Jazz Music Reviews from Atavachron

OSCAR PETERSON Tristeza on Piano

Album · 1970 · Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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It is no surprise that some in the jazz intelligentsia consider this period to be Oscar Peterson's best. Though debatable, I can't find flaw with that assessment. The fact that Peterson was in his mid forties only supports this notion, as more evidence indicates the creative and intellectual sweet spot for the brain occurs in midlife.

Tristeza ("sadness") is essentially Brazilian blues and describes the melancholy but life-loving culture of Brazil where there may be little relief from life's difficulties but still much joy and revelry, even in the poorest favelas. Accordingly, this record not only reflects that as only Peterson could, but is a rich and shining display of where his style had led him. This trio's feet hit the ground running for the title, bossa nova on high with O.P.'s fluidity and signature glissandos filling the space, followed well by Peterson-penned 'Nightingale' as a cool samba. A sweet re-imagining of Gershwin's 'Porgy' with a little Georgia on the mind, some gentle bossa nova for 'Triste', mid-bop of 'You Stepped Out of a Dream' with Sam Jones' bass walking overtime, romantic 'Watch What Happens' and the bright & brilliant wanderings of 'Fly Me to the Moon' spotlighting Peterson's taste for Tyner as well as Monk.

Good stuff, well worth your money, and not a bad starter for this Canuck legend.

STÉPHANE GRAPPELLI Jazz in Paris: Improvisations

Album · 1957 · Swing
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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Jazz is the bleu cheese of popular music. It's robust, complex, sophisticated, and, as any good cheese, often smells like a dead man's feet. When you're talking jazz violin, the line between sweet & sour is thin; no frets or classical positions to rely on and four delicate strings so responsive and elastic it's a miracle a few straight notes are ever voiced. Plus you're improvising. It's like dancing in a swamp, and you better be damn good.

And Stéphane Grappelli was all kinds of good. More importantly, he was brave, and understood not just trad jazz but the art of spontaneity. He'd learned it the hard way busking in France, swinging and bopping his way to the top, paying his dues, and becoming one of the finest stringmen in the world. Some think of Grappelli as "gypsy music", though he is nothing of the sort. This is one of his earliest records proper as a solo artist (a sort of comeback for him after a dry spell) backed-up by the smokin' trio of piano great Mo Vander, double-bassist Pierre Michelot, and Baptiste Reilles' skins. The 1956 issue consists largely of standards, and Sinatra never did 'Lady is a Tramp' like this.

As a young jazz listener, I wasn't much partial to standards. I found them, well, boring. But here the beauty and possibilities of a quality tune is abundantly clear, the opportunity to to alter, even destroy and rebuild a good ditty, never more glorious. Grappelli's bluenotes curl around melodies and pull them into malleable phrases of giddy delight and musical wonder, as on 'Fascinatin Rhythm' with its sudden modulations and stuttering pace. Contemplative and slightly sad 'Dans la Vie', lively 'Cheek to Cheek', tightly-swung 'Taking a Chance on Love' with Grappelli all over the neck and Mo Vander starting to come out.

For '56 this is a lovely recording, levels for 'S'Wonderful' spot-on and Baptiste Reilles showing why he was considered the best brusher in the business. More Gershwin Bros. with 'Someone to Watch Over Me' sporting a misplaced harpsichord, bright-eyed and bushytailed 'If I Had You', sublime ruminations of 'Body and Soul' and frantic whirling of 'I Want to be Happy' where these boys just let it go. Utterly heartsick 'Shes Funny That Way' takes us along with two lovers walking & shopping in Paris, and 'Time After Time' allows us to peek into their intimacy later that night.

The historic session wraps with a hot-bop treatment of Cole Porter's 'Just One of Those Things' and a few alternate takes. If you're ready for Grappelli and what is possible from a good jazz violinist, he's ready for you and always will be-- hanging in time, waiting patiently for you to discover his elegant magic.

JIMI HENDRIX Band of Gypsys

Live album · 1970 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 3.99 | 9 ratings
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It was an increasingly difficult time to be a musician. The last performance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in June of 1969 was marred by tear gas and rioting, and led to the group's dissolution. Jimi found himself with little support at a time when the pitfalls of success were starting to eat at him. Bad business arrangements, poor management, thievery, harassment and legal problems, the most innovative musician of his generation found himself abandoned by almost everyone at a time when he should have been reaping his well-earned rewards. And in order to settle a disastrous contractual obligation, he had to deliver a new album of original material.

But after securing the help of friend and drummer Buddy Miles and old army pal Billy Cox on bass, Hendrix was ready to reemerge as both rock deity and blues legend, and it resulted in one of the finest live recordings in music history. It is the only full live LP released during Jimi's lifetime and the last album before his death in the fall of 1970. After a ten-day rehearsal, the trio played four shows in NYC over two days on the cusp of 1969/70 produced by Hendrix. The fellas waste no time and roll into 'Who Knows', a mid-tempo shuffle that showcases Jimi's gifts; the riffing, phrasing, fills, perfect tone and surprisingly perfect intonation, spewing blues fire through his Marshall cab, his wah functioning well and employing a new filter that mimics a steeldrum. Hendrix's production is beautifully clean-- Cox round, warm and heavy, Miles crisp, all mixed just the right way. Legendary 'Machine Gun' raises things to a higher level, the poignancy of the times it reflects not lost and Jimi's electrifying use of his ax as a musical weapon splaying open those troubled days with the abandon of a true artist, his guitar howling into this New Years night bravely leading his ragtag following into the jaws of death and love all at once. He played his amplifiers as much as his guitars, using them as instruments and that is no better heard here, outdoing even his famous Woodstock performance and miming the firing of an automatic rifle at the crowd. This is Hendrix the player, and it's where he shone most brightly. The chaos that was Hendrix's reality is also mirrored in these shows and seemed to come exploding out during this 2-night event [the rest of the material available as Hendrix Live at the Fillmore East]-- all the frustration, disillusionment, treachery and strangeness blown back out to the world. And no one could do that better than him. 'Changes' is an upbeat and melodic Buddy Miles tune and 'Power of Soul' is bright and brilliant, a free-flying dance of sheer energy and heavy blues joy. Hendrix signature piece 'Message to Love' is always a pleasure and another Miles cut finishes with some R'nB.

A clean and pure expression of why James Marshall Hendrix was what he was to so many, this is an unimprovable document and his finest moment as instrumentalist.

TONY WILLIAMS The Tony Williams Lifetime ‎: Emergency!(2LP)

Album · 1969 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.56 | 11 ratings
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When we are witness to a new kind of art, it should be noted. And though the first glimpses of an unproven form are sometimes raw, the impact is usually undeniable. This is the case with 'Emergency!'. Sometimes ugly but always real, this little record is very likely the first true and fully blended mix of modern jazz with electric rock in all its manic glory. There had been hints at it, experiments and false starts that often lacked total vision, like Cannonball Adderly's use of pop stylings in jazz. As well, Miles Davis is most often credited with being the 'father' of jazz-rock but on closer inspection, Davis is, at best, its grandfather whose 'In a Silent Way' (1969) was more a flirtation between styles than an infusion of musics. There were superior and better-realized fusion projects to come, such as John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu and the later symphonic aspirations of Chick Corea and Al Di Meola. But in hindsight, this rough, tainted and trance-induced set, deeply intuitive on a level not before heard, is the first recording of jazz artists doing what the heavy blues and psych scenes had been doing for years. And while there had been those who progressed jazz itself, such as Jimmy Giuffre, Dave Brubeck or Gunther Schuller, no one had brought together the hot bop of Coltrane with the howling rock spirit of Jimi Hendrix in the same room at the same time. Finally... Fusion with a capital 'F' had arrived, kicking and screaming but alive and well.

This session, not to be confused with Williams' first album as leader in 1964 titled 'Lifetime', had all the makings for explosive creativity and boundary- wrecking; John McLaughlin's guitar sounding more urgent and other-worldly than ever, Larry Young's irrepressible organ, and Williams' ridiculously confident charge on drums. If one didn't know better, the nine-minute title cut could just be the sound of another crazy jazz band bopping their way into the 1970's with drug-induced abandon. But the unmistakable sounds of riff rock can be heard fighting to break on through, Larry Young's insistent organ- grind, McLaughlin's lead, and the whole thing coming alive with Williams' crashes and acrobatic backbeat. Some acid mud follows, as well as passages of sheer spontaneity. 'Beyond Games' is hideous and nervous freeform featuring Williams' bizarre vocals and the 12-minute 'Where' is a troubled dervish of a jam, dizzying and sweaty with odd rhythms, sudden changes of mood and semi-classical lines running between guitar and organ. But it's the fourth, 'Vashkar', where we begin to hear the first clearly-cut form of jazz rock with all of its facets, finally gelling in the way we would become familiar with in later years showing intelligent melodics, tight dynamics, and plenty of fire. 'Via the Spectrum Road' is the requisite weird pop-psych tune, but luckily the firecracking jam 'Spectrum' wakes things up again with pure hot jazz and wild soloing from everyone. It would be the highlight of the set if not for the 13- minute 'Sangria For Three', a beautifully messy explosion of jazz rock at its most pure. 'Something Special' finishes with unsettled dissonance and closes out a musical statement so bold and irreverent that it was, in the truest sense, revolutionary. A mad experiment gone out of control and one of the most important records you will ever hear.

BILL BRUFORD One Of A Kind

Album · 1979 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 4.45 | 25 ratings
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Cold, indulgent, mechanical, the worst of rock and jazz pushed together with no thought to the proprieties of either form, all these things could be attributed to Bill Bruford's second solo record. But that's exactly where its strengths rest. Who says music has to be full of heart and soul? Almost everyone, I suppose. But therein lies the beauty of this follow-up and why it was one of the best fusion offerings of its day.

Tony Williams and John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu had both given us jazzrock's raging heart, RTF and Colosseum I & II raised the ante and gave us heavy symphonic fusion, but Bill Bruford's band, made up of four of the finest musicians in the world - maybe *the* finest - was an animal less attached to the grimey floor of "Fusion", wanting instead to to live the life robotic, to revel in technical accomplishment not just on their instruments but also in the feel and delivery of the music. There is also a great deal of fun heard here and a sense these four absolutely loved playing together.

Mechanical as it may be, this is an inspired set. I mean, Dave Stewart, Jeff Berlin, Allan Holdsworth and Bill Bruford... c'mon, it doesn't get much better. The assemblyline sounds of Stewart's synth pushes off 'Hells Bells' establishing a crisp sound and some hip phrasing from his Rhodes piano and faux vibes for parts One & Two supports the title. Holdsworth, being the hard-rocker with a John Coltrane heart he is, gives his best. Jeff Berlin is his flawless and uncanny self and Bill holds it all together, in command but not overshadowing. 'Travels With Myself and Someone Else' is pleasant enough middle-of-the-road electric jazz and is followed by the clean machinations of 'Fainting in Coils', a stunner with a funeral-organ midsection and crack playing by everyone. Despite Berlin's wan gonking, 'Five G' is a successful rocker, 'The Abingdon Chasp' is reasonable, 'Forever Until Sunday' grows into sleek sci-fi rock with a spastic solo from Allan. And both parts of 'Sahara of Snow' are ingenious rhythmic play, an appropriate finish to a spectacular set.

It was projects like this (among other things) that caused Bruford's departure from two of Prog Rock's cornerstone bands, and it was well worth it. A triumph, and probably his finest hour as leader.

NIACIN Organik

Album · 2005 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.25 | 7 ratings
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An astonishingly good record from one of the premier fusion trios of our time, 'Organik' rocks as hard as it impresses. John Novello's gritty Hammond organ takes the lead with dizzying lines of church-rock and bluesy gospel fire. Backing him up on bass is the tapping ex-metal god Billy Sheehan and on skins is Dennis Chambers, maybe the finest drummer currently in jazz rock. Full of mind-boggling rhythms, jagged counterpoint, confounding grooves, and a deft conjoining of modern jazz, R&B, hard rock, Bach-isms and classic progressive fusion, Chambers, Novello & Sheehan deliver the goods on what is their most powerful and accomplished studio work.

From the bumblebee kinetics of the opening 'Barbarian at the Gate' we know we're in for a special ride and in good hands as the band punches us into a stupor with lighting moves and tumbling action, stops on a dime and then explodes again. 'Nemesis' grooves right into place and builds into a jam to die for, each player giving more than their all and playing as if they had an hour before the world came crashing down around them, a feeling maintained for 'Blisterine', a title that speaks for itself ('I've got blisters on me fingers!!'). The easier, jazz club sounds of 'King Kong' provide a nice rest while still bubbling away, resurrecting the Hammond sounds of the great Jimmy Smith with joy and some cool improv. The semi-tango 'Super Grande' becomes a hardrocker with swells of organ, 'Magnetic Mood' drags a bit but is saved by a speedy rollercoaster mid-section, and 'Hair of the Dog' is a classy fusion bopper reminding of Chambers' other group CAB with some nice modern jazz and bottomy bass. '4`5 3' is a fascinating slice of fugue-rock battered by rhythm`n blues and angular twists and turns, while cuts like 'Club Soda' and 'No Shame' let in some funk but never enough to spoil this jazzical feast. The album closes with the rich and pretty 'Footprints in the Sand'. Niacin (named for vitamin B3, also the type of organ used) is a true unit; all three members at once leading and following, always giving but never hogging, forward moving, not to be denied. One of the best releases of 2005. Man, what a band.

JOHN ABERCROMBIE Gateway 2 (with Dave Holland & Jack DeJohnette)

Album · 1978 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.56 | 8 ratings
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John Abercrombie's music has always been about texture more than anything else; mood, feeling, color, and the slow expansion of time over space. It is electric jazz at its most sensitive, liberated from the trappings of fusion.

This follow-up to the classic 'Gateway' album features Dave Holland's sumptuous double bass filling the room with its deep sound and booming anchor, and the tight but loose Jack DeJohnette shooting with silky confidence on the traps. And then of course there's John Abercrombie, an instrumentalist like no other, putting the icing on the cake with notes and phrases that seem to come from nowhere and resonate with light before disappearing again. The centerpiece of 'Gateway 2' has to be 'Nexus', a deft and infectious rhythm punctuated by soaring, often weeping solos. Abercrombie is able to *pull* notes and sounds out of his ax that lightly fill the air with painterly images-- vibrations having no discernible beginning or ending, as if his physical connection to the guitar is more important than his musical one. The result is a sensual, almost carnal impression of an artist in love with his muse and the private experience of that relationship recorded for us to peek into. A lovely third outing for this trio and an elegant addition to their catalog.

AL DI MEOLA Scenario

Album · 1983 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 2.82 | 3 ratings
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This was an interesting phase for Mr. Di Meola. It was the 1980s after all, not an easy time for any musician who'd been around as long as he, and he found himself adapting to that brave new musical world the best way he could. The result was 'Scenario', and it turned out to be quite a tasty little album. The line up for the session was also an asset; Jan Hammer on keys, Fairlight CMI, piano, Linn and Roland drums, and Moog bass. As well, Bill Bruford and Tony Levin guest on a track, and Phil Collins appears. This didn't produce a prog supergroup for the 80s but it did make for one of the better synthetic projects of that often garish period.

The winds of the East and an Indian Bansuri, all electronic, open the desert pictures of 'Mata Hari', a track that showcases fluid rhythms from Hammer's Linn drums and Fairlight with Di Meola's cool plucking on top. The obligatory Adult Contemporary pap follows with 'African Night' and the record is further diminished by the dreadful 'Island Dreamer'. Luckily, these two maestros snap out of it and give us the superb title cut, a lovely and passioned duet of Al's Flamenco strings with Hammer's alternating piano and synth. A diamond in the rough and one of the things worth admission. 'Sequencer', in many ways the flagship of this project, is a bright electro-rocker where the blend of high-tech with hard rock is best illuminated and features one of this guitarist's best, most elegantly fierce staccato performances. 'Cachaca' slows the pace a bit but the guitar still cuts like a knife as it does in 'Hypnotic Conviction'. The eerie 'Calliope' develops into an odd-metered romp with melodic solos and the album finishes with the racing and clipping 'Scoundrel', an exercise in instrumental prowess. And please note the hats-off to Jeff Beck's 'Blue Wind' at the end, a well-deserved homage to that rock fusion giant.

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Road Games

EP · 1983 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.99 | 5 ratings
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Road Games is comprised of what could be thought of as a "supergroup", with veteran bassist Jeff Berlin providing his unshakable foundation to Allan Holdsworth's confounding music, Jack Bruce and Paul Williams on various vocals, and the great Chad Wackerman drumming. This is also one of Holdsworth's gentler offerings with lots of bright light generally not found on his other albums and though rhythmically intricate, it isn't as eager to impress or exhibit. Consequently, the impact is understated, making 'Road Games' one of this extraordinary player's most unique sets. And hats off to Eddie Van Halen for his pull with Warner in getting this released, a project that likely would not have had support from a major label. The full album appears to remain unfinished though the original EP was Grammy nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Holdsworth's tactile influence on Mr. Van Halen has always been evident (especially when hearing this record), and it was a fitting toast to a Grand Master.

He had not begun recording with a synthaxe yet, and the feathery quality of these cuts is contrasted by Allan's sharp-edged lead guitar with very few layers, extras or unnecessary effects, just clean and pure expressions of his special gift. As a young man, he had been a saxophonist enthralled by Coltrane and others, and that deep connection to the sax comes through in a way that must be heard to fully appreciate. The contemplative 'Three Sheets to the Wind' with its chordal swells reaches a fat solo packed with this player's fluid and furious pattern-making.

Former Tempest colleague Paul Williams handles the singing on the title track which features Holdsworth's own closed-voice chords and a squealing lead. 'Water On the Brain Pt. ll' just rocks, another little structural wonder of rhythmics with a nearly-perfect bass solo from Jeff Berlin and 'Tokyo Dream', though a bit frivolous, is pleasant enough and is rescued by another cutting guitar performance. Finally, Jack Bruce is up on voice for the halcyon 'Was There?' and two blistering but brief noodles from Allan, as well as the dreamy 'Material Real'. Looking back, if not a definitive example of his work, this was one of A.H.'s more interesting and revealing sessions

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Sand

Album · 1987 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.70 | 8 ratings
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This is a weird one. Sand was Allan Holdsworth's embrace of the new possibilities in artificial music and it spotlighted his use of the dreaded Synthaxe; foe to all good-thinking guitarists. The record is a terribly antiseptic, cold-sounding affair with much of the 'guitar' work played and processed through the aforementioned device from Hell. But it allowed Holdsworth to phrase more fluidly, much like a horn player does. This had been his goal, after all, to do on the guitar what Coltrane had done on the saxophone. And perhaps the material suffers for it. But it is also a really interesting take on modern fusion and contains some fascinating music. It's not all void of real instruments, either; Bassist Jimmy Johnson is the anchor of this session and keeps an otherwise gravity-defying set grounded, and Gary Husband and Chad Wackerman have some fun on actual drumsets. And considering *no* keyboards are used (except a single solo), it was quite a breakthrough and probably deserves a more prominent spot in modern progressive jazz history.

A tone vignette introduces the title, a dissonant and off-putting number that lurches and irritates. 'Distance vs. Desire' wanders off into a cybernetic haze and is painfully long, but some neat noises and bizarre chords brighten 'Pud Wud', Husband drumming up a storm in the face of this synthetic takeover and featuring a nimble lead from Allan. 'Clown' crunches open and bops to a queasy beat before putting us out of our misery with a delightful synth phrase in 'The 4.15 Bradford Executive' with its nutty drum sounds and vibrating guitar part, and a Mac computer is used on the silicone 'Mac Man', quite a novel proposition in 1987.

The record failed to thrill and didn't show this alien technology in the best light, and at 35 minutes is short and sweet. But the world had become a new place, and Sand was among the first of a few brave ventures into that unknown territory.

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH I. O. U.

Album · 1982 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.17 | 14 ratings
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Allan Holdsworth's proper debut after the disastrous 'Velvet Darkness' (and a joint venture with Gordon Beck) was a quiet but definite triumph, and the fact that few seemed to notice didn't diminish the musical ripples this LP sent out. It presented a music altogether new, led by a player who had arrived in a big way and took the notion of jazz-rock to a different place. 'The Things You See' has Paul Williams back in great form, Paul Carmichael's sensitive bass and the unstoppable Gary Husband on traps. Unassuming but fantastically complex is 'Where is One', dotted with many little tastes of Holdsworth's brilliance. Here was much more than just fusion. 'Checking Out' rocks with smart arrangements and fresh ideas, 'Letters of Marque' features rich atmospherics and a kick-ass drum solo from Husband. 'Out From Under' is heavy jazz with Holdsworth's signature atonalities, demonstrating Williams' vocal talents and musical understanding, and 'Shallow Sea' is an instrumental showcase. There is every chance you may hate this record, and that's okay. It's progressive, it rocks, and in 1982 was an astounding musical statement. Challenging, difficult and absolutely brilliant.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Apocalypse

Album · 1974 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 3.80 | 26 ratings
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Often ignored in favor of their better-known releases, M.O.'s 1974 project was an ambitious gathering of musicians from all backgrounds led by McLaughlin and his second Mahavishnu incarnation of Ralphe Armstrong on bass, the percussion of Michael Walden, Gayle Moran's keys and voice, and Jean-Luc Ponty's violins. They are supported by the London Symphony Orchestra with George Martin handling production and except for a few passages of dated jam-rock, it is among the best things they ever did. In '74, it was nothing terribly original in the brave new world of progressive fusion to employ a full orchestra, or to dabble in realms never meant to meet. What is special about this session is that it worked so well. And it is filled with beautiful, powerful music.

A solemn piano, John's strings and a vibration of brass gingerly awaken 'Power of Love', sad and reflective, a nourishing piece that tugs at the heart. The mood changes and this record comes alive on the enormous 'Vision is a Naked Sword', a titan of strings, horns, and Walden's cracking skins. It expands with rushes of change, huge movements, migrations west, east, and the two crashing into each other with great joy. And McLaughlin's fevered frenzy out in front, possessed, as if he's trying to squeeze out several lines at once. 'Smile of the Beyond' is pleasant enough and features Gayle Moran's engaging mezzo-soprano, the London Symphony giving their all with much pride and no prejudice as heard in 'Wings of Karma' and the sublime 'Hymn to Him', a 19- minute roiling cauldron of musical interaction, atom-smashing, skattered altercations and the occasional explosion of life. An album that remains a passed-over high point in the all too often bourgeois world of fusion, and perhaps John McLaughlin's finest hour as leader.

QUIET SUN Mainstream

Album · 1975 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 4.36 | 17 ratings
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The stories behind this Phil Manzanera-led set are numerous including an all night recording session wherein all the primaries were cut, the simultaneous release of his solo 'Diamond Head' which mirrors part of the material here, and a slew of record company rejection letters that rivals the best of 'em, complete with the furiously scribbled notes of a determined artist. It reminds us that even in 1975, perhaps the zenith of progressive music's popular appeal, material like this was a hard sell. But Manzanera had seen some success with Roxie Music, 'Diamond Head' was bound for the charts, and RM bandmate Brian Eno was along for the ride on this one for synth treatments. In musical hindsight, the result was one of the great rock expressions of its time. A truly whole and unique event that seems to happen spontaneously, and though a mere two rehearsals were had it is a fully-realized basement symphony, a dream one afternoon, a young man's triumph and a rare gift.

Eight-minute 'Sol Caliente' could not be better named and achieves a mingling of black fire rhythm and minimalist wave theory, jazz drone and molecular exploration that ends all too soon on the near-perfect (and trumpet-less) 'Trumpets With Motherhood'. Drummer Charles Hayward is alive, his traps mixed in front, partnered by bassist Bill MacCormack's needlepoint thunk and Dave Jarrett's light touch on the Fender Rhodes. A kazoo free-for-all opens 'Bargain Classics' but it's as if the first cut never ended, just got more deeply into an already astounding moment of clarity and madness at once, the players braving the hot soot and sparks given off, pushing deeper with no thought to outcome... the experience of a living, blood-pumping creature, startling in appearance and not a little threatening. Manzanera's classic hard-fuzz guitar tone grounds us to realty when necessary Canterbury style, like a comforting friend during a long mescaline trip. But his leadership is entirely generous and he allows all members to shine, creating the special conditions that made this session what it is. 'Mummy Was an Asteroid' is miraculous, huge, inspired... layered guitar and key lines meeting on the street for some bold infighting, Phil's wailing solos, what Soft Machine could have been. 'Trot' provides a short rest but is equally compelling, Jarrett's soft jazz and Eno's childlike background colors. The infamous 'Rongwrong' finishes and though endless, turns itself into a sweet and not unsingable love song featuring Charles Hayward's slightly off whine and stiff tongue in cheek performance from the band.

Surely a masterwork of its kind though best viewed against the backdrop of prog history, and I suspect the record will please those most who have heard a tremendous amount of music, good and bad.

HERBIE HANCOCK Crossings

Album · 1972 · Classic Fusion
Cover art 4.67 | 47 ratings
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Nothing like it had ever been done. By the end of the 1960s, modern jazz had traveled a world away from its humble beginnings, having inspired as many non-jazz artists as it had produced stars. Keyboardist Herbie Hancock was a central part of that American jazz renaissance which saw not only the relatively young form come into its own as a truly viable art, but unexpectedly grow into something beyond even the bloody revolutions of John Coltrane, quiet coups of Miles Davis, and hostile takeovers of Tony Williams & John McLaughlin. Hancock's 1972 offering was an altogether new sound, and though its moods and textures had been gingerly approached by others (and Hancock himself on the previous Mwandashi),Crossings was a fully realized music come of age at just the right moment. "The new avant-garde has finally found a direction", he reflected in 1971, "but it's like a spectrum. It's not one direction; there are many and they all have to do with giving people an experience rather than just giving them a bunch of notes". This 'experience' set the tone for most of the important directions in jazz - and much music in general - that followed. A fresh voice of improvisation and adventure that began finding its way into almost every film, TV show, and jazz & fusion record. It was real, urban, alive, and it was terribly American.

Billy Hart's drums and the child's play of the band on various pan-African percussives create the drum conversation that opens 'Sleeping Giant', Hancock's electric piano eventually chiming in, Buster Williams's resonant upright bass rises and falls and things begin to heat up nicely. A quiet reflection at the 7-minute mark vibrates with the bitter experimentation of Schoenberg and evolves into bumpy funk before slowing again for a refrain of brass, the band throbbing with Benny Maupin's bass clarinet and Eddie Henderson's flugelhorn dueling with the bass & drums, ending softly after twenty-five minutes. Uneasy 'Quasar' settles on a complex Latin rhythm and then dissolves into cosmic pie, and 14-minute 'Water Torture' further explores the griot drum languages of the Mande and Soninke as it wanders and weeps through the streets of a sleeping city.

A transcendent experience that has grown over time into one of the most powerful, moving and innovative artistic statements of the modern era, and no music like it has since emerged.

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