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MILES DAVIS Kind of Blue Album Cover Kind of Blue
MILES DAVIS
4.90 | 107 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE A Love Supreme Album Cover A Love Supreme
JOHN COLTRANE
4.86 | 77 ratings
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MCCOY TYNER Sahara Album Cover Sahara
MCCOY TYNER
4.96 | 14 ratings
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CHARLES MINGUS The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Album Cover The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
CHARLES MINGUS
4.84 | 56 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Miles Davis Quintet : Miles Smiles Album Cover Miles Davis Quintet : Miles Smiles
MILES DAVIS
4.80 | 34 ratings
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MILES DAVIS 'Round About Midnight (aka Miles Davis) Album Cover 'Round About Midnight (aka Miles Davis)
MILES DAVIS
4.79 | 30 ratings
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ALICE COLTRANE Ptah, the El Daoud Album Cover Ptah, the El Daoud
ALICE COLTRANE
4.79 | 26 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE Giant Steps Album Cover Giant Steps
JOHN COLTRANE
4.75 | 50 ratings
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ERIC DOLPHY 'Out to Lunch!' Album Cover 'Out to Lunch!'
ERIC DOLPHY
4.75 | 45 ratings
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BILL EVANS (PIANO) Sunday at the Village Vanguard (aka Live At The Village Vanguard) Album Cover Sunday at the Village Vanguard (aka Live At The Village Vanguard)
BILL EVANS (PIANO)
4.86 | 12 ratings
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LEE MORGAN Search for the New Land Album Cover Search for the New Land
LEE MORGAN
4.84 | 13 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE Live at Birdland Album Cover Live at Birdland
JOHN COLTRANE
4.88 | 10 ratings
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modern jazz Music Reviews

TOHPATI Mata Hati

Album · 2016 · World Fusion
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js
Indonesian guitar virtuoso Tohpati has several group names he works with, and many of those groups lean towards a Western jazz fusion sound, but its in his group known as Tohpati Ethnomission that Tohpati gets deeper into his Indonesian roots, and mixes those roots with the Western sounds of jazz fusion and hard rock. You might think that Gamelan, jazz, pastoral folk melodies and heavy metal guitar would make for an unlikely mix, but on “Mata Hati”, Tohpati and his Ethnomission crew pull it off and come up with some music that sounds like nobody else. Although fellow Indonesian fusion musicians such as Dewa Budjana and Dwiki Dharmawan have been working with large ensembles and multiple guest musicians, Tohpati keeps things simple on here with his core group of Indro Hardjodikoro on bass, Diki Suwarjiki on suling bamboo flute, Endang Ramdan on kendang percussion and Demas Narawangsa on drums. The Czech Symphony Orchestra guests on the opening track, but that is all.

The orchestrated “Jangar” opens the album sounding a lot like a dramatic South Asian movie soundtrack, despite the Indonesian melodies, the sound of this number may remind some of the well-known Indian ‘Bollywood’ soundtracks. Follow up “Tanah Emas” introduces Tohpati’s unlikely mix of ‘Gamelan’ type rhythmic figures and heavy guitar, but as mentioned earlier, this stuff really rocks in its own odd way. Other memorable tracks include the beautifully melodic “Mata Hati” and closing track “Amarah”, which features slashing metal guitars topped by a slow moving bamboo flute melody. Possibly the best track on the album though is “Reog”, which features a super funky hard rock guitar riff that Prince would have been proud to call his own.

There is lots of great fusion coming out of Indonesia these days, but with his use of insistent classical Indonesian rhythms, Tohpati has separated himself from the crowd on “Mata Hati”. Another Tohpati fusion group, Simak Dialog, deals with some similar material in their music, but Dialog’s more hippiefied rustic sound is quite different from Tohpati Ethnomission’s heavier sound. Did I forget to mention that Tohpati tears up the fretboards on this album on heavy distorted guitar, as well as more bluesy-jazzy Herndrix sounds and acoustic guitar as well.

TOMASZ STAŃKO Purple Sun

Album · 1973 · Classic Fusion
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snobb
Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko is most probably country's best known jazz musician for some decades and prestigious ECM label in-house artist. Better known (especially outside of his homeland) from his ECM-sound recordings, in his early ears Stanko played quite different music. Started his career still at late 60s, Tomasz played with in Polish legend Komeda band, starting his career as leader in early 70s.

"Purple Sun" is Stanko quintet third album recorded live in empty hall of Music School in Munich,Germany. All-Polish quartet is completed with German bassist Hans Hartmann here. Album contains four originals (twolong and two shorter pieces). Confusingly enough, "Purple Sun" is often classified in music media (partially Polish) as early example of Polish avant-garde jazz which it isn't.

In reality bass-drums-trumpet-sax quartet with violinist Zbigniew Seifert on board plays high energy fusion strongly influenced by Davis' "Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew". Representing contrast difference from popular Stanko ECM albums of contemporary (chamber) jazz, "Purple Sun" with its raw energy and quite free structure possibly sounds as avant-garde piece for traditional Stanko listeners but everyone familiar with early Miles fusion will confirm their musical similarity.

Stanko's fusion is more European comparing with Miles - there are less American jazz roots (no groove) but lot of German krautrock influence in a form of straight power flow and rock-psychedelia. And yeh - the level of musicians virtuosity is far not as in Davis fusion bands.

Still music sounds really fresh and inspired and common "rockish" aesthetics could be attractive for fans of jazz-rock. In all cases, this album (reissued in Poland on CD at least twice so quite accessible) is not for numerous fans of ECM-period Stanko. Lovers of early Miles fusion will probably find here a nice example of similar music recorded by one of the best Polish jazz musician ever.

STEVE SMITH Steve Smith, George Brooks & Prasanna : Raga Bop Trio

Album · 2010 · World Fusion
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js
Ragabop Trio is Steve Smith on drums, Prasanna on guitar and George Brooks on saxophone, three experts in the fine art of Indian jazz-rock fusion. This first effort, also called 'Ragabop Trio', reveals a lot of talent as well as a few possible problems. The big plus is Prasanna’s considerable skills on the electric guitar. I’m not sure how he produces intricate South Indian Carnatic micro-tonal note bends on an electric guitar, but he does and his ornaments are deadly accurate and authentic, but most importantly, they sound great.

Not everything is all Indian jazz-rock on here, on a few tunes they also turn to African fusion to provide some rhythmic foundation. The variety of styles they perform can be interesting, but sometimes it seems like this CD lacks focus or some kind of anchor point. Overall though, I think the biggest problem here is the lack of a bass player. I can see that by excluding the bass they have created a more Indian style ensemble with Smith acting as a tabla player on the trap set with the other two providing the raga like solos, which is fine on some of the more Indian styled cuts, but on the more rockin or funky numbers the lack of bass really sticks out and makes the music sound empty.

Some of the best cuts include: ‘Tug of War’, a fast paced fusion workout with lots of great guitar leads, ‘Garuda’, a beautiful mellow African melody and ‘Katayini’, a cool groove number with excellent alternating raga melodies. That last one could show up on some exotica collections someday. The least successful cut is ‘The Geometry of Rap’, in which Steve Smith presents Indian rhythm counting syllables (konnakol) as a sort of rap. It comes across as something that is clever the first time you do it, but not something to put on your CD. Besides, as a rap song, its not very good. I think I have heard someone else trying to use konnakol as rap, probably one of those things that will make the rounds for a while and then disappear for good, sort of like parachute pants.

I think fans of Indian fusion will find a lot of things to enjoy here. A couple songs are excellent and Prasanna’s guitar playing is a revelation, but I think a little more musical unity and at least an occasional bass player could do this band some good.

RETURN TO FOREVER Light as a Feather

Album · 1973 · Classic Fusion
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Miler72
This is apparently the first true Return to Forever album as the previous album, entitled Return to Forever, was released as a Chick Corea solo album, but it featured the same musicians, so that's how the name stuck, I guess. Light as a Feather continues the Brazilian jazz/Bossa Nova influence, with Flora Purim providing vocals and husband Airto Moreira on percussion. Chick Corea uses strictly electric piano and Stanley Clarke provides only stand up bass here. This is an incredible album, it doesn't have the break-neck Mahavishnu Orchestra-fast playing of Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy or the progginess of Romantic Warrior, it has a more relaxed vibe, but what a wonderful mood Chick Corea and Co. creates here, with lots of lengthy instrumental fusion passages, and of course a Brazilian feel that is ever present. Every time I hear Flora Purim sing, I expect her to either sing in her native Portuguese (she doesn't, she sings in English, since this was aimed for the American audience, naturally) or break into "The Girl From Impanema". Never happens. I wasn't sure if I would like this album, but instead it really knocked my socks off. Usually vocals in fusion albums are a big turn-off for me, but of course Flora Purim being Brazilian works amazingly well here, giving that Bossa Nova influence. If you like Brazilian jazz as well as fusion this album is a totally required!

AL DI MEOLA Land of the Midnight Sun

Album · 1976 · Classic Fusion
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Miler72
Having been blown away by Return to Forever's Romantic Warrior (an album that literally took me years to warm up to, though, but once I did...) and Lenny White's Venusian Summer, I went and tried Al Di Meola's debut album, Land of the Midnight Sun. Like Lenny White's Venusian Summer, he doesn't hire a steady band, just whatever musicians want to appear, but Mingo Lewis of Santana (of the Caravanserai/Welcome/Borboletta-era), Jaco Pastorius, Steve Gadd, Stanley Clarke, even Chick Corea, and others appear. The first two cuts sound a whole lot like Romantic Warrior-era RTF meets Santana, which is no surprise given the members involved. He does a unaccompanied Bach piece on acoustic guitar, and do an atmospheric spacy prog number "Love them from 'Pictures of the Sea'". Surprisingly Stanley Clarke provides vocals here in that spacy prog manner, which does this piece justice. "Morning Fire" is a multi-movement suite, but it's basically one long jam with tons of fretless bass playing from Jaco Pastorius. In fact this was a big reason he ended up a member of Weather Report and became a valuable asset to the band. The last piece is largely Chick Corea on piano and Al Di Meola on guitar, and a rather relaxed piece.

This is truly a great album of Latin-influenced fusion, that I can highly recommend to those who enjoy Return to Forever (naturally) and fusion-era Santana.

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WEATHER REPORT Live in Germany 1971

Movie · 2010 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
Well if the world still has to find some live recording from the very first studio all-star line-up (not likely, though), at least we've got now something very close to and we can even see the quintet at work with this just-as-famous version in the form of a German TV show called the Beat Club. With only Airto Moreira gone, replaced by Brazilian countryman Um Romao, the other four being Vitous, Shorter, Mouzon and Zawinul, Weather Report embarked on this TV show adventure not knowing that Alphonse Mouzon would leave the band in a while.

As you'd expect this broadcast consisted mainly of tracks from the debut album, but some are fairly different as WR always made improvisation their force. So you'll recognize 'Umbrellas generic structure, but drafted fairly differently, not just because of Romao's constant change of percussions instruments - he's one of the visual focus of the group, who otherwise remains fairly static and even blows a flute (and later some whistles) for a short while. One of the big difference between the studio album and this broadcast is that Miroslav has taken up the electric bass (his contrabass is still very present but mainly played with a bow), thus allowing even more energy to invade the quintet's shared space. The group's steaming-hot improvised fusion is simply awesome and flows naturally from your speakers like a river of fresh lave spewing out from your volcanic woofers.

Clearly the gravitational centre of the band is Zawinul's Rhodes, but it is clear that it is the group's tightness its main force. Morning Lake is much needed breathing space, starting out slowly with Shorter's sax signalling the dawn for Romao's birdsongs. Just past that Dom pulls an Brazilian berimbau . Drummer Alphonse sings funkilly (rather well, too) a rare sung track in the closing medley, but it's will veer into the Dr Honoris Causa - later on the Body Electric album.

A while later, Mouzon would leave the band and be replaced by drummer Erik Gravatt and this line-up would go on to record Body Electric and the Tokyo concert (released in 77, but part of it in the ISTBE album) and in the process become the definitive line-up of the Vitous- era Weather Report But for now, this German TV broadcast is an inestimable witness of the group's almost original line-up, and is just as essential as their debut album, the Tokyo concert or Body Electric.Too bad it's relatively short, though. Run for this baby...

MEDESKI MARTIN AND WOOD Fly In A Bottle

Movie · 2011 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
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js
“Fly in a Bottle” is a documentary that follows Medeski, Martin and Wood while they are on tour developing the music that will become “Radiolarians”, as well as some of the recording sessions for that same album. The music on here is excellent, MM&W have a come a long way over the years. They were always a talented band from the start, but their confidence has grown. The funky tunes are funkier than ever, and the psychedelic jazz-rock tunes are more powerful, imaginative and original. Almost any music fan might enjoy watching their concerts and even some of their recording sessions, but a lot of the rest of this DVD is for hardcore fans only.

Along with the footage of MM&W playing music, you also get a lot of footage of them on tour visiting ecological tourist spots and talking, hanging out etc, which is where I think a lot of non-fans will probably start losing interest. They seem like nice sincere guys, but they aren’t particularly entertaining or charismatic, which is often the case with nice sincere guys. There are also some artsy short videos that follow the main feature, some more entertaining than others. Fans of MM&W may want to pick this up, it’s a well-made video and the music is excellent, but non-fans may find this lacking in substance in places.

DIXIE DREGS Live At The Montreaux Jazz Festival

Movie · 2005 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
This was the Dixie Dregs lineup that I first come to know live and otherwise. The Montreaux Jazz Festival performance was used for side two of the LP Night of the Living Dregs. I had no idea the concert was filmed. This represents the band at their prime. Keyboardist Mark Parrish, would soon be replaced by T Lavitz, who is a better keyboard player, but this as this performance testifies, he was no slouch either. Oddly enough, the back cover of this DVD shows a band picture with the original keyboardist from Freefall, Steve Davidowski (guess there was only room for one Steve in this band). Steve Morse was at his most inspired around this time, even though he has certainly grown in skill over the years.

The set list is a little disappointing as it lacks some of the prime cuts from What If (Night Meets Light, Odyssey, Travel Tunes, What If), but I'm not complaining. Now I have something more than just memories of the many Dregs shows I saw back then. It is more of a forward looking set which includes Attila The Hun, that didn't show up on an album until three years later. Also of note, but of less interest to progressive rock fans, is the bluegrass style ditty, Kathreen, never released on a regular album, but only showed up on their demo album, The Great Spectacular, from 1975. If you have a copy of that album, you have something rare, indeed.

Thrown in for bonus are two live TV appearances, one on American Can'tstand (Bandstand) and one on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert. On the former, you get to see them both try out a vocalist, in an attempt to appeal to a more mainstream audience, and with Mark O'Connor, who only played with them for one album, but a few great live shows before the band disbanded for a few years.

As great as the band studio albums were, the live shows took things to an even higher level. Now you can see what you missed, unless you didn't.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Abstract Logix Live! / The New Universe Music Festival 2010

Movie · 2011 · Classic Fusion
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js
Abstract Logix’s New Universe Festival of 2010 was probably one of the more significant fusion concerts in recent history, and it is all captured in excellent form on this concert video. Many of the top names in current fusion are here and what a great varied and colorful approach they all bring to this music that will always be associated with its 70s roots. Ranjit Barot fuses fusion with Indian flavors and orchestral music, Human Element bring back the beautiful noise and chaos that has been absent since the early days of jazz-rock, Wayne Krantz takes on the modern NYC flavor with his harsh jarring free funk, Jimmy Herring plays sentimental, sometimes delicate, progressive rock flavored fusion, and of course the great John McLaughlin rounds it all up with high speed post bop mixed with funk and contemporary fusion. Every single performance is top notch and very convincing in letting us know that there is still plenty of life left in this sometimes maligned genre.

The music on here is great, but the video itself is even better. Its amazing how far concert videos have come over the years. This one is clear as a bell and features lots of accurate close-ups of the musicians as they display their virtuoso skills. They say that fusion is a musician’s music, if that is the case, then this video is a great learning tool for the aspiring player. Much of the footage on here goes right to the source and features the musician’s hands as they work their scales and fret boards. Any aspiring fusionist can pick up a lifetime of high speed licks and extended technique by studying this video and even stop-starting it it frame by frame. Long gone are the days of vague camera angles from way far away and pointless shots of musicians grimacing while they play, this video is all about accuracy and showing you exactly how this music goes down. This is a spirited and enthusiastic concert and highly recommended for fans of modern fusion.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Live At Montreux 74/84

Movie · 2007 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
The 1984 appearance of the MO was a lineup that didn't have any of the previous MO lineup of musicians except for John. Still there was a pretty impressive roster. Jonas Hellborg, on bass, steals the show. I suspect he's been rather influenced by Jaco at this point. Also, we also have Bill Evans, fairly fresh out of his stint saxing with Miles Davis. There's also a fine drummer, Danny Gottlieb, who'd played with Pat Metheny prior. Don't know much about Mitchell Forman. With John experimenting with the Synclavier Guitar so much, the keyboards are almost redundant in this ensemble. I had a hard time sitting through this at first. It definitely has that '80's taint, if you know what I mean. But I've warmed up to it. It's a bit like an attempt to return to the magic of the original lineup that doesn't quite get there. Still, if you judge it in the context of the time, it's not too bad.

I got this for one reason and one reason only, it was the two video bits from the Apocalypse lineup of Mahavishu Orchestra. Actually calling them bits isn't quite accurate. Wings of Karma and Hymn to Him are actually decently long pieces. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had some actual orchestra musicians with them there at Montreaux. The first inkling I got that there was some live footage from this MO lineup was a poor quality video of Smile of the Beyond on a certain video clip web site many of us know of. It's very disappointing that we only get two clips from the show with video and the rest are audio only. I'm guessing the rest of the original footage has been lost. One can only hope that it will resurface. The performance is a bit more structured than the more compact MO's could be live, but that's to be expected due to the larger number of musician's involved. Still the core band does get to work in some improvisation, McLaughlin in particular.

This release is all in all a pleasant surprise for 2007, but there's more video out there from the older Mahavishu Orchestras, and I hope to see that material surface soon. It gets a four on the round up.

Artists with Modern Jazz release(s)

JMA TOP 5 Jazz ALBUMS

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Albums with 30 ratings and more
Kind of Blue Cool Jazz
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The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Post Bop
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Miles Davis Quintet : Miles Smiles Post Bop
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