Monday, August 31, 2015

Various Artists - A Brief History of Ambient Volume 2: "Imaginary Landscapes" (1974-1993)

Ambient 2: Imaginary Landscapes is a 1993 compilation album released on the Virgin Records label, part of its Ambient series. The compilation was issued as a double CD.

In December of 1993, Virgin Records released a second two-disc collection of ambient music as a follow-up to the commercially and critically successful first volume in the series A Brief History of Ambient. Interestingly, the liner notes state that the series title is "an affectionate nod in the direction of Stephen Hawking."

Once again culled exclusively from the Virgin vaults, this second collection is a bit more narrowly focused than its predecessor. On some level, though, it is mostly "more of the same," with many of the same artists (Brian Eno, Amorphous Androgynous, Tangerine Dream, David Sylvian, The Grid, Robert Fripp, Gong, Edgar Froese and Holger Czukay) making another appearance. 'Course, "more of the same" with artists of this caliber isn't really a bad thing. While Volume 1 did feature a track by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, it is Volume 2 that sports a more international roster, with tracks by Baaba Maal [Senegal], Ryuichi Sakamoto [Japan], The Guo Brothers [China], Prince Far I [Jamaica], The Dmitri Pokrovski Ensemble [Russia] and The Tsinandali Choir [Georgia]. Fans of the bands Gong and Soft Cell will be interested to note the solo track by founding member Daevid Allen. Also of probable interest to some is a track by U2's guitarist The Edge from the soundtrack to the obscure Euro thriller Captive.

Disc One    
No.     Title     Performing Artist     Length    
1.     "Call to Prayer"       Baaba Maal     3:52
2.     "Tal Coat"       Brian Eno     5:06
3.     "In Mind"       Amorphorous Androgynous     5:26
4.     "Rubycon, Pt. 2" (Edit)     Tangerine Dream     6:32
5.     "The Healing Place"       David Sylvian     5:16
6.     "Crystal Clear" (The Orb Remix: Clear, Like An Unmuddied Lake)     The Grid     6:12
7.     "Nuages"       Ryuichi Sakamoto     2:08
8.     "Wind on Water"       Fripp/Eno     5:15
9.     "Wildlife"       Penguin Cafe Orchestra     8:11
10.     "When Things Dream"       Jansen/Barbieri     2:39
11.     "Magick Mother Invocation"       Allen, Gong     1:33
12.     "Bringing Down the Light"       Sylvian/Fripp     8:14
13.     "Not Another"       Jah Wobble     3:12
14.     "One Flower"       The Guo Brothers & Shung Tian     1:31
15.     "Black Jesus"       God     6:34
16.     "Mountain of Needles"       Eno/Byrne     2:33

Disc Two    
No.     Title     Performing Artist     Length    
1.     "You Are Here"       Phil Manzanera     1:46
2.     "Bendel Dub"       Prince Far I     3:05
3.     "Slow Kaliuki" (Edit)     The Dimitri Pokrovsky Ensemble     0:29
4.     "Euterpe Gratitude Piece"       Daevid Allen     9:21
5.     "Water Music"       Fripp     1:16
6.     "New Moon at Red Deer Wallow"       Rain Tree Crow     5:01
7.     "Attack of the 50 Foot Drum Demon"       Bass-O-Matic     4:14
8.     "Mekong"       Jam Nation     5:09
9.     "Endless Life"       The Verve     5:15
10.     "Nachtmusik Schattenhaft"       Klaus Schulze     6:31
11.     "Arrival" (Edit)     Voyager     7:14
12.     "Specific Gravity of Smile"       Edgar Froese     9:29
13.     "Orovela"       The Tsinandali Choir     4:54
14.     "Dance #3"       Laraaji     3:02
15.     "Premonition (Giant Empty Iron Vessel)"       Sylvian/Czukay     6:37
16.     "Island"       The Edge     6:37

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Brian Eno - 1975 "Another Green World"

Another Green World is the third studio album by English musician Brian Eno. Produced by Eno and Rhett Davies, it was originally released by Island Records in September 1975. As he had done with previous solo albums, Eno worked with several guest musicians including Phil Collins, John Cale and Robert Fripp. The album marked a great musical change from Eno's previous albums. Using his instruction cards the Oblique Strategies for guidance, the album contained fewer lyric-based rock songs and had stronger emphasis on instrumental productions; many without the aid of guest musicians. The dark humour of the lyrics also changed to more dreamlike and obscure songs.
The album failed to chart in the United States or the United Kingdom. Another Green World met with high praise from several critics, while others suggested that the album was too great a departure from Eno's previous more rock-based material. Modern reception of Another Green World has been very positive; several critics and publications often place the album on lists of the top albums of all time. The title track was used as the theme music for BBC Two television's arts series Arena.

A universally acknowledged masterpiece, Another Green World represents a departure from song structure and toward a more ethereal, minimalistic approach to sound. Despite the stripped-down arrangements, the album's sumptuous tone quality reflects Eno's growing virtuosity at handling the recording studio as an instrument in itself (à la Brian Wilson). There are a few pop songs scattered here and there ("St. Elmo's Fire," "I'll Come Running," "Golden Hours"), but most of the album consists of deliberately paced instrumentals that, while often closer to ambient music than pop, are both melodic and rhythmic; many, like "Sky Saw," "In Dark Trees," and "Little Fishes," are highly imagistic, like paintings done in sound that actually resemble their titles. Lyrics are infrequent, but when they do pop up, they follow the free-associative style of albums past; this time, though, the humor seems less bizarre than gently whimsical and addled, fitting perfectly into the dreamlike mood of the rest of the album. Most of Another Green World is like experiencing a soothing, dream-filled slumber while awake, and even if some of the pieces have dark or threatening qualities, the moments of unease are temporary, like a passing nightmare whose feeling lingers briefly upon waking but whose content is forgotten. Unlike some of his later, full-fledged ambient work, Eno's gift for melodicism and tight focus here keep the entirety of the album in the forefront of the listener's consciousness, making it the perfect introduction to his achievements even for those who find ambient music difficult to enjoy. 

Track listing

All songs written by Brian Eno.
   1 "Sky Saw"  – 3:25
   2 "Over Fire Island"  – 1:49
   3 "St. Elmo's Fire"  – 3:02
   4 "In Dark Trees"  – 2:29
   5 "The Big Ship"  – 3:01
   6 "I'll Come Running"  – 3:48
   7 "Another Green World"  – 1:38
   8 "Sombre Reptiles"  – 2:26
   9 "Little Fishes"  – 1:30
   10 "Golden Hours"  – 4:01
   11 "Becalmed"  – 3:56
   12 "Zawinul/Lava"  – 3:00
   13 "Everything Merges with the Night"  – 3:59
   14 "Spirits Drifting"  – 2:36


Credits adapted from Another Green World back cover.[37]

Friday, August 28, 2015

Pat Martino - 1970 [1989] Desperado

Desperado is a 1970 post-bop jazz album by Pat Martino.
“A key album in the shift in Pat Martino's sound at the end of the 60s -- with one foot in the soul jazz camp in which he got his start, and the other in the freer, open-minded style he used a lot in the 70s!”

Jazz critic Scott Yanow described the album as “funky in spots, electric, and swinging when called for” and extols Martino’s performance as “consistently inventive"[3]
“Even this difficult instrument doesn’t dampen his proficiency.”

Recorded at the legendary Rudy Van Gelder studios, Mr. Martino chose a 12 string guitar to define his interpretations of his own compositions and "Oleo" by Sonny Rollins  

Guitarist Pat Martino's first five recordings as a leader were made for the Prestige label, and this one (the fifth) has been reissued on CD by Original Jazz Classics. Martino performs Sonny Rollins' "Oleo" and five of his originals, using the 12-string guitar. The rhythm section (keyboardist Eddie Green, electric bassist Tyrone Brown, and drummer Sherman Ferguson) is funky in spots, electric, and swinging when called for. Eric Kloss makes a guest appearance on soprano for the opening "Blackjack," but otherwise, most of the focus is on Martino's consistently inventive playing. 

Track listing
  1. "Blackjack" (Martino) – 7:45
  2. "Dearborn Walk" (Martino)– 3:50
  3. "Oleo" (Sonny Rollins) – 4:53
  4. "Desperado" (Martino/Green) – 7:55
  5. "A Portrait of Diana" (Martino) – 4:30
  6. ”Express” (Martino) – 6:43 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Pat Metheny - 1976 "Bright Size Life"

Bright Size Life is Pat Metheny's debut album, released in 1976 on ECM, when Metheny was only 21. The album features Jaco Pastorius on bass and drummer Bob Moses.

In 2011, the first track was included on the Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology compilation.

Larger ensembles may have provided Pat Metheny with his most visible successes, but he’s repeatedly fired up his most fluid and personal playing in leaner trio settings, starting with this, his 1976 debut as a leader. Bob Moses brings both delicacy and effortless dynamics to his drumming, but it’s the late Jaco Pastorius’ lyrical electric bass that clinches the guitarist’s coming-out party: with Metheny already displaying the liquid tone and exquisite touch that define his sound, old friend Pastorius radiates a sympathetic lyricism and unerring sense of swing.

Pat Metheny's debut studio album is a good one, a trio date that finds him already laying down the distinctively cottony, slightly withdrawn tone and asymmetrical phrasing that would serve him well through most of the swerves in direction ahead. His original material, all of it lovely, bears the bracing air of his Midwestern upbringing, with titles like "Missouri Uncompromised," "Midwestern Nights Dream," and "Omaha Celebration." There is also a sole harbinger of radical matters way down the road with the inclusion of a loose-jointed treatment of Ornette Coleman's "Round Trip/Broadway Blues," proving that Song X did not come from totally out of the blue. Besides the debut of Metheny, this CD also features one of the earliest recordings of Jaco Pastorius, a fully formed, well-matched contrapuntal force on electric bass, though content to leave the spotlight mostly to Metheny. Bob Moses, who like Metheny played in the Gary Burton Quintet at the time, is the drummer, and he can mix it up, too. 
  1. Bright Size Life
  2. Sirabhorn
  3. Unity Village
  4. Missouri Uncompromised
  5. Midwestern Nights Dream
  6. Unquity Road
  7. Omaha Celebration
  8. Round Trip/Broadway Blues

Pat Metheny 6-String Bass, 12-String Bass Guitar, Bass, Bass (Electric), Composer, Guitar, Guitar (12 String), Guitar (12 String Electric)
Bob Moses Drums, Drums (Snare)
Jaco Pastorius Bass, Bass (Electric), Fretless Bass

Gil Evans - 1974 [2002] "Plays the music of Jimi Hendrix"

The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix is an album of Jimi Hendrix's compositions arranged by jazz composer, conductor and pianist Gil Evans recorded in 1974 and performed by Evans with an orchestra featuring David Sanborn, Howard Johnson, Billy Harper, and John Abercrombie. The album was re-released with additional tracks on CD in 1988.

The Allmusic review by Scott Yanow awarded the album 4½ stars stating "Evans' arrangements uplift many of Hendrix's more blues-oriented compositions and create a memorable set that is rock-oriented but retains the improvisation and personality of jazz"

This CD reissue (which adds additional material to the original LP program) is much more successful than one might have expected. Jimi Hendrix was scheduled to record with Gil Evans' Orchestra but died before the session could take place. A few years later, Evans explored ten of Hendrix's compositions with his unique 19-piece unit, an orchestra that included two French horns, the tuba of Howard Johnson, three guitars, two basses, two percussionists and such soloists as altoist David Sanborn, trumpeter Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson, Billy Harper on tenor, and guitarists Ryo Kawasaki and John Abercrombie. Evans' arrangements uplift many of Hendrix's more blues-oriented compositions and create a memorable set that is rock-oriented but retains the improvisation and personality of jazz. [This album was re-released in 2002 on the Bluebird label with four bonus tracks from the same sessions]

Reissue of Gil Evans' classic, controversial original album from 1974, in which his orchestra, which includes guitarist John Abercrombie, trumpeter Marvin C. Peterson and saxophonists David Sanborn and Billy Harper interpret nine Hendrix compositions. Includes the bonus tracks 'Little Wing' and alternate takes of 'Angel', 'Castles Made Of Sand', Up From The Skies' and 'Gypsy Eyes'.
· Gil Evans was to have recorded with Jimi Hendrix. The idea was to feature the Hendrix solo guitar and voice against the cushion of Evans' orchestrations, much in the manner of the Gil Evans-Miles Davis collaborations of the late 1940's and again in the 1950's. Denied the opportunity when the guitarist died in London a week before the preliminary meetings were set, Gil forged ahead with a whole concert of Hendrix compositions at Carnegie Hall, and, with the same young group, the sessions for this album.
· Evans told Rolling Stone magazine: "Stop and think about Hendrix' guitar work, about how difficult it was, and is, to play a guitar that way – the use, the correct use, of electronics. And yet for him it was the natural way. What I do is try to keep Jimi in mind when arranging his music. A very, very great guitar player."
· Gil Evans and Jimi Hendrix - a fusion of rock and jazz, working properly for once, each style drawing from the other. Gil was fond of saying that he looked for the "living spirit" in any music he heard. That spirit is here, alive and well, within these tracks.

Track listing:



Sunday, August 23, 2015

Chick Corea-Miroslav Vitous - 1968 1972 [1999] "Tones for Joan's Bones" - "Mountain in the Clouds"

This compilation hits a bull's-eye by pulling together two key sessions: Chick Corea's first as a leader, a blazing, advanced hard bop set from 1966, and Miroslav Vitous' Mountain in the Clouds, recorded in 1969 just prior to the bassist joining the original Weather Report. Corea's writing on Tones for Joan's Bones has an affinity with McCoy Tyner's seminal hard bop structures from this period. Tenor player Joe Farrell and trumpeter Woody Shaw are ideal for this music. They deliver virtuoso performances that are both visceral and cerebral. Steve Swallow, while later focusing exclusively on electric bass, often with a melodic, impressionistic approach, is pure thunder here. In a blindfold test his acoustic bass could be mistaken for Buster Williams'. Drummer Joe Chambers is all relentless, propulsive energy, but subtle too. Corea is a torrent of harmonic and melodic imagination, couched in unerring rhythm. On Vitous' fusion classic, Herbie Hancock's electric piano and John McLaughlin's electric guitar merge in a rich, dense, colorful foundation that affords Vitous and drummer Jack DeJohnette considerable freedom. McLaughlin combines the dreamy state he evokes on Miles Davis' In a Silent Way with the juddering rhythm attack heard on his own Extrapolation. Like Chambers, who actually takes the drum chair for two tracks, DeJohnette is powerful, creative, and passionate. The superbly recorded Vitous has a sound, technique, and concept that consistently sustain interest. Tenor giant Joe Henderson is on four tracks, including an intense, open-ended exploration of Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance." Anybody with an interest in this vital and exciting period will find both of these sessions indispensable. 

Both albums are a pinnacle of achievement for Chick Corea and Miroslav Vitous. They foreshadow the direction of both artists and also reflect their influences. "Tones For Joan's Bones" is straight ahead Jazz combined with occasional Latin rhythms, outrageous melodies typical of the period and style, Chick Corea's "Tyneresque" piano voicings and fluid, crystal clear solos. This is all augmented by Joe Farrell on reeds and Woody Shaw on trumpet-two of the best. Check out Chick Corea's solo on "Tones For Joan's Bones". Other recordings from this period featuring these artists are available on Chick Corea's "Inner Space" album.
The compositions and musicians on Miroslav Vitous' "Mountain In The Clouds" are some of the most progressive and innovative ever recorded. The moods range from quiet, cerebral, and transcendental as in "Epilogue" and "Infinite Search", to unrelenting, up-tempo jams as in "Freedom Jazz Dance" and especially "I Will Tell Him On You". The latter featuring one of the best, most astonishing guitar solos by John McLaughlin, very much like his work on Tony Williams' "Emergency" cd. The rest of the musicians on the album are basically a "who's who" in the business: Joe Henderson on sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, Miroslav on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums all add their unique personalities to a timeless classic.  


Track Listings
1. Litha - Chick Corea
2. This Is New - Chick Corea
3. Tones For Joan's Bones - Chick Corea
4. Straight Up And Down - Chick Corea
5. Freedom Jazz Dance - Miroslav Vitous
6. Mountain In The Clouds - Miroslav Vitous
7. Epilogue - Miroslav Vitous
8. Cerecka - Miroslav Vitous
9. Infinite Search - Miroslav Vitous
10. I Will Tell Him On You - Miroslav Vitous


Herbie Hancock - 2014 The Warner Bros. Years (1969-1972)

Herbie Hancock's three albums for Warner Bros have been compiled before, most notably in Mwandishi: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings in 1994. The individual titles have been reissued in various editions and formats since that time. There are several things that separate this volume (issued by Rhino) from its predecessor. The first is the package. The clamshell case contains each disc in its own cardboard sleeve with original artwork. It also contains a lengthy essay by Bob Gluck, author of You'll Know When You Get There: Herbie Hancock & the Mwandishi Band. This set compiles not only the recordings proper, but also alternate takes, promo edits -- both Mwandishi and Crossings contained three long tracks each -- and a bonus track. Fat Albert Rotunda -- developed from a handful of tracks cut for Bill Cosby's Fat Albert cartoon show -- contains alternates of "Wiggle Waggle" and "Fat Mama." Issued in 1969, this funky soul-jazz session featured saxophonist Joe Henderson, trumpeter Johnny Coles, trombonist Garnett Brown, bassist Buster Williams, and Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums in the main group, with trumpeter Joe Newman, saxophonist Joe Farrell, guitarist Eric Gale, and drummer Bernard Purdie guesting on several cuts. Disc two is the Mwandishi Band proper on its self-titled debut from 1970: only Williams and Hancock return from the previous date, joined by Bennie Maupin on reeds and winds, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, trombonist Julian Priester, and drummer Billy Hart. Various guitarists -- including Ronnie Montrose and Leon "Ndugu" Chancler -- also guest. This disc includes promo edits for "Ostinato (Suite for Angela)" and "You'll Know When You Get There" as bonus cuts. Crossings, issued in 1972, added a further bandmember in synth player Dr. Patrick Gleeson -- originally intended as a sideman, Hancock was so impressed with his contributions he asked him to join, though he only remained for this recording. The bonus material features the heavily edited (though no less hip) single version of "Water Torture" and the set's treasure piece: the rare, non-album promo single "Crossings," a spacy, funky groover that revealed the future direction of the band which would record Sextant for Columbia a year later. This is the first time the bonus material from Mwandishi and Crossings has been made available. While Fat Albert Rotunda is a blast in terms of its groove quotient, the final two recordings, with their more complex, dissonant, and open explorations, are essential not only for any Hancock fan, but for lovers of '70s electric jazz. The recordings are still the most under-celebrated classics in the artist's catalog.

This is not the first time that the 3 albums which Herbie Hancock recorded for Warner between 1969-1972 have been compiled, but this lavish reissue re-ups the bar once again, and it's not a surprise of course that this is courtesy the good folks at Rhino.
"Herbie Hancock - The Warner Bros. years (1969-1972)" (3 CDs; 18 tracks; 153 min.) starts with the 1969 album "Fat Albert Rotunda", which in addition to its 7 original tracks also contain alternative (mono) takes from "Wiggle-Waggle" (issued as a single) and its B side "Fat Mama" (remember back in those days many singles were released in mono, this was before FM became the mainstream radio channel. The 1970 album "Mwandishi" is musically quite a departure from the "Fat Albert" album, and pushes the envelope for electric jazz, In addition to the album's original 3 tracks, we also get previously unreleased promo edits of "Osinato (Suite for Angela)" (reducing the original running time from 13 min. to 6 min.), and "You'll Never Know When You Get There" (also reduced to 6 min.). It's nice to have those, although not essential. The 3rd album is 1972's "Crossings". A logical follow-up to "Mwandishi", it plays as fresh now as it did 40+ years ago. We get the three original tracks (including the epic "Sleeping Giant"), but the real surprise is the bonus track "Crossings", the title track that didn't feature on the album but was released as a single instead. It sounds like it jumped off of the "Shaft" soundtrack, just terrific. Its B side, a 3 min. version of the original 14 min. "Water Torture", is also included on here.
The 3 albums are packaged in the original album art (reduced for CD size), meaning "Crossings" can be folded open. This reissue also contains a 28 page booklet with extensive and insightful liner notes/essay from Hancock-connoisseur Bob Gluck, pictures, and all the recording details of the various album tracks. Bottom line: this is a first class reissue of the Herbie Hancock Werner Bros. albums. I wish all reissues would be done with the same care and attention for detail. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Herbie Hancock - 1969 [2014] "Fat Albert Rotunda"

Disc: 1
1969 "Fat Albert Rotunda"

Fat Albert Rotunda is the eighth album by jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock, released in 1969. It also was the first album that Hancock had on the Warner Bros. Records label, since leaving Blue Note Records. The music was originally done for the TV special Hey, Hey, Hey, It's Fat Albert, which later inspired Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids TV show. Fat Albert Rotunda, along with Mwandishi and Crossings was reissued in one set as Mwandishi: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings in 1994.

On this album Hancock changes his style radically and takes instrumental soul music rather than jazz as the basis of his compositions. Many songs also hint at his forthcoming jazz-funk style that he fully approached a few years later. A perfect example of classic songs, such as "Tell Me a Bedtime Story" (which later turned up also on the 1978 Quincy Jones album, Sounds...and Stuff Like That!! in a more funk-esque type song) and "Jessica" (which later turned up on the 1977 Hancock album, VSOP: The Quintet.)

The jazz world generally looks at Herbie Hancock's 1973 jazz-funk opus Head Hunters as the keyboardist's first foray into combining the world of funk, soul and R&B rhythms with jazz improvisation, but in fact it was four years earlier with Fat Albert Rotunda that Herbie showed how funky jazz music could really be. Fat Albert Rotunda came about when Hancock was tapped to compose some soundtrack music for the "Fat Albert" television show, after which he ended up with a full album's worth of material. It would be his first of three albums released on Warner Brothers, marking a short stop between his tenure at Blue Note and his longtime home at Columbia Records. There are, of course, major differences between Head Hunters and Fat Albert Rotunda, the main ones being the heavy use of synthesizers and only a single horn player on the former, while Hancock employed the Fender Rhodes and a full horn section on the latter. This gives Fat Albert Rotunda a more Stax/Muscle Shoals feel to the funk than Head Hunters, but there are still the basic sensibilities at work: that jazz and funk could not only co-exist, but also thrive creatively.

And the album is not only a jazz-funk experiment, but also shows that Hancock was still at a creative high point, one he had been riding since his Blue Note debut Takin' Off in 1962. While there are funky tracks like "Fat Mama," which must have blown away a certain segment of the jazz community (critics and musicians alike) when it was released, there are also more modern jazz-oriented tunes like the phenomenal "Tell Me A Bedtime Story," which other then the funky drum line is more in line with much of the soul jazz happening at the time [listen to both tracks above].

The line-up for the session is a great one, for most of the record it is a powerhouse septet, with the likes of Johnny Coles, Joe Henderson and Albert "Tootie" Heath leading the way. For the first and last tracks, the group is expanded into a much larger one - one of the first "funky orchestras" maybe - with the addition of such soon-to-be '70s jazz funksters as Joe Farrell, Eric Gale and the legendary funky drummer Bernard Purdie. Everyone's playing is on-point, but more importantly it sounds like everyone is having a grand old time playing this music, which is the whole damn point in the end, is it not?

After Fat Albert Rotunda Hancock would form his "Mwandishi" band - which was first a sextet and then a septet - and would explore a very specific kind of electronic jazz for the first time. The group would appear on Mwandishi and Crossings (on Warner Brothers), as well as on Sextant (his first record for Columbia), and these three records really stand on their own in both Hancock's discography and the history of jazz. They are in a genre all their own. After Sextant, Hancock would enter into a whole new realm of popularity and critical acclaim with Head Hunters, but one listen to Fat Albert Rotunda and you can hear the roots of that music and glimpse the vision of the man who would open up a new realm for musicians to explore and jazz aficionados to enjoy.

Track Listings:

1. Wiggle Waggle
2. Fat Mama
3. Tell Me A Bedtime Story
4. Oh! Oh! Here He Comes
5. Jessica
6. Fat Albert Rotunda
7. Lil' Brother
8. Wiggle Waggle (Mono)
9. Fat Mama (Mono)


Herbie Hancock — piano, electric piano
Joe Henderson — tenor sax, alto flute
Joe Farrell — tenor sax (uncredited in original LP release)
Garnett Brown — trombone
Johnny Coles — trumpet, flugelhorn
Joe Newman — trumpet (uncredited in original LP release)
Buster Williams — electric & acoustic bass
Albert "Tootie" Heath, Bernard Purdie — drums (Purdie was uncredited in original LP release)
Eric Gale — guitar (uncredited in original LP release)

Herbie Hancock - 1971 [2014] "Mwandishi"

Disc: 2
1971 "Mwandishi"

Mwandishi is the ninth album by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, released in 1971.

It is one of Hancock's first departures from the traditional idioms of jazz as well as the onset of a new, creative and original style which produced an appeal to a wider audience, before his 1973 album, Head Hunters. In addition, Mwandishi was Hancock's attempt at continuing the musical principles and styles he began playing with Miles Davis on In A Silent Way. Hancock's previous attempts at jazz-rock fusion included Fat Albert Rotunda, an album conceived solely for Bill Cosby's Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.
Mwandishi was recorded at Wally Heider Recording Studios, in San Francisco, California in December 1970. It was originally recorded by the Mwandishi Sextet that was built around Herbie Hancock and progressive notions of funk, jazz, and rock during this time period.
The tracks on Mwandishi are "Ostinato," the time signature of which is 15/8, "You'll Know When You Get There", and "Wandering Spirit Song". "Wandering Spirit Song" features Hancock's extensive use of tension and release, whereby he builds the tension of the song by increasing the amount of musical voices and increasing crescendos, only to release the tension with long held out chords on his synthesizer.
Mwandishi is a Swahili name Hancock adopted during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The members of the Sextet each adopted a Swahili name: Mchezaji/Buster Williams, Jabali/Billy Hart, Mganga/Eddie Henderson, Mwile/Bennie Maupin, Pepo Mtoto/Julian Priester, and Ndugu/Leon Chancler.

With the formation of his great electric sextet, Herbie Hancock's music took off into outer and inner space, starting with the landmark Mwandishi album recorded in a single session on New Year's Eve. Ever the gadgeteer, Herbie plays with electronic effects devices -- reverb units, stereo tremelo, and Echoplex -- which all lead his music into spacier, open-ended directions very much influenced by Miles Davis' electric experiments, rendering it from post-bop conventions. There are just three tracks: the insistent 15/4-meter Afro-electric-funk workout "Ostinato (Suite for Angela)," the inquisitive "You'll Know When You Get There" with its ethereal Hancock voicings, and trombonist Julian Priester's "Silent Way"-influenced "Wandering Spirit Song," which eventually dips into tumultuous free form. Eddie Henderson emerges as a major trumpet soloist here, probing, jabbing, soliloquizing; Bennie Maupin comes over from Lee Morgan's group to add his ominous bass clarinet and thoughtful alto flute; and Buster Williams' bass and Billy Hart's flexible drums propel the rhythm section. Santana's José Chepitó Areas and Leon "Ndugu" Chancler also add funky percussive reinforcement to "Ostinato," along with guitarist Ron Montrose. The group's collective empathy is remarkable, and Hancock had only begun to probe the outer limits with this extraordinary music. 

Track listing:

1. Ostinato (Suite For Angela)
2. You'll Know When You Get There
3. Wandering Spirit Song
4. Ostinato (Suite for Angela) [promo edit]
5. You'll Know When You Get There [promo edit]


Mwandishi / Herbie Hancock – Fender Rhodes piano
Mchezaji / Buster Williams – Bass
Jabali / Billy Hart – Drums
Mganga / Eddie Henderson – Trumpet, flugelhorn
Mwile / Bennie Maupin – Bass clarinet, alto flute, piccolo
Pepo Mtoto / Julian Priester – tenor trombone, bass trombone
Ronnie Montrose – Guitar on "Ostinato (Suite For Angela)"
Leon "Ndugu" Chancler – drums and percussion
Cepito / Jose Areas – congas and Timbales on "Ostinato (Suite For Angela)"

Herbie Hancock - 1972 [2014] "Crossings"

Disc: 3
1972 "Crossings"

Crossings is the tenth album by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, released in 1972. It is the second album in his Mwandishi period, which saw him experimenting in electronics. Notably, the album is the band's first to feature their new member - synthesizer player Patrick Gleeson. He was originally only scheduled to "set up his Moog synthesiser for Hancock to play." However, Hancock was so impressed with Gleeson that he "asked Gleason[sic] not only to do the overdubs on the album but join the group.

With the frenzied knocking of what sounds like a clock shop gone berserk, Crossings takes the Herbie Hancock Sextet even further into the electric avant-garde, creating its own idiom. Now, however, the sextet has become a septet with the addition of Dr. Patrick Gleeson on Moog synthesizer, whose electronic decorations, pitchless and not, give the band an even spacier edge. Again, there are only three tracks -- the centerpiece being Hancock's multi-faceted, open-structured suite in five parts called "Sleeping Giant." Nearly 25 minutes long yet amazingly cohesive, "Sleeping Giant" gathers a lot of its strength from a series of funky grooves -- the most potent of which explodes at the tail-end of Part Two -- and Hancock's on-edge Fender Rhodes electric piano solos anticipate his funk adventures later in the '70s. Bennie Maupin's "Quasar" pushes the session into extraterrestrial territory, dominated by Gleeson's wild Moog effects and trumpeter Eddie Henderson's patented fluttering air trumpet. Even stranger is Maupin's "Water Torture," which saunters along freely with splashes of color from Hancock's spooky Mellotron and fuzz-wah-pedaled Fender Rhodes piano, Gleeson's electronics, and a quintet of voices. Still a challenging sonic experience, this music (which can be heard on Warners' Mwandishi two-CD set) has yet to find its audience, though the electronica-minded youth ought to find it dazzling.

Track listing:

1. Sleeping Giant (24:48)
2. Quasar (7:25)
3. Water Torture (13:54)

Total Time 46:21


Herbie Hancock - Piano, Electric Piano, Mellotron, Percussion
Eddie Henderson - Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Percussion
Billy Hart - Drums, Percussion
Julian Priester - Bass, Tenor and Alto Trombone, Percussion
Buster Williams - Electric Bass, Bass, Percussion
Bennie Maupin - Soprano Saxophone, Alto Flute, Bass Clarinet, Piccolo, Percussion
Patrick Gleeson - Moog Synthesizer
Victor Pontoja - Congas
Voices - Candy Love, Sandra Stevens, Della Horne, Victoria Domagalski, Scott Breach

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Alphonse Mouzon - 1975 [2003] "Mind Transplant"

Mind Transplant is the third album by American jazz drummer Alphonse Mouzon recorded in 1974 and released on the Blue Note label.

The Allmusic review by Robert Taylor awarded the album 4½ stars stating "Raw and powerful, the music herein is what made fusion such a viable musical style... Easily one of the best fusion recordings of all time"

Drummers Alphonse Mouzon and Billy Cobham led almost parallel careers during the 1970s and helped to raise the bar by which all subsequent drummers were to be judged. They were both in legendary fusion bands (Mouzon in Weather Report and Larry Coryell's Eleventh House and Cobham in Dreams and the Mahavishnu Orchestra), both led their own successful bands, both reinvented jazz-rock drumming, and both released one classic, genre-defining recording. Cobham's classic was Spectrum, a recording that is regularly considered as one of the genre's best. This, Mind Transplant, is Mouzon's classic recording that is often hailed as "Spectrum II." The common thread, besides the aggressive drumming, is guitarist Tommy Bolin. Where Cobham used Bolin's aggressive playing as a counterpoint to Jan Hammer, Mouzon features the guitarist as the primary attraction. The tunes themselves may not be as memorable as, say, "Red Baron" or "Stratus," but the playing is no less inspired. Mouzon and Bolin are a natural fit and push themselves to levels of creativity and skill that few can attain. Raw and powerful, the music herein is what made fusion such a viable musical style. This recording has never been as popular as Spectrum, but was finally released on CD in 1993 with the addition of the 15-minute jam session "The Real Thing." Easily one of the best fusion recordings of all time. 

 Tracks Listing

1. Mind Transplant (4:05)
2. Snow Bound (3:05)
3. Carbon Dioxide (4:38)
4. Ascorbic Acid (3:26)
5. Happiness Is Loving You (4:09)
6. Some of the Things People Do (3:40)
7. Golden Rainbows (6:56)
8. Nitroglycerin (3:03)

Total Time: 33:06 

Recorded at Wally Heider Sound Studio III in Los Angeles, California on December 4 (tracks 2, 5 & 7), December 5 (track 6), December 6 (tracks 3 & 8) and December 9 & 10 (tracks 1 & 3), 1974

Line-up / Musicians

Alphonse Mouzon / drums, vocals, ARP 2600 synthesizer, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Farfisa organ
Jerry Peters / Fender Rhodes electric piano, Hammond B3 organ
Jay Graydon / Guitar, ARP 2600 synthesizer programming
Tommy Bolin / Guitar
Lee Ritenour / Guitar
Henry Davis / Bass

Camel - 1978 [1991] "A Live Record"

A Live Record is the first live album by the progressive rock band Camel, released in 1978. It is a double LP, composed of recordings from three different tours.
LP one features recordings from the Mirage tour in 1974, and the Rain Dances tour, in 1977. Tracks 1–4 on the LP are from the Rain Dances tour, and 5–6 are from the Mirage tour.
LP 2 features the original line-up all the way, and is devoted to a complete performance of the band's instrumental concept album, The Snow Goose, during the tour for the album in 1975, performed with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Camel never quite attained the level of popularity that some of their progressive rock peers managed during the genre’s 1970s heydey. They did manage to gain a fairly dedicated following which has kept their music alive over the years. Vocalist and guitarist, Andrew Latimer, has been Camel’s main driving force and the band’s only ever present member. Their changing line ups have at times also featured several members from fellow prog rock band Caravan. Camel produced a total of 14 studio albums over a thirty year period, with their last release coming in 2002. And although they haven’t released a studio album in over 10 years, the band still performs live across Europe.
Camel were originally formed in Surrey, England in 1971, going on to release their self-titled debut album in 1973. After Mirage in 1974, their breakthrough came in 1975 with with The Snow Goose, an instrumental concept album inspired by the Paul Gallico short story with which it shares its name. Gallico would bring a lawsuit against the band for copyright infringement, which would force them to add the prefix “Music inspired by…” to the album’s front cover. The Snow Goose was followed up in 1976 by the another successful album, Moonmadness, their last to feature the original line up.  A new look Camel would release their fifth studio album, Rain Dances, in 1977. It is the music produced on these first five studio albums that A Live Record is made up of.
A Live Record was Camel’s first of many live albums and it is arguably their best. It is the only one that features the original line up, capturing the band when they were at their peak. It consists of material recorded from three different tours over a three year period between 1974 and 1977. The first LP is made up of recordings from the Mirage tour of 1974, and also the Rain Dances tour of 1977. It features a mixture of tracks from their four studio albums recorded either side of The Snow Goose and is performed by two different line ups. The Snow Goose is played in full on the second LP. It is performed by the original line up who are accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra and is taken from the album tour in 1975.

Tracks Listing
CD 1: (49:45)
1. Never Let Go (7:21)
2. Song Within A Song (7:01)
3. Lunar Sea (8:56)
4. Skylines (5:38)
5. Ligging At Louis' (6:34)
6. Lady Fantasy (14:15)

CD 2 (46:01)
1. The Great Marsh (1:45)
2. Rhayader (3:07)
3. Rhayader Goes To Town (5:13)
4. Sanctuary (1:09)
5. Fritha (1:23)
6. The Snow Goose (3:02)
7. Friendship (1:35)
8. Migration (3:52)
9. Rhayader Alone (1:47)
10. Flight Of The Snow Goose (2:59)
11. Preparation (4:10)
12. Dunkirk (5:26)
13. Epitaph (2:35)
14. Fritha Alone (1:22)
15. La Princesse Perdue (4:46)
16. The Great Marsh (1:50)

Total Time: 95:46

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Bardens / keyboards
- Andrew Latimer / guitar, flute, vocal
- Andy Ward / drums, percussion
- Mel Collins / saxophones, flute
- Richard Sinclair / bass, vocal
- Doug Ferguson / bass

Alex Skolnick - 2004 "Transformation"

Alex Skolnick made his name as a six-string guitar slinger in the Bay Area thrash legends Testament. Apparently fed up with metal, he quit the band, went to music school, and hooked up with a couple of jazzers (Nathan Peck on double bass and Matt Zebroski on drums), with the idea of doing exploratory fusion-jazz, using the heavy metal songbook for standards (and inspiration) and not the "regular" (or, it could be argued, "over-covered") classic jazz songbook. This, their second album, features radically reworked versions of Judas Priest, Pink Floyd, Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, and Ronnie James Dio, evenly balanced with some original compositions. And while this album is very well played, with excellent performances from all involved (especially Zebroski's work on "IMV/The Trooper" and Skolnick's guitar on "Money"), the album as a whole comes off much like works by the Bad Plus, that is, a well-executed gimmick. That may turn some listeners off, but how many dyed-in-the-wool metal fans are going to tolerate even one minute of what Spinal Tap termed a "jazz odyssey"? And how many dyed-in-the-wool jazz fans are going to seek out the original version of Priest's "Electric Eye" to do a comparison with the version here? Probably not too many. If you're somehow either one of these two extremes, this album will probably work for you, both in the background and on the headphones.

Call me a jazz bigot. When I received Transformation by Alex Skolnick, apparently the ex-guitarist for thrash metal-heads Testament, my first thought was, "Great, another rocker trying to be a jazzer." Things didn't get better when I saw that Skolnick was interpreting material by Judas Priest, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Scorpions, Iron Maiden and—yes—Ronnie James Dio. Sure, plenty of serious jazz artists have approached contemporary singer/songwriters in recent years—Brad Mehldau, Charlie Hunter, even Herbie Hancock. But metal bands? I mean, really.
Well, imagine my surprise to discover Skolnick a fine jazz guitarist, completely capable of getting to the core of songs by a group of artists more associated with classic rock, and transforming them into almost unrecognizable new tunes. Unlike the Bad Plus, who are nothing less than shtick—a group whose supposed reinvention of songs by Nirvana and Black Sabbath do little to honour the originals, and even less to make them interesting and refreshing new mediums for improvisation—Skolnick and his trio of bassist Nathan Peck and drummer Matt Zebroski breathe new life into these tunes, transforming (there goes that word again) them into something fresh, while at the same time being reverential to their sources. Judas Priest could never have conceived "Electric Eye" as a lithe 7/4 romp, nor Scorpions their "Blackout" as a swinging jazz waltz, but there you go.
That Skolnick comes to jazz from rock as opposed to the other way around means that while he has a firm grasp on harmony and is capable of navigating odd meters and shifts in feel, there is a certain energy and, in particular, attitude that is missing from your typical fusion player. That's not to say guitarists like Scott Henderson and Frank Gambale lack attitude; it's just that there's something different about the way that Skolnick digs into a solo, even when it's on an abstract ballad like "Fear of Flying." And Skolnick does this, for the most part, with a clean and warm tone that is only affected with a touch of delay, completely eschewing the typical overdriven fusion tone with the exception of a brief spot on the title track and his surprisingly swinging version of Deep Purple's "Highway Star."
If Skolnick has any precedent in jazz, it would have to be Larry Coryell, who has blended a true rock and roll attitude with a far broader reach over the course of his career, demonstrated to great effect at this summer's Ottawa International Jazz Festival . Like Coryell, Skolnick demonstrates that translating the energy of rock to a jazz context can be a more subtle thing, showing that you can imbue more traditional trappings of swing, modal playing and richer harmony with an edge that doesn't spoil their essential purity. Transformation is a surprising record that succeeds on many levels and proves that it is indeed possible to shift gears mid-career and sound like you've been doing it all your life.

 Track listing:
  1. "Transformation" – 5:53
  2. "Electric Eye" – 5:20 (Judas Priest cover)
  3. "Fear Of Flying" – 5:10
  4. "Money" – 5:13 (Pink Floyd cover)
  5. "Both Feet In" – 5:28
  6. "Scorch" (Featuring Charlie Hunter on 8-string guitar)[1] – 7:17
  7. "Blackout" – 5:03 (Scorpions cover)
    • Originally released on the Blackout album.
  8. "IMV/The Trooper" – 5:18 (The Trooper is an Iron Maiden cover)
    • "The Trooper" was originally released on the Piece of Mind album.
  9. "No Fly Zone" – 4:27
  10. "Don't Talk To Strangers" – 6:00 (Dio cover)
  11. "Highway Star" – 6:30 (Deep Purple cover)


Alex Skolnick (vocals, guitar)
Nathan Peck (vocals, acoustic bass, double bass)
Matt Zebroski (vocals, drums, percussion)
Dave Eggar (cello). 

Alex Masi - 1989 "Attack Of The Neon Shark"

Alex Masi is an Italian guitarist.
He was born in Venice, and studied at the Conservatory of Music in Verona. He formed the heavy rock band Dark Lord in 1984[1] and recorded two EPs with them. In the early 1980s Masi moved briefly to London, where he played with several musicians.
With Dark Lord he toured as opening act for several major acts of the period until 1986, when he was invited by Metal Blade Records to move to Los Angeles and join the band Sound Barrier. He later founded a band of this own, called Masi. His first solo album was Attack of the Neon Shark, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Rock Album. The second solo album was called Vertical Invader, and featured only Masi along with drummer John Macaluso.
In 1998 Masi published the first album of a successful trilogy dedicated to three of the most famous classical musicians in history, entitled In the Name of Bach. This was followed by In the name of Mozart and In the Name of Beethoven. Around the same time he released his last Masi album, Eternal Struggle. In 2006 he published the solo album Late Nights at Desert Rimrock.

This album earned Masi a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Rock Instrumental Album. That is an interesting nod considering that not the entire album is instrumental. The opening track, "Under Fire," includes vocals by Jeff Scott Soto. Other guests featured on this recording include Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot), David Michael Philips(King Kobra), Kuni, and Allan Holdsworth (one of Masi's heroes). There are plenty of albums released by the guitar virtuoso set (Malmsteen, Satriani, and others). One of the things that sets this release apart from the majority of those is the variety of music present. Indeed, Masi contributes cuts ranging across the musical spectrum to cover blues, jazz, and metal. That same variety, though, also tends to lead to a bit of a lack of direction. However, that only hurts the album so much. It should appeal to fans of the guitar-hero type instrumental music, but even those who are not sure about that genre might want to give this a try. It certainly showcases a wide variety of what the genre can have to offer and might make a good introduction to the musical form.

Tracks Listing
1. Under Fire (4:10)
2. Attack Of The Neon Shark (3:26)
3. Average Green Band (4:01)
4. D. F. W. M. (1:38)
5. Twilight Passion (3:49)
6. Cold Sun (4:04)
7. Toccata (4:51)
8. Wasted In The West (Idiots) (3:10)
9. Lalattaia (3:58)
10. Alleys Of Albion (3:45)

Total Time 38:25

Line-up / Musicians
- Jeff Scott Soto / vocals
- Alex Masi / guitars, bass, keyboards
- Kuni / guitars
- David Michael Philips / bass, guitars
- Allan Holdsworth / synthaxe
- Frankie Banali / drums

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sonic Fiction - 1998 Changing With The Times

Sonic Fiction is a Sydney, Australia based unit and quoting from the press release ".... Changing With The Times reflects the band's meshing of new western art music, jazz and rock with geographical musical threads from Ghana, South India and Java."A fair summarization indeed; although, to their credit, Sonic Fiction incorporates some of the finer elements of the jazz-fusion movement sans the at times, glossy pyrotechnic gyrations and predictable chop fests. Basically, Sonic Fiction's debut is extremely impressive and offers many thrills and unexpected or somewhat startling surprises comparable to someone dumping a bucket of ice water on your head. Needless to state, these fellows get to the point rather quickly!
The opener, "Finlayson St." commences with a bluesy-swing motif, which frequently changes gears resulting in complex unison runs between the superb vibraphonist Daryl Pratt and young (phenom) guitarist James Muller. From here on in it doesn't take too long to realize what this band is all about which includes mesmerizing yet meaningful solos, fully realized well-conceived compositions and alluring arrangements. The powerhouse rhythm section consisting of bassist Adam Armstrong and whirlwind drummer Andrew Gander provide significant impact throughout the entire recording. The music is demanding yet the overall flow is seamless and loaded with the appropriate dynamics as in the title track, "Changing With The Times." Here, guitarist James Muller opens with slick picking and gorgeous phrasing over an odd-meter funk backbeat. Comparisons? Perhaps 1970's Steps Ahead for one, yet Sonic Fiction maintains a fresh outlook and positive vibe as they have ostensibly learned or absorbed the lessons of the past.... "Ringing Changes" is an all out scorcher! Here, Pratt utilizes his midi-vibes to good effect, as Muller's illuminating guitar work would make Scofield and Coryell proud! "Mind Games" opens with a deliberate, driving rock beat and evolves into a "free" excursion followed by a mid-tempo swing motif. Again, Muller's articulate phrasing and crafty use of harmonics is imaginatively conveyed through complex exchanges with fellow soloist Pratt. "Remember"is a somber, somewhat dreamy ballad featuring a soulful and expertly performed acoustic bass solo by Adam Armstrong.
The final tracks, "Tower" and "Street Scene" are climactic in nature as the band displays boundless creativity taking the listener on a journey consisting of shifting tempos, precise unison passages and understated melodies. On "Street Scene," Gander takes a killer polyrhythmic drum solo which just heightens the intensity level from a compositional standpoint. Let it be stated that these compositions have quite a bit to offer as the soloing and hot shot ensemble work adhere to the frameworks or foundations of the thematic construction. Special acclamation is also bestowed to Phil South who provides the organic tonal coloration through various percussion instruments and marimba.
Changing With The Times is mesmerizing yet enduringly gratifying. These guys play with conviction and it shows in glowing fashion as they sustain a high degree of interest yet play close attention to compositional form! Changing With The Times is a musical rubix cube! It's vividly real .... perhaps brain-food for the adventurous or inquisitive as Sonic Fiction offer a refreshing slant on music that may mimic or feign Deja Vu; which in this case makes for a rather inviting listening experience............* * * * *

 Track Listings
1. Finlayson St 7
2. Changing WIth The Times
3. Ringing Changes
4. The Greenway
5. 35 Today
6. The Rest
7. Dark Prelude
8. Mind Games
9. Remember
10. Tower
11. Street Scene

Adam Armstrong     Bass (Acoustic), Bass (Electric), Guitar (Acoustic)
Andrew Gander     Composer, Drums
James Muller     Guitar
Jim Muller     Guitar
Daryl Pratt     Bells, Composer, Liner Notes, MIDI Vibes, Noah Bells, Producer, Vibraphone
Phil South     Electronic Percussion, Marimba, Marimba (Electronics), Percussion