can be thankful these dates were saved for posterity. Free? No, it might set you back a bit (especially if you're looking for the original cover with Gaudi's architecture), but well worth the time and effort spent tracking it down. Every time I listen to this album, I like it more.

FREDDIE HUBBARD Outpost (aka Freddie Hubbard -Amiga Jazz)

Album · 1981 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
Steve Wyzard
As most Freddie Hubbard fans know, his discography can be divided into two distinct categories: 1) his highly acclaimed pre-1975 recordings, and 2) his far-less-acclaimed post-1975 recordings. What happened in 1975? He signed on with Columbia and released a string of albums that can best be described as soul/funk/disco rather than jazz (and I'm attempting to be diplomatic here). Visit any good used record store and you will find truckloads of these albums carefully filed behind Freddie's name.

Then suddenly, in 1981, he released Outpost, his only album on the Enja label. This recording harks back to his classic sound, almost as if those Columbia albums had never happened. With Kenny Barron on piano, Buster Williams on bass, Al Foster on drums, and a very ECM-ish cover, Freddie declares in no uncertain terms that he is back (even if he never really left).

Outpost opens with "Santa Anna Winds", a brooding yet turbulent Hubbard composition with an exploratory center section that highlights his fiery trumpet tone. The flugelhorn ballad "You don't know what love is" will not make anybody forget his performance of "Here's That Rainy Day" (from 1970's Straight Life) but is still far above the crowd. The straight ahead "Outpost Blues" features Freddie at his swinging best. The uptempo "Dual Force" gives composer Buster Williams a chance to shine on the bass. Eric Dolphy's "Loss" closes the album with Freddie putting his own virtuosic stamp on some challenging material.

And now for the disclaimers: 1) the credits on this album clearly read "Freddie Hubbard: trumpet", but the man is very obviously playing the flugelhorn on both "You don't know what love is" and "Dual Force". 2) piano master Kenny Barron gives a fabulous performance throughout this album, but is sadly buried far too low in the mix. At the same time, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster are almost too loud, and many times are drowning out Barron's piano work (credit: producer Horst Weber, engineer David Baker). If you can overlook these faults, you should have no problem enjoying this album. With a back-catalog like Freddie's, it's easy to condemn with faint praise, but I can definitely recommend this album even if it's not one of his Blue Note/Atlantic/CTI classics.

STEVE LACY The Beat Suite

Album · 2003 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
One of the greatest soprano sax avant garde jazz musician Steve Lacy recorded "The Beat Suite" almost at the ned of his long-lasting and extremely prolific career. Fortunately, it is no way master's melancholic look to his past. Oppositely, "Beat Suite" is ambitious project brewing beat poetry with Lacy's improved trio's music.

Beside of Steve regulars acoustic bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch, there are two very important collaborators participated. First is trombonist George Lewis, and the other - operatic voice singer (and Lacy's wife) Irene Aebi. Irene participated previously on some Lacy's recordings and everyone familiar with their tandem knows that her singing is an acquired taste: use of operatic voice in avant-garde jazz compositions are appreciated by ones and hated by others. Anyway, "The Suite..." is mostly based on Aebi's singing so chose properly.

Quite unusually for Lacy's music, each of ten compositions contains lyrics, including such renown material as William Burroughs "Naked Lunch", Kerouac "Wave Lover" or Alien Ginsberg "Song". Irene's singing isn't easy acceptable source of songs' lyrics so it's great that liner notes contain all the texts.

Music is quite different from Lacy's regular as well - more relaxed, with lot of free trombone soloing, it combines more 50s "beat" atmosphere (or even cool jazz) than usual Lacy's late 60s free jazz-influenced works with minimalist early 20th century/ Weimar era influenced operatic songs.

Steve Lacy recorded "The Beat Suite" at his late sixties, just a few years prior to passing away. It's really impressive evidence how creative great sax player stayed till the end of his life.

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 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
The Microscopic Septet is one of those eclectic downtown NYC combos that got their start in the early 80s during the so-called ‘knitting factory scene’. The band disbanded in the late 80s, only to reappear a few decades later for today’s NYC scene that still leans toward eclectic influences and a quirky sense of humor. Microscopic has always favored a swing feel in their music, but not in a nostalgic or museum sense, instead, they often infuse their music with bits of the avant-garde, as well as polkas, tangos, cartoon music, punk rock and whatever else may be laying about. On their latest album, “Been Up So Long it Looks Like Down to Me”, the Septet leans heavily on their swing roots as they present eleven originals, plus two covers, that sound like they could have come from a swing dance club in the 40s. All the same, don’t confuse this album with that whole bothersome ’swing revival’ that came out of San Francisco in the post grunge mid 90s. Microscopic’s music is way more informed about what swing was, and can be in the future, than most of the heavy handed dull trend followers that made up the fortunately short lived ‘revival’.

The basic makeup of the Septet is a four piece saxophone section backed by a three piece rhythm section. Right off the bat this gives the band a sound similar to the Four Brothers, the famous spin off combo from Woody Herman’s big band. Other comparisons to the Microscopic sound could be found in the smaller combos led by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Sun Ra. The fact that most of the members of the Septet are dedicated to this one band gives their horn section a nice cohesion and flow that is often missing from many modern ensembles whose players have to play in many bands just to pay the bills.

There are lots of great cuts on here. “Dark Blue” has a ‘talking’ bari solo that gets into some call and response with the other horns, “PJ in the 60s” opens with a fierce free solo before settling into some excellent Duke flavored riffs, “Migraine Blues’ features some hard driving Count Basie riffs topped by another wild bari solo, and “Quizzical’ has an interesting arrangement that seems to modulate through many keys in a sort of Don Ellis meets Ellington effect. If there is one song that doesn't seem to fit, it would be, "When its Getting Dark", a campy RnB number that sounds similar to the the theme from the old Batman TV show. I guess its only similarity to the other numbers is that, like the rest, it uses blues changes for its chord progression. The song does redeem itself towards the end when it builds up to four saxophones soloing frantically at the same time.

It seems lately that it has become somewhat hip for avant NYC bands to take another look at the possibilities in pre-bop jazz. The result has been some interesting ’hot’ music that gets away from the dry intellectual sound of modern post bop. If this re-examination of early jazz results in imaginative and swinging albums like “Been Up So Long…”, then it can only be a good thing.

CHRISTIAN SCOTT (CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH) Ruler Rebel

Album · 2017 · DJ/Electronica Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott made his name during the last few years on the wave of jazz crossovers oriented to young rock, RnB or techno fans, during an explosive growth of popularity (Kamasi Washington with his triple CD is another great example).

I happened to see Scott playing live two years ago during his European tour - he demonstrated his showman and leadership abilities leading his young musician's band, and being much more than a virtuoso trumpeter. He spoke a lot (really more than he played trumpet), mostly about racial problems in his hometown of New Orleans.

Two years later, in 2017, Christian Scott announced releasing a trilogy dedicated to "re-evaluation of the social political realities of the world through sound... slavery in America via the prison industrial complex, food insecurity, xenophobia, immigration, climate change, gender inequality, fascism and the return of the demagogue". Not surprisingly, the trilogy's first album "Ruler Rebel" goes deeper into electronics/hip-hop culture and demonstrates sounds that are more usual for London clubs than for New Orleans streets.

Christian Scott leads basically almost the same band as on his previous album, with flutist Elena Pinderhughes on board. The music on here is a quite beautiful mix of African rhythms, heavily adapted to modern urban culture's ears with wide use of samplers and rhythm machines. There are lot of Scott's trumpet soloing on this album, mostly all straight-ahead clear tones flying over electronic rhythms/samples somewhat similar to smooth jazz trumpeter Chris Botti's manner. Probably the main attraction in this album's music is a quite successful mix of New Orleans positive energy and modern urban electronic sound. Not strange is that Scott is even more popular in London clubs than in native America - what may sound as exotic in New Orleans is very close to most modern London youth club's sound standards, with conspicuous difference since similar British bands are usually rooted in Caribbean rhythms.

Not so much a jazz record, this new album's great mission is first of all to introduce young communities, often associated with different musical traditions, to jazz culture and its modern possibilities.

BRAINSTORM Smile A While

Album · 1972 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
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!

ERROLL GARNER Ready Take One

Album · 2016 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
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.

CHARLES TYLER Charles Tyler/Ensemble : Voyage From Jericho

Album · 1975 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
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
Buy this album from JMA partners
aglasshouse
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.

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER Tarkus

Album · 1971 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 3.45 | 10 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
aglasshouse
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 do...in 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?

SIMAK DIALOG Live at Orion

Live album · 2015 · World Fusion
Cover art 4.03 | 3 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
kev rowland


Recorded live on September 7, 2013, at The Orion, Baltimore, MD, this was to be the final release for simakDialog. Looking back to their previous live album from 2005, Ravid, Tohpati and Endang were still there, with bassist Rudy Zulkarnaen and additional percussionists in Erlan Suwardana and Cucu Kurnia. This release is a double CD, and again none of the songs are less than eleven minutes in length, and the band are determined to stretch their wings. “Throwing Words” is very different in the live environment to when it was released some ten plus years earlier, with Tohpati demanding centre stage and taking firm control. The band had been together for twenty years by this point, and the way that Tohpati and Ravid swap roles and bounce off each other in superb.

Here is a band where everyone is a master of their instrument and knows exactly where each of them needs to be musically, but the coming together of Western and Indonesian styles and sounds allows them to sound both incredibly tight and loose at the same time. Just listen to the combined runs of Tohpati and Ravid at the beginning of “Stepping In” to see what I mean, as while they are hitting each note in perfect unison at great speed, the percussionists are creating a sound storm beneath them. This album is a perfect introduction to a great band, who never really gained the kudos they deserved outside their native country. Discover this, and then go back and listen to their other releases to see why I am such a fan.

SIMAK DIALOG Patahan

Live album · 2007 · World Fusion
Cover art 3.86 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
kev rowland


‘Patahan’ was their first live album, released in 2005, and there had been quite a change in line-up between this and the last studio album, ‘Trance/Mission’, with just Ravid and Tohpati plus percussionist Endang Ramdan still involved. When one first starts playing this it is hard to realise that this is a “live” album as the audience is so quiet, and there is no introduction or announcement, but straight into “One Has To Be”, which is a piano tour-de-force. This is all about Ravid, a maestro in total control of his instrument, with the rest of the guys happy to provide the gentle percussive background which is all that is needed. When Tohpati finally takes centre stage, it is restrained, almost as if he is having to pull the notes up from great depth, showing great control and sustain, Hackett combining with McLaughlin.

There are just five songs on the album, but with the shortest at eleven and the longest at nearly twenty there is plenty here to enjoy. It isn’t always gentle and reflective, and there are times when the band feels far more menacing, such as on “Kemarau”, where the riffs give way to repeated piano motifs while the percussionists build the scene ready for Tohpati to take it to another level. We’ve gone from the delight of bands such as Santana into something that could almost be from ‘The Exorcist’, albeit with a tribal background. Here is a band made up of consummate musicians, working together to produce something that is very special indeed. Fusion in it its truest sense, this is indispensable.

SIMAK DIALOG Trance/ Mission

Album · 2002 · World Fusion
Cover art 4.05 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
kev rowland


Formed in 1993, simakDIALOG were an Indonesian fusion band who released their first album as along ago as 1995, with ‘Trance/Mission’ being their third in 2002. Throughout their career their music centred around the soloing and fluidity of the keyboard player Ravid Arshad and guitarist Tohpati, combined with local Gamelan music to create something that was incredibly accessible to Western ears, yet also stayed very true to their roots. The fluidity and melody of Ravid and Tohpati is incredible, relying far more on intricate runs than the use of chords, with each both being prepared to take the lead, duet with the other, or even take a total break from the music altogether. It isn’t unusual to find one of them totally absent for long periods of time, just to give the other more space to move and breathe. Tohpati always makes me think of John McLaughlin, and strangely so does Ravid although he is playing keyboards, which is probably why they work so well together.

Ravid uses an electric organ to great effect on this album, with my favourite number probably “Throwing Words” where Tohpati lets Ravid get on with it, until he comes back with a slightly distorted guitar which is totally at odds with what has been going on before, really shifting the timbre and style of music. Indro Hardjodikoro has a delicate touch on the bass, providing warmth and filling the gaps between the melody makers and the percussion. There are three guys playing a variety of Indonesian instruments that provide an authenticity and realism to the music, a total fusion not just of jazz and rock, but world music and the west.

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 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
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

TOHPATI Mata Hati

Album · 2016 · World Fusion
Cover art 3.72 | 4 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
kev rowland


Tohpati Ario Hutomo (a.k.a. Bontot) is probably best known for his twenty-year tenure in the incredible simakDialog, but he launched his project Ethnomission back in 2010 with ‘Save The Planet’, and at long last he has brought the band back for a second venture. He of course provides all the guitars, and is joined by Demas Narawangsa (drums), Indro Hardjodikoro (bass), Endang Ramdan /(kendang – a type of two-headed drum used particularly in Gamelan ensembles) and Diki Suwarjiki (suling – a bamboo ring flute, also used in Gamelan ensembles). If that wasn’t enough, they are all joined on the opening track by the Czech Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michaela Ruzickova, which certainly adds a different feel to the overall piece.

With the instrumentation being used, it would be easy to imagine that this is a hard to listen to (to Western ears) romp through traditional Indonesian music, but that is a long way from reality. Tohpati is a guitarist with an incredibly clear sound, and while he is often at the core of what is taking place, he knows just when it is time to step to one side and let others take over. Indro is a revelation, with some stunning bass lines, and one can imagine Tohpati there with a huge smile on his face as he lets his bandmate take centre stage. There is a lot of Indonesian musical references and styles, of course, but this is fusion at its very truest, fusing not only jazz and melody but also Asia and the West in a way that is seamless, marvellous, and entrancing. There is only one thing to be done with an album as good as this. When you shake yourself back into the real world after the fifty-two minutes have flown by, have a good stretch, settle back, and put it on again.

WAYNE SHORTER Night Dreamer

Album · 1964 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.68 | 12 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
“Night Dreamer” is an album that finds Wayne Shorter in a state of transition as he was still rooted in the hard bop style that started his career, but also starting to lean toward the more abstract style that will serve for the greater part of his remaining career. It’s a talented, and somewhat unusual ensemble that Shorter has assembled here. McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones, at that time, were mostly known for their famous work with Coltrane, but in 1964, when this album was recorded, Tyner and Jones were on the verge of splitting from Coltrane’s increasingly experimental approach to jazz. Also on hand is trumpeter Lee Morgan, who would go on to be the ‘go to’ trumpeter for many Blue Note soul jazz and bluesy hard bop recordings. The powerhouse grooving bass of Reggie Workman rounds out this rather eclectic, but very energetic and creative crew.

This is very much a Wayne Shorter date, he supplies all the compositions, except for one, and takes the lion share of the solo space as well. If you are not familiar with this phase of Wayne’s career, then you are in for a treat. The young Shorter was much more exuberant and playful as he proclaimed his bluesy melodic lines laced with unexpected, and sometimes odd asides. Shorter’s early sound had a big Coltrane influence, but Wayne’s playing was a little less busy and based more in the blues. There are also occasional flurries of notes that mirror the ‘free‘ players, and off-the -wall humorous phrases that may remind some of Dolphy. Some of you may come away from this recording preferring the style of the young Wayne Shorter, there is a lot to like here.

Wayne’s back up band on “Night Dreamer” is an excellent bunch, particularly McCoy Tyner, who sounds more happy and playful than when he is working with the always earnest John Coltrane. Another big plus is the recorded sound, there is a reason why people like these old Blue Note recordings, and that reason is the recording work of Rudy van Gelder. All of the tracks on here are top notch, but possibly the best track honor goes to the one ballad, The beautiful “Virgo”. Shorter is one of the most gifted melodic writers ever in the world of jazz, and his way with interesting harmonies also sets him apart. All of that is on display on “Virgo”, a tune that will become one of his better known.

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Album · 1970 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 3.99 | 11 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
aglasshouse
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.

MARY HALVORSON Mary Halvorson Octet : Away With You

Album · 2016 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.43 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
On her latest CD, “Away With You”, Mary Halvorson expands beyond her usual small group format and utilizes a full octet, and the end result is one of the best albums of her still growing career. Mary is already well known as an interesting improviser and composer, but with this new mini-big band, Halverson shows she is also a superb arranger and manipulator of large ensembles. Many of the pieces on here morph and change in organic ways that are difficult to write out, instead, much like previous masters such as Ellington and Mingus, Halvorson has learned the fine art of leading an ensemble through abstract communication while the improvising process is taking place. The end result is an ensemble that can move together as one mind.

With so many musicians to work with, Mary achieves a myriad of tone colors on “Away With You”, and often breaks the group down into small duos and trios. The icing on the tone color cake is pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn, who often meshes with Halvorson’s guitar in ways that make it hard to tell which one is which. Fortunately the steel guitar is not used for ironic kitsch, instead, Alcorn is a serious avant-garde improviser on the pedal steel, and pulls some wonderful effects out of the snaky instrument. The group improvising on here is very much in a jazz vein, but the head tunes often draw on modern concert hall music, as well as marches and processions. Once again there is a possible parallel to Mingus here, but in all fairness, Mary’s music really does not sound much like Mingus, even though they have some similar approaches.

Like much of today’s jazz, “Away With You” can be a bit dry and abstract, but the band also produces some serious heat with blistering saxophone solos on “Spirit Splitter” and “The Absolute Almost”, which are also two of the best tracks on the album. Another interesting cut is the murky atmosphere of “Fog Bank”, which features Alcorn’s slowly meandering steel guitar. If you are looking for whats new in the world of jazz, “Away With You” is a great place to start.

CRAIG TABORN Daylight Ghosts

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.48 | 4 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
American pianist Craig Taborn is at the forefront of modern creative jazz.He played with saxophonists James Carter and AEOC's Roscoe Mitchell (Taborn's first presence on ECM label),collaborated with techno producer Carl Craig among others.

As leader, Taborn debuted in 1994 on Japanese DIW label. Since that he released five more solo albums covering such wide areas as nu jazz,avant-garde jazz and even jazz-electronics. Craig very often plays piano and electric keyboards combining them on the same album and freely adapting different techniques even on the same composition.Once I saw Taborn playing live as Michael Formanek band member with all-star line-up including saxophonist Tim Berne and drummer Gerald Cleaver and Craig really stole the show!

On Taborn more current releases for German ECM label (including this just released Daylight Ghosts) Craig demonstrates newest trend in modern jazz - improvisational musicianship based on tightly composed songs. His quartet contains one of the most influential representative of this stream reeds player Chris Speed (well known by his work in cult Claudia Quintet and solo works for ECM), popular American nu jazz bassist Chris Lightcup and The Bad Plus drummer Dave King.

Of nine compositions eight are Taborn originals ("Jamaican Farewell" is written by Roscoe Mitchell). Mixing rock, electronica,chamber and jazz traditions, album represents a very modern form of jazz, with big attention to composition but staying playful and lively because of continuing jazzy improvisational musicianship. This music can sound attractive for listener of very different background,incl. fans of ambient/rock/electronics, rock-jazz progressive, avant-garde jazz and third stream as well. Based more on atmospheric moods than concentration on technical perfection, this new Taborn release is one among great examples of new jazz, one of this better music making fame to respectful ECM label.

MACEO PARKER US

Album · 1974 · Funk Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
One of the most talented saxophone players to not work in the world of jazz, Maceo Parker, instead found his fame as the best horn player in the world of funk and RnB for several decades. Working with top stars in the business, such as James Brown and George Clinton, Maceo became a well known name on many famous hits as both Brown and Clinton were liable to shout out his name in the middle of a jam so that Maceo would step forth and deliver a fiery solo. In the early 70s, Maceo took a break from Brown’s band and recorded some RnB/jazz crossover albums on his own. Although Brown did not contribute to Maceo’s first couple records, on 1973’s “US”, Brown’s voice and direction are a big part of the funky proceedings.

The first two cuts on “US” are re-mixes of two well known James Brown hits. The first one is “Soul Power”, re-mixed to feature much more soloing from Maceo, and a track called “Party”, which sounds like its based on an extended jam of “Hot Pants”, once again re-mixed with added saxophone solos. These two cuts are the best on the album and hold up well against anything James Brown and his crew recorded while they were smoking hot in the early 70s. Side one finishes out with a couple of laid back disco-jazz numbers orchestrated by Fred Wesley. Although these two tracks aren’t as hot as the openers, their early 70s kitsch arrangements with the wah wah guitar, synthesizer, female backing vocals, incidental strings and double-time conga drums makes for some excellent early 70s time capsule atmosphere.

Side two continues with more of Fred Wesley’s orchestrations, but this time things are much hotter as the band flies through an up-tempo version of Chicago’s “I Can Play for (Just You and Me)”, and a re-recording of a James Brown funk classic, “Doing it to Death”. The album closes with a lengthy ballad called “The Soul of a Black Man”, on which James lays down a rap about Maceo’s integrity and the African-American experience in the USA. This cut is recorded live in front of a small audience and features a long Maceo solo backed by some one (possibly James Brown), improvising string arrangements on a Mellotron.

The final score card for “US” reads; three very funky jams, plus three suave proto smooth jazz numbers and one power ballad makes for an excellent record for fans of that early 70s funk/jazz/RnB vibe.

CHICK COREA Origin: Live At The Blue Note

Live album · 1998 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.48 | 4 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Renown pianist Chick Corea started his career in jazz highest league playing in Miles Davis band in 60s. After few mainstream solo albums as leader he co-founded technically superior (if short-lived) all-star avant-garde jazz quartet Circle (with bassist Dave Holland, sax player Anthony Braxton and drummer Barry Altschul) and then moved to stardom with his fusion band Return To Forever.

Still from mid 70s, when his successful fusion formula experienced dramatic decline under pressure of myriad of clones and and army fuzak players, Corea lost direction for decades unsuccessfully trying to find new inspiration (or another formula of success).Recorded few quite interesting fusion albums as leader,he started series of repeating changes of bands and genres with only very limited success trying everything from pop-jazz to chamber jazz,revitalizing electric fusion formula and returning back to mainstream jazz.

The only thing is obvious with no doubt - starting from late 70s Corea's best bands/albums all are post-bop. His acoustic sextet with young Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen (which opened to Cohen doors to best jazz scenes),drummer and reeds section is probably his Chick's best band for two decades. There are two releases only documenting Origin music, "Live at the Blue Note" debut (later released as box set incl. hours of unreleased material) and studio album "Change", released year later with different drummer (Jeff Ballard replacing Adam Cruz).

"Live at the Blue Note" contains material,selected from a week-long gig in December 1997,recorded in New York club. Sextet plays Corea's new originals with one exception (album's closer "It Could Happen To You"). Musically the album contains quite conservative post-bop with lot of brass/reeds, often sounding as bigger orchestra. Rhythm section is groovy and warm/physical recalling recordings from 60s, Corea plays his trademark tuneful moody piano,often with Latin touch and his old fans can easily hear some citations recalling early Return of Forever Latin scented music. He smartly adds few more complex and freer moments which work as tasteful spices making Origin music more delicious.

For sure, nothing is new here. Starting from mid 70s Corea's music is usually more or less quality, but always safe. Still great musicians interplay and technical excellence makes his best albums (incl. Origin recordings) a pleasant listening. A few years later Corea will establish another short-lived project with bassist Avishai Cohen - the New Trio (with drummer Jeff Ballard). In new Millennium Chick will continue playing with acoustic post-bop trios releasing his better recordings and enjoying moderate success (partially in Japan)

KING CRIMSON Lizard

Album · 1970 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 3.98 | 26 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
Miler72
Some probably felt King Crimson hit a brick wall with In the Wake of Poseidon, considering it nothing more than a clone of its debut. That's a bit unfair, because you really can't imagine "Cat Food" and "The Devil's Triangle" having been already explored on its predecessor. True "Pictures of a City" has a "21st Century Schizoid Man" approach, "Cadence and Cascade" resembles "I Talk to the Wind", and the title track is similar to "Epitaph", but that's just side one. On Lizard, Greg Lake and Michael Giles were gong, in comes Andy McCulloch (who later played in Fields and Greenslade)and Gordon Haskell (who already provided vocals on "Cadence and Cascade"), plus a horn section, many members coming from Soft Machine. This is without a doubt the jazziest of the King Crimson albums. "Cirkus" shows that Gordon Haskell has his own voice distinct from Greg Lake. "Indoor Games" shows a less serious side, while "Happy Family" appears to address the breakup of the Beatles (you can even see the Beatles on the cover of the album). "Lady of the Dancing Water" is probably the weakest thing on the album, a pleasant ballad, but nothing much more. The title track is the only side-length piece Crimson ever done. Jon Anderson made a guest appearance (Yes apparently wanted Robert Fripp to replace Peter Banks in Yes, but Fripp declined because he probably knew where Yes was heading, and wouldn't be compatible with the band, and Yes was more democratic than Crimson). There are some bolero/big band jazz passages, and some really strange typical Crimson type parts with Mellotron and even Fripp's trademark sustained lead guitar at the end. It wasn't an easy listen. The rock critics were never kind to this album, even some fans thought they went off the tracks here. But I gave it a few listens, and the payoff was great. It's another great album worth having.

AL DI MEOLA Casino

Album · 1978 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.79 | 15 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
Miler72
I can understand why I stayed away from Al Di Meola solo albums, but looking back, this is a prime example not to judge a book by its cover. 1978's Casino is his third solo album, which sports such a tasteless cover you may expect some horrific lounge jazz/fuzak, but I am happy to say it's nothing of the sort. He continues on the same Latin/flamenco fusion he explored on Elegant Gypsy, so that means if you like that album, you'll have no problem with Casino, although I don't feel the album really brings anything new to the table that he didn't already do on Elegant Gypsy. A good deal of the album bears more than a passing resemblance to Santana, I guess Di Meola was inspired by albums like Caravanserai, Welcome and Borboletta enough to record albums in a somewhat similar style. While I enjoy those Santana albums, I tend to have problems with some of the vocal songs, and Al Di Meola avoids that problem by making it all instrumental (although Land of the Midnight Sun did feature one vocal track, it was surprisingly nice). "Fantasia for Two Guitars" is one of those all-flamenco guitar pieces he tends to include on his albums, but the rest of the album has various help from various musicians, including Mingo Lewis, who, unsurprisingly played in Santana. There's also a version of Chick Corea's "Senor Mouse", which a version was recorded by Return to Forever off their 1973 album Hymns of the Seventh Galaxy. The RTF version naturally didn't feature Di Meola's guitar playing, but instead Bill Connors. Still this version is quite recognizable, but I imagine RTF performing this piece live quite a bit with Di Meola on board. At first I was a bit dismissive of Casino, but gave it another listen and found it actually an excellent album and worth having if you enjoy Latin fusion.

JULIAN JULIEN Terre

Album · 2000 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 4.09 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
Modrigue
Fusion from a parallel Earth

Have you ever wondered how the musical landscape will be if, centuries ago, someone had swap Earth's local populations' instruments with other populations'? Sonorities played by different cultures with their own approaches? For example, what music would have Eastern European nomads created if they were given Indonesian gamelans? What melodies based on pipes and Indian tablas would have musicians from the old Hausmannian Paris composed? Never thought of this question? Well, I had, and so certainly did multi-instrumentalist Julian Julien, as he - at least partially - brought pieces of a possible answer through his first studio opus.

Fully instrumental, "Terre", the well-named, can be described as world/ethnic fusion, maybe post-fusion, yet accessible. Inspired by his various travels and influences, Julian Julien uses a wide range of instruments and sound effects for unusual purposes to weave harmonious and inventive ambiances. First fooled by exotic sonorities, the listener is brought from an unexpected place to another, then to both known and unknown lands, like on unconnected continents at the same time. The surprise factor is therefore kept intact at each listen.

"La grand-voile!" yells the sailor at the very beginning. Opening with an extract from the movie "L'île aux trésors", the title track is a tragic rhythmic violin-driven tune that can distantly remind another French multi-instrumentalist, Yann Tiersen. Completely different, "L'attente" carries well its name, as the xylophone and soft keyboards seem to suspend time. A little Javanese sounding, but with other incursions, this ethereal tracks is like a patchwork of impressions from South-Eastern Asia displayed through Philip Glass's prism. After an enigmatic and tablas pipes introduction, "Tupperware Et Bibelots" unveils a sad accordion and piano theme, turning from melancholic to frightening. You're wandering in the old 19th Century Paris, among boulevards and galleries of clowns. "Bencoleen Hotel" is located in Singapore, and also a short contemplative and dreamy Asian interlude, while the slowly evolving "Souquez" more resembles modal jazz. Through its interlaced piano and violin, you can sometimes hear few distant echoes from SOFT MACHINE. Really nice. The cheerful "Promenade" is charming and quite contrasts with the rest of the record.

Despite its name, "Degung" don't make usage of a gamelan, but of various gongs, keyboards and organs to recreate an impression of the proud Indonesian instrument, however this time for unexpected destinations. Alongside a sinuous cord melody, this tune will transport you for a mystical journey, to an unknown place somewhere between Hungary and Egypt! On the contrary, "Les Yeux" may be my least favorite passage of the disc. This jazzy minimalistic piano title accompanied by a slight electronic background is a bit lengthy. Don't be fooled by the childish opening of "Clémentine", its mysterious xylophone will make you lost your direction in some enigmatic labyrinth. "P'Tite Pêche" continues with the fruit thematic on a touching and melancholic tone. The record finishes with its longest track, "La Tombe Des Lucioles". Inspired by Isao Takahata's famous and beautiful anime "Le Tombeau des Lucioles" ("Grave of the Fireflies" in English), the instruments depict a desolated and chaotic landscape after the war bombing. You can barely hear the victims struggling for their survival... The last part suddenly accelerates. Certainly influenced by John Surman, this ender is simply shivering!

"Terre" is a genuine trip through several genres and places, between the dramatic and the enchanting, the modern and the ancient, the mystical and the melancholic, yet always remaining accessible and quite homogeneous in terms of quality. The album even gained a little success during its release. If you like to travel and enjoy unexpected musical mixtures, this first opus by Julian Julian will transport you to another lands. Very recommended!

15 years after, the artist will give a follow-up to "Terre", however this second volume will head towards a different planet...

ALICE COLTRANE Turiya Alice Coltrane & Devadip Carlos Santana : Illuminations

Album · 1974 · World Fusion
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
Miler72
I'm certain Carlos Santana wanted to meet up and perhaps collaborate with John Coltrane, but it was obviously too late as he passed away in 1967, and Santana had just formed and their debut album won't see the light of day for another two years. It's clear Mr. Santana was a big fan. At least many years later, after being a disciple of Sri Chimnoy, and already releasing a coupe of fusion albums with Santana (Caravanserai, Welcome) and with John McLaughlin (Love, Devotion, Surrender), he got to collaborate with John Coltrane's widow Alice Coltrane. I knew right away this wasn't going to be a Santana album. Much of side one consists of orchestral passages with Mr. Santana's unmistakable guitar playing and some really nice harp playing from Ms. Coltrane. This is truly stuff that you can't imagine being on Caravanserai, Welcome or Borboletta. It's great stuff indeed. "Angel of Sunlight" is the closer to Love, Devotion, Surrender in spirit, has that same intense jamming, although with more of an Indian influence. Tablas are used but also drumming from Jack DeJohnette, and congas from Armando Peraza, Afro-Cuban percussionist, who, unsurprisingly, played with Santana. I also dig the cover, it reminds me of artwork you'd see on various versions of the Bhagavad Gita, which I guess was intentional, given Mr. Santana's association with Sri Chimnoy (Alice Coltrane wasn't a disciple of Sri Chimnoy, though). Rather unique stuff that's well worth having!

EBERHARD WEBER Little Movements

Album · 1980 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 4.12 | 4 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
Steve Wyzard
NOT BAD...JUST NOT MUCH

When looking through the Eberhard Weber discography, let it be said here that Little Movements (1980) is for completists only. It's certainly not a bad album, but Weber has set such a high standard that this one only just barely passes muster.

For the uninitiated, this is the third album by the Colours group, with Weber on bass, Charlie Mariano on soprano sax and flute, Rainer Bruninghaus on keyboards, and John Marshall on drums/percussion. "Bali" and "A Dark Spell" are both dynamic masterpieces: the group interplay is especially strong, and these two would be among the best recordings they ever made. "The Last Stage of a Long Journey" and "Little Movements" are a bit more problematic: experimental, phlegmatic mood pieces that don't quite work. "'No Trees?' He Said" is pleasant in a Pat Methenyish way. There are distinguished performances throughout, and if you own everything else Weber has ever done, you'll find this one coming off the shelf every now and again. Still, Little Movements absolutely pales in comparison to the previous two group albums, Yellow Fields (1976, with Jon Christensen on drums) and Silent Feet (1978). Both are flawless, timeless classics from beginning to end, and contain everything that made this such an outstanding ensemble.

After Little Movements, Weber would continue to make phenomenal albums with seemingly casual effort (more masterpieces: 1982's Later that Evening, and 1993's Pendulum) and also became a part of Jan Garbarek's group. John Marshall would go on to play with Arild Andersen and John Surman, while Charlie Mariano and Rainer Bruninghaus (outstanding players both) would be heard from a lot less often. There's definitely a feeling of finality on this album, as if the group realized their best days were behind them. Where, if anywhere, could they have gone from here? At the very least, the album cover, by Weber's wife Maja, is especially cute.

CAROL MORGAN Post Cool Vol. 1: The Night Shift

Album · 2017 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
Carmel
Carol Morgan is a jazz trumpeter, composer, educator and author who resides in NYC. Originally from Texas, she is a Juilliard graduate who has worked with many remarkable teachers including Chris Gekker, Mark Gould, Ingrid Jensen, and Dennis Dotson.

Carol’s discography includes six CDs as a leader. The much-anticipated POST COOL (2017) is a return to the Carol Morgan Quartet flavor of her celebrated Blue Glass Music. As a composer, she has been commissioned by DiverseWorks, the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble, the Arch-diocese of Houston/Galveston and St. Thomas Presbyterian Church, Houston. In 2008, Carol authored what is now a highly-regarded method for jazz improvisation--a textbook entitled The Practicing Improviser.

Post Cool is a definitive calling card for Morgan, her warm and inviting round trumpet sound is uniquely identifiable from the first notes and is what continues to uplift Morgan among trumpet players of this era. Uniquely tasteful in her note choices and approach, Morgan is an excellent foil to her compadres namely Joel Frahm: tenor sax; Martin Wind: bass; and Matt Wilson: drums; the quartet is a dream team of jazz in a post-cool era.

“Strolling” kicks off the festivities with an easy going swing that features Morgan and Frahm in a counterpoint approach. The melody is wistful and Frahm executes a solo that is chalk full of arpeggios and skillful sets, building a likeable interest for the listener. Morgan’s quick runs, offset by tasteful elongated lines builds the solo with tension and release. Wind and Wilson show their salt with inventive rhythms and dynamism that adds to the elevation of swing and sound.

The classic “Night in Tunisia” is given a respectful run, with Wilson creating interesting rhythm textures, while Morgan sticks to the melody and Frahm creates interesting accompaniment dialog under Morgan. The take is reverential, yet interesting enough to be an original version, not just a rehash.

Two originals adorn this offering, one by Morgan “Night,” and the other by Frahm “Song for Mom,” both full of beauty and depth. Morgan’s tune has dark chocolatey notes dripping with highs and lows, Martin Wind’s bass solo is filled with anticipation and beauty. On Frahm’s tune, a lilting melody is presented, and you can almost hear the story of mom unfold through the music. Frahm’s sax is commanding and full of passion, as he digs into the story with his horn. Morgan in toe also creates impassioned lines and fire. The group pushes to the climax of the song while Morgan creates the beauty in the accompaniment on this tune for Frahm, who holds the melody role. One would expect nothing less from Morgan but a fruitful beauty that lingers long past the listen, and once again this trumpeter has delivered. Another gleaming win in an ever-growing discography of potency. Highly recommended.

WILDFLOWERS Wildflowers 2: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions

Live album · 1977 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
In the late 70s, it was becoming increasingly difficult for jazz musicians in the avant-garde to get a recording out. Most major labels had lost interest because avant-garde jazz didn’t generate enough income to bother with, unfortunately a lot of great music went unrecorded. In 1977 a small subsidiary of LA based disco label Casablanca, called Douglas, stepped up to the bat and released a set of compilations called “Wildflowers”, that documented New York City’s fabled ‘loft scene’ of the late 70s. This excellent series of compilations still gives us a vivid picture of what that vibrant and creative loft scene was all about. “Wildflowers 2” is of course the second album in that series, and features great performances by stellar musicians such as Anthony Braxton, and a very young Leo Smith, before he added Wadada to his name.

The generally accepted cliché about loft jazz was that everyone was playing ‘free jazz’, but “Wildflowers 2” presents a good example of how varied and unpredictable the loft scene really was. Side one opens with a grooving modal jam by Sonelius Smith that may remind some of Pharoh Sanders’ ‘spiritual jazz’. This track is followed by an extravagant post bop ballad featuring Ken McIntyre on flute and Richard Harper on piano. This song’s dramatic flourishes may remind some of Jaki Byard’s work with Eric Dolphy. This side is great, but the real fireworks come on side two.

Side two opens with the always brilliant Anthony Braxton and his ensemble romping their way through “73-S Kelvin”, a bizarre and often times humorous Braxton original that appears on a previous album with Braxton and Chick Corea’s group, “Circle”. At the end of the composition, Braxton launches into a furious sax solo that shows why he was, and probably still is, the master of extended techniques on the saxophone. The following track features Marion Brown solo on the saxophone as he combines tonal passages with some extended techniques of his own. The album closes with Leo Smith’s ensemble that features a young and very fiery Oliver Lake on saxophone. The opening melody is humorously deconstructive and deliberately obtuse, somewhat like a child that hates their music lessons. Its very refreshing to hear all of this because much of today’s avant-garde seems to be lacking in any sense of irony or humor. After the opening arrangement, Lake and Smith both take turns with solos that are careful in construction, as the ensemble is also very spare and careful in their contributions as well. This is a good example of that well-known AACM approach to free improv that values silence as much as noise.

Looking at the names of the various sidemen on here, many are unrecognizable and unknown, but one surprising name really jumps out, and that’s Stanley Crouch on the drums in Leo Smith’s group. Crouch has become well known over the years as a writer, critic and journalist who is often critical of the avant-garde in jazz. After hearing his flamboyant and devilishly clever contributions to the Leo Smith piece, it becomes obvious that his criticisms are certainly not based on ignorance or any timid feelings about this music.

Like most live recorded avant-garde jazz from this time period, the sound quality on here is a little rough, but back then it seemed like this sort of lack of polish was to be appreciated and admired. An almost kitsch staple of early avant-garde jazz was an acoustic piano that was worn out and out of tune and recorded with a room mic, so there was plenty of vague room reverb. The end result is an instrument that doesn't sound like a European concert hall component anymore, but more like something from Africa with its buzzing off center harmonies. You get a lot of that on here, maybe thats whats missing with today's scene, the pianos are too well cared for, ha.

TOHPATI Mata Hati

Album · 2016 · World Fusion
Cover art 3.72 | 4 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
Indonesian guitar virtuoso Tohpati has several group names he works with, and many of those groups lean towards a Western jazz fusion sound, but its in his group known as Tohpati Ethnomission that Tohpati gets deeper into his Indonesian roots, and mixes those roots with the Western sounds of jazz fusion and hard rock. You might think that Gamelan, jazz, pastoral folk melodies and heavy metal guitar would make for an unlikely mix, but on “Mata Hati”, Tohpati and his Ethnomission crew pull it off and come up with some music that sounds like nobody else. Although fellow Indonesian fusion musicians such as Dewa Budjana and Dwiki Dharmawan have been working with large ensembles and multiple guest musicians, Tohpati keeps things simple on here with his core group of Indro Hardjodikoro on bass, Diki Suwarjiki on suling bamboo flute, Endang Ramdan on kendang percussion and Demas Narawangsa on drums. The Czech Symphony Orchestra guests on the opening track, but that is all.

The orchestrated “Jangar” opens the album sounding a lot like a dramatic South Asian movie soundtrack, despite the Indonesian melodies, the sound of this number may remind some of the well-known Indian ‘Bollywood’ soundtracks. Follow up “Tanah Emas” introduces Tohpati’s unlikely mix of ‘Gamelan’ type rhythmic figures and heavy guitar, but as mentioned earlier, this stuff really rocks in its own odd way. Other memorable tracks include the beautifully melodic “Mata Hati” and closing track “Amarah”, which features slashing metal guitars topped by a slow moving bamboo flute melody. Possibly the best track on the album though is “Reog”, which features a super funky hard rock guitar riff that Prince would have been proud to call his own.

There is lots of great fusion coming out of Indonesia these days, but with his use of insistent classical Indonesian rhythms, Tohpati has separated himself from the crowd on “Mata Hati”. Another Tohpati fusion group, Simak Dialog, deals with some similar material in their music, but Dialog’s more hippiefied rustic sound is quite different from Tohpati Ethnomission’s heavier sound. Did I forget to mention that Tohpati tears up the fretboards on this album on heavy distorted guitar, as well as more bluesy-jazzy Herndrix sounds and acoustic guitar as well.

TOMASZ STAŃKO Purple Sun

Album · 1973 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko is most probably country's best known jazz musician for some decades and prestigious ECM label in-house artist. Better known (especially outside of his homeland) from his ECM-sound recordings, in his early ears Stanko played quite different music. Started his career still at late 60s, Tomasz played with in Polish legend Komeda band, starting his career as leader in early 70s.

"Purple Sun" is Stanko quintet third album recorded live in empty hall of Music School in Munich,Germany. All-Polish quartet is completed with German bassist Hans Hartmann here. Album contains four originals (twolong and two shorter pieces). Confusingly enough, "Purple Sun" is often classified in music media (partially Polish) as early example of Polish avant-garde jazz which it isn't.

In reality bass-drums-trumpet-sax quartet with violinist Zbigniew Seifert on board plays high energy fusion strongly influenced by Davis' "Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew". Representing contrast difference from popular Stanko ECM albums of contemporary (chamber) jazz, "Purple Sun" with its raw energy and quite free structure possibly sounds as avant-garde piece for traditional Stanko listeners but everyone familiar with early Miles fusion will confirm their musical similarity.

Stanko's fusion is more European comparing with Miles - there are less American jazz roots (no groove) but lot of German krautrock influence in a form of straight power flow and rock-psychedelia. And yeh - the level of musicians virtuosity is far not as in Davis fusion bands.

Still music sounds really fresh and inspired and common "rockish" aesthetics could be attractive for fans of jazz-rock. In all cases, this album (reissued in Poland on CD at least twice so quite accessible) is not for numerous fans of ECM-period Stanko. Lovers of early Miles fusion will probably find here a nice example of similar music recorded by one of the best Polish jazz musician ever.

RETURN TO FOREVER Light as a Feather

Album · 1973 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.49 | 23 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
Miler72
This is apparently the first true Return to Forever album as the previous album, entitled Return to Forever, was released as a Chick Corea solo album, but it featured the same musicians, so that's how the name stuck, I guess. Light as a Feather continues the Brazilian jazz/Bossa Nova influence, with Flora Purim providing vocals and husband Airto Moreira on percussion. Chick Corea uses strictly electric piano and Stanley Clarke provides only stand up bass here. This is an incredible album, it doesn't have the break-neck Mahavishnu Orchestra-fast playing of Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy or the progginess of Romantic Warrior, it has a more relaxed vibe, but what a wonderful mood Chick Corea and Co. creates here, with lots of lengthy instrumental fusion passages, and of course a Brazilian feel that is ever present. Every time I hear Flora Purim sing, I expect her to either sing in her native Portuguese (she doesn't, she sings in English, since this was aimed for the American audience, naturally) or break into "The Girl From Impanema". Never happens. I wasn't sure if I would like this album, but instead it really knocked my socks off. Usually vocals in fusion albums are a big turn-off for me, but of course Flora Purim being Brazilian works amazingly well here, giving that Bossa Nova influence. If you like Brazilian jazz as well as fusion this album is a totally required!

AL DI MEOLA Land of the Midnight Sun

Album · 1976 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.87 | 21 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
Miler72
Having been blown away by Return to Forever's Romantic Warrior (an album that literally took me years to warm up to, though, but once I did...) and Lenny White's Venusian Summer, I went and tried Al Di Meola's debut album, Land of the Midnight Sun. Like Lenny White's Venusian Summer, he doesn't hire a steady band, just whatever musicians want to appear, but Mingo Lewis of Santana (of the Caravanserai/Welcome/Borboletta-era), Jaco Pastorius, Steve Gadd, Stanley Clarke, even Chick Corea, and others appear. The first two cuts sound a whole lot like Romantic Warrior-era RTF meets Santana, which is no surprise given the members involved. He does a unaccompanied Bach piece on acoustic guitar, and do an atmospheric spacy prog number "Love them from 'Pictures of the Sea'". Surprisingly Stanley Clarke provides vocals here in that spacy prog manner, which does this piece justice. "Morning Fire" is a multi-movement suite, but it's basically one long jam with tons of fretless bass playing from Jaco Pastorius. In fact this was a big reason he ended up a member of Weather Report and became a valuable asset to the band. The last piece is largely Chick Corea on piano and Al Di Meola on guitar, and a rather relaxed piece.

This is truly a great album of Latin-influenced fusion, that I can highly recommend to those who enjoy Return to Forever (naturally) and fusion-era Santana.

PETER EVANS Lifeblood

Live album · 2016 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Starting from late 60s solo saxophone recordings aren't rare thing, Chicagoan Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and soprano genius Steve Lacy introduced world to that kind of highly creative and usually very free-form kind of jazz. Solo trumpeter albums are much more obscure though.

American trumpeter Peter Evans (better known to wide auditory as Mostly Other People Do The Killing band member) has already released some, but his newest "Lifeblood" is his first solo trumpet album in five years. It contains recordings from different shows recorded in 2015-16 and lasts almost two hour long. To make things even more twisted,"Lifeblood" is released in digital form only - usual download files and ... USB memory stick (or being more correct - USB credit card memory stick). Since the size of content doesn't exceed the space of casual double CD-set, it's obvious that physical recording's form has been chosen not only because of technical needs.

So - what do we have inside? Solo reeds albums are always hit or miss, at their best such music radiate artist's creativity and technical perfection but sometimes we just evidence never-ending demonstration of musician's ego drilling your ears and twitching your nerves. Than 109 minutes long "Lifeblood" can sound as really risky business.

Fortunately it isn't. Evans plays solo trumpet concerts regularly for years so what one can hear on this album isn't just exotic demonstration of technical abilities on request. "Lifeblood" contains two longer pieces ("suites") - twenty-seven minutes long opener of the same title and three-parts forty-minutes long closer "The Prophets". All music is highly improvised but contains never ending mosaic of tunes and rhythms snippets changind each other very dynamically so such a long free-form album doesn't sound boring at all.

Evans plays trumpet with rare virtuosity using his own techniques besides of more traditional, he uses breathing and his mouse as source for percussion added and generally minimalist music is surprisingly dense and dynamic. Quite unusually for music of such kind all concert sound is warm,even intimate at moments. Peter successfully finds the right balance between passionate playing and relaxed atmosphere, music isn't explosive nor meditative.

Surprisingly, almost two hours of solo trumpet music of free form don't require special concentration from listener. It is not elevator music for sure, but it works pretty well sounding at home when I was doing some home works or reading news in internet. I listened to the album three or four times during last some weeks - it says a lot!

USB stick isn't most popular form of physical jazz album maybe, than go for more usual download and don't miss this probably best reeds player solo album of last decade or so.

ORNETTE COLEMAN Body Meta

Album · 1978 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 5 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Ornette Coleman was the one among a few jazzmen who started playing what later has been titled "a new thing" still in late 50s. His album "Free Jazz" gave the tag for all new jazz direction which dramatically changed genre's scene for decades to come. Still at the late 60s-early 70s it looked Ornette got stuck in his music(his excellent "Science Fiction" from 1972 is an exception only confirming the sentence).

Fortunately for us jazz lovers he did it again - in late 70s Ornette returned back with new jazz revolution again. His new quintet came all-electric this time - two(!) guitarists, bassist and unorthodox drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson beside of Coleman himself. The music,if still rooted in early free jazz, was seriously different and at the moment sounded extremely modern and non-conventional at the same time. Influenced by some time's dominated trends, Ornette's new music was closer to jazz fusion, or better to say - free funk still staying within jazz idiom.

First ever recorded example of Ornette's new music has been released on their "Dancing in Your Head"(1977) - 31 minute-short LP which contained only one true new band's composition "Theme From A Symphony" (which initially has been planned as EP release) and completed with four-and-half minute "Midnight Sunrise" world fusion piece,recorded with Master Musicians of Jajouka. Then in 1978 same band releases "Body Meta" - true first full album of "harmolodic" jazz. Five compositions, almost forty minutes of excellent energetic and free mix of groovy pulsation, drummers acrobatics and extremely inspired and focused Coleman sax soloing, one among best in his career.

Comparing with many recordings,released by Coleman and his followers later, "Body Meta" has one big advantage - because of permanent changes of tunes and rhythmical structures whole album doesn't sound all that much repetitive and initial fresh and positive impression doesn't change to boredom after first fifteen-twenty minutes of listening.

Coltrane (and his collaborators/followers) will develop and explore this new for the time sound for decades to come but "Body Meta" still will stay one of style cornerstone album in jazz history.

HAMPTON HAWES All Night Session!, Volume 3

Album · 1958 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
All Night Session 3” is the third part of a recording session by Hampton Hawes and his quartet, recorded live at Contemporary Studios in Los Angeles on November 11, 1956. Being the third and final part of a lengthy session, by the time the quartet got to this one, they were ready to relax and stretch out, and for half the album, they leave the standards alone and play some free form blues based jams. Although highly acclaimed in his youth, Hawes has become somewhat of a forgotten figure in jazz, unfortunate because he could play with the best of them, which is well documented on this excellent album. Hampton has a wide range of expressions he can draw on, sometimes intense with Bud Powell flavored torrents of high speed swinging bop runs, and other times more quirky and clever ala Ahmad Jamal or Herbie Nichols. It also helps that Hawes has guitarist Jim Hall on board, another modernist with a penchant for unexpected twists of phrase. Musically this album could be called west coast hard bop, not really cool jazz per se, but drummer Bruz Freeman’s tendency to play quietly with brushes does lend a ‘cool’ flavor.

There is a lot of great playing on here, four geniuses stretching out on the blues, but the added bonus is the 5 star recording quality. I’m not sure what people were doing right then that they are not doing right now, possibly it has something to do with digital effects or overzealous compression, but this is what acoustic jazz is supposed to sound like. At the correct volume level, it sounds like you are in the same room with them, and every single line from every musician is crystal clear. Hearing the individual lines is important because when these guys jam the blues, they are not following any standard progression, instead the four are quickly tossing around ideas about possible direction, and then quickly changing again. The rate of communication in this band is intense.

PAINKILLER Guts of a Virgin / Buried Secrets

Boxset / Compilation · 1998 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
siLLy puPPy
This compilation contains the first two EP releases of PAINKILLLER on one CD. It has both “Guts Of A Virgin” and “Buried Secrets” in their entirety. Yes! No tracks have been left out. I hate it when they do that nonsense.

Since both EPs were short little creations both clocking in under 30 minutes, it was very practical to release a combo-CD that had both of them and so it was.

There are no bonus tracks so this is simply EP 1 “Guts Of A Virgin” plus EP 2 “Buried Secrets.”

Sometimes this is listed as “Buried Secrets / Guts Of A Virgin.” Like what? Homie be trippin’. List the first album first for bleep’s sake! Lame, lame, LAME!

Me likey both albums enuff 2 giv 4 starz…..

PAINKILLER Buried Secrets

Album · 1992 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.92 | 3 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
siLLy puPPy
John Zorn continued his PAINKILLER band which was one of the earliest examples of mixing avant-garde jazz with grindcore metal and one of the first hardcore bands of the era to delivery all the intense and sinister feel of what extreme metal bands of the same time were conjuring up only mostly without guitar. The second EP release BURIED SECRETS not only continues what was unleashed on “Guts Of A Virgin” but adds on new layers of intensity. Once again John Zorn makes his alto sax sound like a tortured pig being sacrificed to Satan with Bill Laswell pounding out heavily distorted bass lines accompanied by Mitch Harris pounding out intense drumming sessions. There were also a couple of helpers on this one with Justin Broadick adding some guitar, drum machine and vocals on the title track and on “The Toll.” G.C. Green also contributes on bass on the same two tracks.

While BURIED SECRETS carries on most of what the debut dished out, it expands upon its overall sounds. The first moment of true departure from the previous offering’s limitations comes with “Blackhole Dub” which contains just as the title suggests with a dub beat on bass and a simple drum backing while Zorn wails on the alto sax in a very strange way. It no longer sounds like a tortured pig but more like a tortured canary! There is also some dark ambient effects that make it seem very eerie. The production in general seems more polished on this one. The title track is totally different than many other tracks. The addition of the guitar really puts this one in left field but don’t expect any grungy metal power chords or anything. This one is chock full of strange echoey freaky riffs and note bends that reverberate into infinity. There is so much feedback and ambient embellishment that i’m not even sure which instrument is playing what. Zorn and company abuse their instruments so harshly that they simply emit otherworldly sounds and render it impossible for the listener to discern the differences of the sax and guitar. Then the bass and drums finally come in to add some sanity to a serious freak out session.

This album is much more playful as evidenced by the followup to the title track. The 21 second frenetic sax assault “The Ladder” shows the true spirit of punk via jazz and metal and then ushers in more violent and turbulent jazz-metalcore. Zorn astonishes as he makes his alto sax do things unthinkable and creates streams of consciousness that could lead to utter insanity. And add the bombastic drum and bass assaults, it’s utterly maddening. “The Black Chamber” is probably the only snippet of “normal” sax playing as it starts like a recognizable jazz sax type of sound that one would expect in a NYC club of the 60s but of course, nothing stays that “normal” for long in the Zorn world. It becomes another avant-dub type of track with more tortured pig sax squeals that follow. Even the ambient vocal effects sound like possessed pigs seeking revenge as they embrace the powers of the dark side to do so. “The Toll” is another stand out as it begins as an ambient track with a slowly building drum and bass. It is the other track that has guitar and it is used in a conservative way to create an amplified atmospheric presence rather than playing a dominant part. It continues like an avant-doom / sludge metal track with stange guitar and sax craziness. This one actually has vocals.

BURIED SECRETS is a great improvement over the previous “Guts Of Virigns.” There is so much more going on here. While everything from EP one is still in ample supply here, all the tracks don’t sound like they hatched from the same mold. The variations that occur sporadically are a welcome contrast to the more usual suspects. If you’re a fan of the first EP, fear not because all of those slaps in the face are still present and more but on this one, Zorn and company learned the art of ambient enhancement therapy and found new ways to strike terror into the inner ear canals of their fellow homo sapiens. I personally like this second release much better because it contains all of what came before and adds lots of new twists and turns and takes Zorn’s sax torture and incorporates it into a more meaningful way of menacing humanity. This is a dark and tumultuous sonic experience. Once again probably too jazzy for extreme metal heads and too metal for jazz purists but for those who simply want a true tortuous experience that supplicates impeding doom, this is for you.

PAINKILLER Guts of a Virgin

Album · 1991 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.45 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
siLLy puPPy
PAINKILLER was one of the many projects of the prolific avant-garde jazz performer John Zorn and perhaps one of his most metal adventures. This band was quite unique at the time and took the listener where no one wanted to go which would be by mixing the unlikely disparate musical forces of avant-garde jazz with grindcore metal. GUTS OF A VIRGIN was the first of three studio albums but four live albums would also be released. The band consisted of John Zorn on sax, Bill Laswell (countless acts including Praxis, The Golden Palominos, Massacre, Buckethead, Iggy Pop, Herbie Hancock, Public Image Ltd etc) on bass and Mick Harris on drums who was most notably in Napalm Death. Although this is considered just as metal as jazz, there is no guitar to be heard.

GUTS OF A VIRGIN is extreme music to the max. This is guaranteed to alienate most jazz lovers for being too extreme metal and vice versa too jazzy for most metalheads. What we basically get on this cacophonous raucous is a highly distorted bass and drum attack accompanied by Zorn’s alto sax assault that really, i swear sounds like a tortured pig most of the time! It squeals like it’s being slaughtered live and the driving high pitched notes sound like a knife is being driven deep into its heart and twisted while pliers are ripping its snout from the skull. It’s truly tortuous stuff with dark resonating bass lines, pummeling drum abuse and saxophone nightmares. A soundtrack for horror films to be assured.

This is the same type of sax sound that appears on the first Mr Bungle album that was released the same year. It’s no wonder Mike Patton was so enthralled with his playing because Zorn delivers the most metal sound of any sax player i’ve ever heard. GUTS OF A VIRGIN is as filthy and dirty as the title implies. The muddy bass mixed with pig squeal sax create a free jazz / metal cacophony that also shows a bit of humor with song titles such as “Purgatory Of Fiery Vulvas.” The tracks are generally mid-tempo with some flair ups that add some intensity for contrast’s sake. While most tracks are instrumental, a few have some grindcore type of vocals screamed by Mick Harris. While the music is described as free jazz, it generally is so in the frenetic saxophone solos while the bass and drums have a recognizable groove firmly planted in the metal universe. This is a true assault to the senses! The compositions aren’t brilliant but it’s not bad for such an experimental album. Obviously only one for the hardcores!

JMA TOP 5 Jazz ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Kind of Blue Cool Jazz
MILES DAVIS
Buy this album from our partners
The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Progressive Big Band
CHARLES MINGUS
Buy this album from our partners
A Love Supreme Post Bop
JOHN COLTRANE
Buy this album from our partners
Giant Steps Hard Bop
JOHN COLTRANE
Buy this album from our partners
Miles Davis Quintet : Miles Smiles Post Bop
MILES DAVIS
Buy this album from our partners

New Jazz Artists

New Jazz Releases

Triboluminescence Jazz Related Improv/Composition
ANDY SUMMERS
Buy this album from MMA partners
Orlando in Heaven Jazz Related RnB
BRIAN TARQUIN
Buy this album from MMA partners
Leap Of Faith Post Bop
JONNE TAAVITSAINEN
Buy this album from MMA partners
With You In Mind : The Songs Of Allen Toussaint Jazz Related RnB
STANTON MOORE
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Free Jazz MP3 download/stream

New Jazz Online Videos

Gerardo Nu´n~ez Trio Guitarra Flamenco GUITFESTSEVILLA 2013
GERARDO NÚÑEZ
js· more than 2 years ago
More videos

New JMA Jazz Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions

More...

Latest Jazz News

members-submitted

More in the forums

Social Media

Share this site
Follow us