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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
4.62 | 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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SOFT MACHINE Grides Album Cover Grides
SOFT MACHINE
4.69 | 9 ratings
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jazz related Music Reviews

RAY CHARLES Spotlight On Ray Charles

Boxset / Compilation · 1962 · Jazz Related RnB
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js
“Spotlight on Ray Charles” is a Pickwick label compilation from 1962 that shows up a lot in thrift stores and used record shops, yet no one seems to know much about it. Pickwick is one of the most notorious cheap labels ever. The unwitting buyer of this album should be glad that the songs are actually performed by Charles, because Pickwick was known for putting out albums on which a famous artist’s songs would be played by Pickwick staff musicians, without a trace of the artist featured on the album cover, a fact often hidden with tiny print.

This album comes with very little information, except some false information about a George Brown Orchestra that apparently does not appear on any tracks. Instead, about half of the songs on here feature Charles from very early in his career (approx 1949) playing and crooning in a laid back jazz/blues trio in a style very similar to Nat King Cole. If you are mostly familiar with Ray’s later revved up RnB hits such as “What I’d Say”, these songs show a whole nother side to brother Ray. The other half of the songs on “Spotlight” are totally different and feature rough early rock n roll/jump blues instrumentals with a very loud honkin saxophone in the style of Arnett Cobb or Jay McNeely. Since the album cover is no help, a little research reveals that several of these rockin tunes come from a session in 1952, but no credits were given for that session. Ray was working with a variety of tenor players at that time, so its hard to tell who the lead sax man is. All of these songs are quite good and this could have been a decent compilation if they had put one style on one side of the album, and the other on the other side, but instead they mixed them together in strict alternation for irrational reasons unknown.

Even with the obtuse mixture of styles, this still isn’t too bad of a compilation, and since its Pickwick, it sells for cheap. Anyone interested in hearing what Ray Charles was doing before he became a well known RnB singer should pick this up. The early jazz/blues tunes are nice, and the honkin RnR should liven up any social occasion. Its interesting hearing some of this old ‘honkin’ rockin sax style, listening to the horn used in such a loud forceful and almost primitive way makes you realize where early 60s avant-garde guys like Albert Alyer and Archie Shepp were coming from, in many ways, they were just bringing back the prevalent jump blues style of the 40s and taking it for an extended ride.

FISHBONE The Reality of My Surroundings

Album · 1991 · Jazz Related Rock
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siLLy puPPy
FISHBONE had been struggling to find a new sound after a phenomenal debut EP. On the next two albums they stumbled around grasping at straws trying to see what would stick with some successes and some to the contrary. On their 4th release (counting the debut EP) all that experimentation came together to create an artistic vision of fusion frenzy perfection. THE REALITY OF MY SURROUNDINGS ushers in former Mile Davis music director John Bigham who contributes his keyboard and guitar talents to the mix of an already impressive musical cast that includes seven full time members and a whole list of guest musicians and background vocalists. This album truly exhibits a circus ring atmosphere where a rotisserie of musicians weaves their magic into the overall tapestry and exuding a huge party feel despite the dark, depressive and biting social critique. Despite it all there is plenty of room for their odd sense of humor to create a swirling dervish of hyperactivity encompassing a passion pit that always make me think of a Voodoo ritual in Haiti where in the heat of the moment you end up dancing on sizzling hot coals and draped with poisonous snakes.

On this album it is clear right from the getgo that this band was busy in the alchemy kitchen of sound fueling the fires to create an alloy of sonic bliss so sincere and advanced that it can hardly fall into any particular genre any more. They jettisoned none of their previous ska punk, groove funk or gospel soul but rather melded it all together with a healthy dose of a stronger groovy funk metal, jazz dissonance and even some slightly progressive time signature tendencies. The first track “Fight The Youth” hits the ground running as it incorporates funky metal riffing to an activist's plea to fight the powers that be. The album is accented by small little ditties in between the actual songs to add as an atmospheric direction change or simply to provide an intro for a following track. The four part “If I Were A... I'd” finds itself strewn about the album using the same music with different lyrics. These bits are under a minute but each time they improvise on a basic riff. The bleak little segment “Asswippin'” is the sound of an African slave being whipped with curdling screams of pain accompanied by tribal drums which ushers in the following “Housework” which seems to be a mix of jazzy funk with honky tonk and New Orleans brass followed by the depressive “Deathmarch” which sounds like a New Orleans funeral parade.

The fusionfest continues with the funk metal pleas of “Pray To The Junkiemaker” to the gospel tinged funk metal contemplativeness of “Everyday Sunshine.” The most humorous side of the band comes out on a story from a pimp's perspective on “Nasty Man” with its incessant funk groove and a bleak ending track called “Sunless Saturday” which is the perfect metal laden rock n' soul finale for an album laden with darkened depressive motifs that are the undercurrent of an exciting upbeat spiritual musical foreground that uplifts and depresses in every brilliantly mastered moment. This is one of my all time favorite albums that never ceases to amaze me of how magical certain moments in time can be for a band when all their stars align. Unfortunately despite having slight success with this album FISHBONE never broke into the big time however their sound was truly inspirational for countless bands that followed ranging from Jane's Addiction to more successful ska punk bands like Sublime and No Doubt. This is one for those who love fusion music so hot and smokin' that it verges on creating its own genre all together. It unduly gets lumped into all encompassing tags such as alternative rock or funk metal, but FISHBONE proved on this album that they could master the storytelling aspects of the best hip hop, the musicianship of the best of jazz and metal and the ability to hold the listener's attention throughout an hour long musical journey. The production is not the best here and FISHBONE albums need to be remastered for the new millennium but neither is it so horrible as to be unlistenable. EXCELLENT album!/;

SOFT MACHINE Volume Two

Album · 1969 · Jazz Related Rock
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siLLy puPPy
OK. Call me a SOFT MACHINE slut for giving their first two albums 5 stars but damn! I really love these guys and a belated introduction to their musical output hasn't dampened my enthusiasm to their sound one bit. In fact it may have enhanced it. I, like countless others, weren't around at the time of these releases to comprehend their musical meisterhood and it seems like many a music fan of the era didn't get to appreciate their ingenious jazz-fusion whimsy at the time of its release. SOFT MACHINE continued their evolution on VOLUME TWO by ratcheting up all the unusualness of their first album and keeping just enough of the familiar poppiness to give a musical structure to embellish upon. The whimsical glee exerts itself full throttle on the first track with their childlike playfulness meets their adult contemplative spirituality on “Pataphysical Introduction.” You know you are in for something special right away.

There had been a few personal changes from Volume One to VOLUME TWO. Robert Wyatt was still in charge of drum duties and lead vocals. Mike Ratledge stayed on board for as keyboardist, but on this release bassist Kevin Ayers was out and Hugh Hopper who guested on the first album was now in. This time around Hugh's brother Brian Hopper guested on the sax (both soprano and tenor.) This album is really two long tracks but because of the advise of Frank Zappa the band broke those two longer tracks into many because of the fact one could reap more royalties that way. The album is actually very short clocking in at just over a half an hour but there is so much going on in that time that it actually feels longer to me.

VOLUME TWO is the logical evolution from “Volume One.” Instead of just jettisoning the psychedelic pop leaning template that had begun before their first album and still utilized on the debut, the band keeps this as a template and simply expands the avant-garde and jazz-fusion tendencies developed on their debut. The result is another superbly excellent album that is short but sweet. The jazz factor is ratcheted up quite a few notches but the underlying flow of the album remains comparable to the debut. As with the previous album this is a grower. No SOFT MACHINE album unleashes its secrets easily. One must listen attentively to let the magic unfold at his or her own time. For me personally, I find this an excellent successor to the debut and a logical bridge between the debut and the even more jazz infused developments of “Third.” Yeah, the only totally unoriginal thing about this band is that they could have been more creative in naming their albums!

SOFT MACHINE The Soft Machine

Album · 1968 · Jazz Related Rock
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siLLy puPPy
All one has to do is listen to the demos (available as Jet-propelled Photographs) recorded the year before to hear how quickly THE SOFT MACHINE was evolving their sound. It had been a wild ride since the days of the Wilde Flowers for drummer Robert Wyatt and bassist Kevin Ayers to get to this point. Mike Ratledge joined the band in 1966 when they officially formed as keyboardist and fellow ex-Wilde Flower veteran Hugh Hopper (bass) joins in on a few tracks here. Hugh would later join the band as a full member.

Originally the band also included Larry Nowlin on guitar but by the time we get to this debut album there is no guitarist to be found and just as well. It allows the band to emphasize how much a band can do with just a bass, keyboards and drums. Although Daevid Allen (guitars and vocals) was out and would begin his own Canterbury powerhouse Gong, on this debut we get a mixture of his own beatnik philosophy that he left behind, the psychedelic rock that was in fashion at the time and a new found appreciation for jazz that is incorporated into the nooks and crannies of the song structures creating a very new and exciting kind of music.

I personally believe that the sudden evolution can be attributed to the musical genius of Jimi Hendrix with whom SOFT MACHINE would tour. Hendrix was a major catalyst in the musical world at large and such a close proximity to his world surely must have served as an energizing lightning bolt for the band catapulting them suddenly into the more progressive interpretations of their earlier psychedelic pop churned out just a short time prior their debut. The band tackles the songs quite creatively. I love how the leading track “Hope For Happiness” is really one long track but in the middle they insert another track titled “Joy Of A Toy.” That strategy is repeated throughout the album making a smooth. flowing album from beginning to end. The melodies are catchy, the musicianship is excellent and the arrangements are quite brilliant. Ayers and Wyatt trade off vocals complementing each other quite well.

This one was certainly a grower. Upon first listen most of the complexities passed me by and I was more focused on the psychedelic pop aspects of the music. To fully appreciate SOFT MACHINE albums takes patience and dedication to fully unlock the brilliance embedded into the music. Although I liked this album on the first listen, I have grown to really love it for its bold and daring display of creativity as well as for its long lasting influence on not only the Canterbury side of jazz-fusion but for the evolution of progressive music in general. A belated 5 star masterpiece in my world but one that will firmly remain in that status. You'll know you're hooked when “Hope For Happiness” becomes the dominant ear worm beckoning you to put on the album time and time again!

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND An Evening With the Allman Brothers Band: First Set

Live album · 1992 · Jazz Related Rock
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DocB
First Set was one of the first albums I got when I made the transition from vinyl to CD. The 1980s had not been good to the ABB, or jazz, blues and rock in general, so I did not expect much. Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts had produced some respectable albums in the 1980s, but they didn't get much notice. Also, I had just listened to The Fillmore Concerts, so First Set had a hard act to follow. But I was pleasantly surprised. No, Fillmore II it's not. But at the time Dickey had been quoted as saying 'this is the way the ABB is supposed to sound', the addition of Warren Haynes on guitar and Allen Woody on bass making the band sound more like ABB I. We even get Thom Doucette on harp. First Set includes some new songs, plus some old classics, with a good range of material. I saw the ABB at Red Rocks in 1998 after Warren and Allen had left the ABB for Gov't Mule, and Jack Pearson was on guitar, and Oteil Burbridge on bass. The opener was John Hammond, Jr., backed by Little Charlie and the Nightcats. So it was kind of like old home week. If you haven't been to Red Rocks, go!

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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