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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

MAGMA Magma (aka Kobaïa)

Album · 1970 · Jazz Related Rock
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siLLy puPPy
After King Crimson opened the floodgates and allowed the big bang of progressive rock to explode its pyroclastic flows into the world it was a signal to the Kobaians that the Earth they had fled so long ago was ready to hear the strange music they had evolved on their adopted planet. This MAGMA flow was originally an eponymous release but immediately was tagged with the name of the first track which is indeed a planet out there in a galaxy far, far away. And subsequent releases have carried the title KOBAIA ever since. The year was 1970 and the world was treated a Close Encounter of the Musical Kind as the Kobaians released their strange otherworldly music to an unsuspecting human race. This debut album tells the tale of their decision to leave a world so plagued by hatred and violence and the journey involved in getting to their new chosen planet and the colonizing and evolving in a different direction. The dramatics are in the music for all lyrics are in their own invented Kobaian language.

This double album has the honor of being both accessible and truly bizarre at the same time. Using jazz-fusion as a template, MAGMA, led by the overtly ambitious drum machine Christian Vander leaves no jazz and rock stone left unturned. Whether it is a more traditional fusion typical of the late 60s that introduces the album on the first title track or a slow and pastoral type that is filled with pleasant flute melodies, one thing you can count on is the urge to morph the music into something completely unrelated in nature. For example on the title track we get pleasant jazz-fusion followed by a frenetic sax solo followed by another phrasing of jazz-fusion followed by a very strange guitar solo. The second track “Aina” starts off slow and somber but speeds up to a more brass rock type of sound followed by a flute solo which finally gets accompanied by heavy rockin' guitars. In addition we get countless other things going on like the flute giving way to a military march in “Sohia” to the piano, bass and jazzy drumming with dissonant piano and a capella Kobaian lyrics on “Sckxyss.”

Although this debut album is considered to be strictly jazz-fusion in nature, the fact is that the Kobaian creation known as zeuhl actually makes its debut here as well. How very clever of them to ratchet the music up from one track to another showing us how to change familiar 60s style jazz-fusion into their trademark zeuhl laid out on a musical journey. It finds its first Earthly contact on track number six “Aurae” where the familiar by today's standard zeuhl rhythms come bubbling through in the form of the flute and drum interactions. Soon the whole band is playing in the newly born style as well. After the zeuhl rhythms have sunk in they pretty much continue on the second half of the double album finding a more frenetic pacing on “Thaud Zaia” which continues the unexpected time signatures interlaced with pleasant pastoral lulls and interesting musical developments.

As the album reaches its final destinations we are treated to the most terrifying of screams at the beginning of “Stoah” which usher in dissonant guitar chords and a zeuhl piano run. Whether it's the bluesy rock influence in the album's closer “Muh” which also ends with jingling bells and avant-garde Kobaian chanting or the Earthly ethnic influences ranging from African drumming to Gypsy swing, one thing is clear, the Kobaians have what it takes to weave their musical vision into a cohesive whole that flows effortlessly from beginning to end despite the staggering array of influences on board. The most successful of these hurdles comes in the complete fusion of the classical, jazz and rock worlds with smatterings of a gazillion other sounds making their appearances here and there. I can understand why some may regard this double album as one that is too long because there are parts that wander on for times that may be deemed a little too long but on my part I find the first two MAGMA albums to be the most exciting of the lot. All the sounds that came after make their debut here and later albums are basically stripped down approaches of the ambitiousness that is found on the very first album. This is a treasure trove of infinite musical variations all stuffed into one single release. I am extremely impressed by this musical extravaganza and find this one of my favorite ambitious musical projects ever. Can you tell I like this? A lot!

RAYMOND SCOTT The Music of Raymond Scott: Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights

Boxset / Compilation · 1992 · Exotica
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siLLy puPPy
RAYMOND SCOTT is known as the man who made cartoons swing and although he is hardly a household name, his music has most likely been heard by everyone in one form or another. This compilation RECKLESS NIGHTS AND TURKISH TWILIGHTS showcases the earliest stage of his career when he lead his band the RAYMOND SCOTT QUINTETTE. It is this period where he composed some of his biggest hits which proved to be big sellers in their time and immortalized forever after he sold his music publishing to Warner Bros in 1943. The music director Carl Stalling would then adapt his music to the extensive Loonie Tunes catalog. Over the years his unique brand of exotic jazz has become a staple for that cartoony feel and his music has found its way into the likes of The Simpsons, Ren And Stimpy, The Oblongs, Batfink and Duckman as well as the never-ending reboots of Looney Tunes cartoons themselves. All the compositions on this compilation were recorded from 1937 to 1940.

RAYMOND SCOTT's intent was to lead his Quintette in order to revitalize the swing in jazz music. He was unorthodox in his approach and irritated many a jazz purist for his disregard of what was thought to be “proper” jazz. His compositions are energetic, busy and complex yet always catchy and although improvisation went into the creation of his music, once finished, the music remained exactly as completed. SCOTT had an affinity for incorporating classical music into his mix as well. No other track is this as obvious as his version of Mozart's “Rondo Alla Turca” which finds itself adapted into a jazz context and titled “In An 18th Century Drawing Room.” Another attribute that set SCOTT apart from most other jazz musicians of the day was the fact that although he was the leader of the band, he rarely took the limelight of performing solos himself and left that to the other members of the band. SCOTT was a pianist and the focus is mostly directed on the brass.

To my ears, RAYMOND SCOTT's music has many diverse influences ranging from the classic dixieland jazz, to the early piano jazz of Art Tatum with other sounds being borrowed from Western classical music, Klezmer and Middle Eastern music. The brilliance is in how well it is woven together seamlessly into a cohesive whole and despite the complexities of the music always comes across as a gleeful sonic stomp throughout imaginary lands which lends itself perfectly to the cartoon world in which it has been used the most. This cartoon swing sound in the RAYMOND SCOTT QUINTETTE would not persist though as in the beginning of the 40s he would take on new projects including collaborating with Les Paul and Mary Ford to record pop songs and would eventually take on the entirely different musical world of electronic music in its infancy.

The true legacy of SCOTT won't be from the scant few recordings that he would release but from the influence he laid down leading to a wealth of samplings, reinterpretations and covers finding its way into the disparate artistic arenas of film, television, theater and countless different musical genres. For example, samples can be found on albums by the trip hop group Gorillaz, the progressive rock band Rush, hip hop acts such as J Dilla, indie rock acts such as TV On The Radio and even in ska by the the band Save Ferris. A truly underrated jazz icon who may not have found the biggest success under his own name but achieved it in a rather strange roundabout under-the-radar way. On this compilation you can hear his own version of his own music as originally released.

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE A Whole New Thing

Album · 1967 · Funk
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siLLy puPPy
SLY & THE FAMILY STONE weren't kidding around when they titled their debut album A WHOLE NEW THING which hit the market in 1967. The San Francisco band wasn't only a cutting-edge band musically by fusing soul, funk, rock and psychedelic music, but they were also one of the first successful bands to have a racially mixed lineup that had both girls and boys playing together like good little kids should. Despite all this groundbreaking effort though, the album went virtually unheard by the listening public at large but it was an immediate hit for musicians and those lucky enough to find it on their turntables. A likely story. The material wasn't “commercial” enough and because it was so different and didn't fit in with any radio formats thus receiving no airplay and despite being on a major record label, little was done in terms of promotion. Sly was urged to write more radio friendly tunes and soon after this release of this album, “Dance To The Music” was released which got the band recognized.

Musically this album is far from a throwaway. It shows a promising young act with a whole heap of strong tracks here. Although the songwriting isn't quite as strong as the following two albums for this first phase of S&TFS's career, it certainly has a few winners such as “Underdog,” “Turn Me Loose” and “Run, Run, Run.” In fact most of the album is quite pleasant with the exception of a couple out-of-place mediocre ballads that interfere with the flow. Certainly not the best album the FAMILY came up with but considering how revolutionary this sound was at the time and that there are plenty of interesting tracks to be had, this is required listening in my book.

NEIL ARDLEY A Symphony of Amaranths

Album · 1972 · Third Stream
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Sean Trane
Amongst the rare works of Neil Ardley that hadn’t received a reissue (CD or other), Symphony Of Amaranths was a major gap, and it finally found its way on Dusk ire in 2012 (much to my relief), though I didn’t find out until a few months ago. Along with its predecessor, Greek Variations, these two albums feature Ardley as a leader of Third Stream fusion (classic and jazz), and it is little wonder some draw comparison between Ardley and Gill Evans or Duke Ellington (as thought of with the previous Greek Variations). Retrospectively billed as the second staple of his “trilogy”, I find Amaranths much closer to Variations than to Kaleidoscope, but also less thrilling than the first. As for musicians, we’ll find the usual suspects, , from Lowther, Carr, Beckett, Barbara, Rendell, Heckstall-Smith, , Tracey,and Jenkins to Ricotti, Clyne, Hiseman, and many others. And in the string dept, you’ll find most of the names found on Variations as well.

The sidelong instrumental title track suite (dedicated to GE and DE) is the main course of the album, and is a good mix of classic music melted in a twirling happy big-band jazz music. The long piece goes through almost every mood, alternating between the string section and the horn section, but never afraid to cross-pollinate and present a hermaphrodite product that can either overjoy or repel the listener. Indeed, the barrier-breaking fusion can be seen as groundbreaking, but can also appear as a sell-out “Night Of The Prom” thing for those who don’t have the historical musical landmarks in mind.

The flipside opens with a big surprise with poems declaimed as narrative Dong And The Luminous Nose: I’m generally wary (if not even dismissive) of such musical cheesy exercise – even worse when rock music is involved: Tull’s Hare in Passion Play or Wakeman’s Journey or Round Table or Procol’s Something Magic - but in this case, we’re dealing with a very well written piece over texts from Edward Lear, James Joyce and Lewis Carroll that avoids cheesiness or ill-attempted humour and involves the spoken words (courtesy of Ivor Cutler) evolving to singing or almost rapping (ala Gill-Scott Heron), partly because the pace is gradually and dramatically increasing throughout, backed some tremendous instrumentation like Ricotti’s vibraphone. Ardley goes one further with Three more Poems, this time sung by the unavoidable Norma Winstone with a fun-time big band, though in this case, we’re closer to crooner singing, if it wasn’t for the advanced un-mainstream arrangements of the music behind her.

Of course, with the fad of bonus material added on to classic albums, they often don’t add up to much or are completely out of context and it is the case here, with the God Saves Tango version. Forgettable and best forgotten, really, as it kind of ruins the experience of the album.

Though SoA and GV are very audacious albums (if the present is a tad syrupy, because of the string section being too present), Ardley would go one step further (if not two) with Will Power (subtitled Shakespeare Birthday Celebration Music), but that is simply a step too far for yours truly. Thankfully enough, Ardley found the light and went back to safer grounds with the excellent Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows (76) and Harmony Of The Spheres (79), though both were quite unique and Ardley-esque in their own rights. In the meantime, Amaranths is a very solid (and unsettling) album that deserves to be heard by all Third Stream fans. And if you’re curious about the slogan of “Britain’s answer to Evans and Ellington”, you might want to check it out, to see if it isn’t usurped. Though Duke might seem a bit of a stretch (the recording technology and time lapsed is too big), comparisons with Gil are certainly valid. OK, Dusk Fire, bring on “Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe”, the last brick in Ardley’s wall.

ELLIOTT SHARP Terraplane

Album · 1994 · Jazz Related Blues
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siLLy puPPy
Although i'm not the hugest fan and hardly familiar with the vast discography of ELLIOTT SHARP, I am familiar with a handful of his recordings and actually liking a few. For anyone who has had even the tiniest of sampling of his music will know that his stuff is plain strange and otherworldly. He has been a major player in the avant-garde and experimental world of music for decades and has also dabbled in no wave, modern classical and free jazz. So what a surprise when I picked this up and threw it in just to familiarize myself with more of his music.

What came out of my speakers was simple blues songs. I had to check to see if the correct CD was in the jewel case because I had no idea ELLIOTT had done anything even remotely sounding like anything the public would recognize as music! Yep. It was he. On TERRAPLANE basically we have a whole bunch of covers from classic blues artists such as Otis Rush, Freddie King and Sleepy John Estes and a few originals that fit into the mix. Everything here is well played but I have never been a fan of cover albums and I would rather hear his avant-garde stuff. This is nice and all but I can't understand why he would want to play these songs so faithfully without putting his own weird stamp on them. Nice but safe and i'd rather hear the original artists when I go for classic blues.

Although this is under the ELLIIOTT SHARP name, this is actually the first album of the band that he would name TERRAPLANE who would put out a few more blues albums after this one, however one of these is enough for me and I don't think i'll be exploring this branch of his musical output.

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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