Saturday, June 16, 2018

Brand X - 1992 "Xcommunication"

Xcommunication (1992) is an album by jazz fusion band Brand X.

Xcommunication will leave you fairly gasping for breath. Lacking most of the British eccentricity of '70s Brand X but ripe with the experimental moves of bassist Percy Jones' solos, Xcommunication zigs and zags through a tumultuous landscape of swaggering synth effects, bizarre fretless bass, and frenetic drumming courtesy of new member Frank Katz. If any cut here is reminiscent of days past, it is "A Duck Exploding," which calls to mind the splendid Masques and Do They Hurt? sessions. Jones and guitarist John Goodsall have lost neither their touch nor their songwriting abilities. If anything, they have perhaps put the "progressive" elements of fusion back into proper perspective. Brand X have returned at quite an opportune time. Make no mistake about its '90s ambitions; Xcommunication cooks.

"X-Communication" is the 1992 comeback album for Brand X, a big ten years after their last release, 1982's "Is There Anything About?". For this album, the band are a trio: guitarist John Goodsall, bassist Percy Jones, and new drummer Frank Katz. "X-Communication" is filled with great progressive jazz/rock, including memorable jammers like "Xanax Taxi," "Liquid Time," "A Duck Exploding," and "Church Of Hype." Goodsall also gets in a beautiful acoustic solo piece, "Healing Dream." Although the group are without a proper keyboard player on "X-Communication" (Robin Lumley, where are you?), Goodsall plays the required keyboard parts by the use of a Midi-guitar (and he does it very well, too). The trio sound great on this release, with Goodsall's fiery fretboard work, Jones' thumping bass lines, and while Katz doesn't drum with quite the same flair that Phil Collins did, his performance on the skins is very impressive. Brand X's "X-Communication" is an excellent return for this classic jazz/rock fusion group.

Each song on this album tells it's own musical story with emotion and texture. What I like most of this album is the layers of music lying within the sounds. The album is well produced with a decided direction into the obscure. I am most impressed with the drumwork, Frank Katz did an excellent job. I am a fan of Phil Collins' drumming but feel Katz provided exactly what was needed for this incarnation of Brand X. Not a beat was missed. I like other Brand X albums better, but Xcommunication is a winner right along with the best. I call this a jazz fusion classic of the 90's.

Tracks Listing:

1. Xanax Taxi (5:57)
2. Liquid Time (4:39)
3. Kluzinski Period (7:00)
4. Healing Dream (3:51)
5. Mental Floss (3:17)
6. Strangeness (3:23)
7. A Duck Exploding (6:47)
8. Message To You (0:25)
09. Church of Hype (5:54)
10. Kluzinski Reprise (4:25)

Total Time: 45:38

Line-up / Musicians
- John Goodsall / guitar, MIDI guitar (keyboards and samples), co-producer
- Percy Jones / fretless bass, keyboards (6), co-producer
- Frank Katz / drums

- Danny Wilding / flute (10) "Kluzinski Reprise".

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Billy Cobham - 2001 "Rudiments" - The Billy Cobham Anthology

"Rudiments" connotes that this is essential for drummers-and the 24 tracks of straight-ahead, funked-up and rock-infused jazz make it a real treat for the rest of us, too! The tracks are from eight 1973-78 Atlantic LPs and the supporting players include Jan Hammer, John Scofield, Randy and Michael Brecker and more; includes Stratus; Spanish Moss; Flash Flood; Moon Germs; 29; Shabazz , and more. Nearly two and a half hours of awe-inspiring performances!

If ever anybody deserved a two-disc anthology of his offerings as a solo artist it's fusion drummer Billy Cobham. After making his stellar debut with John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, Cobham made eight records for Atlantic from 1973-1978. To varying degrees, these recordings were true statements on the state of jazz-rock fusion. Many blame Cobham for being a member of the technical-expertise-is-everything school, and to a degree it may be true. But the tracks collected here by Barry Benson and Nick Sahakian provide evidence of something else entirely: that along with technical expertise in spades, Cobham had soul, groove, and a handle on how powerful rock & roll could contribute to jazz improvisation if harnessed in the right way. And every single track on these two discs does exactly that and more. For starters there's the majority of Cobham's classic debut, Spectrum, that featured contributions from guitarists Tommy Bolin (speaking of rock & roll), John Scofield (as he has never been heard since), and John Tropea as well as Jan Hammer from the Mahavishnu band. Spectrum's two finest tracks, "Quadrant 4" and "Stratus," are screaming jazz-rock with just the right hints of funk and groove that would become the hallmarks of Cobham's records after that. Also on "Stratus" it's interesting to note that Cobham and Frank Zappa were going for the same keyboard sounds simultaneously, and not just sonics, but phrasing. The sounds were perhaps derived from the two using the same session players including George Duke, the Brecker Brothers, and Alfonso Johnson among others. All of disc one is pure gold; there's not a weak second on it. And for that matter, disc two is solid as well; it's just that by the time these sets were recorded, Cobham's musical focus had shifted from jazz-rock to jazz-funk. The same tom-tom rolls are there, the constant rim shifts, and shaking, thunderous bass drum blasts and pops. Because of the exhilaration on disc one what comes across clearer on the second set is just how intricate and compelling Cobham is as a composer. These are scripted roles, with plenty of room for improvisation in the middle and often at the beginning and end; they are wonders of musical sophistication and raw gritty funky soul. In addition to almost three hours of crushingly innovative music, the liner notes are chock full of an extensive bio, critical, and session notes, a few outtakes and unreleased cuts and a cool clear plastic slipcase. This set is a document from a classic time in the evolution of both rock and jazz, and should be regarded as an essential purchase by fans not only of Cobham's but Bolin's, Scofield's, Miles Davis' electric era, the Breckers', and of course Mahavishnu's. Zappa fans from the era would also appreciate much of the material here.

Cobham was one of the building blocks of jazz-rock fusion. By the time he started his recording career in 1976, he had been part of three of the most important bands of the '70s, Miles Davis's groups, Dreams, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. A favorite of guitar players and fans because of the way he drives the string players, his debut album, Spectrum, is pure jazz-rock (featuring the late rock guitarist, Tommy Bolin, from the James Gang and Deep Purple). Bolin's tracks are at the beginning of this 24-track, two-CD retrospective and a very young John Scofield, is featured on guitar at the end of the CD. Back in the days before he joined Miles Davis, Scofield was part of Cobham's band that he co-led with George Duke, and of course, that band's funk classic, "Do What You Wanna" is included. In between those bookends are stunning examples of what it means to be a powerful drummer and to drive a band. There are liberal samplings of Cobham's solos, as well as tracks with his group that featured his partners from Dreams, the Brecker Brothers. Fusion lovers can't go wrong here, while smooth-jazz folks could gain a better appreciation of the roots of that genre.

The Good Book of fusion drumming, culled from a half-dozen years in the life of Billy Cobham. After serving in drum corps, the High School of Music and Arts, and the Army band, as well as gigging and recording with Kenny Burrell, George Benson and Junior Mance, Panamanian native Cobham was finally recommended by Jack DeJohnette to Miles Davis in 1969. Things took off like a bullet from there, and soon enough Cobham was firmly established as the Hot New Thing in jazz-rock drumming. He was also noted as a talented composer at the time.
Rudiments picks up following his tenures with Miles, Dreams and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Cobham debuted on Atlantic in 1973 with Spectrum and a band that included Mahavishnu keyboardist Jan Hammer, session bassist Lee Sklar, and young guitar wizard Tommy Bolin (who replaced Joe Walsh in the James Gang and Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple). The first five tracks on Disc 1 are drawn from those sessions, and they illustrate just what all the fuss over Cobham was about. His use of dual or triple bass drums presaged Alex Van Halen by years; in fact, Cobham is an acknowledged influence on most 70s and 80s hard-rock drummers. The hell-on-wheels “Quadrant 4” sets the pace for much of this anthology. Bolin is more honestly blues-oriented than John McLaughlin was, and this track sets the blues caravan rolling downhill without brakes. The long, tense synth and drums intro of “Stratus” collapses into a soulful, Zappa-ish guitar theme. The next three tunes are of similar temperament.

The remaining seven tracks of Disc 1 feature larger ensembles that include the Brecker Brothers and guitarist John Abercrombie. Randy and Mike Brecker poured more fuel on the Cobham fire, abetted by trombonist Glenn Ferris and keyboardists Milcho Leviev and George Duke alternately. “Spanish Moss” and “Flash Flood” are two sections of a tone poem powered by Latin percussion and urgent electric piano. The “Solarization” suite, “Lunarputians”, “Moon Germs” and “Solar Eclipse” (note Cobham’s preoccupation with things cosmic and atmospheric) continue the grand evolution of his pumped-up soul-funk-rock-jazz hybrid. The last track is perhaps the most dated of the bunch, rather like a Rocky soundtrack edit.

Disc 2 continues the odyssey with similar personnel and vibe. “Shabazz”, inspired not by Malcolm X but a chain of bakeries, begins with another thunderous drum solo and ends up in the same kind of groove as much of the prior disc. Things took a heavier turn with A Funky Thide of Sings, his crossover hit of ’75 that ushered in John Scofield. The Breckers’ “Some Skunk Funk” upped the ante of power fusion with its outstanding horn arrangement. “A Funky Thide...” has its roots in martial music as much as the funk. The following year, the horns were gone and Cobham was back to a quartet format. Scofield, bassist Doug Rauch and keyboardist George Duke (under the pseudonym “Dawilli Gonga”) recorded Life & Times, from which tracks 6-8 are drawn. As hot as the horn section was, the personnel reduction brings welcome breathing room for everyone to stretch out. Organist Allan Zavod makes an evocative guest spot on the title track, and Scofield’s own personality begins to emerge more fully.

Next are three tracks by the Cobham/Duke Band, including Scofield again and bassist Alphonso Johnson. Duke’s personal aesthetic, filtered through his experience with Zappa, dominates these tracks but Cobham is not to be denied, particularly his double-bass adventure on “Juicy”. The final track, “Arroyo”, marked the end of Cobham’s Atlantic contract in 1978. It’s back to the quartet again, with John Williams in place of Doug Rauch, and the melancholy vibe of the track indicates the closing of doors and moving on.

Tracks Listing:

Disc 1:
01. Quadrant 4 (4:32)
02. Stratus (9:52)
03. Anxiety/Taurian Matador (4:49)
04. Snoopy's Search/Red Baron (7:44)
05. All 4 One [Outtake]* (4:16)
06. The Pleasant Pheasant (5:23)
07. Spanish Moss (4:10)
08. Flash Flood (5:12)
09. Solarization: (11:11)
  a) Solarization
  b) Second Phase
  c) Crescent Sun
  d) Voyage
  e) Solarization Recapitulation
10. Lunarputians (2:33)
11. Moon Germs (4:57)
12. Total Eclipse (5:58)

Total Time 1:10:30 (70.5 mins)

Disc 2:
01. Shabazz (13:49)
02. Some Skunk Funk (5:11)
03. A Funky Thide Of Sings (3:41)
04. Panhandler (4:07)
05. Neu Rock N' Roll [Outtake]* (6:28)
06. Life & Times (7:01)
07. 29 (2:35)
08. Earthlings (5:07)
09. Hip Pockets - The Billy Cobham/George Duke Band (7:10)
10. Juicy - The Billy Cobham/George Duke Band (6:53)
11. Do What Cha Wanna - The Billy Cobham/George Duke Band (5:00)
12. Arroyo (4:13)

Total Time 1:11:11 (71 mins)

*Indicates previously unreleased tracks


- Billy Cobham / percussion
- Jan Hammer / keyboards (Disc 1 Tracks 1-5)
- Tommy Bolin / guitar (Disc 1 Tracks 1-5)
- Lee Sklar / bass (Disc 1 Tracks 1-5)
- George Duke / keyboards (Disc 1 Tracks 6-8, Disc 2 Tracks 9-11)
- John Abercrombie / guitar (Disc 1 Tracks 6-12)
- John Williams / bass (Disc 1 Tracks 6-8, Disc 2 Track 12)
- Lee Pastora / latin percussion (Disc 1 Tracks 6-8)
- Milcho Leviev / keyboards (Disc 1 Tracks 9-12 & Disc 2 Tracks 1-5)
- Alex Blake / bass (Disc 1 Tracks 9-12, Disc 2 Tracks 1-5)
- Randy Brecker / trumpet (Disc 1 Tracks 6-12, Disc 2 Tracks 1-5)
- Garnett Brown / trombone (Disc 1 Tracks 6-8)
- Michael Brecker / woodwinds & saxes (Disc 1 Tracks 6-12, Disc 2 Tracks 1-5)
- Glenn Ferris / trombones (Disc 1 Tracks 9-12, Disc 2 Tracks 1-5)
- John Scofield / guitar (Disc 2 Tracks 2-12)
- Dawilli Gonga / keyboards (Disc 2 Tracks 6-8 & 12)
- Alfonso Johnson / bass (Disc 2 Tracks 9-11)

...and countless additional musicians (who contributed to a lesser degree and are unfortunately too many to list)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

John Scofield - 1988 [2014] "Loud Jazz"

The title, a phrase coined by Scofield's daughter, is the guitarist's typically witty take on the distinctive approach he had achieved with the quartet that included Robert Aries on keyboards, bassist Gary Grainger and drummer Dennis Chambers. To add to the fun, former boss George Duke was called in to take keyboard solos on six tracks. This album is most indicative of what Scofield achieved during his Gramavision years.

There are "loud" moments on this studio set, but the title cut's name is more a humorous attempt to describe the John Scofield Quartet's music than an accurate depiction of their style. The leader/guitarist, who sounds typically distinctive, welcomes guest keyboardist George Duke to five of his nine originals. Scofield's regular group of the era consisted of keyboardist Robert Aries, electric bassist Gary Grainger and drummer Dennis Chambers and they are also joined here by percussionist Don Alias. The music (which includes such numbers as "Tell You What," "Dirty Rice," "Wabash" and "Spy Vs. Spy") has few memorable melodies but plenty of dynamic playing by Scofield, who at this point was growing as a major stylist from album to album. A strong effort.

If I ever needed a title to categorize John Scofield releases from his Grammavision days, I couldn't find one more apt than Loud Jazz (Grammavision, 1988) This was the last of Sco's hot, electric funk fusion releases. He's still groovin' and in the pocket today, but not the electric, loud, in-your-face stuff evident on this album. Although I'm a fan of all of these early releases, and even some from the mid 70's, this is probably my favorite Scofield release. The reason is simple. All of the standard "Sco" stuff is there, but these tracks are more lyrical. The melodies and rhythms are less pushed. The album, overall, feels relaxed and hip.

And the classic gang is all there too. Gary Grainger is spry and funky on bass with Dennis Chambers doing what he does best with a powerful and punchy kick drum. They're joined by keyboardist Robert Aries and Don Alias on percussion, with George Duke taking the keyboard solos.

I can't think of a bad track on this album. Not even one that I get bored with. This is quintessential Sco-funk from the opener "Tell You What" to the title track. Like most Scofield albums, I find myself thinking "these guys had a lot of fun playing these tunes." There's energy, wit, humor-all the elements. I especially found the change of pace, almost melancholy ballad, "True Love" endearing. Even though there's room to take this and rip it like the other tracks despite the depressed tempo, Sco maintains the vibe, keeps it pretty, and does a wonderful job.

Tracks Listing:

01. Tell You What (3:46)
02. Dance Me Home (5:55)
03. Signature Of Venus (4:42)
04. Dirty Rice (6:34)
05. Did It (5:38)
06. Wabash (4:33)
07. Loud Jazz (6:06)
08. Otay (6:14)
09. True Love (3:54)
10. Igetthepicture (4:07)
11. Spy Vs.Spy (6:16)

Total time 57:45


- John Scofield / guitar
- Robert Aries / keyboards
- George Duke / keyboard solos (1,2,4,6-8)
- Gary Grainger / bass
- Dennis Chambers / drums
- Don Alias / percussion

Friday, June 8, 2018

Michael Brecker - 1996 "Tales from the Hudson"

Tales from the Hudson is Michael Brecker's fourth album as a leader. It was recorded at the Power Station in New York City. It was recorded in 1996. The album also won Brecker two Grammy awards for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo (for his solo on "Cabin Fever") and Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group.

Michael Brecker, a major influence on today's young saxophonists, shows off his own influences a bit throughout this fine modern straight-ahead set. Brecker sounds surprisingly like Stanley Turrentine on parts of "Midnight Voyage," and otherwise displays his roots in Ernie Watts and John Coltrane. With the exception of Don Grolnick's "Willie T.," the music on the CD is comprised of group originals (five by the leader) and falls into the 1990s mainstream of jazz. While the tenor saxophonist has plenty of blowing space (really letting loose on the exciting closer, "Cabin Fever"), Pat Metheny is mostly pretty restrained (in a Jim Hall bag) except for his wild solo on guitar synth during "Song for Bilbao." Pianist Joey Calderazzo starts out sounding a bit like McCoy Tyner on "Slings and Arrows" before his own musical personality is revealed. When Tyner himself plays on "Song for Bilbao" (one of two guest appearances), one can certainly tell the difference between master and pupil. All of Michael Brecker's recordings as a leader (as opposed to his cameos as a sideman on pop records) are easily recommended and show why he is considered a giant by many listeners.

In the crowded field of excellent tenor players, Michael Brecker rises to the top of my list. I think the thing that gives Brecker an edge over the others is the fact that he is a master of so many genres of jazz. Many people are no doubt familiar with the electric, funky side of Michael Brecker as the co-leader of the Brecker Brothers and former member of Steps Ahead. He has done significant pop dates with Paul Simon, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell. One could easily fill a CD collection with albums on which he has performed as a sideman in many jazz contexts.

Yet this is only his fourth CD as a leader. All of them have been in the modern, progressive, straight-ahead jazz vein. This one is, to my ears, his most successful outing yet. I think the difference is that this one is a little less "progressive" or "outside." The melodies here are a little more accessible and memorable, yet the soloing is just as creative and adventuresome as we have come to expect from Brecker and the other jazz luminaries on this CD. The top-notch team of sidemen here are Pat Metheny on guitar, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Dave Holland on bass, and Joey Calderazzo on piano. Pianist McCoy Tyner and percussionist Don Alias are added on two tunes.

Six of the nine compositions are Brecker's. They are varied, thoughtful, and provide great vehicles for improvisation. Metheny contributes "Bilbao" from his Travels album, Calderazzo contributes a medium tempo swinger, and "Willie T." comes from the late pianist Don Grolnick, who produced Brecker's first two solo albums and performed with Brecker frequently.

I would especially recommend this album to those who have come to jazz through the "new adult comtemporary" door and are ready to take the next step towards discovering what real jazz is all about.

Brecker, whose tenor saxophone has graced pop performances by James Taylor and Paul Simon as well as plenty of straight-ahead jazz sessions, can be as exciting as any jazzman alive. His solos have a way of rising to a quick boil and catching you up in their immediacy. This happens several times on this album, an all-star date with guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Joey Calderazzo or McCoy Tyner, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette and guest percussionist Don Alias. It happens on Metheny’s “Song for Bilboa,” where Brecker chomps at the chord changes in a manner reminiscent of John Coltrane on “Out of This World” (from the album, Coltrane). It happens on “Willie T.” as he sweeps up to a swirling, raspy-toned climax with the drums knocking heatedly underneath. And it happens on “Cabin Fever,” an uptempo tour de force with Brecker cruising like a high-speed steamroller.

The tenor man’s estimable sidemen are in aggressive jazz form. They, too, seem caught up in the electric

Track listing:
All tracks composed by Michael Brecker; except where indicated

01 "Slings and Arrows" – 6:19
02 "Midnight Voyage" (Joey Calderazzo) – 7:17
03 "Song for Bilbao" (Pat Metheny) – 5:44
04 "Beau Rivage" – 7:38
05 "African Skies" – 8:12
06 "Introduction to Naked Soul" (Michael Brecker, Dave Holland) – 1:14
07 "Naked Soul" – 8:43
08 "Willie T." (Don Grolnick) – 8:13
09 "Cabin Fever" – 6:59


Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone
Pat Metheny – guitar, guitar synthesizer
Joey Calderazzo – piano
Dave Holland – double bass
Jack DeJohnette – drums
McCoy Tyner – piano (tracks 3 and 5)
Don Alias – percussion (tracks 3 and 5)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Dave Weckl - 1999 "Synergy"

Synergy is a 1999 studio album by jazz-fusion group Dave Weckl Band.

Although Dave Weckl is an excellent drummer, not all of his recordings have been excellent. In the 1990s, you never knew if you would find something exciting or mundane on a Weckl album. But this fusion/soul-jazz disc turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Synergy, in fact, is the drummer's most consistently satisfying CD. Excessive producing was a major problem on some of his previous releases, but this time he generally avoids overproducing and goes for a real band sound. Joined by tenor and soprano saxman Brandon Fields, keyboardist Jay Oliver, guitarist Buzz Feiten, and electric bassist Tom Kennedy, Weckl has a solid team to work with and emphasizes improvisation and honest-to-God playing not high-tech studio gloss. Weckl's band sounds quite cohesive on a diverse, unpredictable outing that ranges from the funky "Wet Skin" and the Latin-influenced title song to the ominous "Cape Fear" and the delicate "A Simple Prayer." If you could purchase only one of Weckl's 1990s albums, Synergy would be the best choice.

Dave Weckl's fifth CD would have been just another good one in a string of many save one thing: the addition of guitar great Buzz Feiten to his usual outstanding rhythm section of Tommy Kennedy on bass and Jay Oliver on keyboards. Feiten's playing and writing talents lifted this release to a level not quite achieved since, giving the whole set an electric edge you can both hear and feel. This CD was recorded on the heels of an extensive tour, and I can only imagine the on stage excitement and creativity that led to such an outstanding musical set.

Audio quality is outstanding throughout, driven by Weckl's accomplished studio techniques and penchant for perfection. High Life is signature Dave Weckl, with an African-inspired drum groove over a tight rhythm section ending in a ridiculous drum solo. Panda's Dream is one of those Buzz Feiten tunes that makes this CD unique; it features a rock groove and guitar lead that makes this one of my all-time favorite Dave Weckl tunes. Swunk features a kind of half-time driving swing famous among drummers (and made popular by Weather Report) for how fun it is to play; checkout the full-blown straight-time swing under a good sax solo. A Simple Prayer is a Feiten ballad featuring a dreamy acoustic guitar. Cape Fear is an interesting groove with a haunting guitar melody, but nothing prepares you for the killer bass solo that ends the tune. After an opening bass solo, the title cut (Synergy) makes you want to get up and dance, and is also one of my favorites on the CD. Where's My Paradise is a second ballad written by Feiten and Oliver featuring some nice acoustic guitar work. Swamp Thing is another rocker featuring Buzz Feiten with a great horn lead, and quickly became one of my all-time favorite Dave Weckl tunes. If you're keeping count, that's two (2!) tracks off of one CD that made my "all-time favorite" list, and both are either written or co-written by Buzz Feiten featuring solos by the same. The last two cuts are really throw-aways for me: Cultural Concurrence is the obligatory Dave Weckl triggered drum solo, and Tower '99 is a re-work of Tower Of Inspiration off of his first CD (Master Plan). It's a nice groove, but I recommend checking out the original that features a killer horn arrangement.

Drummer Dave Weckl gained such a cultlike following playing with Chick Corea's Elektric and Akoustic bands in the 1980s that he could probably release an album of solo wood-block tapping and have it sell enough copies to make the effort worthwhile. So it's a pleasant surprise that Synergy is a decidedly group effort that thrusts the varied compositional talents and versatility of Weckl and his bandmates to the forefront instead of merely showcasing the leader's drum chops. Not that Weckl has been letting those chops sag; his solo percussion odyssey "Cultural Concurrence" and his ferocious soloing over the Latin groove of the title track are enough to give air drummers everywhere a workout. But what makes Synergy more listenable than some of Weckl's other efforts is the inspired group interplay that finds him and his longtime touring ensemble--saxophonist Brandon Fields, keyboardist Jay Oliver, guitarist Buzz Feiten, and bassist Tommy Kennedy--locking in on grooves that push beyond his normal jazz-fusion terrain. From the West African feel of "High Life" to the Cajun-tinged "Swamp Thing" to the swanky James Brown funk of "Wet Skin," Synergy is an inspired and varied outing.

Track listing:

01 "High Life"
02 "Panda's Dream"
03 "Swunk"
04 "A Simple Prayer"
05 "Cape Fear"
06 "Wet Skin"
07 "Synergy"
08 "Where's My Paradise?"
09 "Lucky Seven"
10 "Swamp Thing"
11 "Cultural Concurrence"
12 "Tower '99"


Dave Weckl - drums, tambourine, percussion
Brandon Fields - soprano, tenor & baritone saxophones, keyboards, synthesizer
Jay Oliver - organ, keyboards, synthesizer
Buzz Feiten - electric, nylon string & steel string guitars
Tom Kennedy - bass

Wayne Shorter - 1965 [1990] "The Soothsayer"

The Soothsayer is the seventh album by Wayne Shorter, recorded in 1965, but not released on Blue Note until 1979. The album features five originals by Shorter and an arrangement of Jean Sibelius' "Valse Triste". An additional take of "Angola" was added to later CD releases.

Part of an explosion of solo albums Wayne Shorter recorded just after he joined Miles Davis' band, The Soothsayer wasn't released until the late '70s. Listening to the album, it is hard to believe because it ranks with the best of his works from this incredibly fertile period. Shorter has been called Davis' "idea man," and the creativity and thoughtfulness that earned him that moniker are quite evident here. The album's five originals and one arrangement (of Sibelius' Valse Triste) show a multi-layered complexity that seems effortless even as it weaves together contributions from a very strong, stylistic sextet. Of particular interest is the interplay of the three horn players, including altoist James Spaulding and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. As a performer, Shorter also shows a lot of strength, with fluid, at times subtly evocative, solos that bloom with energy without ever seeming frantic or harsh. The title track shows Shorter at his most forceful and is one of the most passionate moments on the album, but even here, beauty seems to come first, while his low-key standard "Lady Day" embodies grace and calmness in every moment.

The Soothsayer may be comparably less of a benchmark in Wayne Shorter's discography, and remains to some extent overshadowed by its close contemporary Speak No Evil (Blue Note, 1964), but it's a solid and enduring album—despite 15 years between the recording session and the original LP release.

Things were happening big time for Shorter in early 1965, when The Soothsayer was recorded. After five years with drummer and band leader Art Blakey as musician, composer and, finally, musical director, the saxophonist had recently joined trumpeter Miles Davis' second great quintet. With Davis, Shorter would record six studio albums over the next three years—the first, E.S.P. (Columbia, 1965) was recorded two months before The Soothsayer—plus a further four under his own name.

There was an embarrassment of Shorter riches around, and The Soothsayer was initially shelved to make way for the release of the more structurally adventurous The All Seeing Eye (Blue Note, 1965). When Shorter left Davis and joined Weather Report, The Soothsayer, temporarily, was overtaken by events. It was finally released in 1980.

The album finds Shorter in the company of two Davis quintet colleagues—bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams—together with pianist McCoy Tyner, then a member of saxophonist John Coltrane's classic quartet, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and the relatively unsung alto saxophonist James Spaulding. Hubbard and Carter had been retained from Speak No Evil; Tyner had been featured on the earlier Shorter albums Night Dreamer (Blue Note, 1964) and Ju Ju (Blue Note, 1964). Spaulding and Williams were new recruits.

Shorter's virile playing aside, the album is worthwhile for the presence of drum prodigy Williams (Shorter's regular drummers of the time were Elvin Jones and Joe Chambers)—who turns in an inventive solo on "Angola"—and for the strength of Shorter's writing. The triple meter, medium groove "Lost," the opener, is quintessential Shorter of the period. Eight years before the release of The Soothsayer it was featured on Weather Report's Live In Tokyo (Columbia, 1972). "Angola," which follows, sounds like it could have been written earlier, for Blakey's band. The haunting "Lady Day" is a ballad tribute to singer Billie Holiday.

Of interest too is Shorter's re-arrangement of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius' pretty "Valse Triste"—on Speak No Evil, Shorter had credited Sibelius as a key inspiration for that album's "Dance Cadaverous." The word "deconstruction" may not have been common jazz parlance in 1965, but deconstruct is exactly what Shorter does here, sensitively and engagingly.

Track listing:

All compositions by Wayne Shorter except where noted.

1. "Lost" – 7:20
2. "Angola" – 4:56
3. "The Big Push" – 8:23
4. "The Soothsayer" – 9:40
5. "Lady Day" – 5:36
6. "Valse Triste" (Jean Sibelius) – 7:45
7. "Angola" [Alternate Take] – 6:41


Wayne Shorter – tenor saxophone
Freddie Hubbard – trumpet
James Spaulding – alto saxophone
McCoy Tyner – piano
Ron Carter – bass
Tony Williams – drums

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Johnny Winter - 1969 [1990] "Second Winter"

Second Winter is the third studio album by Texas blues guitarist Johnny Winter, released in 1969. The original plan was to edit the songs from the recording session into one album but it was later thought that all the recordings were good enough to be released. The album was released as a "three-sided" LP, with a blank fourth side on the original vinyl. Two more songs, "Tell the Truth" and "Early in the Morning" were left unfinished but released on a 2004 re-release of the album.

The leaves hadn’t even started turning red in Texas in late October 1969 when Beaumont-born bluesman Johnny Winter released Second Winter, arguably the pinnacle of his long and storied career.

Technically speaking, this was the guitar great's "third Winter," if you take into account 1968's Progressive Blues Experiment, which was released by Austin’s tiny Sonobeat Records before Winter signed with the mighty Columbia -- a label so powerful, it evidently had no qualms about revising historical accounting.

Either way, the talented six-string phenom grasped this opportunity and let loose a powerful display of fret prowess across all three vinyl sides of Second Winter. As anyone with a prized original copy, or a long memory, can tell you, the album was released as a rare three-sided set, the product of an inspired Nashville recording session that yielded too much great material to be pared down into a regular two-sided LP but not quite enough for a four-sided double.

So, rather than short-change fans or themselves, Winter and his bandmates -- bassist Tommy Shannon (who later joined Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble), drummer Uncle John Turner and keyboard-and-sax-playing little brother Edgar -- released the bulk of the sessions and left side four blank.

Winter starts it all off by showing off his soulful voice on a cover of Percy Mayfield’s "Memory Pain," before he surrenders the spotlight to Edgar’s nimble keys on the self-penned "I’m Not Sure." It wraps with a strangling of his Gibson Firebird’s neck on Dennis Collins’ "The Good Love."

Side two, somewhat surprisingly, turns into an old-time ‘50s rock 'n' roll dance party, as Winter wails his way across classics like "Slippin’ and Slidin"’ and "Miss Ann" (both made famous by Little Richard), and Chuck Berry’s ripping "Johnny B. Goode."

But the biggest surprise was saved for last: a reinvention of Bob Dylan’s "Highway 61 Revisited" featuring a slide-guitar tour-de-force that would go down as a highlight of Winter's career.

Side three shifts the focus back to Winter's songwriting, including the amusingly contradictory "I Love Everybody" (another slide-swathed standout) and "I Hate Everybody" (a jazz-based departure) sandwiching the tongue-in-cheek "Hustled Down in Texas," and the experimental "Fast Life Rider."

Second Winter may be the late Winter's masterpiece. It made it to only No. 55 on the chart (both The Progressive Blues Experiment and 1969's self-titled debut charted higher). But he never sounded more assured and seasoned than he does here.

Johnny's second Columbia album shows an artist in transition. He's still obviously a Texas bluesman, recording in the same trio format that he left Dallas with. But his music is moving toward the more rock & roll sounds he would go on to create. The opener, "Memory Pain," moves him into psychedelic blues-rock territory, while old-time rockers like "Johnny B. Goode," "Miss Ann," and "Slippin' and Slidin'" provide him with familiar landscapes on which to spray his patented licks. His reworking of Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" is the high spot of the record, a career-defining track that's still a major component of his modern-day set list. This was originally released back in the day as a three-sided vinyl double album, by the way.

Track listing:

1. "Help Me" Ralph Bass, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Willie Dixon 4:49
2. "Johnny B. Goode" Chuck Berry 3:41
3. "Mama, Talk To Your Daughter" A Atkins, J. B. Lenoir 5:16
4. "It's My Fault" B. B. King, Jules Taub 12:00
5. "Black Cat Bone" Johnny Winter 5:38
6. "Mean Town Blues" Johnny Winter 11:13
7. "Tobacco Road" John D. Loudermilk 11:05
8. "Frankenstein" Edgar Winter 9:11
9. "Tell the Truth" Lowman Pauling 9:08


Johnny Winter - guitar, mandolin, vocals
Edgar Winter - keyboards, alto saxophone, vocals
Uncle John Turner - percussion
Tommy Shannon - bass
Dennis Collins - bass

Vital Information - 1986 "Global Beat"

Steve Smith and Vital Information is an American jazz-fusion group led by drummer Steve Smith.

Truly one of the greatest 'modern' jazz albums. The album is filled with with wonderfully energetic music. 'Johnny Cat', the song that has gotten air time in local San Francisco Bay Area radio stations was the most popular song, but moody songs like 'In a Low Voice' really show the talents of these well known artists in this genre. I just hit the repeat button for hours to listen to my favorite song on this CD: 'Novato'. Steve Smith is amazingly talented and the talent that he assembles for this album is most impressive.

The core members of the original line-up of Vital Information — Steve Smith (drums), Tim Landers (bass) and Dave Wilczewski (sax) — met in 1971 during their high school years while playing together in the Bridgewater State College Big Band, a Boston area college band that also featured outstanding high school students, the band was under the direction of Vincent Gannon. By 1977 Smith was touring with Jean-Luc Ponty, Landers with Al Di Meola and Wilczewski with Freddie Hubbard. They met in Boston once a year for a “reunion” gig using various guitarists such as Dean Brown, Daryl Stuermer or Barry Finnerty to complete the band. From 1977–1982 the three principlal band members wrote many compositions, played a number of gigs and developed the sound and concept that became the first edition of Vital Information.

After Smith was in Journey for a few years he was able to secure a Columbia record deal for his first solo album. The group recorded Vital Information (1983), which featured Landers, Wilczewski and Smith along with guitarists Dean Brown and Mike Stern. The album was recorded in Warren, Rhode Island in January 1983 and released that summer. In September 1983 the band toured the USA with the Dutch guitarist Eef Albers replacing Mike Stern, who was on the road with both Miles Davis and Jaco Pastorius. At the end of the tour the group returned to RI and recorded Orion (1984), their second album.

After leaving Journey in 1985 Steve Smith continued on as the bandleader of Vital Information with Tim Landers and Dave Wilczewski eventually leaving the group to pursue their own careers. Landers is a successful studio musician in Los Angeles and Wilczewski moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where he was a key player in the European music scene until his untimely death on August 22, 2009.

Tom Coster (keyboards), formerly of Santana, joined Vital Information in 1986 and first appeared on Global Beat (1987), which integrated hand percussion and steel drums into the direction of the music. Kai Eckhardt (bass), later with John McLaughlin, and Torsten de Winkel (guitar), later with the Pat Metheny Group, joined Vital Information in 1986 and 1987 for tours in the United States and Europe and appeared on and composed for the group's next album, Fiafiaga (1988), which generally continued with the Global Beat direction but added computer-based and funkier sounds to the stylistic mix.

A more straight-ahead jazz version of the group, with Larry Grenadier (acoustic bass), Larry Schneider (sax), Tom Coster (keys), Frank Gambale (guitar), Steve Smith (drums), recorded Vitalive! (1990). The album has recently been re-mastered and rereleased. Jeff Andrews (bass) joined the band in the early 1990s recording Easier Done Than Said (1992) and Ray of Hope (1996).

Vital Information re-invented themselves as a more organic groove-oriented band with the direction of Where We Come from (1998). Baron Browne (bass) joined the band in 1998, which further solidified their more funk-oriented approach. With the line-up of Smith (drums) Tom Coster (keys), Frank Gambale (guitar) and Browne (bass) they recorded Live Around the World (2000), Show ‘Em Where You Live (2001) and Live from Mars (2002). With the recording Come on in (2004) Smith started introducing Indian rhythms into the music. On Vitalization (2007) Vinny Valentino joined Vital Information on guitar and Smith featured himself on his recently developed konnakol chops along with integrating more Indian rhythms into the music.

Live! One Great Night is Vital Information’s latest release and is the first of a number of releases to commemorate their 30th Anniversary.

Tracks Listing:

01. One Fight Up 6:01
02. Island Holiday 6:17
03. Johnny Cat 6:00
04. Novato 6:11
05. Sunset 1:16
06. Jave & Nail 3:57
07. Global Beat 1:16
08. Black Eybrows 4:56
09. In A low Voice  4:04
10. Traditions In Transitions 7:05
11. Blues To Bappe I 6:42

Total Time : 53:45

Steve Smith / drums, cowbell, synths
Dean Brown / guitar
Tim Landers / bass
Dave Wilczewski / alto, soprano & tenor saxes
Tom Coster / keyboards, DX7, harmonica

Guest Musicians :
Ray Gomez / pickin`guitar, guitar
Mike Fisher / percussion
Andy Narell / steel drums
Prince Joni Haastrup / voice, talking drum, shaker
Kwaku Daddy / congas, talking drum, percussion
Barry Finnerty / guitar
Armando Peraza / Bongoes, percussion
Jeff Richman / guitar
Brad Dutz / tablas, percussion

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Chick Corea Elektric Band - 1991 "Beneath The Mask"

Beneath the Mask is an album by Chick Corea Elektric Band, released in 1991 through the record label GRP. The album peaked at number two on Billboard's Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.

Beneath the Mask is the easiest and breeziest Elektric Band album in years, with Latin-flavored melodies that are concise and downright hummable. Corea’s atmospheric harmonies manage to be seductive without evaporating into nothingness. On “One of Us Is Over 40,” the band even slips into a very friendly (and uncharacteristically African) lope. Corea weaves his tricks into a seamless musical fabric. And the Elektric Band — Corea, bassist John Patitucci, drummer Dave Weckl, guitarist Frank Gambale, and saxophonist Eric Marienthal-has never sounded better.

You can always expect some of the best musicianship anywhere from a Chick Corea album. Bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl are two of the most renowned musicians at their instruments, and guitarist Frank Gambale, with his burning “sweet picking” style, isn’t far behind. Saxman Eric Marienthal has matured considerably in Corea’s ranks. So, musically speaking, Beneath the Mask is typically solid. The only question is, “What is Chick doing now?”

The new Corea is geared more towards commercial jazz, if you can call it jazz. Even though his music has always been pre-composed, his new material provides even less of a vehicle for improvisation. It does maintain an intense level of musicianship, but the compositional element of the old Corea has given way to a more groove-orientated sound. Corea, like the rest of the world, is getting funky (another musical element to which the world is indebted to New Orleans); on several numbers, Patatucci slaps the bass and Gambale scratches the guitar while drummer Weckl’s busy hands could confound an octopus (although his playing is subtle and seemingly effortless).

Highlights include “One of Us Is Forty,” a driving funk tune with busy Fender Rhodes rocking from Corea and a catchy chord melody. Corea falls into an increasingly familiar tour-de-force rock-out formula here, with everyone playing in unison on fast, pumped-up lines at the front of the stage. Left over from his Return to Forever days, this formula is what he uses to end his sets. “Illusions” starts with spacious chords in a repeating bass riff, goes into a fast groove, then to the tour de force formula and into a Spanish segment reminiscent of much of Corea’s past work. “A Wave Goodbye” is a spacy, reflective rainy day piece with a sad saxophone melody. “Charged Particles” is more serious, classically-influenced fusion, with fast straight rhythm melodies and a grinding keyboard part, under an evil guitar solo.

"Beneath The Mask" would be the last album that the "classic" Elektric Band would record for 12 years, and after their previous 2 outings featured Chick on a grand piano, he obtained an electric midi-Rhodes piano and the amazing Yamaha SY-99 synthesizer,and as a result,the album was punchier, funkier and more direct-to-the-point than their previous two outings "Eye Of The Beholder" and "Inside Out".

As usual, one band member was featured on the lion's share of the cuts. Electric guitar was a large focus on this collection, so Frank Gambale came to the fore, contributing excellent solos on "Little Things That Count", "Lifescape", "Free Step", an acoustic contribution on "A Wave Goodbye", as well as part of the trade-offs on "Illusions".

His finest moment, however, is one of the CCEB's greatest accomplishments as a combo, "Charged Particles". The band was amazingly tight, the tempo changes and shifts handled beautifully, and it all sets up a Gambale showcase, where he combines alternate picking along with his classic "sweep style" for 5 minutes and change of sheer fusion bliss.

Eric Marienthal found a new voice as well, opting for soprano sax as opposed to his normal alto, the title track, "One Of Us Is Over 40", "Jammin' E. Cricket" and "Illusions" all benefit from this stylistic change.

John Patitucci holds the bottom end on bass and "Jammin" E. Cricket" shows what he can do.

Dave Weckl's drumming, as always is superlative and energetic.

Chick himself was obviously having a lot of fun, best showcased on "99 Flavors" which he composed as a sample tune for Yamaha's SY-99 keyboard before recording it with the group.

Track listing:

1. Beneath the mask (3:33)
2. Little things that count (3:50)
3. One of us is over 40 (4:57)
4. A wave goodbye (4:46)
5. Lifescape (5:12)
6. Jammin E. Cricket (6:54)
7. Charged particles (5:21)
8. Free step (7:47)
9. 99 flavors (3:56)
10. Illusions (9:45)

Total Time 56.09


Chick Corea – keyboards, mini moog, mixing, producer, synclavier, synthesizer
Frank Gambale – guitar, synthesizer guitar
Eric Marienthal – alto and soprano saxophone
John Patitucci – bass
Dave Weckl – drums, mixing, percussion

Billy Cobham Colin Towns & HR Big Band - 2006 "Meeting Of The Spirits"

There's been a rush of Mahavishnu Orchestra related projects during the last two years. First there was Mahavishnu keyboardist Jan Hammer playing Mahavishnu music with guitarist Jeff Beck in Europe. Then there was the Jeff Richman-produced tribute album, Visions Of An Inner Mounting Apocalypse. There is the ongoing success of the Mahavishnu Project band and its VishnuFest. And just this month, Hammer shows up on the new album from drummer Billy Cobham.

There's plenty more too. The recent release of the wonderful A Meeting Of Spirits album from the brilliant keyboardist Gary Husband. A cover of the Mahavishnu classic, "Thousand Island Park," from keyboard wizard Mitchel Forman on his new Perspectives disc. And just a few weeks ago, the pairing of Cobham and Mahavishnu violinist Jerry Goodman, who had not played together in over thirty years, for a performance of Mahavishnu music with the hr-Bigband at the Berlin Jazz Festival. Up next will be a DVD of a performance from the second version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1974.

We've been lucky so far. Those who have chosen to interpret this engaging, but very challenging, music have produced work worthy of Mahavishnu's legacy. This new disc from Germany's hr-Bigband (a performance broadcast live on German radio earlier this year) is no exception. The hr-Bigband's manager, Olaf Stotzler, had been looking for someone who would take the music and crash through barriers with it—and in English arranger/composer Colin Towns he found him.

Initial exposure to the Mahavishnu Orchestra could sometimes be overwhelming. The original band's complex time signatures, most evident in Cobham's masterful drumming, could be confusing to musicians and audiences alike. But if you stuck with them, you'd likely find yourself locked into the groove. Towns and the hr-Bigband have taken this dimension even further. There are main themes being performed while sub-themes and sub-sub-themes are being played simultaneously. At first it's almost too much—until you remember the spirit of the original band. To take this music out, you need to take it out. Only then do you find yourself immersed in the arrangements and lost in lofty thought.

Cobham revisits his past with fervor. His drumming remains a dominant, driving force. Time has passed and he takes more reflective solos, but his support playing is still powerful and compelling. The band itself is full of accomplished musicians who seem to understand the nuance—even if it is bombastic—of the music. Martin Scales' guitar captures the essence of the original sounds without attempting to mimic them. The horns and keyboards provide their version of swing for music in which sometimes the swing is implied. It's a full-bodied sound with all the power you'd expect from a big band. Yet the players are at home too in quiet sections of great beauty. To be able to carry off that latter aspect of the Mahavishnu music, as required by Towns' arrangements, is key to any successful interpretation of these tunes.

The way the album has been edited creates what could be considered one long composition, seamlessly formed of movements from the first and second Mahavishnus. This imbues a sense of building tension which is released on the final cut, “Meeting Of The Spirits,” and through the joyous yelps of an appreciative crowd, whose enthusiasm throughout is part of the listening experience.

Mahavishnu's guitarist, John McLaughlin, who wrote some of the liner notes, never expected to hear his compositions played by a big band. The music on this CD, he says, is a revelation to him. Meeting Of The Spirits successfully presents Mahavishnu music in a way you'll never have experienced it before.

It’s fair to say that there has been no shortage of bad press for jazz-rock fusion over the last two decades in a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As a result, the achievements of the Mahavishnu Orchestra have been diminished with the passage of time to the point it now seems like a footnote in the pages of history. Yet the Mahavishnu Orchestra was the next major step in jazz rock after Bitches Brew. OK, it may have triggered the guitar Olympics, where every guitarist wanted to play faster than McLaughlin, but here was the visceral marriage of Hendrix’ guitar sound and blistering jazz improvisation taken to a level of excellence that is now a benchmark in the music.

Billy Cobham, Colin Towns and HR-Big Band - Meeting of the Spirits: A Celebration of the Mahavishnu
While the group is remembered for vistuosity taken to the nth degree, McLaughlin’s compositions for the band, with their intricate melodies and tricky time signatures, are largely forgotten. This project brings those compositions alive, and is a reminder that the Mahavishnu Orchestra were by no means one dimensional. Towns’ orchestrations are a stunning mix of imagination and craftsmanship (‘Birds of Fire,’ ‘Celestial Terrestrial Commuters,’ ‘Meeting of the Spirits’), but they also let the music breath with exciting and wholly apposite solos from the members of the HR-Big Band that show how this music works in an acoustic context.

Axel Schlosser on trumpet on ‘Birds of Fire’ or Johannes Enders on tenor on ‘Dawn’, for example, rise to the challenge of this demanding music with ease and elegance. Cobham’s captures much of the coiled spring intensity of his work on the originals, and has plenty of solo space, such as ‘Resolution’. A great album, which places jazz-rock in a different light – as Towns says, ‘Take a look at this, if you like it, check out the original records. It will enhance your life more than realise!’

Recorded live January 27th 2006, Centralstation, Darmstadt, Germany.

Tracks Listing:

01. Hope (1:55)
02. Birds Of Fire (6:24)
03. Miles Beyond (4:40)
04. Resolution (4:19)
05. Cosmic Strut (3:42)
06. Dawn (9:08)
07. Eternity's Breath Parts 1&2 (6:41)
08. Sanctuary (9:54)
09. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters (3:18)
10. You Know, You Know (5:20)
11. One Word (11:47)
12. Meeting Of The Spirits (6:58)

Total time 74:06


Drums – Billy Cobham

Colin Towns & HR Big Band:

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn, Oliver Leicht
Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – Rainer Heute
Bass Trombone – Manfred Honetschläger
Electric Bass – Thomas Heidepriem
Guitar – Martin Scales
Piano, Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes], Keyboards – Peter Reiter
Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute – Harry Petersen
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Johannes Enders
Trombone – Christian Jaksjø, Günter Bollmann, Peter Feil
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Axel Schlosser, Martin Auer, Thomas Vogel, Tobias Weidinger

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Steve Hackett - 1980 [1989] "Defector"

Defector is the fourth solo album from former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. It was released in 1980 on the Charisma label.

In 2005, Defector was remastered and re-released on Virgin Records. The new edition features updated liner notes and five bonus tracks. A surround upmix of the album is included in Premonitions: The Charisma Recordings 1975-1983 [10-CD/4-DVD Boxed Set] (2015).

Steve Hackett had exited from success a few years prior by leaving the band Genesis. A band who had unexpectedly grown in popularity since the departure of their lead singer Peter Gabriel. Hackett felt that there was more music in him than was being allowed to shine in the band and his creativity was being stifled. He had released his first solo record (Voyage of the Acolyte) while still in the band, and that had caused a bit of dissension from some of the others. It was time for him to leave after the tour to support 1976’s Wind and Wuthering, and Defector is his third solo effort after the departure from Genesis. This showed him to actually be more prolific than Genesis!
Hackett had assembled a band to support 1978’s Please Don’t Touch on tour, and was so pleased with the arrangement he used them for the following record Spectral Mornings and this one Defector. It was on these last two records that Hackett really found the clarification of his sound, with a crack band backing him, moving towards a more progressive area than his former band was at the time and becoming even more proficient as a guitarist. Heavy metal shredders were using Hackett as an influence, even though he was not playing anything close to hard rock here.

Defector opens with the heavy and ominous “The Steppes,” to begin the proceedings. This leads to “Time To Get Out” with its bright, sprightly beat and slightly dissonant vocal harmonies. The album is a mixture of smart instrumentals and pleasant vocal pieces featuring Pete Hicks as lead vocalist, though Steve himself would take the odd vocal now and then. A foretelling of the future, as he would find himself more comfortable with his voice on future recordings.

Steve makes excellent use of the Roland GR500 guitar synthesizer, which gives the impression at times of several guitarists playing in harmony like the twin guitar leads of Thin Lizzy or Wishbone Ash. He can also mellow out on songs like “Two Vamps As Guests” and “Hammer In the Sand,” the latter featuring lovely piano work by Nick Magnus.

Favorite cuts of mine here are the powerful instrumental “Jacuzzi,” the easy and sleepy “The Toast,” and the wonderful and bass heavy synth-rocker “The Show.” There is also a witty and clever ode to the 1940’s big band era, “Sentimental Institution.”

Defector is Steve Hackett’s last really good album for quite a while, and although not quite as strong as the previous three, it is well worth having in anyone’s Genesis-centric collection.

Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett stepped out on his own in the late '70s with several solo releases, including Defector. The 1980 release doesn't stray far musically from early Genesis, containing a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your tastes) dose of progressive rock. Five flute- and keyboard-heavy instrumentals appear, as well as five vocal numbers with Hackett taking the singing chores. Of the vocal numbers, "The Toast" sounds a bit like Pink Floyd.

Many Hackett fans consider "Defector" to be the last album from his classic solo period. The album is another solid effort from Hackett featuring a nice mix of vocal and instrumental songs. The emphasis here is still on progressive rock in the classic 70's style, but you also hear the beginning of some more adventurous experimentation which would permeate Hackett's later releases. "Defector" would be the last Hackett album to feature someone other than himself on lead vocals. The guitar is the main instrumental focus on much of this album, as it should be, and Hackett pulls of some really nice work throughout the disc. The album opener "The Steppes" has become a live classic with other tracks like "Slogans", "Time To Get Out"; "Leaving" and "The Toast" are all strong ones. Hackett even takes a stab at a rocking commercial single with "The Show" which is almost funk / disco in nature, and actually works much better than you might think it would. The album closes with a novelty 1920's style ditty called "Sentimental Institution" which reminds me of some of the stuff Freddy Mercury used to do with Queen. Overall I don't think this is Hackett's best album, but it is another solid release from a guitarist who has been sadly overlooked by the mainstream over the years.

Track listing:

1. The Steppes (6:04)
2. Time To Get Out (4:11)
3. Slogans (3:42)
4. Leaving (3:18)
5. Two Vamps As Guests (1:58)
6. Jacuzzi (4:35)
7. Hammer In The Sand (3:09)
8. The Toast (3:41)
9. The Show (3:40)
10. Sentimental Institution (2:32)

Total Time: 36:50


Steve Hackett – guitar, vocal, optigan, roland GR500
Nick Magnus – keyboards
John Hackett – concert and alto flute
Pete Hicks – vocal
John Shearer – drums and percussion
Dik Cadbury – bass, vocal

Vocal Credits:
"Time To Get Out" and "The Toast" are sung by Pete, Dik & Steve together. "Leaving" and "The Show" are sung by Pete with the others adding harmonies. "Sentimental Institution" and the bonus track "Hercules Unchained" are sung by Pete alone. This is the only Steve Hackett album with vocals on which none of the lead vocals are by Hackett himself.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Keith Jarrett - Gary Peacock - Jack DeJohnette - 2007 "My Foolish Heart"

My Foolish Heart is a double live album by American pianist Keith Jarrett's "Standards Trio" featuring Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette recorded in concert in July 2001 at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and released on the ECM label in 2007.

Pianist Keith Jarrett's career practically invites criticism or, at the very least, intense comment. His outspokenness, his utter seriousness of intent and the resulting love-hate relationship with the audience, even his vocalisms, evoke strong responses, both pro and con, from listeners.

As the years have gone by, expectations have continued to rise, almost to the point that no matter what he does, Jarrett will fail in someone's eyes, and My Foolish Heart is no exception. However, the only issue that really matters is this: does he and, by extension, the trio, communicate with and connect to the listener?

ECM has released this double-CD live recording from the 2001 Montreux Jazz Festival as a sort of now-to-then comparison to the upcoming release Setting The Standards: New York Sessions 1983, which will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of this trio in 2008. Any Jarrett release is an event and, when combined with Jarrett's liner notes which talk about how special this performance was, practically promises a revelatory listening experience.

Revelation is, however, a very personal thing. Since this music consists of well-known standards the magic, if it is to be found, will not be in new sounds, but in the details of the performance for those who can, or desire to, hear them.

The best jazz is the music of spontaneous, unexpected creation. It requires dynamic energy and concentration plus the seeming contradictory ability to let go, forgetting all the technique and theory and just playing. In this case, what is to be played starts with the tunes themselves, with melody. A standard is labeled as such because its construction has achieved the delicate balance between the melodic phrasing and harmony that creates something unique, and being immediately identifiable and memorable.

To treat such a creation as mere changes is to violate its sanctity, and true improvisation will maintain contact, however tenuous, with the source of the inspiration. In this respect, Jarrett is masterful and there is nary a moment on any track when it is not obvious which tune is being played. The changes are respected, but so are the melody and emotional essence of the tune, with Jarrett using the musical language of conventional bebop jazz.

Bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, acknowledged masters in their own right, obviously know Jarrett and each other extremely well. Any given performance can vary, but this one does seem to find this rhythm section in top form. DeJohnette's famous energy is controlled but white hot while Peacock, whose solos are short but meaningful, adds a delightful bounce and verve.

The trio is playing as one and this is the joy of the performance. The surprise comes with the three stride tunes, "Ain't Misbehavin,'" "Honeysuckle Rose" and "You Took Advantage Of Me," and if anyone was waiting for a reason to gush about this performance, it is here.

My Foolish Heart is an anniversary release celebrating 25 years of the Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette trio's traveling and performing together despite the rich and varied individual careers of its members. Recorded in 2001 at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Jarrett held the tape close to the vest until what he felt was the right time for release -- whatever that means. The bottom line is, listeners are very fortunate to have it. The official live offerings by this group have always been crystalline affairs of deep swinging communication, no matter the material.

Not only is My Foolish Heart no exception, it is perhaps the standard by which the others should be judged. Almost two hours in length, the program is comprised entirely of jazz and pop standards -- beginning with a tough, limber, punchy version of Miles Davis' "Four" lasting over nine minutes. That the music begins like this, so utterly strident and swaggering, full of lyric invention and energy, is almost reason enough for purchase.

The inherent commitment to the music is not measured: it's total. There are few -- if any -- groups in jazz that have been together for such a long time. And there are few groups new or old that are even capable enough to manage such a wide-ranging selection of the repertoire: from the title track and "Four" to "Oleo," "Straight, No Chaser," and even "Five Brothers"! But the selection of material is only the wrapper. What's inside it is not just the history of jazz but history in the making, because these three prove beyond all measure not only the vitality of the material but also the necessity of the trio interpretation of it, and indeed what is possible: bop, hard bop, post-bop, swing, and here even ragtime, played with all the seriousness and joy it demands.

The readings of Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Honeysuckle Rose" and Rodgers & Hart's "You Took Advantage of Me" are wild affairs, beautifully executed, sure, but played with the requisite emotion that new interpretations require.

On this set, these tunes have been brought out of history, out of the canon of milquetoast sweetness as diversions for the purpose of entertainment, and out into the present as revelatory statements in harmony and rhythmic and lyric invention. The interplay between Peacock and DeJohnette is utterly dynamic. The way these two not only complement but also challenge one another creates a sense of balance that allows Jarrett room for flight -- not into his own quirks as a musician, but into the entire universe of jazz. Peacock and DeJohnette solo a lot here, with in-the-pocket contributions to the melodic panorama of the music.

The ballads, too, such as the delicate reading of Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne's "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" and the curious but spot-on choice for a set closer, Cahn and James Van Heusen's "Only the Lonely," are read with such sensitivity and confidence that overly reverent interpretation (a trap for any player who risks bloodlessness) is impossible; the nature of "song" is kept as the trio offers these renditions with deep emotion and a singer's sense of space and elegance. Over 13 tunes, this band offers more surprises, delights, and jaw-dropping musical acumen than even fans believed possible.

As Jarrett writes in his liner notes, "There was no other night when we felt that we had to (almost literally) grab the audience by the throat and shake them into hearing what we were doing." Perhaps they were distracted by heat, bad sound, and lighting problems -- Jarrett speaks to these twice in his notes -- but perhaps, until they reached the ragtime segment of the set that demanded a waking response, they were just floored by the swinging intensity with which the set began.

Whatever the reason, this document is a mindblower from start to finish, and there are moments when all you can do in response is look at the box slack-jawed and wonder if what you just heard really happened. It did and it does, over and over again. This set is a magical, wondrous moment in the life of a trio when it all comes pouring out as inspiration and mastery.

Place it where you will in Jarrett's discography, My Foolish Heart is true jazz artistry.

Track listing:
CD 1

1. "Four" (Miles Davis) - 9:09
2. "My Foolish Heart" (Ned Washington, Victor Young) - 12:25
3. "Oleo" (Sonny Rollins) - 6:37
4. "What's New?" (Johnny Burke, Bob Haggart) - 7:54
5. "The Song Is You" (Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern) - 7:43
6. "Ain't Misbehavin'" (Waller, Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf) - 6:41

CD 2

1. "Honeysuckle Rose" (Razaf, Waller) - 6:45
2. "You Took Advantage of Me" (Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers) - 8:54
3. "Straight, No Chaser" (Thelonious Monk) - 10:05
4. "Five Brothers" (Gerry Mulligan) - 6:36
5. "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" (Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne) - 11:09
6. "Green Dolphin Street" (Bronisław Kaper, Ned Washington) - 8:18
7. "Only the Lonely" (Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen) - 6:15


Keith Jarrett – piano
Gary Peacock - bass
Jack DeJohnette - drums

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Pat Metheny - 2017 "Live In The '70s" [5 CD Box]

The entire original WBCN, KJAZ, WNYU and WLIR FM Radio Broadcasts. Covering live performances Boston (1976), San Francisco, Seattle (1977), New York (1978 & 1979). Professionally re-mastered with background liners and rare archival photos in a 5 CD box set.

Having played with Gary Burton, Jaco Pastorius and other leading fusion musicians, the prodigious Pat Metheny made his solo recording debut in 1976 with the classic Bright Size Life. The following year he released Watercolors, marking the start of his long collaboration with pianist Lyle Mays and the forming of The Pat Metheny Group. That summer they played various dates (together with bassist Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gottlieb). They were swiftly acclaimed as one of America’s foremost fusion bands. Their second album, American Garage, appeared in June 1979, and reached #1 on the Billboard jazz chart soon afterwards, propelled by the up-tempo (Cross the) Heartland, which became their signature tune. The superb tracks featured here, performed live and broadcast on FM radio, include material from Watercolors, the Pat Metheny Group album and American Garage, presented here together with background notes and images.

This is a collection of previously released live sets--"Boston Jazz Workshop" ('76), "Great American Music Hall" ('77), "Seattle Opera House" ('78), and two discs from "Hofstra University" ('79). The sound varies slightly but overall is very decent to good. There's some slight distortion occasionally and a bit of muddiness in the bass at times. But for Metheny fans who (like me) like this era, this is a nice way to have all these separate albums in one nice, neat box set. Like other albums only available in the UK, some of these individual albums aren't available in the U.S., so this is a good way to have it all. The discs slip inside cardboard jackets with graphics similar to the box cover graphic, and the booklet is only okay like many of these kinds of sets. The outer clamshell box is fairly substantial cardboard. But it's the music that's important, and on that score this box set delivers.

Founder Pat Metheny first emerged on the jazz scene in the mid-1970s with a pair of solo albums. First was Bright Size Life, released in 1976, a trio album with bass guitarist Jaco Pastorius and drummer Bob Moses. The next album, released in 1977, was Watercolors, featuring Eberhard Weber on bass, pianist Lyle Mays, and drummer Danny Gottlieb.

Despite the common description of Metheny's music as "fusion," it was always his intention[citation needed] to create improvised music that had a greater emphasis on bringing out harmony than anything common to what was called "fusion" of the time. Pastorius, with whom Metheny struck up a friendship while the two attended the University of Miami and later toured in Joni Mitchell's backing band during her transition from her earlier folk rock compositions to those with more jazz influence, had at the same time explored melodic lines for his instrument within the melodies normally heard, rather than just providing a simple bassline, revolutionizing the way the bass guitar was viewed by the musical establishment. The two friends would talk into the late evening during the early 1970s and discuss the new possibilities their instruments held.

At the same time, Jaco and I were both really on a mission to find a way to play and find a way to present our instruments in an improvisational environment that expressed our dissatisfaction with the status quo at the time.

— Pat Metheny
In 1977, bassist Mark Egan joined Metheny, Mays, and Gottlieb to form the Pat Metheny Group. They released the self-titled album "Pat Metheny Group" in 1978 on the ECM label, which featured several songs co-written by Metheny and Mays. The group's second album, American Garage in 1979, was a breakout hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Jazz chart and crossing over to the pop charts as well, largely on the strength of the up-tempo opening track "(Cross the) Heartland" which would become a signature tune for the group. The group built upon its success with lengthy tours in the USA and Europe.

The group featured a unique sound, particularly due to Metheny's Gibson ES-175 guitar coupled to two digital delay units and Mays' Oberheim synthesizer and Yamaha Organ. The group played in a wide range of styles from experimental to grassroots music. Later on, Metheny began working with the Roland GR300 guitar synthesizer and a Synclavier System, while Mays expanded his setup with a Prophet 5 synthesizer designed by Sequential Circuits, and later with many other synthesizers.

Track Listings:

Disc: 1
  1. Bright Size Life
  2. River Quay
  3. There Will Never Be Another You
  4. Band Introduction
  5. Watercolours
  6. Nacada
  7. The Whopper
  8. Icefire
  9. Unquity Road
  10. Untitled

Disc: 2
  1. Phase Dance
  2. Watercolours
  3. San Lorenzo
  4. Wrong Is Right

Disc: 3
  1. WYNU Intro
  2. Phase Dance
  3. April Joy
  4. Talk
  5. Unity Village
  6. The Windup
  7. The Epic
  8. WYNU Announcer
  9. Hermitage
  10. Lakes
  11. Midwestern Nights Dream
  12. Jaco
  13. San Lorenzo
  14. American Garage
  15. WYNU Announcer

Disc: 4
  1. Introduction
  2. Phase Dance
  3. Airstream
  4. Pat Chats
  5. April Joy
  6. Unity Village/The House of the Rising Sun/The Windup
  7. The Epic

Disc: 5
  1. James
  2. Old Folks
  3. Jaco
  4. The Magician's Theater
  5. San Lorenzo
  6. Thank You/Band Intros
  7. (Cross The) Heartland
  8. WLIR Announcer
  9. American Garage


Pat Metheny - Guitars
Lyle Mays - Piano, Keyboards
Danny Gottlieb - Drums
Mark Egan - Bass
Mike Richmond - Bass (disc 1)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Chico Hamilton - 1962 [1990] "Transfusion"

The first four CDs released by Studio West, a subsidiary of V.S.O.P., are all taken from concise (around three minutes apiece) performances that were made to be used as part of the radio show "The Navy Swings." This particular release features performances by one of drummer Chico Hamilton's most stimulating groups, a quintet comprised of Charles Lloyd (on tenor, flute and alto), guitarist Gabor Szabo, trombonist George Bohanon, bassist Albert Stinson and the drummer/leader. Because the individual selections are briefer than usual, in many cases only one soloist is featured on each cut. But overall, there is plenty of solo space for Lloyd (very much playing in a Coltrane vein), Bohanon and Szabo. The mixture of seven standards with nine Lloyd originals works quite well with plenty of variety in moods and tempoes. An excellent all-around showcase for this much underrated but very timeless unit.

Track Listing:

01. Transfusion 02:10
02. My Shining Hour 01:54
03. The Second Time Around 03:08
04. Come Rain or Come Shine 02:16
05. Witchcraft 02:56
06. Homeward 03:46
07. A Rose for Booker 03:21
08. Vulture 02:37
09. It Never Entered My Mind 02:50
10. Sun Yen Sen 02:24
11. Speak Low 02:30
12. One for Joan 03:33
13. C.L. Blues 02:31
14. Stella by Starlight 01:36
15. Tales 03:00
16. Transfusion 03:35


Drums – Chico Hamilton
Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Charles Lloyd (tracks: 1 to 6, 8 to 13, 15, 16)
Bass – Albert Stinson
Guitar – Gabor Szabo
Trombone – George Bohannon*

Sunday, May 20, 2018

John Mclaughlin - 1970 [1992] "Devotion"

Devotion is the second album by the English jazz fusion guitarist John McLaughlin, released in 1970. It was recorded shortly after McLaughlin left the Miles Davis band and prior to forming The Mahavishnu Orchestra. McLaughlin was unhappy with the resulting album. On his website, he writes: “In 1969, I sign a contract in America for 2 records. First is 'Devotion' that is destroyed by producer Alan Douglas who mixes the recording in my absence.

This music is very important in that it is a continuation along the trail blazed by Jimi Hendrix (Electric Ladyland and the Band of Gypsies), Cream (Wheels of Fire), Miles Davis (Miles in the Sky, In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew), Tony Williams Lifetime (Emergency and Turn it Over--the latter recording included drummer Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Larry Young (Khalid Yasin) and bassist Jack Bruce).

John McLaughlin began this journey jamming with Graham Bond, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker with the Graham Bond Organization back in 1964 in London blues clubs, when the world was intensely focused on the the music of the Beatles.

As we fast-forward five years to 1969, New York City, John has been initiated into the Miles Davis Directions movement with The Tony Williams Lifetime being his main focus for his evolving musical talents. Jimi Hendrix is also in New York, successfully taking the electric guitar far beyond traditional rock borders, and John, with the music of Devotion, is attempting to tap this base and create one of his own. Guitarist Eric Clapton and the Cream in 1968 were also expanding the boundaries of rock and blues jamming as can be clearly heard on the recording "Wheels of Fire" on the portions that were recorded live at the Fillmore.

Devotion is the crucial mix of a jazz-rock, blues guitarist, a Jazz keyboardist, a blues/rock drummer (very similar to Ginger Baker), and a rock/blues bassist with slight overtones of the Beatles. This fusion mix is one of the very first recorded outside of the Tony Williams Lifetime which included John and Larry. Also heard on Devotion are Buddy Miles and Billy Rich who both jammed and recorded with Jimi Hendrix. Buddy Miles was also appearing live with Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox in the Band of Gypsys when this music was recorded.

John's guitar playing at the top of this music is just superb. The interplay between all musicians is clearly heard here as both John and Larry clocked many hours together with the Tony Williams Lifetime and Miles Davis and clearly have a musical and spiritual feel for one another. Buddy and Billy also have great feel for each other after playing and recording in the the Buddy Miles Express and later jamming and recording with Jimi Hendrix. It was recommended that Billy Rich and not Billy Cox replace Noel Redding in the Jimi Hendrix Band, but due to a past friendship with Jimi, Billy Cox won out.

The three compositions which I feel define this production are "Devotion", "The Dragon Song" and "Purpose of When." Take the time to listen and you too will hear the expanded rock, blues, and jazz improvisations (with no vocals) and the lack of traditional rock/blues musical confinement that these four musicians experience as they blaze this unchartered trail. As you listen, remember that at the time of this release the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Band of Gypsys, and Cream have all disbanded, and no Mahavishnu Orchestra, Chick Corea & Return to Forever, Jeff Beck & Jan Hammer Band, Terje Rypdal Band, or Soft Machine with Allan Holdsworth exist yet.

If possible, purchase the 1992 Restless/Metrotone Original CD release of this music, which is not a remaster from a vinyl record but is from the original studio master tape from the 1969-1970 Alan Douglas, Stefan Bright production.

Devotion was created as McLaughlin was segueing from being a sideman to a realized composer, pre-Mahavishnu Orchestra, and he wasn’t happy with it. He is even quoted as saying producer Alan Douglas “destroyed it.” I’m not one to argue with the great Mr. McLaughlin, but I disagree. I think this is a fantastic record, due to its unique psychedelic-fusion stylings, and it influenced me greatly. I can’t even fault Douglas for his almost amateurish production of double-tracking two soloing guitars (reminiscent of Ike Turner’s “Right On”). Somehow, the solos work together as they weave in and out over the spirited rhythm section of drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Rich. I dig it.

One of the musical high points of the album is Larry Young’s organ solo on the title track, where he plays a mystical solo incorporating A Lydian (E major over an A pedal). That sound was very new to me back then. Young’s solo climaxes when he introduces a G natural, which, to this day, gives me chills. The other noteworthy tracks are “Marbles”(which was covered on 1972’s Carlos Santana and Buddy Miles Live) and “Don’t Let the Dragon Eat Your Mother.”

Sure—there is a wealth of great McLaughlin music that might be superior to Devotion, but this album has been close to my heart for 40 years, and there is nothing like it. McLaughlin once said, “A guitarist has to go the extra mile.” I think of these words when I’m feeling lazy or uninspired. Obviously, McLaughlin has gone that extra mile many times. He’s an intelligent musical pioneer, a phenomenal sideman, a great composer, and a guitarist with an amazingly distinct voice.

Originally released in 1970 but re-released regularly since, Devotion is a hard driving, spaced-out, distorted hard-jazz-rock album featuring organist Larry Young, drummer Buddy Miles, and the little known bassist Billy Rich. This album was recorded close to the period when McLaughlin had been jamming with Jimi Hendrix, Young, Miles and Dave Holland. Terrible bootlegs exist of some of their jams, but bad sound quality and McLaughlin's guitar on the fritz make the bootlegs a ripoff.

Devotion was also sort of a ripoff. To this day, McLaughlin is angry about the way former Hendrix producer Alan Douglas mixed this record. Apparently, Douglas spliced bits of music together here and there that were not supposed to be connected. Despite this obvious problem, and the fact Douglas paid McLaughlin only $2,000 to record both Devotion and My Goal’s Beyond , this album is chock full of wonderfully ominous riffs and sounds. Devotion is an overlooked landmark album.

“Marbles" opens up the album and is truly an early fusion masterpiece. (Some CD reissues of Devotion have changed the order of the tunes...don't ask why). The catchy hook is infectious. Years later, McLaughlin would employ the same riff often while with Shakti. You should also check out Santana’s cover version on his hard to find album with Buddy Miles, Live.

McLaughlin focuses more on tension and dynamics than on speed, and Larry Young plays mysterious and otherworldly chords. Miles keeps a constant thud-thud-thud churning throughout and Billy Rich effectively doubles McLaughlin’s themes. No slow ballads. No pretty melodies. This is just pure unadulterated jazz-grunge. Those familiar with the Mahavishnu Orchestra will enjoy picking out the passages that would later become signature tunes. Devotion is awfully messy at times, but you won’t mind cleaning up afterwards.

Track listing:

"Devotion" – 11:25
"Dragon Song" – 4:13
"Marbles" – 4:05
"Siren" – 5:55
"Don't Let the Dragon Eat Your Mother" – 5:18
"Purpose of When" – 4:45


John McLaughlin – electric guitar
Buddy Miles – drums, percussion
Larry Young – organ, electric piano
Billy Rich – bass guitar

Friday, May 18, 2018

Pat Metheny - 1995 "We Live Here"

We Live Here is an album by the Pat Metheny Group that won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 1995.

The first Pat Metheny Group recording in five years is a bit unusual in two ways. The band uses "contemporary" pop rhythms on many of their selections but in creative ways and without watering down the popular group's musical identity. In addition Metheny for the first time in his recording career sounds a bit like his early influence Wes Montgomery on a few of the songs. With his longtime sidemen (keyboardist Lyle Mays, bassist Steve Rodby and drummer Paul Wertico) all in top form, Metheny successfully reconciles his quartet's sound with that of the pop music world, using modern technology to expand the possibilities of his own unusual vision of creative improvised music. And as a bonus, some of the melodies are catchy.

Returning to the dual-vocal septet line-up of Still Life (Talking) (released in 1987; reissued this year by Nonesuch) with percussionist Luis Conte replacing Armando Marçal, We Live Here's use of programmed rhythm loops and easy-on-the-ears grooves could be considered a concerted commercial attempt by Metheny to expand his already substantial audience. But it also represented its own kind of risk.

Metheny Group fans are typically drawn to the strong sense of melody that's defined the majority of Metheny's writing—alone and with constant collaborator and Metheny Group keyboardist since inception, Lyle Mays. But the opening one-two-three punch of "Here to Stay," "And Then I Knew" and "The Girls Next Door," threatens, at least on the surface, to cross the fine line that Metheny and Mays sometimes straddle between music of depth and substance and mere ear candy.

Many longtime Metheny fans feared that he'd gone too far. But while the album's production values are as close to pop as anything Metheny has ever done, the strength and commitment of the playing elevates the music beyond simple confection. And while much of the music lacks, for example, the tricky time signatures that are oftentimes part of the Metheny/Mays writing approach, there's far more here than immediately meets the ear.

The majority of the songs on the album reflect an interest in soul and R&B that, given Metheny's already broad purview, should come as no surprise. But while the soft ballad "Something To Remind You" bears the ear-marks of groups like Earth Wind & Fire with its clear verse-chorus form, it's still undeniably filtered through Metheny and Mays' own musical sensibilities. The verse is longer than most pop tunes would allow, and while it certainly sounds effortless, its changes are anything but.

Similarly, the more insistent and up-tempo "Red Sky" possesses a singable chorus featuring the lyricless vocals of David Blamires and Mark Ledford (who, sadly, passed away in 2004). But the changes of its equally lengthy verse would again challenge most players. Just because something sounds this easy doesn't mean it is easy and, in some ways, We Live Here could be considered the Pat Metheny Group's most subversive record.

Despite the album's glossy veneer, there are tracks that—despite groove being an essential component—are anything but smooth. The tribal rhythm of the title track is a logical expansion of ideas first explored on "Barcarole," the opening track on Offramp (ECM, 1981). "Episode D'Azur," sporting a knottier theme as well as shifting bar lines that are more in character, doesn't exactly swing but it comes closer to what Metheny Group naysayers consider to be "real" jazz, despite Mays' layering of string washes and signature synthesizer tone. And the album closer, "Stranger in Town," is a more pedal-to-the-metal burner than anything else found on the record, featuring some of Metheny's most lithe playing—especially during the brief middle section that's more- or-less an interactive trio spot for Metheny, drummer Paul Wertico and Conte.

One of the biggest criticisms of the Pat Metheny Group is that, as it has evolved over the past three decades, it's become less and less about the risk that many feel to be a defining characteristic in jazz. And it's true that there's a significant distance between albums like We Live Here and Metheny's collaboration with free jazz legend Ornette Coleman on Song X (released 1985; reissued by Nonesuch in 2005).

But the finely-detailed, through-composed approach of the Pat Metheny Group on We Live Here and earlier records has been at least partially responsible for a paradigm shift allowing jazz artists to explore more complex ideas while, at the same time, remaining completely accessible—not to mention incorporating contemporary production values in ways that need not be inherently paradoxical or antithetical to the spirit of jazz. And while We Live Here was met with a certain amount of surprise and disappointment on original release, even from longtime Metheny Group fans, it's weathered the test of time extremely well. Taken in context of the group's overall body of work, it is ultimately another signpost along its long and varied journey.

Track listing
All tracks written by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays except where noted.

1. "Here to Stay" 7:39
2. "And Then I Knew" 7:53
3. "The Girls Next Door" 5:30
4. "To the End of the World" 12:15
5. "We Live Here" 4:12
6. "Episode d'Azur" (Mays) 8:45
7. "Something to Remind You" 7:04
8. "Red Sky" 7:36
9. "Stranger in Town" 6:11


Pat Metheny – guitars, guitar synthesizer
Lyle Mays – piano, keyboards
Steve Rodby – acoustic and electric bass
Paul Wertico – drums
David Blamires – vocals
Mark Ledford – vocals, trumpet, Flugelhorn, Whistling
Luis Conte – percussion
Sammy Merendino – drum programming
Dave Samuels – cymbal rolls