Sunday, July 31, 2016

Kenny Burrell - 1967 [1999] "Midnight Blue"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Track listing

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

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


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

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Andrea Marcelli - 1990 "Silent Will"

Silent Will (Andrea Marcelli, Verve).

If you`re partial to high wattage, synthetic jazz, this is a crackling example. It features Andrea Marcelli on percussion throughout and the likes of saxophonist Wayne Shorter, guitarist Mike Stern and bassist John Patitucci on selected cuts. The result is strong on energy but short, to my ear at least, on subtlety, making it difficult to distinguish from dozens of efforts by other collections of performers.

In 1990, with the participation of Bob Berg (Tenor Sax), Mitch Forman (Piano & Midi), John Patitucci (Electric Bass), Wayne Shorter (Soprano Sax), Alex Acuna (Percussions), Mike Stern (Guitar), Allan Holdsworth (Guitar & Synthaxe) and the percussionist Andrea Marcelli, this album presents a great modern Jazz Fusion musical concept.

Although all the tracks are compositions of Andrea Marcelli, the melodies are well driven and supported by the saxes and the electric guitars... this kind of jazz reminds the groups like the Elektric Jazz Band of keyboardist Chick Corea; the good and tasty guitar phrasing of Mike Stern in his interpretations reminds me the participations of guitarist Carlos Rios with Gino Vannelli in the "Brother To Brother" album from 1978; Allan Holdsworth, still hooked on the Synthaxe at this stage of his career, shows his expertise and guitar wisdom in the tracks: "Final Project", "Love Remembered" and "Lights"


1     Exit     4:38
2     Silent Will     6:46
3     Final Project     6:35
4     Different Moments     6:15
5     Love Remembered     9:00
6     Three Small Dreams     2:37
7     Everyday     7:03
8     Lights     5:00


    Acoustic Bass – John Patitucci (tracks: 5,8)
    Clarinet – Andrea Marcelli (tracks: 5,8)
    Drums – Andrea Marcelli (tracks: 2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
    Electric Bass – John Patitucci (tracks: 1,2,3,4,6,7)
    Electric Guitar – Allan Holdsworth (tracks: 3,5), Mike Stern (tracks: 6,7)
    Grand Piano – Mitch Forman (tracks: 1,3,4,5,6,8)
    Guitar – Mike Stern (tracks: 1,2,4)
    Percussion – Alex Acuna* (tracks: 2,4,5,6,7), Andrea Marcelli (tracks: 1,4,7)
    Soprano Saxophone – Wayne Shorter (tracks: 3,5)
    SynthAxe – Allan Holdsworth (tracks: 3,5,8)
    Synthesizer – Andrea Marcelli (tracks: 2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
    Tenor Saxophone – Bob Berg (tracks: 1,2,4,7)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Steve Hackett - 1979 "Spectral Mornings"

Spectral Mornings is the third release and the second post-Genesis album by British guitarist Steve Hackett.
The album is the first recording to feature Hackett's first true touring band, consisting of his brother John Hackett on flute, guitar and bass pedals, long-time collaborator keyboardist Nick Magnus, bassist/vocalist Dik Cadbury, drummer John Shearer and vocalist Peter Hicks.
In 2005, Spectral Mornings was remastered and re-released on Virgin Records. The new edition features updated liner notes and seven bonus tracks.

After the release of his previous album, Please Don't Touch!, in 1978, Hackett wished to tour the material from the album along with material from his previous solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte. This meant that he needed to assemble a touring band since the personnel on Please Don't Touch! had essentially consisted of guest musicians. The band that he created for this purpose became the band that he used in the studio for Spectral Mornings and the following album, 1980's Defector. Members of Genesis had contacted Hackett to say how much they really liked this and previous albums, since it was material Hackett felt he could have used with the band.
This is the second album for which Hackett used a Roland GR-500 Guitar Synthesizer. It can be heard on two tracks: "The Virgin and the Gypsy" and "Tigermoth".
Lead vocals on most of the album were provided by Peter Hicks, which were very often backed with harmonies by Steve Hackett and Dik Cadbury. Cadbury arranged the harmony vocals, having been trained as a counter tenor (falsetto) singer. Hackett himself sings lead on "The Ballad of the Decomposing Man".

To his credit, Steve Hackett learned from the mistakes made on Please Don't Touch, and delivered a much-improved mix of songs and instrumentals on 1979's Spectral Mornings. With a workable backing band that includes John Shearer, Nick Magnus, and former Decameron bassist Dik Cadbury, the ex-Genesis guitarist exploits his strengths: progressive instrumentals that skip between heaven and hell, pastoral pop songs, and a healthy dose of English humor. Vocalist Peter Hicks takes the lead on a few tracks, and as the honey-fied "The Virgin and the Gypsy" makes clear, his voice is much better suited to the material than Richie Havens. Hackett's lone vocal cameo, "The Ballad of the Decomposing Man," is a Pythonesque treat. The guitar work is typically top-notch, equally effective in acoustic sections that feature John Hackett's flute and in tempestuous arrangements where Steve's trademark electric guitar pierces through the chaos. The guitarist also extends his range to the Cantonese koto (presumably a variation on the Japanese koto) for the delicate instrumental "The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere"; in typically mischievous fashion, it lulls the listener into a false sense of relaxation for the sonic onslaught of "Clocks -- The Angel of Mons." For many, Voyage of the Acolyte is the definitive Hackett record, but Spectral Mornings is more indicative of his range as a solo artist. The music is true to progressive rock in sound if not in scope, a trait which endears Hackett to Genesis fans who found that band's subsequent commercialization distasteful.

From the day I was introduced to this remarkable album (yes, in vinyl) when it was released in 1979, I have had shivers go up and down my spine every time I listen to Every Day, and the closing title track. And nothing in between disappoints, either. Rather, the other tracks lay the groundwork for future releases. Although I became rather enamored of the vocal deliveries of Pete Hicks, I missed him less and less as Hackett sang more and worked on his own delivery. This release stands as one of his absolute premiere recordings.

 Track Listings

  1. Every Day
  2. The Virgin And The Gypsy
  3. The Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere
  4. Clocks-The Angel Of Mons
  5. The Ballad Of The Decomposing Man (Featuring...)
  6. Lost Time In Cordoba
  7. Tigermoth
  8. Spectral Mornings


    Steve Hackett – acoustic and electric guitars, Roland guitar synthesizer, vocals on "The Ballad of the Decomposing Man", koto on The Red Flowers of Tachai Blooms Everywhere", harmonica
    John Hackett – flute, bamboo flute, Taurus Moog bass pedals
    Dik Cadbury – bass, Taurus Moog bass pedals, vocals
    Peter Hicks – vocals except on "The Ballad of the Decomposing Man"
    Nick Magnus – keyboards, Vox String Thing, Novatron, Clavichord, clavinet, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Mini Moog, Roland string
    John Shearer – drums, percussions

Monday, July 18, 2016

Tony Levin - 2000 "Waters Of Eden"

Waters of Eden is Tony Levin's second solo record, released in 2000. Most songs feature the basic quartet of Levin, Larry Fast, Jerry Marotta and Jeff Pevar. Additional guest musicians appear on most songs.

Tony Levin's Waters of Eden is an eclectic, sophisticated instrumental music album. He draws on his personal experience from spending decades in the forefront of progressive rock and art rock as well as the jazz and classical music inspiration that gave rock such lofty goals. Not only does this recording reveal Tony Levin as a cellist, but it also continues to prove he is adept at and highly creative in exploring the melodic possibilities of the bass guitar, his primary instrument. Levin, along with other musicians, adds synth to the recording. Often this seems incongruously bright in the murky, bass-led compositions. Still, this is an excellent album overall. 

Tony Levin, the legendary bassist of King Crimson who has also anchored such art-rock luminaries as Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp, offers a look at his own complex musical canvases on Waters of Eden (Narada 70876-15224-2-6; 54:37). Not surprisingly, considering the company he's kept over the years, composer Levin crafts meticulously layered, complex works encompassing a range of influences, from the tribal-drum tension of "Pillar of Fire" to the ambient, jarring "Bone & Flesh," which builds and develops in unexpected directions. No one quite captures the emotion inherent in a singing, resonant bass tone like Levin, who utilizes the unique voice as the emotional center of the graceful, hauntingly wistful "Belle," and the elegant "Boulevard of Dreams," which builds on a straightahead piano figure. Levin's bass can convey disappointment, nostalgia, rhapsody and mystery in a single turn of the phrase. He takes advantage of that versatility on pieces ranging from the keyboard pulsing, suspense-filled "Icarus," full of longing and foreboding, to the brash, distorted rock-funk hooks of "Gecko Walk." "Utopia" is a full-blown epic-rock charged, constantly evolving and finally, uplifting-but the album's most telling highlight may be its stirring, awe-struck title track, with a circular piano figure and long-bowed cello setting up Levin's deceptively simple melody. Throughout, Levin chooses his colors carefully and deliberately, providing immense rewards for the attentive listener.

Over the last half dozen years, King Crimson bassist Tony Levin has produced a small but impressive body of work on his own Papa Bear Records, including World Diary (1995), a collection of collaborations with players such as Bill Bruford, Jerry Marotta, Shankar, and many others, and From the Caves of the Iron Mountain (1997), an atmospheric project involving Levin with drummer Jerry Marotta and flutist Steve Gorn, recorded in the location of the title. Levin's latest effort is released not through his own label, but New Age independent Narada, known more for meditative acoustic guitar music than progressive rock. But fear not. While Waters of Eden is prettier and more meditative than King Crimson, it is by no means lacking fire. The closest comparison is to Levin's work with Peter Gabriel, and this recording in fact reunites the core of Gabriel's band of the late 70s and early 80s: Levin with drummer Jerry Marotta and synthesist Larry Fast. A couple of tracks ("Bone and Flesh" and "Pillar of Fire") feature Fast's expansive synth pads and Marotta's throbbing toms. Think of what might have happened in a rehearsal for Security when Gabriel wasn't around and Levin decided to take the lead. This core trio is augmented by some special guests. The California Guitar Trio joins in for the title track; David Sancious provides keyboards and a credible virtual soprano sax on "Icarus;" guitarist Jeff Pevar soars over many cuts. Throughout, the melodic lead is centered on Levin's sensitive playing, on fretless electric, electric upright bass, and electric cello. In general, the music is fairly simple, sweeping melodies with chordal accompaniment, but the passion and craft of the players lifts it above mere New Age drivel.

Track listing:

    "Bone & Flesh" – 6:46
    "Waters of Eden" – 4:50
    "Icarus" – 5:35
    "Gecko Walk" – 4:58
    "Belle" – 4:00
    "Pillar of Fire" – 6:44
    "Boulevard of Dreams" – 6:47
    "Opal Road" – 6:23
    "Utopia" – 8:03

The Japanese release contains a bonus track entitled "From Here to the Stars" and features different cover artwork.


    Tony Levin – Music Man electric bass (tracks 3, 6), fretless bass, NS electric upright bass (track 6), NS electric cello (tracks 1, 2), engineer
   Warren Bernhardt – piano on track 7, engineer
    California Guitar Trio – acoustic guitars on track 2
    Larry Fast – synthesizer (tracks 1, 4, 6, 8, 9), engineer
    Steve Gorn – bansuri flute (tracks 1, 8), engineer
    Pete Levin – synthesizer (track 5)
    Jerry Marotta – percussion, drums, Taos drum, engineer
    Jeff Pevar – acoustic guitar (tracks 3, 8), electric guitar (tracks 3, 4, 6, 9), engineer
    David Sancious – synthesizer (tracks 2, 3), piano (track 2), virtual soprano saxophone
    David Torn – acoustic and electric guitars (track 1), electric oud, loops (track 1), drum processing (track 4)

California Guitar Trio - 1993 "Yamanashi Blues"

For lovers of superb instrumental music, the debut by the California Guitar Trio, Yamanashi Blues, is one of the best of the '90s. Recorded strictly on amplified acoustic guitars (supplied by Bert Lams, Hideyo Moriya, and Paul Richards), the band touches upon a wide variety of musical genres, as they cover easily identifiable classical, surf, pop, and jazz tunes, with a few originals mixed in as well. Interestingly, all the songs on Yamanashi Blues were recorded in Bert Lams' living room. Great versions of '60s surf standards like "Walk Don't Run," "Pipeline," and "Sleepwalk" are included, as well as a few J.S. Bach pieces ("Prelude In C Minor," "Chromatic Fugue In D Minor," and others). The originals fit in perfectly with the cover material, such as Lams' "Carnival," Richards' "Blockhead," and Moriya's "Kan-non Power." Unlike most other instrumental albums, the California Guitar Trio stresses the importance of songwriting over instrumental technicality.

I lack the energy to research these guys, but the CGT makes for some entertaining listening.
This is basically three guys, playing only guitars. The eclectic collection of pieces on this disc range from the Surfaris "Walk, Don't Run" to Bach's Prelude in C Minor.
Most odd. Yet oddly compelling. There is something magic about classical attention being paid to an old surf standby.
Hard to explain, fun to listen to. 

These three guitarist are fantastic artist. The songs are simply beautiful. You don't have to be a guitar enthusiast to love this CD, just a music lover. However if you play the guitar you NEED this CD to know what is possible. This will inpsire you like no other band will.

 This is a LIVE PERFORMANCE. This album was recorded during a concert directly from the guitars. No voice miking -so there's not audience applause- and most important: NO STUDIO MIXING. They sound on the record as they did at the gig.
A real masterpiece from those kind of guitarist one expect to see live at least once in his life. 

An eclectic mix of jazz, pop and classical tunes performed on amplified acoustic guitars. The debut album from this wholly un-californian threesome, Bert Lams (Belgium), Hideyo Moriya (Japan) and Paul Richards (USA).

Track listing:

1. Yamanashi Blues
2. Melrose Avenue
3. Corrente
4. Walk Don't Run
5. Ricercar
6. Pipeline
7. Beeline
8. Chromatic Fugue in D minor
9. Tenor Madness
10. Sleepwalk
11. Carnival
12. Prelude in C minor
13. Ciaccona
14. Blockhead
15. Kan-non Power

The California Guitar Trio : Bert Lams, Paul Richards, Hideyo Moriya

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Various Artists - 1993 Gold Encore Series - "Guitar Fire!"

Being a huge fan of Larry Carlton, Special EFX, Acoustic Alchemy and The Rippingtons, I was already familiar with several of the tunes on this compilation. The smooth, even flow from one song to the next was mostly upbeat and relaxing. My favorites on this album were the adventurous "Essence" by Kevin Eubanks and the Larry Carlton/B. B. King duet "Blues for TJ" written by Larry for his son, bassist Travis James Carlton. The inclusion of "The Chief" was a bit of a head scratcher since it was taken from the album "Reunion" by vibraphonist Gary Burton. Although the song was written by Pat Metheny, it features Burton on vibraphone with a short, tasteful solo by Metheny. Minor complaints aside, this disc would be an excellent addition to any smooth jazz collection.

This very well-balanced group of nine tracks from many different contributing artists is a worthy addition to the libraries of those seeking nonthreatening guitar-oriented smooth jazz/fusion background music. It's a very even mix, with some standout numbers. Acoustic Alchemy's reading of Paul Desmond's "Take Five" has a strong funk component while not losing sight of the comfortable five-beat meter. Chieli Minucci's "Jamaica, Jamaica" (guesting the composer and George Jinda) is very nicely rendered by Special EFX in a quite frankly enticing effort. I bought the CD for that track alone, and it's well worth it. Kevin Eubanks contributes the self-penned "Essence." It's a medium tempo burner with a smoky edge. The fine "Blues for TJ" track, featuring Larry Carlton and B.B. King, closes out slightly over 45 minutes of worthy ear candy. If you buy it and don't like it, somebody you know will. 

Track Listing:

1. Smiles and Smiles to Go - Larry Carlton 5:47
2. Take Five - Acoustic Alchemy 4:38
3. Early A.M. Attitude - Dave Grusin/Lee Ritenour 4:58
4. Affair in San Miguel - Russ Freeman/The Rippingtons 5:09
5. Jamaica - Chieli Minucci/George Jinda/Special EFX Jamaica 4:04
6. The - Gary Burton Chief 4:16
7. South Beat - Rene Toledo 5:23
8. Essence - Kevin Eubanks 5:37
9. Blues for TJ - Larry Carlton/B.B. King 5:18


Larry Carlton (guitar, keyboards);
Greg Carmichael , Lee Ritenour , Nick Webb , Pat Metheny, Rene Toledo, B.B. King (guitar);
Russ Freeman (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards, drums, keyboard programming);
Chieli Minucci (acoustic guitar, electric guitar);
Kevin Eubanks (acoustic guitar);
Michael Bearden (flute, string synthesizer);
Brandon Fields (saxophone);
Ludwig G”tz (trombone);
Michael Orta (piano);
Joe Sample (Fender Rhodes piano);
Brian Mann (organ);
Dave Grusin, Mitchel Forman, Richard Eddy, Terry Disley (keyboards);
Terry Trotter (synthesizer);
Gary Burton (vibraphone);
Marcus Miller (electric bass, fretless bass);
Will Lee (electric bass);
Steve Bailey (fretless bass);
Orlando Jr. Hernandez, Peter Erskine (drums, percussion);
Dave Weckl, Jeff Porcaro, Rick Marotta, Carlos Vega (drums);
Tony Morales (cymbals, hi-hat);
George Jinda (cymbals, tambourine, bells, chimes);
Steve Feid, Anselmo Febles, Errol Crusher Bennett, Mario Argandona, Michael Fisher, Ralph MacDonald (percussion)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Steve Khan - 2016 (1981) "Eyewitness" - (1982) "Modern Times" - (1984) "Casa Loco"

Emerging on the New York scene in the mid-1970s, guitarist Steve Khan didn't long at all to develop a strong reputation as both chameleon-like session guitarist—comfortably crossing over from the jazz world into pop and rock and gracing albums by artists ranging from Esther Phillips, Freddie Hubbard and David Sanborn to Phoebe Snow, Billy Joel and Steely Dan—and valued member of the Brecker Brothers Band, playing on the seminal uptown group's sophomore effort, 1976's Back to Back, as well as 1977's Don't Stop the Music, both on Arista Records. Before long he was signed as a solo artist by Columbia Records, releasing three albums that, while intersecting stylistically with the Breckers' more funkified music, placed his sharp-toned Fender Telecaster—blues-inflected but with a more sophisticated harmonic bent that made him instantly recognizable—front and center.

Still, while the three albums Khan made for Columbia—1977's Tightrope, 1978's The Blue Man and 1979's Arrows—remain compelling on the two-disc 2015 BGO complication that brought these three albums back into print internationally for the first time in many years, by 1980, with the release of Khan's groundbreaking Arista debut, Evidence, it was clear that change was in the air. Khan's Columbia recordings were all exceptional recordings, but they were also, to some extent, obvious albums, where Khan's attention-grabbing writing laid the foundation for some aggressive, fusion-centric soloing that, clearly for the guitarist, had a limited shelf-life.

Evidence, on the other hand, was a true solo album, where Khan layered guitar upon guitar (upon guitar) in a setlist consisting completely of other peoples' writing. The first side of the original vinyl release collected compositions—some well-known, others more obscure—by jazz luminaries including Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Lee Morgan, Horace Silver and his previous employer, Randy Brecker. But it was the second side, an 18-minute medley of music by renegade composer/pianist Thelonious Monk, that was the knockout punch on a record that, from start to finish, demonstrated greater breadth—texturally, harmonically and conceptually—than any of Khan's previous recordings...and despite his more reductionist approach. More in service of the song than ever before, Khan also demonstrated greater attention to space and the idea that less can, indeed, oftentimes be more.

These changes were all the beginning of a paradigm shift for Khan, but it was with his next three albums, all featuring the same lineup, that the guitarist truly honed these changes as a guitarist and composer with the precision of a fine sculptor, but this time in the context of an empathic quartet featuring bassist Anthony Jackson, drummer Steve Jordan and ex-Weather Report percussionist Manolo Badrena.

The group's first album, Eyewitness (Antilles, 1981), was the subject of an extensive Rediscovery column at All About Jazz in early 2015, and it's flattering to learn that the column was one of a number of factors that led Khan to approach BGO Records with the idea of doing the same thing they'd done with his three Columbia recordings the previous year, but this time with the three albums released by the quartet that gained its name from that 1981 debut.

And so, BGO's reissue also includes the live Modern Times (Trio Records, 1982)—released in the USA as Blades (Passport Jazz)—and studio follow-up Casa Loco (Antilles, 1984) alongside Eyewitness: newly remastered (and approved by Khan) and spread across two CDs, with extensive liner notes by Matt Phillips. Eyewitness/Modern Times/Casa Loco rights a wrong by putting these albums back in print: three important records that truly redefined Khan as a guitarist, composer, interpreter and bandleader. They also set the stage for everything that was to follow, even if future albums ranged from the freely interpretive trio of The Green Field (Tone Center, 2006) to the guitarist's most recent Tone Centre releases—2007's Borrowed Time; 2011's Parting Shot; and 2014's Subtext—which more decidedly explored the guitarist's career-long interest in all things Latin and Afro-Cuban.

But in a career that's positioned Khan as a guitarist's guitarist, it's with these three Eyewitness albums that everything changed—and began again—for Khan. The Rediscovery column may, indeed, be amongst the final words on Eyewitness, describing the genesis of the group and how Khan applied a sparer, largely gentler approach that eschewed overt pyrotechnics and, instead, made deep grooves, group interplay and, most important, collective listening Eyewitness' significant modus operandi.

No group is worth its salt, however, if it doesn't continue to evolve, and this two-disc set demonstrates just how Eyewitness grew over the course of an eighteen-month timespan, from the November, 1981 recording of Eyewitness through the May, 1983 sessions that yielded the more provocative Casa Loco.

It also demonstrates how Khan had grown into an artist who felt ready to take real chances; Modern Times may possess the feel of a group that's spent some significant road time together, but this May, 1982 live date from Tokyo's The Pit Inn was, in fact, Eyewitness' first ever live date. Given the tenor of the times, with the emergence of the young lions and neoconservative jazz movement in full, well, swing, Modern Times represented a significant risk on many fronts, beyond being the group's first live performance. First, this was all-original music: three compositions by Khan and the closing title track—a collectively composed piece that moves from brooding, ethereal opening to four-on-the-floor theme, driven by Khan's whammy bar-driven chords, ultimately opening up to a solo section for Khan that's propelled by the reggae-inflected Jordan, Badrena's empathic punctuations, and Jackson's remarkable ability to completely anchor the group while, at the same time, altering the harmonic centre of the piece and acting as an near-telepathic melodic foil for the guitarist.

Second, this was a live album (then an LP) with four tracks all hovering near the 11-minute mark: a bold move (and, truthfully, a hard sell for Khan) made all the bolder still when taking into account that some significant editing had to be done in order to get the tunes down to that length. More than anything else, this was a playing band that also applied judicious editing in the studio (considering the number of fade-outs on Eyewitness and Casa Loco), but which applied absolutely no restrictions on how and where the music took it in either context.

Third, while these aren't what could be called "fusion" records in any way or at any time—though they're certainly both electric and electrifying—there's little to place Eyewitness in the context of the backwards-looking neocon movement of its time. While every piece on Modern Times swings in its own way, for the most part they don't swing the way the Marsalises of the world were asserting as the only way at the time. That said, while "The Blue Shadow" opens up with a bass/drums duet that, more backbeat-driven, clearly demonstrates the mitochondrial connection shared by Jackson and Jordan, it ultimately unfolds into a solo middle section that swings in a more decidedly jazz-like fashion. Jordan makes clear that, as much as his future would be more focused on other arenas—recording with artists ranging from The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and soulful blues guitarist Robert Cray to country crooner/guitar wizard Vince Gill—at least some of his roots were unmistakably in the jazz sphere, as both he and Badrena bolster Jackson's walking bass lines and Khan's lean phrasing and sophisticated voicings.

It's unlikely that Khan ever crossed paths with Allan Holdsworth, but there's something indescribably Holdsworthian about the construction of "Penguin Village," though once Khan winds his way through the composition's primary theme, it becomes all Eyewitness—the guitarist's sinewy melody driven relentlessly by Jordan's rimshot snare, Jackson's staggered bass lines and Badrena's pulsating congas.

But more than any individual component, that Modern Times was taken from Eyewitness' first live performance only serves to show how astute Khan was in putting this particular group of players together in the first place. The entire album bristles with excitement, even when the mood is more subdued, and there's an overriding sense, throughout its entire 46-minute duration, of a group hanging on for dear life. Still, despite every nanosecond feeling imbued with risk there is, nevertheless, a feeling of confidence amongst Khan and his bandmates; no matter where anyone chooses to go, there's a feeling of certainty that the others will always manage to be there—either to follow the lead...or to grab the reins and drive the music in even more unexpected directions.

Following a paradigm shifter like Eyewitness and a live album like Modern Times may have represented a challenge for some but, if anything, Casa Loco represents a group continuing to evolve...and may well be the best amongst a group of albums where every single one offers something unique and appealing.

Some of Casa Loco's six compositions are more concise. The opening, Simmons drum-driven "The Breakaway"—also featuring Badrena's idiosyncratic vocal utterings—barely cracks the three-minute mark. But if "The Breakaway" and closing "The Suitcase"—also the title of a subsequent live album that, culled from a 1994 German show with Jackson and drummer Dennis Chambers and released by Tone Centre in 2008—are relatively brief, the twelve-minute title track and nine-minute "Uncle Roy" provide plenty of stretching space.

Somewhere in-between, there's the metrically challenging "Some Sharks," and a completely unexpected look at Steve Leonard's 1964 surf hit with The Pyramids, "Penetration," that manages to be both reverent and thoroughly modern. Both tracks flesh out a record that differs significantly from what came before in many ways, if for no other reason than only one of its six songs being written by Khan.

Beyond the guitarist's "Uncle Roy" and "Penetration," Casa Loco's four other tracks are all co-credited to the entire group, making this an even more collaborative effort than what came before. The more pervasive inclusion of Badrena's vocals is another significant differentiator, as is Jordan's fairly liberal use of the then-relatively new Simmons electronic drums, which allowed him to inject a variety of electronic colors throughout the record---surprisingly, thirty years later, weathering time far better than many of those early electronic drum experiments. And though Khan's tone is largely clean, warm and occasionally chorused, he also injects some unexpectedly jagged overdrive on "The Suitcase" and "Penetration," and leans a little more heavily towards the overtly virtuosic...delivering rapid-fire lines that, nevertheless, never come at the expense of either the collective group sound or the heart of the music.

But while all the definers of previous Eyewitness records remain, Casa Loco is overall a more hard-driving record, with a more aggressive stance. Despite Khan's ongoing commitment to creating distinctive chord voicings and a general eschewal of "look at me" pyrotechnics, Casa Loco lights a fire that even the undeniably incendiary Modern Times failed to light...or, more fairly, lit in an entirely different way. Casa Loco is also an edgier record, with Jackson and Jordan creating a more unsettling foundation, and Badrena's improvised vocals, at times, quirkily idiosyncratic.

Taken together, Eyewitness, Modern Times and Casa Loco represent something all too rare in most musicians' discographies, defining, as they do, a very specific point in time where everything changed. Providing the opportunity to hear and feel Khan redefine both himself and his bandmates to freer possibilities—and with all three albums largely out of print for many years—credit must also go to Britain's BGO Records for being amenable to the reissue of these three important titles. As Khan prepares for a Subtext followup, Eyewitness/Modern Times/Casa Loco not only fills the gap nicely, it should act as a major eye-and ear-opener to Khan fans who've never had the opportunity—and the pleasure—to hear these three absolutely seminal and groundbreaking recordings.

Track Listing:

Eyewitness: 1. Where's Mumphrey? 2. Dr. Slump 3. Auxiliary Police 4. Guy Lafleur 5. Eyewitness.
Modern Times: 6. Blades 7. The Blue Shadow.

Modern Times (con't): 1. Penguin Village 2. Modern Times.
Casa Loco: 3. The Breakaway 4. Casa Loco 5. Penetration 6. Some Sharks 7. Uncle Roy 8. The Suitcase.


Steve Khan: guitar; Anthony Jackson: bass guitar, contrabass guitar (CD1#6-7, CD2); Steve Jordan: drums, Simmons drums (CD2#3-8) ; Manolo Badrena: percussion, vocals (CD2#3-8).

Richie Kotzen & Greg Howe - 1995 "Tilt"

Tilt is a collaborative studio album by guitarists Greg Howe and Richie Kotzen, released in 1995 through Shrapnel Records. The collaboration was organized by Shrapnel founder Mike Varney due to his enthusiasm for both guitarists' stylistic similarities, and as a result of good sales a second album, Project, was released in 1997.

After Richie Kotzen was kicked out of Poison, he teamed up with fellow shred-guitarist Greg Howe to record Tilt, an album that was nearly half-a-decade behind the times. Filled with fretboard heroics in the vein of Eddie Van Halen and Allan Holdsworth.

"Tilt" features the twin talents of super guitar shredders Greg Howe and Richie Kotzen on a CD released in 1995, when it seemed Shrapnel Records was releasing a new fusion oriented CD every week. The songwriting on "Tilt" was more or less evenly divided between Howe and Kotzen, with a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Contusion" thrown in for good measure. If you're not a fan of vocal songs, don't worry about the lone vocal number "I Wanna Play" - the vocals are quite sparse - the song being dominated by funked-up guitar and clavinet. A phine phunky phusion effort pheaturing two of progressive fusion's stalwarts.

Since Kotzen and Howe were notable guitar virtuoso's, this album packs killer jazz melodies. They do it the shred way. Only the track "I Wanna Play" is a bit different because of its funky tempo, but is good in its form. If you want to put some variation on your shredding collection this album won't disappoint you. A must have for connoisseurs of instrumental rock.

First of all I am the great fan of guitar instrumental music.In Japan,sadly enough GREG is so underrated among guitar DIEHARDS.This CD showcases the fine prowess and outstanding versatility of these guitar players.These two guys play their guitar like the two heavy weight champions of the boxing match.They never compromise against commercial music.They did what they wanted to do.So If you hear this CD you will surely be knocked down to the ground and forced to bite the dust.They really had a fierce competition from start to end.This CD never lets you down.

The best shreders in town play together in this fusion tour-de-force. The 1st track, "Title", gives the tone of the record and is absolutely killer. Richie showcases his usual fast runs throughout the album, while Greg mixes lightning chops with unexpected, cool jazzy licks. A must buy.

Track listing:

1.     "Tilt"       Greg Howe     5:27
2.     "Chase the Dragon"       Richie Kotzen     4:59
3.     "Tarnished With Age"       Howe     5:10
4.     "Outfit"       Kotzen     4:14
5.     "Contusion"       Stevie Wonder     6:25
6.     "I Wanna Play"       Kotzen     5:42
7.     "Seventh Place"       Howe     6:26
8.     "O.D."       Kotzen     4:52
9.     "Full View"       Howe     5:57

Total length: 49:12


Greg Howe – guitar (left stereo channel), keyboard, bass (tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9), engineering, mixing, production
Richie Kotzen – guitar (right stereo channel), vocals, clavinet, bass (tracks 2, 4, 6, 8), engineering, mixing, production
Jon Doman – drums (tracks 1, 3, 5, 9)
Atma Anur – drums (tracks 2, 4, 6, 8)
Kevin Soffera – drums (track 7)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Richie Kotzen - 1991 "Electric Joy"

Electric Joy is the third studio album by guitarist Richie Kotzen, released in 1991 through Shrapnel Records.

"Electric Joy" was Richie Kotzen's third album for Shrapnel Records and documents his incredible growth as a musician. The album delivered a collection of original instrumental compositions rich in tasteful melodies and contemporary guitar techniques, that further cemented hs position in the music world as a guitarist's guitarist. For the first time, Kotzen was in the studio producing himself with complete creative control. Since he was preparing a vocal record for Interscope around the same time, he chose to make this an all instrumental record. Kotzen's favorite songs from "Electric Joy" are "Slow Blues" and "Electric Toy".

His debut album was a hit with the shredders, but three albums in, Kotzen had already delivered three completely different pieces of work.  Electric Joy has some of the playfulness of the debut, but is mostly a jaw-dropping collection of intricately composed pieces that skirt multiple genres including funk, country, bluegrass, jazz, fusion, and blues.  If I had to pick out an influence, I would say that Electric Joy sounds like Richie had been listening to a lot of the “two Steves”:  Vai and Morse.  His technique is top-notch.

“B Funk” opens the album with some light-speed bluegrass-y licks, but it keeps changing, from a funked up rocker with shredding, to a melodic “chorus” section.  Then it’s back to the bluegrass from space.
At this point I’ll point out that Kotzen plays all the instruments except drums, himself.  That’s Richie’s standby Atma Anur on drums.  What this means is, that incredibly dexterous bassline you’re hearing on “B Funk” is also performed by Kotzen!  And it’s almost every bit as stunning as the guitar!
“Electric Toy” begins ballady, with some lyrical Vai-like moments.  Of course, Kotzen can’t help but do what he does, so there are different sections, some at lickity-split tempos.  This is followed by “Shufina”, which is essentially a blues jam.  Kotzen’s deep bends are appropriate, but before too long he’s harmonizing with himself on some unconventional melodies.
A smoking hot riff ignites “Acid Lips”, little lightning licks flicker in and out, but this one has a solid groove.  (It can’t be easy grooving with yourself on bass.)  “Slow Blues” contains some of Richie’s most lyrical lead work.  If you can imagine the lead guitar taking on the role of a singer, then “Slow Blues” is probably the most accessible song on the album.
The next song “High Wire” is uncatagorizable, suffice to say that like all of Electric Joy it combines quirky notes with shreddery, funk and groove.  My favourite song is “Dr. Glee”.  It sounds like it seems it should – gleeful.  I find this pleasant melody to be very summery.  Kotzen guitar has so many different sounds and shades, even just within this one song.

“Hot Rails” is another one that sounds like advertized…a train racing down the track.  Kotzen’s slide work is anything but simple.  This one’s so fast it’s hard to keep track of all the cool different guitar parts.  It almost sounds like Kotzen wrote a blues shuffle, and then decided to hit fast forward on his tape deck and learn it at that speed!
Electric Joy closes with “The Deece Song”, which thankfully is mid-tempo allowing us to catch our collective breath.  It’s another great performance, similar in style to “Dr. Glee”.  It has its sweeping Satriani moments as well.

This one is by far the best Richie Kotzen instrumental album to date. The opener Shufina and the following song Electric Toy are enough to put this album in the wish list of every guitar lover. The entire album by the way is extremely consistent from its beginning to its end. The music is a sort of blues fusion type of thing. There are true songs, Richie doesn't show off here for the sake of. He plays his trademark legato licks with heart and mind and the music in the end is truly gratifying. There is only one song that I don't like which it happens to be the one before the last one. Too confused. But apart from this one, a perfect brilliant album. 

I'm a huge fan of technical music. I love Allan Holdsworth, Frank Gambale, Shawn Lane, Steve Morse, etc. The problem with some of the shredders out there is the music is boring. Not so with this album. Richie sheds his previous neoclassical stylings for a bluesy funk fusion. His tone on here is superb, and the melodies are great. If you like high calibre guitar playing with good TASTE, buy this.

Recorded at Richie`s House and Prarie Sun Studios, Cotati, CA. This material was originally recorded on 1/4 inch 8 track and later transferred to 24 track for all drum overdubs and mix.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Richie Kotzen.

1.     "B Funk"       4:18
2.     "Electric Toy"       5:01
3.     "Shufina"       5:02
4.     "Acid Lips"       4:45
5.     "Slow Blues"       4:21
6.     "High Wire"       5:41
7.     "Dr. Glee"       4:11
8.     "Hot Rails"       3:34
9.     "The Deece Song"       5:12

Total length: 42:05

Richie Kotzen – guitar, bass, tubular bell, arrangement, engineering, mixing, production
Atma Anur – drums, percussion

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Greg Howe - 1988 "Greg Howe"

Greg Howe is the self-titled first studio album by guitarist Greg Howe, released in 1988 by Shrapnel Records.[1] Prior to its recording, Howe had sent a demo tape to Shrapnel founder Mike Varney in 1987, after which he was signed to the label.

Gregory "Greg" Howe (born December 8, 1963) is an American guitarist and composer. As an active musician for nearly thirty years, he has released eight studio albums in addition to collaborating with a wide variety of artists.

After leaving high school and playing the club circuit around the New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania areas with his brother Albert (a singer) for most of the 1980s, Greg Howe officially began his solo career after sending a demo tape to Shrapnel Records in 1987, upon which he was immediately signed by founder Mike Varney.[3] His self-titled debut album was released in 1988, during the popular shred era, and went on to become his highest-selling album; a 2009 article in Guitar World magazine ranked it tenth in the all-time top ten list of shred albums.
The following year, he joined with Albert to form a Van Halen-inspired hard rock group named Howe II. Through Shrapnel, they released two studio albums: High Gear (1989) and Now Hear This (1991). His second solo album, Introspection, was released in 1993. At this point his style had changed radically from the straightforward instrumental rock of both his debut and the Howe II albums, to a more jazz fusion-laden approach which remains unique and identifiable to this day; some of his signature traits being fast left-hand legato passages (having been influenced greatly by jazz fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth), and the frequent use of tapping and odd time signatures. One particularly noteworthy aspect of Howe's legato technique is the "hammer-on from nowhere", in which a note is hammered-on to a different string without first being picked.
A trio of albums spanning the middle part of the decade—Uncertain Terms (1994), Parallax (1995) and Five (1996)—were all a consistent evolution of the sound he had adopted on Introspection. During this time he collaborated twice with fellow guitarist Richie Kotzen for the albums Tilt and Project in 1995 and 1997, respectively. He then briefly dabbled with a heavier, neo-classical metal style for his 1999 release, Ascend, which featured keyboardist Vitalij Kuprij. However, he has since spoken of his dissatisfaction for that project, as well as an earlier collaboration on Kuprij's own album, High Definition (1997).
After switching labels to Shrapnel's jazz-oriented counterpart, Tone Center Records, he returned to his familiar style with Hyperacuity (2000), which still stands as some of his most prominent experimentation with jazz fusion. After a highly troubled recording process for Extraction (2003)—a collaboration with drummer Dennis Chambers and bassist Victor Wooten—he took an extended hiatus from recording solo material until the release of his eighth studio album, Sound Proof, in 2008.
In a 2015 article by Guitar World, Howe was ranked 10th in the Top 10 Pick Squealers of All Time.

During the mid- to late '80s, talent scout and Shrapnel Records owner Mike Varney was the ultimate source for new high-tech guitar virtuosos in the post-Yngwie Malmsteen era (Malmsteen was also one of his finds). Among the dozens of young guns who emerged from Varney's stable, Greg Howe was one of the best. His debut album, Greg Howe, was groove-based, and favored funk and fusion flavors over gothic neo-classicism. It sounded fresh compared to the melodramatic work of peers like, say, Vinnie Moore. Front-loaded with two devastating tracks, "Kick It All Over" and "The Pepper Shake," Greg Howe is immediately engaging. Unlike other music in the note-heavy "shred" genre, these two pieces sound fun rather than academic; the irresistibly slippery grooves provided by the crack rhythm section of Atma Anur (drums) and Billy Sheehan (bass) provide a supple bed for Howe's playful fretwork. Unfortunately, the rest of the album falls off a bit after that. The remaining tracks have some interesting ideas and plenty of enthusiastic performances, but sound more like vamps for Howe's soloing than songs. A few premonitions of Howe's more fusion-based future reveal themselves on Greg Howe, although it's primarily a high-octane, indulgent rock romp. Worth hearing. 

Courtesy Original Uploader.

Track Listing:

1. Kick It All Over
2. The Pepper Shake
3. Bad Racket
4. Super Unleaded
5. Land of Ladies
6. Straight Up
7. Red Handed
8. After Hours
9. Little Rose


Greg Howe – guitar
Atma Anur – drums
Billy Sheehan – bass

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Eric Kloss - 1972 [1998] "One, Two, Free"

One, Two, Free is the twelfth album by saxophonist Eric Kloss which was recorded in 1972 and released on the Muse label.

Although based in the hard bop tradition, altoist Eric Kloss was always open to the influence of the avant-garde. This stimulating session features Kloss, guitarist Pat Martino, keyboardist Ron Thomas, bassist Dave Holland, and drummer Ron Krasinski really stretching out on Carole King's "It's Too Late," "Licea," and the three-part "One, Two, Free." Eric Kloss pushes himself and his sidemen throughout the date, and even if the Fender Rhodes sounds a bit dated, the high musicianship and chance-taking are still exciting to hear.

Pittsburgh native Eric Kloss (b. 1949) was one of the most distinctive, original voices to emerge on alto sax in the mid-60s. He was only 16 when the first of his eleven Prestige albums was released in 1965. These records featured the cream of the crop of New York musicians and the young Kloss more than held his own with heavyweights like Booker Ervin, Jaki Byard, Chick Corea, Cedar Walton, and most notably, guitarist Pat Martino.

Kloss switched to the Muse label in 1972 and debuted with this outstanding quartet recording, One, Two, Free ; which remains his finest achievement. In a group featuring Martino on guitar and Ron Thomas on electric piano as well as bassist Dave Holland and fellow Pittsburgher Ron Krasinski on drums, Kloss pushes and pulls his group to take chances that explore the outer edges of bop, fusion and even funky pop music.

The 18-minute, three-part title track is clearly influenced by Bitches Brew (on which bassist Holland also participated). But here, like on the surprisingly substantial funk of Carole King's "It Too Late," Kloss's arched sound and searing style move the ostinato vamp in a more avant-garde direction (the way Arthur Blythe later would). Martino gets a notable share of the solo spotlight and never ceases to amaze in his mixture of cool chordal comps and fleet runs up and down the fretboard.

Kloss's beautiful ballad, "Licea," guided by Dave Holland's moody, signature string work, is the jewel of this collection and probably deserves to be better known. Martino waxes lyrically before Kloss enters for a rueful countenance that's worth the price of admission.

32 Jazz was wise to bring One, Two, Free back into circulation - and maintain Don Schlitten's beautiful cover-art photography too. Priced well below other recent jazz reissues, One, Two, Free is a significant chapter in 1970s jazz and provides a great opportunity to discover the interesting music of Eric Kloss (who, despite no widespread releases since the early 1980s, still performs infrequently at Pittsburgh events with his vocalist wife). Even though there's 42 minutes of music here, one wishes creative interaction this good kept on going. Recommended.

An extraordinarily gifted altoist, Eric Kloss first appeared on the scene at the age of 16, when his debut record won him critical acclaim as a blind child prodigy. By the time of this recording, the 23-year-old Kloss had lived up to his early promise, growing as an open-minded musician with experience playing with such jazz heavy-weights as Jaki Byard, Booker Ervin, Jack DeJohnette, and Chick Corea.
One, Two, Free is an avant-garde album of often funky music, with its strong rhythms rooted in the driving bass lines of Miles Davis-veteran Dave Holland and the vintage Fender Rhodes sounds of Ron Thomas. Kloss and guitarist Pat Martino stretch imaginatively on the 18 minute title track (seamlessly divided into three parts), crafting a memorable original that approaches the electric intensity of Miles Davis‘ work from the same era.

Carol King’s “It’s Too Late” starts off with tongue-in-cheek straightness, but once the theme is stated, the pop-song is turned on its head and transformed into a funky vehicle for exploration. The closing track, “Licea,” is complex and cerebral, but rewards close listening. Featuring two originals and one cover tune, all over 10 minutes long, One, Two, Free is an adventurous blast from the past that still retains its freshness and is definitely worth owning. Buy it, and help rescue one of the unsung heroes of the saxophone from undeserved obscurity.

Track listing

All compositions by Eric Kloss except as indicated
  1. "One, Two, Free Suite: One, Two Free/Elegy/The Wizard" (Eric Kloss, Pat Martino, Ron Thomas) - 18:03
  2. "It's Too Late" (Carole King, Toni Stern) - 13:38
  3. "Licea" - 10:10


Monday, July 4, 2016

Andy Summers & Robert Fripp - 1982 "I Advance Masked"

I Advance Masked is a 1982 album by English guitarists Andy Summers and Robert Fripp. It is the pair's first of two album collaborations (Bewitched would follow in 1984), and it consists of 13 instrumental tracks. According to Summers, the album was "a synthesis of two guys who grew up playing guitar, heard the Beatles, listened to jazz, have been influenced by Oriental music and Steve Reich, but still happen to be playing in a rock context. Every track started the same way, just two guitars. On some of them I played a little bass or put on a bit of percussion or string synthesizer. There are no drums but you don't miss them. Some of it is very accessible and some is very avant-garde".[1] The title track was released as a single with Hardy Country on the flip side.

Many a guitar fan would have predicted that a summit between legendary guitarists Andy Summers (the Police) and Robert Fripp (King Crimson) would result in a guitar solofest. But the music on their first collaboration together, I Advance Masked, stresses guitar textures and moods over indulgent soloing. Although the recording sessions weren't entirely enjoyable for Summers (who was experiencing marital problems at the time), some very beautiful music can be found on the resulting album. The music for the track "Girl on a Swing" does an excellent job of conveying the song's title in one's mind, and the duo's guitars weave wonderful polyrhythmic guitar lines throughout "China -- Yellow Leader." "The Truth of Skies" is an atmospheric piece, created by a wash of keyboard sounds and guitar dissonance, while "New Marimba" would have sounded right at home on an early-'80s King Crimson album. I Advance Masked has a dreamlike quality to it, and is definitely not typical rock music. It's highly recommended to fans of these two great and original guitarists. 

The Police guitarist, one of the great six-string stylists in rock, met up with another in his first extra-Police outing, this 1982 A&M album. The King Crimson legend and Andy effortlessly shift from challenging polyrhythms to shimmering tapestries as they perform Girl on a Swing; Painting and Dance; The Truth of Skies , and more!

Often overlooked, and most likely underrated, I Advance Masked is a true synergy of guitar duets. Far superior to its follow-up Bewitched, which was a bit overproduced and relied more on guitar synths--not that that's a bad thing, but in this context, the approach used on I Advance Masked was more effective. This recording shows Summers and Fripp truly inspired, brimming with ideas, and remarkably synchronized mentally as well as musically. My preferred track from this set is "Hardy Country," which I never tire of hearing. 

I have had three experiences in my life where I felt that I had "discovered" music. The first was hearing J. S. Bach as a small child. The second was Steve Reich's "6 Marimbas" and "18 Musicians". The third was Andy Summers/Robert Fripp's "I Advance Masked". Yep, it's that good. The two aspects most noticeable in this guitar tour de force are 1)the synergistic contrapuntal dynamic that is the true conversation between these highly philosophical musicians, and 2) Fripp's unmatched capacity for playing "any note, as long as it is the right one". His leads on "In the Cloud Forest" and "Girl On a Swing" are nothing short of brilliant. Summers' splashes of color go a long way here, as they always do. Not only should any fan of Fripp own this album, but also any guitar lover who wishes to expand his horizons a bit. This is an album that, rather than typify the current paradigm, defines the next.

As you'd expect from the guitarists from King Crimson and The Police, "I Advance Masked" sounds like a collison of instrumentals that both bands recorded (particularly the 80's version of King Crimson with Adrian Belew, Tony Levin and Bill Brufford aiding and abetting Fripp). Released in 1982, there are elements of Fripp and Summer's approach with their popular bands sprinkled throughout the music.

The polyrhythmic structured style of playing that Summers used in The Police provides a perfect backdrop for Fripp's rapid fire deliver. The result is an album heavy on atmospheric guitar textures. There's plenty of melodic material as well such as the beautiful and evocative "Girl on a Swing" and "Lakeland". The slightly off center, askew funhouse melodies take this far out of Windham Hill territory.

Fans who enjoyed some of Summer's instrumental pieces (and b-sides for singles)that he recorded with The Police as well as on his own solo albums and Fripp's textured playing on tracks such as "Matte Kundasi", "The Sheltering Sky" from King Crimson's "Discipline" will enjoy this album. Keep in mind that there are no vocals and the principle instruments are guitars (although Summers and Fripp also play bass, various sythesizers and various percussion instruments to fill out the sound on the album)and you'll enjoy this unusual album. The duo would collaborated on a follow up album "Bewitched" which is equally as fascinating and melodic although I personally think that album sounds a bit more like Summers and less like Fripp in terms of the compositions.

Tracks Listing

1. I Advance Masked (5:12)
2. Under Bridges of Silence (1:42)
3. China - Yellow Leader (7:09)
4. In The Cloud Forest (2:30)
5. New Marimba (3:38)
6. Girl On A Swing (2:04)
7. Hardy Country (3:02)
8. The Truth of Skies (2:06)
9. Painting and Dance (3:25)
10. Still Point (3:07)
11. Lakeland / Aquarelle (1:43)
12. Seven On Seven (1:37)
13. Stultified (1:28)

Total Time 38:46


    Robert Fripp – electric guitars, Moog and Roland synthesizers, Roland Guitar Synthesizer, Fender bass, percussion
    Andy Summers – electric guitars, Moog and Roland synthesizers, Piano, Roland Guitar Synthesizer, Fender bass, percussion

King Crimson - 1992 "The Great Deceiver" (Live 1973-1974) [4 CD Box]

The Great Deceiver is a live 4CD box set by the band King Crimson, released on Virgin Records in 1992. In 2007, it was reissued as two volumes of 2 CDs each. The track listing on the volume 1 CD 1 lists 11 tracks, incorrectly listing The Talking Drum and the abbreviated "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two" from the Pittsburgh show from CD 1 of the volume 2 set.
The box set features live recordings of the band from 1973 and 1974. All recordings feature the lineup of Robert Fripp, John Wetton, David Cross and Bill Bruford. Jamie Muir, who left the band in early 1973, is not featured on the set. The band's 1974 concert from Providence, Rhode Island is presented in its entirety on CDs One and Two; this was the second-to-last live concert ever performed by this incarnation of King Crimson.
King Crimson's "Walk On" music in 1973-74 was an excerpt of "The Heavenly Music Corporation," from the album (No Pussyfooting) by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. These "walk-ons" are reproduced here, and indexed as separate tracks.
Three recordings from this box set were previously available on other King Crimson albums, albeit in slightly altered forms. An abbreviated version of "We'll Let You Know" appears on the Starless and Bible Black album, released in 1974. Similarly, an abbreviated version of "Providence" was included on the Red album, also released in 1974. The live performance of "21st Century Schizoid Man" on CD Two was issued in 1975 as part of the album USA, featuring overdubbed violin from Eddie Jobson.
Many of the recordings on this album are band improvisations. "The Law of Maximum Distress" appears in two sections, as the tape ran out in the middle of the song. Much of the missing material seems to be used on "The Mincer" from Starless and Bible Black. As Robert Fripp notes in the CD jacket, "Most live recording follows the policy of two machines in use simultaneously to meet an eventuality such as this. We learn."
The liner notes to The Great Deceiver run to 68 pages. These notes feature comments from Fripp, Wetton and Cross, annotated excerpts from Fripp's 1974 diary, reviews of the previous King Crimson box set, Frame by Frame: The Essential King Crimson (1991), and a complete listing of all concerts performed by the band in 1973 and 1974.
The track "Exiles" is credited to Fripp/Wetton/Palmer-James on this box set. The correct credit, as listed on Larks' Tongues in Aspic and confirmed by BMI's records, is Cross/Fripp/Palmer-James. Despite having no legal co-writing credit for the song, John Wetton has indicated in interviews that he wrote the bridge for "Exiles.

In King Crimson's extensive catalog of archival recordings and box sets, The Great Deceiver (Live 1973-1974) is the undisputed winner, the item truly worth acquiring. The four-CD set Frame by Frame, released 18 months earlier, was light on material previously unavailable and included a few edits and overdubs on classic King Crimson tracks that shocked the fans. Epitaph, another four-CD collection culled from the group's first live shows in 1969, boasted understandably flawed sound and more repetitive content. But The Great Deceiver has it all. Over four discs, the set chronicles the on-stage activity between October 1973 and June 1974 of the most powerful King Crimson lineup. Robert Fripp, John Wetton, David Cross, and Bill Bruford were mostly performing material from their previous two LPs (Larks Tongues in Aspic and Starless and Bible Black). Yes, the track list remains pretty much the same from one show to another, but the group approaches each night from a different angle, changing the arrangements on the fly to suit the prevailing mood -- check out the chameleon-esque "Easy Money," presented in four guises, for tangible proof. Most importantly, the group performed unpredictable improvisations that embodied the struggle between order and chaos that Fripp thrived to express in penned songs like "Starless" and "Fracture." The live tapes have been beautifully mastered so that the music hits hard without losing the subtle nuances of Cross' violin. At the time of its release, The Great Deceiver filled a gap in the group's discography (the live album USA had not been officially reissued yet), but even after tons of additional concerts from that period were released by Fripp's label, Discipline, this box set still stands as the definitive argument to consecrate the 1973-1974 Crimson as its most exciting incarnation.

The Great Deceiver (Live 1973-1974). A four-CD box set that brings together excerpts and complete shows from six dates beginning in October, 1973 and ending in June, 1974, it demonstrates just how much of an improvising band this incarnation of King Crimson was—perhaps the greatest improvising line-up in the group's long career.

The version of King Crimson that released Larks' Tongues In Aspic (DGM, 1973) was by far the heaviest and most guitar-centric version of Crimson to date. The previous band, featuring recently-deceased bassist/singer Boz Burrell, reedman/mellotronist Mel Collins and drummer Ian Wallace, had fallen apart on tour, with everyone except Fripp hell-bent on moving towards a more rock and blues-centric approach. Fripp's new version of Crimson would bring together a group of players from diverse backgrounds, but who demonstrated almost instantaneous chemistry.

Drummer Bill Bruford had departed from progressive rockers Yes as the group edged towards superstardom on the heels of Close To The Edge (Atlantic, 1972). While it seemed a curious choice at the time, anyone familiar with Bruford's subsequent career knows that in many ways he's a perpetual student, making the majority of his career choices based on art rather than commerce. Bassist/vocalist John Wetton was a member of Family, a curious but distinctive group that never achieved the success it deserved. Violinist David Cross was the new name, but lent the group a new texture and classicism combined with an edgy approach to soloing. Those familiar with the free improv community would have found the inclusion of percussionist Jamie Muir—who left shortly after recording Larks' Tongues In Aspic—an odd choice. But, interestingly enough, Muir would prove to be the most extroverted showman the group ever had; leaping around the stage with chains, dressed in an animal skin and spewing fake blood.

While even the earliest Crimson from 1969 would include improvisations that went well-beyond mere extended soloing, the 1973-1974 edition of the group would allow composed tunes to break down into lengthy free pieces that might magically find their way into the next structured song. Or, perhaps, not. While a four-CD set of material culled from performances of songs from only three studio albums is bound to have some repetition, does anyone really need to hear four versions of "Easy Money"?

The answer is an unequivocal yes. Even twenty-four hours represent a significant difference in how this group approached form-based material. The June 29, 1974 version of "Easy Money" breaks down from its aggressive edge into a softer solo section that, unlike the studio version, never returns to a final verse. Instead, it gradually evolves into a vamp that pairs warm chordal work from Fripp and a mellotron flute solo from Cross. The following night—Crimson's second-to-last show of its final tour before Fripp would dissolve the band (something nobody was aware of that point)—manages to find its way back to the final verse, but not before some frenzied high-octane soloing from Fripp threatens to completely unhinge the proceedings. The group was clearly in high spirits, and Fripp— considered by most at the time to be a serious, reserved type—manages to break Wetton up during the first verse by responding to the bassist's vocal line with one of the most extreme note bends in guitar history.

Even two versions of "Fracture"—Fripp's most convoluted composition to date and still a challenge for aspiring guitarists—end up being different enough to justify inclusion. Despite the detailed structure of the song, the shades of color added by everyone- -and the open-ended section that immediately precedes the propulsive final third—illustrates just how open-minded this group was, even with the most regimented material. The equally constructed but initially balladic "Starless" is given the same treatment, also on two versions. Fripp's introductory "one note" solo gives way to two very different approaches once the dynamics and energy pick up—including a sadly under-mixed electric piano solo from Cross on the June 30th show.

Bruford's decision to leave Yes couldn't have come at a more opportune time. The opportunity to work with Muir, if even only for a few months, opened up his mind to possibilities felt in his work to this day. While he had a ways to go in terms of loosening up as he has in recent years, the chance to play in a group that, unlike his old cohorts in Yes, didn't believe in faithful reproduction of the studio recordings night after night, gave him an opportunity to evolve rapidly. He also began playing a host of tuned and untuned percussion, and worked hand-in-glove with Wetton to create some of the most thunderous grooves ever heard.

The improvs that regularly found their way into 1973-1974 Crimson sets sometimes emerged from songs, sometimes evolved into them, or sometimes stood alone. And while many began abstractly but ultimately found their way to powerfully funky grooves courtesy of Bruford and Wetton, there were exceptions. "Improv-Daniel Dust" begins as a delicate guitar/violin duet that ebbs and flows, only to find its way into "The Night Watch." "Improv-Wilton Carpet" proves this Crimson could be be adept at more abstract free play, patterns emerging only to disappear again as Wetton develops a repeated riff over Bruford's military-style drumming. That seamlessly segues into "The Talking Drum," a pattern-based vehicle for soloing that almost inevitably led to the metal-edged "Lark's Tongues In Aspic, Part Two," albeit in this instance an abbreviated version.

In many ways The Great Deceiver is this quartet's finest work, saying everything it had to say. Red (DGM, 1974), would find Crimson pared down to a trio, with the fired Cross appearing on only a couple of tracks, and the return of other guests including original Crimson co-founder Ian McDonald on saxophone. As a studio release it's a high point of Crimson's 37-year on-again/off-again career and signals, with the title track, "Fallen Angel" and "One More Red Nightmare," a shift that might have been worth exploring further had Fripp not become so disillusioned with touring and the harsh economic realities of the music industry in general.

Subsequent Crimsons would include some improvisation in performance, but never again to the same degree as the 1973-1974 line-up. And while future members Tony Levin, Adrian Belew, Trey Gunn and drummer Pat Mastelotto would be on more equal technical footings with Fripp and Bruford (who would return to Crimson for the early-1980s version and the mid-1990s double trio), none of the later incarnations could match this Crimson for its energy, unfettered sense of exploration and ability to just let things happen in a completely unconsidered way. Characteristics that made 1973-1974 Crimson the band that, if only remembered for a handful of enduring compositions, is fondly looked at as, perhaps, the most viscerally exciting version of this longstanding and continually reinvented group.

Track listing:

Disc 1: Things Are Not as They Seem...

    Recorded at the Palace Theatre, Providence, Rhode Island, United States, 30 June 1974.

01  "Walk On ... No Pussyfooting" (Robert Fripp, Brian Eno) – 0:52
02  "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two" (Fripp) – 6:12
03  "Lament" (Fripp, John Wetton, Richard Palmer-James) – 4:04
04  "Exiles" (David Cross, Fripp, Palmer-James) – 7:00
05  "Improv - A Voyage to the Centre of the Cosmos" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bill Bruford) – 14:41
06  "Easy Money" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 7:14
07  "Providence" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 9:47
08  "Fracture" (Fripp) – 10:47
09  "Starless" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Palmer-James) – 11:56

Disc 2: Sleight of Hand (or Now You Don't See It Again) and...

    Tracks 1-2 recorded at the Palace Theatre, Providence, Rhode Island, United States, 30 June 1974.
    Tracks 3-11 recorded at the Glasgow Apollo, Glasgow, Scotland, UK, 23 October 1973.
    Tracks 12-13 recorded at Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania, United States, 29 June 1974.

(Note: Only the first half of "The Night Watch" is taken from the Glasgow performance; the second half was taken from the Zurich show featured on CD Four. The liner notes indicate that there were technical problems with both recordings, and that the splice was done "to honour the spirit and sense of Glasgow's performance".)

 01  "21st Century Schizoid Man" (Fripp, Ian McDonald, Greg Lake, Michael Giles, Peter Sinfield) – 7:32
 02  "Walk off from Providence ... No Pussyfooting" (Fripp, Eno) – 1:15
 03  "Sharks' Lungs in Lemsip" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 2:30
 04  "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Jamie Muir) – 7:25
 05  "Book of Saturday" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 2:49
 06  "Easy Money" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 6:43
 07  "We'll Let You Know" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 4:54
 08  "The Night Watch" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 4:54
 09  "Improv - Tight Scrummy" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 8:27
 10  "Peace - A Theme" (Fripp) – 1:01
 11  "Cat Food" (Fripp, Sinfield, McDonald) – 4:14
 12  "Easy Money..." (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 2:19
 13  "...It is for You, but Not for Us" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 7:25

Disc 3: ...Acts of Deception (the Magic Circus, or Weasels Stole Our Fruit)

    Tracks 1-11 recorded at the Stanley Warner Theatre, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania United States, 29 April 1974.
    Tracks 12-13 recorded at Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania, United States, 29 June 1974.

  01  "Walk On ... No Pussyfooting" (Fripp, Eno) – 1:15
  02  "The Great Deceiver" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 3:32
  03  "Improv - Bartley Butsfordd" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 3:13
  04  "Exiles" (Cross, Fripp, Palmer-James) – 6:23
  05  "Improv - Daniel Dust" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 4:40
  06  "The Night Watch" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 4:18
  07  "Doctor Diamond" (Cross, Wetton, Fripp, Bruford, Palmer-James) – 4:52
  08  "Starless" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford Palmer-James) – 11:36
  09  "Improv - Wilton Carpet" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 5:52
  10  "The Talking Drum" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir) – 5:29
  11  "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two" (abbreviated) (Fripp) – 2:22
  12  "Applause and announcement" – 2:19
  13  "Improv - Is There Life Out There?" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 11:50

Disc 4: ...But Neither Are They Otherwise

    Tracks 1-4 recorded at Massey Hall, Toronto, Canada, 24 June 1974.
    Tracks 5-12 recorded at the Volkshaus, Z├╝rich, Switzerland, 15 November 1973.

  01  "Improv - The Golden Walnut" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 11:14
  02  "The Night Watch" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 4:22
  03  "Fracture" (Fripp) – 10:48
  04  "Improv - Clueless and Slightly Slack" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 8:36
  05  "Walk On ... No Pussyfooting" (Fripp, Eno) – 1:00
  06  "Improv - Some Pussyfooting" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 2:23
  07  "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir) – 7:41
  08  "Improv - The Law of Maximum Distress, Part One" (Bruford, Cross, Fripp, Wetton) – 6:31
  09  "Improv - The Law of Maximum Distress, Part Two" (Bruford, Cross, Fripp, Wetton) – 2:17
  10  "Easy Money" (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James) – 6:57
  11  "Improv - Some More Pussyfooting" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) – 5:50
  12  "The Talking Drum" (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir) – 6:05


    Robert Fripp - guitar, mellotron, electric piano
    John Wetton - bass guitar, vocals
    David Cross - violin, mellotron, electric piano
    Bill Bruford - drums, percussion