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PARLIAMENT Mothership Connection Album Cover Mothership Connection
PARLIAMENT
4.89 | 9 ratings
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FRANK ZAPPA The Grand Wazoo (The Mothers) Album Cover The Grand Wazoo (The Mothers)
FRANK ZAPPA
4.67 | 33 ratings
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SOFT MACHINE Third Album Cover Third
SOFT MACHINE
4.62 | 47 ratings
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STEELY DAN Aja Album Cover Aja
STEELY DAN
4.68 | 20 ratings
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STEVIE WONDER Innervisions Album Cover Innervisions
STEVIE WONDER
4.77 | 11 ratings
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CURTIS MAYFIELD Superfly Album Cover Superfly
CURTIS MAYFIELD
4.99 | 5 ratings
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FRANK ZAPPA One Size Fits All (as Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention) Album Cover One Size Fits All (as Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention)
FRANK ZAPPA
4.61 | 31 ratings
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FRANK ZAPPA Over-Nite Sensation (The Mothers) Album Cover Over-Nite Sensation (The Mothers)
FRANK ZAPPA
4.61 | 25 ratings
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MARTIN DENNY Exotica Album Cover Exotica
MARTIN DENNY
4.94 | 5 ratings
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JOHN ZORN Magick Album Cover Magick
JOHN ZORN
4.86 | 6 ratings
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STEELY DAN Countdown to Ecstasy Album Cover Countdown to Ecstasy
STEELY DAN
4.64 | 16 ratings
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FRANK ZAPPA Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar Album Cover Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar
FRANK ZAPPA
4.82 | 6 ratings
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jazz related Music Reviews

LAURINDO ALMEIDA Viva Bossa Nova!

Album · 1962 · Exotica
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js
Although Laurindo Almeida was involved in many top notch authentic Bossa Nova albums, he was hardly a purist and didn’t mind mixing pop elements with Bossa Nova with the intent of reaching a broader audience. Such is the case with “Viva Bossa Nova!” from 1962, the rhythms are pure Bossa Nova, and they are expertly played, but the melodies come from popular movies and TV shows. Adding to the early 60s pop appeal is Jimmy Rowles playing a beautifully cheezy electric organ, the ultimate in ‘lounge cool’ in this pre-hippie era. It all adds up, real Bossa Nova fans may not dig this, but its perfect for fans of exotica and 60s bachelor pad mystique.

Although this was mostly meant to be a pop album, none of these excellent musicians checked their creativity and talent at the door. All of the arrangements are varied and interesting and almost every tune provides a solo or two. Some top tune honors go to “Maria”, with a great sax solo from Bob Cooper, and “Petite Le Fleur” with a beautiful bass flute melody from Justin Gordon. “Mr Lucky” and “Theme from Route 66” are also successes in arrangement and execution. Throughout this album, Almeida and his producers stay away from overplayed tunes and the kind of super corny songs that can often drag these kind of records down. “Moon River” is probably the only song close to that category, everything else on here sounds fairly fresh.

Although the choice of songs pushes this album more in a pop/exotica type direction, the high musicianship and general good-taste in presentation might make this appealing to fans of real Bossa Nova too.

YES The Yes Album

Album · 1971 · Jazz Related Rock
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siLLy puPPy
In a world rife with heinous harrumphitude and tantrum yoga, the purveyors of positivity released this phenomenal transitional album way back in1971. One of my earliest introductions to progressive rock music was THE YES ALBUM which burst onto the scene in 1971. So powerful is this album that it completely overpowers the first two which often get completely ignored. Many erroneously believe this to be the first YES album because it is the first of the string of masterpieces that grace the early to mid-70s.

What we have here is a band who had already developed their sound quite successfully and ratcheted it up to the next several levels and deliver it with a sense of bravado not quite developed on the first two albums. Exit Peter Banks who contributed his signature progressive guitar runs over the basic blues licks of the 60s and in is alien extraordinare Steve Howe who took that sound and jazzed it up with gusto. In still is Tony Kaye on keyboards who just couldn't let that 60s moog sound go. Ultimately he exited stage right because of his unwillingness to progress with the band but on this sole album the crossroads are fertile creating a little musical goldmine in the process. Also gone are the covers and this is the debut of all original YES material which signifies that this band is now ready for prime time. Bill Bruford manifests his love for jazz on the drums solely taking YES into the realms of jazz-related rock.

The magic of this album is how accessible and complex it is at the same time. Just listen to this next to say, “Tales Of Topographic Oceans” or “Relayer” and it's obvious how easy it is to love instantly. That matters not because it is so brilliantly executed. The melodies are contagious but the band is on fire!!!! The passion pit is sweltering with the coals of long lost musical tidbits resurrected to create a renaissance of musical magnificence. Steve Howe's solo piece “The Clap” is a perfect example of how he brings a sorta homey feel to the complexities that arise. The acoustic guitar virtuoso displays a good old countrified bluegrass ragtime blitzkrieg that only replicates itself amongst the more spacey and progressive tracks on this album thus keeping the tunes from spiraling into the stratosphere and reining them in to the accessisphere. A classic of classics that is the perfect place to dive into the wonderful world of YES where even the most hardened progger can entertain melodic magnificence with melodramatic progginess seeping into every nook and note. Hippy dippy and WTF lyrics rule here but that is what makes it so cute and charismatic at the same time. YES! I love this album! YES! Oh God YES!

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER High Voltage Festival

Live album · 2010 · Jazz Related Rock
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EntertheLemming
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"We rehearsed for five weeks, which I could never understand why we needed to rehearse that long, Upon hearing the recordings, maybe five weeks was not long enough. It wasn't to the standard that I liked and I didn't think it sounded that good" (Carl Palmer)

They sound like a hungover pub band bluffing it under the delusion that only friends and family are in attendance. On the evidence of this superannuated bumper pay day that the trio repaid with their greatest hits karaoke, it saddens me to report that ELP are no longer even the best ELP tribute band around. Many of their missed entries and cues conspire to sound rushed and tardy, too early and too late which makes for a very nervy listening experience for this self-confessed ELP fanboy. Bum notes proliferate throughout making parts of Take a Pebble and Fanfare for the Common Man stray perilously close to self-parody. (I could swear Emerson is wearing mittens during Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 2) Musicians of this calibre however, cannot be uniformly abject for 90 minutes (which is exactly how long a soccer match lasts but it probably feels longer seeing as how we're watching Chelsea's pensioners, one of whom is certainly worthy of a red card or failing that, a red face Greg...) The FOH mixing boffins were clearly unable to tame the sonic gremlins that spoil much of this performance: the drums at the outset sound alternately like Tupperware surdos or timpanic watering cans. The Barbarian they portray here would probably break into your apartment, dust the place, tidy up the rooms and leave behind some baked fruit scones. Similarly, the extant Tarkus critter has been lobotomised into some sort of de-fanged proggie moggie who answers to the name of 'Frisky'. Lake's bass on Knife Edge approaches 'twangy brittle' rather than the required 'guttural brooding' although in mitigation, the aforementioned knob twiddlers have managed to perform some much needed running repairs to the appalling sound quality in the interim. On the up side, there appears a genuinely innovative moment re the unconventional piano intro to Lake's habitually guitar led From the Beginning which explores the implied jazz flavour of his 9th chord vamp quite beautifully. The synth patch used on Keith's outro solo is alas, a disaster, coming across like a busking Rolf Harris armed with Casio's flagship stylophone. Touch and Go lives up to it's associations with a completely fumbled/dropped ball intro from Keith that seems plain vanilla senile (How does this one go again lads? high dotage/dosage?) but settles down thereafter into a reasonably robust reading of what is probably the only classic post 80's ELP number by any permutation of those initials. I'm trying hard to accentuate what few positives there are but why is everything on here just so damn half-baked, wimpy and soulless?

"For me, it's just a pride thing Unless it's as good as what it can be, then I can't do it. I would have carried on if it had been as good as it was. I don't believe it was and I don't believe it would have ever gotten back to that standard". (Carl Palmer)

The piano improvisation through which Emerson negotiates from Take a Pebble to the Tarkus medley is brilliantly realised and the resultant Stones of Years is spared the indignity of degenerating into any anticipated 'Gallstones of Tears'. Things have perked up considerably hereabouts and Keith's organ solo is a veritable highlight of the set. Rather bizarrely, Greg deems it prudent to attenuate the feedback present on this number by erm, shouting 'feedback x 3' into the microphone as if this will somehow make it less noticeable? Worse than that, the now spherical blimp has the chutzpah to regale us with Mass without a trace of knowing irony. Although it's hardly a stand-out in their songbook, it's refreshing to hear a live version of Farewell to Arms from the criminally neglected Black Moon album. This has a quiet and understated dignity about it that survives Lake's habitually treacly 'spoken tag-line' bathos and the odd lapse into poorly digested Elgar betrayed by the arrangement. The grazing anti-warhorse that is Lucky Man benefits from a slyly ingenious piano intro which seems rather wasted on what has always been for me, a very insubstantial ballad. What weight it might possess is further undermined by it's author forgetting the lyrics to the first verse. Keith's gritty and ballsy organ certainly beefs things up considerably but once again, this is a brownie with delusions of being a three tiered wedding cake. To be fair to Prog's favourite law firm, (Emerson, Lake & Palmer est 1970 prop G. Lake esq) they offer a very spirited and in places, moving retread of Pictures at an Exhibition which follows the latter day truncated versions as contained on the likes of the Return of the Manticore. Here the band at least exemplify the hard won lesson that despite the stubborn excesses of their Prog lineage, 'less' is finally acknowledged as begetting a more satisfying and economic 'more'.

Much of the raggedness and inaccuracies that crept into Emerson's playing circa the early 90's were attributable to a trapped nerve condition that eventually required corrective surgery. Although the operation was considered a complete success it did have a debilitating effect on Keith's pianistic abilities thereafter. He had to pare down and relax his playing style somewhat compared to the shredding pyrotechnics of his 'gun-slinger' years. However, based on the evidence of the subsequent Keith Emerson Band studio album and Live in Moscow recordings with Marc Bonilla, his playing is unfailingly top notch on both so I'm at a loss as to why there are so many clinkers on High Voltage

By this point ELP didn't even have either 'Ham or Cheese' to offer their famished but faithful fanbase but we can at the very least finally answer that nagging question first posed in 1971: Are You Ready Eddy to pull those faders down? Yep, and turn out the lights when you leave the building thanks, this show ended 30 years ago.

THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES The Brand New Heavies (N'Dea Davenport vocals)

Album · 1991 · Acid Jazz
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js
There is a certain amount of confusion surrounding The Brand New Heavies’ first album (also called “The Brand New Heavies”). The original release featured Jay Williamson (named Jay Ella Ruth at the time) on vocals and was released in England in 1990. It was quickly replaced by a new version with a lot of the same songs, but with the much stronger N’Dea Davenport from the US on vocals. This version of the album was released first in the US and was also used later for any re-issues of the album worldwide. This review is also based on the Davenport version, as that has become the definitive version of the album for most.

This was the first album from England’s late 80s acid jazz fad to actually connect in the US. Although popular with the rave kids in England and elsewhere, acid jazz remained a mystery in the US, with only a few big cities on the coasts picking up on its trendy mix of 60s soul jazz, 70s funk and 80s DJ music. Early English acid jazz bands such as The James Taylor Quartet were a little too exotica cute and loungey to connect with the more funkified US RnB/dance/jazz scene. The Brand New Heavies, on the other hand, carried a lot more of the street rhythms and funky grooves that made them recognizable to the Americanos.

Musically the Heavies first album is similar to what The Commodores and Kool and the Gang were playing in the late 70s, a blend of pop and funk with very dance-able rhythms, but not as down and dirty as the more hardcore early to mid-70s funk sound. Every song and every riff on here is great, but its all done with a certain cleanliness that some funk fans may find a little on the lite side. Likewise, the instrumental numbers are similar to The Brecker Brothers, but not with the same blazing bebop chops. Davenport is a great singer, but her voice lacks character and personality, she sounds like the top notch back-up singer all of a sudden promoted to lead. It all adds up, this is a good album, but it would have been tops with a little more grit and grease.

Although most of this album stays on the pop-funk vibe, “Put the Funk Back In It” slows things down for a heavy p-funk groove, while follow up song “Gimme One of Those” takes the guitar riff from Funkadelic’s “Loose Booty” and tops it with classic James Brown style synth noodling. You’ll swear you’ve heard this song before somewhere back in the 70s. Live funk bands were a rarity in 1990, and this band was a real breath of fresh air and a wake up call to other musicians that the funk was back. It also still sounds great today, although maybe not nasty enough for the hardcore funk fans.

ZU Carboniferous

Album · 2009 · Jazz Related Rock
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siLLy puPPy
ZU is an atypical power trio emerging from Rome, Italy in the 90s delivering some energetic and unconventional hybrid music. I was totally unfamiliar with this group before their 11th studio album CARBONIFEROUS and I have not heard any other albums before this but from what I have read they have taken on a more heavy and distorted take on their RIO / Avant-prog meets math rock music. There are a several groups this band reminds me of. They have a musical delivery approach like the avant-jazz French group Jean Louis but the heaviness and chord changes have a Fantômas feel as well which is particularly true on the two vocals tracks that have Mike Patton making a cameo appearance. This could be due to the fact they toured with Fantômas and Melvins in 2006. ZU also has a groove on some tracks similar to another strange band called Chrome Hoof. This is especially noticeable on the first track “Ostia.”

Any way you slice it ZU is an RIO band in structure with an avant-jazz-metal veneer consisting of the unconventional trio of instruments that includes bass, drums and baritone saxophone. We do get a couple guest guitarists lending a hand on “Chthonian” and “Obsidian” but Massimo Pupillo's extremely heavy fuzzy bass pretty much delivers as much distortion as the music can handle and Luca Mai's sax playing takes the place of the traditional guitar. He handles rhythmic duties for the most part but also contributes some sizzling solos that bring John Zorn to mind. Jacopo Battaglia has a jazz drummer's method of dancing around the strange chord progressions and contributes more of a complementary sound than an expected backbone of the band. The musicians spend their time weaving around each other in a way that makes it hard to focus on any one particular instrument that stands out but there are times when solos are thrown in.

This music is highly addictive. It was love at first listen for me but it only got better the more I listened to it. The band makes full use of tones and distortion as a key part of the musical structure and the musicianship is top-notch. By blending various aspects of math rock, noise rock, punk, jazz, grindcore and a touch of repetitive drone doom at times, they have created a very intricate and disciplined style of music that doesn't come off as being as complex as it is. A true treasure tucked away under the various categories of RIO, avant-prog, avant-garde metal, or free jazz, but nomenclature aside it is simply a unique sound that fans of adventurous, energetic and unorthodox fusion will find most satisfying.

jazz related movie reviews

KING CRIMSON Neal And Jack And Me

Movie · 2004 · Jazz Related Rock
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Sean Trane
This DVD will please many of the third Crimson phase fans combines two tours: the Beat tour and the Three Of A Perfect pair. Oddly enough, they are presented in a non- chronological order, but this is a very minor point. One of the things I was particularly uneasy about was Bruford's use of electronic percussions and drums and we get a load of those "things" and like all technology novelty, the risk is that it ages poorly and sadly here, it is the case. Another point I had not appreciated is the stage presence of Adrian Belew, which is clearly copied from David Byrne from his collaborations with The Talking Heads - I love the T Heads, but Belew's stage antics are too derivative and ill fitted for Crimson. There are a few tracks present twice and most notably the boring Mate Kusadai.

Strictly on the visual front, Crimson was clearly making efforts to look hip and appeal to a more new-wave-ish public. Those were the days! But I never said that they were good, either!

Among the bonuses, are a video clip and a few titbits, but sadly still missing is that mini- concert footage filmed for the Discipline release and them playing four tracks in front of a red curtain. I may be severe with my rating of this DVD but I am not a real fan of that era.

GONG Classic Rock Legends

Movie · 2000 · Jazz Related Rock
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seyo
This video contains live performances from 1990 Live on TV album. Four original members of GonG are present: Pip Pyle, Didier Malherbe, Gilli Smyth and an oddball-harlequin persona of the spiritus movens, Daevid Allen.

Performance is focused on their legendary Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, with 3 starters from Camembert Electrique. Since I have no idea what GonG looked like on scene back in the early 1970s (that is, before I took a peek at several Youtube clips recently), I guess this DVD makes up a lot for that, the age of the performers notwithstanding.

In fact, seeing these unique art-performers in their senior age can just assure you how the music and art in general can surpass generations, years and ages if you wish. Musicianship is great, movie direction very good with several cameras shooting from different angles, while only the engagement of the dancers to invoke the mystical gnomey creatures may be seen as too over-stressed.

The finale presents perhaps too long goodbye with the extended "I Am You" jam, but when Daevid jumps down into the audience you can actually see the highly emotional and spiritual connection between the band and the people, done in an almost religious-like chanting. This is excellent video and should be seen by all those who have at least some knowledge of the Planet GonG trilogy repertoire!

BILL BRUFORD Bbc Rock Goes To College: Live 1979

Movie · 2006 · Jazz Related Rock
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Dick Heath
I remember seeing this originally on BBC 2 a few weeks after it was recorded in one of the canteens of Oxford Poly, and getting a mix of intense pleasure. In particular pleasure from the tour de force that Holdsworth had developed into (and screamed out at me on Feels Good To Me)and the unknown bass-wiz Jeff Berlin. But there was disappointment over Annette's contribution to the set - when her husky voice breathed sex at me on the album.

Now here from the Beeb's archives is the original 70's video quality footage as originally shown on 625 lines. The pleasure points remain, with some details emphasised. However the disappointment is worse, in particular there is a promise of something special as Peacock flounces on part way through the set, dressed as the fashion queen,(thereby drawing the contrast with the blokes in the band). However,again the expectation of something special evaporates quickly - the diva can't 'deave' live in sympathy with the music, the band i.e. her vocals are poor. Fortunately we don't have to suffer this for long and thank goodness for the skip button.

Yes this is a short recording*, and isn't there a missed opportunity here? One DVD burn (of a copy of a copy, etc.) of this gig I saw some years ago and suffering horribly from colour dropout, had the addition of two extra numbers by Bruford recorded off from the Old Grey Whistle Test - here with I think Neil Murray deputing for Jeff Berlin. Surely the Beeb could had offered these as well?

*Interesting to see another Rock Goes To College recording of Herbie Hancock & the Headhunters recorded at the now defuncted Chelsea College, that had resurfaced on BBC 4 2 years ago, was an hour long.

STING Bring On The Night

Movie · 2005 · Pop Jazz/Crossover
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Slartibartfast
The concept here is a documentary of a band forming, The Blue Turtles Band, rather than a band at their peak or breaking up. Fortunately it is heavier on the music than the documentary.

The first half takes place in a French countryside chateaux and consists of presentable songs from nine days of practice sessions for what was to be their first show. Everyone in the band seems to be having a good time. The chateaux provides nice a nice backdrop to the sessions. The second half is the show itself.

Since this was Sting's first post Police effort, there's a lot of reworked Police songs mixed in with tracks from the first album. It's sort of like the Police meets jazz with Andy Summers ejected so Sting could play guitar. The band line up is primarily younger jazz musicians that already had a good reputation for work they had done before hooking up with Sting.

There are interview excerpts between the songs. One of the more interesting ones was Miles Copeland, Sting's manager and Stewart's brother going on about negotiations with the rest of the band. He was extremely dismissive of the band in relation to Sting when it came to monetary compensation. I suspect that was more about himself getting a bigger piece of the pie than a reflection on Sting, although I do recall him guest appearing on a Saturday Night Live show with Steve Marting and Steve introducing him as Stin-gy.

I originally saw this one in a theater and was really pleased to see it released being reworked with "high definition digital anamorphic picture transfer and digitally remastered surround audio." It actually does look a little sharper than I recall and I think the orginal sound was just stereo.

BILL BRUFORD Bbc Rock Goes To College: Live 1979

Movie · 2006 · Jazz Related Rock
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Slartibartfast
This is incredible. I had the good fortune of seeing Bruford, unfortunately post Holdsworth, at the now defunct Atlanta Agora. I did get to catch Holdsworth touring for his I.O.U. album, but that's another story. My first pass through this concert really gave me the goosebumps.

It is unfortunate that this DVD is only 41 minutes, but the set list is excellent. Four tracks from Bruford's best album, One of a Kind. Annette Peacock even shows up for a couple of songs. I always thought that she didn't fit in well with this kind of music, but it's nice to see her all the same. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think there's any live video out there of Alan Holdsworth, so seeing him in action is a special treat. One of the things I remember most from seeing Bruford was that at times Jeff Berlin's picking fingers were a blur and seeing him again live, I know I wasn't imagining it. Dave Stewart, or as I like to call him, The Dave Stewart, not that Eurythmics guy, is also a lot of fun to see in action. I noticed he had a music stand with no sheet music, but a synthesizer diagram, interesting. And then of course there's Bill. Those of you who may dislike his electronic drum work, I'm not one, will be happy to him playing strictly acoustic. What can I say? He's really one of best drummers around. The audio quality is excellent and sometimes the camera man crop off Holdsworth's left hand when I'd like to see it, but other than that, this is really nice for a concert captured in 1979.

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