Thursday, June 29, 2017

George Benson - 1976 [1988] "In Concert-Carnegie Hall"

In Concert-Carnegie Hall is a live album by American guitarist George Benson featuring a performance recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1975 and released on the CTI label. The CD reissue added one bonus track and reordered the selections as presented in concert.

In Concert -- Carnegie Hall is George Benson's final recording for Creed Taylor's CTI label, and was mostly recorded on one night in 1975. There was some additional recording done at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in 1976, where Taylor replaced the original rhythm section of Wayne Dockery on bass and Marvin Chapell on drums with Will Lee and Steve Gadd, for whatever reason Taylor had at the time. Regardless, this is a solid "live" effort with Benson cooking on all burners, beginning with a monster version of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," which had been cut on an earlier album and had become a staple in the live set. Organist Ronnie Foster's backing skills here are indispensable, as they keep Benson talking to the other members of the band. The version of "Summertime" here could have been recorded by Phil Spector. The concert version of the tune -- on which Benson takes a vocal -- has been added to with the substitution of the rhythm section and the later addition of a string orchestra in the studio. (Perhaps Taylor understood Benson's crossover appeal; he would cross over into the pop charts on Warner the next year with "This Masquerade.") The crowd dug it, but it's simply OK over the test of time. Hipper is the long snaky groove of Benson's own "Gone," with begins with the steady pulse of Hubert Laws playing a counterpoint foil on flute. The entwining harmonic interplay between the two is gorgeous and goes on for over ten minutes. The band then takes on Freddie Hubbard's "Sky Dive" with real aplomb. The Latin rhythm and slippery guitar by Benson pull the rhythm section up a notch before he begins the head. His funky articulation of fifths and then eighths in his break is mesmerizing. The way Chapell rides the cymbal like a bell is particularly satisfying. The album closes on another Benson original with Laws popping in again. It's called "Octane." Over ten minutes in length, it begins with Benson in full roar before the time signature changes and triples, feeling like a bebop tune more than anything else. Foster keeps it all grounded, but this baby swings so hard it threatens to lift off. In retrospect, listening to this record in the 21st century, it's difficult to imagine Benson making the switch from a classy guitar firebrand to a pop star so quickly. Mosaic Contemporary has brought out a fine remastered edition on CD.

George Benson – one of his hardest-hitting albums of the time! In a way, the record returns George to his early years at CTI – particularly the album Beyond The Blue Horizon – as the set's got a stripped down smaller group, working in a tight blend of electric jazzy bits that's very nice! Ronnie Foster lays down some great keyboards on the set, Hubert Laws is on flute, and George himself plays a hollow body with a nice soulful tone – stretching out on some straight jazz on most cuts, but also hitting a few of his smoother notes from the mid 70s. Titles include "Take Five", "Octane", "Summertime", and "Gone".

George Benson comes on very much like Wes Montgomery, effectively in tone and style, though Montgomery had that raw touch with his playability, and a more intuitive feel while Benson's sound does rather sound schooled and well disciplined, but the different generation production techniques may have enough to do with that. And, in fact, as well as sounding quite similar both Benson and Montgomery followed much the same paths career wise. They started out as jazz guitar players who simply relied on their virtuoso talent to carry their music through but later on both men would turn their attention to pop like standards and reap commercial success in that direction. While both men would also end up working with producer Creed Taylor who probably had some say in the their watered down if more wider appealing directions. This would be Benson's last album before seeking out newer pastures with a new label and style of music, but while on CTI he was still producing music with little or no pop gimmickery. Live At Carnegie Hall contains Benson at the end of his pure jazz playing days, while not as exciting as his earlier seventies work the album is finely honed and smooth with some fluid and clean guitar. There are four cuts here, and basically Benson lets it all flow out into neat and tidy jams, it all does become a little too conservative though, which allows flautist Hubert Laws some room to move. "Gone", "Take Five", "Octane" are good and show some great guitar skills but Benson's version of "Summertime" is just pop pap. George sings along with the solo here when in fact he should just shut the fuck up and let the guitar do the talking. The frame of "Summertime" is what Benson would do for the next few years. Best stop at this juncture though before anyone gets hurt.

Recorded live at Carnegie Hall, New York City by David Hewitt and John L Venable on the Record Plant Remote Truck on January 11, 1975 with overdubs for the reissue at Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Track listing:

01 Introduction - 1:17 Bonus track on CD reissue
02 "Take Five" (Paul Desmond) - 5:37
03 "Summertime" (George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward) - 7:24
04 "Gone" - 10:28
05 "Sky Dive" (Freddie Hubbard) - 6:57 Bonus track on CD reissue
06 "Octane" - 10:16

Personnel:

George Benson - guitar, vocals
Hubert Laws - flute
Ronnie Foster - keyboards
Wayne Dockery - bass
Marvin Chappell - drums
Bernard Fennell - cello

Overdubbed:
Johnny Griggs, Ray Armando - percussion
Will Lee - bass
Steve Gadd, Andy Newmark - drums
Unknown string section arranged and conducted by David Matthews

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Jack Wilkins - 2001 "Reunion"

Reunion is just that.

And for jazz listeners who missed Jack Wilkins' outstanding 1977 release, Merge, the first time out, or for those who are too young to remember it, Reunion brings back that group for a brief moment in time.

It wasn't easy. Schedules conflicted and everyone was busy, but they found a slot when they could record. Try as they might, Wilkins and the producer weren't able to pin down saxophonist Michael Brecker for more than two tracks. But the "what if" questions about the addition of Michael Brecker are answered on Reunion, for the Brecker brothers do team up on "Kiwi Bird" and Horace Silver's "Break City." The remainder of the CD consists of the personnel who created such a pearl 24 years before, one that awaited discovery by a guitarist who recorded too infrequently as a leader.

The original group grew incrementally, at first consisting of Wilkins and bassist Eddie Gomez when they played at Sweet Basil. Later, Jack DeJohnette and Randy Brecker joined in. The result was/is a distinctive group, each member with his own personal sound. Yet, they all intuitively understand the value of interaction and spontaneity. In fact, this group is one case where the rhythm section leads the horn, so recognizable are their styles. Gomez' full virtuosic sound in instantly recognizable, no matter where he performs. DeJohnette developed his own individual approach to the drums that, like all great drummers', enlarges the meaning of each tune through texture and pulse.

Often, the genre of choice is bop, which makes sense due to the influence of musicians like Horace Silver upon members of the group. Recalling their work in his group, the Brecker brothers perform Silver's "Break City," and Michael in particular stretches out in full command of his instrument.

But Wilkins had more in mind than a re-creation of his previous album. "Reunion" the song is a minor-keyed excursion that invites close listening as the musicians improvise over its modal structure. Wilkins develops the tune as through successive choruses of atmospheric embellishment, which are notable in addition for Gomez' and DeJohnette's irresistible rhythmic drive that they build.

The slower tunes include Gomez' "Scott," a 3/4 tribute to his son that he bows in introduction before Wilkins joins in to break out the melody. Gomez' and Wilkins' solos are the highlights of the tune as they demonstrate mastery of their instruments that has only improved over the years. Wilkins ends the CD with the standards "But Beautiful" and "All The Things You Are," "But Beautiful" being a trio setting that lets Wilkins relax as he explores the tunes harmonic richness.

After all of these years, the Wilkins group is intact and inspiring. If their now-busy careers prevent the opportunity for them to perform live, at least we have Reunion to document the group's natural ability to perform, and to communicate, as if 1977 were only yesterday.

This disc reunites the musicians-guitarist Jack Wilkins, saxophonist Michael Brecker, trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Eddie Gomez, and drummer Jack DeJohnette-featured on Merge, recorded for Chiaroscuro in 1977. Since then, more than 20 years later, each has become one of the most respected players on his instrument. And while Wilkins is the leader of this date, the other players get plenty of blowing room, and Wilkins, Gomez and Randy Brecker all contribute original material.

On Wilkins’ grooving, upbeat “Kiwi Bird” the Breckers step up with dynamic, searching solos that set the stage for a guitar excursion that includes myriads of beautifully conceived and executed phrases. And on the title track, a moody, anthemic ballad, Wilkins wields an electric nylon-string whose sonic properties heighten the overall feel. Gomez’s “Cheeks,” a salute to Dizzy Gillespie, relentlessly bops along, providing a nice vehicle for a grooving solo by Wilkins, who particularly excels in this type of setting, and a burning outing by Randy Brecker, whose nuances and phrasing frequently acknowledge Birks. Balancing the program’s originals are readings of three standards, including “All the Things You Are,” whose melody is chucked aside in favor of a novel, uptempo, kinetic treatment that supports an array of adventurous blowing by Wilkins and a masterfully expansive solo by DeJohnette.

While this date could have been recorded better (the guitar sounds like it went straight into the board instead of being miked, which influences its tone and presence), it only slightly detracts from the typically brilliant compositions and performances.

Back in 1977, guitarist Jack Wilkins led a very rewarding recording date, Merge, that featured trumpeter Randy Brecker and tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker playing straight-ahead jazz. For this reunion date, Wilkins, bassist Eddie Gomez, and drummer Jack DeJohnette are joined throughout (except for the guitarist's feature on "But Beautiful") by Randy Brecker, although brother Michael is unfortunately only on two selections. Wilkins and Randy Brecker have many fine solos, and the repertoire consists of five group originals, Horace Silver's "Break City," and three standards. Although not reaching the heights of Merge (it is a pity that Michael Brecker was not along for the whole project), this is mostly a high-quality quartet outing of fine post-bop jazz. Worth exploring.

Track Listing:

1. Kiwi Bird (6:46) [Jack Wilkins]
2. Reunion (8:30) [Jack Wilkins]
3. Break City (6:03) [Horace Silver]
4. Moontide (8:31) [Randy Brecker]
5. Yours Is My Heart Alone (7:24) [Lehar]
6. Scott (8:27) [Eddie Gomez]
7. Cheeks (7:42) [Eddie Gomez]
8. But Beautiful (4:42) [Burke, VanHeusen]
9. All The Things You Are (7:23) [Hammerstein, Kern]

Personnel:

Jack Wilkins (guitar);
Michael Brecker (tenor saxophone);
Randy Brecker (trumpet, flugelhorn);
Eddie Gomez (bass);
Jack DeJohnette (drums).

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Various Artists - 1989 Jazz-Club - "Bass"

Selecting representative recordings of bass players is an especially tough task, given the relative scarcity of recordings of bassists as leaders, but the Ralf Enoch/Horst Hohenböken Jazz-Club series has come up with a fascinating anthology from PolyGram's archives. Although there are some unavoidably glaring omissions due to ties with other labels -- Jimmy Blanton, Milt Hinton, Scott LaFaro, Charlie Haden, for example (Christian McBride wasn't on the scene yet in 1989) -- the collection still makes its way from the nifty Slam Stewart hum-scat swing of "Beyond the Blue Horizon" (1944) through the mainstream '50s and closing with the emergence of Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke in the jazz-rock '70s. "Prayer for Passive Resistance" is an exciting example of Charles Mingus' sudden shifts of tempos; Percy Heath is shown off effectively on the MJQ's "The Golden Striker." Oscar Pettiford's solid, booming sense of time in Tal Farlow's "Blues In the Closet," Ray Brown's self-explanatory "Solo for Unaccompanied Bass," and Clarke's spellbinding "Bass Folk Song" are standout tracks. Other bassists anchoring their bands here are Chubby Jackson, Eddie Safranski, Paul Chambers, Red Mitchell, Sam Jones, Ron Carter, Niels-Henning Orsted-Pedersen and Richard Davis.

Artist / Tracklist

01 –Slam Stewart With The Coleman Hawkins Quintet - Beyond The Blue Horizon Take 1
02 –Chubby Jackson & His Orchestra*  - Northwest Passage
03 –Charles Mingus - Prayer For Passive Resistance
04 –Ray Brown  - Solo For Unaccompanied Bass
05 –Oscar Pettiford With Tal Farlow  - Blues In The Closet
06 –Percy Heath With The The Modern Jazz Quartet  - The Golden Striker
07 –Eddie Safranski With The Metronome All Stars - How High The Moon Part 1
08 –Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cleveland And His All Stars  - Little Beaver
09 –Red Mitchell With The Herb Geller Quartet  - If I Were A Bell
10 –Sam Jones With The The Cannonball Adderley Quintet  - Tribute To Brownie
11 –Ron Carter With Kenny Burrell - Stompin' At The Savoy
12 –Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen With Oscar Peterson  - Younger Than Springtime
13 –Richard Davis  - Muses For Richard Davis
14 –Jaco Pastorius - Foreign Fun

Saturday, June 24, 2017

George Benson - 1971 [1987] "White Rabbit"

White Rabbit is an album by George Benson. The title track is a cover of the famous Great Society/Jefferson Airplane song by Grace Slick.

For George Benson's second CTI project, producer Creed Taylor and arranger Don Sebesky successfully place the guitarist in a Spanish-flavored setting full of flamenco flourishes, brass fanfares, moody woodwinds and such. The idea works best on "California Dreamin'" (whose chords are based on Andalusian harmonies), where, driven by Jay Berliner's exciting Spanish rhythm guitar, Benson comes through with some terrifically inspired playing. On "El Mar," Berliner is replaced by Benson's protégé Earl Klugh (then only 17) in an inauspicious -- though at the time, widely-heralded -- recorded debut. The title track is another winner, marred only by the out-of-tune brasses at the close, and in a good example of the CTI classical/jazz formula at work, Heitor Villa-Lobos' "Little Train of the Caipira" is given an attractive early-'70s facelift. Herbie Hancock gets plenty of nimble solo space on Rhodes electric piano, Airto Moreira contributes percussion and atmospheric wordless vocals, and Ron Carter and Billy Cobham complete the high-energy rhythm section. In this prime sample of the CTI idiom, everyone wins.

After three late-1960s A&M albums with mastermind Creed Taylor prior to the creation of CTI Records, guitarist George Benson hit 1971 running with two CTI debuts, issued a few months apart. Beyond the Blue Horizon was closer, in complexion, to his A&M recordings—harkening back, even, to his impressive 1966 Columbia Records two-punch, It's Uptown and The George Benson Cookbook—although the virtuosic, soul- drenched guitarist was clearly evolving as a player and maturing into one whose firebrand, virtuosic tendencies were becoming refreshingly balanced with greater maturity and restraint.

White Rabbit was (and remains) an anomaly in Benson's prodigious catalogue, with its heavy orchestration by CTI regular Don Sebesky. It's also the album that first paired Earl Klugh—a guitarist who, in the face of Charlie Byrd and Laurindo Almeida, took the nylon-string into the realm of light funk and soul—with the electric Benson. The partnership would last a couple more years to the more decidedly groove- centric Body Talk (CTI, 1973), which foreshadowed Benson's rocket to stardom with his move to Warner Bros. and 1976's megahit, Breezin'.

Despite some truly dated material—in particular the title track, an overblown look at Jefferson Airplane's drug-drenched, 1967 hit single—Benson transcends it all, with some brilliant playing, even as "White Rabbit" strives to break out of Sebesky's overbearing bolero-like arrangement. Herbie Hancock, too, turns in an energetic electric piano solo, and comps with soft (and welcome) pushes towards the outer reaches during Hubert Laws' flute feature, creating some much-needed tension and release, even as the track heads towards an overly cluttered ending that, with tympanis pounding, is indicative of CTI at its worst.

That said, Sebesky's gentle strings and harp on "Theme from 'Summer of 42'" are far more successful—and appropriate. It's easy listening, to be sure, with Benson joining Klugh on nylon string guitar, as the song moves into light Latin territory, but the more change-heavy take on a classical piece—Villa Lobos' "Little Train," taken from the composer's "Bachianas Brasilerias #2," is an album highlight; Benson's fleet-fingers matched by Hancock and bolstered by bassist Ron Carter and drummer Billy Cobham, who cook without overbearance.

Another dated track, The Mamas and The Papas' pre-Summer of Love hit, "California Dreamin,'" begins with an almost non-sequitur of Spanish tinges but, more than anywhere else on the album, demonstrates the simpatico interplay between Benson and Klugh, suggesting that Klugh was, indeed, a star in the making. Klugh's gorgeous intro to Benson's closing "El Mar"—the album's only original—sets the stage for an 11-minute highlight that suggests a stylistic breadth to Benson that, despite a subsequent career living as much in the pop world as anywhere else, has continued to this day.

An anomaly in Benson's catalogue, perhaps, and one with its fair share of weaknesses to offset its many strengths, this CTI Masterworks reissue of White Rabbit remains, in many ways, a curiosity that transitions between his more mainstream efforts and the soulful jazz/pop star he was about to become; not without its merits, but not essential either.

Track listing:

01 "White Rabbit" (Grace Slick) - 6:55
02 "Theme from Summer of '42" (Michel Legrand) - 5:08
03 "Little Train (from Bachianas Brasileiras No.2)" (Heitor Villa-Lobos) - 5:47
04 "California Dreaming" (John Phillips, Michelle Phillips) - 7:22
05 "El Mar" (George Benson) - 10:49

Personnel:

George Benson - guitar
Jay Berliner - acoustic guitar
Earl Klugh - acoustic guitar (5)
Ron Carter - bass
Herbie Hancock - electric piano
Billy Cobham - drums
Airto Moreira - percussion, vocals
Gloria Agostini - vibes, percussion

Woodwinds:
Phil Bodner - flute, alto flute, oboe, English horn
Hubert Laws - flute, alto flute, piccolo, flute solo on 1
George Marge - flute, alto flute, clarinet, oboe, English horn
Romeo Penque - English horn, oboe, alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet
Jane Taylor - bassoon

Brass:
Wayne Andre - trombone, baritone
Jim Buffington - French horn
John Frosk - trumpet, flugelhorn, solo (1, 5)
Alan Rubin - trumpet, flugelhorn

Wes Montgomery - 1966 [1997] "California Dreaming"

California Dreaming is the sixteenth jazz album recorded by guitarist Wes Montgomery and released in 1966. It reached number one on the Billboard Jazz album chart and number 4 on the R&B chart. It was reissued on CD in 2007 with an alternate take of "Sunny".

Wes Montgomery's last album for Verve (other than an exciting collaboration with Jimmy Smith) is a so-so orchestral date featuring arrangements by Don Sebesky. The material (which includes "Sunny" and "California Dreaming") is strictly pop fluff of the era and the great guitarist has little opportunity to do much other than state the melody in his trademark octaves. This record was perfect for AM radio of the period.

My step-father brought this home on 8-track in 1968 and to this day when I listen to it, I can go back to that place in time. Wes is on it, the arrangements are sharp, tasteful and evoke a mood that I will always cherish, even the cover fit to a tee. Wes was a unique artist, the likes of which we won't soon see again. Something about the early sixties...just makes me want to make a highball, throw a t-bone on the grill, light up a Kool Filter King, kick back and enjoy life...this is a great period piece.

Classic Jazz re-visited and enjoyed that's what this vintage music means to me and others who love it as well. I now own a classic piece of history (How sweet is that?) This was a vintage recording hard to attain and easy to enjoy Jazz America's only true original Art form...this album is sophisticated AND musical and in my opinion puts Wes' tone and imagination on display at their best ! I have a lot of Wes in my collection; this is my favorite ! (... the sidemen / arrangements are only spectacular !)

Although this the 'pop' Wes Montgomery, I think it show his remarkable guitar playing. He was a unique and wonderful artist. I highly recommend it

Track listing:

01 - "California Dreaming" (John Phillips, Michelle Phillips) – 3:08
02 - "Sun Down" (Wes Montgomery) – 6:03
03 - "Oh, You Crazy Moon" (Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke) – 3:44
04 - "More, More, Amor" (Sol Lake) – 2:54
05 - "Without You" (Marino, Myers) – 3:05
06 - "Winds of Barcelona" (Lake) – 3:07
07 - "Sunny [alternate take]" (Bobby Hebb) – 3:07
08 - "Sunny" (Hebb) – 4:04
09 - "Green Peppers" (Lake) – 2:56
10 - "Mr. Walker" (Montgomery) – 3:39
11 - "South of the Border" (Jimmy Kennedy, Michael Carr) – 3:13

Personnel:

Wes Montgomery – guitar
Herbie Hancock – piano
Bucky Pizzarelli – guitar
Ray Barretto – percussion
Grady Tate – drums
Al Casamenti – guitar
Richard Davis – bass
Bernie Glow – trumpet
Mel Davis – trumpet
Jimmy Nottingham – trumpet
Wayne Andre – trombone
Johnny Messner – trombone
Bill Watrous – trombone
Stan Webb – clarinet, English Horn, saxophone
Raymond Beckenstein – flute, piccolo, saxophone
James Buffington – French Horn
Jack Jennings – castanets, scratching, vibraphone
Don Butterfield – tuba

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

King Crimson - 1973 [1989] "Larks' Tongues In Aspic"

Larks' Tongues in Aspic is the fifth studio album by the English progressive rock group King Crimson, released on 23 March 1973 through Island Records. This album is the debut of King Crimson's fifth incarnation, featuring original member and guitarist Robert Fripp and new members John Wetton (vocals, bass guitar), David Cross (violin, Mellotron), Jamie Muir (percussion), and Bill Bruford (drums). It is also a key album in the band's evolution, drawing on Eastern European classical music and European free improvisation as central influences.

At the end of the tour to promote King Crimson's previous album, Islands, Fripp had parted company with the three other members of the band (Mel Collins, Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace). The previous year had also seen the ousting of the band's lyricist and artistic co-director Peter Sinfield. In all cases, Fripp had cited a developing musical (and sometimes personal) incompatibility, and was now writing starker music drawing less on familiar American influences and more on influences such as Béla Bartók and free improvisation.

In order to pursue these new ideas, Fripp first recruited bass guitarist/singer John Wetton (a longstanding friend of the band who had lobbied to join at least once before but had become a member of Family in the meantime). The second recruit was Jamie Muir, an experimental free-improvising percussionist who had previously been performing in the Music Improvisation Company with Derek Bailey and Evan Parker, as well as in Sunship (with Alan Gowen and Allan Holdsworth) and Boris (with Don Weller and Jimmy Roche, both later of jazz-rock band Major Surgery).

On drums (and to be paired with Muir) Fripp recruited Yes drummer Bill Bruford. Another longstanding King Crimson admirer, Bruford felt that he had done all he could with Yes at that point, and was keen to leave the band before they embarked on their Close to the Edge tour, believing that the jazz- and experimentation-oriented King Crimson would be a more expansive outlet for his musical ideas. The final member of the new band was David Cross, a rock violinist and occasional keyboard player.

King Crimson reborn yet again -- the then-newly configured band makes its debut with a violin (courtesy of David Cross) sharing center stage with Robert Fripp's guitars and his Mellotron, which is pushed into the background. The music is the most experimental of Fripp's career up to this time -- though some of it actually dated (in embryonic form) back to the tail-end of the Boz Burrell-Ian Wallace-Mel Collins lineup. And John Wetton was the group's strongest singer/bassist since Greg Lake's departure three years earlier. What's more, this lineup quickly established itself as a powerful performing unit, working in a more purely experimental, less jazz-oriented vein than its immediate predecessor. "Outer Limits music" was how one reviewer referred to it, mixing Cross' demonic fiddling with shrieking electronics, Bill Bruford's astounding dexterity at the drum kit, Jamie Muir's melodic and usually understated percussion, Wetton's thundering yet melodic bass, and Fripp's guitar, which generated sounds ranging from traditional classical and soft pop-jazz licks to hair-curling electric flourishes.

With his third lineup in four years, King Crimson guitar maestro Robert Fripp finally tapped back into a musical energy as powerful and groundbreaking as that of his 1969 debut In the Court of the Crimson King. The group's fifth album was a masterful mélange of painstaking composition and wild experimentation, as if Fripp were depicting a madman struck with glimmers of melancholy clarity. In the end, it's difficult to tell which passages were happy accidents and which were carefully constructed; and it's even harder to determine which are more impactful, as clattering trays, chiming bells, twittering birds, understated voices and clown-toy laughter intertwine with tinny, static-filled guitar, epileptic beats and violin lines that range from gorgeous to harrowing.

King Crimson‘s fifth album, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, is a pinnacle of progressive rock, even though its music is nearly unclassifiable. More than 40 years after its release, it remains a genre unto itself — a mishmash of heavy and soothing, beautiful and unsettling, experimental and melodic.
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic is King Crimson’s second classic album. With 1969’s groundbreaking In the Court of the Crimson King, the band basically invented progressive rock entirely, utilizing bandleader Robert Fripp’s epic approach to song construction, which layered aggressive fretwork with propulsive rhythms, jazzy woodwinds and the most iconic Mellotron sound ever laid to tape.
But just as soon as King Crimson birthed an exciting new musical movement, they retreated to the shadows. The band’s following trio of albums (1970’s In the Wake of Poseidon, 1970’s Lizard and Islands in 1971) were scattered with brilliance, but mostly just . . . scattered, with Fripp unable to maintain a consistent lineup of players from one release to another (or even track to track).
That pattern ended in 1972, when Fripp started recruiting a brand new lineup — one designed for an edgier, more unpredictable style of playing. He brought in two new drummers, designed to represent polar opposite ends of the percussive spectrum: Jamie Muir — an explosive percussionist with an unconventional approach and wild stage presence — and Bill Bruford, who’d already established his jazzy, inventive approach to drumming as a member of Yes. On top of that double-percussion foundation, Fripp added violinist David Cross and bassist and singer John Wetton.
That quintet lineup quickly earned rave reviews for their highly improvised live shows. In the liner notes to the 2012 Larks’ Tongues in Aspic reissue, Wetton reflected on the intensity of those early performances. “A lot of the time,” he said, “the audience couldn’t really tell the difference between what was formal and what wasn’t because the improvising was of a fairly high standard. It was almost telepathic at times.”

Tracks Listing:

1. Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part One (13:36)
2. Book Of Saturdays (2:49)
3. Exiles (7:40)
4. Easy Money (7:54)
5. The Talking Drum (7:26)
6. Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part Two (7:12)

Total Time: 46:37

Line-up / Musicians:

- Robert Fripp / guitar, Mellotron, electronic devices
- David Cross / violin, viola, Mellotron, electric piano, flute (3)
- John Wetton / bass, piano (3), vocals
- Bill Bruford / drums, percussion
- Jamie Muir / percussion, drums

Monday, June 19, 2017

Leo Kottke - 1973 [1996] "My Feet Are Smiling"

My Feet Are Smiling is American guitarist Leo Kottke's sixth album, and his second album recorded live. It reached No. 108 on the Billboard Pop Albums charts.

The songs were recorded December 19 and 20, 1972 at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the majority of the album's content being from the second night. "Blue Dot" was written three days before the concert.
The album was re-issued on CD in 1994 by BGO and in 1996 by One Way Records.

The prodigious technique, deadpan sense of humor, and infamous singing are all evident less than a minute into the opening tune. Performing solo and playing more slide guitar than usual, Kottke wows a supportive hometown audience in Minneapolis with some of the finest playing of his career. That's saying a lot. Sensational one moment and sentimental the next, he presents a varied, well-paced set that's worth adding to your collection if you can find it. The well-traveled "Louise" is only one highlight, although it's Leo's playing that will drop your jaw, not his singing.

Not since the death of THE greatest guitarist of all time, Chet Atkins, has there remained the only truly unique guitar virtuoso, and that's Leo Kottke. Too bad this came out WAYYYYY back in 1972, and it, along with his "Armadillo" CD [Six and Twelve String Guitars], are still my favorite's of his. I saw him live, in Dallas, back in the mid-'80's and he was EXTRAORDINARY, and he played several favorites from this CD. Listen, and see if you don't agree he's the best acoustic guitarist you've heard!

This was one of the first LP vinyl records I bought as a teenager and with the changing audio technologies and my numerous moves across the country over the past 30 years I lost the album. So, I wasn't sure if I would still like it. I was right. I didn't like it. I loved it! This is truly a classic album! There is no better 12 string guitarist than Leo. The songs are better than I remember and his deep voice draws you in to the classic ballads he sings.

I ran across Leo Kottke by accident. I bought a copy of his album Peligroso. It was great. I started buying his albums and they all were great. This one is one of the best and every song is terrific. Leo is one of the premier guitar players in America. He sings in some of his albums and others are instrumentals. He is great either way. I have 5 of his albums now and if any one of the five is better than the others it is this one. But, the worst one is great!

He has other album, all very good and some with no vocals. But, I gotta say Leo that I love your vocals on this one!

He does not disappoint! Truly an album for your collection!

Track Listings

  1. Intro
  2. Hear The Wind Howl
  3. Busted Bicycle
  4. Easter
  5. Louise
  6. Blue Dot
  7. Stealing
  8. Living In The Country
  9. June Bug
  10. Standing In My Shoes
  11. The Fisherman
  12. Bean Time
  13. Eggtooth
  14. Medley: Crow River Waltz/Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring/Jack Fig

Personnel:

Leo Kottke - Guitar, Vocal.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Various Artists - 2005 "Fusion For Miles" - A Guitar Tribute

Titled Fusion for Miles: A Guitar Tribute, this set is a bit unusual. A five-piece band that includes Dave Liebman on soprano sets up grooves and backgrounds that sound like Miles Davis' bands of 1969-1971. A different guitarist is featured on each of the ten selections, with the biggest names being Mike Stern, Bill Frisell, Bill Connors, and Pat Martino. Ironically, those four are each featured on pre-fusion Davis-associated songs ("So What," "Nefertiti," "Eighty-One," and "Serpent's Tooth") that are performed with funk rhythms and as if Davis had revived them in 1970. In addition to having a string of guitars in the foreground, it is unusual to hear this music without any trumpeters. But overall, the project is successful with plenty of fireworks and creative playing along the way, reviving music from 35 years earlier that still manages to sound fresh and slightly menacing.

Trumpeter Miles Davis shifted gears so many times during his forty-year career that doing a proper tribute which covers the entire time frame represents a distinct challenge. Perhaps that's why many artists have focused on specific periods in their Miles tributes. Producer Gary Guthrie put a new spin on Kind of Blue with A New Kind of Blue, while trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Henry Kaiser's Yo Miles! project has released three sets inspired by Miles' '70s electric period. Even trumpeter Wallace Roney, while not recording a tribute album per se, has taken one of Miles' mid-'60s albums, Nefertiti, and used it, along with other sources, as the foundation for his own work.
In the past year, guitarist Jeff Richman has released tributes to saxophonist John Coltrane (A Guitar Supreme) and guitarist John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra (Visions of an Inner Mounting Apocalypse). He's probably the first to try and put the departed trumpeter's greater career arc into perspective. The problem is that there's little to tie together Miles' various periods. One reason for this is that whenever he moved into a new musical space, he often alienated much of his existing fan base. Fans of Kind of Blue are not inherently going to be disposed towards Bitches Brew, and many who discovered Miles with the pop-funk of his last decade may find his more abstract mid-'60s quintet completely unfathomable.

Consequently Fusion for Miles starts with an immediate handicap. The bad news is that Richman's arrangements—featuring a core band of keyboardist Larry Goldings, bassist Alphonso Johnson, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta—don't go very far in finding the elusive common link. In fact, Richman often takes tunes that were the barest of sketches—for example, Miles' funk vamp of "Jean-Pierre" and the equally harmonically static jungle funk of his early-'70s "Black Satin"—and writes new passages to give them greater interest. While these radically altered and stricter arrangements give the guest guitarists more to work with, by its very virtuosity Fusion for Miles loses sight of one of Miles' core musical goals: creating specific vibes and particular feelings.

The good news is that Fusion for Miles is one heck of a great fusion record when taken on its own merits. It features a varied bunch of guitarists who range from the post bop sensibility of Pat Martino and Bill Connors, to more clear fusion from Jimmy Herring and Mike Stern, and the rock-centric approach of Warren Haynes and Steve Kimmock. Covering material from the late '50s ("So What") through the mid-'80s ("Splatch"), every guitarist digs into the solid foundation laid by the rhythm section. Unlike Richman's Mahavishnu Orchestra tribute, none of the core band members actually played with Miles, but the inclusion of one early-'70s Miles veteran, saxophonist Dave Liebman, on some tracks provides linkage. And while the individual tunes come from a multitude of spaces, Richman's arrangements bring them together for an album that is sure to please fans of pedal-to-the-floor fusion to no end.

Musicians and fans that revere Miles Davis’ late period work will treasure Fusion For Miles, an anthology whose participants consider “Black Satin,” “Back Seat Betty” and “Spanish Key” just as important as “So What” or “Nefertiti” (which are also part of the menu here). Organist Larry Goldings brings some blues/soul grit to the main lineup that also includes a tremendous funk bassist (Alphonso Johnson), a saxophonist just as comfortable with groove-heavy fare as the avant-garde (Dave Liebman) and a guitar-and-drum drum combo that are regulars in this setting (Jeff Richman and Vinnie Colaiuta, respectively).

Although personal favorites include Bill Frisell’s typically unusual but effective playing on “Nefertiti,” Pat Martino’s easy, sleek solos on “Serpent’s Tooth” and Bireli Lagrene’s balance between flash and soul on “Spanish Key,” there’s also Mike Stern’s steady playing on “So What” and Jimmy Herring’s resourcefulness on “Black Satin.” Richman’s arrangements retain much of the intensity and appeal of the original tunes, though the larger Davis aggregations generated more punch on “Black Satin” or “Back Seat Betty.”

As someone who initially loved (and still loves) the electric Davis’ ensembles as much as the great acoustic groups, Fusion for Miles is a worthy celebration of both approaches.

Track Listing:

01 Black Satin
02 Splatch
03 Jean Pierre
04 So What
05 Nefertiti
06 Eighty One
07 Serpent's Tooth
08 It's About That Time
09 Back Seat Betty
10 Spanish Key

Personnel:

Vinnie Colaiuta: drums;
Alphonso Johnson: bass;
Larry Goldings: keyboards;
Jeff Richman: guitars
Dave Liebman: saxophone.

Featured guitarists:

Jimmy Herring (1)
Jeff Richman (2)
Eric Johnson (3)
Mike Stern (4)
Bill Frisell (5)
Bill Connors (6)
Pat Martino (7)
Warren Haynes (8)
Steve Kimmock (9)
Bireli Lagrene (10)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Roy Buchanan - 1975 [1988] "Live Stock"

Live Stock is a 1975 live album by Roy Buchanan released on Polydor. The album documents a show consisting of blues standards and a few originals played in New York City, with an additional song ("I'm Evil") added from a later show in Evanston, Illinois. The cover photo was taken and sent to Roy by Australian music commentator Glenn A Baker.

Live Stock is, reportedly, one of two Buchanan albums that greatly influenced Jeff Beck, who dedicated a song to Buchanan on his 1975 album Blow by Blow. Buchanan's last album with Polydor, it was partly made to fulfill his contractual obligations so he could move on and accept Ahmet Ertegun's offer to sign with Atlantic.

By the time this long-player hit the street, Roy Buchanan (guitar/vocals) had already departed from his oft-acrimonious relationship with Polydor Records. To their credit, the label issued Live Stock (1975), which captured the artist in performance at Town Hall in New York City on November 27, 1974. This disc features the recently corralled combo of Bill Price (vocals), John Harrison (bass), Malcolm Lukens (keyboards), and Byrd Foster (drums/vocals). Interestingly, the instrumentalists would reconvene behind Buchanan for his next two studio albums, A Street Called Straight (1976) and Loading Zone (1977), as well as the thoroughly superior, import-only Live in Japan (2003). With the exception of the seminal Snakestretchers, this aggregate would stay with the guitarist for longer than any of his numerous other support bands. Practically by default, having returned Buchanan to the stage, the music instantly becomes more conducive to inspiration. The set list highlights both a sampling from earlier efforts, as well as a few covers that are personalized by Buchanan's inimitable stringed artistry. Whether by design or serendipity, each track focuses on his animated solos. Ranging from the driving boogie of Roy Milton's "Reelin' and Rockin" [note: not to be confused with Chuck Berry's rock & roll anthem of virtually the same name] to the stinging fretwork that commences the Memphis soul of Al Green's slithery "I'm a Ram," Buchanan is undeniably at the peak of his abilities. The spirited reading of "Further on up the Road" is particularly worthwhile, as his leads alternately from a rapid-fire slide action to emphatic wails that punctuate the melody with equal measures of deadly accuracy and limber precision. Live Stock is a primary recommendation for all dimensions of blues guitar lovers and those interested in experiencing the craftsmanship of the man once hailed as "The Greatest Unknown Guitarist In The World." Hardcore collectors and the like should also be aware of the essential nine-plus minute rendering of Neil Young's "Down by the River," which was recorded at this show, yet remained unissued until its inclusion on Sweet Dreams: The Anthology (1992) double-disc set. Equally as impressive, and as highly recommended, is the posthumously released archival American Axe: Live in 1974 (2003), as well as the previously mentioned Live in Japan (2003) -- both of which have the same musicians and similarly exceptional results.

First heard 'Can I Change My Mind' on KSHE in St Louis, summer 1975, while painting an older neighbor's fence(!). At the time I was a 'rock & roll only' fool, (thus the KSHE) but the groove on that tune killed me: I put the brush down and just stood there listening. Never knew who it was, or even the name of the tune, though much later had hints that it might be some guy named Roy Buchanan, never could find out for sure and never heard it again. 39 years go by, now I play guitar, bass, sax, and if it's got no groove, I am not interested! Stumbled onto Roy Buchanan earlier this year as a blues man, heard that this album was very good, so bought it unheard. You can imagine my joy when the CD got to track 5, and out of the stereo comes 'Can I Change My Mind' - that same song from my teen years - once again I put down what I was doing just to listen, and listen again, and again. It was like meeting a childhood friend you've not seen in decades.

Recorded At – Town Hall, New York
Recorded By – Record Plant Mobile Studio

Track listing:

1 Reelin' And Rockin' 2:11
2 Hot Cha                4:00
3 Further On Up The Road 4:39
4 Roy's Bluz              8:53
5 Can I Change My Mind 6:17
6 I'm A Ram        4:14
7 I'm Evil                6:01

Personnel:

Guitar – Roy Buchanan
Bass – John Harrison
Drums – Byrd Foster*
Keyboards – Malcolm Lukens
Lead Vocals – Billy Price
Lead Vocals – Roy Buchanan (4,7)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Western Vacation - 1986 [2010] "Western Vacation"

In the early 1980s, Steve Vai had just moved to California and bought a house in rural Sylmar California. At the time, it was a place with more animals than people. Steve's little house out in the wilderness, was a place where wayward musicians can come and call home. One of those musicians living at the house, was Marty Schwartz, Steve's friend from his Berklee School Of Music Days. When Steve broke his whammy bar during a gig in the Berklee recital hall, he asked if anyone had a spare rubber band, thats when a faint voice came from audience "Iv'e got one for you Steve!", that was the first time Steve met Marty.

In Steve's backyard, filled with chickens, ducks, and other various farm animals, Steve's first hand built studio, called Stucco Blue, was the birth place of, ''Western Vacation''. This album was created by Marty, and features a handful of Frank Zappa alumni, including keyboardist Tommy Mars, Vocalist Bob Harris, and Steve Vai, who was listed as the ''Reckless Fable'' on the ''Western Vacation'' track. Other musicians that played on this album were, Chris Frazier on drums, and Jac Mihanovic on bass.

''Western Vacation'' takes you on a progressive musical journey with uplifting melodic textures and dynamic musicianship! Bob Harris's voice is as sweet as a red velvet cupcake and the melodies on this record are so delicious. This album has been beautifully re-mastered in the ''Audio Laundry Mastering Lab'' in Steve's Encino studio, from the original 8 track tapes! This deluxe reissue features a wonderful booklet featuring a essay from Steve Vai and legendary writer and publicist Laurel Fishman.
Listen to Western Vacation and see if you can be transported to the idyllic 1980's in Sylmar. ''This captures that time and place with those wonderful friends,'' -Steve Vai.

I actually worked at the record pressing factory where this was originally pressed (yes...that means vinyl) and fell in love with it on first hearing back in the late eighties. This is some great, great playing...an example of what can happen when the musical stars align. This is a great snapshot of young musicians playing for each other and for fun. As a drummer, I still find inspiration in this album...twenty-odd years later!

This band is made up of a bunch of Steve's friends and Zappa alumni and was recorded in Steve's garage in the early 80's. It sounds like the fun Zappa stuff from prior to this recording and is also reminiscent of Steve's solo work from that era on Flex-Able. Even though Steve apparently only played on the title track his influence on the compositions and guitar work is clear. Or perhaps it is the other way around. Either way, a neat glimpse back at a number of talented artists. Thanks for sharing.

Western Vacation is a great album! I mainly purchased it because Steve Vai is not only my mentor, but my guitar teacher as well. I wanted to hear his early, early, works and here it is! This album wreaks an awesome 80's vibe and brings back many memories on such an awesome time for rock! Steve's(Reckless Fable) guitar solo on the title track is astounding! The vocals are very bubble gum 80's style, but hard to stop listening to! You buy this album and it will really bring you back to early 80's time period. Overall the music is awesome, Bass is killer, and you won't be disappointed! A+++ in my book!

Track listing / Personnel:

1 Western Vacation 6:55
    Backing Vocals – Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums, Percussion – Chris Frazier
    Guitar, Voice [Cowboys], Soloist [1st] – Martin Schwartz
    Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Tommy Mars
    Saxophone – Ric Cunningham
    Soloist [Long Guitar Solo] – Reckless Fable
    Vocals [Lead & Background] – Bob Harris
    Voice [Cowboys] – Mike O'Brien (2)

2 Nocturnal Emissions 2:05
    Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar – Martin Schwartz
    Bass – Stu Hamm*
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Other [Dedicated To] – Jim Moriarty

3 Fast Note People 4:01
    Backing Vocals – Jarrett Renshaw, Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Guitar – Martin Schwartz
    Keyboards – Tommy Mars
    Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Bob Harris
    Marimba – Brad Dutz

4 Send Us More Light 4:22
    Bass – Stu Hamm*
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Electric Piano [Rhodes] – Tommy Mars
    Guitar – Martin Schwartz
    Vocals, Keyboards – Bob Harris

5 Patty 4:44
    Backing Vocals – Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Guitar, Sitar [Choral] – Martin Schwartz
    Keyboards – Tommy Mars
    Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Bob Harris

6 The Velvet Line 5:31
    Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Backing Vocals – Martin Schwartz
    Backing Vocals – Joe Kearney, Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Keyboards – Tommy Mars
    Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Trumpet – Bob Harris
    Other [Dedicated To] – Joe & Mary Ellen Kearney
    Saxophone – Ric Cunningham


7 Delicious 3:12
    Keyboards [Improvisation], Vocals – Tommy Mars


8 Borrowed Time 4:30
    Backing Vocals – Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Guitar – Martin Schwartz
    Keyboards – Scott Collard
    Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Trumpet – Bob Harris

9 Burning Flame 3:07