Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dejohnette Metheny Hancock Holland - 1993 [2002] "Parallel Realities Live"

Two CD set recorded live at the Mellon Jazz Festival in Philadelphia, 1990. Features Pat Metheny (guitar), Jack DeJohnette (drums), Herbie Hancock (keyboards) and Dave Holland (bass). 10 tracks including 'Shadow Dance','Solar','Eye Of The Hurricane' and more.

What a great live album. Ive listened to it about 20 times since purchasing. This group melds together very well and play an awesome set. Herbie and Dejohnette with Dave Holland are just real joys to listen to. Pat gives an interesting dynamic to the group. A fan of most contemporary jazz fushion will really enjoy this album.

This was one of the most underrated jazz supergroup assmebled. Between the Miles davis alumnis and Pat Metheny, this is the best concert I've seen of any genre when they came through Chicago around the same time. Based largely on Jack DeJohnette's Parallel Realities album, it adds Dave Holland to the studio effort. Pat Meteny collaborated with Dave Holland on his Question and Answer album around the same time which is also excellent. If you have the DVD, no need to get the CD since it is the identical material.

I never really appreciated jazz music until I got the laserdisc of this performance back in the 90s. Just amazing musicianship! This is what it's all about folks. Maybe you are like me: have a casual interest in a couple of jazz musicians but not crazy about "jazz". I can't recommend this highly enough. There's just something magical that happens when you put 4 musical giants like these together in the same room. Play this a few times and it might make a believer out of you, too. At least it will open your ears to a vast amount of music awaiting you.

I give this CD "2 Thumbs up!" Crimhead420.

Track listing:

CD 1
1 Shadow Dance 15:30
2 Indigo Dreamscapes 7:03
3 9 Over Reggae 7:36
4 Solar 13:09
5 Silver Hollow 8:25

CD 2
1 The Good Life 6:08
2 Blue 7:03
3 Eye of the Hurricane 15:31
4 The Bat 8:25
5 Cantaloupe Island 9:42

Total length: 98:32


Bass – Dave Holland
Drums – Jack DeJohnette
Guitar – Pat Metheny
Keyboards – Herbie Hancock

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dave Weckl - 2000 "The Zone" [CD/DVD]

An unusual double CD set that contains a "best-of" audio CD to Dave Weckl's own choice of ten selections from the recordings of the Dave Weckl Band and a DVD that features excerpts from his ground-breaking instructional video set A Natural Evolution. Titles contained on the audio CD include: Wet Skin, Alegria, High Life, The Zone, Wake Up, and more. The DVD has excerpts from all three of the A Natural Evolution videos, How to Develop Technique, How to Practice and How to Develop Your Own Sound. Altogether this set makes a great introduction to the work of one of the most notable of contemporary drummers.

A too-good-to-be-true package for aspiring jazz drummers everywhere, this incredible product features one disc of the best selections of the legendary fusion drummer's last three Stretch Records releases, and a special DVD with highlights from his three instructional videos put out by Carl Fischer. The ten tracks arguably feature some of modern jazz fusion's most adventurous jams and give hope that the genre that's not either traditional or smooth jazz can still thrive. The funk-drenched "Wet Skin" is Weckl's retro-soul-minded tribute to James Brown, with Brandon Fields' sax doubling ensembling with Jay Oliver's sly organ harmonies and Buzz Feiton's crisp and punch-rock guitar licks. "Alegria" means happiness, and the tune with that title is in turn wild and optimistic, a honking jam featuring Fields on tenor, soprano, and alto flute. Steve Weingart's feisty Fender Rhodes improvisations also give off an old soul fusion effect. The same sort of powerfully electric, intensely rhythmic horn-section vibe pervades the disc, with Weckl experimenting with meters and bringing in outside percussion on occasion. Steve Tavalione is also featured in sax on a few cuts, as is guitarist Frank Gambale -- all the best Los Angeles fusion freaks. Disc two is a DVD video sampler containing highlights from Weckl's three instructional videos available from Carl Fischer, in which the drummer provides insights into how to play effortlessly and organically (or "In the Zone"), how to develop technique, how to practice, and how to develop an original sound. Weckl writes in his liner notes that to him The Zone is a state "in which everything appears to be working on its own, with no effort involved." That pretty much describes his natural ability with the skins, and this set shows that he's eager to pass on the legacy.

This is an interesting release because it features a CD and DVD. The CD is a kind of "Best Of" collection of the cuts from previous DWB CDs, plus a couple of cuts from the Japan releases. These are "Tee Funk" - although previously recorded on Dave's solo release "Heads Up" - it's fun to hear it done by the band. The other is Steve Weingart's "Serenalin" - if you don't have the imports, these are great additions.
The DVD is a so-called "sampler" of the brilliant trio of instructional videos released by Carl Fischer. As with Dave's previous videos, the information and performances are at once exciting and motivating. The view into Dave's new "body movement" style of play is a testament to his commitment to further development as a player and instructor. The segment with Freddy Gruber is funny and often surreal. It's a treat to hear and see this man that so many players look up to. The inclusion of the information on sound and miking is a rare glimpse into an art that is too often ignored. The DVD is well produced and has some production additions from the original videos. The DVD format is great for this type of instruction - you can simply skip to the section where you left off. 
Great work by a great musician and soul.

Audio and video doesn't get any better than this project from Stretch Records (Concord Records distributor), and thanks to Carl Fischer and Weckl...this one-of-a-kind 2-CD-Set is right on target...anyone thinking about taking up drums or is playing in a band, needs to pick "THE ZONE" up...Dave makes all of this look so easy, you'll be playing like him in no time.
Techiques that take years to develope will experience a short-cut after witnessing this album...the entire package is a must have...and once again, thanks to the insight of Weckl, Fischer and Stretch Records.

Track listing"

    Disc 1 Audio CD

1-1     Wet Skin     6:11
1-2     Alegria     5:33
1-3     High Life     7:47
1-4     The Zone     6:08
1-5     Wake Up     6:48
1-6     Lucky Seven     5:55
1-7     Tee Funk     7:03
1-8     Rhythm Dance     5:59
1-9     Serenalin     5:57
1-10     Amanecer     8:29

    Disc 2 Instructional DVD Sampler

2-1     Dave Weckl Drum Solo    
2-2     Band Excerpt−High Life    
2-3     How To Develop Technique    
2-4     What Comes To Mind    
2-5     How The Body Works    
2-6     The Grip    
2-7     Exercise #1    
2-8     Freddy Gruber    
2-9     Band−Angel's Flight    
2-10     How To Practice    
2-11     Time By Natural Motion    
2-12     Band Excerpt−Wet Skin    
2-13     Develop Your Own Sound    
2-14     Tuning The Drums    
2-15     Microphones    
2-16     Mixing Console    
2-17     Band Excerpt−High Life    
2-18     Dave Weckl Drum Solo    
2-19     Credits    


    Drums, Percussion, Tambourine [Hi-Hat] – Dave Weckl
    Bass, Electric Bass – Tom Kennedy (2)   
    Guitar, Rhythm Guitar – Buzzy Feiten
    Keyboards – Steve Weingart
    Keyboards, Synth, Organ – Jay Oliver
    Lead Guitar, Guitar [Melody] – Frank Gambale
    Saxophone, Alto Saxophone – Steve Tavaglione
    Tenor Saxophone – Bob Malach
    Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Flute, Baritone Saxophone, Saxophone, Keyboards [Additional] – Brandon Fields 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Miles Davis - 1974 [1991] "Get Up With It" [Japan Import]

Get Up with It is a compilation album by American jazz musician Miles Davis. Released by Columbia Records on November 22, 1974, it compiled songs Davis had recorded in sessions between 1970 and 1974, including those for the studio albums Jack Johnson (1971) and On the Corner (1972). In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), J. D. Considine described the compilation's music as "worldbeat fusion".

One track, "Honky Tonk," was recorded in 1970 with musicians such as John McLaughlin and Herbie Hancock. "Red China Blues" had been recorded in 1972 before On the Corner, while "Rated X" and "Billy Preston" were recorded later that year with the band heard on In Concert. The remaining tracks were from 1973 and 1974 sessions with his current band including Pete Cosey.
"He Loved Him Madly" was recorded by Davis as his tribute to then-recently deceased Duke Ellington, who used to tell his audiences "I love you madly." English musician Brian Eno cited it as a lasting influence on his own work.

In a contemporary review, Rolling Stone magazine's Stephen Davis praised Davis' adventurousness and direction of his rhythm band, whom he called a "who's who of Seventies jazz-rock". Robert Christgau of The Village Voice wrote that, although Davis' recent albums have sounded slapdash with "noodling over a pick-up rhythm section," he still plays Get Up with It "since it contains over two hours of what sometimes sounds like bullshit: it's not exactly music to fill the mind. Just the room." In a 1981 review, Christgau wrote that only two of the six shorter songs—"Maiyisha" and "Honky Tonk"—make up "more than good" background music, but the two long pieces "are brilliant: 'He Loved Him Madly,' a tribute to Duke Ellington as elegant African internationalist, and 'Calypso Frelimo,' a Caribbean dance broken into sections that seem to follow with preordained emotional logic."
Alternative Press gave Get Up with It a rave review when it was reissued in 2000, calling it "essential ... the overlooked classic of psychedelic soul and outlandish improv ... representing the high water mark of [Davis'] experiments in the fusion of rock, funk, electronica and jazz". Stylus Magazine's Chris Smith said that it is "not an easy album to write, let alone think, about. It’s a bit more of an anything-goes hodgepodge than it is a sprawling masterwork, and is probably written about the least of all Miles’ electric work."

A confusing, bold, weird and remarkable statement that in many ways sums up a confusing bold weird and remarkable period of Davis' musical development. Tracks come from sessions between 1970 and 1974 (his last officially released studio material before his five year "retirement") and are of varying quality. I'm not a big fan of the straight blues "Red China Blues" which wastes a provocative title, and I don't feel like the closing 12 1/2 minutes of "Billy Preston" really goes anywhere interesting, though there are moments along its length when I'm entertained even if they don't stick in the memory after they're done. From here though, the quality level rockets upward, with the easy-going "Maiysha" next up quality-wise, making a nice groove that's suddenly derailed by a freaky Pete Cosey solo. "Mtume" is a fierce groover that shows off the great percussionist, but also allows for some nice interaction between the guitars and shows off his 70's "Pete Cosey group" in fine form - if this was a lightweight track, you can imagine how much better they can be. "Honky Tonk" is a nice, disjointed rhythm experiment from 1970 with many of the Bitches Brew players on it, including John McLaughlin who sounds great on this cut, though for me Miles' solo steals the show.

Then there's the great stuff, which numbers among the finest achievements Miles ever put down on tape: "Rated X" is an incredibly noisy, challenging and difficult piece of music, supposedly inspired as much by Stockhausen as any jazz antecedent. Miles sticks to a noisily dissonant organ here while electric guitar and electric sitar create churning, rhythmic patterns with very little in the way of "soloing" over a ferocious rhythm that the bass, drums, and percussion set up - a rhythm that Miles stops and starts on cue. This one's a bracing number that's not always what I'm in the mood for, but when I am ready to engage it, I don't know if he's ever been better. And as has been said many times here and elsewhere, the long tracks - "He Loved Him Madly" and "Calypso Frelimo," both over 32 minutes each - simply take the cake. "He Loved Him Madly" is a long, slow burning tribute to Duke Ellington in the year of his passing which builds over ambient rhythm and guitar into a fine flute solo setting the stage for an absolutely brilliant and gut-wrenching Davis trumpet solo. "Calypso Frelimo" is more "up," with a fast, dense opening sequence featuring solos by the horns, a slowed-down middle segment that gives a lot more (musical) space for everyone to work in, and then a return to the density and rocketing tempo of the beginning that allows the guitars to roam over the top, punctuated by brief trumpet statements (possibly meant to guide the proceedings). It's simply amazing, and each of the ten+ minute segments has its own flavor and character, though together they hold a cumulative power that the tracks separated probably wouldn't have garnered. Amazing stuff.

When Get Up with It was released in 1974, critics -- let alone fans -- had a tough time with it. The package was a -- by then customary -- double LP, with sessions ranging from 1970-1974 and a large host of musicians who had indeed played on late-'60s and early-'70s recordings, including but not limited to Al Foster, Airto, John McLaughlin, Reggie Lucas, Pete Cosey, Mtume, David Liebman, Billy Cobham, Michael Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Fortune, Steve Grossman, and others. The music felt, as was customary then, woven together from other sources by Miles and producer Teo Macero. However, these eight selections point in the direction of Miles saying goodbye, as he did for six years after this disc. This was a summation of all that jazz had been to Davis in the '70s and he was leaving it in yet another place altogether; check the opening track, "He Loved Him Madly," with its gorgeous shimmering organ vamp (not even credited to Miles) and its elaborate, decidedly slow, ambient unfolding -- yet with pronounced Ellingtonian lyricism -- over 33 minutes. Given three guitar players, flute, trumpet, bass, drums, and percussion, its restraint is remarkable. When Miles engages the organ formally as he does on the funky groove that moves through "Maiysha," with a shimmering grace that colors the proceedings impressionistically through Lucas, Cosey and guitarist Dominique Gaumont, it's positively shattering. This is Miles as he hadn't been heard since In a Silent Way, and definitely points the way to records like Tutu, The Man with the Horn, and even Decoy when he re-emerged.
That's not to say the harder edges are absent: far from it. There's the off-world Latin funk of "Calypso Frelimo" from 1973, with John Stubblefield, Liebman, Cosey, and Lucas turning the rhythm section inside out as Miles sticks sharp knives of angular riffs and bleats into the middle of the mix, almost like a guitarist. Davis also moves the groove here with an organ and an electric piano to cover all the textural shapes. There's even a rather straight -- for Miles -- blues jam in "Red China Blues" from 1972, featuring Wally Chambers on harmonica and Cornell Dupree on guitar with a full brass arrangement. The set closes with another 1972 session, the endearing "Billy Preston," another of Davis' polyrhythmic funk exercises where the drummers and percussionists -- Al Foster, Badal Roy, and Mtume -- are up front with the trumpet, sax (Carlos Garrett), and keyboards (Cedric Lawson), while the strings -- Lucas, Henderson, and electric sitarist Khalil Balakrishna -- are shimmering, cooking, and painting the groove in the back. Billy Preston, the organist who the tune is named after, is nowhere present and neither is his instrument. It choogles along, shifting rhythms and meters while Miles tries like hell to slip another kind of groove through the band's armor, but it doesn't happen. The track fades, and then there is silence, a deafening silence that would not be filled until Miles' return six years later. This may be the most "commercial" sounding of all of Miles' electric records from the '70s, but it still sounds out there, alien, and futuristic in all the best ways, and Get Up with It is perhaps just coming into its own here in the 21st century.

Tracks Listing

Disc 1
1. He Loved Him Madly (32:20)
2. Maiysha (14:56)
3. Honky Tonk (5:57)
4. Rated X (6:53)

Disc 2
5. Calypso Frelimo (32:10)
6. Red China Blues (4:10)
7. Mtume (15:12)
8. Billy Preston (12:35)

Total time: 123:52


- Miles Davis / trumpet (3), electric trumpet with wah-wah (1,2,5-8), organ (1,2,4,5,7), electric piano (5)

- Steve Grossman / soprano saxophone (3)
- John Stubblefield / soprano saxophone (5)
- Carlos Garnett / soprano saxophone (8)
- Dave Liebman / alto flute (1,5)
- Sonny Fortune / flute (2,7)
- Lester Chambers / harmonica (6)
- Pete Cosey / electric guitar (1,2,5,7)
- Dominique Gaumont / electric guitar (1,2,7)
- Reggie Lucas / electric guitar (1,2,4,5,7,8)
- John McLaughlin / electric guitar (3)
- Cornell Dupree / electric guitar (6)
- Khalil Balakrishna / electric sitar (4,8)
- Badal Roy / tabla (4,8)
- Herbie Hancock / clavinet (3)
- Keith Jarrett / Fender Rhodes electric piano (3)
- Cedric Lawson / Fender Rhodes electric piano (4,8)
- Michael Henderson / bass guitar
- Al Foster / drums (excl. 3)
- Billy Cobham / drums (3)
- Bernard Purdie / drums (6)
- James Mtume Foreman / percussion (excl. 3)
- Airto Moreira / percussion (3)
- Wade Marcus / brass arrangement (6)
- Billy Jackson / rhythm arrangement (6)

Releases information: Recordings made in NYC - 1970 (track 3), 1972 (4,6,8), 1973 (5) and 1974 (1,2,7)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Scott Henderson, Steve Smith & Victor Wooten - 1998 "Vital Tech Tones"

The Vital Tech Tones were an American fusion supergroup formed in the mid-1990s composed of Vital Information drummer Steve Smith, Tribal Tech guitarist Scott Henderson, and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones bassist Victor Wooten. The group released two albums, both with Shrapnel Label Group's Tone Center Records before breaking up due to time constraints (the band was a side project for all three members). There is still some talk of a future reunion, but no official announcement has been made.
The band never played live, although Smith has performed with Henderson and Wooten on separate occasions.
The band's music is almost entirely instrumental, focused on virtuosic, free flowing soloing on top of a complex, solid groove. It is considered to be more on the rock end of the fusion spectrum.

Calling this group a power trio would not be fair, as it would be too much of an understatement. Guitarist Scott Henderson, bassist Victor Wooten, and drummer Steve Smith are three of the most inventive jazz-rock players who have pushed the style into uncharted waters during the late '80s and throughout the '90s. The clever name Vital Tech Tones infers each members primary bands: Smith's Vital Information, Henderson's Tribal Tech, and Wooten's Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. The combined talent level of the band is astounding and the music created here is a reflection of not only their technical abilities, but also their compositional talents. The program maintains a jazz-rock fusion feel, but there is enough variety in the compositions that raise this above just another blowing session. That being stated, the cover of "Giant Steps" has to be heard to be believed, as does the Jimi Hendrix-influenced "Lie Detector." A very rewarding session that proves that jazz-rock fusion can still be played with conviction, honesty, and integrity.

Perhaps a more spontaneous super-trio gathering of the post-70s fusion generation, Vital Tech Tones finds guitarist Scott Henderson chasing the voodoo down with mercurial bassist Victor Wooten (known for his scintillating slap-style as a member of Bela Fleck's Flecktones), and veteran jazz / stadium rocker, Steve Smith. The trio has assembled a wide ranging, often blues-based arrangement of group compositions / jams, and it proves an engaging showcase for Henderson's extreme talent, both in terms of solos and rhythm work. Drummer Steve Smith ably anchors Wooten's miraculous assortment of rumbling, popping, pyrotechnic baselines, most evident in tunes like "Snake Soda."
Tribal Tech fans will appreciate a new, bluesy version of "Dr. Hee," and the track "Crash Course" will clearly appeal to Allan Holdsworth devotees, as it recalls Holdsworth's IOU-era guitar trio arrangements. Perhaps most delightful is the angular interpretation of Coltrane's "Giant Steps," which is a worthy if slightly reckless update of that classic standard. Henderson is one of the few original electric guitar soloists capable of weaving an intelligent flurry of 128th notes with compelling emotional intensity and inventiveness, possessing ideas to match to his level of phrasing and technique. Wooten and Smith are comparable on their instruments, which means this trio typically hits its stride with warp-speed abandon.
Vital Tech Tones encompasses playing and extended soloing which straddles between the brilliant and the boisterous. While for some, the high-octane musical rapport here will stray into the territory of enlightened musical indulgence, Henderdson undoubtedly commands one of the premier guitar trios of recent memory. But that's just scratching the surface, as both Wooten and Smith's jazz and rock vocabulary demonstrate that no matter what the musical context, they're exceptionally creative and technically at a level few of their contemporaries can match.

"Well, what have we here then? Scott Henderson, Steve Smith and Victor Wooten - I think I know what to expect". WRONG! Put all your preconceptions to one side, and just enjoy. This album is going to be a little bit of a surprise.

You know how "fusion" music can sometimes become a bit predictable or even stale - bands simply rehashing what's been done before, only not as well. Then suddenly a band appears that literally EXPLODES onto the scene, to shake things up. Well, Vital Tech Tones is such a band.

I'm sure most fusion lovers are already aware of the aforementioned musicians' credentials, so they need no more introductions. What WILL surprise, and hopefully delight, such fusion enthusiasts, is what they create on this album. In my opinion, it comes across as a reaction against the staleness inherent in "some" fusion music. But, because I don't want to give too much away in my review, which would spoil the impact this band has on first hearing, I'll attempt to make vague comparisons instead. Thus, imagine, if you will, Scott with a touch of Jimi Hendrix in his playing, and if Steve added some of John Bonham's sheer power to his already awesome technique, then finally, if all the great bass players you'd ever heard gave a bit of themselves to add to Victor's playing - you'd be getting close to the sound of this phenomenally gifted trio, in this, their debut album.

The playing throughout is of course stunning. The compositions are varied in style - sometimes jazzy, heavy, complex, and funky - but always entertaining. It actually sounds like they were really enjoying themselves while making such a wonderful album. In fact, the amazing interplay within the band suggests to me that they were recording it live, thus capturing those rare moments of genius when they were all "in the zone". This is what jazz is supposed to be about anyway "reaching for that moment".

It's a gem of a performance. If you're looking for "jazz with attitude", this is the album for you - otherwise, look elsewhere. For the sheer sublime playing alone, this VTT album is worth buying. Take a risk - I promise you won't be disappointed!

Track listing:

1     Crash Course     7:00
2     Snake Soda     5:35
3     Dr. Hee     8:56
4     Everglades     9:41
5     Two For One     5:21
6     King Twang     4:10
7     The Captors     7:52
8     Giant Steps     5:45
9     Lie Detector     5:49


    Scott Henderson  - Guitar
    Victor Wooten - Bass
    Steve Smith - Drums 

Frank Gambale, Stu Hamm & Steve Smith - 2002 "GH3"

This disc is intense fusion with great soloing and excellent composition. The trio here just rip it up and pull out all the stops, virtuoso mania-style! The material is varied also, which is great, Frank Gambale uses both his electric and acoustic guitar with equalling effect, a true master player. Plus, there are Steve Smith and Stu Hamm individual solo showcase pieces which are moving and fun! Highly recommended and one of this years best in the fusion genre. Highlights include, All In Your Head, The Great Roberto, Geo 100, Saving Grace & The Challenger.

 I love rich melodic bass lines that are all over the fret board, and this cd (indeed, ALL of the cd's from Gambale Hamm Smith) delivers the goods.

For my money, you can leave your "chops" at the curb if there isn't any melody to augment them. But there are both chops AND melodies abundant on this cd. Stu Hamm is truly one of the world's premier bass players, Gambale frequently plays in the Allan Holdsworth style (that's a good thing), and drummer extraordinaire Steve Smith (Jean-Luc Ponty, Journey(!), Vital Information, etc., etc.) is an ideal drummer for this very-demanding style of music.

As a self-proclaimed "prog head", I guess I'd prefer a bit more in the way of keyboards here, but that's a minor quibble. I've got plenty of keyboard-driven progressive jazz fusion cd's to satiate those desires anyway. As a reference point, this bears close similitudes with the mid-80's albums of Bill Connors.

Interesting, driving, soulful music played exceptionally well, with fine production. It's exactly what I was seeking when I took a chance on this one.

If every track on here were like Confuse-a-Blues, it would have gotten 5 stars from me. That track has gotten more playing time at hardcore music parties than any other in recent memory with requests for more. I have to admit, I wasn't a huge fan of Stuart Hamm from the get go. Gambale and Smith always were ones I followed from first hearing. But, this group really came together on this cd with some challenging and "in your face" tracks on here...Hamm being a very nice part of it.

If you are a hardcore "fusionistic" music fan like me who really enjoys just a trio laying it down and challening your listening skills, this may be a good one to pick up.

I have seen Steve Smith and Vital Information perform on several occasions, and have also seen Stu Hamm. Having these three master musicians in the same band makes for one intense musical ride. I thought "The Light Beyond" was very good, and this release definitely takes things a step further. The tunes here give each member more than enough chances to display incredible chops, so no one will be dissappointed. Some fusion albums can go a bit over the top as far as the soloing, even for the serious musicians out there. However, not this one. The solos are mind-boggling, but they never detract form the songs, which are very well composed and arranged. These guys keep getting better and better! I hope they continue to put out new material.

I have listened to piles of fusion in my day, and this is one of the greats. No, it is not the most intense music out there, but is far more musical than most fusion, which ends up being a mere chops fest. All three of these excellent musicians play at their best, especially Frank Gambale, who simply wails. Every tune is strong too. Bring on more like this one.

Track listing:

1     All In Your Head     7:41
2     The Great Roberto     8:09
3     Confuse-A-Blues     9:43
4     Saving Grace     7:34
5     Culture Clash     3:37
6     Geo 100     9:06
7     November     4:43
8     The Challenger     6:33


    Frank Gambale - Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
    Stuart Hamm - Bass
    Steve Smith - Drums, Djembe, Shaker, Finger Cymbals 

Dave Weckl - 1994 "Hard Wired"

What was true of Master Plan is also true of Dave Weckl's third album as a leader of Hard-Wired -- it isn't the fusion masterpiece Weckl is capable of delivering, but it certainly isn't bad either. This time, the drummer's guests include keyboardist Jay Oliver and bassist Anthony Jackson as well as bassist John Patitucci, who like Weckl, was no longer a member of Chick Corea's Akoustic and Elektric Bands and was making his own albums a priority. The album's main emphasis is fusion that is fairly accessible, yet substantial and improvisatory. Tunes like the Asian-influenced title song and the groove-oriented "Crazy Horse" weren't recorded with hard bop's hard-liners in mind, but at the same time, they don't pander to NAC radio. As enjoyable as this album is, it isn't essential. One sensed that Weckl's best work as a leader was yet to come.

When you read other reviews (and mine!) just remember the profound musing ... opinions are like [anatomical descriptor here]: everyone's got one. Now for my second disclaimer: I am a drummer. That said, I enjoy this CD as much for the stellar non-percussion composition and performances as much as I do for the stellar percussion composition and performances.

This CD sizzles. It has some songs on it that could be said to have been written with "pop"y hooks in them, yes. It also has a masterful latin piece ("Dis' Place This") with some wild rhythms in it (love that piano part!), whimsical tunes ("Afrique" and "Just an Illusion"), moody songs ("In Flight" and "Where's Tom?"), jazzy urban grooves ("Crazy Horse" (amazing keyboard work) and "In the Pocket"), and a soulful, somber finish ("Tribute") with a wonderfully rich piano part (it takes getting through about a minute of muted key tones played to a ride cymbal to get to it) that the sax picks up and follows along with. The entire horn section is well-written and well-played throughout the album.

Weckl definitely gets his time in the spotlight, and NO ONE can do it quite like him. Some of the songs did take a few listens to get into, I admit, but this is now one of my favorite CDs of all time. If you think the samples on Amazon are interesting AT ALL, then BUY IT. I don't think you'll feel you wasted any money after only a few plays.

This is not only my favorite Weckl CD, but one of my favorite CDs of all time. When I heard Weckl with Chick's Electric Band I was blown away at his sound. When I heard his compositions on "Master Plan" with Jay Oliver, I was Floored. I had no idea this guy was as great a composer as he was a drummer! Not only are these guys masters of their instruments, they are also amazing composers. The rhythms, the melodies, the solos, are all beyond incredible. Jay Oliver is simply the best soloist I have ever heard. His 'mimic guitar' solo in "Crazy Horse" is the coolest 'guitar solos' I have ever heard. Whether you play drums, bass, guitar, keys, sax, horns or just love hearing the finest compositions played by the finest musicians, GET THIS CD! You will be BLOWN AWAY!

Hard Wired is definitely an improvement over Dave's previous solo album "Heads Up," especially in the aspect of songwriting. It might still be somewhat of a drummer's album, but after all it IS a drummer's album! Dave plays some great grooves with some crazy beat displacement/syncopation on the more latin-fusion flavored tracks, as well as some straighter pocket playing. Just an interesting side note- the "guitar" solo on track 5 that is mentioned in other reviews is actually Jay Oliver using a unique sound on the keyboard, and using the pitch bend! This is a must have for drummers, but also a good album for anyone who appreciates jazz fusion oriented, instrumental music.  

Track listing:

1     Hard-Wired     4:02
2     Afrique     5:53
3     Dis' Place This     6:38
4     In Flight     6:11
5     Crazy Horse     5:41
6     Just An Illusion     5:09
7     Where's Tom?     5:09
8     In The Pocket     5:29
9     Tribute     5:09


    Drum, Drum Programming – Dave Weckl
    Bass – Anthony Jackson (tracks: 1, 2, 3,), James Genus (tracks: 5, 6, 7), John Patitucci (tracks: 4, 9)
    Bass [Programming] – Jay Oliver (tracks: 8)
    Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Electronic Wind Instrument – Steve Tavaglione
    Synthesizer, Piano, Organ – Jay Oliver
    Trumpet – Scott Alspach  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

GRP All-Star Big Band - 1988 "Live In Concert"

This is a 2 CD set of a concert from Japan in 1987. The first CD is the allstar band (minus Chick Corea) and is 49 minutes long. Most of the tracks are 4 to 5 minutes long, except for the last which is 8 minutes. The second CD is Chic Corea's Elektric band, is 59 minutes. The sound quality of this concert is excellent (as you would expect from GRP).

The first three songs are by Diane Schuur. She just sings and lets her normal voice come through, such as on Love Dance. Note that Grusin, Ritenour or Scott do not appear on the Shuur songs.

On the remaining tracks on the first CD, Grusin, Ritenour and Scott take turns leading the band. Note that Scott is not on all of the tracks. The last two Grusin tracks are the best.

The second CD is all Chick Corea's Elektric band. The tracks are longer, with 2 over 10 minutes. For the most part, I think this live performance is much better than the Elektric Band studio albums. The first two tracks are nothing special, and consists of little blasts of solos. Things get more interesting as the CD moves on.

I bought this cd when it first came out. What really impressed me about this disc was the spacious sound stage. The over all sound was very defined. It had the feeling of being there live. Most CDs I have bought with in the last 17 years can't compare to quality of the depth of sound found in this recording. This was also released on laserdisc. This should be released on Blu-Ray, it would make for a great evening.

If you like dave grusin and chick corea and like me prefer more rock orientated jazz you must listen to this. With Vinnie Coluaita drumming for Grusin, and Weckl for Chick you drummers wont be dissapointed either. Includes the best version of Chicks 'Light years' I have heard with Daves kit sounding amazing (electronic tuned toms).'Rumble' is laughably good too!.All the Grusin classics like 'AM attitude' and some with Tom scott are all performed in a rocky/funky way with Ritnour adding to that feel with his trademark sound. Overall another brilliantly entertaining grp performance.

This double CD is most notable for its second half which has a strong outing from Chick Corea's Elektric Band, his pacesetting fusion band with guitarist Frank Gambale, altoist Eric Marienthal, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl. The first CD is of lesser interest since it contains three routine vocals by Diane Schuur and some dull R&B jams with guitarist Lee Ritenour, keyboardist Dave Grusin and saxophonist Tom Scott. This set is worth buying for Corea's contributions if seen at a budget price.  

Track Listing:

Disc: 1
  1. Deedles' Blues
  2. Love Dance
  3. Caught a Touch of Your Love
  4. Early A.M. Attitude
  5. The Sauce
  6. Water From the Moon/Earth Run
  7. Target
  8. Goodbye For Kathy
  9. An Actor's Life

Disc: 2
  1. Overture
  2. Time Track
  3. No Zone
  4. Sidewalk
  5. Rumble
  6. Full Moon
  7. Light Years


CD 1 [Vol. 1]
Barnaby Finch, Dave Grusin - Keyboards
Tim Landers - Bass
Vinnie Colaiuta - Drums
Lee Ritenour - Guitar
Tom Scott - Saxophone
Diane Schuur - Vocals

CD 2 [Vol. 2]
Chick Corea - Keyboard
John Patitucci - Bass
Dave Weckl - Drums
Frank Gambale - Guitar
Eric Marienthal - Saxophone

Monday, May 8, 2017

John Coltrane - 1966 [1970] "Coltrane Plays The Blues"

 Coltrane Plays the Blues is an album credited to jazz musician John Coltrane, released in 1962 on Atlantic Records, catalogue SD 1382. It was recorded at Atlantic Studios during the sessions for My Favorite Things, assembled after Coltrane had stopped recording for the label and was under contract to Impulse Records. Like Prestige Records before them, as Coltrane's fame grew during the 1960s, Atlantic used unissued recordings and released them without either Coltrane's input or approval.

Coltrane's sessions for Atlantic in late October 1960 were prolific, yielding the material for My Favorite Things, Coltrane Plays the Blues, and Coltrane's Sound. My Favorite Things was destined to be the most remembered and influential of these, and while Coltrane Plays the Blues is not as renowned or daring in material, it is still a powerful session. As for the phrase "plays the blues" in the title, that's not an indicator that the tunes are conventional blues (they aren't). It's more indicative of a bluesy sensibility, whether he is playing muscular saxophone or, on "Blues to Bechet" and "Mr. Syms," the more unusual sounding (at the time) soprano sax. Elvin Jones, who hadn't been in Coltrane's band long, really busts out on the quicker numbers, such as "Blues to You" and "Mr. Day." [Some reissues add five bonus tracks: two alternates apiece of "Blues to Elvin" and "Blues to You," and "Untitled Original (Exotica)." All three were recorded on October 24, 1960.]

An under-appreciated album in the Coltrane discography. I would argue that Mr. Knight is probably the "coolest" song Coltrane ever recorded, meaning that it still sounds fresh and innovative even today. Coltrane's playing on this album is not as muscular as some of his other albums, nor as beautiful as on 'Ballads' or 'with Johnny Hartman', but its some where in-between, and that is what makes it great. I think this some of the quartet's finest work. 

These recordings come from the same sessions that produced 1961's My Favorite Things. This is one of the least well know Coltrane albums, partly because it is an all blues format and partly because it was released at the end of his association with Atlantic records.
Plays The Blues features the talents of McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Steve Davis. It is the beginning of his work with Tyner and Jones in quartet form. For that alone this recording would be important.
Although this album is called Plays The Blues, this is by no means the only blues which Coltrane plays. There are blues elements, moods and feelings in all of his best-known recordings. Listen to "Slowtrane," "Blue Train," "Bessie's Blues" among others and one can't help but hear the blues vibe.
The original six tracks are fantastic and have that same blues vibe. They hit the listener right in the heart and soul and don't let go. All six are superb, but "Blues To Bechet," "Mr. Day," "Mr. Knight" and "Blues To Elvin" are absolute classics.

Track Listings:

  1. Blues To Elvin
  2. Blues To Bechet
  3. Blues To You
  4. Mr. Day
  5. Mr. Syms
  6. Mr. Knight
  7. Untitled Origional (Bonus Track For CD Only)


    John Coltrane — soprano saxophone on "Blues to Bechet" and "Mr. Syms"; tenor saxophone on all others
    McCoy Tyner — piano
    Steve Davis — bass
    Elvin Jones — drums

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Larry Coryell - 1970 [2006] "Spaces"

Spaces is Larry Coryell's third album as a leader. The album was released 1970 on the Vanguard label featuring John McLaughlin on guitar, Chick Corea on electric piano, Miroslav Vitouš on bass and Billy Cobham on drums. The album was produced by Daniel Weiss and engineered by David Baker with assistance of Paul Berkowitz.
The album is sometimes considered to have started the jazz fusion genre.

This album features the pioneer fusion guitarist Larry Coryell with quite an all-star group. Two selections match Coryell with fellow guitarist John McLaughlin, bassist Miroslav Vitous (doubling on cello) and drummer Billy Cobham, all important fusion players at the time. "Rene's Theme" is a guitar duet with McLaughlin, while "Gloria's Steps" (a Scott LaFaro composition) has Coryell, Vitous and Cobham jamming as a trio. Chick Corea sits in on electric keyboard for "Chris," and the 20-second closer ("New Year's Day in Los Angeles -- 1968") finds Coryell playing alone. Overall, the music has its energetic moments, but also contains some lyricism often lacking in fusion of the mid-'70s. In addition, all of the musicians already had their own original voices, making Spaces a stimulating album worth searching for.

The origin of Spaces can be traced back to when Larry Coryell saw John McLaughlin performing at Count Basie's nightclub with the Tony Williams Lifetime ensemble. Apparently he was so impressed with what he heard, that he invited McLaughlin to join him in the studio and record what would turn out to be arguably one of the very first jazz-rock/jazz-fusion records made at that moment in time. Not that they would have known it. But as Bob Dylan sang, the times were indeed changing, and jazz-fusion, for better or worse, was beginning to emerge as a far more cerebral alternative to what were perceived as more basic forms of music, i.e. rock and roll. At the centre of all this controversy was the chief minister of Jazz himself, Miles Davis, whose own increasingly cosmic explorations were beginning to have a profound impact on how people not only heard music, but also what they thought was possible.

One thing's for sure, jazz-fusion can make for a pretty intense listen to the uninitiated, especially when what you're dealing with is a highly trained and disciplined bunch of brainy instrumentalists who loved nothing better than to mess with the listener's mind and overload it with lots of extraneous musical detail.

The album gets off to a terrific start with the title track, where Larry Coryell lays down some extremely jazzy, almost scientific guitar lines, while Miroslav Vitous pumps away busily on the bass. McLaughlin adds his own little bit of magic as well, to what is a supremely satisfying opener. "Rene's Theme" is a Django Reinhart inspired number, and it's a lot of fun hearing the two guitarists not only duel it out but enjoying themselves in the process. On "Gloria's Step" the whole band are once again in analytical mode, exploring all sorts of tones and arty modulations. Mind you there's probably not a lot going on here that wasn't explored already by plenty of jazz musicians back in the 1950's. The same goes with the Coryell penned "Wrong Is Right," a song which could have quite easily appeared on any Charlie Mingus album, with one exception: as if Coryell was saying 'I'm trying to expand your consciousness while explore your inner intestines with my guitar solo.'

Things become academic on "Chris," written by Coryell's wife as it so happens, where Chick Corea bleeps and bloops on the electric keyboard in his own inimitable way, while Larry gives the guitar scales a fine workout. The final track "New Year's Day In Los Angeles -1968" lasts for only twenty seconds, but is a delightful way of bringing the album to a close.

There can be no doubt that Spaces was a groundbreaking album in more ways than one. But by 1969/70 obviously something was in the water, as if all the fundamental elements of the musical universe had come together to create ever more complex atoms and molecules, which is what Jazz Fusion was -a creation of new worlds whose possibilities were seemingly endless as they were intricate, even if they do pose a question mark over the listener's head as to what it all means.

Generally seen as Larry Coryell's best-known work, this 1970 album has more than stood the test of time. Cut the year before with one of the richest line-ups you could imagine, it featured Larry playing alongside John McLaughlin on second guitar, Chick Corea on electric piano, Miroslav Vitous on bass and Billy Cobham on drums. “Spaces” was an apt title for, not only was it the title of the opening track, it also suggested the nature of the musical landscape on which the players were operating. In the best traditions of jazz, the material was structured for extension and improvisation, and gave them space to listen to each other and to play off each other. As the Rolling Stone review at the time put it, "Coryell generally delivers more rapid-fire strings of notes, while McLaughlin leaves more spaces and is perhaps more into texture, but each player jumps into the other’s most characteristic territory on numerous occasions." It is indeed the quick-fire interchanges between the two that really lift this album to the status it has always enjoyed, as each one picks up on the moods and feels generated by the other. They swap lines frenetically on Larry's own tune ‘Wrong Is Right’, sounding almost scattershot at times, though on the following track, ‘Chris’, it is their lyricism that leads the way on what is the most open-ended improvised piece here. Before these two they had delightfully re-created the feels and swing stylings of Django Reinhardt on the acoustic ‘Rene's Theme’, and gentler explorations on ‘Gloria's Step’ that also develop into a haunting vehicle for Miroslav Vitous on bass as he joins the improvisations.

Initially the album's tone had been set by ‘Spaces (Infinite)’, to give it its full credited title.  Here the musical themes are dramatically stated at the outset, with some comparatively grandiose melodic steps, but then the whole thing shifts gear as Larry's guitar begins to lead from the front, urging the others to follow and opens things up into new and more urgent territory. It signals the album as a challenge, and almost dares the listened to follow, with its exuberance ensuring that they will. It covers much ground in its nine minutes, with time shifts and spaces allowing mood changes that unsettle and excite the listener in equal measure. And then there follows the rest of the tracks that expand and extend these stimulating beginnings as the players swoop and move around each other in ways that are always unexpected. At the end, and as if to confirm the unexpected, the album signs off with a pretty though brief twenty-second run of guitar notes called ‘New Year's Day In Los Angeles 1968’, an effective and thoughtful coda to the album that would certainly have left the audience upbeat and wanting more, which indeed they got with ensuing Coryell albums, but this is the key point where it all started.

Tracks Listing

1. Spaces (Infinite) (9:21)
2. Rene`s Theme (4:12)
3. Gloria`s Step (4:31)
4. Wrong Is Right (9:02)
5. Chris (9:32)
6. New Year`s Day In LA, 1968 (0:22)

Bonus tracks on this 2006 CD reissue:

7. Tyrone (11:38)
8. Planet End (8:44)

Total time 57:22


- Larry Coryell / electric & acoustic guitars
- John McLaughlin / electric & acoustic guitars
- Chick Corea / electric piano (5)
- Miroslav Vitous / double bass
- Billy Cobham / drums

Friday, May 5, 2017

Chad Wackerman - 1993 "The View"

The View is the second studio album by drummer Chad Wackerman, released in 1993 through CMP Records; it was later reissued together with Wackerman's 1991 album Forty Reasons as a limited edition double-disc compilation.

When drummer Chad Wackerman recorded The View for Germany's CMP label in 1993, real fusion wasn't as plentiful as it had been in the 1970s. Many A&R people seemed to want either formulaic smooth jazz/NAC artists or hard bop-oriented "Young Lions" in Armani suites -- if they weren't looking for the next Kenny G, they were looking for the next Wynton Marsalis. Nonetheless, worthwhile fusion was still being recorded -- it just wasn't as plentiful as it once was. The phrase "worthwhile fusion" easily describes The View is a decent, respectable effort that features such noteworthy soloists as Allan Holdsworth (one of fusion's most respected guitar heroes), Jim Cox (keyboards, organ, piano), and Walt Fowler (flügelhorn, trumpet). Throughout the album, Wackerman shows himself to be a sensitive, intuitive drummer. When Holdsworth, Cox, or Fowler is taking a solo, Wackerman knows how to be encouraging. Of course, the fact that Wackerman (whose influences include Tony Williams and Billy Cobham, among others) wrote most of the material himself doesn't hurt. And that material is diverse, ranging from the cerebral ("On the Edge," "Black Coffee") to the romantic ("Starry Nights"). Not surprisingly, The View was totally ignored by NAC stations in the United States -- even something as lyrical as ("Starry Nights") was rejected by NAC program directors, who reasoned that their listeners only wanted to hear smooth jazz favorites like Najee, Richard Elliot, and Dave Koz. And that's a shame because there was a time when stations that played electric, non-straight-ahead jazz would have welcomed an album like The View, which demonstrated that real fusion could still be found in 1993 if you knew where to look for it.

Chad Wackerman is a superb drummer, if a little cerebral at times. This record sounds a lot like Allan Holdsworth albums from the same era, which isn't very surprising since they share a lot of the same musicians. The tunes are very much in line with what you'd hear on Wardenclyffe Tower. That's a good thing. Wackerman and Holdsworth play their butts off. Essential listening if you're a fan of either Wackerman or Holdsworth.

A killer lineup, killer improv/solos, and killer compositions. Could you ask for anything more? The odd time signatures are an added treat. The coolest thing about this album is the trumpet melodies/solos from Walt Fowler. It's the icing on the cake. Do not delay in picking this album won't be dissapointed!

Track listing:

01.     "Close to Home"     (Chad Wackerman)     5:23
02.     "Across the Bridge"     (Wackerman)     5:44
03.     "Black Coffee"     (Wackerman)     5:57
04.     "Empty Suitcase"     (Wackerman, Cox, Johnson, Holdsworth, Fowler)     2:53
05.     "Introduction"     (Wackerman)     6:39
06.     "Starry Nights"     (Wackerman)     4:39
07.     "All Sevens"     (Wackerman)     8:13
08.     "On the Edge"     (Wackerman, Cox, Johnson, Holdsworth)     2:51
09.     "Just a Moment"     (Holdsworth, Fowler)     1:12
10.     "The View"     (Wackerman, Carl Verheyen)     5:06
11.     "Flares"     (Wackerman)     5:26
12.     "Bash"     (Wackerman)    1:33
13.     "Days Away"     (Wackerman, Cox, Johnson, Holdsworth, Fowler)     3:10

Total length:     58:46


Chad Wackerman – drums, percussion, production
Allan Holdsworth – guitar (tracks 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 13)
Carl Verheyen – guitar (tracks 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 12)
Jim Cox – clavinet, synthesizer, piano, organ
Jimmy Johnson – bass
Walt Fowler – trumpet, flugelhorn 

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Ventures - 1999 "TV Theme Songs"

The Ventures are an American instrumental rock band formed in 1958 in Tacoma, Washington. Founded by Don Wilson and Bob Bogle, the group in its various incarnations has had an enduring impact on the development of music worldwide. With over 100 million records sold, the group is the best-selling instrumental band of all time. In 2008, the Ventures were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Their instrumental virtuosity, experimentation with guitar effects, and unique sound laid the groundwork for innumerable groups, earning them the moniker "The Band that Launched a Thousand Bands". While their popularity in the United States waned in the 1970s, the group remains revered in Japan, where they tour regularly to this day.

The Ventures recorded a lot of instrumental versions of TV themes in the 1960s and 1970s, whether it was actually used as the theme (as with their hit "Hawaii Five-O") or, as was usually the case, was just a cover...About half of the CD dates from 1976, and has discofied renditions of themes to the likes of Baretta's Theme and Mission Impossible. More in keeping with the classic lean Ventures sound are the 1960s cuts which include versions of "Star Trek," "S.W.A.T.," "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," and (maybe best of all) "Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)"..It's mostly fan club members, for either the Ventures or the TV shows in question, who should feel compelled to investigate.

There have been relatively few personnel changes since the group’s inception.  Original drummer Howie Johnson broke his neck in a 1961 car accident and was unable to handle extensive touring.  Mel Taylor replaced him in 1962. This cemented the classic Ventures lineup of Don Wilson, Bob Bogle, Nokie Edwards and Mel Taylor.  In 1968 Edwards left to go solo and was replaced on lead guitar by Gerry McGee.  Edwards returned to the fold in 1972 and remained until late 1984.  Once again, he was replaced by McGee, who remains with the group and continues to tour with them in Japan.  Bob Bogle retired from touring in December 2004 and was replaced by Bob Spalding.

Today’s lineup comprises Don Wilson, Bob Spalding (who first appeared live with the group in 1981), Gerry McGee, and Leon Taylor (who replaced his late father Mel in 1996).  Nokie Edwards still joins them on selected dates. 

Track listing:

01 - Hawaii Five-O
02 - Star Trek
03 - Nabia's Theme (The Young and the Restless)
04 - Baretta's Theme
05 - S.W.A.T.
06 - No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In)
07 - Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)
08 - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
09 - M.A.S.H.
10 - Mission Impossible