Jazz Music Reviews

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Between Nothingness & Eternity

Live album · 1973 · Fusion
Cover art 3.49 | 21 ratings
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Although most Mahahvishnu Orchestra fans tend to go for their first two studio albums, its the third album, the live “Between Nothingness and Eternity”, that best captures what this band was best at, high energy hard rock. Whereas other fusion pioneers of the day were mixing and matching various genres and cultures, Maha went straight for the rock jugular, mixing a Deep Purple/Hendrix Experience adrenaline fueled rhythm overdrive with solos that fused bebop agility with rock n roll sledge hammer tonality. There was nothing particularly subtle about this group, and that’s why many jazz fans were not interested, but many rock fans embraced them as a band that set a higher standard for ultimate shredding. “Eternity‘s” recording quality is far from perfect, there is distortion and uneven sound balances, the performance is somewhat sloppy, but that intense explosive energy that was this band’s salient feature comes through more on this live outing than it does on their previous studio albums. Consider “Eternity” to be the first ‘punk jazz’ album if you will.

There are lots of cool musical highlights to found on here. Side one opens with McLaughlin’s signature sweeping tamboura like guitar arpeggios that promise a special performance to come. A few minutes into this side Cobham launches into a high speed double time beat that foreshadows the hardcore thrash scene that will happen in the 80s. This side closes with “Sister Andrea”, which features one of the funkiest Fender Rhodes riffs ever. The best highlight on side two comes when the rest of the band backs off and allows Cobham and McLaughlin to take off on a high speed conversation that matches the old Mitchell/Hendrix jams for a display of two guys who really enjoy each other’s musical company. That interchange also shows how Maha was essentially a McLaughlin and Cobaham band. Bassist Rick Laird does well, but he is essentially a jazz musician. Violinist Jerry Goodman digs into the funk numbers, but seems over his head when Cobham turns up the tempo. Keyboardist Jan Hammer deals with the music by more or less imitating McLaughlin.

John’s original idea for the band was supposed to be himself, Cobham, Larry Young on keyboards, Jean Luc Ponty on violin and Tony Levin on bass. That would have been the better band as both Young and Ponty would have brought more original ideas that could have stood on their own and countered McLaughlin’s intensity.

MAGIC MALIK Magic Malik Fanfare XP, Vol. 2

Album · 2020 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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You may have noticed the recent drop off in new albums since the world wide pandemic put a serious dent in things. As many people seek the refuge of self quarantine, artists have been forced to dig through their recording archives and release things that may not have been put out under better circumstances. We can consider our selves very fortunate that Magic Malik was able to release “Fanfare XP Vol 2” while things cleared up in Europe for a while, because at this point, this album looks to be one of the best this year so far.

For many jazz woodwind players, the flute is a secondary instrument, something to play when they aren’t playing saxophone, but for Malik, it is his main axe, and it shows. Malik gets a big beefy sound out of the flute, no small feat as it can lean towards shrill thinness very easily. “Vol 2”, like many of his albums, features a fairly large ensemble with big sounding horns like the trombone to compete with, but Malik’s muscular flute tone is always able to elbow its way into the mix. Making yourself heard is not always easy in a Malik composition as he often has more than one solo going at a time, plus most tracks feature busy ensemble arrangements that compete with the soloists for air time.

You could roughly categorize the music on “Vol 2” as ‘nu jazz’, due to its use of modern beats and tasteful electronics, but unlike other trendy nu jazz offerings that tend to be lite and fluffy, Malik’s compositions are big on substance and innovation. Its that balance of attractive modernity and deep complex musical arrangements that promote concentrated listening that make “Vol 2” such a success. It’s not boorishly heavy, but it is definitely way more than hip background. If you want to hear something new in jazz that will still sound great 50 years from now, “Fanfare XP Vol 2” is your ticket.


Album · 2020 · Funk
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Tower Of Power were a true giant of funk in the seventies, and even if they celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2018, they are not going to slow down. Their previous release "Soul Side of Town" was a perfect one, presenting rich sound of funky brass band with excellent vocals and quality songwriting. From very first seconds, their most current album "Step Up" sounds as continuation of that previous one, and it's not strange at all.

The opener "East Bay! All the Way!" jumps right on the dance floor but unexpectedly disappears after less than a minute (very same way as on their previous album). What comes after is "Tower Of Power" at their best - beautiful vocal harmonies, memorable tunes and groovy perfectly arranged music, on the level of their best releases, coming from the 70s.

Under the skin, new album is not actually all that new - it contains solely tracks from the same sessions which gave us their previous release, "Soul Side of Town". Then, its pros and cons lay right in its origin. The material is surprisingly strong since we're speaking about the album of outtakes, some songs are possibly even stronger than some numbers included in "Soul Side of Town". From the other hand, there are no visible difference in sound, arrangements or compositions between current and the previous release. "Step Up" could easily be a second half of imaginary double "Soul Side of Town" set.

Both albums represent best funk and groovy r'n'b coming right from the 70s, the genre's golden age. After many line-up changes, the band still is rooted in their founders Emilio Castillo lead vocals/tenor sax and Stephen ‘Doc’ Kupka bari, and the full sound of a twelve-piece band with some guests. There is no particular use of electronics, and no traces of more modern arrangements, but for fans of big sound of funk/r'n'b bands from 70s, (like Earth,Wind & Fire), this music is a real pleasure. If you like it that way, and still didn't listen to "Soul Side of Town", better start there. If you already like "Soul Side of Town", take "Step Up" for another doze of excellent music.

ROBERT FRIPP (No Pussyfooting) (with Eno)

Album · 1973 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
Cover art 3.69 | 6 ratings
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Robert Fripp and Brian Eno’s “No Pussyfooting” will probably be regarded as a ground breaking recording in the long run of music history, but it was barely noticed when it came out in the mid-70s. In fact, I would imagine that many who bought this back then were pretty disappointed in what they had just purchased. Both artists at the time were enjoying successful art rock careers and I am sure many were looking for a cross between Fripp’s King Crimson and Eno’s Roxy Music, only to find that their collaborative effort sounded nothing like either of those bands. This album is not the first ambient album, but it is one of the first to be marketed toward a rock/pop audience, and as such it broke all sorts of new ground that both artists would go on to enjoy as ambient music continued to be a big part of their careers, as well as the careers of the thousands of artists that they inspired. Ever since the mid-90s electronica boom, ambient music has become a very popular genre, and you can trace the roots of that popularity right back to Fripp and Eno.

Side one opens with an F# drone that Fripp solos over in a raga like style in the Dorian minor mode. His solos are given infinite sustain via Eno’s tape loop methods. Once again, Eno was not the first person to use tape loops like this, but possibly the first to use them in this sort of Hendrix meets Shankar psychedelic sound that would eventually attract the more experimental side of the rock world. Side two uses a busier backdrop via Eno’s VCS3 synthesizer as Fripp solos in E Ionian, Mixolydian and Lydian modes before finally fading out.

Given the long history of ambient music at this point, this album does not sound particularly unusual anymore, but back in the day many of us were watching the record spin around for the first time and wondering when was the drum beat going to kick in, ha. It never kicks in. Welcome to your brave new ambient future.

SAM RIVERS Sam Rivers trio - featuring Cecil McBee and Norman Connors : Emanation

Live album · 2019 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Reedist Sam Rivers was one of key figures in New York loft jazz, but before that he did his name playing as a member of Cecil Taylor's group. Rivers left only a limited amount of recordings coming from the 70s, so any archival release from that time attracts interest of artist's fans.

"Emanation" comes from 1971 Rivers' Jazz Workshop residency in Boston and contains just one 76-minutes long track, divided in two parts because of physical vinyl album space limitations. "Emanation" represents a rare recording of early Rivers' trio with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Norman Connors, which has been documented only once till now - on excellent (and as well live) "Stream", recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1973 and released same year on Impulse!.

Trio format for Rivers usually was a platform for his most freer experiments and "Emanation" is no exemption. The album opens with inspired sax soloing tuneful and playful, and high energizing all at once. Sound quality is quite acceptable for such sort of recordings, but the mix is a real problem here. Drums fill the sound mix with lot of cymbals, but what is even worse - at 11:25 Rivers leaves the scene for McBee's almost five minutes long bass solo improv, during which the listener hears almost nothing, especially during the very first minutes. Bass is placed far behind the scene on the sound mix, and it's a real pity since McBee does a really great job here.

At 16:00 Rivers returns with flute, and then switches to piano (sounding a bit out of tune and too far behind the scene in the mix as well). Still in whole the recording demonstrates pretty well the spirit and energy of the time, and evidences Rivers great ability at playing post-bop rooted free jazz in his own inspired and quite accessible way.

"Emanation" is a great addition for Rivers (who was under-documented, especially during his early solo period) fans. Not really a place to start for newbies, it is a valuable evidence of this great artist's legacy and in general - the spirit of the time.


Album · 1969 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.76 | 18 ratings
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John McLaughlin, much like his contemporary and sometimes band mate, Chick Corea, started his career with a very distinctive style, only to abandon that approach and tone things down for the rest of his career. Interesting to note that both were influenced by guru types when they changed their way of playing. “Extrapolation” is McLughlin’s first album as a leader and features a young guitarist willing to take crazy chances while plying with a fierce intensity that never totally returns on subsequent albums. Don’t get me wrong, John had many more great performances and recordings throughout the rest of his career, but he never again played with the freedom and abandon he does here. This McLaughlin has a rough approach that is both avant-garde and rootsy at the same time, especially compared to the po0lished sheen of many of his later albums.

The music on “Extrapolation” is all McLaughlin originals that combine bop, blues, free jazz, RnB and Indian music. Besides John, the next star of the show here is the versatile and energetic drumming of Tony Oxley, who is right at home playing anything from bluesy grooves to all out free onslaughts. John Surman’s gnarly baritone fit’s the gritty music perfectly as he adds his solos that combine RnB riffing with soaring free jazz. Brian Odges is an anchor on bass, and his well recorded input adds strength to the mix. Many of the tunes are very short and eclectic ranging from ballads to avant-garde bebop, but the best tracks are the longer ones where the band is given time to build their intensity. Listen to John’s intense note bends influenced by Indian music. Along with dropping the freer tonality, McLaughlin never recorded as much in that style again. Indian note bends have always been a part of his playing, but on this first album he merges this with a soulful blues flavor that adds so much bite to his solos. Some of John’s subsequent work with Miles Davis also features his earlier approach to the guitar.


Album · 1987 · Fusion
Cover art 4.25 | 4 ratings
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Steve Wyzard

If you've never been convinced that a back-cover photograph could epitomize an album of instrumental performances, take a look at Dieter Rehm's placid beach scene on the back of Marc Johnson's Second Sight (1987). While Johnson's first album with the same line-up (1986's Bass Desires) was an off-the-wall avant-garde surprise, Second Sight, while retaining some of the same textures, is otherwise very different. This is a much more cohesive, accessible, thought-provoking, and yes, relatively quieter album that doesn't sacrifice any of Bass Desires's sense of adventure or experimentalism. Second Sight remains the better album for the simple reason of more memorable compositions and atmospheres. Which of course begs the question, "Why is there a lone helicopter over the ocean on the front cover?"

The vigorous drumming of Peter Erskine and the howling guitar trade-offs of Bill Frisell (left-channel) and John Scofield (right-channel) mark "Crossing the Corpus Callosum" as a continuation of the previous album. The beach seems very far away in this musical depiction of a futuristic landscape with Frisell's special effects and Johnson's arco playing. From here on out, the sonic atmosphere changes radically, with Frisell's following "Small Hands" being a gently picked largo. Erskine's "Sweet Soul" is one of those magical moods you wish could last forever: somewhat reminiscent of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows", Scofield takes the first verse, Frisell the second verse, and both join together on two choruses for this album's most soulful (naturally) track. Before anyone thinks this has become an easy-listening album, Scofield's "Twister" and "Thrill Seekers" restore order with twangy guitars, rock'n'roll clichés, offbeat drumming, bizarre basslines, and much soloing. Johnson, who never dominates the material, takes his first solo on "Thrill Seekers", which fades with more of Frisell's loopy effects. "Prayer Beads" is entirely a solo piece for Johnson, with a performance moving from leisurely to energetic. Listen to the double-bass strings snap against the fretboard in a resonant recording studio (credit: Rainbow/Oslo). "1951" is a quirky, country-ish Frisell composition with stops and starts, bends, slides, a wandering bridge, and subtle percussion from Erskine. The album closes peacefully with Johnson's "Hymn for Her".

Before recording this album, both Johnson and Erskine had guested on John Abercrombie's masterful Current Events, and many of the same ethereal atmospheres on that album appear on this one. In spite of the wild contrasts, Second Sight is a lot more beautiful and a lot more "just plain fun" than Bass Desires, and is highly recommended to fans of all the players involved. In 1998, Johnson and Frisell would record an album called The Sound of Summer Running that attempts to be an aural sequel to this album, but falls just short. It's on the Verve label, and has Pat Metheny replacing John Scofield, and Joey Baron instead of Peter Erskine.


Boxset / Compilation · 2020 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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It is almost an axiom that no-one likes compilations in jazz (and rock music as well). Still, there are hundreds and thousands of them, predominantly with the openly commercial reason of trying to sell old as new, usually collecting all the most successful pieces in one place.

"Celestial Birds" is oppositely different. It contains some more unusual Muhal Richard Abrams compositions, with a strong accent on early electronics sound.

Avant-garde jazz never had a commercial potential as musical genre, and it has even less in the 20's. The risk of releasing such albums is moderately high, but thanks to zeitkratzer series director Reinhold Friedl and German label Karlrecords the world got the rare possibility to refresh (and for many newcomers - to find out) this lesser know side of AACM founder.

Vinyl album's side A is dedicated to 22+ minutes long "The Bird Song", which originally filled whole side B of Abrams debut, "Levels and Degrees of Light", released in 1968. The composition opens with recitative Chicagoan poet David Moore's poem and continues with dominating analogue synthesizer's vibes scented with minimalist saxes(Anthony Braxton & Kalaparusha), bass(Leonard Jones), drums (Thurman Barker) and violin (Leroy Jenkins). Differently from later and more regular use of electronics in jazz, here the whole music sounds quite cold, technological and close to minimalist composers pieces. It's interesting, that for this compilation the original version of the song has been used, with reverberations removed from the CD reissues.

"Conversations With The Three Of Me" is taken from much later, 1989 album "The Hearinga Suite", released in Italy. Here we found Abrams playing solo, first on piano and then - on synth. Piano part sounds as neo-classic dry composition which ends as spacey synth improvs. "Think All, Focus One" is another Abrams solo composition, played solely on analogue synths (comes from 1995 album of the same name). Abrams sounds not much different from Frank Zappa playing Synclavier on his unorthodox album "Jazz From Hell". The closer, "Spihumonesty", is recorded with a larger combo, including Roscoe Mitchell on reeds among others. Dominating synths sound here is mixed with free jazz small orchestra.

Early recordings presented on this compilation are coming from the time when synthesizer meant actually an extremely expensive studio, which were rare and hardly accessible for the jazz musician. Abrams was among very first jazz musicians experimenting with synthesis of jazz and electronics, and his works sound interesting even now.

MAX ROACH Deeds, Not Words (aka Conversation)

Album · 1958 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.41 | 4 ratings
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If you are looking for a midway point on that line that runs from ‘out there’ bebop to free jazz, Max Roach’s “Deeds not Words” would be a good place to start. Max is one of those young guys in the 1940s who helped invent the new radical style that became known as bebop. As time moved on, Max always stayed involved in what was happening, making him the perfect musician in the late 50s to craft a sound that bridged that short gap from Yardbird to Ornette. His crew on here share a similar vision, particularly trumpeter Booker Little, who eschewed the bluesier sounds of Miles and Lee Morgan for a busy and angular bop approach much like his frequent band mate, Eric Dolphy. Although the hectic energy on here is east coast, Max’s use of a three horn front line to build complex arrangements and intertwining contrapuntal lines is more like the west coast innovators of the day. Along with Booker, the front line includes George Coleman on tenor and Ray Draper on tuba.

Most of the tracks on here fall in the up tempo range, plus there is one ballad, and one odd sort of Latin groove titled “Filide“. “Filide” is a Draper original and it features the tuba prominently. Tuba can not be an easy instrument to solo on and Ray does about as good as anyone could hope to. The ballad, title track “Deeds not Words”, gives Little a great vehicle to show off how much he can do with and to a melody. Its interesting to note that Max’s drumming foreshadows the way drummers play today. Instead of just keeping time on the ride cymbal, Max is all over the kit and quite free in his approach as he maintains a constant interchange with the soloists. Although the original version of this album probably carries a hefty tag, the vinyl re-issue titled “Converstion” can be found at a very reasonable price.


Album · 2019 · Fusion
Cover art 4.95 | 2 ratings
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Steve Wyzard

Don't let the word "much" throw you. This is not a long, meandering album. Rather it's an unparalleled exercise in how much music four gifted musicians can pack into a visceral 61:35. A huge departure from his relatively restrained work on ECM, not only is Circuits Chris Potter's best album yet, but it's also a strong contender for one of the best of the last decade.

This 21st century fusion masterpiece open with a brief "Invocation", a multi-tracked chorale with layers of saxes and clarinets. The temperature rises with the massive thrust of "Hold it", where James Francies's keyboards remind one of the mid-1970s performances of Hancock/Zawinul/Duke. "The Nerve" is this album's "Eastern"-flavored number, beginning with a loop-pedal of multi-tracked flutes before settling into a groove. "Koutome" features a bass clarinet intro and the bubbling/bustling drums and percussion of Eric Harland before a segue into the chaotic "Circuits". More tape-loops, a mind-bending synth solo, and sax lines of Monkian-complexity almost beg for transcription: I dare you!

The non-pastoral "Green Pastures" is probably this album's most accessible composition. After a synth bass/bass clarinet opening, the Michael Brecker comparison Potter is often saddled with applies here. "Queens of Brooklyn" provides a brief respite from the intensity, with mellow soprano sax over piano chords, before dissolving into a brooding sax/clarinet chorus backed by guitar (played by Potter). Then strap yourself in for the ridiculously speedy tempi of "Exclamation" and the rhythmic, keyboard-heavy "Pressed for Time". Potter and Harland seemingly never stop soloing, while Francies contributes a Fender Rhodes showpiece. Then sit back and wipe your brow when it's all over. Let it also be said that Linley Marthe contributes phenomenal electric bass to "The Nerve", "Koutome", "Circuits", and "Exclamation".

I'm not sure if Potter painstakingly writes out all his lines/arrangements beforehand, but whether or not he does, it's obvious a lot of time, work and thought went into this recording. Circuits (appearing on the Edition label) is one of those albums you can listen to for the rest of your life and still not hear everything. Some will say, "there's too much going on" or "this is just showing off", as this is a far more extroverted album than much of Potter's previous work. Yet Potter and Harland remain leaders in the jazz field on their respective instruments, while both Francies and Marthe are names to be reckoned with based on this album. Until hearing Circuits, I might have proclaimed Dave Holland's Prism album (2013, also featuring Eric Harland) to be the clearest candidate for Jazz Album of the 2010's Decade. Now, I'm not so sure.

GEORGE RUSSELL George Russell Sextet Featuring Don Ellis & Eric Dolphy ‎: 1 2 3 4 5 6extet

Boxset / Compilation · 1969 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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“George Russell Sextet” is a compilation album that pulls from three of Russell’s albums from the early 60s, “Ezz-thetics”, “Stratus Seeker” and “the Outer View”. Much of what goes on in today’s jazz world can be traced back to George Russell and his sidemen such as Eric Dolphy, Don Ellis, Dave Baker and Steve Swallow. Listening to these tracks you can hear today’s abstract approach that walks a thin line between post bop and the avant-garde. Much like today’s players, sometimes Russell and his crew are in the pocket, and other times quite free. Likewise, they have room to play both inside and outside the chord changes. This is creative music that avoids clichés or expectations.

The album cover promises the appearance of Don Ellis and Eric Dolphy, which is only partially true. While Ellis does appear on every track, Eric is only on three, but the other tracks feature brilliant saxophone work from under-rated horn men such as John Pearce and Paul Plummer. Possibly just as important, Steve Swallow is the bassist on every track and he turns in his usual powerful performance. Hearing the young Ellis is interesting as his playing changed a bit over the years. In his youth, his playing was very bright and extroverted, and displayed a very noticeable Dizzy Gillespie influence.

This is a great selection of tracks that flow together very well for a compilation album. The music ranges from a very out there rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave”, to a funky blues original by Russell called “Blues in Orbit”. Elsewhere on here, Dolphy turns in the most intense reading of “Round Midnight” ever, and altoist John Pearce breaks a few land speed records on “The Stratus Seekers”. As mentioned earlier, much of what goes on in today’s scene can be traced back to these albums. If you are not familiar with Russell, this compilation is a great place to start.

GINGER BAKER Ginger Baker Trio ‎: Going Back Home

Album · 1994 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.11 | 3 ratings
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Imagine British rock supergroup Cream with jazz bassist Charlie Haden instead of Jack Bruce and Americana-jazz guitarist Bill Frisell instead of Eric Clapton. Here they are - original Cream drummer-led Ginger Baker Trio. They sound actually as it looks on paper - quite odd.

Frisell fans will recognize his guitar sound from very first seconds, and it stays a signature sound for all of the album. Haden, most of the time, stays on safe support, but Baker's ambition to be a leader is obvious, not always for good. His playing recalls an elephant, dancing in a crystal glass room, elegance (with big help of strangely sounding drum set, probably a rock band's one), and this thunder like drums are placed on the front of the sound mix.

Two standards (incl.Monk's Straight, No Chaser) sound unusual, but hardly all that attractive. Other songs are members' originals, some sound more like rock songs (and they are probably among the better songs). Most of the time I've been thinking that this album's edition in "minus one" format (without the drummer, of course) would sound really more attractive (if a bit too sleepy, as many similar Frisell works). In general, all the music sounds as if it has been recorded separately by each musician at home and then mixed as one in the studio, not a good feeling for jazz of any form.

Not really unlistenable, this album has its attraction in the weird combination of musicians, but too often it doesn't work properly.

CHARLIE PARKER The Magnificent Charlie Parker (aka The Genius Of Charlie Parker #8: Swedish Schnapps)

Album · 1955 · Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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God bless Record Store Day, not only does it help support one of civilization’s finest institutions, ie your local record store, but it has also been encouraging labels to re-release classic vinyl albums that many of us thought would be forever unattainable. If you had told me a few years ago that I would soon be able to buy pristine copies of Charlie Parker LPs, I would have thought you plumb crazy, but then, here we are with another outstanding Record Store Day release in the form of “The Magnificent Charlie Parker”. This album was originally released in the mid-50s on the Clef album and it contains much of Clef’s Parker singles from 1951 when Bird was playing at his best. It’s a wonderful collection of singles all arranged in logical succession with no weird volume or sound quality leaps as you go track to track. Those who are familiar with some Parker CD collections will know what I mean by incongruent track succession.

Side one opens with four tracks that feature a young Miles on trumpet, as well as Max Roach on drums. Miles’ playing at that time was very clean and precise, revealing the influence of Clifford Brown, as well as Miles’ classical background. All of these tracks are great, with “She Rote” being the ultimate in bebop styled abstraction and modernity. The last two cuts on this side are exotica pop numbers with a vocal choir and small orchestra arrangement. by Gil Evans. Side two features Red Rodney on trumpet, possibly Parker’s most cohesive and inspiring sideman outside of Dizzy Gillespie. This group also features a young John Lewis on piano before he became known as a purveyor of 3rd stream chamber jazz.

Every track on here is excellent and its nice that the song choices lean away from show tunes and more towards bebop originals that really bring out the witty urban flavor of one of jazz’s most creative eras. I think there are only about 3000 copies of this available, so grab it while you can.

CHARLES LLOYD 8 : Kindred Spirits (Live From The Lobero)

Live album · 2020 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Sax player Charles Lloyd, one of the few still active jazzmen from Coltrane era, made his name in mid 60s playing soulful hard bop and spiritual jazz, often beside rock musicians in arenas, not tiny jazz clubs.

In the eighties, he returned back on scene with slightly modified post-bop, adopted to more chamber-like ECM listeners. Not really grooveless as many European ECM recordings, his music was accessible, tuneful and enough safe to fit comfortably in label's catalog. In new Millennium, Lloyd moved to Blue Note again with some usual and some unorthodox recordings(as 2018's Vanished Gardens with Lucinda Williams). '8: Kindred Spirits ',recorded during his 80th birthday celebration gig on March 15, 2018 at his hometown venue, Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre,and released in early 2020,comes as a pleasant surprise.

Recorded with his slightly modified regular band from some last years (guitarist Julian Lage, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland), this album contains strong songs from different periods,but more important - for the first time for many years (if not decades)it leaves safely comfortable (some can say -'sleepy') zone of Lloyd releases from few last decades and music here really burns.

Depending on edition (the regular one contains just four songs plus DVD), the listener receives some well played, muscular and tuneful music, played with enthusiasm, spiritually and a touch of adventure. The opener,'Dream Weaver,'comes from Lloyd's glory day in mid sixties (most probably it is his biggest hit ever). Stretched till twenty-plus minutes, it has enough space for some extended improvisations still staying warm and framed at the end of the day. 'Requiem', the ballad originally released in 1992 on Lloyd's one of ECM album, sounds bluesy and 'organic' against more sterile original.

'La Llorona', a Latin trad tune, is elegant and only very slightly melancholic here.The closer,'Part 5: Ruminations,' is second longest album's composition, and besides of strong tune it has a lot of place for soloists improvs (some of which are quite free). Besides of Lloyd's regular pianist Gerald Clayton,in big part responsible for band's sound for years, there's a guitarist Julian Lage who makes this album so special. Lot of excellent guitars soloing refresh the sound a lot and makes all music sound very gracious.

Other editions can contain three vinyls+DVD and deluxe editions with full concert documented (12 songs). Strong choice of material and lively, inspired musicianship makes '8: Kindred Spirits' one of the better Lloyd release for some years,if not decades.

GEORGE RUSSELL Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature

Live album · 1971 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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George Russell's Electronic Souls Loved by Nature is one of the severely underrated jazz releases from the late 1960's/early 1970's. I, personally, would put this up there with Miles Davis' Bitches Brew as far as its inventiveness and uniqueness for the time. The recording is actually from April of 1969 (not released until 1971), which predates the Bitches Brew sessions by about 3 months! This is a very European sounding release, due to the musicians involved in it hailing from Norway, most notably the young Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal. The use of tape noises and sound collages with a live band, and recorded in a live setting was innovative for 1969. The musicians performed the piece impeccably and with conviction. There are two, side long tracks that combine cool, repetitive jazz grooves, free jazz, and touches of jazz rock, mostly due to Rypdal's occasional Hendrix-inspired shredding. It has a kind of psychedelic vibe, but in that dark, Norwegian style in contrast to Bitches Brew's very American sound. This one should really be recognized for what is - a groundbreaking jazz classic.

DEODATO Artistry

Live album · 1974 · Big Band
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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On ‘Artisry’ Deodato’s arrangements of classical covers (and his Latin, smooth jazz pieces too) are fleshed out by an orchestra and it’s great to hear them with extra depth compared to the studio recordings.

The sound is maybe a bit ‘warmer’ in a live setting and the band seem to be having a good time too, which I noticed on “St. Louis Blues” and “Superstrut” – especially John Tropea on guitar. Maybe the set list draws a little too heavily from ‘Deodato 2’ compared to what I’d hoped for but if you want a more comprehensive collection of live songs you might have to look to the latter stages of his discography.

JOHN TROPEA Tropea (aka Guitarra Galáctica)

Album · 1975 · RnB
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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If you’re a fan of the more laid back CTI Jazz or Deodato then you’ll probably enjoy this album from John Tropea who worked as a sideman for so, so many folks in the 1970s Jazz Fusion and Funk scene.

His self-titled debut as a leader finds him playing more so as an important ‘part’ of the music rather than dominating with endless soloing. (Having said that, I certainly don’t hate the idea of lots of solos at all). I was really interested to see that he both produced and mixed this album too and it sounds really clear and sharp, making great use of the wide range of performers and friends he draws upon.

I think that the funk and jazz on here ranges from energetic to a little too laid back at times – although, that’s not automatically a problem. And based on my star rating, I think this album is objectively better than the amount which I *enjoyed* it, if that makes sense.

Still, I tend to be drawn to some of the fuller arrangements on these songs – like the stellar “Muff’ and the opener too, one of the places Tropea fires up a bit. I also enjoyed the final, more atmospheric piece “Dreams” where I noticed a trumpet solo. Now, I don’t want to rest my whole review on some idea of “solos = jazz” and thus “less or no solos = pop” but it might give you an extremely general idea of the style here, which is firmly pop/light funk and not so much Jazz Fusion as some of Tropea’s other work.


Album · 1965 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Bobby Timmons is well-known for playing with Blakey and Adderley but until recently I hadn’t come across his work as a leader and I found ‘Chun-King’ from 1964 and really enjoyed it.

There’s a range of standards and original compositions on this hard bop, almost funky release that has snap and drive, but also more relaxed pieces like Timmons’ take on “I Could have Danced All Night” and Gershwin’s “Someone to Look Over Me” which rhythmically is soothing – yet Timmons is almost ‘busy’ over the top.

My favourites are probably the more up-tempo ones with “Gettin' It Togetha'” and especially the title track standing out. I can’t quite put my finger on why but maybe the Keter Betts’ arrangement on that one gives me a slight post-bop feel, signaling that nice variety to the record. It was also fun to hear some bossa nova too, with the “O Grande Amor” cover.

FREDDIE HUBBARD Keep Your Soul Together

Album · 1973 · Fusion
Cover art 3.48 | 3 ratings
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Following leads set by Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, jazz fusion with a bit (or a lot) of psychedelic production became a trend for a short while with varying degrees of success and/or failure for different artists. Freddie Hubbard’s 1973 release, “Keep Your Soul Together” is not exactly a particularly ‘trippy’ outing, but still there is a subtle touch of that ‘cosmic’ space that was hip at that time. Like Freddie’s career itself, this album is very eclectic ranging from laid back pop to frantic free form flights, all tied together with some spacious reverb and tasteful use of electronic effects.

Side one opens with “Brigitte”, a medium groove laid back ballad that might have you thinking this album is one of Freddie’s more commercial outings, but things pick up more steam after this opener. Side one closes with a lengthy workout on the album’s title track which is soul jazz topped with heated fusion solos and driven with interesting rhythm change-ups and horn arrangements. Side two continues the energy buildup with “Spirits of Trane”, a high speed post bop track played with a free jazz abandon. The album closes with, “Destiny’s Children”, which is classic Miles’ styled angry funk rock with the required screaming horn solo. Is it possible that this one is a slightly sarcastic shot at the dark prince.

With only four tracks for the whole album, one can easily surmise that there is plenty of solo room for the players as each number gets stretched out. All the soloists are good, but none can match Freddie who is in top form throughout and shows why he was/is the best trumpet player of his generation. This isn’t one of Hubbard’s best albums, it lacks a certain consistency in vision, but there is enough good 70s style jams on here to make it worth checking out.

YOSUKE YAMASHITA Yosuke Yamashita Trio ‎: Dancing 古事記

Live album · 1969 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Dancing 古事記" is respected Japanese piano player Yosuke Yamashita's debut album, coming from the time he was a student of musical college in Tokyo. A bassless trio, coming from behind the barricades during the student occupation of Waseda University in July 1969.

The years 1968 and 1969 were both a breaking point in Western world, with counterculture peak, explosion and start of decline as well (ie Woodstock, barricades in Paris' Sorbonne, etc, etc). The world will never be the same again, and what is probably much less known, these events catalyzed the reaction in Japan as well.

Three tracks, of which first 50-seconds long one is not a music but recorded on barricades agitator's speech (on Japanese). It introduces the atmosphere of the moment and two upcoming long free jazz pieces perfectly.

What in a Western world of the time is a rock revolution of late 60s, on Japanese ground has it's equivalent in avant-garde jazz, extremely radical music for the time.

Yamashita plays with his early days trio, containing drummer Takeo Moriyama and sax player Seiichi Nakamura. Their music here still doesn't reach the level of aggression known from Peter Brötzmann's "Machine Gun", but despite of some tuneful inclusions, it sounds as perfect soundtrack to the actions in a student campus that's for sure.

Later same year Yamashita will release with same trio his first studio album "Mina's Second Theme" which bring him first success, still as underground jazz artist for the beginning.

Quite aptly titled "Dancing 古事記", this album represents both the spirit of era and a music of the short-lived but very creative moment of Japanese jazz history.

P.S. There is still available short filmed video from this concert on youtube which is very recommended for those interested in catching the spirit of the moment

10000 VARIOUS ARTISTS No Energy Crisis

Boxset / Compilation · 1974 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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ABC Records compilation, “No Energy Crisis” , features one of the most unattractive and banal album covers ever, yet houses some of the hottest avant-garde jazz from that era. In fact, this may very well be the best compilation of early avant-garde jazz ever as it contains an all-star roster that leaves very few of the big names out. It also helps that almost every track is an absolute smoker as the players enthusiastically dig into the ‘new sound’ of the early days of free jazz. Free jazz is the tie that binds much of these artists together, but there is plenty of variety on here too. John Klemmer plays loose and noisy jazz rock, Gato Barbieri performs wild and chaotic Brazilian grooves, while Marion Brown backs his saxophone explorations with an African percussion ensemble. Side two of this four record set features some imaginative ensemble arrangements by Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler. At least four tracks on “No Energy Crisis” did not appear on any previous recordings, which furthers its value to the jazz vinyl collector.

Like most compilations, “No Energy Crisis” never made it to CD, or even vinyl re-issue, but it still shows up at used record resources for fairly reasonable prices. If you want to hear eleven of the biggest names in early avant-garde jazz history playing at their best, its all right here.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN John McLaughlin, Shankar Mahadevan, Zakir Hussain : Is That So?

Album · 2020 · World Fusion
Cover art 2.55 | 2 ratings
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Living legend English guitarist John McLaughlin is a man responsible for probably best ever recorded guitar fusion album. His early interest to Indian music (and culture in general)is well documented on "My Goal's Beyond"(1971) and more significantly on early Shakti albums which were again excellent examples of Indo-fusion.

Don't be fooled by the name though - the newest work, credited to McLaughlin as leader, "Is That So?", is not in the league of both above mentioned masterpieces.To be honest, "Is That So?" in reality is first of all vocal album of prolific Indian singer and films soundtrack composer Shankar Mahadevan. Being a cult figure in India, he's almost unknown in Western world, so crediting his album to McLaughlin as leader is understandable marketing trick for American label AbstractLogix,who released the album just a week ago.

Then,under the cover we have what we have. Shankar Mahadevan sings six lyrical songs,ballads of sort, under minimalist accompaniment of McLaughlin processed guitars and even more minimalist licks of another Indian,former Shakti tabla player Zakir Hussain.

Fortunately, all music doesn't sound as Bollywood soundtrack. It is more rooted to Indian traditional sound, but it is still first of all singer's album. McLaughlin guitars sound processed using computer,is liquid,rhythm-less and hardly differs from what could be produced using inexpensive synths. Tabla's soloing is most livable and most attractive element of all music, but we don't get a lot of it. Harmony-less Indian music without rhythmic component after some time sounds same again and again, at least for Westerner's ear.

Quite a weird release,it will hardly attract McLaughlin guitar work's fans or even Shakti early albums lovers. Maybe Shankar Mahadevan singing followers will find it interesting though.

TONY ADAMO Did Mark Murphy Believe in UFOS?

EP · 2020 · RnB
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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The interrogative title of this fine track shares an interesting insight, as well as its supposition. Whether the late singer literally did buy into UFOs—a la Sun Ra who saw "space as the place"—or he didn't is irrelevant. What is key is the fact that Mark Murphy has had a definitive and lasting impact on jazz vocalists today—and very much so on the High Prince of sing-speak, Tony Adamo who salutes Murphy on this infectious single. Further, the savvy integration of Michael Franks' "Don't Be Blue" into the performance adds encouragement and a positive sheen on the proceedings. It's a brilliant production choice.

Adamo, the ultimate hipster's hipster, is dead on his game on this hip-hop grooved masterpiece. Brilliantly performed and laid down over a killer rhythm, Adamo speaks "jazz gospel" and offers verbal high praise to Murphy by way of his own poetics about Murphy's verbiage on Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments." (Murphy wrote a well-known version of lyrics for the classic tune.)


YOSUKE YAMASHITA Yosuke Yamashita Trio ‎: Sunayama

Album · 1978 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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During early seventies, pianist Yosuke Yamashita trio were a front-line power of Japanese avant-garde jazz. Cecil Taylor-influenced high-energy percussive straight-in-your-face piano playing style in combination with Akira Sakata's free sax attacks and drummer's (Takeo Moriyama and later, Shota Koyama)rock-heavy artillery built complex,usually knotted aural constructions of surprisingly well-organized beauty. Their albums,released between 1970 and 1975 all are classics of Japanese avant-garde jazz.

On "Sunayama", Yamashita's work from second half of 70s, one can evidence quite unusual for him instrumentation. Credited to his regular trio, the album contains three pieces,recorded actually by septet/octet when Yamashita's trio is improved with brass section (and an electric guitarist on one track).

Being characteristic for his trio busy high energy free jazz under the skin, in many moments album's music sounds as avant-garde jazz big band with rich brass (and addition of soling electric guitar on "Usagi No Dance - Dedicated To Pepi"). It's interesting to mention, that intentionally or not the combo never sounds as one small orchestra - more like two groups of musicians, the trio and four-piece brass section improvising each their own way.

On paper it most probably sounds as a chaos, but surprisingly enough all album long Yamashita controls the situation well and final music has its own internal order. Not such explosive as on his earlier works, this album's attraction lays mostly in a rare possibility to hear the great master trying something different. Perfectly recorded (as many Japanese releases coming from seventies), "Sunayama" is an attractive release for Yamashita fans, still probably a bit risky try for newcomers.

Being for years an obscurity, in 2009 the album has been reissued in Japan on CD so there is a bigger chance to find it now.

JOE MCPHEE McPhee, Rempis, Reid, Lopez, Nilssen-Love : Of Things Beyond Thule Vol 1

Live album · 2020 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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One of the early releases coming in a very beginning of a new year is a collaborative work, recorded by high class free improvisers quintet of seasoned tenor Joe McPhee and cohort of younger creative jazz stars.

Joe McPhee (probably in a pair with Charles Gayle) is one of the busiest veterans of loft jazz around playing with many today's sound names and recorded intensively. His new quintet contains such leaders of modern avant-garde jazz as sax payer Dave Rempis and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, rising star cellist Tomeka Reid (who toured Europe last year as Art Ensemble of Chicago's member) and relatively lesser known New Yorker bassist Brandon Lopez.

Just two compositions, recorded live at Chicagoan The Hungry Brain on December 16 2018. Each lasts less than 20 minutes.Quite surprisingly, there are only a few explosive moments on this album, slow to mid-tempo music predominates. Saxes often sound as bird calls communication with cello vibrations and lot of percussion on the back. Common mood is more philosophical than energizing, and excellent interplay between quintet members builds intellectual and rousing atmosphere. Without leaving a frames of the genre, this album belongs to a more successful examples of live recordings in prolific Joe McPhee discogs.

DIZZY GILLESPIE The Small Groups 1945-1946 Original Recordings

Boxset / Compilation · 1970 · Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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If you are looking for that unmistakable sound of early bebop on vinyl and don’t want to spend a bundle, then you might want to keep an eye out for, “Dizzy Gillespie: The Small Groups {1945 - 1946}”, on the Phoenix label. This is an excellent compilation that came out in the 70s and shows up in used stores and the internet for very reasonable prices. The music on here comes from five different recording sessions, every track features Dizzy, while other tracks feature varying bebop greats such as Charlie Parker, Al Haig, Sonny Stitt, Curly Russell and more.

Side one opens with a band that is more in a pre-bop swing style, but when we hit track five, Sonny Stitt and Al Haig have stepped in to push things in a more modern direction. The big revelation all through this side is Chuck Wayne’s jaggedy swinging guitar lines. Alice Roberts guests to sing a bluesy “A Handfulla of Gimmie”, and “Blue ‘N’ Boogie” features a young Dexter Gordon on tenor sax. Side two features Charlie Parker and starts off with a band that is competent, but not quite up to what Bird n Diz are capable of. For the second half of this side, Al Haig takes the piano chair and Curly Russell picks up the bass and now we are in abstract cubist bebop heaven. The recorded sound on “Salt Peanuts” is perfect for this era, unfortunately, the next three tracks fall off a bit in the high end department, but are still enjoyable and musically superb, the best tracks on the record.

CHARLIE HADEN Magico (with Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti)

Album · 1980 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 3.86 | 7 ratings
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Steve Wyzard

Whenever anyone brings up the much-discussed subject of the "ECM Sound", the first album I think of is Magico by Egberto Gismonti (guitars/piano), Jan Garbarek (saxophones), and Charlie Haden (bass). This is one of those unlikely "all-star" aggregations ECM Records specialized in during the late 1970s (see also: Abercrombie/Holland/DeJohnette and Rypdal/Vitous/DeJohnette). Released in 1980 to minor acclaim, this album today is seen as a forerunner to what we now refer to as "World Fusion".

Most listeners bring pre-conceptions to a recording like this, so let's deal with them right away. The lack of a drummer/percussionist does not make this a "quiet album", especially with Garbarek's piercing (no flute) tones sprinkled liberally throughout. A close listen also reveals this is not a "loosely structured jam session" as much thought was obviously given to the arrangements and double-tracking (especially Gismonti's intricate solo above his playing on "Magico"). While a previous familiarity with the performers will best prepare one for this aural soundscape, this album remains very accessible and was my first introduction to the music of both Gismonti and Haden over 25 years ago.

So what can one expect? Gismonti is the dominant voice both figuratively and literally: like on most of his recordings, "Bailarina" includes some brief ad-libbed vocals. There are a multitude of versions of Haden's "Silence" on the market, but this album's is the finest: 16 repeated chords on the piano above solos by Garbarek, Haden, Garbarek (again), and Gismonti. Garbarek's "Spor" features some of Haden's darkest arco playing, and Gismonti's "Palhaco" with its gospel-tinged piano is the peaceful closer with its other-worldly, haunted atmosphere.

The masterful performances throughout this album make Magico a true highlight in the voluminous catalogs of all three players. Never before has ECM's original motto "The Most Beautiful Sound Next To Silence" been more appropriate. Let it also be known that this same trio recorded a follow-up album (Folk Songs) 5 months later that is nowhere near as good as Magico. And just what is that artful cover supposed to signify: is it trees behind powerlines, or painted industrial siding super-imposed over trees?

JOEY DEFRANCESCO In The Key Of The Universe

Album · 2019 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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With a title like "In the Key of the Universe", and promotional advertising that plays up Pharoh Sanders' contributions on saxophone, it would be easy to think that Joey DeFrancesco is trying to cash in on the current 'spiritual jazz' revival on his new album. Its true that there are some tunes on here that reference Sanders' past as the originator of the spiritual modal jazz style, but none of this is gratuitous or insincere, and there is also such a wide variety of music on here that the modal jams are just a part of what goes down. Also, Sanders only appears on a couple tracks, elsewhere on here the very capable Troy Roberts supplies the tenor, alto and soprano sax work. In short, 'In the Key' is one of Joey's better albums and is rife with inspired solos and top notch song writing.

DeFrancesco's rapid fire solos take the Coltrane idea of 'sheets of sound' to new levels on the Hammond B3. This is used to good effect on the energetic post bop of "Awake and Blissed", and then given a double dose on the bebop barn burner, "It Swung Wide Open". The next couple tracks feature Pharoh, who still sounds as great as ever, as he takes a somewhat laid back and mature approach to classic material such as "The Creator has a Master Plan". Some other highlights include a couple of mystical samba lounge outings and a few hard groove blues numbers.

On the two closing tracks, Joey caps things off with something we don't hear often enough, really interesting melodies set to non-cliche chord changes. Both of these songs would make for great vehicles for others to try out their creativity on. The production is a little heavy on the reverb, which sounds fine on the groove numbers, but a bit heavy handed on the uptempo ones.

GARY PEACOCK Tales of Another

Album · 1977 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.98 | 4 ratings
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Steve Wyzard

This is a good Gary Peacock album, but not a great album generally speaking. After the opening track, the excellent "Vignette", all of the others are buried beneath Keith Jarrett's moaning and screeching. And I don't mean for short periods or occasional intervals but for LONG stretches of time. Jarrett's vocalizations appear on most of his albums, but this is his only ECM recording I've heard where it becomes a major distraction. Whenever there is any discussion about this album, EVERYBODY mentions the unintentional histrionics, unless they pre-determine to not mention it out of respect for Jarrett.

It's really too bad that Gary Peacock's performances and compositions are not given their due, because with exception of the experimental "Tone Field", this would be a great jazz piano trio album. Peacock's playing on "Trilogy II" is especially outstanding. Jack DeJohnette plays with his usual brilliance, although from time to time he seems perplexed by the discordant directions the material sometimes takes. The group's headlong rush to the finish of "Trilogy III" is a true highlight on an album that doesn't provide as many as the all-star line-up might promise. This trio would go on to perform mostly standards for 30+ years, so to hear them play newly-composed material is greatly appreciated. Be forewarned about Jarrett's singing, however.

GIL EVANS The Gil Evans Orchestra Play the Music of Jimi Hendrix

Album · 1974 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art 4.14 | 5 ratings
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When The “Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix” came out in the early 70s, it was a big deal, and for good reason too. Attempts to merge heavy rock and orchestral music were still a new thing then and many attempts at such a merger were often a clumsy mess. Gil was given much well deserved praise in that he quite successfully took the music of Jimi Hendrix and gave it a big band treatment that somehow managed to capture the best of both the rock and big band jazz worlds. Flash forward several decades to today and this album still holds up, but since it became a blueprint for others to follow, its rockin big band sounds are hardly unusual anymore. Late night entertainment shows such as Saturday Night Live and David Letterman have been featuring big bands playing classic rock and RnB tunes for some time now and several tracks on the ‘Evans Plays Hendrix’ album sound like they would fit in well during a commercial break while Paul Shaffer or G.E. Smith is trying to keep the audience hyped.

Opening track, “Angel”, is probably the one closest to a late night break rave up, especially since it features the sax melody and solo of David Sanborn, the owner of one of the most imitated horn sounds on late night TV. “Cross Town Traffic” and “Foxey Lady” are the other two that also fall more in this direction. “Castles Made of Sand” is the first track to really head in an interesting and alternative direction as Evans introduces counter melodies that hang like dissonant clouds and totally transform the song. “Up from the Skies” is essentially a jazz song to begin with, which might explain why it works so well as Evans once again produces an appealing murkiness that takes the track towards exotic Sun Ra territory. “1983 - A Merman I Should Turn to Be” is also given an interesting facelift as it becomes a spaghetti western movie theme. The least successful track is “Voodoo Chile”, whose melody is played by Howard Johnson who sounds like he is humming through his horn producing a non-appealing kazoo type sound.

This is a Gil Evans album, so the performances and orchestrations are outstanding, its just that this album probably would have aged better if he had gone more in the experimental direction, and less in the rockin direction.

EVAN PARKER Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Paul Lytton : Concert in Vilnius

Live album · 2019 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Three British free jazz giants playing together already for some decades, recorded live during their gig at Vilnius Jazz Fest in 2017. Three names that are written in gold to European avant-garde jazz history playing in my hometown and I just listen to their playing two years later from my home sound system and not live from the dark scene of the Russian Drama Theater, a regular home for Vilnius Jazz Fest for the last few years? What's wrong with me?

Or - it's not me? In a fast changing world where even my conservatism towards technologies gives up against the comfort of paying for your Saturday coffee and eclairs with smart phone apps and using Google Maps trying to find a shorter way from small countryside town to nearest lake, free jazz, just in one day, turned into a predictable attraction. What was a blowing-your-head new experience in 60s, reinvented in loft culture in the 80s and reborn for a short time at the beginning of the new Millennium, in one day just became an artifact of the past, the world that doesn't exist anymore.

Four free form improves, near an hour of music. Well recorded, with few screams and applause from the public here and there, the music here is competent but doesn't radiate an energy of artists earlier concerts. Not explosive but more philosophically calculated, and often slightly melancholic, somehow it transfers that feeling of paradise lost very well.

As with almost any bigger free jazz artist, all three musicians never repeat same thing twice, but at the same time all what they play sounds already heard for many times. True, the difference is in tons of nuances, but do we are still interested in all these small things?

Anyway, those who love the music of the times when they were young will really appreciate the album. For young folks it will probably sound as a strange thing, but in all cases Parker, Guy and Lytton are those who left their significant footprint in a history of European jazz.

WILLIAM HOOKER Symphonie Of Flowers

Album · 2019 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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William Hooker - one among the most technical and progressive thinking drummers around, who has played with Billy Bang, Thurston Moore, David Murray, David S. Ware and William Parker among many others, comes with his new ambitious work. Double-vinyl album "Symphonie Of Flowers" contains a suite of sorts. Drums are obviously the dominant here, but there are duos (with piano player Mara Rosenbloom), trios, and bigger combo music presented.

The album opens running train-like with Hooker's drumming pushing the music ahead, that rhythm and the feeling doesn't disappear the whole album long. Pianist Mara Rosenbloom plays free piano in a manner of Cecil Taylor. Then there is a trio of Hooker, Rosenbloom and saxophonist Stephen Gauci, with free sax soloing series. On three songs, pianist Mara Rosenbloom plays duets with multiple drummers,and a larger ensemble contains electronic musician Eriq Robinson among others.

Quite a long recording, this album isn't boring or repetitious. The music varies from muscular rock-like avant-garde jazz, to energetic electronics-spiced wizardry. As with many of his previous albums, Hooker works in a class of his own and always offers something new for open ears listeners.


Album · 1964 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Wolfgang Dauner's first LP under his name is an interesting beginning to an extremely eclectic output of jazz and jazz fusion. He is joined by two musicians that would work with him for many years to come: drummer Fred Braceful and bassist Eberhard Weber. Listening to Dream Talk now, after hearing much of his experimental late 60's early 70's material that came afterwards, one cannot but think how tame the music sounds. A closer listen, however, reveals that Dauner was already experimenting and not doing "straight" jazz. The music is in the early, more grounded, arena of Avant-Garde jazz. All the musicians are locked in subconsciously, creating a loose feel, yet contain elements of structure and melody. All three artists perform impeccably, and my remastered CD version sounds excellent. Weber's bass is high in the mix, giving it a warm, and even modern sound when compared to many recordings of the era. Definitely an enjoyable album to listen to, even if it doesn't leave you disorientated like some of his other work does! Four stars.

AVRAM FEFER Avram Fefer Quartet : Testament

Album · 2019 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.52 | 2 ratings
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Sax player Avram Fefer's trio, already known from their two previously released albums, has improved with their new release by adding cult guitarist Marc Ribot. The final result is accessible and enjoyable music, a mix of all-in-one but without possibly expecting chaos.

There are a lot of things happening when you start listening, and it's difficult to decide whether it is a jamming rock band led by shredding guitar hero Marc Ribot, or is it an Ayleresque avant-garde jazz quartet with tuneful high energy saxist Fefer on the front. Up tempo compositions contain explosive guitars, a lot of exotic influences (from African to klezmer), and very groovy pushing ahead rhythm section.

Different from many bands of the same genre, Fefer's quartet doesn't sound too serious, too complex or too abstract - not at all. Just don't expect to find any directions here - the musicians obviously enjoy playing their music and they expect the listener feels the same way.

AMIRTHA KIDAMBI Elder Ones : Holy Science

Album · 2016 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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New York based singer and composer Amirtha Kidambi just released her third album as leader - on Astral Spirits(Phase Eclipse), already second new album coming this year(From Untruth - just released in Japan, after the US release, as well).

Her debut, released three years ago, Holy Science, passed somehow unnoticed,and that's a shame. Born in US of Indian origin, Amirtha combines in her music some best traditions of India’s Carnatic,American free jazz and modern drone.

Just four lengthy tracks,each as a part of "Yuga" suite,contain Amirtha's (predominantly wordless) vocals recalling Jeanne Lee under strong accompaniment of lesser known but perfectly working sax-bass-drums trio. The music,if a bit ascetic,is complex and multilayered with each listening opening more new details.

Excellent debut on the edge between jazz/non-jazz avant-garde and Indian classic.


Live album · 2017 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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After discovering Hans Koller's impressive 1974 release, "Kunstkopfindianer," I came across this live recording of the same line-up for that album. This CD release is on the B.Free label, which is listed as a bootleg label on Discogs, yet the parent label, Be!Sharp, is not listed as such. Bootleg or not, the sound quality on this release is excellent. The packaging states that it was recorded May 15, 1974 in Cologne, Germany "from the original tapes in pristine audio," and it certainly sounds that way. This was apparently taped for a radio broadcast. Along with Koller are Wolfgang Dauner on keys, Zbigniew Seifert on violin and alto sax, Adelhard Roidinger on bass, and Janusz Stefanski on drums.

This live recording draws from the material on the album "Kunstkopfindianer," but, like any good live performance, expands the boundaries of the studio recordings. The avant-garde/free jazz aspects of "Kunstkopfindianer" are further explored here, making it a more challenging listen than the studio versions. That's not to say it isn't good, you just need more attention and patience when listening. "Nome" (the song) is a whopping 40 plus minutes long, a huge leap from the mere 6 1/2 minutes of the studio version. The remaining 35 minutes consist of 3 other tracks from the studio album and some needlessly included announcements.

As would be expected, the musicianship displayed here is top-notch, and, as mentioned above, the recording is impeccable. Overall, a wonderful document of a great group of musicians at the top of their game. If you like "Kunstkopfindianer" or Dauner's experimental jazz and fusion, then this is a must-hear. 4 stars.

HANS KOLLER (SAXOPHONE) Kunstkopfindianer

Album · 1974 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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I came across this album while searching works by Wolfgang Dauner in Discogs and decided to give it a listen. I was happy I did, for this is an excellent example of experimental fusion from that era.

While the album is under saxophonist Hans Koller's name, it is heavily influenced by Dauner's experimental work of that time period. This is really more of a band project, with Koller being just one of the equally important members. Koller, the elder statesman in the group, was in his early 50's at the time, and I give the man credit for releasing music like this at this point in his career. I haven't heard much of his earlier work, but what I did listen to was firmly in the bop tradition. "Kunstkopfindianer" is something quite different.

I would describe this album as a mix of fusion, avant-garde/free jazz, and hard bop. The free jazz/avant-garde aspects of the music never goes too far before becoming grounded by some element of structure and melody. All of the musicians give superb performances, and all but drummer Janusz Stefanski contribute compositions. Stefanski does, however, lay down some incredible, at times ferocious, drum-work throughout the LP. Dauner is his usual genius on the keys, while bassist Adelhard Roidinger is all over the place (in a good way) on his instrument. Koller delivers a convincing performance in the mix, like he'd been a free jazz master all of his life.

I truly enjoy listening to this album and would recommend it to those who like Dauner's experimental work, such as Et Cetera. I give it a solid 4 1/2 stars - an obscure, yet essential album of experimental 70's jazz fusion.


Album · 2019 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Brits Portico Quartet always had very special place on British nu jazz scene since they arrived more than a decade ago. Among very firsts in a genre their sound was closer to Brian Eno ambient than melodic chamber jazz/songs-oriented soft fusion of their scene's colleagues. But even more important - their ambient-jazz was very organic thanks to the use of exotic "hang"(form of steel-pan) instead of modern electronics of more club-oriented bands.

They received an early fame and some decline, changes in line-up and hardly successful flirting with vocal-based pop. With "Memory Streams" they return back to basis and it's their true return to form of sort.

Oppositely to their very early releases, band's fans wouldn't find an unexpected sound and very new music in general; on Portico's new album they play mostly everything they already played before. But they do it well.

Very melodic well executed "organic" ambient jazz,very accessible and often balancing on the dangerous edge with "elevators music" but fortunately never crossing the border. Not really a listening for one's brain but simply beautiful music for many's heart.

Band's traveling Europe with new program these days so don't miss your chance to see them playing live.

PIGBAG Dr Heckle And Mr Jive

Album · 1982 · World Fusion
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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If you have been keeping up with current sounds from England, then possibly you are familiar with today’s youthful streetwise high energy music that features a charged up punky approach to Afrobeat, often with some hip hop, spiritual jazz and other urban flavors thrown into the mix as well. Likewise, if you have followed UK’s popular music for many decades then possibly your initial introduction to today’s sound might have carried some reminders from the past, if so, then its possible you are recalling a short lived early 80s outfit known as Pigbag. Its hard to believe that Pigbag happened almost 40 years ago, but back then they turned a lot of heads with their hyperactive and free wheeling approach to current African dance music. There are some big differences between today’s scene and Pigbag. The scene today is driven by those of African descent who are bound together in political and cultural struggle and their music reflects that. Pigbag, on the other hand, was predominantly (if not entirely) Caucasian and not particularly political. Another difference is that today's players are more sophisticated and technically developed than Pigbag. At this point it should be pointed out that the originator of street level politically charged African dance music is of course Fela Kuti and his Afrobeat bands. Pigbag was merely an approximation of what Fela was all about.

The band was started by Chris Hamlin and Roger Freeman, but when Chris Lee and James Johnston joined, the ability to move beyond just jamming with friends to more professional level aspirations became possible. In the early 80s they were the right thing at the right time. The English youth had burned out on punk rock and a more biracial music scene was building around the 2-tone ska movement. It was during this initial heady success that Pigbag released their first long player, “Dr Heckle and Mr Jive”. Within these grooves you can hear their recipe for success as they play hyper African dance beats topped with electronic sounds and screeching horns. Pigbag was not a particularly technical band, their rhythms were solid and the horn charts were tight, but no one in the band could really build a solo, no big deal, this was dance music, not jazz. To this day this is still a fun album, not great for deep listening, but perfect for a party, and given what is happening today, it still sounds somewhat contemporary.

ANTHONY JOSEPH People of the Sun

Album · 2018 · World Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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I really like having the opportunity to hear your beloved album at a live concert, it doesn't happen as often as I would like unfortunately. In case with Anthony Joseph "People Of The Sun" I was lucky enough to experience that.

Released on the tiny French label Heavenly Sweetness, "People Of The Sun" demonstrates fashionable new London jazz with its Caribbean influences. Trinidad-born band's front man Anthony Joseph (who is a professor of creative literature at London University) prefers to call himself a poet, and is obviously rooted in the free jazz and spoken word traditions of the late 60s and Gil Scott-Heron legacy. Joseph is more Caribbean Leonard Cohen than Amiri Baraka.

Album music is full of calypso, salsa, reggae, steel pans sound and Latin accent. Anthony combines his homeland rhythms with funk and spiritual jazz adding slightly melancholic lyrics without avoiding sharper themes such as slavery or problems of more current life in the Caribbean. All of this is offered with philosophical elegance and doesn't quite sound similar to an "angry men" street manifesto at all.

With fifteen musicians participating, the musical part is well-arranged with a percussive relaxed sound, accessible and very dance-able. Short instrumental solos are presented here and there as spices in a brew, it adds to the music's very livable and even hip feel, being in reality not all that simple, the album is very accessible and vibrant.

Returning back to their show, there was a smaller band of slightly different line-up playing live. They sounded much heavier, less refined and recalled more funk-rock garage band than relaxed Caribbean orchestra as heard on album. The compositions played were mostly all more extended with burning long soloing (partially Jason Yarde sax, wah wah guitar or percussion) and very charismatic dynamic Joseph on the front. It perfectly demonstrated band's live energy - opposite side of generally quite relaxed studio material.

One great example of today's London jazz scene great both for your legs, your heart and your head.

BIG BEAT Sounds Good. Feels Good

Album · 2019 · Big Band
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Big Beat is a new big band originating from William Patterson University in New Jersey that also doubles as a hot horn driven RnB outfit with Allison McKenzie on vocals, plus when they break it down to the rhythm section, they are also an intense fusion combo that is not afraid to take things on an ‘outside’ trip. There is a lot of versatility at work here as each song on “Sounds Good Feels Good” displays a different side of the group. Although this is very much a modern ensemble, there is a healthy 70s style looseness to the group, as well as a similar open-minded approach to eclectic material.. It’s no surprise then that their playing often recalls other 70s big band leaders such as Thad Jones, Don Ellis and Gil Evans who embraced, fusion, RnB and experimentalism in wide open anything goes arrangements.

Allison McKenzie sings lead on seven of the nine tracks and she has the sort of range and versatility that should make her well known with or without her fellow band members. Her style easily shifts from jazz to RnB, making her the perfect vocal front person for this versatile group. Her solo voice is good enough, but occasionally she double tracks her voice into some very interesting harmonies and vocal arrangements. The two instrumental numbers give the band a chance to get crazy. On “Just Too Much”, Will Dougherty’s electric piano solo pushes drummer Joe Spinelli into some free form mayhem, and on “A Penny for Your Thoughts”, the band peaks with an aggressive hard rock drive topped with an equally intense electric trombone solo.

Four of the vocal numbers are McKenzie originals, and they hold up well against some classic covers composed by Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott and the Jackson 5. This band is just getting started, and if they can keep this together the future looks very bright as they hit a good balance between bring the party energy and complicated and challenging arrangements. I would imagine that this is a band best enjoyed in a live situation.

PHIL RANELIN Phil Ranelin Collected 2003-2019

Boxset / Compilation · 2019 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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The opener "Freddie's Groove" says it all - excellent tune with deep respect to mainstream jazz tradition and rich brassy arrangements, I'm sure you will love it from the very first seconds. Phil Ranelin, an Indianapolis born unsung slide trombone hero you most probably never heard about served much better awareness than he got till now.

First Boston,than - Los Angeles based for decades, Ranelin dedicated above mentioned song to his childhood friend Freddie Hubbard. Started recording as leader in mid 70s, he released two excellent free jazz influenced albums on own Tribe label ("Vibes From The Tribe"(1976)) contains some early example of free funk),later switching to more orthodox jazz. Still, his music has always been very soulful,tuneful and often spiritual.

At the end of the last century, Ranelin was known and popular mostly between DJs,searching for rare grooves. His early music re-release and album of remixes(2001) make him more visible for wider listener. In new Millenium, he recorded and released a series of albums for West Coast tiny label Wide Hive, which is responsible for this compilation.

Already mentioned opener,"Horace´s Scope","Shades Of Dolphy","This One´s For Trane" and compilation's closer "Black On The Nu" all come from his Wide Hive debut (and probably best release for the label)- " Inspiration"(2004). In fact, you have here all the album but two tracks.

Latin scented "Blue Bossa","Living A New Day" and "Metamorphisis" come from his second release on Wide Hive,"Living A New Day"(2005). Spiritual jazz/fusion with melancholic touch, memorable tunes and lot of tasty slide trombone soloing.

"A Tear In Elmina","Moorish" and "In Search Of The One" are taken from Ranelin album, recorded with congas percussionist Big Black. Not only more percussive, but surprisingly freer and closer to his earlier works from mid 70s, spiritual jazz."Perseverance" ,originally recorded for the same album, on this compilation is presented in a new edition, as Eastern-scented exotica.

The rest partially less impressive material comes from Ranelin last released album to date "Portrait In Blues" plus some unreleased songs.

Some renown collaborators presented are Pharoah Sanders(on "This One's for Trane") or then virtually unknown Kamasi Washington on compositions,coming from "Perseverance" album.

In a light of revitalized spiritual jazz popularity peak in UK and partially around US and Europe, this compilation is an excellent present for everyone who never heard Ranelin's name but is interested in this genre's music of highest probe. For fans (as myself), who already owns his best Wide Hive released albums "Inspiration" and "Perseverance", the compilation gives a possibility to evaluate his better songs coming from other label's albums.


Album · 2019 · Hard Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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For those not hip to pro musician lingo, the word pocket refers to keeping a steady groove, and if a drummer has ‘pocket’, then the rest of the band can solo with confidence knowing their man is not going to drop the beat or lose the momentum. One of the kings of pocket for several decades now has been Jimmy Cobb, the drummer for Miles Davis’ famous groove fest known as “Kind of Blue”, as well as countless other well known jazz recordings on up to the present. It should come as no surprise then that when Hendrik Meurkens wanted to record his new album of hard bop and soul jazz numbers he reached out to his old friend Jimmy to man the drum chair one more time, hence his new CD title, “Cobb’s Pocket”. Joining Hendrik and Cobb on here are two other veterans who have jammed often with Meurkens in the past, Mike LeDonne on B3 and Peter Bernstein on guitar.

Hendrik is somewhat of an odd one in the jazz world in that he is a virtuoso harmonica player. He started out on vibraphone, which he still teaches, but switched to harmonica early on and remains one of the few jazz performers on the instrument. Don’t expect too much of the bluesy and country sounding clichés we often associate with the harmonica, instead, Meurken’s playing is infused with rapid bebop runs that recall saxophonists like Charlie Parker and Eric Dolphy. Some of the wide interval leaps he takes almost sound like vibraphone licks, possibly he pictures the vibe keyboard while choosing his notes. LeDonne and Bernstein fill out the sound with a mix of blues and bop sourced soulful solos.

Three of the tunes are Henrik originals. Meurken’s tunes remind me of 60s Quincy Jones in that they would make for great TV theme songs. Other tunes include a Latin flavored Mancini “Slow Hot Wind” and Sam Jones’ hard driving “Unit Seven”. Possibly the top track is the high speed title tune, “Cobb’s Pocket”.

MUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS Levels And Degrees Of Light

Album · 1968 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Levels And Degrees Of Light",released more than a half-century ago, is an almost forgotten cornerstone evidence of the entire epoch, and that's a shame. One of AACM founder pianist Muhal Richard Abrams (or simply Richard Abrams at the time of release) debut contains lot of ideas which have been developed for upcoming decades with a great success.

Just three longish compositions, all different but beautiful in their own way. One big surprise is lot of ambient sounds, similar to "white noise" on two longest album's compositions, recalling early synthesizers sound. Not common in jazz, early (rare and really expensive) synthesizers attracted interest of some known pianists, as Paul Bley or Richard Teitelbaum among others,so there are some recordings coming from 70s with use of this instrument,but the biggest surprise is that there on "Levels And Degrees Of Light" no electronic devices are used at all!

Main sources of ambient noise are Gordon Emmanuel vibes on opener and Leroy Jenkins violin on "The Bird Song". On "Levels And Degrees Of Light" classically trained vocalist Penelope Taylor sings over the ambient sounds, with addition of Abrams soloing on clarinet. Album's longest composition "The Bird Song" (filling all B-side on original vinyl release, but stated second in line on CD reissue)contains characteristic for 60s recitative poetry (read by David Moore).

"My Thoughts Are My Future - Now And Forever" which closes digital edition of this album, is shorter and more usual for the time groovy high-energy free jazz composition with staccato piano,sax soloing from Anthony Braxton (most probably his first ever recorded work) and lot of space for drummer Thurman Barker.

The album which probably doesn't sound such a radical from time distance at the day of release was innovative and perfectly illustrated the musical concept of then newly established musical school/movement of innovative Chicagoan artists which is still alive and active nowadays.

STEVIE WONDER Innervisions

Album · 1973 · RnB
Cover art 4.60 | 16 ratings
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Stevie Wonder was on a roll in the 70s, knocking out one great album after another that placed at the top of the game in RnB, pop and singer/songwriter productions. With so many good albums to choose from, picking the best would be hard, but you couldn’t be too far off if your choice was 1973’s “Innervisions”. Here we have a near perfect Wonder album, with each song being a polished gem that bears the obvious fruits of endless care and toil. When you listen to all the ornate instrumental details, you can hear the immense amount of labor that went into this project, but just let the songs sing and you will be immersed in emotional narratives that cover the spectrum from mournful to celebratory.

“Innervisions” is an eclectic album that ranges from the hard funk of “Living for the City”, to the art balladry of “Visions” and “All in Love is Fair”, to the jazzy abstractions of “Too High”. The music is inventive and became very influential over the years, but likewise, the lyrics are heartfelt and can hit hard in their insights and unflinching truth as Stevie address personal turmoil in relationships, as well as the irrational hatred and fear of his fellow man. Wonder performs almost every instrument on here himself, with some limited help from guests on a few tracks, but the result does not sound stifled as some home recording projects can sound, instead, Stevie by himself sounds like one hell of a hot jam session, no easy task.

WAYNE SHORTER The Collector (aka Etcetera)

Album · 1979 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.43 | 7 ratings
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Steve Wyzard

So what's the best Wayne Shorter album? While many would opt for Night Dreamer, The All-Seeing Eye, or Adam's Apple, let it be said here that in spite of its complicated release history, Et Cetera is his crowning achievement as a leader in the studio. Recorded on June 14, 1965, four of the five tracks (all except "Toy Tune") were released with "The Collector" (an outtake from Adam's Apple) in Japan only. The full album was finally given a wide release as part of Blue Note's "LT" series in 1980.

As of this writing (2019), all four performers are still with us today: Wayne on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, and Joe Chambers on drums. The low-key opener, "Etcetera" (6:20) is an ever-opening flower, both hypnotizing and unforgettable as it gradually unfolds. I have no idea if this was ever performed live, but it would have made a phenomenal solo trade-off number on stage. One of Shorter's most beautiful ballads, "Penelope" (6:44), comes next, with Wayne's tone and Herbie's solo being especially poignant. The light and breezy "Toy Tune" (7:22) is followed by Gil Evans's "Barracudas" (11:04). This intense workout gives the group a chance to stretch out, with both Wayne and Herbie having their most awe-inspiring moments on the album. Cecil McBee's bizarre bassline and substantial solo dominate the closing "Indian Song" (11:35). Everyone is at the top of their game throughout, and fans of all four players are urged to seek this one out.

It remains an unfathomable mystery why it took 15 years for this album to be released in USA/Europe. I will even go so far as to say that this is the best release in the famous (or is it infamous?) "LT" series, beating out Larry Young's Mother Ship and Grant Green's Nigeria by a close margin. Don't let Et Cetera's original cover dissuade you: yes, it's a wall of TV's. Huh?

GONG The Universe Also Collapses

Album · 2019 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Founded in France in late 60s by Australian beatnik Daevid Allen Gong for decades was possible best known musical hippie commune, based in Europe. They never received a commercial success but after all these years there are still people around discussing their Radio Gnome Trilogy (I'm serious - I can even mention a name or few!).

So, right after the half of a century (serious age for active music collective, isn't it?) we get an offer to listen to the new music recorded by "Gong". What is in a menu?

Band's founder and spiritual/creative leader Daevid Allen passed away in 2015 and the yeasr after there was released an album contained his legacy (unfinished ideas and works and lot of music from his younger collaborators who played beside of him). It was quite a great memorial release if not really a Gong album. Now, three years later (and four years after Allen's death), we have an album of new material,not something from the vaults. I'm far not a person who idolize even a great artists, but in a case with Gong things are not so simple.

Original Gong has always been more then just a band, in fact at their best they were talented counter-couture commune playing for fun and time to time recording their hippie-dada-space tales to dedicated followers. There were lot of line-up changes and there were more then a few Gong versions as well. Even best of them (different then Allen "original" one) was a better-then-average jazz fusion band (I'm speaking about so-called "Pierre Moerlen Gong" and their "Shamal" and "Gazeuse!" albums from mid 70s), but they lost that Allen's childish playful freakiness from very first steps. It was Allen himself who saved this ingredient for any project ,he participated, no-one else.

Returning back to newest album,"The Universe Also Collapses" is surprisingly strong (for second decade of new Millennium) progressive rock release. Skilled musicians who all played on last Gong album with Allen still on board - "I See You"(2014) - do the great job here. From twenty-plus minute long space-rock opener "Forever Reoccurring" ("Hawkwind" fans must to hear it for sure)to short guitars driven well-arranged "If Never I'm And Ever You" (do you still remember American AOR bands from early 80s?)to "My Sawtooth Wake" (I really respect Steve Wilson music too)and finally the closer "The Elemental" (Jethro Tull goes AOR?)they play a high quality progressive rock of sort with enthusiasm and positive energy not so characteristic for the time when progressive rock too often become a form of self parody.

Still is it enough for calling themselves "Gong"?


Album · 2019 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Even if you don’t recognize his name, if you are a fan of contemporary jazz and RnB you have probably heard the guitar playing of Ray Obiedo many times by now. Ray is a busy session guy who has recorded with just about everyone in his field, including heavy weights like Herbie Hancock, Sheila E and George Duke. Ray also releases his own albums, and many of those are favored by the jazz radio crowd, so there is a good chance when you are hearing jazz as background, that might be Ray as well. “Carousel” is Obiedo’s latest CD and it finds him serving up an eclectic mix of RnB, Brazilian, Cuban, smooth jazz and more.

Ray invited 32 musicians to work with him on “Carousel”, with many coming from his hometown area of Northern California where they work with local stalwarts such as Tower of Power and Santana. Some of the better known guests include Bob Mintzer, Toots Thieleman, Peter Garibaldi and Andy Narell. As mentioned earlier, every track carries a distinctive rhythm and flavor as Ray attempts to cover all the bases. Two of the more energetic songs come early on with the RnB of “Jinx” and the Latin drive of “Sharp Aztec”. Bob Mintzer’s funky sax solo on “Modern World” is also a winner. Possibly the top track though is a mystical cover of Mancini’s, “Lujon”. First of all, it is a Mancini composition, and secondly, the ambient drift and arrangement on this track has a more modern sound. A couple other songs seem geared towards the radio in a smooth jazz context. Throughout “Carousel”, Obiedo plays soulful licks and solos that recall George Benson and Wes Montgomery, two other guitarists who were adept at combining hard bop grit with pop sheen.


Album · 1979 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.98 | 5 ratings
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The Art Ensemble of Chicago(AEOC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. They already played a series of gigs in US and announced upcoming European tour in October. Double album with new studio and some live recordings "We Are on the Edge" has been just released as well.

The band for all these decades was an unorthodox avant-garde celebrities of sort - their early circus-like shows and use of nontraditional sound instruments ("little instruments" - bells, bicycle horns, birthday party noisemakers,etc,etc)made them name partially around Europe as non-conformist forerunners, at the same time they were rarely supported by music critics and never experienced real commercial success. With years to come they received almost cult status as influential early avant-garde jazz band, but many newcomers are often disappointed when listening their one or another album.

There are many reasons why it happens that way, but the main one is their music worked well when evidenced live and in the times when them looked really alternative/counterculture act (i.i. late 60s -early 70s). The Western world was different and it wanted something revolutionary or even "revolutionary". They just started in right time (and in a case with Paris ca.1969 - in right place). Their music doesn't date all that well, at least some part of it.

The other reason why many their albums (to be honest - almost all) doesn't sound all that attractive today is on a peak of their early popularity they released plenty of badly recorded and edited music. All but one their albums recorded between 1969 and 1974 were released on tiny European (predominantly French) labels as BYG or America and often sound as unedited demos. In case with AEOC music bad sound mix and uninspired editing means that the listener receives a collection of muddy directless never-ending noises coming from small instruments time to time interrupted by tuneful marches and "true" instruments soloing. Those familiar with band's impressive discogs will probably agree that it is almost impossible to mention even a few really great their albums (in whole). As rule, even their better releases contain few stronger pieces and lot of fillers. At the same time, early live recordings are predominantly of bootleg quality and can be recommended for hot fans and collectors mostly.

Their first American major label release came in 1974 only (on Atlantic) and it stays one of their better works for sure. Second album has been released after five years only, and it is the one we are speaking about - "Nice Guys" on prestigious ECM! Musically it represents a wide variety of regular AEOC music, but in term of quality it is a big step ahead. Renown by their recordings exclusive airy clear sound, ECM people recorded the material in their main Tonstudio Bauer in Ludwigsburg with full respect to each of many sounds traditionally produced by band. At last the dedicated listener can hear every smallest bell's ring and car signal's call as if he's in a room where the band is playing live.

Surprisingly how much that sound/mix quality adds to band's music - being musically mostly the same on "Nice Guys" the band sounds much richer and for sure more attractively. Then, there are only 6 compositions chosen for the album and them mostly are all quite short (in AEOC terms). It means there are no long bulky "little instruments" soling at every possibility, as it was before. General band music's relaxed and improvisational nature is presented well enough but still all material is edited making it much more listenable.

The opener "Ja" contains reggae rhythms and is one of these band's songs that stays in memory for years. Less than two-minutes long "Nice Guys" is a groovy song nicely filling the gap between the opener and "Folkus" - a longer and freer composition demonstrating all the collection of band's "little instruments" and gongs sounds and excellent recording studio and ECM engineers abilities as well. And - it doesn't sound annoying or boring.

On "597-59" band runs ahead on whole cylinders with continuing reeds soloing over the groovy drums/bass shaking ground, in a true free jazz fashion. Finishes with extended solo bass dance.

"Cyp"doesn't have such busy sound as other album's compositions, it is slower,almost static with crispy sound from each instrument, free and near philosophical. "Dreaming of the Master" - the closer and longest album song, is dedicated to Miles Davis and surprisingly enough it sounds not much different from Miles himself, circa late 50s.At least in the beginning and the end - central part is dedicated to free jazz.

"Nice Guys" is a high quality representative AEOC album covering their first five years. As almost any other ECM release it has re-issued many times and it isn't a problem to find it for purchase. One better choice for newbies and anyone interested to find out why Art Ensemble of Chicago are celebrities till now. Find it, listen and then go to see them live.

WILLIAM PARKER Voices Fall From The Sky

Album · 2018 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Voices Fall From The Sky" is an unusual album even for bassist and composer William Parker who's music is always way unpredictable. And not because it is a massive three-CD set - Parker often uses similar format for his releases in new millennium. Simply, it is a vocal album. Parker often uses vocalists for some his projects, but songs with vocal usually take smaller part of the album, if at all. And here we have three-CD set exclusively dedicated to vocalists!

Not all music here is jazz and far not all material is new as well. First disc in a set, titled same as whole release - "Voices Fall From The Sky" - is a new recording with only a short opener coming from Parker's 2006 album "Long Hidden: The Olmec Series". It contains predominantly duos or small combos playing avant-garde ballads (jazz and non-jazz) sung by ten different female and male singers, one or two per piece). It works quite well and recalls Ran Blake recordings with Jeannie Lee."We Often Danced" with Fay Victor is a peak. On this part, Parker himself plays on five songs only (all but one - bass, and ngoni on "Airlift").

Disc 2 titled simply "Songs" contains lot of previously released material. Only four songs have been previously unreleased and are material from the vault (recorded in 1991 and 1993). All them are minimalist duets of William Parker on bass or Japanese pianist Yuko Fujiyama with singers Lisa Sokolov or Ellen Christi. All but one rest songs on this CD are duets as well, piano or bass plus singer, all comes from already released albums. Parker is an only bassist, but we can hear two more pianist - another Japanese Eri Yamamoto and Parker's regular collaborator Cooper-Moore changing each other. Well known from other Parker projects singer Leena Conquest is added on the vocalists list (beside of lesser known Senegalese Mola Sylla). Predominantly dark bare-naked minimalist ballads continue the spirit and atmosphere of the first set's CD. Part are jazzy, others - more camber/non-jazz avant-garde.

CD 3 opens with live big-band version of "The Essence Of Ellington" with Ernie Odoom on vocals, recorded live in Italy in 2012 and already released on Parker's "Essence Of Ellington" same year. It continues with "Lights Of Lake George" sung by Indian classical vocalist Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay and supported by same Parker's Orchestra (already released in 2008 on "Double Sunrise Over Neptune"). Deep sultry Leena Conquest voice is easy recognizable on perfect but already heard "For Fannie Lou Hamer"(from "For Those Who Are, Still",2015). "Deep Flower" is groovy composition with recitative vocals coming from obscure "Wood Flute Songs. Anthology / Live 2006-2012"(2013).

What comes after is probably a biggest surprise of whole release. Parker's composed four-part avant-garde jazz suite of sort, performed by trio of already mentioned above Japanese pianist Eri Yamamoto,Estonian drummer Leonid Galaganov and Afro-American mezzo-soprano AnnMarie Sandy combines avant-garde minimalist piano-drums duo with operatic vocals. It is a new material, released for the first time here, it not always works but at the same time it is the music which attracts the attention for sure.

Whole set closes with beautiful "Natasha's Theme" from "Alphaville Suite, Music Inspired By The Jean Luc Godard Film", a Parker's album released in 2007 on French Rogueart Jazz label.

A mixed bag, this album contains a lot of great music and some interesting music, but cleaned from reissues and edited till more listenable size of single CD, it could be an another Parker's strong release. Still worth listening for sure, at least for recordings one can't find on any other Parker's album.


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