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PARLIAMENT Mothership Connection Album Cover Mothership Connection
PARLIAMENT
4.89 | 9 ratings
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SOFT MACHINE Third Album Cover Third
SOFT MACHINE
4.65 | 48 ratings
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FRANK ZAPPA The Grand Wazoo (The Mothers) Album Cover The Grand Wazoo (The Mothers)
FRANK ZAPPA
4.66 | 34 ratings
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STEVIE WONDER Innervisions Album Cover Innervisions
STEVIE WONDER
4.75 | 12 ratings
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STEELY DAN Aja Album Cover Aja
STEELY DAN
4.66 | 21 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
4.59 | 32 ratings
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AREA Arbeit Macht Frei (Il Lavoro Rende Liberi) Album Cover Arbeit Macht Frei (Il Lavoro Rende Liberi)
AREA
4.66 | 15 ratings
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FRANK ZAPPA Over-Nite Sensation (The Mothers) Album Cover Over-Nite Sensation (The Mothers)
FRANK ZAPPA
4.60 | 26 ratings
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MARTIN DENNY Exotica Album Cover Exotica
MARTIN DENNY
4.94 | 5 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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JOHN ZORN Magick Album Cover Magick
JOHN ZORN
4.86 | 6 ratings
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jazz related Music Reviews

ANIMALS AS LEADERS Animals As Leaders

Album · 2009 · Jazz Related Rock
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siLLy puPPy
The brainchild of founder Tosin Abasi from Washington DC, the all instrumental jazz-fusion meets djent project ANIMALS AS LEADERS is more or less his baby although the band tours and presents itself as a full-fledged musical collaboration. This creative outlet began with Abasi’s involvement as the guitarist in the tech metal core band Reflux. After the band ceased to be, Abasi was approached by the metal record label Prosthetic Records who were majorly impressed with his chops and wanted him to record a solo album but Abasi declined feeling the idea was self-indulgent and instead he took a year off to study music in an academic setting to further his growing interest in jazz, classical guitar and composition. After he finished his homework he took Prosthetic up on their offer and then proceeded to let it all rip and roar. He chose the name ANIMALS AS LEADERS after reading the novel “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn which dealt with the subject of anthropocentrism.

In 2009 Tosin released his first album playing his eight-string guitar and bass as well as co-producing with his partner in crime Misha Mansoor who handled engineering, drum programming and mixing. This album got a lot of praise when it came out due to its challenging virtuosic performances that add a lot of variety and spice to the often impressive but sterile compositions that many a virtuoso can dish out. A child of his time, Abasi pretty much handled all the duties formerly requiring an army of talents to accomplish and if he had been ten to twenty years older he could have easily fit in on the Shrapnel Records label that ushered in all kinds of young talented virtuoso guitarists to the world. Some of those artists like Tony MacAlpine and Greg Howe seem like antecedent influences to Abasi’s work, but i also hear some Pat Metheny in some of the lighter fluffier pieces, some mid-tempo ones bringing Allan Holdsworth and even Shawn Lane to mind and of course, the undeniable palm-muted technique of djent tech thrashers Meshuggah in the metallic edge that many of these tracks dish out.

While the influences on board are plenty, what i find refreshing about the debut album by ANIMALS AS LEADERS is how some fresh new takes on these techy fusion guitar jams play out. While the album is clearly created to show off Abasi’s technical wizardry, he was prescient enough to know that wizardry alone for wizardry’s sake had been played out and that extra oomph was needed to guarantee a pleasant listening experience. Well, pleasant this is indeed with lots of chops to excite my hunger for lightning fast guitar runs configured with insanely fast and unpredictable progressive time signatures alternating between quiet cozy numbers and rowdy rockers that unleash monster riffage and extreme bass frenetics.

My only complaint is that this album may be a tad too long for its intensity and contains a couple tracks that seem a little redundant but overall i find this to be a beautifully constructed modern day jazz-fusion guitar and bass extravaganza with beautiful atmosphere, crystal clear production and a musical passion that keeps the quality sizzling. OK, one more complaint. I wish there would have been a real drummer. While the programmed drumming is far from unpleasant or bad in any way, it really is no proper substitute for a talented jazz-fusion drummer who can really bring out the best in a band like classic Bill Bruford did in Yes. Excellent album but not quite a classic.

SLY AND ROBBIE Dubrising

Album · 2014 · Dub Fusion
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Matt
Last time the Dub was underwater but this year it is rising with the latest Dub offering from the Rhythm Twins. I could go on for hours about these two who have appeared with everybody at some time or the other and if they have not appeared with them then they most likely Produced their album. Still Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare have always kept those Jamaican Roots to the forefront within their own music and releases while still staying contemporary in the genre at the same time. After all it was Sly and Robbie who were the main movers toward digital within the Reggae scene back in the eighties and like it or not it is here to stay with the introduction of Dancehall and Ragga but with “Dubrising” it 100% good old Dub.

Paul “Groucho” Smykle is the man behind the mixing board who has not worked with Sly and Robbie for nearly 30 years when he mixed their two earlier albums “Raiders of the Lost Dub” and “Dub Experience”. The tracks from the album were picked by Groucho using Sly and Robbie’s prior Productions from Horace Andy, Chezidek, Bunny Rugs and Khalifa between 2006 to 2012 bringing quite a modern feel but still staying right at the Old School. The instrumentals were recorded live at two studios in Kingston. Dan Donovan from Big Audio Dynamite added synthesizer and Bunny McKenzie added dread harmonica. No Protools were used as Groucho mixed it live to bring that old feel of how it was done back in those Lee Perry and King Tubby days during the seventies where if things did go wrong, it was start again and not just a quick patch up.

The dubs themselves come through beautifully with a mix of tempos throughout the rhythms used with all the reverb and echo employed and as heard on “Satan Fall” and the 2nd Dub “Freedom Ring”. The synthesizer provides a little more fill bringing a good fresh quality and is quite a nice touch. “Drone Snipers” motors along with a great echo and vocal remnants with the addition of Bunny McKenzie playing his dread harmonica. There are plenty of sound effects with zaps and whirrs layered over great rhythms which keep up a nice rapid tempo for the majority of Dubs that follow. “To The Rescue" is laced with Synthesizer and vocal remnants put to echo, “No Surrender”, “Flame Thrower” with its effects and slightly slower tempo and then to finish the pumping bass of “Double Agent” which comes in last.

Wonderful new Dub album from Sly and Robbie with a wonderful sounding mix from Groucho.

MASAHIKO TOGASHI Masahiko Togashi, Isao Suzuki : A Day Of The Sun

Album · 1979 · Jazz Related Improvisation
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snobb
"A Day Of The Sun" is two Japanese jazz greats duo's album. Percussionist Masahiko Togashi (besides of pianist Masahiko Satoh) are key figure of Japanese free jazz,played with virtually everyone of important Japanese advanced jazz musician and recorded lot of albums,some of them (especially recorded in late 60s - early 70s)are part of Japanese jazz "golden fund". Acoustic bassist Isao Suzuki is even more legendary figure - in Japan he is usually titled "Godfather of Jazz".

Born in Tokyo in 1933,he started his jazz career in 1953 playing bass with Louis Armstrong when the later to Japan that year.I have read in Isao's interview that he was in Armstrong concert and next day found out that Armstrong band is searching for bassist. Isao asked his mother to buy him a bass (he never played the instrument before) and went to rehearsal. According to Isao, bandleader hired him and showed how to play bass - that's how he started.Later he played for two or three years in US Navy base band and than joined Jun Kiyomizu band - his first Japanese band ever.He played around Japan (mostly in local cabarets) till late 60s when "Ginpary"(or "Silver Paris" - psychedelic jam sessions on very early Japanese free jazz stage) fashion pushed mainstream jazz musicians aside.Isao still participated in some gigs and even was one-time member of quartet with Sadao Watanabe,Togashi and Kikuchi(that was one of "Ginpary" session where Isao met Masahiko Togashi for the first time).In 1969 he played with Art Blakey who invited him to America where Isao stayed for two years (mostly traveling around the country and Canada in old Caddilac with Art Blakey and playing gigs mostly in black clubs).Art Blakey's band of the time included George Cables,Woody Shaw and Ramon Morris.Isao played lot of jams with Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell,Elvin Jones,Duke Pearson and Lee Morgan among others. He spent a lot of time in Rudy Van Gelder recording studio as well where Rudy tough him many secrets of good recording sound.Isao even was a bassist in Ella Fitzgerald band, but when one day in airport on their way to Canada Art Blakey got basted on cocaine,Isao same day just took the flight back to Japan.On return he made a lot introducing his experience in development of jazz in Japan.His first albums for Three Blind Mices (cult audiophile label,kind Japanese ECM but with very physical,deep and warm sound)built recordings sound and mix quality standard for decades to come.In 1980 he released "Self-Portrait" - first ever one-man recording using multilayer techniques in Japanese jazz (Isao played 22 different instruments on this album).

Main Isao's personality importance is still that that he's one among few extremely respectable Japanese jazz artists having hard-bop background.Other his generation known jazzmen come mostly from big bands (formed under US bases orchestras influence),late 60s pushed ahead new noisy and angry generation which stepped right to radical avant-garde.

With all series of strong hard-bop albums,Isao stayed innovative for decades though. His second important influence was fusion,but he released albums containing Latin jazz or even modern electronic remixes. During his long career Isao played with percussionist Masahiko Tagashi quite regularly, on Masahiko's or his own albums. "A Day of The Sun" is duo's collaboration,significant for both artists. Similarly like fusion popularity fast decrease in mid-late 70s on Western jazz scenes left lot of jazz musicians on the thin ice (and sometimes without job),in Japan that time is a time when jazz lost its importance as major part of modern musical culture. One of popular trend where many previous avant-garde and fusion artists switched to became etno-influenced improvisational (often meditative) music. "A Day Of The Sun" (percussionist and bassist duo recording,both uses some synth and other instruments though) is one good example. Fortunately differently from many of similar releases music here doesn't become endless hypnotizing noodling and successfully avoids similarities with upcoming new age. Two musicians are both too big personalities and too great masters to fade to grey zone - even if there are very free form compositions presented,them all have lot of blood and bones (deep physical bass, multilayered and complex percussion,all the time changing rhythms and grooves); probably good comparison is some ECM early proto-ambient recordings, where sound still wasn't all that liquid and super-polished.

Togashi will continue developing same formula on his later works,Suzuki will return to his more usual mainstream jazz, but "A Day Of The Sun" will stay as great evidence of two giant collaboration and excellent example of non-boring improvisational music.

PHISH Fuego

Album · 2014 · Jazz Related Rock
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Unitron
Phish-Fuego

'Fuego' is the twelfth studio album by progressive/jam rock band Phish. I was introduced to Phish fairly recently, a friend played their album 'A Picture of Nectar' for me and I really enjoyed it. That was the first album I heard, but 'Fuego' is the first Phish album I got for myself. After listening, I can safely say that Phish has not lost their touch after all these years.

In typical Phish fashion, this album has many different elements to the music. Anything ranging from jazz, hard rock, jam rock, and blues, creating a great progressive rock album. The opening title track is one of my favorites, beginning with some great piano and unique drumming. There is some hard rock guitar before great A capella. This song never really stays the same, changing from melodic rock parts to experimental drum/keyboard jams. Three minutes through there is an awesome guitar solo, playing over some great drumming by Jon Fishman. This song is definitely the main highlight of the album. '555' is another one of my favorites, having a great combination of blues rock and jazz. It has an awesome bassline and a really catchy chorus. 'Sing Monica' and 'The Line' are two other really good tracks, both being catchy. 'Wombat' is silly, yet pretty catchy. None of the other songs, while good, stand out to me as much.

Overall, I wouldn't call it as good as 'A Picture of Nectar'. It's still a great album, especially taking in to account the fact that these guys have been playing for many years now. If you want some good experimental rock, this would not be a bad choice at all.

Hope you found this review helpful.

Feel free to comment!

SANTANA Santana

Album · 1969 · Latin Rock/Soul
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siLLy puPPy
Nothing screams the summer of 69 and the Woodstock event for me more than SANTANA. One day they were simply the Carlos Santana Band doing small gig venues in San Francisco and the next day after performing at that event they were watching their debut album racing up the charts and reaching number 4 on Billboard. “Evil Ways” also proved to be a huge top 10 hit as well. This rags to riches story may have happened anyway but perhaps not so fast. Their slot on the Woodstock event was actually won by the flip of a coin. Michael Lang, the concert promoter was pressured by Bill Graham to include one of the the acts that Bill managed. It was down to SANTANA and It's A Beautiful Day, another San Francisco band. The coin was flipped, SANTANA won, and enjoyed instant popularity and as we all know, much more was to come.

This is gorgeous album from beginning to end. SANTANA started out as a jam band but was advised to write a few more structured songs by Graham. The result is a perfect mix of free jam energy with structured songwriting that the band perfectly performs knowing when enough is enough and to move on to something else. This new Latin jazz fusion of the day took the world by storm and with half of the band dedicated to percussive instruments it's no wonder the world was mesmerized by this energetic mix of Latin jazz, Afro-Cuban rhythms and heavy psych blues that tied it all to the era. This is one of those album I never tire of. It has a timeless quality to it yet it always brings me to that time and place before my time. My personal favorite SANTANA is this one and what a beauty it is.

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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