Saturday, August 20, 2016

Adam Holzman & Brave New World - 1997 "The Big Picture"

Jazz keyboardist Adam Holzman (b. February 15, 1958, in New York, NY) has had an interesting career trajectory. The son of Jac Holzman, the president of Elektra Records during its late-'60s heyday, Holzman learned keyboards at an early age, picking up the instrument when he was in the third grade. Since he was in the inner circle of Elektra, he was not only exposed to many of the era's trailblazers, but he was also able to see how they worked. He hung out at Doors rehearsals, met Love, and saw the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in their prime. Like many musicians of his era, he was also heavily influenced by the Beatles. He found himself attracted to the music of Butterfield and the Fab Four, which led him to explore a number of different artists from Leon Russell to Joe Cocker, eventually leading to keyboard-dominated prog-rockers Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes. Holzman's infatuation with prog-rock turned out to be the doorway to his passion for jazz-fusion and synthesizers. In a matter of time, ELP gave way to Chick Corea's groundbreaking Return to Forever and Herbie Hancock's innovative early-'70s work. By the early '80s, he was working at Goodman's Music, a respected instrument store in Los Angeles. At Goodman's, he became an expert in MIDI technology and synth programming, which led to regular studio gigs. Soon, he had attracted the attention of Miles Davis, who was interested in MIDI. He joined Davis' band in 1985. Holzman stayed with the legendary musician for four years, spending his final year -- from 1988 to 1989 -- as the musical director for the entire band. Following his tenure with Davis, he toured and recorded with a variety of artists, including Chaka Khan, Michel Petrucciani, Wayne Shorter, Kolvynator and Kenny Garrett. In the spring of 1997, he joined Grover Washington Jr.'s band. By the late '90s, he was also playing with FM Tribe and Francis M'Bappe in New York City. In addition to his role as a sideman, Holzman pursued many of his own projects. He led the Los Angeles-based jazz-rock group the Fents with guitarist Ted Hall; they released The Other Side on Passport Jazz in 1987. He also formed the prog-influenced Mona Lisa Overdrive, who released an eponymous album in 1993. In the '90s, he released several solo albums -- In a Loud Way (1991), Overdrive (1994) and Big Picture (1997) -- before forming the New York-based, funk-inflected group Brave New World, who were a recording entity in their own right, releasing Worldwind in the fall of 1998. 

Holzman manned the keyboards in the late 80s Miles Davis Band. By '85, he became musical director for the band. The music is a punchy fusion. Electronic musicians sample jazz grooves, now here is a jazz band that introduced some of their tracks with ear-catching samples. It is a rhythm intensive effort with a clouded demeanor. An exciting album, having avoided any jazz fusion cliches. It could be considered rock where sax takes over guitar duties.

Adam Holzman and his band Brave New World have created an edgy progressive-funk concept album for the post-millenial age of fear. Inspired by bizarre events while on tour in Eastern Europe, The Big Picture is a science fiction soundtrack blending heavy funk, 90's cyber jazz, Miles and Weather Report influences. Former Miles Davis keyboardist Adam Holzman continues to carve out his own unique approach to hard-edge keyboard playing. He burns on Wurlitzer electric piano and synthesizers. Drummer Juju House and bass player Freddy Cash lay down some ridiculously thick grooves. Plus, these guys can write. Adventurous and powerful.

In the early 1980s, Holzman founded the Fents with Ted Hall. In 1985, he was hired by Miles Davis to play keyboards on the trumpeter's Tutu album, and stayed with him for four years, eventually becoming his musical director. He can be seen performing in the Davis concert video That's What Happened: Live in Germany 1987. In the early 1990s, he founded the band Mona Lisa Overdrive, which subsequently changed its name to Brave New World due to copyright issues.
Holzman has performed as a sideman with numerous performers and bands including: Abstract Truth, the Jason Becker Tribute, the Bob Belden Ensemble, Big Horns Bee, Bob's Book Club, Tom Browne, Miles Davis, the Miles Davis Tribute, Cesare Dell’Anna, Ray DeTone, Norman Dozier, Wayne Escoffery, Charles Fambrough, Anton Fig, Robben Ford, Jane Getter, Randy Hall, the Jimi Hendrix Tribute, Robin Kenyatta, Kelvynator, Chaka Khan, Steve Louw, the Teo Macero Project, Ed Maguire, the Mahavishnu Project, Ray Manzarek, Francis M'Bappe, Jason Miles, Marcus Miller, Mark Muller, Shaun Mullins, Takanori Niida, Michel Petrucciani, Kim Plainfield, Lincoln Goines, Twana Rhodes, Wallace Roney, Section 31, Sponge, Steps Ahead, Supa Group, David Taylor, Grover Washington, Jr., Lenny White, Ray Wilson, and Steven Wilson. Many of these performers he has also produced, arranged and composed for.

Tracklist:

01     Toxic Waste Introduction     0:59
02     Iron Curtain     3:07
03     Mad Cow Disease     4:09
04     The Longest Day     7:31
05     Chaos Theory     2:12
06     Second World     6:30
07     The Hot Zone     7:31
08     The Sky Is Falling     5:36
09     My Game Is Strong     5:23
10     Comrad Russell     0:12
11     Fred-Ex     6:03
12     Failed Industrial Belt     7:58

Personnel:

    Acoustic Guitar, Steel Guitar – Jane Getter
    Bass Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Shaker, Alto Flute – Aaron Heick
    Bass, Programmed By [Bass] – Freddie Cash Jr.*
    Drums, Shaker, Percussion [Drum Loop, Trash Cans] – Ju Ju House
    Guitar – Allen Burroughs
    Guitar, Vocals, Voice – Mitch Stein
    Guitar, Voice – Mike Campbell (3)
    Organ, Drum Programming, Producer, Clavinet, Programmed By, Electric Piano [Wurlitzer], Keyboards, Arranged By, Piano, Synthesizer – Adam Holzman
    Vocals – Michael "Dino" Campbell*

Deep Purple - 1970 "In Rock" [EMI]

Deep Purple in Rock, also known as In Rock, is the fourth studio album by English rock band Deep Purple, released on 3 June 1970. It was the first studio album recorded by the classic Mark II line-up. Rod Evans (vocals) and Nick Simper (bass) had been fired in June 1969 and were replaced by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, respectively.
Deep Purple in Rock was their breakthrough album in Europe and would peak at No. 4 in the UK, remaining in the charts for months (the band's prior MK I albums had been much better received in North America than in their homeland). The album was supported by the hugely successful In Rock World Tour which lasted 15 months.
Although this was the first studio album to feature the MK II line-up of the band, it was this line-up that had earlier recorded the live Concerto for Group and Orchestra. The album was also preceded by the single "Hallelujah", the first studio recording that Gillan made with Deep Purple. "Hallelujah" was a Greenaway-Cook composition released in late 1969, but the song flopped. A second single, "Black Night", was developed around the same time as the In Rock album, but not included on the album. "Black Night" fared much better, as it rose all the way to No. 2 on the UK charts.
In 2005 the album won the Classic Rock and Roll of Honour Award (given by the British monthly magazine Classic Rock) in the category Classic Album. The award was presented to Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore.

While the original lineup of Deep Purple included experienced musicians, none of the five were accomplished songwriters. Thus, Deep Purple's earlier work ranged from psychedelic hard rock built around Blackmore riffs, to classical-influenced tracks developed and arranged by Lord, to cover songs that ranged from The Beatles to Neil Diamond, among others. Conversely, Gillan and Glover had a good amount of experience writing songs for Episode Six, their previous band, and all tracks on In Rock are credited to the five members of the group.
Jon Lord used both the Leslie speaker and a Marshall amplifier with his Hammond organ, therefore the organ sound varies a lot throughout the songs. (Example: "Living Wreck" – Leslie speaker, "Hard Lovin' Man" – Marshall amplifier).
The cover depicts the band in a rock sculpture inspired by Mount Rushmore.

Song information:

"Speed King"
Main article: Speed King
As the liner notes for the LP allude ("A few roots…replanted"), "Speed King" is an ode to early rock-and-roll, with frequent references to songs performed by Little Richard ("Good Golly Miss Molly", "Tutti-Frutti" and "Lucille"), as well as Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. The original UK version of the album includes the full introductory instrumental, featuring a loud free-form Blackmore guitar passage blending into a quieter Lord organ piece; the US version did not include the intro. The hard-rocking song features a midsection "call-and-answer" solo exchange between Blackmore and Lord, which presaged their live performances for years to come; it was regularly played at concerts during the Mark II era, starting as an opener, but more frequently performed as an encore. It was also the b-side of the non-album single "Black Night".
"Bloodsucker"
Another hard rocker featuring a midsection exchange between Blackmore and Lord, with Gillan literally screaming out the final verse. The Mark VII version of Deep Purple (featuring Steve Morse on guitar) re-recorded this song for their 1998 release Abandon, with the revised title of "Bludsucker".
"Child in Time"
Main article: Child in Time
Considered one of the epic songs of the Mark II era, especially prior to the release of the iconic "Smoke on the Water" in 1972, "Child in Time" goes from quiet sadness to bombastic rocker and back again in a track running over 10 minutes. Lord's organ is most prominent in the quieter parts, as he plays a chord structure inspired by a song by It's a Beautiful Day titled "Bombay Calling." In return It's a Beautiful Day recorded "Wring that Neck" from Deep Purple and called it "Don and Dewey". Gillan's vocals start out softly, evolve into howling and lastly demonstrate his ability to "scream in tune". Blackmore then launches into a guitar solo running over two minutes, before the first verse repeats and the song comes to a crashing end. It would be a concert staple for every version of Deep Purple that included Gillan, up until the singer's voice could no longer support it.
Ian Gillan tells on his homepage: "It was 1969 and the band was rehearsing at a Community Centre in West London; it was either Southall or Hanwell. Jon Lord was dicking around (or 'extemporising on a theme' as it's known in the trade) with a tune from the new album by 'It's a Beautiful Day', it was 'Bombay Calling'. I started singing and the words came easily because we were all aware of the nuclear threat which hovered over us at this time which was probably when the 'cold war' was at its hottest."
"Flight of the Rat"
A hard rock song featuring a straight-ahead structure of three main power chords. Unlike the call-and-answer solo structure of "Speed King" and "Bloodsucker", Blackmore, Paice and Lord are each accorded their own extended solos on this song. This song was never performed live.
This song was used in the movie The Damned United.
"Into the Fire"
A staple of early Mark II concerts, the song starts with a hooky introductory riff (slightly similar to that in King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man"), and two main chords which are octaves of each other. Features a phased and unusually slow guitar solo by Ritchie Blackmore.
"Living Wreck"
A straight-ahead rocker that tells the story of a love affair that fails miserably to live up to expectations.
"Hard Lovin' Man"
Two power chords kick off the album's closer, before Glover's bass provides the rhythmic intro. Blackmore's guitar is folded in, then Paice and Lord join in before the vocals start. Gillan lets loose on this track and Blackmore performs a few "pre-Eddie Van Halen" guitar histrionics during the final minute-and-a-half.

In the long history of rock music, there were many pinnacle moments when everyone knew something was going on and a shift was unavoidable. It happened with Little Richard and Chuck Berry, Dylan and Presley, the Beatles and the Stones and moreover around.

The same thing was happening in the beginning of the seventies. Two bands (followed by some other ones) were starting something they've never thought it would became massive. Black Sabbath, with two brilliant LP's and Deep Purple, with this milestone album, which sets the foundation of what would later reached the world with the name "metal".

Though, there are some radical differences between doomy heavy Sabbath and speedy power Purple. Iommi's band was yet flirting with bluesy tunes, while Blackmore's (including new singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover) gave a different approach to the genre. It was the playing style as a whole, dynamic, full of virtuosity, shocking and powerful where blasting beats by Ian Paice and Glover danced alongside the filling atmosphere provided by Maestro Jon Lord with his Hammond and Ritchie's magnanimous lines, drawn in the middle of Gillan's metal-creator singing. Sabbath sounded heavy, but Purple was heavy, totally.

Won't enter in a long-song-per-song critique here. I'll go straight to the point, starting with the four fillers that can be found in this record: "Flight of the Rat", "Into the Fire", "Living Wreck" and "Hard Lovin Man". These pieces are totally enjoyable, niceties that makes an album a little bit lighter, but they are good enough to keep you in touch and with total atention. A great album needs great fillers, and these four songs are into that category. Hard rocking pieces to the core, classic metal songs. Period.

What makes this record a masterpiece are the following tracks, starting with the powerful opener "Speed King". Tremendous and breathtaking, is the finest example of rock evolution to metal. Speed and Power are recieving first lights with this song. Gillan singing slashes you to the bone, Glover and Paice beating keeps the frenzy up to the line while Lord and Blackmore soloing brings you a parallel virtuoso universe.

"Bloodsucker" slows down the paice and yet is heavy and rocking. Gillan steals the looks here, with his gnawling singing. Supported by a powerful and catchy riff by the String Sorcerer, there is nothing else to be said.

The reputation of "Child in Time" is legendary. By far, Deep Purple's creative masterpiece. The atmosphere of the song, provided by maestro Lord, with the rythmic patterns by Glover and Paice, alongside The Banshee singing and lyrics mixed with Blackmore's power strings, leaves every metal listener in love. No band created something more epic, astonishing and brightful than this. A total metal classic on its own.

And of course, we can't forget the hit single of the album, "Black Night", with the wide known Blackmore-Glover-Paice beat and bluesy structure. A show by Deep Purple without Black Night is like a show of Sabbath without Iron Man.

From the top to the bottom, this album is filled with metal DNA, it is from the purest linage of the genre. So, be not afraid, metal erudite, and fill your collection with the first sculpture made in behalf of metal, those five heads in Mount Rushmore, doing their thing and doing it well.

Tracks Listing:
 
1. Speed King (4:18)
2. Bloodsucker (4:12)
3. Child in Time (10:15)
4. Flight of the Rat (7:52)
5. Into the Fire (3:29)
6. Living Wreck (4:30)
7. Hard Lovin' Man (7:10)
Total time: 41:46

Personnel:

Friday, August 19, 2016

April Wine - 1999 [1982] "King Biscuit"

April Wine is a Canadian rock band formed in 1969. Originally based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the band enjoyed international success in the 1970s and 1980s, releasing more than 20 albums since 1971.

King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents In Concert album for sale by April Wine was released Feb 16, 1999 on the King Biscuit Flower label. Recorded live in Toronto, Canada on November 21, 1982. King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents In Concert CD music contains a single disc with 15 songs. 

Greatest Hits Live is a live album by the Canadian rock band April Wine, released in 1997. Also known as King Biscuit Flower Hour, but this is the label it was released under.

A must have for Hard Core April Winers but not recommended as intro to April Wine. Sound: good, at times acceptable. Track listing: Similar to a AW live show, no suprises here, except Oowatanite is sung by Myles Goodwyn! Artwork: Cool, not much to do with AW, except the group on stage picture. Whats good:It's just good to have some "new" April Wine product,since their 1992 reunion (6+yrs)we have seen 2 releases.I guess we Winers will have to deal with it. Whats bad:Liner notes are a real insult to April Wine and their fans. 5of7 track credits are wrong, Goodwyn is spelled Goodwin, Jerry Mercer in refered to as Johnny Mercer.Sound on bonus track, You Could of Been a Lady,is borderline acceptable. Track was recorded in 1985, during the "Walking Through Fire" years which included only 2 original band members. (Myles Goodwyn & Brian Greenway).  


April Wine began in late 1969 in Waverley, Nova Scotia (a suburb of Halifax). The band's name was chosen simply because members thought the two words sounded good together. The original members were brothers David Henman on guitar and Ritchie Henman on drums. Their cousin Jim Henman joined in on bass and Myles Goodwyn completed the sound on lead vocals and guitar. In early 1970 the band relocated to Montreal. Shortly after arriving in their new home the band was signed by Aquarius Records. They recorded and released their debut album April Wine in September 1971. The album spawned their first single, "Fast Train", which received fairly steady airplay on radio stations across Canada and established Myles Goodwyn as the band's main songwriter. The single's success led the band's label to ask for a second album amid the first of many lineup changes: Jim Henman left the band in the fall of 1971 and was replaced by Jim Clench.

Under the guidance of producer Ralph Murphy April Wine recorded their second album, titled On Record. The first single from the album was a cover version of the song "You Could Have Been a Lady", originally by the band Hot Chocolate. The record was a commercial success, hitting number 5 on the Canadian charts, as well as cracking the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States where it stayed for 11 weeks, peaking at No. 32. Immediately following that triumph, April Wine released a second single from On Record, titled "Bad Side of the Moon." This song, written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, also got much airplay on Canadian radio stations and was a minor hit in the U.S. as well. Both tracks remain staples on classic rock radio stations in Canada. On Record was certified Gold in Canada and the band, along with Murphy, returned to the studio to exploit the popularity generated by their second release.
During the recording of the band's third album, still another line-up change occurred. Before the album's completion, brothers David and Ritchie Henman resigned, leaving Myles Goodwyn as the only remaining original member. Goodwyn and Clench decided to continue the band and began auditions for replacement musicians. Eventually drummer Jerry Mercer (formerly of the Canadian band Mashmakhan) and guitarist Gary Moffet were chosen, and together they finished recording the band's third album entitled Electric Jewels, which contained songs such as "Weeping Widow," "Just Like That" and "Lady Run, Lady Hide." These songs would remain in April Wine's concert set lists for many years. In support of this album, the band embarked on the Electric Adventure Tour which featured a massive lighting and pyrotechnic show.

The band's fourth release, Stand Back, went double platinum in Canada, riding on the success of the singles "Tonight Is A Wonderful Time To Fall In Love" and "I Wouldn't Want To Lose Your Love". The song "Oowatanite" became a concert favourite and stands as one of the most popular songs the band has ever recorded. Following the supporting tour for Stand Back, the roster of members was again shaken up. This time, longtime member Jim Clench departed and was replaced by Steve Lang. Clench would stay active in music, doing stints in the rock bands Bachman–Turner Overdrive and Loverboy.

In mid-1977, April Wine was booked to play a charity concert at the famed El Mocambo Club in Toronto, Ontario. Co-headliner on the bill was a band called "The Cockroaches," who turned out to be The Rolling Stones. The pseudonym was a poorly kept secret and huge crowds turned out for the event. April Wine's performance was captured and released as the album Live at the El Mocambo. The band got its first chance at touring the U.S. following the El Mocambo gig, first opening for The Rolling Stones, then for various popular headliners, including Styx and fellow Canadian band Rush

Track listing:

01. Anything You Want, You Got It
02. Future Tense
03. Crash And Burn
04. Before The Dawn
05. Waiting On A Miracle
06. Enough Is Enough
07. If You See Kay
08. Just Between You And Me
09. Sign Of The Gypsy Queen
10. 21st Century Schizoid Man
11. I Like To Rock
12. Roller
13. Oowatanite
14. All Over Town
15. You Could Have Been A Lady

Personnel:

Miles Goodwyn (vocals, guitar);
Gary Moffet, Brian Greenway (guitar);
Steve Lang (bass);
Johnny Mercer (drums)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Allan Holdsworth - 1987 "Sand"

Sand is the fifth studio album by guitarist Allan Holdsworth, released in 1987 through Relativity Records (United States) and JMS–Cream Records (Europe).

Brit guitar hero Allan Holdsworth, ex of the Soft Machine, Gong, U.K., and Bill Bruford and Annette Peacock's solo projects, has been wildly inconsistent when it comes to his solo projects. Completely bonkers for technology, he's employed every gadget he can get his hands on own records, and has gotten results that range from the near sublime to the kind of dross one usually associates with prog excess. But Sand is a different animal, a respite from the relentless kitchen sink approach Holdsworth was mired in through much of the late '70s and early '80s. Utilizing a new contraption, the "Synthaxe," a guitar that has the tonal and sonic possibilities of the synthesizer but can be played straight as well, it seems to satisfy the artist's technology jones, and allows him to compose sensitively for the instrument while not forgetting he's a guitarist first. Guitar fans might be a little put off by the sounds and textures of the synthaxe, which allows for a guitarist to subvert its limited range of tones and colors for rounded off keyboard sounds and warm textural aspects. In other words, the traditional sound of the electric guitar -- and, in particular, Holdsworth's trademark sound -- is nearly absent. In place is a near keyboard sound played in the same way he plays guitar. The six compositions here range from the knotty, mixed tempo, arpeggio-rich title track to the reflective, near pastoral grace of "Distance Vs. Desire" to the electronically astute, fast and furious jazz-rock fusion of "Mac Man." The only time a keyboard actually appears is Alan Pasqua's solo in "Pud Wud," where the guitarist wields his traditional instrument and rips free of the constraints of his own composition for some truly fiery pyrotechnics. The rhythm section of bassist Jimmy Johnson (a killer electric jazz bassist who has also played with Percy Jones and Brand X) and drummer Gary Husband are more than equal to the task of accompaniment, and, in fact, are creative foils for Holdsworth, who allows his sidemen plenty of room to shine -- also unlike many of his earlier projects. Is Sand the mark of a new contentment and refined aesthetic for Holdsworth? Only time will, but it is safe to say that this is one of his most innovative and texturally beautiful to date.

Aside from Holdsworth's obvious guitar virtuosity, any person with any kind of musical training or background MUST appreciate this innovator's unique approach to chord progression and musical (as opposed to avant garde) application of modal scales. This man travels where few dare tread with a true gift of "melody" soloing. Also pleasing to the curious ear is his use of the Synthaxe and other synth rythm instruments.

I am guessing on the length of this CD. In my mind, Sand is one of Allan's best works ever! There is excellent use of the Synthaxe guitar with the encasings of a dynamite band. Allan, at the time of its release, explores new territory just outside of hard prog... but not really a commercial effort such as Avachron. This album stands out from his many wonderful records as being one of the most inventive releases with excellent flows and textures... and of course, AWESOME playing by ALL! Fantastic spin!

People who are not into jazz music often talk of this genre going round in circles, that its artists play self-indulgent and tuneless noodlings which are unpalatable for fans of rock and pop music. Those people usually find Allan Holdsworth's '80s output and his work with prog-rock supergroup U.K. very interesting and innovative, mainly because Holdsworth managed to avoid empty musical gymnastics and overlong guitar solos in favor of kicking riffs and a completely new style which sounded unlike anything that preceded it. Now, 1987's "Sand" sees Holdsworth leaning more towards abstract electronica and giving up the vocal material and jazz-rock arrangements of earlier albums, a not unexpected thing, perhaps, since "Atavachron" certainly hinted at the things to come by introducing the Synth-axe guitar, an instrument whose sound appears more like a cross between violin and keyboard. That said, it's still difficult to pin down "Sand" stylistically -- Holdsworth's best records always seem to exist outside of any accepted musical formulas while providing a minimum of accessibility even for the uninitiated listener -- yet this album ends up sounding very fresh and kind of cool at the same time. The way all the tracks on "Sand" build is rather similar to much electronic music (imagine a jazzy version of Tangerine Dream), but in place of the monochrome, slow-motion style usually associated with this musical avenue, a dynamic and unpredictable impetus predominates. 

 Holdsworth's spacious production is dynamic and relaxing at the same time, so this album works very well as something either concentrated on or left running as background music. The 5 1/2-minute title track sets the scene with its synth-like, airy chords which are suddenly joined by dense drum patterns, ominous bass pulses and dark-sounding undercurrents of electronic washes -- a fascinating demonstration of 'urban cyber-jazz' with a variety of instrumental touches and imaginative melodies. In contrast to most other tracks here, "Distance vs. desire" totally ignores traditional rhythms and relies of layers of peaceful Synth-axe soundscapes; it's the least impressive and most repetitive piece on the album, but nevertheless has something to offer. Thankfully, things become much more abstract and compelling with the 7-minute "Pud Wud", which opens with field recordings taken from a playground, then alternating several instrumental sections and solos for the individual musicians before one instrument after the other is stripped away and the piece disappears. The path changes again with the heavily echoed, industrial drum loops and subharmonic touches of "Clown", mixing that with incredible chords and solo sections by Holdsworth before abruptly returning to massive drum patterns and light atmospherics. "Bradford Executive" also manages to hold attention during its 8 1/2-minute length; it begins with bell-like signals and crackling static, adding mimicked vibraphones and rather carnivalesque elements which provide a launching pad for the longest guitar solo on the album. The playful "Mac Man" closes the album on a more rhythm-heavy note by using some sequences which were generated by a Mac Computer, later accompanied by strong guitar screams/washes from Holdsworth and some melodic Synth-axe chords. Some of the these sounds bring to mind Tangerine Dream's mid-'80s work. In conclusion, if you have a predilection for music which is excitingly different from the run-of-the-mill modern jazz, there isn't a better place to go than "Sand": It features explorations to see what can be done with a guitar/bass/drum arrangement, pushing forward into previously unknown territories and avoiding conventional approaches to melody and rhythm with remarkable dexterity. 

"Sand" features guitarist Holdworth's experiments with the Synthaxe instrument--kind of a cross between a guitar and a synthesizer. "Sand" also includes Jimmy Johnson on bass and Chad Wackerman on drums and percussion, among other artists. Featured are beautiful compositions and fiery guitar solos - well, what else would you expect from the legato master?

Interview: http://www.fingerprintsweb.net/ah/press/gui1187.html


Track listing:

All music composed by Allan Holdsworth, except where noted. 


1.     "Sand"       5:25
2.     "Distance vs. Desire"       5:16
3.     "Pud Wud"       6:45
4.     "Clown"       5:14
5.     "The 4.15 Bradford Executive" (Holdsworth, Chad Wackerman)     8:28
6.     "Mac Man"       4:01


Total length: 35:09


Personnel:


Allan Holdsworth – guitar, SynthAxe, engineering, mixing, production
Alan Pasqua – keyboard
Gary Husband – drums (tracks 1, 3)
Chad Wackerman – drums (tracks 4, 5), percussion (track 6)
Jimmy Johnson – bass (except track 6)
Biff Vincent – Roland Octapad bass (track 6)
John England – sound effects
Francois Bardol - Artwork 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Frank Zappa - 1986 [2003] "Jazz From Hell"

Jazz from Hell is an instrumental album whose selections were all composed and recorded by Frank Zappa. It was released in 1986 by Barking Pumpkin Records on vinyl and by Rykodisc on CD. This is Official Release #47.

All compositions were executed by Frank Zappa on the Synclavier DMS with the exception of "St. Etienne", a guitar solo excerpted from a live performance Zappa gave of "Drowning Witch" during a concert in Saint-√Čtienne, France, on his 1982 tour.
"While You Were Art II" is a Synclavier performance based on a transcription of Zappa's improvised guitar solo on the track "While You Were Out" from the album Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar (1981). The unreleased original Synclavier performance was done using only the unit's FM synthesis, while the recording found here was Zappa's "deluxe" arrangement featuring newer samples and timbres.
"Night School" was possibly named for a late-night show that Zappa pitched to ABC; the network did not pick it up. A music video was made for the song.
"G-Spot Tornado", assumed by Zappa to be impossible to play by humans, would be performed by Ensemble Modern on the concert recording The Yellow Shark (1993).

Zappa won a 1988 Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for this album.

Though Jazz from Hell is an entirely instrumental album, there is an unconfirmed report that the Fred Meyer chain of stores sold it in their Music Market department featuring an RIAA Parental Advisory sticker. This could have been the result of Zappa's feud with the Parents Music Resource Center (which had also inspired the 1985 Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention), an objection to the use of the word "hell" in the album title, or in reference to the track "G-Spot Tornado", describing the erogenous zone in human anatomy commonly known as the G-Spot.

While Frank Zappa had ostensibly been "on his own" since the dissolution of the Mothers of Invention in 1969, never before had he used the term "solo artist" as literally as he does on the Grammy Award winning (in the "Best Rock Instrumental Performance by an orchestra, group or soloist" category) Jazz from Hell (1986). After two decades of depending on the skills, virtuosity, and temperament of other musicians, Zappa all but abandoned the human element in favor of the flexibility of what he could produce with his Synclavier Digital Music System. With the exception of the stunning closer "St. Etienne" -- which is a guitar solo taken from a live performance of "Drowning Witch" at the Palais des Sports in St. Etienne, France on May 28, 1982 -- the remaining seven selections were composed, created, and executed by Zappa with help from his concurrent computer assistant Bob Rice and recording engineer Bob Stone. Far from being simply a synthesizer, the Synclavier combined the ability to sample and manipulate sounds before assigning them to the various notes on a piano-type keyboard. At the time of its release, many enthusiasts considered it a slick, emotionless effort. In retrospect, their conclusions seem to have been a gut reaction to the methodology, rather than the music itself. In fact, evidence to the contrary is apparent as it brims throughout the optimistic bounding melody and tricky time-signatures of "Night School." All the more affective is the frenetic sonic trajectory coursing through "G-Spot Tornado." Incidentally, Zappa would revisit the latter -- during one of his final projects -- when the Ensemble Modern worked up Ali N. Askin's arrangement for the Yellow Shark (1993). Another cut with a bit of history to it is "While You Were Art II," which is Zappa's Synclavier-rendered version of the Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar (1982) entry "While You Were Out." Speaking of guitar solos, as mentioned briefly above, "St. Etienne" is the only song on Jazz from Hell to feature a band and is a treat specifically for listeners craving a sampling of Zappa's inimitable fretwork. The six-plus minute instrumental also boats support from Steve Vai (rhythm guitar), Ray White (rhythm guitar), Tommy Mars (keyboards), Bobby Martin (keyboards), Ed Mann (percussion), as well as the prominent rhythm section of Scott Thunes (bass) and Chad Wackerman (drums). Zappa-philes should similarly note that excellent (albeit) amateur-shot footage of the number was included by Zappa on the companion Video from Hell (1987) home video. 

Jazz From Hell may not be one of Frank's most popular albums and I'm sure it's one of the lowest sellers, but it's also one of his finest.
Frank had announced his intention of quitting the liva arena in 1982 and then again in 1984 ( he would be tempted back in 1988 ) but by 1986 he was composing solely on his Synclavier within the comfort of his recording studio, and the results are amazing.
Night School and G-Spot Tornado are among his best ever compositions, nobody else to this day writes such odd and yet beautiful music, it's ironic to note that the title track ( one of the weaker tracks ) won Frank a Grammy !
Probably to placate the fans of his guitar solos he choose to include one very fine ( and delicate ) solo.
This album rewards repeated listenings and and it's great insight into what made the man really tick .

On this solo digital-synth excursion, the indefatigable Zappa takes a breather from R-rated satire and battling the PMRC dragons to cook up one of his periodic classical-jazz-boogie stews. There is nothing particularly hellish about the eight pieces on the album, though it may have been a bitch to program these densely packed parcels of subdivided rhythms and Chinese-checker themes. But while most of Jazz from Hell employs now-standard Zappa compositional devices — abrupt tempo changes, harmonic broad jumps and volcanic polyphonic clusters — there is a deviant playfulness and almost affable melodic resolution about these tracks that is unique in Zappa's serious instrumental canon.

"The Beltway Bandits," for example, is a nifty piece of electronic fun, an imaginary rush-hour auto chase enacted with agitated jungle noises and a synthetic muted car horn. Even more whimsical are "Night School," a typically serpentine air underscored with rich lyric chording and lively street-corner finger popping, and the altered-states funk-up "Massaggio Galore," which sounds like Zappa's "Dancin' Fool" on Planet Claire. Make no mistake: this album is not easy listening. The complexity of a score like the extended "While You Were Art II" would confound a stadiumful of Human Leagues. Yet its sly humor and lighter tonal palette make Jazz from Hell more easily digestible, if no less demanding, than the abrasive orchestral sawing on Zappa's past concertos, like the classic Lumpy Gravy.

It would have been nice to hear Zappa tear up his digital soundscape here and there with a little more real-sound guitar. Jazz from Hell's only fuzz 'n' fusion showcase is the slow, brooding alien blues "St. Etienne," an in-concert Zappa-band recording of unspecified vintage. Nevertheless, Jazz from Hell is the Present Day Composer's most engaging and accessible serving of his singular serio-pop vision since Hot Rats. Listeners who deserted Zappa after his hard turn into scatological social protest should have no trouble putting aside their prejudices for this thirty-five-minute trip down Avant-Classical Lane, while MTV teens will be surprised to learn there's more to this old Mother than just being Dweezil's dad.

Tracks Listing

1. Night School (4:47)
2. The Beltway Bandits (3:25)
3. While You Were Art II (7:17)
4. Jazz From Hell (2:58)
5. G-Spot Tornado (3:17)
6. Damp Ankles (3:45)
7. St. Etienne (6:26) *
8. Massaggio Galore (2:31)

* Recorded 1982 at Palais des Sports, St. Etienne, France.

Total Time: 34:26

Personnel:

Frank Zappa – lead guitar, Synclavier, keyboards, production
On "St. Etienne":
Steve Vai – rhythm guitar
Ray White – rhythm guitar
Tommy Mars – keyboards
Bobby Martin – keyboards
Scott Thunes – bass guitar
Chad Wackerman – drums
Ed Mann – percussion

Steve Hackett - 1978 [2016] "Please Don't Touch" (Deluxe 2 CD)

Steve Hackett left Genesis in June 1977 (following the tour that would be documented on Seconds Out), and started his solo career in earnest with Please Don't Touch. Unlike Voyage of the Acolyte, which was a largely instrumental concept album steeped in the progressive rock idiom, this record is primarily a collection of songs featuring guest vocalists Richie Havens, Randy Crawford, and Kansas' Steve Walsh (their Phil Ehart also chips in here on drums). Although the sum effect is something of a patchwork, the individual pieces are often lovely. Over his career, Hackett has shown a propensity for extremes, in this case letting the jazzy and sentimental "Hoping Love Will Last" segue into the musical maelstrom of "Land of a Thousand Autumns" and "Please Don't Touch" (which will delight fans of Hackett's first record, although the Caroline CD inexplicably pauses too long between the two). In a nod to King Crimson (specifically Lizard), the title track is quickly cut off with the quirky carousel sounds of "The Voice of Necam," which itself dissolves into a mix of airy voices and acoustic guitar. The best tracks belong to Richie Havens: "How Can I?" ("Hackett"'s take on Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill") and the conclusive "Icarus Ascending." Hackett is no singer, so he wisely masks his voice in a "laughing gnome" effect on the delightful "Carry on Up the Vicarage" and hides behind Walsh's lead on "Narnia" and "Racing in A." Perhaps taking his cue from Gabriel (whose debut had appeared in 1977), Hackett seems eager to show his range as a songwriter. While he clearly has a closet full of good ideas and a genuine knack for interesting arrangements, Hackett is too much the eccentric Englishman to appeal to broad commercial tastes. Please Don't Touch remains a uniquely effective amalgam of progressive rock and pop; like his first album, he never made another one quite like it, perhaps because he again taps the concept's full potential here. [Please Don't Touch! was released as a deluxe, two-CD, one-DVD set in 2016.]

Limited three disc (two CDs + NTSC/Region 0 DVD) edition of this 1978 album by the British guitar legend. Please Don't Touch was Steve Hackett's second solo album, his first following his departure from Genesis. The sessions saw Steve work with various guest musicians including drummer Chester Thompson (a member of Genesis for live concerts). Vocal duties were shared by Steve Walsh of the American band Kansas, Richie Havens and Randy Crawford. This deluxe edition includes new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mixes by Steven Wilson and also features the original stereo mix remastered. A further three bonus tracks are also included.

This album was recommended to me by a number of people who like progressive rock. I have to admit I bought it because Steve Walsh of Kansas sings on it. I was absolutely floored by the entire album - not a single bad track.
"Narnia" is the single most inspired vocal performance by Steve Walsh I have EVER heard. It was as though Steve Hackett wrote that song with Walsh in mind. It blends perfectly with his style, even though it is definitely more lighthearted than anything he ever did in Kansas. This album is worth buying just for this single song.
Richie Havens' Icarus Ascending is another soul-shaker - I didn't know what to expect from him having only heard his "Here Comes the Sun" previously. His voice is so profound - so moving, so deep - makes you yearn for more. I'm always sorry knowing there is no more at the end.
Randy Crawford's voice is like pure honey and light! So rich, so earnest. She was a magic choice for this album.
All in all, this is one of my favorite albums of all time - you MUST listen to it.

This release holds a lot of emotional value for me. I first heard this album in my friend's brother's basement room back in 1979 when I was the tender age of fifteen. He had a fantastic stereo system and cranked the title cut. I can still see the back of the album cover in my young hands as I read it while listening. During that memorable evening, I listened to the entire record (yes, record... music was mostly on vinyl back then) and vowed to purchase it, when I had the cash to do so. I was only a kid, at the time.

And I did, not very long after. I played that album to death, almost literally. I bought a second copy because I literally wore it out, over time. This album was one of the musically defining releases of my teen life. When I listen to it, I'm transported back in time to my own listening room, with its large Altec-style speakers and burgeoning record collection.

This particular release motivated me to take classical guitar in the early `80s. I started my education on the guitar taking classical, then moved to jazz a few years later. I recall playing for my teacher one of the short classical pieces on this record, which I had on tape in the car. He panned it, calling it a poorly contrived classical hack job. The respect I had for this teacher dropped several notches. I left his tutelage not long after.

Hackett takes all directions on this album, and it's a unique release for him due to all the guest appearances. The writing is first rate, guitar work innovative and captivating (fabulous use of the Roland guitar synth), and he never lost his progressive edge after leaving Genesis. Like most artists who follow their own creative direction, not the direction of external forces, Hackett's career has taken many twists and turns over the decades, some arguably good, others questionable. What he has never done is sat complacent. He's a true musician who remains true to his craft and to himself.

For anyone interested in exploring the early releases of Steve Hackett, Please Don't Touch is a must listen.

This album is like a master class in guitar orchestration. Every line and texture is incredibly well thought out, and not a note is waisted. But far from being just a "guitar album", Please Don't Touch really demonstrates Hackett's genius as a composer. Just terrific writing!! And while it's easy to describe the album as "eclectic", there are common threads that bring the pieces together and make it the perfect CD to listen to in it's entirety. A wonderful, wonderful album!

Tracks Listing:

CD 1
01. Narnia (4:06)
02. Carry On Up the Vicarage (A Musical Tribute To Agatha Christie) (3:11)
03. Racing In A (5:07)
04. Kim (2:14)
05. How Can I? (4:40)
06. Hoping Love Will Last (4:09)
07. Land of a Thousand Autumns (1:57)
08. Please Don't Touch (3:39)
09. The Voice of Necam (3:11)
10. Icarus Ascending (6:21)
11. Narnia (3:35)
12. Seven Of Cups (Alternative Version) (3:33)
13. Narnia (Alternative Version) (4:30)


CD 2
01. Narnia (4:11)
02. Carry on Up the Vicarage (3:12)
03. Racing in A (5:06)
04. Kim (2:13)
05. How Can I? (4:39)
06. Hoping Love Will Last (4:12)
07. Land of a Thousand Autumns (1:48)
08. Please Don't Touch (3:39)
09. The Voice of Necam (3:11)
10. Icarus Ascending (6:20)

Line-up / Musicians:

- Steve Hackett / electric, acoustic & Roland synth guitars, lead (2) & backing (1,3,9,10) vocals, keyboards (Mellotron), percussion, tape-loops, Fx, NECAM "The Computer", arranger & co-producer
With:
- Steve Walsh / vocals (1,3,13)
- Richie Havens / vocals (5,10), percussion
- Maria Bonvino / soprano vocals (6)
- Randy Crawford / vocals (6)
- Feydor / vocals (9)
- Dan Owen / alto vocals (10)
- Dale Newman / vocals (10)
- John Perry / vocals (11)
- John Hackett / flute, piccolo, bass pedals, keyboards
- Dave LeBolt / keyboards
- John Acock / keyboards, co-producer
- Tom Fowler / bass
- Chester Thompson / drums, percussion
- Phil Ehart / drums, percussion
- James Bradley / percussion
- Graham Smith / violin
- Hugh Malloy / cello

Sorry for not including the DVD, here's a link for purchase:

https://www.amazon.com/Please-Dont-Touch-STEVE-HACKETT/dp/B01B5GM1T0

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Various Artists - 1998 [2007] "Guitar Battle" (Japan Remastered)

This album was released in Japan for a reason and this reason is that the Japanese appreciate a good ass rocking guitar session. Their pop music is indicative of this as most Japanese pop songs have an average of 4 guitar solos per every 7 songs as compared to America where it is one guitar solo per seven pop songs.
George Lynch and John Petrucci come out as the most technical guitarists on this albums. Everyone else is stand by on rock and blues scales. Of course that would have been Lynch as well if it were not for his recent (1994) lessons at Guitar Institute of Technology in Los Angeles.
For once we also get to hear John Petrucci go improv as most of the Dream Theater series guitars have been mainly real hard studio work and composing. You can tell the difference in each guitarist as each uses his own unique sound on the album.
This is a must have both in session creativity and unique guitar theory for the avid guitar listener/fan. No, Greg Howe does not make a special appearance (though in my opinion, Greg and his star pupil, Prashant Aswani, excel above these sessioneers) in this album, but there is plenty to listen to otherwise like Andy Timmons, Brad Gillis, and Al Pitrelli (virtual unknowns in modern guitar).
Never before has there been such a collection of incredible guitarists on one album.


 To find this record for me was nearly impossible. But I managed to do it. And alll the searching was worthwhile. But, apart of all the excellent guitar in the cd itself, there is one man thar REALLY blew my brains. John Petrucci. That's why I started to listen to progressive music, when I discovered the magical music of Dream Theater. Really great record, it expands your horizons.

I have to tell you I had never heard of this album and once I did I had to have it if not for only the sheer need to have the opportunity to at least hear this album just once just to have the chance to hear these amazing performers playing together.

Now that I have it I can't stop listening, the tracks are amazing. And I have to agree, this is not a true Guitar Battle as much as it just a bunch of the world's best guitarist jamming to some of the best guitar songs ever written.

I believe it is Al Pitrelli that deserves the credit for getting these guys together for this fantastic album, and who better than Al who knows how to put together monster shows whether he is lead for Megadeth or rocking the holidays with the Trans Siberian Orchestra, the man has talent for guitar that is only rivaled by his ability to bring together incredible talent on one stage.

Train Kept a Rolling - Al Pitrelli, George Lynch, Michael Lee Firkins, Reb Beach, Steve Morse - is probably the 2nd to least enjoyable song on the entire album, but I still love it, just something had to come in last. This is just a pure jam of multiple styles and sounds that rock like a pendulum instead of colliding with one another.

Something - Al Pitrelli, Michael Lee Firkins, Reb Beach, Steve Morse, Brad Gillis, John Petrucci - one of my all time favorite Beatles tunes and it shines with these guys playing and effortlessly combining style and sound to pay tribute to a truly masterful piece of music. Probably my Favorite track on the album.

Memphis - Al Pitrelli, Michael Lee Firkins, Reb Beach, Steve Morse, Brad Gillis, John Petrucci - this is just a fantastic session of jams with the blues ringing through from the very core to only transition to a wonderfully rocked out bad ass bit of guitar work.

Purple Rain - Al Pitrelli, Brad Gillis, John Petrucci, Andy Timmons - I am no prince fan, though I can acknowledge he is a talented musician, just not my cup of tea. This track is the most surprising one on the entire album for me and they do it better than it was ever meant to be in my opinion. I now have a prince song that I love to listen too, just without prince and this track just freaking rocks.

Mambo King - Al Pitrelli, Reb Beach, Brad Gillis, Andy Timmons - My least favorite track, again this song is just not my cup of tea. That said it is still a masterful work of blending the guitar work of so many masters into a single song. It is just a bit slow to start but he solos in the middle make it well worth the listen while it slows down a again towards the end, the acoustic is well played as well an interesting contrast to the solos in the middle.

Birdland - Al Pitrelli, Michael Lee Firkins, Reb Beach, John Petrucci - Another good track. this song sounds like the guys were just flat having fun with it. the lick work is playful and you can really get a sense for the fun the guys were having with it.

If, like me, you are addicted to bad ass electric guitar you will not want to miss this one. I have to tell you this 6 track CD is worth every penny you will pay for it. I absolutely love it and regret not having found it sooner. The sound quality is great, the playing is rich, pure fun and the talents shine in it. I tell you it is not a battle aldum and has none of the feeling a battle ought to have. This is pure fretboard, picking, hammer and pulling fun all the way through. This is a bunch or just really talented guys having a blast with their guitars and doing what they do best and loving every minute of it.


I LOVE this CD and listen to it all the time. There are a few times where I'm not sure who is playing what, but generally you can tell by the style. I question that it always follows the order listed on the cd. Pitrelli has no business being on this CD, but is because he organized the whole thing. His solos are fine, but he is not in the same league as the others.

One of the biggest surprises is Brad Gillis. I've always been a fan of his playing, but his solos are perhaps the most unique of the bunch. Petrucci and Morse seem ton DEVASTATE the rest, even though they all are wonderful. I think it's personal preference. Andy Timmons is also great along with the mega under appreciates Michael Lee Firkins. Reb Beach is another player I love, but his contribution seems buried, and his signature sound not as dominant. Lynch is wicked and I wished he would have contributed more.


Courtesy: Original uploader

Track Listing
      
1 Train Kept a Rollin'
featuring: Al Pitrelli, George Lynch, Michael Lee Firkins, Reb Beach, Steve Morse.
          
2 Something
featuring: Al Pitrelli, Brad Gillis, John Petrucci, Michael Lee Firkins, Reb Beach, Steve Morse.
          
3 Memphis
featuring: Al Pitrelli, Andy Timmons, Brad Gillis, Michael Lee Firkins, Steve Morse.
          
4 Purple Rain
featuring: Al Pitrelli, Andy Timmons, Brad Gillis, John Petrucci.
          
5 Mambo King
featuring: Al Pitrelli, Andy Timmons, Brad Gillis, Reb Beach.
          
6 Birdland
featuring: Al Pitrelli, George Lynch, John Petrucci, Michael Lee Firkins, Reb Beach.

Additional Personnel:

Bass – Danny Miranda
Drums – John O. Reilly
Rhythm Guitar – Al Pitrelli 
 

Birds Of A Feather - 1994 "Above The Clouds"

Over the course of fifteen solo albums since 1980, Dan Siegel has set a melodic standard for the smooth jazz genre. His only problem each time out seems to be topping and challenging himself. Fronting the supergoup Birds of a Feather for a freewheeling pop-fusion adventure Above the Clouds finds the keyboardist energetically resolving that dilemma. The multi faceted rhythmically eclectic project--somewhat of a sequel to a 1987 all star album--gives Siegel the opportunity to compose and produce for other lead instruments like guitar (Allen Hinds, Carl Verheyen), and sax (Boney James), and the result is a lively ensemble date which brews hefty doses of spontanaeity in a base of radio ready song craft. Siegel allows himself a few glistening solo spots but is mostly content to be one of the guys, as Hinds, James, bassist Larry Kimpel, and percussionist Lenny Castro fire away. The name warrants one corny cliche--these birds certainly fly high.

Solid contemporary pop/jazz project produced in 1994 by keyboardist Dan Siegel. Band members include Siegel, Boney James (sax), Allen Hinds (guitar), Carl Verheyen (guitar), Larry Kimpel (bass), Roberto Vally (fretless bass), Randy Drake (drums) and Lenny Castro (percussion). Standout songs include See You Soon, Head To Toe, Moonlight Drive and Old San Juan

This time around it's Dan Siegel with Boney James, Allen Hinds, Carl Verheyen, Larry Kimpel, Roberto Vally, Randy Drake and Lenny Castro on eleven great Siegel originals. Most of these cats played on his solo albums as well.

I had never heard of this group, saw some references to them and read some good reviews, and took a chance. Well worth the gamble! They sound very much like some of the earlier Rippingtons stuff. If you like the Rips, you'll love this album. 

I took a chance on buying this CD in the shop, not having heard of this band before and now it's one of the best smooth jazz albums in my collection. Listening to the first track 'See You Soon',really makes you appreciate what good music is all about and the recording is excellent. Perfect tempo, rhythm,and composition come through each track. Dont hesitate, go out and buy it!

 Track Listings

  1. See You Soon
  2. Head To Toe
  3. Moonlight Drive
  4. Old San Juan
  5. Above The Clouds
  6. When Truth Speaks
  7. Phoenix Rising
  8. Big Sky
  9. Westward
  10. Hopscotch
  11. Durango

Personnel:

Dan Siegel (vocals, keyboards);
Allen Hinds, Carl Verheyen (guitar);
Boney James (saxophone);
Randy Drake (drums);
Lenny Castro (percussion).

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Kenny Burrell - 1967 [1999] "Midnight Blue"

Midnight Blue is a 1963 album by Jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell featuring Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Major Holley on double bass, Bill English on drums and Ray Barretto on conga, and is one of Burrell's best-known works for Blue Note. Jazz Improv Magazine lists the album among its top five recommended recordings for Burrell, indicating that "[i]f you need to know 'the Blue Note sound', here it is". In 2005, NPR included the album in its "Basic Jazz Library", describing it as "one of the great jazzy blues records". The album has been re-issued by Blue Note and the French label Classics.

This album is one of guitarist Kenny Burrell's best-known sessions for the Blue Note label. Burrell is matched with tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, bassist Major Holley, drummer Bill English, and Ray Barretto on conga for a blues-oriented date highlighted by "Chitlins Con Carne," "Midnight Blue," "Saturday Night Blues," and the lone standard "Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You." 

I have been searching for beautiful jazz guitar albums, and this is about as close to perfection as I have found. For an album recorded in 1963, it still sounds remarkably fresh today. Beautiful playing never goes out of style. How smooth can Jazz guitar get? Right here is the answer. Every song on this album is first rate and has some of the best guitar I've ever heard when it comes to Jazz. Five stars really isn't enough when it comes to this album. It should be the first stop when considering listening to Kenny Burrell.

In an era dominated by the glossy veneer of "Facebook blue," Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue sets the mood for a brief return to a bygone era when the deep indigo of the Yves Klein version was more common. Darker hues ruled the night, and the pale moonlight of a lovelorn skyline meant it was past last call and all that remained of the day was an overwhelming air of what could only be called the blues. "The blues," Duke Ellington wrote, "the blues ain't nothin' but a cold gray day, and all night long it stays that way…the blues is a one-way ticket from your love to nowhere; the blues ain't nothin' but a black crepe veil, ready to wear."

Leonard Feather begins his liner notes for Burrell's seminal album with this quote, invoking one of the consummate jazz guitarist's greatest influences, and one of his greatest champions. Now 81, Burrell even teaches a course on Ellington at UCLA. Part Lawrence Lucie, part Charlie Christian, he has a steely, cool-under-pressure sound on the guitar that dovetailed perfectly with Blue Note’s prevailing blues-infused character.
Few albums capture the aesthetic of Blue Note's golden era better than Midnight Blue—a consistent set of original minor grooves meant to be experienced in its entirety, rather than padding for one standout track—and it justifiably occupies a place in the jazz canon, a common entry on countless essential listening lists. Recorded 50 years ago at Van Gelder studio in Englewood Cliffs with Burrell's pianoless quintet, the album still holds up to critical scrutiny, or to a pairing with a half-empty bottle of Scotch. Undoubtedly, 1963 was a high-water mark for jazz, in New Jersey and elsewhere.

One of Burrell's most enduring achievements, the album plumbs the depths of the blues for its harmonic subtleties and lyricism in a manner that can be readily accessible on its face yet challenging enough to reward repeated visits. As always with Burrell, though, never mistake brevity for simplicity; the fathomless 12-bar mantra has no two identical choruses, and Burrell doesn't rely on reflexive facility, the blues equivalent of fool's gold.
A true master, Burrell has internalized the form, giving him the sense of repose and restraint that is the cornerstone of any bluesman worth his salt. On this outing, he is joined by like-minded players who create the illusion of a loose blowing session within a tight framework: tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, bassist Major Holley, drummer Billy Gene English, and conguero Ray Barretto, a highly regarded bandleader in his own right who injects a dash of Latin flavor into the mix.
Burrell got his start as a Detroit rhythm guitarist; as a result, his time is unerring and right in the pocket, he always spells out the chords and forecasts where he's going, but like a great bus driver, he doesn't draw attention to the underlying mechanics. The effect is a listener-friendly album with a tonally nuanced atmosphere easily shared between the jazz aficionado and the neophyte who just heard Kind of Blue for the first time; regardless of background, a smooth ride allows passengers to take in the scenic vistas.

The album opens with Burrell's classic minor blues, "Chitlins con Carne." Often covered by artists ranging from Horace Silver to Stevie Ray Vaughan, this is the low-key original that set the standard for this now standard Latin-tinged blues.  The eight-bar intro lays down a pulsing Latin clave, with Holley pedaling the bass as Barretto takes liberties on the congas. Turrentine's matter-of-fact statement of the melody establishes his by turns lugubrious and diaphanous sound.
Burrell's sparse comping sets the album's precedent for succinctness, one of his hallmarks. His deceptively clean guitar solo walks a tightrope between endless space and airtight rhythmic motifs; a devil-may-care attitude in the face of death that comes from having been down and out and having lived to tell about it. Turrentine plays foil, Captain Kirk to Burrell's Spock, singing the blues right out of the gate, but the two show their psychic connection when seamlessly trading not fours, but ones, until the blistering out chorus.

"Mule" recalls Howlin' Wolf sideman Hubert Sumlin's feel and precision, a slow-marinating, soft blues that the band works over like a bomb squad that has seen it all. Unlike other jazz subgenres, the key to the blues is to never let the bomb go off, and the five demonstrate an unwavering focus, keenly aware of this urgent fact. Punctuated by Holley's downward bass slide riff and English's ambling hi-hat, Turrentine and Burrell stretch out on this quintessential slow jam.
Burrell keeps it mellow on the crepuscular "Soul Lament," a solo minor groove that departs from the blues form but nevertheless retains its spirit. Though under three minutes, this represents some of Burrell's most sensitive playing, replete with embellishments, a rhythmic elasticity, and complex inversions. The pace picks up abruptly on the title track, which reintroduces the rhythm section, but not Turrentine. Taking another departure from the 12-bar blues, Burrell shows his prodigious bebop chops here, cutting loose on some extended lines juxtaposed with subtler rhythm guitar, employing technique that carries his characteristic fullness despite its comparatively fewer notes.
Turrentine returns on "Wavy Gravy," a smoldering mid-tempo blues waltz that brings the minor groove to a new tension point. Holley establishes the groove with a well-articulated bass line, which Burrell glides over sparsely, until the saxophonist comes in to state the head in unison with the guitar. Turrentine’s and Burrell's solos are the epitome of cool, a relaxed but structured call-and-response that typifies the album's eponymous color.

"Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You," the album's sole non-original, is a lazy, schmaltz-free meditation on love. Burrell uses it as a springboard for his effortless, behind-the-beat bebop phrasing, playing off English's sultry brushwork. Burrell closes the album with "Saturday Night Blues," a driving nightcap to a bottomless evening that shifts the blues from minor to major. Turrentine simply wails; his style contrasts perfectly with Burrell's cavalier detachment. The two continue riffing over each other until it all starts to fade out—the blues are never finished, merely abandoned at dawn—as Saturday night palpably fades into Sunday morning.   

Track listing

Except where otherwise noted, all songs composed by Kenny Burrell.

    "Chitlins con Carne" – 5:30
    "Mule" (Burrell, Major Holley, Jr.) – 6:56
    "Soul Lament" – 2:43
    "Midnight Blue" – 4:02
    "Wavy Gravy" – 5:47
    "Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You" (Andy Razaf, Don Redman) – 4:25
    "Saturday Night Blues" – 6:16
    "Kenny's Sound" (reissue bonus track) – 4:43
    "K Twist" (reissue bonus track)– 3:36

Personnel:

    Kenny Burrell – guitar
    Stanley Turrentine – tenor saxophone
    Major Holley – bass
    Billy Gene English – drums
    Ray Barretto – conga