Tuesday, October 15, 2019

John Coltrane - 1963 [2000] "Live At The Half Note"

Despite the inaccurate information given on this three-LP box set (which states that all of the music was recorded at the Half Note in 1963; none of it actually was), these rare performances are quite fascinating. "I Want to Talk About You" and "One Up, One Down" actually originated from Birdland on Feb. 23, 1963 and, although the other performances are from Half Note, they date from May 7 ("Brazilia," "Song of Praise" and "My Favorite Things") of 1965. Coltrane is in particularly fiery form on the later tracks and with four of the eight selections being over 19 minutes long, there is plenty of room for him to stretch out. It's recommended despite the erratic packaging but sure to be hard-to-find.

John Coltrane's "Live At The Half Note" on the Laserlight label is an excellent look at what is arguably jazz's greatest quartet - the "Classic Quartet" of Trane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones - in an intimate club setting. It is during performances like these, where Coltrane had the ability to stretch out and play at length, improvising and creating on the spur of the moment, that he further developed his signature, searching style. According to the liner notes, these four tunes - "I Want To Talk About You," "Brazilia," "Song Of Praise" and "One Up, One Down" - were recorded in 1963 at the Half Note. However, someone is lying! The reason I say this is I also have a live Coltrane CD called "Live At Birdland And The Half Note," and three of these exact same recordings are featured on that disc (only "Brazilia" is not). This CD on the Cool & Blue label credits "I Want To Talk About You" and "One Up, One Down" as being from a 2/23/63 date at Birdland, not the Half Note, while "Song Of Praise" was documented at the Half Note, but from 5/7/65, and not 1963 as the Laserlight disc claims. I tend to believe the information on the Cool & Blue disc is correct, not only because the liner notes are more detailed, but because "Song Of Praise" and "Brazilia" are better quality recordings, and clearly not from the same date as "I Want To Talk About You" and "One Up, One Down." Potential historical inaccuracies aside, the Laserlight disc will be a welcome addition to any Coltrane collection. The sound is excellent and the performances are first rate.

Because of the absence of information about dates and personnel as well the uneven quality of the recorded sound, not to mention Coltrane's performance itself, this album cannot be recommended for the uninitiated. Spend a couple of extra bucks and purchase "Live at Birdland" or "A Love Supreme."
But if you're a student of Coltrane, this particular recording of "I Want to Talk about You"--not at all like the version on "Live at Birdland"--offers a fascinating glimpse at Coltrane's creative process. It begins with cracked notes and unsustained tones, as Coltrane quickly yields to an extended solo by the pianist (McCoy? clearly so on the other 3 tracks but not necessarily on this). Then Coltrane reenters the fray, rejuvenated and ready for action. When he restates the melody and gets to the final dominant chord, scene of his virtuosic cadenza on the "Live at Birdland" recording, he submits himself to a greater challenge than on that date. Instead of exploring all of the chord substitutions, extensions, harmonics on the dominant chord alone, he touches base with the entire song--refrain, bridge, closing refrain--in the midst of another unaccompanied cadenza extraordinaire. It's not the unfaltering pyrotechnical display of the "Birdland" date, but in it's own way it's no less impressive and belongs in the collection of any true believer.

 Track listing:

1     I Want To Talk About You     10:23
2     One Up And One Down     14:42
3     My Favorite Things     14:01
4     Body And Soul     9:57
5     Song Of Praise     19:08


    Saxophone – John Coltrane
    Bass – Jimmy Garrison
    Drums – Elvin Jones
    Piano – McCoy Tyner

Monday, October 14, 2019

John Coltrane - 1961 [1987] "My Favorite Things"

My Favorite Things is the seventh studio album by jazz musician John Coltrane, released in 1961 on Atlantic Records, catalogue SD-1361. It was the first album to feature Coltrane playing soprano saxophone. An edited version of the title track became a hit single that gained popularity in 1961 on radio. The record became a major commercial success. In 1998, the album received the Grammy Hall of Fame award. It attained gold record status in 2018, having sold 500,000 copies.

In March 1960, while on tour in Europe, Miles Davis purchased a soprano saxophone for Coltrane. With the exception of Steve Lacy's late 1950s work with the pianist Cecil Taylor, the instrument had become little used in jazz at that time. Intrigued by its capabilities, Coltrane began playing it at his summer club dates.

After leaving the Davis band, Coltrane, for his first regular bookings at New York's Jazz Gallery in the summer of 1960, assembled the first version of the John Coltrane Quartet. The line-up settled by autumn with McCoy Tyner on piano, Steve Davis on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. Sessions the week before Halloween at Atlantic Studios yielded the track "Village Blues" for Coltrane Jazz and the entirety of this album along with the tracks that Atlantic would later assemble into Coltrane Plays the Blues and Coltrane's Sound.

The famous track is a modal rendition of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. The melody is heard numerous times throughout, but instead of playing solos over the written chord changes, both Tyner and Coltrane take extended solos over vamps of the two tonic chords, E minor and E major, played in waltz time. In the documentary The World According to John Coltrane, narrator Ed Wheeler remarks on the impact that this song's popularity had on Coltrane's career:

    In 1960, Coltrane left Miles [Davis] and formed his own quartet to further explore modal playing, freer directions, and a growing Indian influence. They transformed "My Favorite Things", the cheerful populist song from 'The Sound of Music,' into a hypnotic eastern dervish dance. The recording was a hit and became Coltrane's most requested tune—and a bridge to broad public acceptance.

Although seemingly impossible to comprehend, this landmark jazz date made in 1960 was recorded in less than three days. All the more remarkable is that the same sessions which yielded My Favorite Things would also inform a majority of the albums Coltrane Plays the Blues, Coltrane's Sound, and Coltrane Legacy. It is easy to understand the appeal that these sides continue to hold. The unforced, practically casual soloing styles of the assembled quartet -- which includes Coltrane (soprano/tenor sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Steve Davis (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums) -- allow for tastefully executed passages à la the Miles Davis Quintet, a trait Coltrane no doubt honed during his tenure in that band. Each track of this album is a joy to revisit. The ultimate listenability may reside in this quartet's capacity to not be overwhelmed by the soloist. Likewise, they are able to push the grooves along surreptitiously and unfettered. For instance, the support that the trio -- most notably Tyner -- gives to Coltrane on the title track winds the melody in and around itself. However, instead of becoming entangled and directionless, these musical sidebars simultaneously define the direction the song is taking. As a soloist, the definitive soprano sax runs during the Cole Porter standard "Everytime We Say Goodbye" and tenor solos on "But Not for Me" easily establish Coltrane as a pioneer of both instruments.

An essential modal jazz album and an important precursor to post bop. My Favorite Things is wonderfully hypnotic collection of modal and post-modal reinterpretations of standards, best epitomized by the 13 minute title track, which of course gets all the attention. On the title track, Coltrane expertly turns the sound of music chestnut into a swirling, sprawling dervish of modal jazz track where he and McCoy Tyner manage to keep up an expertly melodic and mellow performance even as Steve Davis and Elvin Jones drum up a storm (pun intended) that swirls around the two with rhythm section work that undoutedly informed much of what we would hear in post-bop tracks from later in the decade. Coltrane shows off his pretty ballad side on the weepy, melancholic ballad that is Cole Porter's Every Time We Say Goodbye. Much like with Naima on Giant Steps, this proves to be the only serene oasis in what is a pretty upbeat, rhythmically driving album. Side two, while more in the hard bop style than the first side, is just as if not more energetic than the first side and is frankly just as good, even though it unfortunately gets overlooked by the magnificent side one. Coltrane transforms the often times eerie and sensual Gershwin classic Summertime into a joyous, driving anthem featuring some of Tyner's best piano playing on the album not on the title track and as an added bonus, a fantastic drum solo from Jones. George and Ira Gershwin's usually solemn and melancholic But Not For Me also get's an upbeat treatment to round out the album, complete with some wonderfully playful, dancing piano work from Tyner.

 Track listing:

1. My Favorite Things     13:41
2. Everytime We Say Goodbye     5:39
3. Summertime     11:31
4. But Not For Me     9:35


    John Coltrane – soprano saxophone on side one and bonus tracks; tenor saxophone on side two
    McCoy Tyner – piano
    Steve Davis – double bass
    Elvin Jones – drums

Thursday, October 3, 2019

California Guitar Trio - 1998 "Pathways"

"Pathways" is the California Guitar Trio's 1998 release and bestselling album to date, featuring original compositions and amazing arrangements of the works of Beethoven. InsideOut, who have released numerous CGT recordings, write, "The California Guitar Trio consists of three revered musicians who aren't actually natives of the "Golden State." Actually, two of the members aren't even from the United States! Bert Lams is from Brussels, Belgium; Hideyo Moriya is a native of Tokyo, Japan; and Paul Richards hails from Salt Lake City, Utah. The technical wizardry of the California Guitar Trio is breathtaking, and so is the wide range of instrumental music the group performs -- everything from unique originals to dazzling, cleverly arranged reinterpretations of classical, jazz and surf rock pieces. Elements of blues and country are blended into the California Guitar Trio's style too. Their diversity is unparalleled. There's simply nothing the California Guitar Trio can't do musically."

The California Guitar Trio was formed by Bert Lams, Hideyo Moriya and Paul Richards. All three perform acoustic guitar, on this CD, in unedited live studio performances. This 1998 recording is their third work together as a trio, after the 1995 disc "Invitation" and 1993's "Yamanashi Blues".
Before their formation as a trio, Bert, Hideyo and Paul had previously appeared in various configurations of The League of Crafty Guitarists and had also served as three of the five members of the Robert Fripp String Quintet.
On "Pathways", a significant level of performance maturity is clearly in evidence. Thankfully, such maturity has been assigned to a repertoire consisting of classical arrangements along with original, intelligent progressive compositions that match well to their classical sensibility.
In addition to the guitar trio configuration, a number of tracks include saxophone played by Bill Janssen and Roger Lambson. The touch tapped Warr Guitar, performed by Trey Gunn, is included on a few of the tracks as well.
"Pathways" will serve as a beautiful introduction to the work of the California Guitar Trio. It showcases some of the finest examples of their warmly sensitive musical expression.

The 3rd album from the California Guitar Trio. Fresh from recent tours with King Crimson and John McLaughlin they have recorded a heady brew of classics and contemporary material. Everything from Beethoven's 5th symphony, the theme tunes to Pulp Fiction, thought to newly-commissioned avant-grade pieces, all performed on 3 guitars. Track highlights includes: "Arroyo," "Leap," "Adagio for Strings (Barber)," "Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)," and more!

 Track listing:

01     Allegro Con Brio, Symphony No. 5     5:26
02     Arroyo     3:39
03     Pathways     4:29
04     Leap     2:53
05     Adagio Opus11     4:00
06     Great Divide     2:32
07     Scramble     2:01
08     Classical Gas     2:55
09     Kaleidoscope     0:55
10     Ananda     2:49
11     Adagio Sostenuto, Moonlight Sonata     2:42
12     Presto Agitato, Moonlight Sonata     4:45
13     Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring     2:40
14     Misirlou     1:55


Hideyo Moriya     Guitar, Production
Bert Lams     Guitar, Production, Mixing
Paul Richards     Guitar, Production
Bill Janssen     Saxophone (tracks: 3, 7, 9, 10, 13)
Trey Gunn     Warr Guitar (tracks: 3, 7, 9, 10, 13)
Roger Lambson     Saxophone, Engineering (tracks: 9, 13)

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Richie Kotzen - Greg Howe Project - 1997 "Richie Kotzen - Greg Howe Project"

Once again, "Project" teams up Richie Kotzen with Greg Howe for another set of crazy guitar. Recorded in a 90's kind of way, Kotzen and Howe sent their ADAT tapes same studio at the same time. A somewhat darker album than their first collaboration, "Tilt" (a notable exception - the lively "Present-Moment"), the songs on "Project" exude more creativity, while delivering the expected intensity and virtuosity. Kozten has stated, "Making these records with Greg is always a musical challenge."

Great jazz rock fusion from two masters of the guitar. Listen to Howe and Kotzen's "Tilt" album, Richie Kotzen’s “Acoustic Cuts” album and Greg Howe’s “Howe 2: High Gear” album. Buy The Aristocrat’s “Culture Clash” album featuring the unbelievable guitarist, Guthrie Govan who has an unparalleled technical ability with a mastery of almost all styles

This and Tilt I think are Greg's best work, although the new. Soundproof album is really great too. Greg and Kotzen are just fantastic on this album, one guy panned left and the other right.

Greg is like a mixture of Alan holdsworth, George Benson and Eddie all rolled into one. Kotzen is more 70's Rock/bluesy with a twist of fusion and mind boggling lines also.

If you play guitar you should own this album, the Tilt album also.

Track listing:

01     One Function    
02     Retro Show    
03     Present-Moment    
04     Trench    
05     Groove Epidemic    
06     Space    
07     Led Boots    
08     Crush    
09     Accessed    
10     Noise    


    Guitar, Bass Guitar, Engineer, Drum Programming, Mixed By – Greg Howe
    Guitar, Keyboards, Bass Guitar – Richie Kotzen
    Bass Guitar – Kevin Vecchione (tracks: 5, 7)
    Drums – Atma Anur (tracks: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

John Abercrombie - 1994 "Speak of the Devil"

Speak of the Devil is an album by jazz guitarist John Abercrombie with organist Dan Wall and drummer Adam Nussbaum that was recorded in 1993 and released by ECM in 1994.

The follow-up to While We're Young has a less melodic, more loosely structured feel, as if it were all kinetically inspired and freely improvised within various structures. The intuition or trust level of electric guitarist John Abercrombie, organist Dan Wall, and drummer Adam Nussbaum is clearly evident: They are listening, reacting, and responding to each other from measure to measure, and that is the basis for their music making.

It's a fusion of feelings, and those moods -- many times dark -- lie beneath the surface only to rise at their behest. The snarly, stealth, and swirling sound is evident on the introductory cut "Angel Food," courtesy of Abercrombie, Wall, and Nussbaum, respectively, going to a tick-tock beat that is positively blackened on the closer "Hell's Gate." In between you get two free, seemingly unstructured pieces: the unhurried "Now & Again" and the more reverent but interactive "Farewell." "Dreamland" is like "Angel Food" in attitude, while the collective improvisation "Mahat" has hopping 2/4 tom tom beats from Nussbaum moving into full drum kit swing.

The melodies are either nonexistent or harder to grasp; Abercrombie's searing or lilting guitar sound requires close attention. Skating around a melody for "Chorale," you actually get the impression the leader is building disparate, multiple, chameleonic changes within a more definite swing. A true melodic motif, albeit slight, informs "BT-U" in a more rock/R&B beat, while the waltz "Early to Bed" suggests a lovely, extrapolated Bill Evans line, perhaps from "Very Early." Though "While We're Young" was a definitive recording for Abercrombie's vaunted trio, this CD simply offers a different slant. It's the sign of a group either in transition of evolution, and whatever the case, it's an intriguing step for these three uncanny sonic explorers.

Despite all of this, it's an album of deep grooves, a searching and mysterious atmosphere, and above all some fabulous playing. Dan Wall and Adam Nussbaum play really great, but then they always do. In fact I really dig Adam Nussbaum's drumming in this music. He's the one lighting fires under this trio; and yes, I deliberately borrow that line from Miles. What he said of Tony Williams' amazing playing in his fabulous 60's quintet really comes to mind when I hear Adam Nussbaum's drumming bringing life to this particular music. It is inspired playing, and is probably the highlight of the album for me.

What's significant about the playing of John Abercrombie is that in my opinion his playing here is way ahead of anything he's done since. Purely on a guitar-playing level this one is right up there. There's some great solos from JA, and his rhythmic, chordal playing is also absolutely superb. For just one example, check out the wonderful comping behind Dan Wall's solo on 'Early to Bed'. It's an absolute master class! I don't think he's ever played better, but if he has someone please let me know!

On the down side, 'Speak of the Devil' does not contain many memorable compositions, if any; even though there are four JA originals. In fact the weak link, if there is one, is that none of these tunes really stick in your memory for long - I can't hum or recall any of the tunes beyond the time of actually listening to it. It's probably more a case of the abstract treatment than any inherant weaknesses in the compositions though, and this music, though not pretty, is absolutely engaging and totally captivating nonetheless. Though it may not be to everyone's tastes, it is absolutely great Jazz.

Guitarist John Abercrombie is joined by Adam Nussbaum on drums and Dan Wall on the Hammond B-3 organ in a trio recording that really does sound like three musicians making music together rather than a soloist and rhythm section. As always, Abercrombie plays with fluid grace, while Wall alternately simmers and flat-out burns on the B-3, with Nussbaum propelling things right along with his imaginative drumming, all captured with ECM's traditional attention to sound quality. This is a CD that will put your mind in a deep groove for 68 minutes, and as soon as it is over, you just might find yourself hitting the play button for another 68 addictive minutes, and then another...

Track listing:

1. Angel Food (7:55)
2. Now And Again (6:16)
3. Mahat (8:27)
4. Chorale (8:21)
5. Farewell (6:16)
6. BT-U (6:22)
7. Early To Bed (8:20)
8. Dreamland (9:12)
9. Hell's Gate (7:07)

Total time 68:16


    John Abercrombie – guitar
    Dan Wall – Hammond organ
    Adam Nussbaum – drums

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Captain Beyond - 1972 [1997] "Captain Beyond" [Remastered]

Captain Beyond is an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1971.

Captain Beyond is the self-titled debut album by Captain Beyond, released in 1972, featuring former members of Iron Butterfly, Deep Purple, Johnny Winter, and Rick Derringer. The album cover for the U.S. release included 3-D artwork (using lenticular printing). The album was dedicated to the memory of Duane Allman, who Captain Beyond drummer Bobby Caldwell had played with in an informal capacity.

Captain Beyond is unique among guitar-driven hard rock albums in that it contains a wide range of influences, including Latin and jazz, often with various time signatures and a broad range of dynamics within the same song. Most of the album consists of three medleys of tightly arranged interconnected songs. The first starts with "Dancing Madly Backwards (on a Sea of Air)" and ends with "Myopic Void". The second starts with "Thousand Days of Yesterdays (Intro)" and ends with "Thousand Days of Yesterdays (Time Since Come and Gone)". The third starts with "I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part 1)" and finishes the album. Songs flow directly into each other without any lag time between selections, a feature that is shared with other more progressive bands of the era such as Moody Blues and Jethro Tull.

All of the songwriting was credited to lead vocalist Rod Evans and drummer Bobby Caldwell. However, the songs were in fact written by the group as a whole. Due to their still binding contracts with Iron Butterfly, guitarist Larry "Rhino" Reinhardt and bassist Lee Dorman could not be listed as songwriters on this record for legal reasons.

What is it about Rod Evans ? He gets slated left, right and centre for the Tom Jones limitations in his voice, yet two of my favourite albums involve him, "Shades of Deep Purple" and this one. Perhaps he was just one of those guys that knew how to start something but couldn't sustain it because he was involved in two of heavy rock's greatest debut albums in my view.
This is a sizzling album, also featuring the mighty Bobby Caldwell {who later went on to do sterling drum work on Armageddon's first and only LP} knocking out some of the funkiest, jerkiest, heaviest most dynamic drumming in heavy rock. The two guys from Iron Butterfly that made up the group on guitar and bass {Rhino Reinhardt and Lee Dorman} are two hugely under rated players in the heavy rock ouvre.
As a unit Captain Beyond were pretty dynamic and wrote a series of superb songs. The songs on this album are packed with melody, loud guitars, wild yet controlled drums and sympathetic booming bass.

Captain Beyond is a one-of-a-kind progressive album with rock, heavy metal, and jazz influences with a "space rock" lyrical bend. Formed by former members of Deep Purple (Rod Evans, vocals), Iron Butterfly (Rhino, lead guitar, and Lee Dorman, bass), and Johnny Winter (Bobby Caldwell, drums) Captain Beyond is an album that flows from riff to riff, drumbeat to drumbeat, often with various time signatures within the same song. Taking a tip from the Moody Blues, songs flow directly into each other without benefit of any lag time between selections. Taken as a whole, the album is kind of a rush, as quick, riff-laden guitar lines predominate for a few songs before slowing down temporarily into a lull until the next takeoff. Lyrically, the album differentiates itself by exploring themes of the outer world and meanings of existence, often with references to the moon, sea, sun, and so on. Listeners may get the feeling of taking a journey to space in a rocket ship headed for destination unknown. Musically, the album is superior in all aspects. Rod Evans has a strong rock voice, Rhino plays an enormous amount of hook-laden guitar lines, and Lee Dorman plays complex basslines (for example, at the end of "As the Moon Speaks-Return") that lead to typically rhythmic, nimble Bobby Caldwell drumming. The tightness between musicians is enormous, never lets up for long, and leaves the listener feeling like the ride should continue for the indefinite future.

Track listing:

01.    "Dancing Madly Backwards (on a Sea of Air)"    4:02
02.    "Armworth"    1:48
03.    "Myopic Void"    3:31
04.    "Mesmerization Eclipse"    3:48
05.    "Raging River of Fear"    3:47
06.    "Thousand Days of Yesterdays (Intro)"    1:16
07.    "Frozen Over"    3:46
08.    "Thousand Days of Yesterdays (Time Since Come and Gone)"    3:57
09.    "I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part 1)"    3:06
10.    "As the Moon Speaks (to the Waves of the Sea)"    1:27
11.    "Astral Lady"    0:58
12.    "As the Moon Speaks (Return)"    1:57
13.    "I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part 2)"    1:46


    Rod Evans – lead vocals
    Larry "Rhino" Reinhardt – guitars
    Lee Dorman – bass guitar, backing vocals, piano
    Bobby Caldwell – drums, all percussion instruments (including bells and vibraphone), backing vocals, piano

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Bob Mintzer John Abercrombie Marc Johnson Peter Erskine - 1990 "Hymn"

Robert Alan Mintzer (born January 27, 1953) is an American jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger, and big band leader.

Better known as a big band and session player, tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist Bob Mintzer expanded his playing and his repertoire on this '90 quartet date. Working with guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Marc Johnson, and drummer Peter Erskine, Mintzer moved into more probing, unpredictable, and challenging areas and played with more fire and conviction. Abercrombie, Johnson, and Erskine each fulfilled their reputations; the results were both enlightening and surprising.

Track listing:

1     Duo     2:50
2     Hymn     8:24
3     Re-Re     5:45
4     Modern Day Tuba     4:34
5     Children's Song     6:19
6     Little Motif     4:47
7     Weird Blues     5:32
8     Improvisation     7:27
9     The Dark Side     7:16


    Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Liner Notes – Bob Mintzer
    Bass – Marc Johnson (2)
    Drums – Peter Erskine
    Guitar – John Abercrombie

Friday, August 30, 2019

Eric Burdon and War - 1970 [1992] "Eric Burdon Declares War"

Eric Burdon Declares "War" is the first of two original albums by funk band Eric Burdon and War, released on MGM Records in April 1970. It peaked at number 18 on record charts in the USA, number 50 in the UK, and number 7 in Australia.[citation needed] The back cover includes this declaration: "We the People, have declared War against the People, for the right to love each other". The album received a gold record award.

Capturing the improvisational energy the band would soon become famous for, WAR's debut with Animals frontman Eric Burdon burst on the scene and on the charts with the erotic, Latin-tinged hit "Spill The Wine." For rock icon Burdon it was a dream come true, blending his powerful vocal style with a raw and creative blues band. Standout tracks include "Vision Of Rassan," "Blues For Memphis Slim," and the simmering soul revamp of John D. Loudermilk's blues classic "Tobacco Road."

You are probably familiar with 'Spill the Wine', the great single and best song from this album; but there are other interesting nuggets here. This is a tough album to review. I really like it; but it's probably not for everyone. Recorded / released in 1970, this album reflects some of the musical trends that were prevalent at the time: Blues, Rock, Jazz, Latin, Psychedelic... There are others, Santana to name one, that married these influences to greater success; but this album deserves a listen if only for the quality of the musicianship. Eric Burdon is an excellent vocalist; but it's really WAR that carries the weight here. Eric Burdon was still in a Trippy Psychedelic phase during this time - probably a little out of sync with the direction of WAR - so you get an interesting hybrid. This album might have the greatest appeal to fans of the early 70's music, where there we so many musical styles being explored / merged. In the context of the period, this is an interesting and mostly enjoyable album.

The debut effort by Eric Burdon and War was an erratic effort that hinted at more potential than it actually delivered. Three of the five tunes are meandering blues-jazz-psychedelic jams, two of which, "Tobacco Road" and "Blues for Memphis Slim," chug along for nearly 15 minutes. These showcase the then-unknown War's funky fusion, and Burdon's still-impressive vocals, but suffer from a lack of focus and substance. "Spill the Wine," on the other hand, is inarguably the greatest moment of the Burdon-fronted lineup. Not only was this goofy funk, shaggy-dog story one of the most truly inspired off-the-wall hit singles of all time, it was War's first smash -- and Eric Burdon's last. The odd closing track, a short piece of avant-garde sentimentality called "You're No Stranger," was deleted from re-releases of this album for years. 

The cover, credited to The Visual Thing (with Burdon credited for the concept), depicts two disembodied but joined arms, one white and one black, both giving a three finger salute, similar to the peace sign which uses two fingers. The three fingers may represent the letter "w" in the word "war". This salute was also used on the cover of a future album, War. The use of a background sun also appears as a recurring theme on both front and back covers of The Black-Man's Burdon and the innersleeve of Deliver the Word.

Track listing:

All tracks written by War (Papa Dee Allen, Harold Brown, Eric Burdon, B.B. Dickerson, Lonnie Jordan, Charles Miller, Lee Oskar, Howard E. Scott) except where noted. Note: Memphis Slim composed music under the name of Peter Chatman which was actually his father's name; on the original album the composer credit is misprinted as "P. Chapman".

1.    "The Vision of Rassan" - 7:40
        "Dedication"" – 2:33
        "Roll on Kirk" – 5:07
2.    "Tobacco Road" - 13:44
        "Tobacco Road" (John D. Loudermilk) – 3:47
        "I Have a Dream" – 6:39
        "Tobacco Road" (Loudermilk) – 3:58
3.    "Spill the Wine" – 4:38
4.    "Blues for Memphis Slim" - 13:30 (individual times not accurate)
        "Birth" – 1:31
        "Mother Earth" (Peter Chatman) – 2:46
        "Mr. Charlie" – 3:05
        "Danish Pastry" – 3:18
        "Mother Earth" (Chatman) – 2:28
5.    "You're No Stranger" (Thomas C Carter) – 1:55


    Eric Burdon – lead vocals
    Lee Oskar – harmonica
    Charles Miller – tenor sax, flute
    Howard Scott – guitar, backing vocals
    Lonnie Jordan – organ, piano
    Bee Bee Dickerson – bass, backing vocals
    Harold Brown – drums
    Dee Allen – conga, percussion

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Larry Carlton - 2006 "Fire Wire"

Fire Wire is an album by Larry Carlton that was released in 2006. It received a nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards which took place in 2007.

If veteran session guitarist Larry Carlton's Sapphire Blue (Bluebird, 2004) was a first shot at the bow of those who'd written him off as too smooth, Fire Wire is a veritable volley. Sapphire Blue found Carlton in a more energetic, blues-based context, but his trademark singing tone still spoke the language of jazz. Leaving all such references behind, Fire Wire is more rock instrumental than jazz fusion—and the rawest album he's made in his forty-year career.

The laid-back minor blues of "The Prince" is a respite from the energy of the rest of the record. Carlton restricts himself to acoustic guitar and demonstrates, once again, his debt to legendary bluesman B.B. King. "Inkblot 11," on the other hand, is a flat-out, pedal-to-the-metal rocker. Even the inclusion of the Sapphire Blue Horn Section does little to soften the wide-legged rock stance of Carlton's gritty tone and searing lines.

Carlton's writing on Fire Wire is his most direct, least complicated to date. Complex harmonies are nowhere to be found, nor are there any odd bars to break up the pulsing rock groove of songs like the four-to-the-floor "Double Cross." His language may be simpler, but his ability to squeeze the most out of every bend, and phrase in ways that maximize every note, keeps Fire Wire in context with the rest of his nearly two dozen solo records. If Blow by Blow (Epic, 1975) proved Jeff Beck's ability to transfer his visceral rock style into a jazz fusion setting, Fire Wire shows Carlton's ability to move in an opposite direction. The changes are simpler, but Carlton remains ever an inventive player, even when speaking in those terms.

The core quartet's other members, drummer Matt Chamberlain, bassist Michael Rhodes and keyboardist Jeff Babko, get little solo space. Still, they're the perfect rhythm section—loose and responsive when required, tight and completely in synch behind Carlton elsewhere.

One could argue that by moving away from the smooth leanings of his more recent work, Carlton runs the risk of alienating a core fan group. But anyone who's followed Carlton's forty-year career knows that his tastes run wide. On first glance Fire Wire may appear to be an anomaly, but given Carlton's ever-present less-is-more approach, its raw lyricism and avoidance of excess place it completely in context.

Issued in Japan in 2005, Larry Carlton's Fire Wire was issued stateside in March of 2006. This is a kind of continuation the Sapphire Blue session from 2004. Where the former album used a textured approach to the blues, many of the tunes here are in your face. They are mostly uptempo, funky, and tough, though some of them are moody and dark. And while "blues" are ever present here, they seem to inform Carlton's more rocking style on this offering. What's more, unlike some of his more commercial and fusion oriented projects, this one engages rock directly with a keen lyrical sensibility.

Keyboardist Jeff Babko seems to be a key collaborator on these tracks. His big fat synthetic backdrop provides ballast for the rhythm section -- bassist Michael Rhodes and drummer Matt Chamberlain -- and a big enough jump-off point for Carlton to do his considerable stuff both riffing and filling the spaces. "Inkblot 11" roars out of the gate with Carlton stereo riffing alternately with the four-piece horn section that makes it groove. "Double Cross" touches on the blues, but it's funkier, especially when the guitar lines and Babko's Rhodes play in tandem and then Carlton goes for the power chords. "Surrender" is a smoky little blues rocker that sounds like a postmodern tribute to Peter Green. "Naked Truth" references Jimi Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand" in the opening moments and becomes its own distorted lyric ballad.

The big crunch returns in "Big Trouble," courtesy of Carlton's stereo guitar, and Csaba Petocz's in-the-red production. This is one of those tracks where the guitar just screams and screams of simple heavy rock vamps but who cares? It kicks butt. The funk returns on "Dirty Donna's House Party," with horns and keyboards popping all over the mix. Carlton's in the high register doing some serious string bending. The record closes with the abstractly moody jazz-funk number. It's an odd cut, but when it hits its groove, one can see why it was chosen to end the set. Carlton is simply loose, pushing the dials up and Babko supports him in the same way Jan Hammer supported Jeff Beck, filling spaces for the rhythm section to jump on, putting the vamp in the back instead of the front, and accelerating things in the middle so Carlton can just let loose -- and he does. Fire Wire isn't the most imaginative or creatively challenging record Carlton has ever made, but it is loose, reckless, and fun; he must have had a ball making it, but you'd never know it by the cover.

A departure from this heavy-duty program is “Sunrise,” a melancholy acoustic ballad in the tradition of his Grammy-winning album from 20 years ago, Alone/But Never Alone. Other highlights include Carlton’s stinging, Albert King-flavored licks and wah-wah wailing over the top of the funky “Dirty Donna’s House Party” (reminiscent of Billy Cobham’s “Stratus”) and his liquid harmonic sensibility on the lyrical ballad “Naked Truth” (inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing”).


Track listing

01    "Inkblot 11 – 3:18
02    "Double Cross – 4:36
03    "Naked Truth" – 3:49
04    "Surrender" – 5:01
05    "Big Trouble" – 3:42
06    "Goodbye" – 4:40
07    "Dirty Donna's House Party" – 5:37
08    "The Prince" – 4:35
09    "Sunrise" – 5:11
10     "Mean Street" – 6:48


    Larry Carlton – guitar
    Mike Haynes – trumpet
    Barry Green – trombone
    Mark Douthit – saxophone
    Doug Moffet – baritone saxophone
    Jeff Babko – keyboards
    Michael Rhodes – bass guitar
    Matt Chamberlain – drums

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Jeff Beck - 1977 [2008] "With The Jan Hammer Group (Live)"

Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group Live is a live album by Jeff Beck, released in 1977 on Epic Records.

This album is definitely an epic performance of Jeff and Jan, I have it in all the formats available, it is music that can be listened many times and never get old!

Starting with Freeway Jam, that's exactly the way an improvised song should sound, you can just feel how the power of these two monsters of music is just waiting to be unchained, and when the time comes, their soloing travels giving so much dimension to the song.

Later Jeff sings She's a Woman flooding the air with a guitar so sensual that it feels he is singing to her, and her moaning to the touch of his master hand, monumental version!

The album closes with a no less great tune, Jeff Beck at his higher, Blue Wind still has the flavor of The Jeff Beck Group, agressive, dynamic, taking music to the next level with a so revolucionary sound only Beck can project.

Jan Hammer's uncanny ability to simulate the pitch-bending qualities of an electric guitar on his Minimoog synthesizer made him an explosive duet partner with rock's Jeff Beck on this live album -- the third of Beck's successful flirtations with jazz-rock. While leaning toward the Mahavishnu Orchestra brand of jazz-rock, with the word "rock" heavily emphasized, this is a looser, less lockstepped variant. The song selection is split almost equally between Hammer and Beck's repertoires, with Hammer's remake of his techno/mechanized "Darkness/Earth In Search of a Sun" making the biggest splash.

Beck is a marvel, his stinging guitar darting in and out from everywhere like a hit-and-run guerrilla fighter, and Hammer matches him blow by blow, so to speak, with his purer yet equally agile tone quality on shootouts like "Full Moon Boogie." Hammer is a terrible vocalist, but that indulgence fortunately is limited to one track; Beck himself only vocalizes through a gauzy electronic filter on a reggae-like treatment of the Beatles' "She's a Woman." Though the jazz-rock idiom seemed almost spent by the time this was released, Hammer and Beck happily pretended not to notice.

No precise dates and locations are given for the live recordings. The tour began in June 1976 and ended in February 1977, with 117 shows performed.

A&R man Tom Werman suggested[2] that the date at the Astor Theater in Reading, PA (31 August 1976) yielded the best performances, and was going to provide the bulk of the album at the time of his involvement in the project. Beck mixed this along with other recordings at Allen Toussaint's studio in New Orleans.

Then Jan Hammer decided to mix the album himself, and did so with Dennis Weinreich at Scorpio Sound Studios in London, England.

The stereo spectrum of this album duplicates the stage set-up with guitar positioned center right, keyboards center left, violin right and drums and bass center.



Tracks Listing:

1. Freeway Jam
2. Earth (Still Our Only Home)
3. She's A Woman
4. Full Moon Boogie
5. Darkness /Earth In Search Of A Sun
6. Scatterbrain
7. Blue Wind

Total time 44:30


    Jeff Beck - guitar, bass guitar, special effects

The Jan Hammer Group

    Jan Hammer - Moog, Oberheim and Freeman string symphonizer synthesizers, electric piano, timbales; lead vocal on "Earth (Still Our Only Home)"
    Tony "Thunder" Smith - drums; lead vocal on "Full Moon Boogie"
    Fernando Saunders - bass, harmony vocals; rhythm guitar on "She's A Woman"
    Steve Kindler - violin; string synthesizer on "Darkness"; rhythm guitar on "Blue Wind"

Monday, August 12, 2019

Super Funky Sax - 1980 [2014] "Super Funky Sax"

Couldn't find a lot of information on this CD except a 4.5 rating and all titles were written and arranged by David Matthews but he does not play on it.

Track listing:

01 - Super Groove (David Matthews)
02 - Mika (David Matthews)
03 - Noches Calientes (David Matthews)
04 - Seditty (David Matthews)
05 - Black River Rhapsody (David Matthews)
06 - The Return Of Zorro (David Matthews)

Musicians :

David Sanborn : Alto Saxophone
Michael Brecker : Tenor Saxophone
Ronnie Cuber : Baritone Saxophone
David Spinozza : Electric Guitar
Don Grolnick : Electric Piano
Clifford Carter : Synthesizer
Neil Jason : Electric Bass
Andy Newmark : Drums
Sammy Figueroa : Percussion

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Emerson, Lake & Palmer 1972 [2007] "Trilogy"

Trilogy is the third studio album by English progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released in July 1972 on Island Records. The cover, designed by Hipgnosis, depicts a combined bust of the three members, while the interior of the original gatefold sleeve features a photomontage of the three in Epping Forest.

Trilogy increased ELP's worldwide popularity, and included "Hoedown", an arrangement of the Aaron Copland composition, which was one of their most popular songs when performing live.

References to a quad version of this album appeared in 1974 Harrison or Schwann record and tape guides, listing Trilogy in the Quadraphonic 8-track tape cartridge format. Collectors report never seeing a Trilogy Q8 at retail, despite its having a catalogue number "Cotillion QT-9903."

In September 1971, the band took a break in their summer North American tour promoting Tarkus (1971) and Pictures at an Exhibition (1971) to record new material for their next studio album. In a May 1972 magazine report, the album had yet to have a title. Emerson was pleased with the album after it was completed, noting its varied and difference in style to Tarkus.

The artwork was designed by Hipgnosis. Spanish artist Salvador Dalí was approached to design it, but he requested $50,000 to do it and was subsequently turned down. The front cover depicts each of the band members' faces; Emerson said this was so as their previous albums had not featured them.

After the heavily distorted bass and doomsday church organ of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's debut album, the exhilarating prog rock of epic proportions on Tarkus, and the violent removal of the sacred aura of classical tunes on Pictures at an Exhibition, Trilogy, ELP's fourth album, features the trio settling down in more crowd-pleasing pastures. Actually, the group was gaining in maturity what they lost in raw energy. Every track on this album has been carefully thought, arranged, and performed to perfection, a process that also included some form of sterilization. Greg Lake's acoustic ballad "From the Beginning" put the group on the charts for a second time. The adaptation of Aaron Copland's "Hoedown" also yielded a crowd-pleaser. Prog rock fans had to satisfy themselves with the three-part "The Endless Enigma" and "Trilogy," both very strong but paced compositions. By 1972, Eddie Offord's recording and producing techniques had reached a peak. He provided a lush, comfy finish to the album that made it particularly suited for living-room listening and the FM airwaves.

Greg Lake considered "Trilogy" ELP's masterpiece and he isn't to far off in that assessment. "Trilogy" demonstrates a maturity to their work. While there's a bit less fire here compared to some of their previous albums (or the live performances), the songwriting demonstrates a new level of depth.

Tracks Listing

1. The Endless Enigma (Part One) (6:42)
2. Fugue (1:57)
3. The Endless Enigma (Part Two) (2:05)
4. From The Beginning (4:17)
5. The Sheriff (3:23)
6. Hoedown (Taken from Rodeo) {Aaron Copland, arranged by E, L & P} (3:47)
7. Trilogy (8:54)
8. Living Sin (3:14)
9. Abaddon's Bolero (8:08)

Total Time: 42:29

Line-up / Musicians

- Greg Lake / vocals, bass, electric & acoustic guitars, addit. keyboards (9), lyricist & producer
- Keith Emerson / grand piano, Hammond C3, synths (Moog IIIC & Mini Moog model D), zukra (1)
- Carl Palmer / drums, percussion

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Joe Henderson - 1981 [1993] "Relaxin' at Camarillo"

Relaxin' at Camarillo is an album by American jazz saxophonist Joe Henderson recorded in 1979 and released on the Contemporary label.

Henderson had been doing quality work for years on numerous independent and foreign labels, and 1979's Relaxin' at Camarillo, is just one among many examples of that. There are five selections, only one less than eight minutes long, with the usual Henderson attributes: full, deep tone, keen ideas, and an ability to sweep through registers and across octaves with ease. Chick Corea made an excellent partner, playing with none of the self-consciousness that crops up repeatedly in his fusion and electric fare. Bassists and drummers were interchangeable, although you can certainly tell Tony Williams from Peter Erskine (and that's no knock on Erskine).

Joe in his good mood is receiving a packet in velvet and lace, indigo-blue and tomato-red. Gets in the vanes and the bones, gets in, good for relaxing, working, cardriving and...saying it to someone.., it all is there, yeah. Muscular, straight ahead Joe like I've never heard him before. met him back in days of my military career in Norfolk, Virgia where he was playing. Like its title, this album is really the one to listen to if you want to relax. joe henderson's version of my one and only love is simply beautiful and the rest of the album are just equally great.

Joe Henderson's Relaxin' at Camarillo I recommend, not only for Joe Henderson's tenor saxophone playing, he is one of my favourites, but Chick Corea's piano playing, interpreting the lone Joe Henderson composition, first cut on the album, as if he wrote it himself and of course on the two Corea wrote for this album, his playing stands out. Charlie Parker and George Gershwin composed the other two tracks making five enjoyable compositions. Henderson and Corea are great musicians but Tony Williams on drums (on some tracks its Peter Erskine) is always welcome by me. Richard Davis and Tony Dumas take turns on bass.

FANTASTIC SAXOPHONE RECORD! On here Joe Henderson is every bit as good as Sonny Rollings, Dexter Gordon and other all time great saxophonists. He reminds me of John Coltrane before he went Free Jazz (ca. My Favorite Things Album). There is also an excellent backing band supporting him. (chick corea not only plays the piano but also wrote two of the songs here).


Track listing:

    "Y Todavia la Quiero" (Joe Henderson) – 11:42
    "My One and Only Love" (Robert Mellin, Guy Wood) – 9:59
    "Crimson Lake" (Chick Corea) – 5:26
    "Yes, My Dear" (Corea) – 8:44
    "Relaxin' at Camarillo" (Charlie Parker) – 9:21


    Joe Henderson - tenor saxophone
    Chick Corea - piano
    Tony Dumas - Bass (tracks 1, 2, 5)
    Richard Davis - Bass (tracks 3, 4)
    Peter Erskine  - Drums (tracks 1, 2, 5)
    Tony Williams  - Drums (tracks 3, 4)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

King Crimson - 2016 "Collectors' Club - Mainichi Hall, Osaka Japan 12.13.1981"

 Limited live release from the art/prog rock icons' Collectors Club series. This set was recorded on December 13, 1981 in Osaka, Japan. King Crimson formed in London in 1968. The band has undergone numerous formations throughout it's history of which 21 musicians have been members. Robert Fripp is the only consistent member of the group, and is considered the band's leader and driving force. The band has earned a large cult following. Developed from the unsuccessful trio Giles, Giles and Fripp, the band were seminal in the progressive rock genre in it's first five years with it's standard of instrumentation and complex song structures. King Crimson's debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King (1969), remains it's most successful and influential, with it's elements of jazz, classical, and experimental music. Their success increased following an opening act performance for The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park, London, in 1969. The group reached a new creative peak with Larks' Tongues in Aspic (1973), Starless and Bible Black (1974), and Red (1974). Fripp has dismantled and reformed the band throughout the years. Their early '80s recordings introduced them to an entirely new audience.


Track listing:

01     Discipline    
02     Thela Hun Ginjeet    
03     Red    
04     Matte Kudasai    
05     The Sheltering Sky    
06     Frame By Frame    
07     Neal And Jack And Me    
08     Manhattan    
09     Elephant Talk    
10     Indiscipline    
11     Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part II


Robert Fripp - Guitar
Adrian Belew - Guitar, Vocal
Tony Levin - Bass, Chapman Stick
Bill Bruford - Drums

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Bill Bruford with Ralph Towner & Eddie Gomez - 1997 "If Summer Had Its Ghosts"

On If Summer Had Its Ghosts, a primarily acoustic trio recording, drummer Bill Bruford, bassist Eddie Gómez, and pianist/guitarist Ralph Towner create some lush, wondrous, spontaneous and melodic music. It has jazz roots, improvisational branches, and elfin extensions. There's no gimmickry or pretension, although Bruford does add some sampled colors, and Towner overdubs his instruments as well as throwing in a pinch of electronic keyboards. What you basically hear is Bruford's newest and freshest music, interpreted and extrapolated upon by three virtuosos in mellifluous interactive conversation. At their most swinging, as on the lively, four/four, tick-tock, light rimshot, mid-tempo swing of the title track, they are telepathic, with Towner effortlessly switching from acoustic 12-string to piano and Gómez laying down soulful, full, deep bass punctuations. In a more ethnocentric bag, Bruford samples mbira for the folk-ish "Thistledown," Indonesian bells for the minimalistic, dancing "Splendor Among Shadows," and clay pots for "Silent Pool"; Towner emulates Peruvian wooden pan flutes on his synth for "The Ballad of Vilcabamba," replete with ostinato bass and quiet electronic handclaps. The drummer pays homage to Joe Morello's classic five/four "Take Five" drum solo on "Some Other Time" (not the standard) with an accent on the fourth beat, while slowly grooving in six/eight on the ballad "Forgiveness." "Never the Same Way Once" (an old Shelly Manne adage) is the showstopper, a time-shifting, bluesy, swing to bop and back again rhythm with the spritely Chick Corea-like piano-guitar melody that is completely unpredictable and delightful. It reflects an easygoing, loose, carefree attitude that defines this entire session. If summer really does have its ghosts, they would evoke echoes of spring, full of renewal, hope, and joyful anticipation. It is that spirit with which this music is made, and it is some of greatest music, collectively or otherwise, that these three have conjured in their lengthy, storied careers.

Here's yet another excellent album among many Bill Bruford has been associated with. He's the only ex-member of Yes to have produced consistently high-quality work for the past 30 years. Bruford may not have the super-chops of a Colaiuta, Weckl or Gadd but he's more clever than all of them. Far from being "out-of-his-league" as another reviewer suggests, he creates his own league and unique field of play for his formidable accomplices. He could easily try to show off with flash or worse yet try to play like a typical jazz drummer and have this record sound like so many hundreds of others and put all the pressure on Towner to make it work. Instead he penetrates these tunes like a Swiss watch that can melt and bend as in a Dali painting. Bruford sticks firmly to his calculated and finely-tuned un-loose style but this is the restraint he needs to slowly unwind his drumming art besides providing a unique strict-timed background for Towner and Gomez, especially Towner to feed off. This makes the record sound 'one-of-a-kind,' a perfect fusion and blend of styles rather than tied to any one discipline. All that wouldn't matter if the compositions weren't excellent and here you have them. Every track is a great piece played with consummate skill by all three players with just the right amount of looseness and improvisation to maximize its potential, if not quite maximizing it to the transcendent masterpiece level you might hear on Towner's "Solstice." The last track is kind of out-of-place with the rest of the material and a bit more rock-oriented and closer to the late-70s Bruford-Band material but still a fun listen and nice way to close the album with a bit of a bang. The sound quality on the album is way above the average and on par with ECM recordings although without the often suffocating sameness of high quality recording you hear on some of the ECM albums.


Track listing:

01     If Summer Had Its Ghosts     6:20
02     Never The Same Way Once     5:04
03     Forgiveness     5:15
04     Somersaults     3:27
05     Thistledown     4:11
06     The Ballad Of Vilcabamba     5:00
07     Amethyst (For Carmen)     4:18
08     Splendour Among Shadows     4:52
09     Some Other Time     3:01
10     Silent Pool     3:35
11     Now Is The Next Time     4:03


    Bill Bruford - Drums, Percussion
    Eddie Gomez - Bass
    Ralph Towner - Twelve-String Guitar, Classical Guitar, Piano, Keyboards [Electronic Keyboards]

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Brian Bromberg - 2004 "Choices"

In his career, Brian Bromberg has recorded bop, fusion, and smooth with equal fluency and creativity on acoustic and electric basses. Choices is somewhat commercial, with funky rhythms, R&B-ish solos, and fade-outs. In general, the solos are more memorable than Bromberg's originals and grooves. While the material is mostly routine, the improvisations of Bromberg and altoist Eric Marienthal are excellent and the musicianship is impressive. But no real surprises occur, making this a lesser and generally easy listening effort by the hugely talented Brian Bromberg.

If you are a fan of bassist jazz then this CD is a superb example of contemporary jazz at its bassiest... Simply put this CD is a rare gem. I was unfamilar with Brian Bromberg, but now I'm an instant fan.. There also are some excellent contributions from some perhaps more popular jazz artists, but Brian stands on his own. This CD should be a part of every Comtemporary jazz fan's collection. How does such good music go underplayed or overlooked... I'd love to see Brain in concert Defintely will check out the rest of his catalog.. I'm hooked.

One of my favorite CDs. A real surprise, this one. Heard a song from it on the radio and took a shot-wow am I glad I did! This guy is now my favorite bass player. You know what you hear is a guitar but don't be too sure what kind, it's just incredible. Everyone I've played it for can't believe their ears. Modern jazz/fusion at its best.


Track listing:

01 Never Give Up
02 Choices
03 Bobblehead
04 Snuggle Up
05 Relentless
06 B Squared
07 Why?
08 Bass Face
09 When I Look In Your Eyes
10 Lazy Afternoon
11 Audubon Park
12 Hear Our Cry


Brian Bromberg - Acoustic Piccolo Bass, Acoustic Bass, Tenor Bass
Jeff Lorber - Keyboards
Eric Marienthal - Alto Sax
Joel Taylor - Drums
Alex Acuna - Percussion
Tom Zink - Keyboards
Dave Kochanski - Keyboards
Gary Meek - Tenor Sax
Billy Armstrong - Trumpet (9)
Dave Ryan - Trombone
Dave Benoit - Piano (10)
Brian Culbertson - Piano (6)
Kelly Moneymaker, Roger Treece, Lisa Fischer - Vocals
David Bromberg - Drums (2)

Strings – Alwyn Wright (tracks: 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14), Benedikt Fischer (tracks: 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14), Erika Walczak (tracks: 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14), Eugene Mechtovich (tracks: 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14), J' Anna Jacoby* (tracks: 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14), Sarah O'Brien (tracks: 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14).

Michael Brecker - 1987 "Michael Brecker"

Michael Brecker is the debut album by American saxophonist Michael Brecker. It was released on the Impulse! record label in 1987.

Although he had been a major tenor saxophonist in the studios for nearly 20 years and was quite popular for his work with the Brecker Brothers, this MCA/Impulse set was Michael Brecker's first as a leader. Playing in a quintet with guitarist Pat Metheny, keyboardist Kenny Kirkland, bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer Jack DeJohnette, Brecker performs three of his originals, two by producer Don Grolnick, and Mike Stern's "Choices." The music in general is straight-ahead but far from predictable; the tricky material really challenges the musicians and Michael Brecker is in consistently brilliant form, constantly stretching himself. Highly recommended.

I had this record on vinyl when it came out in 1986. Just added it to my collection on disc and it has me wondering where I've been all this time. This was the first solo release by Brecker, and he can only be termed a GIANT of the tenor sax. I saw him live four or five times, and all his genius is on display here. So sorry to say that Brecker succumbed to cancer last year, and that brilliant pianist Kenny Kirkland, who is all over this record, succumbed to a heroin overdose in 1998. The musicians, also including guitarist Pat Metheny and drummer Jack DeJohnette, are uniformly stupendous on this record, but more than that, the compositions are simply inventive jazz genius. Curious about jazz? Want to check out a great saxophone record? BUY IT. Robert Orme.

A truly unbelievable album - wow! And what a band - Methemy, Haden, Dejohnette, Kirkland.. every piece is exceptional. And Cost of Living - my favorite - powerful! MJJ.

I hadn't heard this recording in a long while and lost sight of how awesome a player Michael Brecker was. This is one of the best examples of a recording that is simultaneously contemporary and tradition-rooted. It still sounds as special as it did when I walked in a record store and stopped in my tracks to listen to the entire recording. Alan R.

Michael Brecker's Tenor playing is so rich and warm. His speed and clarity are extraordinary.

The line up on this album top notch. It is really a "best of the best" with Jack de Johnette on Drums, Charlie Haden on Bass, Kenny Kirland on Piano and Pat Metheny on Guitar. I always enjoy Jack de Johnette's fast and sweet drumming; a particular feature on the album for me. The entire group is really "tight" and it is really impossible to say anyone is better than the other. It works!

I enjoyed a very interesting rendition of "My One and Only Love" which is on Track 7. On this track there is a solo by Pat Metheny that is sublime. Track 5 The Cost Of Living is a slower number, but is a nice change of pace that is well performed and allows Charlie Haden to shine.

This is a terrific album. It showcases Michael Brecker's virtuoso sound. Frizzante.


Track listing:

1.    "Sea Glass" (Michael Brecker)    5:49
2.    "Syzygy" (Brecker)    9:44
3.    "Choices" (Mike Stern)    8:06
4.    "Nothing Personal" (Don Grolnick)    5:29
5.    "The Cost of Living" (Grolnick)    9:04
6.    "Original Rays" (Brecker, Grolnick, Stern)    9:04
7.    "My One and Only Love" (Robert Mellin, Guy Wood)    8:16
Total length:    53:02


    Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone, EWI
    Pat Metheny – guitar
    Kenny Kirkland – keyboards
    Charlie Haden – double bass
    Jack DeJohnette – drums

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Steps Ahead - 1984 "Modern Times"

Steps Ahead is a jazz fusion group formed by vibraphonist Mike Mainieri in the 1970s. The lineup consisted of Mainieri, Michael Brecker, Don Grolnick, Eddie Gómez, and Steve Gadd and would change often over the years. Steps Ahead fused elements of rock, funk, jazz, and rhythm and blues.

By 1984, Steps Ahead's personnel had stabilized with original keyboardist Warren Bernhardt rejoining the group and teaming up with tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, bassist Eddie Gomez, drummer Peter Erskine, and vibraphonist Mike Mainieri; guitarist Chuck Loeb guests on one selection, as does Tony Levin, who is heard on the Chapman stick. This outing is very electronic and does not quite reach the heights of Steps Ahead's earlier Elektra album, but it certainly has plenty of spirit and power.

Michael Brecker formed Steps Ahead (originally Steps) with fellow New York masters vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and bassist Eddie Gomez, put together initially for the Japanese market. Steve Gadd was their original drummer, replaced in the early ’80s by Weather Report man Peter Erskine.

Steps Ahead’s self-titled debut album showcased a mostly-acoustic fusion sound, but the follow-up Modern Times embraced all sorts of ’80s technology to intriguing effect. Of course such tinkering opens it up to sounding somewhat dated these days, but at least the album has ambition, quality compositions and the kind of attention to detail that makes it an interesting companion piece to key mid-’80s works like The Flat Earth, Hounds Of Love, Boys And Girls and So.

Opener ‘Safari’ kicks off with a vaguely Caribbean/reggae groove featuring a multitude of synths and sequencers and a tribal, almost Zawinulesque melody. With repeated listens there are many pleasures to be found; Brecker’s typically incisive tenor solo, Erskine’s subtly-building groove work, the slinky bass line which rumbles on throughout.

Equally arresting is pianist Warren Bernhardt’s title track, a modal piece built over another serpentine, sequenced line, developing into a series of lovely vignettes featuring Brecker’s solos and some very Steely Dan-ish chord progressions. Mainieri’s composition ‘Old Town’ features King Crimson/Peter Gabriel sideman Tony Levin playing some menacing Stick over the sort of exotic, ambient groove Bryan Ferry would utilise on Boys And Girls a year later. And ‘Radio-Active’ taps into some of the World vibes Peter Gabriel investigated throughout the ’80s.

Unfortunately a few tunes let the side down, drifting uncomfortably into smooth jazz territory. Mainieri’s composition ‘Self Portrait’ is almost saved by a lyrical Brecker solo but far too saccharine for my tastes, while Erskine’s ‘Now You Know’ features a melody line (Brecker on soprano) which, though memorable, veers scarily towards Kenny G.

And it has to be said that Eddie Gomez’s role in the band was diminishing very fast, so anonymous is his contribution. He would be gone by the next album Magnetic, replaced by ex-Weather Report man Victor Bailey.

In Modern Times‘ liner notes, Peter Erskine thanks someone for their help with click tracks, and that concept in itself would probably turn off a big section of the ‘jazz’ audience. But some arresting compositions, tribal grooves and typically tasty Brecker solos ensure that one’s attention never strays for long. Modern Times is a key jazz album of the ’80s, albeit one that would probably have given most of the Young Lions nightmares…

Released in 1984, Modern Times, the group's second album as Steps Ahead, was a radical departure from their self-titled debut. Unlike the first album's mostly acoustic textures, Modern Times is a high-tech, futuristic, jazz-of-tomorrow fusion masterpiece. While many have used sequencers, throbbing synth-bass, and programmed percussion in a jazz context, to this day no one has done it better than this group on this album. Strong compositions, impassioned performances, and early DDD production are married to otherworldly yet urban atmospheres to create one of the best albums any of these distinguished players has ever appeared on.

Steps Ahead were always Mike Mainieri's group, and he is the only player to appear on every album. "Oops" and "Self Portrait" are classic Mainieri compositions: long-lined unforgettable melodies, loud/soft contrasts, quirky bridges, outstanding solos over synth splashes, and sudden endings. His two other songs on this album are a bit more eclectic. "Radio Active" is mostly programmed (special guest: Craig Peyton) and showcases Michael Brecker's multi-tracked licks and best soloing on the album. "Old Town" includes drumbox, gurgling synth loops, Tony Levin on the Chapman Stick, and Mainieri's marimba solo. Ubiquitous drummer Peter Erskine contributes the smooth "Now You Know" with guest (and future band member) Chuck Loeb on guitar, an exquisite Warren Bernhardt piano solo, and Brecker making a rare appearance on soprano sax. Brecker's only composition, "Safari", also features his soprano work before moving to the tenor and a brilliant Mainieri vibraphone solo. Bernhardt's "Modern Times" opens with intricate synth patterns and includes an Eddie Gomez bass solo that's almost drowned in the mix. In the interest of full disclosure, it should be mentioned here that while credited as a full band member, Gomez can only be heard on "Oops", "Modern Times", and "Now You Know". Not surprisingly, he has not appeared on another Steps Ahead album since.

While the shock of high-technology no doubt alienated some listeners, the gamble has paid off in that this album still sounds very, well, MODERN and contemporary over 30 years after its original release. Future Steps Ahead albums would never recapture the innovative, imaginative quality of Modern Times, and would add vocals and a revolving-door line-up that could never hold a candle to this original jazz "supergroup". If you're at all familiar with the players, Modern Times will provide a lifetime's worth of listening pleasure.


Track listing:

1     Safari     6:58
2     Oops     6:20
3     Self Portrait     6:02
4     Modern Times     6:17
5     Radio-Active     8:49
6     Now You Know     6:25
7     Old Town     6:19


    Bass – Eddie Gomez
    Chapman Stick – Tony Levin (tracks: 7)
    Drums, Percussion, Electronic Drums [DMX] – Peter Erskine
    Guitar – Chuck Loeb (tracks: 6)
    Keyboards – Warren Bernhardt
    Synthesizer [Additional] – Michael Brecker (tracks: 1), Michael Mainieri* (tracks: 2, 3, 7)
    Synthesizer, Electronic Drums [DMX], Bass [Pro 1] – Craig Peyton (tracks: 5)
    Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Michael Brecker
    Vibraphone [Vibes], Marimba, Synthesizer [Synthi-vibe] – Mike Mainieri

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Randy Brecker with Michael Brecker - 2005 "Some Skunk Funk" (Live)

Some Skunk Funk is an album, recorded live in 2003, by Randy Brecker and Michael Brecker. In 2006 it won Grammy Awards for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo (Michael Brecker) and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

The 2003 performance documented on Some Skunk Funk may be credited to trumpeter Randy Brecker, but his brother, saxophonist Michael, joins in for a Brecker Brothers reunion with the added oomph of Germany's WDR Big Band. And if ever a band's repertoire was custom-made to be retrofitted with a larger horn section, it's that of the Brecker Brothers. Some of the material comes from Randy Brecker's solo career: "Shanghigh" and "Let It Go" from 34th N Lex (ESC, 2003), "Wayne Out" from Hanging in the City (ESC, 2001), and a new tune, "Let It Go." But what's remarkable is how comfortably these tunes fit in with Brecker Brothers material on Brecker Bros. (Arista, 1975) through Out of the Loop (GRP, 1994).

The Brecker Brothers emerged as a distinct alternative to the muscular athletics of other fusion bands during the 1970s. As virtuosic as any such group, they played a swaggering downtown New York funk that differentiated them from the higher-octane Mahavishnu Orchestra, the progressive rock leanings of Return to Forever, and the increasingly world music-driven Weather Report. Even the band closest to the Breckers' brand of groove-driven music—Herbie Hancock's Headhunters—occupied a different space.

Maybe it's because the brothers didn't feel it necessary to desert the more jazz-centric harmonies they'd learned playing with artists like Horace Silver. As electric and funky as the Brecker Brothers have always been, their jazz aesthetic has also distinguished them from peer fusion bands, making their best material truly timeless. Three of the ten tunes on this album—the fiery title track, the greasier "Sponge" and the balladic "Levitate"—are taken from their 1975 debut, and they sound as relevant today as they did then.

Credit, of course, goes to Vince Mendoza—who arranged and conducted the tracks for this expanded Brecker Brothers Big Band. The Breckers' writing has always been characterized by rich orchestration—sometimes feeling much bigger than their small ensemble size would suggest. Mendoza's unique voice takes Michael's viscerally funky "Strap-hangin,'" for example, and layers more colors where appropriate, still twisting the arrangement into a new shape that feels like a logical extension, rather than an extensive rewrite.

But with a crack core group featuring keyboardist Jim Beard, bassist Will Lee and drummer Peter Erskine, Mendoza also lets the ensemble collapse into smaller, more interactive units where appropriate during the solo sections. Solos from both brothers build on their own. Mendoza reintroduces the horn section at just the right time, pushing them to even greater extremes. And when the two brothers trade off during the song's outro, they remind us of just how powerful shared genetics can be.

The Brecker Brothers join forces for a set of mostly high-powered originals at a concert in 2003. Their post-bop music is generally funky (although "Freefall" is an uptempo cooker) and sometimes a bit bombastic yet is never predictable. Trumpeter Randy Brecker and tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker take many fiery solos while also sounding warm on ballads. They are supported by a particularly strong rhythm section. In addition, the WDR Big Band contributes 14 horns and a guitar to accompany the core group. The individual songs may not be overly memorable (although "Some Skunk Funk" has been getting covered by other musicians) but the Breckers' solos are full of exciting moments.

The rare blood disorder that has kept Michael Brecker on the sidelines for nearly two years makes Some Skunk Funk a bittersweet experience.



Track listing:

All tracks written by Randy Brecker except where noted.

01.    "Some Skunk Funk"    5.51
02.    "Sponge"    4.05
03.    "Shanghigh"    6.40
04.    "Wayne Out"    4:56
05.    "And Then She Wept"    6:07
06.    "Strap Hangin'" (Michael Brecker)    8:18
07.    "Let It Go"    8:02
08.    "Freefall"    6:17
09.    "Levitate"    4:58
10.    "Song for Barry" (Michael Brecker)    10:32


    Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone
    Randy Brecker – trumpet
    Vince Mendoza – conductor, arranger
    Will Lee – bass guitar
    Jim Beard – piano, synthesizer
    Peter Erskine – drums
    Marcio Doctor – percussion
    Koji Paul Shigihara – guitar

    WDR Big Band:
    Rob Bruynen – trumpet
    Andy Haderer – trumpet
    Rick Kiefer – trumpet
    John Marshall – trumpet
    Klaus Osterloh – trumpet
    David Horler – trombone
    Bernt Laukamp – trombone
    Ludwig Nuss – trombone
    Mattis Cederberg – bass trombone
    Harold Rosenstein – alto saxophone
    Heiner Wiberny – alto saxophone
    Olivier Peters – tenor saxophone
    Rolf Römer – tenor saxophone
    Jens Neufang – baritone saxophone

Brand X - 2017 "But Wait...There's More!" / LIVE 2017

 Brand X's first release in 20 years finds original members Percy Jones and John Goodsall joined by former drummer Kenwood Dennard (Livestock), plus Chris Clark (Keyboards) and Scott Weinberger

Containing an explosive set recorded at the historic Sellersville Theatre in Pennsylvania in 2017, "But Wait....There's More!" features remarkable new versions of Brand X classics taken mostly from the band's first three albums, including Nightmare Patrol, Nuclear Burn, Malaga Virgen, And So To F and more.  Jones and Goodsall are at their blistering best and the performance has been beautifully mixed by Stephen W. Tayler (Peter Gabriel, U.K., Kate Bush, Bruford, Brand X, Underworld).

But Wait... There's More!, the new live album by Brand X captures a complete performance of the classic Anglo- American prog-jazz-fusion band (can we fit a few more hyphens in here?) from their recent, eagerly anticipated, recent tour. Recorded in January at the Sellersville Theater, it is a blistering, high energy set, reexploring material from their first two studio albums, 1976's Unorthodox Behaviour and 1977's Moroccan Roll, as well material from their 1977 live album, Livestock.

Recorded at a single show, the recording has an authentic, energized feel. It's a solid "warts and all" document of a band really gelling after a hiatus of over two decades. Founding members, guitarist John Goodsall and bassist Percy Jones, along with veteran Livestock era drummer, Kenwood Dennard, are joined by new members Chris Clark on keyboards and Scott Weinberger on percussion. The new line-up brings new ideas and vigor to the material, with the old members exploring new sounds and the new members bringing their own musical identities into the mix.

Goodsall's guitar often has a nastier, snarling tone only hinted at on the band's old albums, unleashing solos that are cutting and angular. Jones in fine form, with his deep, swirling magma bass showcased on "Born Ugly" and "Hate Zone," while his solo "Magic Mist" highlights a more lyrical, cosmically mysterious sound.

The sheer power of Kenwood Dennard's drumming is very much at the forefront here, injecting the material with an unrelenting funkiness. Scott Weinberger does a fine job finding spaces within the groove for color and emphasis. The rhythmic approach of the two constantly shifts in its relationship and dynamics, vacillating between complimentary, rhythmic discussions and full-out unison freight train assaults.

Clark's keyboard work is more staid, his approach more cerebral. He executes his parts expertly and constructs his solos for maximum chromatic effect. His solos often seem to deliberately eschew any notes that could possibly be expected in a given moment. The results are often dizzyingly satisfying. In addition, his solo piano version of ..."Maybe I'll Lend You Mine After All" is masterful. His spare and lovely, but crisp and sharply attacked playing (evoking Chick Corea, to no small extent) makes the piece worth the price of admission alone.

But Wait... There's More! is a fine document of a band reemerging and reasserting itself, but more, it's a powerful and engaging album in its own right. In spite of the fact that nearly all of the music was composed decades ago, the album features some incredibly strong performances and a level of intensity that makes this recording stand out based on its own merits, making it worthy addition to the Brand X catalog.

“As you can see, Brand X does continue on,” bellows a gregarious John Goodsall during an incendiary set recorded in Pennsylvania. Their first release in 20 years finds Goodsall with bassist Percy Jones and former drummer Kenwood Dennard, alongside keyboardist Chris Clark and Scott Weinberger’s agile percussion. They’re clearly happy to be up there playing for a wildly enthusiastic crowd, and Stephen W Tayler’s stunningly detailed production puts the listener right up there in the sweet spot with them.

Some of the hottest instrumental music you’ll hear this year.

Aside from big names such as Soft Machine and Nucleus, the UK jazz rock scene was a bustling place in the 70s with less well-known bands such as Turning Point, John Stevens’ Away, Back Door, Zzebra, Pacific Eardrum, Paz and others. As good as they all were, toiling on the college circuit and occasionally nabbing support slots with big name rock acts, Brand X grabbed a higher profile thanks to their association with Phil Collins, moonlighting from Genesis.

Ending with more of a whimper than a bang in 1980, aside from an unsatisfactory reunion sortie in the 90s, they’ve been in danger of being as forgotten and overlooked as all those groups mentioned earlier. Yet albums such as 1976’s Unorthodox Behaviour and 1977’s Moroccan Roll and Livestock showcased a turbocharged outfit whose thunder was every bit the equal of the heavy weather the American jazz rock aristocracy generated. Forty years on, this Anglo-American incarnation breathes new life into classics like Nuclear Burn, Isis Mourning, Euthanasia Waltz and Malaga Virgen.

Percy Jones’ pugnacious bass work continues to dazzle as rumbling figures trip from his fingers, to push and prod the tunes into some unfamiliar tangles. Goodsall’s echo‑enhanced rushes across the fretboard show he’s lost none of the melodic sense of direction that historically informed the bulk of his guitar soloing. And let’s hear it for Chris Clark’s reading of …Maybe I’ll Lend You Mine After All, which leans heavily on Debussy channelling Keith Jarrett, offering up a moment of calm in the surging electricity of the night.

Between them, they still possess a killer synergy that enables them to journey into nebulous, free‑form clusters and terse, jazzy phrasing, only to flick the switch on abrupt accelerations into tight, twisting themes. That they achieve this so flawlessly provides abundant proof that this incarnation of Brand X is anything but a shadow of its former self. The last 18 minutes of this two-disc set features some of the hottest instrumental music you’ll hear this year. It’s good to have them back.


Track listing:

CD 1
1     Intro     1:42
2     Nightmare Patrol     8:28
3     Euthanasia Waltz     4:42
4     Born Ugly     9:58
5     Isis Mourning     6:29
6     Nuclear Burn     9:20

CD 2
1     Magic Mist     2:32
2     Why Should I Lend You Mine...     9:10
3     ...Maybe I'll Lend You Mine After All     3:37
4     Hate Zone     6:03
5     And So To F     8:32
6     Malaga Virgen     10:00


John Goodsall: guitars;
Percy Jones: bass;
Kenwood Dennard: drums;
Chris Clark: keyboards;
Scott Weinberger: percussion

Victor Biglione - 1989 "Baleia Azul"

 A great album of a great player. Victor Biglione is a great musician with a unmistakable style. I sure recommend it!

 I meet Vito Biglione on Brazil, I did play his guitar on VIP section at BARRIL-2000 in Rio de janeiro. Great person execelent player and the whole band they are one the best players in my opinion. By the way I do have in Brazil this particular album with all the members autograph which the time was a LP, and is his first album ...

Track listing:

1. Marrakech (Victor Biglione)
2. Rumo Certo- (The Right Track) (Victor Biglione)
3. Za Tum (Victor Biglione)
4. Baleia Azul (Blue Whale) (Victor Biglione)
5. Invitation (Bronislaw Kaper/Paul Webster)
6. 193 Acacias (Victor Biglione)
7. Fim de Estacao (End of the Season) (Victor Biglione)


Victor Biglione - guitarra (1,2,3,4,5,6,7), violão (4)
André Tendetta - bateria (1,2,3,5,6,7)
João Baptista - baixo elétrico (1,2,3,6,7)
José Lourenço -clados te (1,2,3,4,5,6,7), sitentizador (4,5)
Zé Nogueira - sax soprano (1,2,3,4), teclados (2,3,4,5,7), sintetizador (2,3,4,5,6,7)
Armando Marçal - percussão (2,3,6)
Chico Batera - percussão (2,3,6)
Nico Assumpção - baixo elétrico (5)

Friday, July 5, 2019

George Benson Quartet - 1967 [2001] "George Benson Cookbook"

The Hard Bop Homepage says of the album, "This is basically the George Benson quartet, with Smith and Cuber, but trombonist Bennie Green and percussionist Pucho were added on some tracks, giving them a bop flavor that delighted dedicated jazz fans and critics. Benson's quartet was modeled after Jack McDuff's--with baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, organist Lonnie Smith, a powerhouse player who deserved more attention than he ever received, and Jimmy Lovelace or Marion Booker on drums. The sonorous tone of Cuber's baritone gives the quartet a richer, more dense texture than that obtained by McDuff, who used a tenor, but the overall sound is the same. At twenty-five, Ronnie Cuber was an alumnus of Marshall Brown's celebrated Newport Youth Band; he had spent the previous two years with Maynard Ferguson's very loud and brassy orchestra, which may account for his aggressive style, but Cuber's approach also emphasized rhythm, and that was precisely the ingredient called for by a "soul jazz" group of this kind."

The second of Benson's John Hammond-produced albums is far and away the superior of the pair, mixing down-to-basics, straight-ahead jazz with soul-drenched grooving. Suddenly Benson's backup group - same as that of Uptown, with Benny Green added on trombone now and then - has found its bearings and apropos to the title, they can cook, even sizzle. The effect upon Benson's own playing is striking; with something to react against, his sheer ability to swing advances into the realm of awesome. The rapid-fire work on "The Cooker" and "Ready And Able" will make you gasp. Only one vocal here, an exuberant "All Of Me." [In mid-2001 Columbia/Legacy reissued this 1966 classic, along with It's Uptown, recorded only several months earlier. Four bonus tracks include a (previously unreleased) doo wop vocal rendition of Little Willie John's "Let Them Talk" and two Benson originals that are pure rock-n-roll: "The Man from Toledo" and "Goodnight." Two of the bonus cuts are preceded by control-booth comments from the session's legendary producer, John Hammond.]

For those fans, listening to George Benson after 1966 is like the obligatory New Years Drink from your employer. Damn, is guessing who’s been under the sheets with whom the only game around here?. Ok, one might answer the demure jazz buff, next time bring your turntable, light things up a bit, you crank. And the fifty-something who grew up on a diet of Average White Band and Santana might add, hey pal, George Benson did record some awesome stuff after ’66.

Sure he did. Except most of it is drowned in an overstuffed sound soup of strings, harp, flute, synth and, yuk, strings from the synth. A&M and CTI albums like The Other Side Of Abbey Road (1970) and White Rabbit (1972) are, notwithstanding the heavyweight line-ups of, among others, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter, technically exceptional elevator muzak affairs, no less. If it wasn’t for the greasy, steamroller beat of drummer Idris Muhammad, 1968’s The Shape Of Things To Come would’ve been nothing more than schlock for the building constructors working on the streets where you live. Then again, few are prepared for My Latin Brother from Bad Benson (1974), a smoking, exotic and sizzling Latin tune with a quintet line up from the matured guitar player. And the highlights of Benson’s big break as a smooth jazz star in 1976, collected on Breezin’, are, despite their schmaltzy coating of synth, pretty darn good courtesy of the experienced, first-class session players – take So This Is Love. The only thing it needs is the voice of Barry White. Next thing you know one of sixteen vestal virgins appears from out of the blue, ready to sign up for Procol Harum’s harem.

As early as early 1968, when Benson was still a soul jazz guitarist, there were hints of radio-friendly formatting. His album Giblet Gravy has both the low-down dirty blues, injected with typical lightning-bolt fingering, of Groovin’ as the saccharine take of the ultimate crowd pleaser, Bobby Hebb’s Sunny. In fact, he’s singing an r&b-type version of All Of Me on Cookbook that could’ve done well on the jukebox market. George Benson has always been the kind of performer that succeeds in recording bubblegum ditties in the afternoon and play steamin’ r&b at night. Organist Greg Lewis told Flophouse that he regularly tried to sit in as a woodshedding Hammond B3 player in the early nineties in a Manhattan club, sometimes succeeding to replace one of the accomplished organists for a tune or so. Occasionally, Benson, at the height of his fame, would drive his limousine up the sidewalk, park, get in and join the band on stage. Nobody cut George.

Cocksure at heart. Benson was like that when he first hit the scene as a sideman with organist Brother Jack McDuff in late 1963. By no means arrogant, instead playing with a joy of discovery that is contagious. In McDuff’s band, the youngster, who sang professionally as a kid, still played the kind of r&b guitar style from his teenage years, although the influence of his heroes Charlie Christian and Grant Green (interpreted in fast forward motion) were readily discernible. Displaying quicksilver runs, a biting attack, torrents of foul-mouthed but impeccably placed blues phrases, Benson heated up both studio and stage to temperatures uncommon even in New Jersey or New York City summer season.

After a string of albums with McDuff and his debut album on Prestige, The New Boss Guitar Of George Benson, the guitarist had signed to Columbia, releasing It’s Uptown in 1966, with one of those grandiose subtitles I’m sure musicians weren’t too fond of, The Most Exciting New Jazz Guitarist On The Scene Today. It was a thoroughly exciting group that Benson had assembled and baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, organist Lonnie Smith and drummer Jimmy Lovelace (alternating with Marion Booker) also gathered for the Cookbook session, still more tight-knit as a unit, delivering a hot barbecue of spicy ribs and saucy side dishes. There’s the opening tune, The Cooker, a strike of stop-time thunder, evidence of the group’s effortless breakneck speed swing and Benson’s fast-fingered blues wizardry. Perhaps already the highlight of the album, which yet doesn’t take anything away from the remainder of the repertory, including other Benson originals like the gentle Bossa Rocka and Big Fat Lady, a perky r&b tune that could easily pass for the background to Jimmy Hughes on Fame or Hank Ballard on King.

Benson gets his kicks with licks on Benson’s Rider, a boogaloo-ish rhythm perfectly suitable for the deeply groovy Lonnie Smith. Benson wrote the The Borgia Stick for a mafia television series, a lush greenery for the mutually responsive soul jazz cultivators, who are effectively aroused by sections of tension and release. The nifty Jimmy Smith tune Ready And Able presents the burgeoning talent of baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber to full effect. He’s like the cookie monster that’s gotten a shot of rhythm&blues, soulfully eating up the breaks off the I Got Rhythm changes.

The other horn player on the date, Benny Green, happened to walk into his friend George Benson on the street prior to Benson’s session. Benson invited Green over to the studio to join the proceedings. Such is the unique nature of jazz and its practitioners, that sheer coincidence may be turned into a musical advantage. Green’s uplifting, swinging style is an asset on Benny’s Back (which was written on the spot by Benson and refers to the fact that Green was also present on Benson’s first Columbia LP) and the swing-styled jam Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid, the longest track on an album that keeps warming the hearts of ‘early-Benson-fans’ around the globe.


Track listing:

All tracks composed by George Benson; except where indicated

01.    "The Cooker"         4:18
02.    "Benny's Back"         4:10
03.    "Bossa Rocka"         4:20
04.    "All of Me"    Gerald Marks, Seymour Simons    2:08
05.    "Big Fat Lady"         4:40
06.    "Benson's Rider"         5:30
07.    "Ready and Able"    Jimmy Smith    3:32
08.    "The Borgia Stick"         3:05
09.    "Return of the Prodigal Son"    Harold Ousley    2:34
10.    "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid"    Lester Young    6:33

CD bonus tracks

11.    "The Man from Toledo"    2:08
12.    "Slow Scene"    3:11
13.    "Let Them Talk"    2:51
14.    "Goodnight"    2:21
Total length:    50:31


    George Benson – guitar, vocals
    Ronnie Cuber – baritone saxophone
    Bennie Green – trombone
    Lonnie Smith – organ
    Albert Winston – bass
    Jimmy Lovelace – drums
    Marion Booker, Jr. – drums