Saturday, October 31, 2015

Jack Dejohnette - 1984 "Album Album"

Album Album is a 1984 jazz album by Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition featuring five compositions by DeJohnette and a cover of Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Mood”.

Most of Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition's recordings are quite rewarding and this set is no exception. Drummer/keyboardist Jack DeJohnette contributed five of the six compositions (all but "Monk's Mood") and they cover a wide range of styles and moods, from "New Orleans Suite" and "Festival" to the ambitious "Third World Anthem" and a revisit to his "Zoot Suite." This was one of the most stimulating jazz groups of the 1980s and this particular lineup (with John Purcell on alto and soprano, tenor saxophonist David Murray, Howard Johnson doubling on tuba and baritone, and bassist Rufus Reid) was one of DeJohnette's strongest.  - All Music

The title of this 1984 refers to it being Jack DeJohnette's family album of sorts. His mother had died around this time and he composed this set in her memory and dedicated one track ("New Orleans Strut") to his father. Jack DeJohnette is even pictured on the cover with his wife and daughter, and numerous old family photos grace the inside spread.

This version of Special Edition had a powerful three-horn front line, with John Purcell on alto and soprano saxophones, David Murray on tenor and Howard Johnson on tuba and baritone sax. The opening number, "Ahmad the Terrible" features a folkish melody over a rollicking rhythmic base, calling to mind some of the works by Moondog. The set's one cover is Thelonious Monk's "Monk's Mood," here arranged with an extended and gloriously laid-back opening by the three horns, with the drums and bass joining in after a few minutes.

I learned from the liner notes that this album was meant to commemorate Jack's late mother in an effort to imbue a time of mourning with the spirit of joy and celebration. In my opinion, this is achieved! Many of the tunes have tongue in cheek themes and make you smile. At the same time, the musicianship is brilliant and manages for the most part to sound fresh even after 30 years. When the 70s sound appears as such, it is still with panache and cool, so it serves as a monument to that time period as well. Highly recommended.- By Casper Paludan

This is a very special selection, played with genuine involvement, inspiration and commitment, as a felt homage in memory of Jack's mother.
Despite the years this album maintains that touch of remarkable distinction. A genuine run around the essential roots of the beginnings of this genre.
It's useless to talk about the magnificence of this connoted drum' s superstar. The rest of the team plays with enraptured bliss. A celebration of the music by itself. -
By Hiram Gòmez Pardo Venezuela

I first heard of Jack deJohnette as part of the Keith Jarrett trio, but I saw this release on a cassette at a thrift store of all places and snatched it up!! It's wonderful. He's a great drummer not to mention pianist and the tuba is an interesting addition to the overall sound. Monk's Mood is a great piece as are his original sounds.  -
By EarthGoddess

All the songs on this CD are good, but Ahmad the Terrible is an outstanding work of jazz. I find it difficult to explain why I love this piece so much - it so very unique. Every jazz lover should have this CD in their collection. - By Dubarnik

Jack Dejohnette is a wonderful artist and it shows amazingly on this album. My favorite track is "Third World Anthem" that song is one of the best jazz compositions of the late 20th century. I highly recommend owning or just listening to this fine piece of creativity. You won't be disappointed.  - By Mecca Egypt.

Listening to a jazz playlist of mine on shuffle on my pocket computer, I had the pleasure of hearing "Third World Anthem," from "Album Album", a 1984 release by Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition. I first began to listen to jazz extensively when I was a DJ at KZSU, the student radio station at Stanford University. I first did a jazz show in the summer of 1983. When I started, I knew next to nothing. But I knew Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue," and John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things," so I started "So What" from the former and cued up the title track from the latter, and wondered what to play after that.

Jazz albums have good lists of personnel, so I went and got albums by all the sidemen on those two albums. One of the albums was by McCoy Tyner (pianist on the Coltrane album), and one of the sidemen on that album was Jack DeJohnette. I don't remember what Tyner album it was, but I vaguely remember it being a piano trio, which means it was almost certainly "Supertrios" from 1977.

In any case, this use of sidemen to find more records to play had quickly led me to Jack DeJohnette, and when I began to exclusively play jazz in my DJ'ing the following January, his work was a staple of my shows, and when "Album Album" came out that year, I played it to death, especially "Festival," "New Orleans Strut," and "Third World Anthem."

I spent just over a week in New York just after Thanksgiving in 1984, and I went to see Special Edition several times during their week-long gig at the Blue Note. David Murray had already become one of my favorite saxophone players by then, but I was just as impressed by John Purcell and Howard Johnson. Rufus Reid is the bassist on the album, but he was busy elsewhere, so Cecil McBee was replacing him, and I remember him as being especially great. And DeJohnette was, as always, simply a wonder on the drums.

"Album Album": one of the greatest records of the 1980s, to my ears. (Up there with "Seeds of Time," by the magnificent Dave Holland Quintet.) -

Dave Weckl - 1990 "Master Plan"

Master Plan is a 1990 studio album by drummer Dave Weckl.
This was Weckl's debut as a leader after years as a session musician and member of Chick Corea's Elektric and Akoustic Bands, and it's an arresting display of his drum chops and rhythmic know-how, whether he's playing or matching parts with a drum program. The rhythms range from Latin-techno on "Festival de Ritmo" to the light swing of acoustic jazz on "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise." Weckl is joined by a number of eminent associates, including Michael Brecker and Eric Marienthal on saxophones. Chick Corea himself plays on his tune "Master Plan," and fellow drummer Steve Gadd joins Weckl for some particularly complex polyrhythms. The music sometimes takes a backseat to Weckl's pyrotechnics, but that's in keeping with a musician initially inspired by Buddy Rich. Weckl has effectively extended that aggressive approach to embrace technology, and Master Plan is full of the same kind of inspiration for younger drummers. - Stuart Broomer

"Master Plan" is an upbeat melodic monster fusion album. Dave's drumming is killer as usual; he makes complex grooves sound so simple and effortless while he lays down a solid rhythm that blends with and never overpowers the other musicians. He also shows he is a good composer and co-wrote four of the tunes. Every song on here is tasty but the highlight for me is the title track where Steve Gadd joins Dave for a dual drumming delight. When they play together, neither is tripping over the others beats and they work together to create a really full sounding rhythm section. They even have a solo drum break and take turns going back and forth playing off each other. Very cool! Definitely a similar style of music and as good as the Elektric Band's output, and if you're a drummer this really is essential.  - By WillieB

This is Dave's first solo album and my personal favorite. All of the songs are well written and the musicianship is nothing less than superb!! Dave Weckl is definitely one of the greatest drummers out there today. Any jazz, drum, or just plain music fan owes it to him or herself to check out this great CD. A must for all drum fans. Dave Weckl is a Master at his art.  - By

Just picked up this CD, and boy I can't say enough for Dave. On one hand, I think of him as the Mr. Smooth of fusion drumming for how super-human his playing/sound is (I could swear it's a computer with a soul playing). Then again, I prefer drumming that breathes a tiny bit more, i.e. a groove where every triplet or 16th note isn't played on (ghost or regular). But then again, this is Dave Weckl and I should not/would not expect anything else. My favorite track is easily Master Plan, for the legendary Chick Corea and Steve Gadd (my favorite drummer) are playing with Weckl, and it produces a stunning piece overall. The first track (Tower of Inspiration) is quite funky and features a brass section playing the melody (Tower of Power?) and track seven (Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise) shows Weckl playing bop in a jazz trio, different for him, but he can do it while still sounding like himself. Overall, I am extremely impressed, can't wait to pick up his new "Transition" CD. And you gotta love the amazing sound he gets from his drums and cymbals.- By Phil Boucher

This CD was distributed by GRP label.That' why total sound design is so polished and sophisticated.Dave's rhythmic approach is so complicated but sharply totalized and well-organized.The songwriting sense is brilliant enough too demonsrate his talents. In Japan ,for example,his tunes are used in the sports program on TV many times.I don't think this is a elevator music.This maybe best described as a instructional CD for drum beginners.Fine techniques and BIG NAMES guest appearances also help this CD to be a well-balanced high tech FUSION ALBUM ever. - By Sound Profiler

Dave Weckl's recording career as a leader was off to a decent start with Master Plan -- not a fantastic start, but a decent one. The drummer had made a name for himself playing with Chick Corea's fusion-oriented Elektric Band and his straight-ahead Akoustic Band, and his admirers greeted this CD with high expectations. But while Master Plan isn't the mind-blowing gem it could have been, it's a competent, enjoyable jazz-rock outing. Weckl has talented guests in keyboardist Jay Oliver, tenor saxman Michael Brecker and Elektric Band colleagues Corea and Eric Marienthal (soprano and alto sax), and he is in good form on pieces that range from the funky "Tower of Inspiration" to the Afro-Cuban-influenced "Festival de Ritmo" and the Brazilian-minded "Auratune." The CD's only hard bop offering is "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise," which finds Weckl forming a trio with pianist Ray Kennedy and bassist Tom Kennedy. Master Plan isn't essential, but it isn't anything to be ashamed of either.  All Music

Track listing

    Tower of Inspiration
    Here and There
    Festival de Ritmo
    In Common
    Garden Wall
    Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise
    Master Plan
    Island Magic


    Dave Weckl - Drums
    Eric Marienthal (2-4) - Saxophone
    Jay Oliver (1-6, 8, 9) - Keyboards, Piano
    Chick Corea (5, 8, 9) - Synthesizer
    Michael Brecker (5) - Tenor Saxophone
    Steve Gadd (8) - Drums
    Anthony Jackson (2-5, 8, 9) - Bass
    Jerry Hey (1, 3) - Trumpet
    Bill Reichenbach Jr. (1) - Trombone
    Tom Kennedy (1, 7) - Bass
    Ray Kennedy (7) - Piano
    Peter Mayer (2, 4, 6) - Guitar
    Scott Alspach (6) - Trumpet 

Jim Hall - 1995 "Dialogues"

Guitarist Jim Hall has long been one of the most open-minded of the important stylists to emerge during the 1950s, and his harmonically advanced style remains quite modern while hinting at its foundations in bop. For this Telarc CD, Hall teams up with five major players on two numbers apiece: Guitarists Bill Frisell and Mike Stern, Joe Lovano on tenor, flugelhornist Tom Harrell, and Gil Goldstein on accordion. Bassist Scott Colley and drummer Andy Watson are on the Frisell and Lovano tracks, and part of the Harrell and Stern performances. All of the compositions but "Skylark" are Hall originals and, although they are usually a bit dry, there are some exceptions: "Uncle Ed" and "Frisell Frazzle" are a little nutty. The emphasis throughout is on interplay between the lead voices and advanced improvising. Despite his strong sidemen (Stern and Harrell fare best), Jim Hall ends up as the dominant voice on virtually every selection, making this a set his fans will enjoy. - All Music

I discovered Jim Hall with this record and was instantly seduced. I'd heard of him as the major guitarist of the 1960s West Coast jazz trend and didn't think such a legend could sound so modern today. The 10 pieces he wrote for this album are each astutely tailored for the musician he duets with.
The two pieces with Bill Frisell, whose playing is so characteristic and personal, make that songwriting quality clear and are an excellent intro to the album. On "Bon Ami", Joe Lovano delivers a very sensitive, powerful and moving tenor saxophone part. "Snowbound" showcases a both eerie and compelling part by Gil Goldstein ; what is that instrument he's playing, you wonder? It's a bass accordian (never heard that before) and the strange mode he plays in adds to the effect. The two pieces with Mike Stern are also among my favorites. "Uncle Ed", in particular, is a very lively blues, with excellent support from Andy Watson on drums. The "rivaling" solo and comp parts by Jim and Mike are incredibly brilliant ; Mike Stern hits an intense mid-solo of blues-rock-jazz fusion and Jim Hall's heartful and intense humming in the background while he gives all he has in each of his notes is deeply moving.
A strong addition to any modern jazz fan's discotheque, I believe.  - By Lionel Lumbroso  

Jim Hall set up a number of guest artists to play in basically duo format. Most of the songs have Scott Colley and Andy Watson playing bass and drums extremely tastefully, but they intentionally stay mostly in the background. Jim Hall wrote most of the songs, and with "Frisell Frazzle" he came up with an angular one for Bill Frisell. It's pretty good, though the next song with Frisell, "Simple Things", is blander. Joe Lovano plays some hearty tenor sax on "Calypso Joe" and "Bon Ami". Tom Harrell is in a bit of a Chet Baker mode during "Dream Steps" and the later "Skylark". Jim Hall gives the rhythm section a break during his songs with accordianist Gil Goldstein. "Snowbound" and "Dialogue" are perhaps the most headphoney on the songs - you have to pay attention to the nuances to get the most out of the songs. The two songs with Mike Stern, "Stern Stuff" and "Uncle Ed", are the swingingest.

Sometimes albums with a bunch of featured guest artists can be a mess, but this one works because Jim Hall coaxes careful, subtle performances out of everyone (less so for Mike Stern, who livens things up), so the CD coheres, and doesn't bump along. -
By Anthony Cooper

This recording features a nice selection of music. The interplay between Mr. Hall and his guests is very smooth, mellow, and results in some fine jazz. I'd also recommend, if you can find it, as it is out of print, his collaboration with Ron Carter. Fine, fine recording. - By M. Chlanda

Down Beat (2/96, p.42) - 4 Stars - Very Good - "...Hall's playing...achieves a high-water mark of musical poetry..."

JazzTimes (2/96, p.77) - "...A clever, open-minded concept resulting in a stunning sonic watercolor of textures, moods and grooves..."

Village Voice (1/16/96) - Ranked #11 in the Village Voice's Best Jazz Discs of '95 - "...The variety grows on you the way all the guests grew on Hall and vice versa. Not a note is wasted..."


1     Frisell Frazzle  4:47
2     Simple Things      6:26
3     Calypso Joe      5:17
4     Bon Ami      6:37
5     Dream Steps      4:45
6     Snowbound      6:19
7     Stern Stuff      5:12
8     Dialogue      4:34
9     Uncle Ed      5:03
10     Skylark          5:35


    Guitar – Jim Hall, Bill Frisell (tracks: 1, 2), Mike Stern (tracks: 7, 9)
    Accordion – Gil Goldstein (tracks: 6, 8)
    Bass – Scott Colley (tracks: 1 to 4, 7, 10)
    Drums – Andy Watson (tracks: 1 to 5, 7, 9, 10)
    Flugelhorn – Tom Harrell (tracks: 5, 10)   
    Tenor Saxophone – Joe Lovano (tracks: 3, 4)
    Written-By – Jim Hall (tracks: 1 to 9)

Recorded in Studio A, Power Station, New York City, February 3, 4 & 25, 1995.
Mixed at Ambient Recording Co, Stamford, Connecticut, June 29, 1995.
Mastered at BMG Studios, New York City, July 13, 1995. 

Iceberg - 1977 "Sentiments"

The musicianship on this album is fantastic and if you are into jazz you should flip your gourd over this release. Actually some of this sounds like stuff I heard when my dad played his 78rpm vinyl from the 40's. There is a bit too much jazz and not nearly enough rock for me. Well, that's just me, you may love this if you are seriously into jazz/fusion.

One of the best fusion albums of the 70s. Definitely influenced by RTF and Mahavishnu, but still a sound of their own. Both keyboardist Josep Mas and guitarist Max Sunyer are virtuoso talents, able to command attention with their solos, like those aforementioned bands. I love the retro sound of Mas keyboards, but Sunyers tone is screechy, and even the remasters have not helped him. It's about the songs though. A Sevilla and Ball de les Fulles are incredible. A cut above the rest of a very consistent record.

For 1977 this is a pretty impressive fusion album. I'm actually pretty surprised how much more cohesive this effort feels, not just compared to Icerberg's previous album, but for the entire spectrum of fusion artists of that period in history. While R.T.F was producing poor albums like "Musicmagic", Iceberg actually summarized the strongest moments of the mid-seventies fusion scene with this enthusiastic album here. A focused effort of latin influenced jazz-fusion where guitar & keyboards are having duels in the frames of skilled composition spiced up by dynamic rhythms. Mysterious and mellow textures changing roles without getting too pompous nor frantic. I really like this one.

After their surprising two first records, released in an unknown field to Spanish fans and musicians as jazz-rock fusion, Iceberg returns with an even better record: Sentiments. The base of their music is similar to Coses Nostres: a little jazz, a little rock and a little symphonic, but this time compositions are much better and focused. Still songs are instrumental and quite long, but this time the band manages to compose more solid music, able to keep your attention through the tracks.

It is a pity that -at least in the CD- one of the electric guitar tracks is faulty, becoming too noisy in a couple of songs. I have no idea if this happened in the original LP or this happened in the digital remastering only.

Other than that, there are three or four excellent tracks, but A Sevilla is a symphonic rock monument that Transatlantic would have been glad to sign 25 years later.

Madrid would be again the city to receive the talents of the remaining Iceberg quartet, as the group moved on to a third work.Angel Riba, who had cut any instrumental ties with the band, still served them as a manager and was propably the one who arranged the visit of the group at the Sonoland Studios.The album was titled ''Sentiments'' and was released in 1977 on CFE.

Iceberg would now present their sharpest and most dense album so far, still containing the occasional Latin Fusion echoes, but performed in a frenetic and convincing way.More mature than on ''Coses nostres'', their smoky performances remind me of Italians ARTI E MESTIERI, the tracks are fast-paced with impossible-to-follow interactions and breaks into dramatic solos and bombastic parts.They never forget to throw in the appropriate laid-back, Latin-spiced melodies, more apparent during the guitar solos, and the album keeps the listener stuck on his headphones until the very end.Now, there is something called ''composition'' in music and, yes, they did it pretty well in that section too, even if the album is dominated by the solos and interplays.And that's because every note here seems to be appearing in the proper place, the executions are maybe too excessive, technically superficient and fairly virtuosic, but the mass of breaks leads to more down-to-earth passages with atmospheric and melodic injections.Fantastic guitar work by Sune and Josep Mas had eventually become one of the notable figures of Spanish Fusion with his electrified keyboard playing.And a special mention to Jordi Colomer, who's drumming is coming out of a seminar, flawless, solid and very technical.

Very nice Spanish Fusion.Rich in interplays, melodies and atmospheres, containing lovely Latin tunes and some amazing solos.Strongly recommended.

Tracks Listing

1. Sentiments (1:50)
2. Andalusia, Andalusia (5:37)
3. A Sevilla (5:13)
4. Ball De Les Fulles (5:30)
5. Magic (6:23)
6. Joguines (3:00)
7. Alegries Del Mediterrani (9:17)

Total Time: 35:50

Line-up / Musicians

- Jordi Colomer / drums, percussion
- Josep "Kitflus" Mas / acoustic & electric pianos, synthesizers
- Primitivo Sancho / bass
- Joaquim Max Suñe / acoustic & electric guitars 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Victor Wooten - 1997 "What Did He Say"

What Did He Say? is the second solo album released by bassist Victor Wooten.

Bass students from Berklee to the Bass Institute Of Technology and all points inbetween are going to lay with this record for some time to come. Perhaps the preeminent chops monster in the bass world today, Wooten wowed critics with his 1996 debut, A Show Of Hands. Fans of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones had been aware of Wooten's amazing abilities on the four-string electric bass for years but this stunning unaccompanied solo bass showcase drove home the point that Victor was indeed the cat. No one had pushed the envelope on the instrument like Victor since Jaco Pastorius burst onto the scene 20 years ago. Wooten continues to push forward with good humor and unparalleled virtuosity.
His latest is an eclectic offering with an all-star cast of characters supporting Victor in his cause of championing the bottom. Whether he's overdubbing six tracks of bass or just laying it down in real time with a rhythm section, Wooten demonstrates an uncanny command of the instrument and seems to be having a ball in the process. This is one monster who doesn't take himself too seriously.
The title track is a wacky bit of P-Funk-ish buffoonery that is strictly on the one. Victor turns in a lyrical reading of the soul anthem "What You Won't Do For Love" and blows with boppish facility on "Cherokee," performed alongside his brothers Regi on guitar, Joseph on piano and Rudy on alto sax. "A Chance" is his funky Mu-Tron inflected tip-of-the-hat to Bootsy Collins while "Bro John" is a foot- stomping hoedown featuring some slippery fretless lines and a guest appearance by Victor's father Elijah "Pete" Wooten on vocals.
His solo bass rendition of the Lennon-McCartney gem "Norwegian Wood" is a veritable clinic in harmonics, tapping and chording. Elsewhere, Victor updates the gorgeous Coltrane ballad "Naima," a feature for fellow electric bassist and Virginia homey Oteil Burbridge, and offers an affecting, if odd, tribute to Thelonious Monk on "The Loneliest Monk." BŽla Fleck guests on the Celtic-flavored Wooten composition "The Sojourn Of Arjuna" and he showcases his mind-blowing slap chops on "A Little Buzz." Another victory for the bass monster.

Put simply, this is the best CD I've heard in a long time by the best musician. I find Vic's work to be moving, passionate an' just plain funky. I liked this CD more than "Show of Hands." On both of these CD's Victor seems to still be looking for exactly the "right feel" and so there is a great deal of variety and the CD comes off a little eclectic. Personally I find some of his best stuff is the funkier grooves ("What did he say?,"I Don't Wanna Cry" and "Buzz") Hopefully, Vic will continue to put out more solo CD's and we'll see where he goes next and what he decides on. Overall, a must for anyone that can appreciate good music (and gets so bored with pop). 

Oh, this album is just wonderful! There is so much variety in the songs, I NEVER grow tired of listening to it! There are incredible messages that enlighten, humor and the awesome playing that Victor does. Just the bestest!

Track Listing:

1. Yo Victa
2. What Did He Say?
3. What You Won't Do for Love
4. Cherokee
5. Don't Wanna Cry
6. The Loneliest Monk
7. A Chance
8. Radio W-00-10
9. Norwegian Wood
10. Bro John
11. Naima
12. Sometimes I Laugh
13. My Life
14. The Sojourn of Arjuna
15. Buzz Ntro
16. A Little Buzz
17. Kids Didn't Change
18. Heaven Is Where the Heart Is
19. What Did He Say? [Live] [Live]


    Aashid – Vocals
    J.D. Blair – Drums
    Future Man – Vocals, Voices
    Michael Kott – Vocals, Voices
    Park Law – Vocals
    Will Lee – Vocals
    Malcolm X – Vocals, Voices
    Dorothy G. Wooten – Vocals, Voices
    Elijah "Pete" Wooten – Vocals, Voices
    Joe Wooten – Vocals
    Victor Wooten – Bass, Arranger, Vocals, Voices, Producer, Liner Notes, Tenor Bass

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Billy Cobham - 1998 "Magic" & "Simplicity of Expression"

This is a bargain priced CD reissue of two of drummer Billy Cobham's harder to find recordings from the later '70s. Of the two, Magic is far superior and is generally regarded as one of his most interesting recordings in his extensive discography. Magic alone is worth the upgrade to CD; however, the inclusion of Simplicity of Expression: Depth of Thought amounts to nothing more than a throw in. Cobham recorded some embarrassing disco during the late '70s and this is a prime example. The two for one is too good to pass up and makes the CD highly recommended for fusion collectors.

Contains Two Classic Fusion Albums on One CD ('Magic' (1977) and 'Depth of Thought' (1978) ). Featuring Sidemen Such as : Mark Soskin (Piano), Pete Maunu (Guitar), Randy Jackson (Bass) and Sheila E. (Percussion). Includes the Songs : 'On a Magic Carpet Ride', 'Ac/Dc', 'Magic', 'Bolinas', 'Pocket Change', 'Indigo' and 'Early Libra'.

Is there one word which defines this double compilation CD from drummer extraordinaire Billy Cobham?'s "ethereal". Here, Cobham transcends his contemporaries, such as Jack de Johnette and Omar Hakim to display not only a surreal understanding of rhythm, but an "ethereal" display of melody, nuance and structure. Check out "Leaward Winds" from the "Magic" album, or "Bolinas" from "Simplicity of Expression, Depth of Thought". The title song from the latter CD goes boldly where many a jazz drummer wish to tread, but cannot successfully navigate. This applies to "La Guernica" from the same CD. No overstatement here....merely the weight of Cobham's drumming flowing effortlessly over an air tight melodic wave of creativity and purpose. A masterpiece.

Billy Cobham - 1977 "Magic" 

 Of all Billy Cobham's Columbia fusion sessions, time has been the most unkind to Magic. Despite some inspired and at times awe-inspiring performances, the album is too much a product of its era, suffering from sickly sweet production, awkward vocal contributions, and ill-fitting clarinet contributions from an out of place Alvin Batiste. Strip away the viscous layers of gloss and indulgence, and Magic begins to live up to its title. Cobham's rhythmic interplay with bassist Randy Jackson and percussionists Pete Escovedo and Sheila E. is nothing short of astounding, as fierce and funky as anything in the drummer's catalog. But the songs are tepid and the arrangements overbaked, not to mention that Pete Maunu's guitar wankery verging on the point of absurdity. All in all, too much of a good thing, yet still not enough.

Line-up / Musicians

- Billy Cobham / drums, hand-claps, vocals
- Joachim Kuhn / electric piano, acoustic piano, Mini Moog synthesizer
- Mark Soskin / acoustic piano, acoustic tack piano, electric piano, Oberheim synthesizer
- Pete Maunu / guitars
- Randy Jackson / bass
- Alvin Baptiste / clarinet
- Pete Escovedo / timbales, vocals
- Sheila Escovedo / congas
- Kathleen Kaan / vocals
- Hojo / hand-claps
- Dennis / hand-claps

Billy Cobham - 1978 "Simplicity of Expression"

 Along with the little known B.C., this is Billy Cobham's most disappointing recordings of the '70s. Like fellow fusion/drumming legends Alphonse Mouzon and Lenny White, Cobham gradually migrated toward disco/funk. His brand of this music sounds worse than most because he continues the propulsive drum style, making for an unbalanced approach. "Bolinas" and "Pocket Change" are embarrassing, but all is not lost as "La Guernica" is a burner. As the so-called death of fusion was fast approaching, Cobham was at a crossroads in his career.

Line-up / Musicians

- Billy Cobham / drums, percussion, background vocals (3,5)
- Randy Jackson / bass, background vocals (3,5)
- Mark Soskin / keyboards (1-3,5)
- Joachim Kühn / Moog (4), keyboards (6)
- Mike Mainieri / vibraphone (4)
- Ray Mouton / guitar (1,2,5)
- Charles Singleton / guitar (1,2,5), lead vocals (3,5), background vocals (3,5)
- Steve Khan / acoustic 12-string & 6-string guitar (2)
- Pete Mannu / guitar (4)
- Alvin Batiste / clarinet (2), woodwinds (3,5)
- Eddie Daniels / woodwinds (3,5), tenor sax (1)
- Kamal / lead vocals (1,6)
- Marvin Stamm / trumpet (1,2,6), flugelhorn (1,2,6)
- Mike Lawrence / trumpet (1,2,6), flugelhorn (1,2,6)
- Wayne Andre / trombone (1,2,6)
- Alan Ralph / trombone (1,2,6)
- George Quinn / trombone (1,2,6)
- Brooks Tillotson / french horn (1,2,6)
- Don Corrado / fench horn (1,2,6)
- David Nadien / concert master of the string section (1,2,6)
- Matthew Raimondi / string section (1,2,6)
- Richard Hendrickson / string section (1,2,6)
- Alfred V.Brown / string section (1,2,6)
- Peter Dimitriades / string section (1,2,6)
- Anahid Aiemian / string section (1,2,6)
- Louis Shulman / string section (1,2,6)
- Jonathan Abramowitz / string section (1,2,6)

Track Listings

  1. On A Magic Carpet Ride
  2. AC/DC
  3. Leaward Winds
  4. Puffnstugg
  5. "anteres" The Star
  6. Magic
  7. Reflections In The Coulds
  8. Magic-Recapitulation
  9. Bolinas
  10. La Guernica
  11. Pocket Change
  12. Indigo
  13. Opelousas
  14. Early Libra

Monday, October 26, 2015

Bill Frisell Elvin Jones Dave Holland - 2001 "Bill Frisell Elvin Jones Dave Holland"

With Dave Holland and Elvin Jones is the 14th album by Bill Frisell to be released on the Elektra Nonesuch label. It was released in 2001 and features performances by Frisell, Dave Holland and Elvin Jones.

Ever prolific avant-Americana guitarist Bill Frisell continues his Nonesuch odyssey with this trio that includes two jazz heavyweights: bassist Dave Holland (former Miles Davis band member and current ECM recording artist) and drum legend Elvin Jones (one-quarter of the classic John Coltrane Quartet of the '60s and still an indefatigable rhythmist). Frisell leads the threesome through a book of his own highly individual, atmospherically compelling tunes, including such recent favorites as "Strange Meeting" and "Blues Dream"; the trio also essays two vintage numbers that do a good job of bookending Frisell's own brand of rootsy lyricism - Henry Mancini's "Moon River" and Stephen Foster's "Hard Times." Hardly obvious candidates as Frisell collaborators, Holland and Jones warm well to the folk-inflected material, complementing the guitarist's offbeat charm and unerring taste with their muscular authority. Frisell fans will rejoice once again, and newcomers might find this an ideal introduction.

Bill Frisell has teamed up with two of the most revered figures in contemporary jazz, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Elvin Jones, for the first time on record. An impromptu meeting of these three unique voices resulted in instant musical chemistry, as they revisited—and often transformed—Frisell’s compositions and a pair of standards.

According to Frisell, co-producer Michael Shrieve—a former member of Santana and a highly creative drummer with whom Frisell has worked—first suggested playing with Jones. “Michael has known Elvin since he was a little kid,” Frisell explains, “and is currently writing a book about him. Out of the blue he told me that I should play with Elvin. I had met Elvin once, about 15 years ago, but I never thought I’d get a chance to play with him.”

Seeing that Shrieve was perfectly serious about the suggestion, Frisell and co-producer Lee Townsend quickly decided on the right bassist for the project. “I had played a little bit with Dave,” Frisell says, “and we’d talked about doing more work together. And Dave had worked with Elvin, so I thought he might be able to tie it all together. The whole thing was like a dream, to be able to play with these guys.”

Each of Frisell’s collaborators on the eponymously titled release can rightfully claim the tag “legendary.” British-born bassist Dave Holland was a mainstay in Miles Davis’s bands immediately prior to and during the Bitches Brew era, and also worked in more avant-garde settings with Chick Corea and Anthony Braxton. In recent years Holland has become one of the most celebrated composers and bandleaders in jazz.

Born in Pontiac and raised in Detroit as part of an enormously gifted musical family, Elvin Jones became one of the most popular and influential drummers in jazz history through his work in the John Coltrane Quartet. He, too, has been a celebrated bandleader, and numerous younger musicians— including Nicholas Payton, Javon Jackson, and Ravi Coltrane—have received their bandstand seasoning as members of his Jazz Machine.

In selecting the tunes for the session, Frisell and Townsend picked some of his most enduring compositions, which were then transformed by the band in the studio. “I wanted to bring Dave and Elvin into my world,” Frisell said. “Strange Meeting,” originally a martial tango, is recast here as a breezy bossa nova. Bluesier material and a folk ballad by Stephen Foster, “Hard Times,” were also chosen because Frisell had always heard the blues in Jones’s playing. “I wasn’t sure how he would react,” Frisell says, “but Elvin got really excited about this stuff—he said that it took him back to the music he used to listen to as a kid in Detroit, like Big Bill Broonzy. And selfishly, if someone has a tune, who wouldn’t want to hear what it would sound like if Elvin Jones played it?”

Bill Frisell's allegorical approach to storytelling draws on a wealth of sounds and styles, and is informed by a jazz attitude. His music is ideally suited to the challenges of the trio format, in which each player is exposed and naked, sharing the rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic responsibilities while trying to project the orchestral dimension of a big band.

Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones is the most down-home, folkish expression yet of the guitarist's borderless blues music. It is perhaps the most expansive, perfected vision of this trip-tych of all-star audiophile recordings, which began with Charlie Haden and Ginger Baker on the drummer's Going Back Home and continued with bassist Viktor Krauss and mandarin L.A. studio drummer Jim Keltner on Frisell's Gone, Just Like a Train.

The big difference here is Frisell's laying-on of mucho post-production touches to flesh out the music in a fascinating mélange of overdubbed acoustic and electric voices. Bassist Holland tolls away with egoless grace and power while drummer Jones plays the blues with cool, understated conviction, filling in the textural holes with his trademark sizzle-cymbal/bass-drum moan and airy, wind-driven sheets of snare precipitation on surprisingly straightforward grooves that evoke visions of Highway 61. Jones does all this so straightforwardly - as in his hypnotic time-keeping on "Coffaro's Theme" and his unadorned shuffle on "Outlaws" - that it might come as something of a shock to those who still associate him mainly with the fervent interplay and complexity of John Coltrane's quartet.

Why should we be so shocked to hear Elvin playing straight time? He sounds as if he's having the time of his life. Listen to the deliciously slow groove of "Blues Dream." But then, this album's first four tunes are fleshed out in great detail with guitar overdubs; in such elaborate orchestrations less is often more, rhythmically speaking - a big, round, evenly spaced quarter note can be just as profound as the most complex polyrhythmic layering.

In responding to Frisell's spacious brand of rhythmic/melodic invention, Holland and Jones bring things to a simmer rather than a full boil, as on "Tell Your Ma, Tell Your Pa," in which one of Jones' trademark rolling intros leads to a fattening tom-tom drone with Holland and overdubs depict a distant thunderstorm, Frisell's solo providing what lightning there is.

Sonically and spiritually, the music takes on a more or less "jazz" dimension when they play as a straight trio. This happens to glorious effect on a tenderly swinging "Moon River," in which Hones' brushwork and Holland's counterpoint flesh out Frisell's sublime acoustic guitar harmonies; on the mysterious cymbal-driven changes of "Strange Meeting"; and in the shuffling "Convict 13." But to hear these three surge together, as they do in the closing strains of "Smilin' Jones," is to recognize that perhaps this isn't a "jazz" album at all.

Whatever you call it, the wonderful bass extension and holographic textural dimension in Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones make it a definite audiophile's delight. And in its ritualistic portrayal of Americana we gain a new insight into the collective prism of the improviser's art, while Frisell's visceral orchestrations suggest still bolder swatches of color to come

Track listing

All compositions by Bill Frisell except as indicated.

    "Outlaws" – 7:55
    "Twenty Years" – 3:15
    "Coffaro's Theme" – 4:50
    "Blue's Dream" – 4:49
    "Moon River" (Mancini, Mercer) – 6:25
    "Tell Your Ma, Tell Your Pa" – 9:06
    "Strange Meeting" – 5:22
    "Convict 13" – 3:54
    "Again" – 7:32
    "Hard Times" – 3:39
    "Justice and Honor" – 4:48
    "Smilin' Jones" – 5:03


    Bill Frisell - guitars
    Dave Holland - bass
    Elvin Jones - drums

Sunday, October 25, 2015

David Hines - 2009 "Inner Duality"

 Jazz fusion instrumental music with progressive and alternative rock overtones. A vast landscape of influences including Jazz, Rock, Modern Classical, and Indian. Superb fusion from some legendary performers.

Jazz fusion instrumental music with progressive and alternative rock overtones. A vast landscape of influences including Jazz, Rock, Modern Classical, and Indian. Superb fusion from some legendary performers, Steve Hunt, producer, engineer, who recorded the album in his own recording studio,"The Kitchen"also played keyboards, piano, and organ (formerly with Allan Holdsworth, Stanley Clarke, and Billy Cobham). New Jersey guitar legend Pete McCann, was in the well known group The Mahavishnu Orchestra Project, which actually was favorably recognized by John McGlaughlin (Mahavishnu Orchestra founder) himself . Steve Hunt and Pete performed together in that project. Other musicians include Steve Michaud, drums, Guitarist Prassanna ("Slum Dog Millionaire" soundtrack contributor) on title track. Guest appearance by Boston legend soprano saxophonist Bill Vint on song "Awe". David Hines composed all music except collaboration with Steve Hunt on "Floating Dinosaurs" and Steve Michaud composed, and played drums on "Sons of Thunder". David plays 4 and 5 string fretted and fretless basses, and keyboards.

Prolusion. Born into a musical family (his parents were two famous opera singers), David HINES is a musician and composer currently based in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). After a long career on the jazz/fusion scene, playing and recording with many high-profile artists, Hines released his debut solo album, "Nebula", in 2005, with guitarist Allan Holdsworth guesting on two tracks. Its follow-up, "Inner Duality", came out at the end of 2009. The album features the collaboration of some highly regarded jazz-fusion musicians, such as drummer Steve Michaud and keyboardist Steve Hunt (who also produced it), as well as Indian guitarist Prasanna (who is credited on the soundtrack of Academy Award-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire”).

Analysis. In spite of his impressive career in music, David Hines’ name is still relatively obscure even in jazz-rock/fusion circles. However, judging by his sophomore effort, “Inner Duality”, he would amply deserve more recognition, both as a composer and as a bassist. His approach to the genre may not be the most cutting-edge you may find on today’s music scene, but this album simply oozes class and style – two qualities that, in my book, are always more than welcome. “Inner Duality” is one of those albums (quite rare these days) that impress for the easy, effortless flow of the music, played with exquisite yet subtle skill, all the while avoiding the syndrome that all too often mars highly technical albums – that is, bludgeoning the listener over their head with one’s chops. Moreover, David Hines and his cohorts manage to inject genuine emotion in their playing – something that many bands of the same ilk often forget to do. The result of the chemistry between the four musicians are 10 tracks of restrained length (the longest, album closer Leaf, clocking in at just under 8 minutes), which avoid gratuitous pyrotechnics to concentrate rather on texture and atmosphere. This is vintage jazz-rock, harking back to the greats of the subgenre such as Mahavishnu Orchestra or Weather Report, though with a personal touch that prevents it from sounding derivative. In some ways, “Inner Duality” resembles those albums by progressive rock bands that pay homage to the initiators of the genre, though stamping their own individual imprint on the music. With such a consistently high level of quality, it is not easy to single out any tracks as particular standouts. Hines’ stunningly fluid, nimble bass lines greet the listener right from the start of sunny, uptempo opener Funk Harbor, providing a solid foundation for DuCann’s guitar excursions. The title-track, with its varied pacing and somber, intense mood, punctuated by crashing cymbals and enhanced by the Eastern nuances of Prasanna’s guitar, is probably the closest the album gets to ‘conventional’ progressive rock – a bravura piece that manages to avoid turning into a mere technical showcase. The aforementioned Leaf is instead a spacious, airy piece full of melody, with Hines’ performance oddly reminiscent of Jaco Pastorius on Joni Mitchell’s magnificent “Shadows and Light” live album – though it is the guitar-piano interplay that leaves the strongest impression. Hines’ fluid bass lines spar with the mournful, measured drone of the cello on In My Dreams Again, while a funky vibe surfaces in the sax-infused Awe. Though the album bears Hines’ name, his immaculate bass work is not the only star, having to share the limelight with Pete McCann’s scintillating, Allan Holdsworth-ian guitar and Steve Hunt’ lush keyboards; while drummer Steve Michaud, his skill a subtle and understated complement to Hines’ pneumatic bass, gets his own private showcase in the short, snappy Sons of Thunder. Though some of the tracks may bring Mahavishnu Orchestra to mind, Hines’ band sounds more linear and not as obviously intricate. In any case, this follow-up to Hines’ acclaimed debut, “Nebula”, will not disappoint fans of high-quality jazz-fusion, and will also introduce newcomers to an extremely talented musician who deserves far more renown than he has achieved so far.

Conclusion. While some jazz-fusion ‘experts’ may complain that “Inner Duality” sounds too much like a throwback to the glory days of the Seventies, the album is such an accomplished effort, as well as a rewarding listen, that I believe lovers of the genre would do themselves a disservice by passing it up. Music written and played with such taste and class should always be welcomed by discerning listeners.

Tracks Listing

1. Funk Harbor (5.56)
2. Stinger (5.56)
3. Kinesis (5.56)
4. In My Dream, Again (3.54)
5. Awe (1.24)
6. Sons of Thunder (1.24)
7. Hinesite (5.10)
8. Inner Duality (6.56)
9. Floating Dinosaurs (4.47)
10. Leaf (7.54)

Total time: 53.25

Line-up / Musicians

David Hines / 5-string fretless bass, 4- and 5-string fretted basses, keyboards
Steve Hunt / piano, keyboards, Hammond organ, percussion programming
Pete McCann / electric guitar
Steve Michaud / drums

Prasanna / guitar (8)
Bill Vint / soprano sax (5)
Sebastien Baverstam / cello (4)
Olga Caceanova / violin (4)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Wes Montgomery - 1962 [2007] "Full House"

Full House is the seventh album and first live jazz album by American jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, released in 1962.

The performance was recorded live at Tsubo in Berkeley, California on June 25, 1962. The session featured a quintet that included Wynton Kelly on piano, Johnny Griffin on tenor saxophone, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums.
The original release was on the Riverside Records label. There have been a number of reissues of the recording, most including alternate takes of several tracks. A 1987 CD release on Riverside Records/Original Jazz Classics was digitally remastered by Danny Kopelson at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California. A more recent, 2007 Riverside release features additional bonus tracks.

That's how many stars this incredible Live recording rates. There are so many special moments, musically, to treasure here that it's hard to know where to start. Wes' treatment of "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" is a solo showcase for his genius for musical dynamics - the way he thumb-strums the melody; the way he pauses and 'slurs down' on the two "words", referencing the lyrics; the way he intro's (and 'out-ros') in a different key...the next moment that comes to mind is in "Blue 'N Boogie". Wes gets off some machine gun licks, then hands it off to Wynton, Paul, and Jimmy. Listen to how Jimmy Cobb shifts the dynamic of the beat at the start of Wynton's third verse, bumping the off-beat and rim-clicking the 2/4 - literally creating a new level for Wynton to go to (which he does, with a Red Garland-esque block chord ending). The most amazing thing of all is that this is all a prelude to Johnnie Griffin's solo, followed by all around 'trading fours' to the end. It's a clinic in dynamics, group-style. On the next track, "Cariba", Wes gives a clinic on how to build, chorus after chorus, upon each previous statement. I think it may be one of his best solos of the night. Every track could be broken down into these kind of moments (I'll spare you...), but the point is that this band - specifically Wes with the Wynton Kelly trio, as Johnny Griffin is sweet icing on that cake, was one of the tightest, most dynamic jazz units to ever grace a stage. What a moment in Time that night must have been. What a CD this is. 

Forget "The Incredible". This is Wes's masterwork, performed live with a band finally up to his genius. Despite all the praise he got as a player, I think this album makes the argument that he's STILL under-appreciated. His solo on "Blue N' Boogie" is as fine a piece of spontaneous composition as exists. If you like jazz guitar, if you like jazz... hell, if you like music, don't wait another second. Get it.

"Smokin at the Half Note" is usually touted as Wes' best recorded work and understandably so. However, in my opinion, "Full House" makes for a much better record. "Smokin'" as orginally issued is a piecemeal recording. Only the first two cuts are recorded live. The other tracts were recorded later at the Van Gelder Studios. Subsequently, "Willow Weep for Me" was issued posthumously containing the other tunes from the Half Note dates but with the cuts unfortunately overdubbed with a horn section. The most exciting cut from the Half Note dates, "Impressions" was absent from both records, only to appear on a later Verve collection. Just way too much tampering with a live performance for my taste. Full House is unadulterated and Wes plays with just as much fire. The feeling of "actually being there" is much better represented by this record. My only complaint is the needless repetition of the same songs one right after the other. If you're going to put on alternate performances, put them at the end of the record for crying out loud! Still, Full House is so good in spite of this that I can't bring myself to give it anything less than five stars. If I could only own one Wes cd it would be this one.

I love guitar jazz. Real guitar jazz, not the watered down sap they play on 'smooth jazz' radio or the avantgarde dreck intellectuals play at their dinner parties. The category is chock full with wonderful players, both living and dead; alas, Wes is no longer with us, but his influence is all over the place. He was a great technician but also a brilliant interpreter who could achieve gorgeous tone, and sometimes slipping into schmaltzy pop modes. None of that on this disc, sparkling and freshly-remastered, that showcases Wes at the absolute top of his game...and of the guitar jazz heap.

As one of the most influential jazz guitarists of all time (second only to perhaps Charlie Christian), Wes Montgomery created a vocabulary of techniques and mannerisms for jazzers similar to how Andres Segovia did for classical players. His trademarks - octaves, extended block chord solos, and above all, melodicism - blew many away in the forceful manner which Wes employed them. I feel that on this release, Full House, Wes demonstrates his talents as a bandleader and player better than most of his recordings, except for perhaps the legendary Smokin' at the Half Note.

The engineering on this record is superb; every instrument comes through in the mix loud and clear, yet retains a special spot in the audio spectrum and blends nicely with the other instruments. I personally own the 20-bit remaster, but it sounds to me like the basic mix itself was pretty good to begin with.

This is one of the most superb bands that jazz has perhaps ever seen. We have the esteemed Wynton Kelly trio, with Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums, to back up Wes, of course, and also on this occasion the formidable talents of saxophonist Johnny Griffin (who would pair with the same quartet on several later dates). Wes and Johnny often harmonize on the melodies, especially on "Cariba" and "S.O.S.", and it works quite well, especially with the notable difference in tone color between their instruments. Griffin has a sound that I can't quite pin down; to my ears, it doesn't sound distinctly like any of the sax masters, so it's a surprise that he isn't better known in the jazz canon. Regardless, his playing is superb and he goes toe-to-toe with Wes on nearly every cut.

The blues is in strong effect on this record, as with most Wes recordings; "Cariba", in fact, is at its core a basic 12-bar Latin blues, with a unique bassline that gives it a little bit of a distinctive sound. "Cariba" is also the cut with the best Wes solo (although "Full House" comes rather close as well). Really, the whole ensemble works together to make an overall appealing sound, and it's not just like the rhythm section is ticking away while the soloists blow. The drummer and Wynton are always in tune with the soloists, whether they're doing repeating riffs and Cobb comes in with a few synchronized cymbal hits, or the soloists step it up dynamically and the rhythm section follows them all the way. This is a little more evident on Smokin' at the Half Note, but that was several years later, when Wes had been playing with Wynton's trio on a regular basis; this is the genesis of their collaboration, and it's an impressive one.

So why only 4 stars if the record is overall incredible? Well, having multiple takes of the same song to fill space on a jazz record is not something I am particularly fond of. It makes it a little hard to listen to the record straight through multiple times and not get a little annoyed. Plus, each extra take is pretty routine. Also, the track selection is not quite perfect; "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" was not a good choice, as Wes's chord-melody playing is nowhere near his octave- or single-note talents. He is a master chord soloist, true, but he can't play chord-melody like Joe Pass or anything. Also, "Come Rain or Come Shine" is kind of a substandard tune on the record - not bad by any means, but every other track is killer, so it weighs down the others a bit.

This is still a very worthy purchase; the band is hot, and so are Johnny Griffin and Wes, and that's pretty much the fundamental selling point of any great jazz record. If multiple takes don't bother you much, this record is only more recommended. For everyone else, it's still a great album to just plain listen to; it's not boring like some jazz records, due to the incredibly dynamic playing of the band. Plus, hearing Wes live is pretty much the only way to go, and that's probably the best compliment I can give. I'm sure the club was a Full House on this night for sure.

Track listing
Original Issue

    "Full House" (Wes Montgomery) – 9:14
    "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" (Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe) – 3:18
    "Blue 'n' Boogie" (Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Paparelli) – 9:31
    "Come Rain or Come Shine" (Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen) – 6:49
    "S.O.S." (Montgomery) – 4:57
    "Born To Be Blue" (Mel Tormé, Robert Wells) – 7:23

2007 Reissue by Riverside

    "Full House" (Wes Montgomery) - 9:16
    "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" (Lerner, Loewe) - 3:29
    "Blue 'N' Boogle" (Gillespie, Paparelli) - 9:38
    "Cariba (Take 2)" (Wes Montgomery) - 9:41
    "Come Rain or Come Shine [Take 2]" (Arlen, Mercer) - 6:57
    "S.O.S. (Take 3)" (Wes Montgomery) - 5:03
    "Cariba" (Wes Montgomery) - 8:28
    "Come Rain or Come Shine" (Arlen, Mercer) - 7:21
    "S.O.S." (Wes Montgomery) - 4:49
    "Born to Be Blue" (Tormé, Wells) - 7:27
    "Born to Be Blue (alternate take)" (Tormé, Wells) - 7:35


    Wes Montgomery – guitar
    Johnny Griffin – tenor sax
    Wynton Kelly – piano
    Paul Chambers – bass
    Jimmy Cobb – drums

Joe Satriani - 1986 "Not Of This Earth"

Not of This Earth is the first studio album by guitarist Joe Satriani, released in 1986 through Relativity Records.

In the liner notes, Satriani provides a brief introduction to himself and the background behind Not of This Earth. He states that his goal was "to make a 'guitar-record' that would be enjoyed by all; not just a 'guitar-chops-record' but one with real music on it." He also mentions the recording of a follow-up album which he promises "will turn heads, drop jaws and create world peace in our lifetime!"; this would become his 1987 breakthrough smash hit Surfing with the Alien.
The album uses electronic drums rather than acoustic drums. The title track utilizes a unique compositional technique described by Satriani as pitch axis theory, which consists of shifting modes underneath a pedal tone (in this case, E). "The Enigmatic" uses the enigmatic scale. "Rubina" is one of two tracks named after his wife, the other being "Rubina's Blue Sky Happiness" on The Extremist (1992). "The Headless Horseman" is performed entirely using a two-handed tapping technique, and was revisited in the form of "Headless" on Flying in a Blue Dream (1989).

Not of This Earth was the first studio release from guitar wizard Joe Satriani (not counting the hard-to-find Joe Satriani EP). This all-instrumental album was making ripples in the guitar-playing community not long after it was released, and it's easy to see why: superior compositions, a signature style, a unique tone, and playing that's out of this world. Satriani shifts musical gears deftly, often layering multiple tracks together to make a complex soundscape. The fiery sound of "Not of This Earth" and "Hordes of Locusts" is tempered by the cool, dark tone of "Driving at Night," the far-out Eastern approach of "The Snake," and the quiet, thoughtful "Rubina." Satriani's fluid playing and wicked licks are enough to drop jaws and widen eyes. There isn't a weak track on this disc, even though the guitarist was still maturing when he released it. 

Not of This Earth was Joe Satriani's debut album and wow. This is an eclectic collection of songs. Since Satch didn't have a ton of money to make this recording the songs have simple drums/percussion and he plays bass on the tracks as well as the guitar.I don't think that those two things make a difference. This is simply one of the greatest debut albums by anybody period. The title track is simplistic but it is a good introduction to a guitarist with his own style."The Headless Horseman" is a technique driven tune but it is also a lot of fun. One can picture the title character riding through the night creating mayhem. "Rubina" is dedicated to his wife and contains a great use of mood in the intro, a nice melody and one of the most emotional solos ever recorded. "The Snake" is Satch at his funky best. "Driving at Night" is the tune that, even if you didn't know the title of the song, would be the one to listen to on the expressway. Joe shows that he is an artist by painting a musical picture of pounding the pedal to the floor. He does break out some blinding licks but the song isn't about technique it is all about creating a picture through sound. This is one of Joe's best songs and it is dissapointing that he hasn't played it live since the first tour."The Enigmatic" is named after the mode that it uses. Joe sounds like Holdsworth at times but he does add his own flavor to the legato laced tune. This is one of Joe's wildest creations. This disc shows how music can give mental pictures from the audio. Joe is an artist in every sense of the word on this Cd and any guitarist or musician that doesn't own it should buy it immediately.

Joe Satriani's debut, Not Of This Earth is many things. One of the greatest debut albums in history. One of the greatest and most innovative Instrumental Guitar Rock albums in history. And certainly one of the most influential albums ever. When this came out no one played Guitar like Joe Satriani did. In 1988 this album was nothing less than mindblowing and revolutionary. I would be safe to say that had he lived even Jimi Hendrix's jaw would have dropped over some of the songs on Not Of This Earth, it's truly that amazing.

Contrary to what most people think, Not Of This Earth is not the first album realeased by Joe Satriani. A very first EP named Joe Satriani was released in 1984, but he quicly became unavailable and instead of produce it again, Relativity Records prefered but the songs on the Time Machine album, in 1993.

In 1986  the first “real” album of Satch was released, and for a first attempt, it’s such a nice album! The particular style of this guitar player from San Francisco is already very present, and we can hear in the very first chords of the CD the premises of the next albums, an extraordinary fluidity in his playing, dexterity, an unusual technic and a good dose of feeling that places him above all guitar-heroes.

The emotion is everywhere in the Joe Satriani’s music, listen to « Rubina » to realise. The album is of course full of solo because his music is mostly intrumental but people who are open and that know what is the quality shall appreciate it.

Joe Satriani alternates between the funky rhythm on « The Snake », a brooding atmosphere « Hordes Of Locusts », « Driving At Night » that illustrates well this feeling or even a crazy-country-blues-rodeo on «The Headless Horseman  », the two-handed tapping that close the album. Satriani went further in the guitar revolution that was initiated by Hendrix, extended by Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen and associates.
However, we can notice two bad things on this album, the production that is certainly not up to the high-level of Joe, and a too much important place given to the rhythm box.

But at least Not Of This Earth stays a true delight, but the best is yet to come. On the internal sleeve of the CD, Joe anounced that he’s working on a new album which, so he said, will blow evenyone minds.

I first heard this CD some time ago and didn't really take to it. Being a fan of his more commercial efforts - such as 1988's 'Surfing With The Alien' - I was expecting something along the same line: bone-crushing riffs, soaring 'in your face' solos and those infamous hooks that are synonymous with the name Joe Satriani. Instead I got something else - something that turned me away at first, yet kept clawing at me to come back and give this album another spin. One day, it all suddenly clicked with me. 'Not Of This Earth' is a wonderful combination of melody, feel and, yes, crunching guitar lines (even if they aren't as obvious as some of his other efforts). Other than those however, is a certain intangible quality; something I can't quite put my finger on... This album just creates a certain mood - an aura - that is something special. I'm sorry I couldn't describe it very well - music can be a very insular thing!

First up we have the title song 'Not Of This Earth', the world's introduction to Satriani. His weird lead phasing combined with the odd traditional (I use this term quite loosely) lick makes this piece quite interesting; it is also one of the first tastes of the 'pitch-axis theory' in rock music.

Next comes 'The Snake' which can be described in one word: funky. Seriously funky. Satriani is really grooving on some chords here and the experimental stuff half way through shows how creative Satch can be, as he explores an odd array of dive bombs, pick scratches, two-handed tapping and heavy-metal riffing. Also the pentatonic leads in this song, although minimalist, are very tasteful and apt.

'Rubina' seems to be one of the favourites off this album and, to tell the truth, it's quite easy to see why. Beautiful chord progressions and a gorgeous solo; the 'Live In San Francisco' version is even better.

'Memories' is one of Satch's most overlooked songs, if you ask me. It also contains a *fantastic* guitar solo. It doesn't jump right out at you at first, but if you pay attention there is some truly amazing playing going on.

'Brother John' is a nice little finger-picked piece.

'The Enigmatic' is, as another reviewer said, named after the mode it's in. It appeals to me quite a lot, because it's just so rare for something like this to be played in Satriani's 'genre' (or whatever you want to call it). It features an almost 'out-of-control' tempo and there is some really strange legato soloing going on; almost sounds like Allan Holdsworth playing heavy metal.

'Driving At Night' is, as many reviewers have put it, is a perfectly apt title; another underrated piece in the Satriani catalogue.

'Hordes Of Locusts' has some crunching metal riffs, and probably the heaviest on the album. Probably one of the better cuts, although I personally prefer 'Rubina', 'Memories' and 'The Snake'. 'New Day' is a nice pseudo-send-off - like many songs on this album this doesn't exactly jump out at you, but if you just listen, you will hear Joe's sensitivity shine through, especially at about a minute-and-a-half in.

The album ends with 'The Headless Horseman, a piece comprised solely of two-handed tapping. Personally I feel it's one of the weaker tracks, but is still welcome, even if it doesn't match 'Midnight' off the subsequent album.

If you are new to Satriani, then you should probably pick up 'Surfing With The Alien' or 'The Extremist' first (both excellent albums). However, if you have those or just want to hear some good, tasteful and creative guitar playing, then pick this up. Who knows, you may be surprised. Joe Satriani really is Not of This Earth!

Track listing

All music composed by Joe Satriani.
No.     Title     Length
1.     "Not of This Earth"       4:04
2.     "The Snake"       4:43
3.     "Rubina"       5:56
4.     "Memories"       4:06
5.     "Brother John"       2:10
6.     "The Enigmatic"       3:26
7.     "Driving at Night"       3:33
8.     "Hordes of Locusts"       4:59
9.     "New Day"       3:52
10.     "The Headless Horseman"       1:53
Total length:


    Joe Satriani – guitar, keyboard, percussion, bass, production
    John Cuniberti – vocals (track 10), percussion, engineering, mixing, production
    Jeff Campitelli – drums, percussion, DX, whistle

Steppenwolf - 1970 "7"

Steppenwolf 7 is an album by the band Steppenwolf, released in 1970, and their fifth studio recording for Dunhill Records. It is the first Steppenwolf album with new bass player George Biondo. While the album featured Steppenwolf's trademark rock and roll sounds, none of the songs were able to make the Top 40. The album featured a cover of Hoyt Axton's "Snowblind Friend", their second cover of one of his anti-drug songs (the first being "The Pusher"). Along with "Who Needs Ya", it was one of two singles from the album which made the charts but fell short of the Top 40. The album track "Renegade" is autobiographical for lead vocalist John Kay, recounting his flight with his mother from East to West Germany in 1948.

Steppenwolf only recorded seven discs for Dunhill Records in the short span between 1968 and 1971, six of them studio albums, and one allegedly "live" -- though there was early Sparrow material recorded in May of 1967 not released by the label until 1972. Throw in a greatest-hits package along with Columbia's reissue of yet more Sparrow recordings, and how they came up with Steppenwolf 7 for the title of this, their fifth studio recording for Dunhill, is a question for hardcore fans of the band to debate (don't even bring the movie soundtracks into this equation). Richard Podolor has taken the production reins from Gabriel Mekler, as he did with Three Dog Night, but where the producer was able to take Hoyt Axton's "Joy to the World" to number one in a notable six weeks in 1971 with the vocal trio and labelmates of this group, the author of "The Pusher," Axton, is represented here by his "Snowblind Friend," a topic not likely to get Steppenwolf chart action. And that's the dilemma with Steppenwolf 7. This is a very worthwhile Steppenwolf recording, chock-full of their trademark sound, but nothing that was going to penetrate the Top 40. John Kay and guitarist Larry Byron (listed on the song credits as Larry Byrom and on the live album as Byron -- take your pick, he's a notable session player) co-write five of these nine tunes, "Ball Crusher" being what you expect, as is "Fat Jack," Byrom's only co-write here with new bassist George Biondo (and perhaps one of them on the vocals, as it certainly isn't John Kay). A nice, thick Goldy McJohn keyboard and solid beat still don't give this tune enough of an identity to be considered hit material. Kay and Byrom do a better job of heading in that direction with their "Foggy Mental Breakdown" and "Hippo Stomp," while Byrom's instrumental, "Earschplittenloudenboomer," had the attitude to be the next "Born to Be Wild," just not enough of the magic -- not explosive enough and no sneering Kay vocal to bring it home. What is happening here is that John Kay is heading in the direction of his 1972 solo disc, Forgotten Songs & Unsung Heroes, especially on the cover of Roth's "Forty Days and Forty Nights" and the country-ish "Snowblind Friend," which is the other side of Hoyt Axton's "The Pusher," the effect of cocaine on the victim/user. Kay and Byrom come back with more driving rock in "Who Needs Ya?," played well and listenable, but just missing the edge that gave "Rock Me" and "Magic Carpet Ride" their specialness. The blueish images of the bandmembers in a desolate area with two skulls above them on the album cover make an interesting statement. Steppenwolf 7 is an intriguing collection of album tracks showing the two sides of John Kay -- the hard rock singer and the artist setting his sights on interpreting other musical styles. It came at a moment when the band needed to redefine itself on the AM band, but opted instead to just put out a decent product and take few risks.  - "All Music"

I'm always puzzled with some of Allmusic's reviews. Although this is not the best Steppenwolf album, it contains some great songs. I was particularly disappointed because you didn't even spare "Renegade", this stunning autobiographical anthem (listen to the wonderful lyrics, but also the music is majestic). Allmusic does not even suggest this as an album highlight... "THEO KONTI"

 This is one of the greatest rock records ever recorded. Nothing sounds dated on it -- no gimmickry to tie it to the past. Just clean blues rock with John Kay and Co.'s amazing vision. Where did they get this stuff?? I would be hard pressed to pick favorites, but Renegade and Hippo Stomp are definitely right up there. Buy this record.

Forget the hits, forget the biker image, forget everything you think you know about this band. If you don't have this album, you are missing one of THE classic albums of the early 70's. Along with the perfection of their previous "Monster" album, 7 showed everyone just what a great band Steppenwolf were. I'm talking the concept of a BAND, not John Kay and whoever. The magic captured here is only possible because it features the perfect, strongest and probably best Steppenwolf line-up. From start to finish, this album is wall to wall attitude and conviction. They perform every song like their lives depended on it. I'm a little biased, since I've owned this on album, 8-track, cassette and CD. Graced by one of my favorite album covers of all time, the entire package spins an aura of darkness that has stood the test of time. It captures that moment in time when it was apparent that the dreams and hopes of the 60's had been shattered by the shadows of war and an increasingly turbulent America. 

Steppenwolf had a pretty good successful career in the late 60's and early 70's. Unfortunately, other rock bands came along such as Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Humble Pie and kind of knocked Steppenwolf away from the spotlight. However, that's what us reviewers are for. We're here to look back and admire the great artists that are becoming dangerously close to extinction.

This is one rock band that is absolutely phenomenal and I will do everything in my power to keep their memory alive, even 50 years from now if I have to. There's something extremely appealing about the way these guys were able to blend meaningful lyrics, emotional vocals, and fabulous musical ideas and have album after album of highly listenable material. A band that deserves to be defended and remembered. I don't wanna come across like some overblown crazy fanboy, but I really want the music of Steppenwolf to stay alive forever.

You know, someone once told me Steppenwolf was the ultimate motorcycle band until Blue Oyster Cult came along. I don't know how much truth there is to that, but the two artists are completely different. Steppenwolf was about meaningful Vietnam war lyrics and emotional and pretty melodies, whereas Blue Oyster Cult liked to dip into the psychedelic, gloom and doom style of hard rock. I'm a fan of both styles, but let's not compare the two bands when obviously they're completely different.

Anyway, Steppenwolf 7 is probably their best album. A roller-coaster ride of excitement, emotions, powerful lyrics, and beautiful arrangements. This is clearly NOT your typical hard rock band. "Ball Crusher" is a funky opener that should have become a classic by now but I guess those who play "Born to be Wild" until our heads spin won't agree with me. "Forty Days and Forty Nights" is another highlight because of the demanding rhythm and drumming of the vocal melody. It's amazing, no doubt.

"Renegade" is where the pretty and delicate side of the band comes in, with a touch of powerful lyrics coming along to really give you an incredible journey. I don't EVER forget songs like this one. They tell a story of a grim and unforgettable late 60's war scene, and the atmosphere will never leave my mind, ever. You don't have to have been around back in the late 60's to get into it, that's for sure. "Foggy Mental Breakdown" has brilliant vocals and a SUPER AWESOME harmonica solo in the middle. It's harmonica played in a sad way. I love it. "Snowblind Friend" continues the incredible emotions and atmosphere, and "Hippo Stomp" is a sort of funny pop song with a great chorus and verse melody. I love it. A classic hard rock album, no matter what anyone might say otherwise.

Track listing

    "Ball Crusher" – 4:52
    "Forty Days and Forty Nights" – 3:03
    "Fat Jack" – 4:52
    "Renegade" – 6:08
    "Foggy Mental Breakdown" – 3:54
    "Snowblind Friend" – 3:54
    "Who Needs Ya'" – 3:00
    "Earschplittenloudenboomer" – 5:00
    "Hippo Stomp" – 5:39


    John Kay - Lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica
    Larry Byrom - Lead guitar, backing vocals
    Goldy McJohn - Keyboards
    George Biondo - Bass, backing vocals
    Jerry Edmonton - Drums