Thursday, December 21, 2017

Kazumi Watanabe - 1987 [2016] "The Spice Of Life"

The Spice of Life is an album by jazz fusion guitarist Kazumi Watanabe, with Jeff Berlin on bass and Bill Bruford on drums. It was originally released in 1987, under the PolyGram label.

This album features the power trio of K. Watanabe on all guitars & guitar synths, fantastic bassist Jeff Berlin and Bill Bruford who was the drummer for the classic rock band Yes. By the time Kazumi Watanabe expanded beyond jazz to join the fusion movement, it was the '80s and fusion had all but died in The States. It was a pure delight to see this man keep fusion alive with a mixture of rock, the hard-driving beats and rythms of the '80s which kept the music current in its time and updated the sound that had once been the property of the '70s..........and of course, the jazz influence is solid throughout this recording. Watanabe is a tremendous guitar talent who is too often overlooked. His blistering hot guitar work shines with a knowledge of American culture while he slips in a definite Japanese flavor in his music........sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant. An incredible album!!! On a scale of 1-5 stars, this album deserves 10 stars!!! I also agree with other reviewers that the sequel album "Spice of Life Too" was a weak and disappointing follow-up to this supurb album. I haven't bothered to pick it up on CD, because even with the addition of a keyboardist, the music was uninspired and lackluster.......worth 3 stars at best........but again, THIS album, the ORIGINAL "Spice of Life" deserves 10 stars on a scale of 1-5 stars!!! An excellent piece of work!!!

This album features the power trio of K. Watanabe on all guitars & guitar synths, fantastic bassist Jeff Berlin and Bill Bruford who was the drummer for the classic rock band Yes. By the time Kazumi Watanabe expanded beyond jazz to join the fusion movement, it was the '80s and fusion had all but died in The States. It was a pure delight to see this man keep fusion alive with a mixture of rock, the hard-driving beats and rythms of the '80s which kept the music current in its time and updated the sound that had once been the property of the '70s..........and of course, the jazz influence is solid throughout this recording. Watanabe is a tremendous guitar talent who is too often overlooked. His blistering hot guitar work shines with a knowledge of American culture while he slips in a definite Japanese flavor in his music........sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant. An incredible album!!! On a scale of 1-5 stars, this album deserves 10 stars!!!

For those that love Bruford and Jeff Berlin working together you will love the infuence they bring to Kazumi's style and blazing playing. I owned the vinyl version first and played it to death. But the CD has an additional track that is very dark and more like an improv than any of the other selections. Bill uses his electronic/acoustic kit set-up and it works better here than with King Crimson. Since there are only three instruments for the most part (although Kazumni is all over the place with his guitar-synthesizer)this gives Bruford and Berlin a large presence and lots of room to do what they do best. The album has the feel of having very seperate tracks, the styles vary, but is very addicting and sounds great loud. I highly recommend it, it is really heavily influenced by Bruford and Berlin and could have been called Bill Bruford with.... Just as a note, I can not say that the second effort called "The Spice of Life Too" is of the same quality.

Tracks Listing

1. Melancho (3:29)
2. Hiper K (5:38)
3. City (4:28)
4. Period (6:38)
5. Unt (5:48)
6. Na Starovia (4:43)
7. Lim-Poo (4:50)
8. J.F.K. (4:55)
9. Rage In (6:17)*
* CD Only

Total Time: 46:50

Line-up / Musicians

- Kazumi Watanabe / guitars, guitar-synthesizer
- Bill Bruford / electronic drums, drums, percussion
- Jeff Berlin / bass

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