Fusion

Jazz music community with review and forums

Rock and RnB came from jazz in the 1940s via the jump blues genre. Needless to say, over the years jazz, rock and RnB have enjoyed a close relationship and have cross-influenced each other from the beginning. In the mid to late 60s, rock and RnB under went major changes with rock becoming much louder and more experimental under the influence of artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Cream, while RnB became more syncopated and abstract with the new funk sound created by James Brown, Bootsy Collins, Sly Stone and Larry Graham. Meanwhile, Latin jazz was undergoing similar experimental changes under the guidance of artists such as Hermato Pascoal and Flora Purim.

At this point in the mid to late 60s, any intersection between jazz, rock, funk and Latin became a radically different form of music that eventually came to be called fusion. Pioneers in the world of fusion include Larry Coryell, Jermy Steig, Gary Burton, Don Ellis, Chico Hamilton, Charles Lloyd, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin, Tony Williams, Soft Machine, Brian Auger, Miles Davis, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea and Dreams (Billy Cobham and the Brecker Brothers)

fusion top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 24 hours caching

MILES DAVIS In a Silent Way Album Cover In a Silent Way
MILES DAVIS
4.67 | 115 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time Album Cover Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time
MILES DAVIS
4.79 | 12 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Bitches Brew Album Cover Bitches Brew
MILES DAVIS
4.58 | 104 ratings
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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA The Inner Mounting Flame Album Cover The Inner Mounting Flame
MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
4.57 | 81 ratings
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HERBIE HANCOCK Crossings Album Cover Crossings
HERBIE HANCOCK
4.56 | 62 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall Album Cover Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall
MILES DAVIS
4.60 | 31 ratings
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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Birds of Fire Album Cover Birds of Fire
MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
4.50 | 82 ratings
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EDDIE HENDERSON Realization Album Cover Realization
EDDIE HENDERSON
4.57 | 17 ratings
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CHRIS POTTER Circuits Album Cover Circuits
CHRIS POTTER
4.92 | 4 ratings
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PAT METHENY Pat Metheny Group : The Way Up Album Cover Pat Metheny Group : The Way Up
PAT METHENY
4.46 | 30 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Get Up With It Album Cover Get Up With It
MILES DAVIS
4.45 | 39 ratings
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LES MCCANN Invitation to Openness Album Cover Invitation to Openness
LES MCCANN
4.58 | 11 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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fusion Music Reviews

LARRY CORYELL Barefoot Boy

Album · 1971 · Fusion
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js
“Barefoot Boy” is one of Larry Coryell’s earliest albums and features the rugged fusion style that was popular in the early 70s. The early days of fusion were somewhat exciting with musicians combining the freedom of Coltrane with the sonic effects of Hendrix into a new style of music that paid the bills a little better than post bop. Larry was one of the major leaders in this new style and you can certainly hear his influence on John McLaughlin, Pat Martino, Bill Connor and a host of others. Like a lot of fusion from this time period, “Barefoot Boy” is really just a jam session. There is very little structure at work here, but the immense talent of the musicians involved make it a worthwhile listen for the fusion fan.

The album opens with Gabor Szabo’s “Gypsy Queen”, which most people know from the Santana “Abraxas” album. The Coryell version is barely recognizable as the musicians waste no time getting straight into the solos. Saxophonist Steve Marcus channels Coltrane’s soprano sax style with a million notes sheets of sound. Larry follows with Sonny Sharrock styled noise onslaughts followed by a very Hendrix inspired rock solo. Hendrix’s sound mixer, Eddie Kramer, is on hand and he gives Larry’s solo all the wild panning effects that Eddie used on “Electric Ladyland”. Side two closes out with the funky RnB of “The Great Escape” which has Steve Marcus doing a much more soulful solo on tenor saxophone. The driving guitar riff on this one is one of the more focused points on this record.

Side two is given entirely to “Call to the Higher Consciousness”, which starts off as a Coltrane style modal post bop jam, but the riffing soon morphs into a somewhat tired sounding Grateful Dead cliché. This track lacks rhythmic excitement as there is little to back up the increasingly indulgent solos. Marcus does his Coltrane soprano thing again and ace drummer Roy Haynes takes a ride as well. Since this is the great Haynes, this is a very musical solo and not just your typical rock n roll display of thunder and power. Pianist Michael Mandel tries to interject a little jazz into this one, but overall this number just sort of drags along.

For the jazz fan looking for some challenging in depth listening, “Barefoot Boy” isn’t exactly “Out to Lunch”, or “Giant Steps”, but for those who enjoy the kitsch sounds of early 70s psychedelic fusion, Coryell and his cohorts deliver the goods.

RANDY BERNSEN Heart, Mind and Soul

Album · 2023 · Fusion
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Carmel
Randy Bernsen, a figure whose roots extend from the quiet corners of Needham, Massachusetts, to the vibrant musical mixing pot of South Florida, has carved a niche for himself within the jazz fusion genre. His latest album, "Heart Mind and Soul," released on June 16, 2023, under Jerico Jams, is a 32-minute journey through six glowing compositions. The sounds in this project showcase Bernsen's virtuosity and the collective genius of the various bands joining him, including luminaries like Bob Mintzer, Jimmy Haslip, and others.

The album's opener, "With You Always," encapsulates the essence of Bernsen's musical philosophy: a blend of emotional depth and technical cleverness. The relaxed fusion groove of "Prodigal Son" then sets a sophisticated scene, with Bernsen transitioning seamlessly between electric and acoustic guitars, underpinned by a richly textured backdrop provided by Haslip's bass and the Nizri brother's piano and drums. This song, in particular, illustrates Bernsen's musical language, which weaves engaging musical ideas into emotionally resonant phrases.

"Shepherd's Heart" shows Bernsen's compositional skills are also built on soul-stirring melodies. Here, his acoustic guitar sings over a backdrop of rich synth sounds, with a bassline that converses eloquently with the melody, highlighting Bernsen's flair for creating music that touches the soul. Including Mintzer's warm saxophone tones adds a layer of color and energy, enriching the song's texture.

Bernsen's exploration of different tonal landscapes is evident in tracks like "Abba Father" and "Billy Gate Blues." The former is characterized by stylized melodic musings against a backdrop of graceful keyboard lines, and the latter by its gritty blues tone married to a bopping jazz fusion beat. "With You Always" has a balmy atmosphere, created through Bernsen's melodic guitar riffs that soothe and invigorate equally.

As a guitarist, Bernsen is a master of expression, utilizing his formidable technique not for display but as a tool for musical storytelling. His ability to meld various styles—blues, funk, jazz, or Latin jazz—into a cohesive whole speaks volumes of his playing skill and deep understanding of the fusion genre.

"Heart Mind and Soul" is a tone narrative woven through the strings of Bernsen's guitar, each note a word, every melody a sentence, telling hip musical stories. The ensemble's chemistry is palpable, and each musician's contribution is vital to the album's overall impact. This album is a fun listening experience. A maestro of the modern jazz fusion genre, "Heart Mind and Soul" is a solid addition to the collection of any discerning fusion listener.

JEFF LORBER The Drop

Album · 2023 · Fusion
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Carmel
Hey there, music aficionados and fellow seekers of sonic adventure! Today, we're diving headfirst into the vibrant world of contemporary fusion with none other than Jeff Lorber's latest offering, "The Drop." Lorber has an insatiable appetite for groove sounds, and my hope is you will be inspired to explore them for yourself after reading this article.

Let's kick things off by exploring the playing on "The Drop." From the moment you hit play, it's abundantly clear that you're going to hear some seriously talented musicians. Jeff Lorber, alongside longtime collaborator Jimmy Haslip (bass), leads the charge with their trademark finesse and virtuosity. Lorber's keyboard work is mesmerizing, effortlessly gliding between smooth melodies and funky, rhythmic chordal grooves. Haslip's basslines provide a rock-solid foundation, locking in with the groove's feel with impeccable precision.

But the charmed sounds continue with the supporting cast of players on this album. From Gary Novak's dynamic drumming to the soulful saxophone stylings of Randal Clark, each musician brings their A-game to the table, elevating Lorber's compositions to new heights.

Speaking of compositions, Lorber truly shines as an architect of sound on "The Drop." Each track is meticulously crafted with a focus on texture and emotion, seamlessly interlacing together elements of jazz, funk, and R&B into a cohesive sonic chronicle.

Take "New Mexico," for example. The sultry horn hooks and Marc Lettieri's lead and rhythm guitar, anchored by Cornelius Mims' infectious bass groove, transport you to a smoky jazz club in the heart of the Southwest. Meanwhile, Lorber's nimble keyboard work dances atop the rhythm section with effortless grace, painting a vivid musical portrait that is exhilarating.

Turning our attention to "Hang Tight," the track unfolds with a laid-back groove that firmly nestles itself in the pocket, exuding a sensual allure that's hard to resist. Here, the percussive finesse of Lettieri's guitar lays a textured foundation, against which Lorber's keyboard melody and solos surge forward with dynamic vigor. Lettieri, with his exquisite touch, opts for taste over flash—his solos are melodic and prioritize depth of feel over flash. Haslip's six-string bass resonates with profound wisdom, anchoring the ensemble with its robust bottom end. His solo ventures into the upper echelons of his instrument's range, offering a glimpse into his versatile and agile musical mind. Each note and rhythm crafted by Novak, Haslip, and Lettieri interlocks with Lorber's vision, creating a sound that's inviting.

Elsewhere on the album, tracks like "On the Bus" and "Keep Moving" showcase Lorber's uncanny ability to blend intricate melodies with infectious rhythms, resulting in compositions that are equal parts cerebral and toe-tappingly infectious.

Last but certainly not least, let's talk about the chemistry between the players on "The Drop." Fusion music is all about collaboration and synergy, and Lorber and his crew have it in spades. The way they anticipate each other's moves, trading solos and riffing off each other's energy is enchanted.

Whether it's the interplay between Lorber's keys and Gary Novak's deep groove pocket on "Reception" or the dynamic call-and-response between horns and rhythm section on "Tail Lights," the chemistry between the musicians on this album is palpable. It's the kind of musical telepathy that can only come from years of shared experience and mutual respect.

"The Drop" is a tour de force of modern fusion music that showcases Jeff Lorber Fusion at the peak of their creative powers. With its stellar playing, captivating compositions, and undeniable chemistry, this album explores the possibilities of what's possible in groove fusion. So, grab your headphones and crank up the volume; trust me, you won't be disappointed.

NIC VARDANEGA New Beginning

Album · 2023 · Fusion
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Carmel
Today, jazz lovers, we are talking about contemporary jazz, Australian-born guitarist and composer Nic Vardanega, and his album, “New Beginning,” presented in a guitar, bass, and drums trio format. Through eight original compositions, Vardanega, alongside bassist Ben Allison and drummer Allan Mednard, craft a set of music with a distinct identity that explores the nuanced interplay of a trio deeply in sync.

“New Beginning” is anchored by Vardanega's robust guitar abilities. His playing combines precision and patience, seamlessly integrating catchy melodic lines with colorful chordal structures. The opening track, "New Beginning," exemplifies this balance, weaving Latin rhythms with the folk-jazz essence, creating a lively piece endowed with lyricism. Vardanega's solos shine brightly on the project, particularly in tracks like "Side Effects" and "Glass Moon," where his ability to construct complex melodies with expressive rhythmic depth is fully displayed.

Compositionally, Vardanega's work on “New Beginning” is the root of the trio's sound. Each piece is a distinct narrative chapter, reflecting his personal and musical growth. The album's thematic coherence is rooted in the idea of renewal, mirroring Vardanega's life transitions, including his recent fatherhood. This personal touch imbues the album with authenticity and emotional resonance, particularly in the reflective "M's Lullaby" and the vibrant "Summers."

The trio's interaction is another highlight of the album. The synergy between Vardanega, Allison, and Mednard is palpable, creating a dynamic and responsive musical conversation. This is evident in the playful interchange of "Inner Episode" and the soulful dialogue of "Looking Back." Allison's bass lines provide a solid foundation, while Mednard's drumming adds texture and momentum, allowing Vardanega's guitar to express the song's intricacies freely. Their collective empathy enhances the album's overall feel, making each composition a shared expression of virtuosity and vision that combines to form a cohesive whole.

The album navigates through a spectrum of moods and styles, from the buoyant rhythms of "Cardenas" to the cinematic narrative of "Looking Back." "Inner Episode" is a modern jazz composition showcasing the trio's ability to blend modern harmonic colors with a fluid swing. Inspired by jazz legends like Joe Henderson, Vardanega infuses his playing with a modern jazz vocabulary informed by today's jazz structures and deeply rooted in the tradition of bop and post-bop.

“New Beginning” is a solid outing for the jazz guitar trio. Vardanega's compositions reflect and enable his musical identity, enriched by the rapport and versatility of his collaboration with Allison and Mednard. The album has a fresh influence from Australian folk music with contemporary American modern jazz sounds. “New Beginning” is a tasteful set with musicality and a trio that is cohesive in its interplay, making “New Beginning” an exciting listen.

PHAROAH SANDERS Pharoah

Album · 1977 · Fusion
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Rexorcist
Perhaps the most polarizing jazz album of all time, Pharoah Sanders himself disowned this album after its release. Now I won't claim to know the Pharoah as well as he himself did, but this may simply be the result of many recording troubles. I understand one of the major criticisms is the general sound of the album, and another seems to be the less spiritual presence in comparison to other classic Pharoah albums.

I personally find both of these flaws to be a bit too opinionated for me. First of all, a sound error can be fixed with a little production, and the version I heard did just that. Secondly, I admire when an artist tries to do something different. This album was quite different, and I really don't mind considering that jazz artists would change themselves all the time. Once bebop went out of style, Miles David switched to cool jazz. Then he reinvented the genre with the fusion work of In a Silent Way, and eventually became a leading figure in jazz-funk.

Pharoah's self-titled album is a wholly consistent mishmash of many of the things that does the exact same thing that In a Silent Way did, and with some similarities, mostly on the fusion and ambient sides. These are two key figures of both albums that are amplified by the other aspects on both compositional and aural levels. Whereas In a Silent Way included a little avant-garde, ambient and rock, this album includes some soul, tribal sounds and ambient. The vocal harmonizing in the final track is easily one of Pharoah's most empowering and heavenly accomplishments, and this five minute track fits perfectly with the two previous epics. This album is a hypnotic journey into a cooler, darker and more self-aware Pharoah that reaches new heights in the world of atmosphere. The entire time I was practically soaked in the album's hypnotic powers, which I can only describe as a battle between noirish laments and alien rituals. This is easily one of my new favorite jazz albums.

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WEATHER REPORT Live in Germany 1971

Movie · 2010 · 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...

DIXIE DREGS Live At The Montreaux Jazz Festival

Movie · 2005 · 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 · 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 · 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.

JEFF BECK Performing This Week...Live At Ronnie Scott's

Movie · 2008 · Fusion
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Slartibartfast
Holy crap, there's a new Jeff Beck live DVD out there!.

...I thought as I saw this at the record store. This is why it's important to keep those local independent brick and mortar record stores open: you'll never know what you'll find browsing.

As near as I've been able to find out, Jeff Beck (THE Beck, not that other guy) hadn't been touring in a long time, but rather was sticking to special performances. To make up for it, sort of, he did a week's worth of shows at London's Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in late November 2007. I've never been there, but it looks a little large as some jazz clubs go but still reasonably intimate. I'm pretty sure you don't need binoculars to observe any performances there.

Jeff has assembled an interesting set of musicians, the oldest being Jeff himself (b. 1944), Vinnie Colaiuta (1956) on drums, Jason Rebello (1969) on keys, and Tal Wilkenfeld (1986) on bass. Vinnie I know best from association with Zappa, Jason's new to me but I found out has worked with Sting, Tal (new to the music scene) hails from Australia and judging from her performance she is someone to really keep your eye on. Guests appearances by Joss Stone, Imogen Heap, and Eric Clapton, heyyy.

The set list, not really the proper term as it must have been culled from all the shows, is an impressive collection of material spanning Jeff's career so far. Original stuff includes Beck's Bolero {is this not actually a cover?}, Led Boots, Scatterbrain, Angel, Blast From The East, Rollin' And Tumblin'. Also some nice covers thrown in for good measure including Eternity's Breath!, Cause We've Ended As Lovers {never really seemed like a cover to me}, People Get Ready, A Day In The Life, You Need Love). You also get some interviews as bonus material and the DVD booklet is a nice read. 21 tracks altogether, mixed in Dolby 5.1 and DTS surround sounds with a 16:9 video format, I might add.

Wish I was there but this is the next best thing. It's one hell of a way to experience one hell of a guitarist. It's a live assortment, but due the quality and quantity I am rounding this one up.

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