Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Chick Corea Elektric Band - 1991 "Beneath The Mask"

Beneath the Mask is an album by Chick Corea Elektric Band, released in 1991 through the record label GRP. The album peaked at number two on Billboard's Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.

Beneath the Mask is the easiest and breeziest Elektric Band album in years, with Latin-flavored melodies that are concise and downright hummable. Corea’s atmospheric harmonies manage to be seductive without evaporating into nothingness. On “One of Us Is Over 40,” the band even slips into a very friendly (and uncharacteristically African) lope. Corea weaves his tricks into a seamless musical fabric. And the Elektric Band — Corea, bassist John Patitucci, drummer Dave Weckl, guitarist Frank Gambale, and saxophonist Eric Marienthal-has never sounded better.

You can always expect some of the best musicianship anywhere from a Chick Corea album. Bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl are two of the most renowned musicians at their instruments, and guitarist Frank Gambale, with his burning “sweet picking” style, isn’t far behind. Saxman Eric Marienthal has matured considerably in Corea’s ranks. So, musically speaking, Beneath the Mask is typically solid. The only question is, “What is Chick doing now?”

The new Corea is geared more towards commercial jazz, if you can call it jazz. Even though his music has always been pre-composed, his new material provides even less of a vehicle for improvisation. It does maintain an intense level of musicianship, but the compositional element of the old Corea has given way to a more groove-orientated sound. Corea, like the rest of the world, is getting funky (another musical element to which the world is indebted to New Orleans); on several numbers, Patatucci slaps the bass and Gambale scratches the guitar while drummer Weckl’s busy hands could confound an octopus (although his playing is subtle and seemingly effortless).

Highlights include “One of Us Is Forty,” a driving funk tune with busy Fender Rhodes rocking from Corea and a catchy chord melody. Corea falls into an increasingly familiar tour-de-force rock-out formula here, with everyone playing in unison on fast, pumped-up lines at the front of the stage. Left over from his Return to Forever days, this formula is what he uses to end his sets. “Illusions” starts with spacious chords in a repeating bass riff, goes into a fast groove, then to the tour de force formula and into a Spanish segment reminiscent of much of Corea’s past work. “A Wave Goodbye” is a spacy, reflective rainy day piece with a sad saxophone melody. “Charged Particles” is more serious, classically-influenced fusion, with fast straight rhythm melodies and a grinding keyboard part, under an evil guitar solo.

"Beneath The Mask" would be the last album that the "classic" Elektric Band would record for 12 years, and after their previous 2 outings featured Chick on a grand piano, he obtained an electric midi-Rhodes piano and the amazing Yamaha SY-99 synthesizer,and as a result,the album was punchier, funkier and more direct-to-the-point than their previous two outings "Eye Of The Beholder" and "Inside Out".

As usual, one band member was featured on the lion's share of the cuts. Electric guitar was a large focus on this collection, so Frank Gambale came to the fore, contributing excellent solos on "Little Things That Count", "Lifescape", "Free Step", an acoustic contribution on "A Wave Goodbye", as well as part of the trade-offs on "Illusions".

His finest moment, however, is one of the CCEB's greatest accomplishments as a combo, "Charged Particles". The band was amazingly tight, the tempo changes and shifts handled beautifully, and it all sets up a Gambale showcase, where he combines alternate picking along with his classic "sweep style" for 5 minutes and change of sheer fusion bliss.

Eric Marienthal found a new voice as well, opting for soprano sax as opposed to his normal alto, the title track, "One Of Us Is Over 40", "Jammin' E. Cricket" and "Illusions" all benefit from this stylistic change.

John Patitucci holds the bottom end on bass and "Jammin" E. Cricket" shows what he can do.

Dave Weckl's drumming, as always is superlative and energetic.

Chick himself was obviously having a lot of fun, best showcased on "99 Flavors" which he composed as a sample tune for Yamaha's SY-99 keyboard before recording it with the group.


Track listing:

1. Beneath the mask (3:33)
2. Little things that count (3:50)
3. One of us is over 40 (4:57)
4. A wave goodbye (4:46)
5. Lifescape (5:12)
6. Jammin E. Cricket (6:54)
7. Charged particles (5:21)
8. Free step (7:47)
9. 99 flavors (3:56)
10. Illusions (9:45)

Total Time 56.09


Chick Corea – keyboards, mini moog, mixing, producer, synclavier, synthesizer
Frank Gambale – guitar, synthesizer guitar
Eric Marienthal – alto and soprano saxophone
John Patitucci – bass
Dave Weckl – drums, mixing, percussion

Billy Cobham Colin Towns & HR Big Band - 2006 "Meeting Of The Spirits"

There's been a rush of Mahavishnu Orchestra related projects during the last two years. First there was Mahavishnu keyboardist Jan Hammer playing Mahavishnu music with guitarist Jeff Beck in Europe. Then there was the Jeff Richman-produced tribute album, Visions Of An Inner Mounting Apocalypse. There is the ongoing success of the Mahavishnu Project band and its VishnuFest. And just this month, Hammer shows up on the new album from drummer Billy Cobham.

There's plenty more too. The recent release of the wonderful A Meeting Of Spirits album from the brilliant keyboardist Gary Husband. A cover of the Mahavishnu classic, "Thousand Island Park," from keyboard wizard Mitchel Forman on his new Perspectives disc. And just a few weeks ago, the pairing of Cobham and Mahavishnu violinist Jerry Goodman, who had not played together in over thirty years, for a performance of Mahavishnu music with the hr-Bigband at the Berlin Jazz Festival. Up next will be a DVD of a performance from the second version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1974.

We've been lucky so far. Those who have chosen to interpret this engaging, but very challenging, music have produced work worthy of Mahavishnu's legacy. This new disc from Germany's hr-Bigband (a performance broadcast live on German radio earlier this year) is no exception. The hr-Bigband's manager, Olaf Stotzler, had been looking for someone who would take the music and crash through barriers with it—and in English arranger/composer Colin Towns he found him.

Initial exposure to the Mahavishnu Orchestra could sometimes be overwhelming. The original band's complex time signatures, most evident in Cobham's masterful drumming, could be confusing to musicians and audiences alike. But if you stuck with them, you'd likely find yourself locked into the groove. Towns and the hr-Bigband have taken this dimension even further. There are main themes being performed while sub-themes and sub-sub-themes are being played simultaneously. At first it's almost too much—until you remember the spirit of the original band. To take this music out, you need to take it out. Only then do you find yourself immersed in the arrangements and lost in lofty thought.

Cobham revisits his past with fervor. His drumming remains a dominant, driving force. Time has passed and he takes more reflective solos, but his support playing is still powerful and compelling. The band itself is full of accomplished musicians who seem to understand the nuance—even if it is bombastic—of the music. Martin Scales' guitar captures the essence of the original sounds without attempting to mimic them. The horns and keyboards provide their version of swing for music in which sometimes the swing is implied. It's a full-bodied sound with all the power you'd expect from a big band. Yet the players are at home too in quiet sections of great beauty. To be able to carry off that latter aspect of the Mahavishnu music, as required by Towns' arrangements, is key to any successful interpretation of these tunes.

The way the album has been edited creates what could be considered one long composition, seamlessly formed of movements from the first and second Mahavishnus. This imbues a sense of building tension which is released on the final cut, “Meeting Of The Spirits,” and through the joyous yelps of an appreciative crowd, whose enthusiasm throughout is part of the listening experience.

Mahavishnu's guitarist, John McLaughlin, who wrote some of the liner notes, never expected to hear his compositions played by a big band. The music on this CD, he says, is a revelation to him. Meeting Of The Spirits successfully presents Mahavishnu music in a way you'll never have experienced it before.

It’s fair to say that there has been no shortage of bad press for jazz-rock fusion over the last two decades in a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As a result, the achievements of the Mahavishnu Orchestra have been diminished with the passage of time to the point it now seems like a footnote in the pages of history. Yet the Mahavishnu Orchestra was the next major step in jazz rock after Bitches Brew. OK, it may have triggered the guitar Olympics, where every guitarist wanted to play faster than McLaughlin, but here was the visceral marriage of Hendrix’ guitar sound and blistering jazz improvisation taken to a level of excellence that is now a benchmark in the music.

Billy Cobham, Colin Towns and HR-Big Band - Meeting of the Spirits: A Celebration of the Mahavishnu
While the group is remembered for vistuosity taken to the nth degree, McLaughlin’s compositions for the band, with their intricate melodies and tricky time signatures, are largely forgotten. This project brings those compositions alive, and is a reminder that the Mahavishnu Orchestra were by no means one dimensional. Towns’ orchestrations are a stunning mix of imagination and craftsmanship (‘Birds of Fire,’ ‘Celestial Terrestrial Commuters,’ ‘Meeting of the Spirits’), but they also let the music breath with exciting and wholly apposite solos from the members of the HR-Big Band that show how this music works in an acoustic context.

Axel Schlosser on trumpet on ‘Birds of Fire’ or Johannes Enders on tenor on ‘Dawn’, for example, rise to the challenge of this demanding music with ease and elegance. Cobham’s captures much of the coiled spring intensity of his work on the originals, and has plenty of solo space, such as ‘Resolution’. A great album, which places jazz-rock in a different light – as Towns says, ‘Take a look at this, if you like it, check out the original records. It will enhance your life more than realise!’

Recorded live January 27th 2006, Centralstation, Darmstadt, Germany.


Tracks Listing:

01. Hope (1:55)
02. Birds Of Fire (6:24)
03. Miles Beyond (4:40)
04. Resolution (4:19)
05. Cosmic Strut (3:42)
06. Dawn (9:08)
07. Eternity's Breath Parts 1&2 (6:41)
08. Sanctuary (9:54)
09. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters (3:18)
10. You Know, You Know (5:20)
11. One Word (11:47)
12. Meeting Of The Spirits (6:58)

Total time 74:06


Drums – Billy Cobham

Colin Towns & HR Big Band:

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn, Oliver Leicht
Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – Rainer Heute
Bass Trombone – Manfred Honetschläger
Electric Bass – Thomas Heidepriem
Guitar – Martin Scales
Piano, Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes], Keyboards – Peter Reiter
Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute – Harry Petersen
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Johannes Enders
Trombone – Christian Jaksjø, Günter Bollmann, Peter Feil
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Axel Schlosser, Martin Auer, Thomas Vogel, Tobias Weidinger

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Steve Hackett - 1980 [1989] "Defector"

Defector is the fourth solo album from former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. It was released in 1980 on the Charisma label.

In 2005, Defector was remastered and re-released on Virgin Records. The new edition features updated liner notes and five bonus tracks. A surround upmix of the album is included in Premonitions: The Charisma Recordings 1975-1983 [10-CD/4-DVD Boxed Set] (2015).

Steve Hackett had exited from success a few years prior by leaving the band Genesis. A band who had unexpectedly grown in popularity since the departure of their lead singer Peter Gabriel. Hackett felt that there was more music in him than was being allowed to shine in the band and his creativity was being stifled. He had released his first solo record (Voyage of the Acolyte) while still in the band, and that had caused a bit of dissension from some of the others. It was time for him to leave after the tour to support 1976’s Wind and Wuthering, and Defector is his third solo effort after the departure from Genesis. This showed him to actually be more prolific than Genesis!
Hackett had assembled a band to support 1978’s Please Don’t Touch on tour, and was so pleased with the arrangement he used them for the following record Spectral Mornings and this one Defector. It was on these last two records that Hackett really found the clarification of his sound, with a crack band backing him, moving towards a more progressive area than his former band was at the time and becoming even more proficient as a guitarist. Heavy metal shredders were using Hackett as an influence, even though he was not playing anything close to hard rock here.

Defector opens with the heavy and ominous “The Steppes,” to begin the proceedings. This leads to “Time To Get Out” with its bright, sprightly beat and slightly dissonant vocal harmonies. The album is a mixture of smart instrumentals and pleasant vocal pieces featuring Pete Hicks as lead vocalist, though Steve himself would take the odd vocal now and then. A foretelling of the future, as he would find himself more comfortable with his voice on future recordings.

Steve makes excellent use of the Roland GR500 guitar synthesizer, which gives the impression at times of several guitarists playing in harmony like the twin guitar leads of Thin Lizzy or Wishbone Ash. He can also mellow out on songs like “Two Vamps As Guests” and “Hammer In the Sand,” the latter featuring lovely piano work by Nick Magnus.

Favorite cuts of mine here are the powerful instrumental “Jacuzzi,” the easy and sleepy “The Toast,” and the wonderful and bass heavy synth-rocker “The Show.” There is also a witty and clever ode to the 1940’s big band era, “Sentimental Institution.”

Defector is Steve Hackett’s last really good album for quite a while, and although not quite as strong as the previous three, it is well worth having in anyone’s Genesis-centric collection.

Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett stepped out on his own in the late '70s with several solo releases, including Defector. The 1980 release doesn't stray far musically from early Genesis, containing a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your tastes) dose of progressive rock. Five flute- and keyboard-heavy instrumentals appear, as well as five vocal numbers with Hackett taking the singing chores. Of the vocal numbers, "The Toast" sounds a bit like Pink Floyd.

Many Hackett fans consider "Defector" to be the last album from his classic solo period. The album is another solid effort from Hackett featuring a nice mix of vocal and instrumental songs. The emphasis here is still on progressive rock in the classic 70's style, but you also hear the beginning of some more adventurous experimentation which would permeate Hackett's later releases. "Defector" would be the last Hackett album to feature someone other than himself on lead vocals. The guitar is the main instrumental focus on much of this album, as it should be, and Hackett pulls of some really nice work throughout the disc. The album opener "The Steppes" has become a live classic with other tracks like "Slogans", "Time To Get Out"; "Leaving" and "The Toast" are all strong ones. Hackett even takes a stab at a rocking commercial single with "The Show" which is almost funk / disco in nature, and actually works much better than you might think it would. The album closes with a novelty 1920's style ditty called "Sentimental Institution" which reminds me of some of the stuff Freddy Mercury used to do with Queen. Overall I don't think this is Hackett's best album, but it is another solid release from a guitarist who has been sadly overlooked by the mainstream over the years.

Track listing:

1. The Steppes (6:04)
2. Time To Get Out (4:11)
3. Slogans (3:42)
4. Leaving (3:18)
5. Two Vamps As Guests (1:58)
6. Jacuzzi (4:35)
7. Hammer In The Sand (3:09)
8. The Toast (3:41)
9. The Show (3:40)
10. Sentimental Institution (2:32)

Total Time: 36:50


Steve Hackett – guitar, vocal, optigan, roland GR500
Nick Magnus – keyboards
John Hackett – concert and alto flute
Pete Hicks – vocal
John Shearer – drums and percussion
Dik Cadbury – bass, vocal

Vocal Credits:
"Time To Get Out" and "The Toast" are sung by Pete, Dik & Steve together. "Leaving" and "The Show" are sung by Pete with the others adding harmonies. "Sentimental Institution" and the bonus track "Hercules Unchained" are sung by Pete alone. This is the only Steve Hackett album with vocals on which none of the lead vocals are by Hackett himself.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Keith Jarrett - Gary Peacock - Jack DeJohnette - 2007 "My Foolish Heart"

My Foolish Heart is a double live album by American pianist Keith Jarrett's "Standards Trio" featuring Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette recorded in concert in July 2001 at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and released on the ECM label in 2007.

Pianist Keith Jarrett's career practically invites criticism or, at the very least, intense comment. His outspokenness, his utter seriousness of intent and the resulting love-hate relationship with the audience, even his vocalisms, evoke strong responses, both pro and con, from listeners.

As the years have gone by, expectations have continued to rise, almost to the point that no matter what he does, Jarrett will fail in someone's eyes, and My Foolish Heart is no exception. However, the only issue that really matters is this: does he and, by extension, the trio, communicate with and connect to the listener?

ECM has released this double-CD live recording from the 2001 Montreux Jazz Festival as a sort of now-to-then comparison to the upcoming release Setting The Standards: New York Sessions 1983, which will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of this trio in 2008. Any Jarrett release is an event and, when combined with Jarrett's liner notes which talk about how special this performance was, practically promises a revelatory listening experience.

Revelation is, however, a very personal thing. Since this music consists of well-known standards the magic, if it is to be found, will not be in new sounds, but in the details of the performance for those who can, or desire to, hear them.

The best jazz is the music of spontaneous, unexpected creation. It requires dynamic energy and concentration plus the seeming contradictory ability to let go, forgetting all the technique and theory and just playing. In this case, what is to be played starts with the tunes themselves, with melody. A standard is labeled as such because its construction has achieved the delicate balance between the melodic phrasing and harmony that creates something unique, and being immediately identifiable and memorable.

To treat such a creation as mere changes is to violate its sanctity, and true improvisation will maintain contact, however tenuous, with the source of the inspiration. In this respect, Jarrett is masterful and there is nary a moment on any track when it is not obvious which tune is being played. The changes are respected, but so are the melody and emotional essence of the tune, with Jarrett using the musical language of conventional bebop jazz.

Bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, acknowledged masters in their own right, obviously know Jarrett and each other extremely well. Any given performance can vary, but this one does seem to find this rhythm section in top form. DeJohnette's famous energy is controlled but white hot while Peacock, whose solos are short but meaningful, adds a delightful bounce and verve.

The trio is playing as one and this is the joy of the performance. The surprise comes with the three stride tunes, "Ain't Misbehavin,'" "Honeysuckle Rose" and "You Took Advantage Of Me," and if anyone was waiting for a reason to gush about this performance, it is here.

My Foolish Heart is an anniversary release celebrating 25 years of the Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette trio's traveling and performing together despite the rich and varied individual careers of its members. Recorded in 2001 at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Jarrett held the tape close to the vest until what he felt was the right time for release -- whatever that means. The bottom line is, listeners are very fortunate to have it. The official live offerings by this group have always been crystalline affairs of deep swinging communication, no matter the material.

Not only is My Foolish Heart no exception, it is perhaps the standard by which the others should be judged. Almost two hours in length, the program is comprised entirely of jazz and pop standards -- beginning with a tough, limber, punchy version of Miles Davis' "Four" lasting over nine minutes. That the music begins like this, so utterly strident and swaggering, full of lyric invention and energy, is almost reason enough for purchase.

The inherent commitment to the music is not measured: it's total. There are few -- if any -- groups in jazz that have been together for such a long time. And there are few groups new or old that are even capable enough to manage such a wide-ranging selection of the repertoire: from the title track and "Four" to "Oleo," "Straight, No Chaser," and even "Five Brothers"! But the selection of material is only the wrapper. What's inside it is not just the history of jazz but history in the making, because these three prove beyond all measure not only the vitality of the material but also the necessity of the trio interpretation of it, and indeed what is possible: bop, hard bop, post-bop, swing, and here even ragtime, played with all the seriousness and joy it demands.

The readings of Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Honeysuckle Rose" and Rodgers & Hart's "You Took Advantage of Me" are wild affairs, beautifully executed, sure, but played with the requisite emotion that new interpretations require.

On this set, these tunes have been brought out of history, out of the canon of milquetoast sweetness as diversions for the purpose of entertainment, and out into the present as revelatory statements in harmony and rhythmic and lyric invention. The interplay between Peacock and DeJohnette is utterly dynamic. The way these two not only complement but also challenge one another creates a sense of balance that allows Jarrett room for flight -- not into his own quirks as a musician, but into the entire universe of jazz. Peacock and DeJohnette solo a lot here, with in-the-pocket contributions to the melodic panorama of the music.

The ballads, too, such as the delicate reading of Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne's "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" and the curious but spot-on choice for a set closer, Cahn and James Van Heusen's "Only the Lonely," are read with such sensitivity and confidence that overly reverent interpretation (a trap for any player who risks bloodlessness) is impossible; the nature of "song" is kept as the trio offers these renditions with deep emotion and a singer's sense of space and elegance. Over 13 tunes, this band offers more surprises, delights, and jaw-dropping musical acumen than even fans believed possible.

As Jarrett writes in his liner notes, "There was no other night when we felt that we had to (almost literally) grab the audience by the throat and shake them into hearing what we were doing." Perhaps they were distracted by heat, bad sound, and lighting problems -- Jarrett speaks to these twice in his notes -- but perhaps, until they reached the ragtime segment of the set that demanded a waking response, they were just floored by the swinging intensity with which the set began.

Whatever the reason, this document is a mindblower from start to finish, and there are moments when all you can do in response is look at the box slack-jawed and wonder if what you just heard really happened. It did and it does, over and over again. This set is a magical, wondrous moment in the life of a trio when it all comes pouring out as inspiration and mastery.

Place it where you will in Jarrett's discography, My Foolish Heart is true jazz artistry.

Track listing:

CD 1
1. "Four" (Miles Davis) - 9:09
2. "My Foolish Heart" (Ned Washington, Victor Young) - 12:25
3. "Oleo" (Sonny Rollins) - 6:37
4. "What's New?" (Johnny Burke, Bob Haggart) - 7:54
5. "The Song Is You" (Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern) - 7:43
6. "Ain't Misbehavin'" (Waller, Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf) - 6:41

CD 2
1. "Honeysuckle Rose" (Razaf, Waller) - 6:45
2. "You Took Advantage of Me" (Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers) - 8:54
3. "Straight, No Chaser" (Thelonious Monk) - 10:05
4. "Five Brothers" (Gerry Mulligan) - 6:36
5. "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" (Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne) - 11:09
6. "Green Dolphin Street" (Bronisław Kaper, Ned Washington) - 8:18
7. "Only the Lonely" (Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen) - 6:15


Keith Jarrett – piano
Gary Peacock - bass
Jack DeJohnette - drums

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Pat Metheny - 2017 "Live In The '70s" [5 CD Box]

The entire original WBCN, KJAZ, WNYU and WLIR FM Radio Broadcasts. Covering live performances Boston (1976), San Francisco, Seattle (1977), New York (1978 & 1979). Professionally re-mastered with background liners and rare archival photos in a 5 CD box set.

Having played with Gary Burton, Jaco Pastorius and other leading fusion musicians, the prodigious Pat Metheny made his solo recording debut in 1976 with the classic Bright Size Life. The following year he released Watercolors, marking the start of his long collaboration with pianist Lyle Mays and the forming of The Pat Metheny Group. That summer they played various dates (together with bassist Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gottlieb). They were swiftly acclaimed as one of America’s foremost fusion bands. Their second album, American Garage, appeared in June 1979, and reached #1 on the Billboard jazz chart soon afterwards, propelled by the up-tempo (Cross the) Heartland, which became their signature tune. The superb tracks featured here, performed live and broadcast on FM radio, include material from Watercolors, the Pat Metheny Group album and American Garage, presented here together with background notes and images.

This is a collection of previously released live sets--"Boston Jazz Workshop" ('76), "Great American Music Hall" ('77), "Seattle Opera House" ('78), and two discs from "Hofstra University" ('79). The sound varies slightly but overall is very decent to good. There's some slight distortion occasionally and a bit of muddiness in the bass at times. But for Metheny fans who (like me) like this era, this is a nice way to have all these separate albums in one nice, neat box set. Like other albums only available in the UK, some of these individual albums aren't available in the U.S., so this is a good way to have it all. The discs slip inside cardboard jackets with graphics similar to the box cover graphic, and the booklet is only okay like many of these kinds of sets. The outer clamshell box is fairly substantial cardboard. But it's the music that's important, and on that score this box set delivers.

Founder Pat Metheny first emerged on the jazz scene in the mid-1970s with a pair of solo albums. First was Bright Size Life, released in 1976, a trio album with bass guitarist Jaco Pastorius and drummer Bob Moses. The next album, released in 1977, was Watercolors, featuring Eberhard Weber on bass, pianist Lyle Mays, and drummer Danny Gottlieb.

Despite the common description of Metheny's music as "fusion," it was always his intention[citation needed] to create improvised music that had a greater emphasis on bringing out harmony than anything common to what was called "fusion" of the time. Pastorius, with whom Metheny struck up a friendship while the two attended the University of Miami and later toured in Joni Mitchell's backing band during her transition from her earlier folk rock compositions to those with more jazz influence, had at the same time explored melodic lines for his instrument within the melodies normally heard, rather than just providing a simple bassline, revolutionizing the way the bass guitar was viewed by the musical establishment. The two friends would talk into the late evening during the early 1970s and discuss the new possibilities their instruments held.

At the same time, Jaco and I were both really on a mission to find a way to play and find a way to present our instruments in an improvisational environment that expressed our dissatisfaction with the status quo at the time.

— Pat Metheny
In 1977, bassist Mark Egan joined Metheny, Mays, and Gottlieb to form the Pat Metheny Group. They released the self-titled album "Pat Metheny Group" in 1978 on the ECM label, which featured several songs co-written by Metheny and Mays. The group's second album, American Garage in 1979, was a breakout hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Jazz chart and crossing over to the pop charts as well, largely on the strength of the up-tempo opening track "(Cross the) Heartland" which would become a signature tune for the group. The group built upon its success with lengthy tours in the USA and Europe.

The group featured a unique sound, particularly due to Metheny's Gibson ES-175 guitar coupled to two digital delay units and Mays' Oberheim synthesizer and Yamaha Organ. The group played in a wide range of styles from experimental to grassroots music. Later on, Metheny began working with the Roland GR300 guitar synthesizer and a Synclavier System, while Mays expanded his setup with a Prophet 5 synthesizer designed by Sequential Circuits, and later with many other synthesizers.


Track Listings:

Disc: 1
  1. Bright Size Life
  2. River Quay
  3. There Will Never Be Another You
  4. Band Introduction
  5. Watercolours
  6. Nacada
  7. The Whopper
  8. Icefire
  9. Unquity Road
  10. Untitled

Disc: 2
  1. Phase Dance
  2. Watercolours
  3. San Lorenzo
  4. Wrong Is Right

Disc: 3
  1. WYNU Intro
  2. Phase Dance
  3. April Joy
  4. Talk
  5. Unity Village
  6. The Windup
  7. The Epic
  8. WYNU Announcer
  9. Hermitage
  10. Lakes
  11. Midwestern Nights Dream
  12. Jaco
  13. San Lorenzo
  14. American Garage
  15. WYNU Announcer

Disc: 4
  1. Introduction
  2. Phase Dance
  3. Airstream
  4. Pat Chats
  5. April Joy
  6. Unity Village/The House of the Rising Sun/The Windup
  7. The Epic

Disc: 5
  1. James
  2. Old Folks
  3. Jaco
  4. The Magician's Theater
  5. San Lorenzo
  6. Thank You/Band Intros
  7. (Cross The) Heartland
  8. WLIR Announcer
  9. American Garage


Pat Metheny - Guitars
Lyle Mays - Piano, Keyboards
Danny Gottlieb - Drums
Mark Egan - Bass
Mike Richmond - Bass (disc 1)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Chico Hamilton - 1962 [1990] "Transfusion"

The first four CDs released by Studio West, a subsidiary of V.S.O.P., are all taken from concise (around three minutes apiece) performances that were made to be used as part of the radio show "The Navy Swings." This particular release features performances by one of drummer Chico Hamilton's most stimulating groups, a quintet comprised of Charles Lloyd (on tenor, flute and alto), guitarist Gabor Szabo, trombonist George Bohanon, bassist Albert Stinson and the drummer/leader. Because the individual selections are briefer than usual, in many cases only one soloist is featured on each cut. But overall, there is plenty of solo space for Lloyd (very much playing in a Coltrane vein), Bohanon and Szabo. The mixture of seven standards with nine Lloyd originals works quite well with plenty of variety in moods and tempoes. An excellent all-around showcase for this much underrated but very timeless unit.

Track Listing:

01. Transfusion 02:10
02. My Shining Hour 01:54
03. The Second Time Around 03:08
04. Come Rain or Come Shine 02:16
05. Witchcraft 02:56
06. Homeward 03:46
07. A Rose for Booker 03:21
08. Vulture 02:37
09. It Never Entered My Mind 02:50
10. Sun Yen Sen 02:24
11. Speak Low 02:30
12. One for Joan 03:33
13. C.L. Blues 02:31
14. Stella by Starlight 01:36
15. Tales 03:00
16. Transfusion 03:35


Drums – Chico Hamilton
Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Charles Lloyd (tracks: 1 to 6, 8 to 13, 15, 16)
Bass – Albert Stinson
Guitar – Gabor Szabo
Trombone – George Bohannon*

Sunday, May 20, 2018

John Mclaughlin - 1970 [1992] "Devotion"

Devotion is the second album by the English jazz fusion guitarist John McLaughlin, released in 1970. It was recorded shortly after McLaughlin left the Miles Davis band and prior to forming The Mahavishnu Orchestra. McLaughlin was unhappy with the resulting album. On his website, he writes: “In 1969, I sign a contract in America for 2 records. First is 'Devotion' that is destroyed by producer Alan Douglas who mixes the recording in my absence.

This music is very important in that it is a continuation along the trail blazed by Jimi Hendrix (Electric Ladyland and the Band of Gypsies), Cream (Wheels of Fire), Miles Davis (Miles in the Sky, In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew), Tony Williams Lifetime (Emergency and Turn it Over--the latter recording included drummer Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Larry Young (Khalid Yasin) and bassist Jack Bruce).

John McLaughlin began this journey jamming with Graham Bond, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker with the Graham Bond Organization back in 1964 in London blues clubs, when the world was intensely focused on the the music of the Beatles.

As we fast-forward five years to 1969, New York City, John has been initiated into the Miles Davis Directions movement with The Tony Williams Lifetime being his main focus for his evolving musical talents. Jimi Hendrix is also in New York, successfully taking the electric guitar far beyond traditional rock borders, and John, with the music of Devotion, is attempting to tap this base and create one of his own. Guitarist Eric Clapton and the Cream in 1968 were also expanding the boundaries of rock and blues jamming as can be clearly heard on the recording "Wheels of Fire" on the portions that were recorded live at the Fillmore.

Devotion is the crucial mix of a jazz-rock, blues guitarist, a Jazz keyboardist, a blues/rock drummer (very similar to Ginger Baker), and a rock/blues bassist with slight overtones of the Beatles. This fusion mix is one of the very first recorded outside of the Tony Williams Lifetime which included John and Larry. Also heard on Devotion are Buddy Miles and Billy Rich who both jammed and recorded with Jimi Hendrix. Buddy Miles was also appearing live with Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox in the Band of Gypsys when this music was recorded.

John's guitar playing at the top of this music is just superb. The interplay between all musicians is clearly heard here as both John and Larry clocked many hours together with the Tony Williams Lifetime and Miles Davis and clearly have a musical and spiritual feel for one another. Buddy and Billy also have great feel for each other after playing and recording in the the Buddy Miles Express and later jamming and recording with Jimi Hendrix. It was recommended that Billy Rich and not Billy Cox replace Noel Redding in the Jimi Hendrix Band, but due to a past friendship with Jimi, Billy Cox won out.

The three compositions which I feel define this production are "Devotion", "The Dragon Song" and "Purpose of When." Take the time to listen and you too will hear the expanded rock, blues, and jazz improvisations (with no vocals) and the lack of traditional rock/blues musical confinement that these four musicians experience as they blaze this unchartered trail. As you listen, remember that at the time of this release the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Band of Gypsys, and Cream have all disbanded, and no Mahavishnu Orchestra, Chick Corea & Return to Forever, Jeff Beck & Jan Hammer Band, Terje Rypdal Band, or Soft Machine with Allan Holdsworth exist yet.

If possible, purchase the 1992 Restless/Metrotone Original CD release of this music, which is not a remaster from a vinyl record but is from the original studio master tape from the 1969-1970 Alan Douglas, Stefan Bright production.

Devotion was created as McLaughlin was segueing from being a sideman to a realized composer, pre-Mahavishnu Orchestra, and he wasn’t happy with it. He is even quoted as saying producer Alan Douglas “destroyed it.” I’m not one to argue with the great Mr. McLaughlin, but I disagree. I think this is a fantastic record, due to its unique psychedelic-fusion stylings, and it influenced me greatly. I can’t even fault Douglas for his almost amateurish production of double-tracking two soloing guitars (reminiscent of Ike Turner’s “Right On”). Somehow, the solos work together as they weave in and out over the spirited rhythm section of drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Rich. I dig it.

One of the musical high points of the album is Larry Young’s organ solo on the title track, where he plays a mystical solo incorporating A Lydian (E major over an A pedal). That sound was very new to me back then. Young’s solo climaxes when he introduces a G natural, which, to this day, gives me chills. The other noteworthy tracks are “Marbles”(which was covered on 1972’s Carlos Santana and Buddy Miles Live) and “Don’t Let the Dragon Eat Your Mother.”

Sure—there is a wealth of great McLaughlin music that might be superior to Devotion, but this album has been close to my heart for 40 years, and there is nothing like it. McLaughlin once said, “A guitarist has to go the extra mile.” I think of these words when I’m feeling lazy or uninspired. Obviously, McLaughlin has gone that extra mile many times. He’s an intelligent musical pioneer, a phenomenal sideman, a great composer, and a guitarist with an amazingly distinct voice.

Originally released in 1970 but re-released regularly since, Devotion is a hard driving, spaced-out, distorted hard-jazz-rock album featuring organist Larry Young, drummer Buddy Miles, and the little known bassist Billy Rich. This album was recorded close to the period when McLaughlin had been jamming with Jimi Hendrix, Young, Miles and Dave Holland. Terrible bootlegs exist of some of their jams, but bad sound quality and McLaughlin's guitar on the fritz make the bootlegs a ripoff.

Devotion was also sort of a ripoff. To this day, McLaughlin is angry about the way former Hendrix producer Alan Douglas mixed this record. Apparently, Douglas spliced bits of music together here and there that were not supposed to be connected. Despite this obvious problem, and the fact Douglas paid McLaughlin only $2,000 to record both Devotion and My Goal’s Beyond , this album is chock full of wonderfully ominous riffs and sounds. Devotion is an overlooked landmark album.

“Marbles" opens up the album and is truly an early fusion masterpiece. (Some CD reissues of Devotion have changed the order of the tunes...don't ask why). The catchy hook is infectious. Years later, McLaughlin would employ the same riff often while with Shakti. You should also check out Santana’s cover version on his hard to find album with Buddy Miles, Live.

McLaughlin focuses more on tension and dynamics than on speed, and Larry Young plays mysterious and otherworldly chords. Miles keeps a constant thud-thud-thud churning throughout and Billy Rich effectively doubles McLaughlin’s themes. No slow ballads. No pretty melodies. This is just pure unadulterated jazz-grunge. Those familiar with the Mahavishnu Orchestra will enjoy picking out the passages that would later become signature tunes. Devotion is awfully messy at times, but you won’t mind cleaning up afterwards.


Track listing:

"Devotion" – 11:25
"Dragon Song" – 4:13
"Marbles" – 4:05
"Siren" – 5:55
"Don't Let the Dragon Eat Your Mother" – 5:18
"Purpose of When" – 4:45


John McLaughlin – electric guitar
Buddy Miles – drums, percussion
Larry Young – organ, electric piano
Billy Rich – bass guitar

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Pat Metheny - 1995 "We Live Here"

We Live Here is an album by the Pat Metheny Group that won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 1995.

The first Pat Metheny Group recording in five years is a bit unusual in two ways. The band uses "contemporary" pop rhythms on many of their selections but in creative ways and without watering down the popular group's musical identity. In addition Metheny for the first time in his recording career sounds a bit like his early influence Wes Montgomery on a few of the songs. With his longtime sidemen (keyboardist Lyle Mays, bassist Steve Rodby and drummer Paul Wertico) all in top form, Metheny successfully reconciles his quartet's sound with that of the pop music world, using modern technology to expand the possibilities of his own unusual vision of creative improvised music. And as a bonus, some of the melodies are catchy.

Returning to the dual-vocal septet line-up of Still Life (Talking) (released in 1987; reissued this year by Nonesuch) with percussionist Luis Conte replacing Armando Marçal, We Live Here's use of programmed rhythm loops and easy-on-the-ears grooves could be considered a concerted commercial attempt by Metheny to expand his already substantial audience. But it also represented its own kind of risk.

Metheny Group fans are typically drawn to the strong sense of melody that's defined the majority of Metheny's writing—alone and with constant collaborator and Metheny Group keyboardist since inception, Lyle Mays. But the opening one-two-three punch of "Here to Stay," "And Then I Knew" and "The Girls Next Door," threatens, at least on the surface, to cross the fine line that Metheny and Mays sometimes straddle between music of depth and substance and mere ear candy.

Many longtime Metheny fans feared that he'd gone too far. But while the album's production values are as close to pop as anything Metheny has ever done, the strength and commitment of the playing elevates the music beyond simple confection. And while much of the music lacks, for example, the tricky time signatures that are oftentimes part of the Metheny/Mays writing approach, there's far more here than immediately meets the ear.

The majority of the songs on the album reflect an interest in soul and R&B that, given Metheny's already broad purview, should come as no surprise. But while the soft ballad "Something To Remind You" bears the ear-marks of groups like Earth Wind & Fire with its clear verse-chorus form, it's still undeniably filtered through Metheny and Mays' own musical sensibilities. The verse is longer than most pop tunes would allow, and while it certainly sounds effortless, its changes are anything but.

Similarly, the more insistent and up-tempo "Red Sky" possesses a singable chorus featuring the lyricless vocals of David Blamires and Mark Ledford (who, sadly, passed away in 2004). But the changes of its equally lengthy verse would again challenge most players. Just because something sounds this easy doesn't mean it is easy and, in some ways, We Live Here could be considered the Pat Metheny Group's most subversive record.

Despite the album's glossy veneer, there are tracks that—despite groove being an essential component—are anything but smooth. The tribal rhythm of the title track is a logical expansion of ideas first explored on "Barcarole," the opening track on Offramp (ECM, 1981). "Episode D'Azur," sporting a knottier theme as well as shifting bar lines that are more in character, doesn't exactly swing but it comes closer to what Metheny Group naysayers consider to be "real" jazz, despite Mays' layering of string washes and signature synthesizer tone. And the album closer, "Stranger in Town," is a more pedal-to-the-metal burner than anything else found on the record, featuring some of Metheny's most lithe playing—especially during the brief middle section that's more- or-less an interactive trio spot for Metheny, drummer Paul Wertico and Conte.

One of the biggest criticisms of the Pat Metheny Group is that, as it has evolved over the past three decades, it's become less and less about the risk that many feel to be a defining characteristic in jazz. And it's true that there's a significant distance between albums like We Live Here and Metheny's collaboration with free jazz legend Ornette Coleman on Song X (released 1985; reissued by Nonesuch in 2005).

But the finely-detailed, through-composed approach of the Pat Metheny Group on We Live Here and earlier records has been at least partially responsible for a paradigm shift allowing jazz artists to explore more complex ideas while, at the same time, remaining completely accessible—not to mention incorporating contemporary production values in ways that need not be inherently paradoxical or antithetical to the spirit of jazz. And while We Live Here was met with a certain amount of surprise and disappointment on original release, even from longtime Metheny Group fans, it's weathered the test of time extremely well. Taken in context of the group's overall body of work, it is ultimately another signpost along its long and varied journey.


Track listing
All tracks written by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays except where noted.

1. "Here to Stay" 7:39
2. "And Then I Knew" 7:53
3. "The Girls Next Door" 5:30
4. "To the End of the World" 12:15
5. "We Live Here" 4:12
6. "Episode d'Azur" (Mays) 8:45
7. "Something to Remind You" 7:04
8. "Red Sky" 7:36
9. "Stranger in Town" 6:11


Pat Metheny – guitars, guitar synthesizer
Lyle Mays – piano, keyboards
Steve Rodby – acoustic and electric bass
Paul Wertico – drums
David Blamires – vocals
Mark Ledford – vocals, trumpet, Flugelhorn, Whistling
Luis Conte – percussion
Sammy Merendino – drum programming
Dave Samuels – cymbal rolls

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Miroslav Vitous - 2003 "Universal Syncopations"

Universal Syncopations is an album by Czech bassist Miroslav Vitouš recorded in 2003 and released on the ECM label.

On his first jazz date as a leader since 1992, Czechoslovakian bassist and composer Miroslav Vitous comes out of the gate with a host of heavyweights on one of the more lyrically swinging dates in modern jazz. Vitous' engaged, pulsing, and deeply woody tone is featured in the company of John McLaughlin, Jan Garbarek, Chick Corea, and Jack DeJohnette. While the crystalline sound of Manfred Eicher's ECM is everywhere here, as is the open-ended speculative jazz that the label is renowned -- and ridiculed for -- Vitous offers some startlingly beautiful twists and turns with his ensemble. Vitous, who has been through every music, from jazz-rock fusion as a founding member of Weather Report to being a classical composer, decided to revisit the skeletal remains of his very first session for the label in 1969. Produced by Herbie Mann the disc was, from a musical standpoint, a contentious, utterly brilliant marriage of ideas both old and new. Bandmembers DeJohnette and McLaughlin were present on those sides as well. Universal Syncopations is by turns a return to not the old forms, but rather to the manner of illustrating harmonic concepts in a quintet setting that allows for a maximum space between ensemble players while turning notions of swing, counterpoint, and rhythmic invention on their heads. From the wooly, expressionistic "Tramp Blues," with Vitous vamping around the changes, to the wide-open legato guitar phrasing of McLauglin against the double time in Vitous' bass on "Univoyage," to the simmering undulations of Garbarek's saxophones on top of Corea's intricate melodies and right-hand runs on "Brazilan Waves," all of it propelled, not anchored, by the leader's rich tone and accented and punctuated by Garbarek's tight, loping saxophone lines. This is one of those recordings that feels familiar in tone, but is timeless in concept and execution. Universal Syncopations is one of the most gorgeous sounding and toughly played dates of the calendar year.

Bassist Miroslav Vitous, veteran of the bands of Miles Davis, Herbie Mann, Donald Byrd, Chick Corea and numerous others had a dream decade after coming to the states in 1966 on a music scholarship. Within years, he would record one of the seminal documents of the fusion movement, 1969's Infinite Search and co-found one of the two most influential groups working with the marriage of jazz and rock - Weather Report. The ensuing two decades would be less spectacular but it would be unfair to dismiss the Czech prodigy merely for a low profile.

Going on a solo tour in order to promote his new group recording would seem a strange choice but Vitous has never been traditional. A four-performance tour, with a stop at Joe's Pub in late October, is actually thematically consistent with Vitous' approach on his new album Universal Syncopations.

Vitous in conversation speaks of liberating the bass from slavery. In fact, he desires his music to be an equal conversation between musicians, with the idea of leads and backups an outmoded concept. This is an admirable aspiration but a difficult one to achieve. Vitous makes the job more difficult for himself with his choice of musicians: saxophonist Jan Garbarek, pianist Chick Corea, guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Not only are these four major innovators and weighty personas, they all have a history with the bassist. Vitous must exert his will across the nine-track, 54-minute disc in order to keep the proceedings equitable, fresh and moving. Part of the solution for Vitous, done in part from practical considerations, was to record the rhythm tracks together and then have each musician record his part separately, preventing the musicians from falling into old habits or uninspired group soup.

A bassist that can keep a venue like Joe's Pub riveted (and quiet) for 90 minutes is up to the task. Through nine compositions, in formats ranging from drum-bass duets to quintet numbers augmented by a horn trio, Vitous' compelling compositions (always on par with his playing, usually a difficult feat for a "rhythm section" player) percolate with intensity. Garbarek in particular is the beneficiary of Vitous' firm ideas of what he wanted out of the sessions, contributing playing that is rich with emotion and verve and surprisingly far from his usually sterile Nordic facade.

"Bamboo Forest" has a smooth melody with a quirky twist; a short simple statement that rides on Vitous' resolute ostinatos. One of the lengthier pieces, "Univoyage", a full band piece, expectedly opens things up, portions including Corea's typically languorous style (though he thankfully keep his florid tendencies in check) and McLaughlin displaying the mellow aging process his playing has gone through, still vibrant but certainly less brash. Garbarek's soaring wails contrast nicely with McLaughlin's idiosyncratic approach, each filling the other's spaces. The slippery "Tramp Blues" features Vitous as the main soloist, using the simple structure of the tune to embellish and ornament. "Faith Run" is a fast-paced number, propelled by DeJohnette's ride cymbal, and more typical McLaughlin monkey business.

"Sun Flower" begins as an updated Trio, with DeJohnette depping for Roy Haynes until Garbarek joins; the piece careens into out territories as saxophone and piano fence with each until slowly easing out again. "Miro Bop" is just that, pleasant post bop that allows DeJohnette to come to the forefront for the only time. "Beethoven" is highlighted by an inventive call-and-response between Vitous and Garbarek over staccato drumwork, the bassist pushing the saxophonist with tough questions, unexpected answers and plenty of tonal shifts. Like label and instrument mate Dave Holland, Vitous never loses sight of the melodic logic of a piece, almost enough to be a groove bassist except he is far too original.

The album ends with the duet piece "Medium" (recalling similar work with Billy Cobham on Vitous' second album Purple, released only in Japan), which has the subtlety of a quality cup of tea; and the trio number "Brazil Waves." The ballad closes out the album and is remarkable for Garbarek, not one known for his reserve, laying back and giving most of the room to Vitous and DeJohnette.

Perhaps Vitous should have run in the gubernatorial race in California; Universal Syncopations shows he is masterful at balancing idea and execution, and marshalling all the talent around him to maximum effect.

Miroslav Vitous’s Universal Syncopations is an ode to many things. To the late 60s, when he laid down the seminal album Infinite Search with guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Jack DeJohnette, both featured on the present disc. To the purity of improvisation as a game of thrones over which melodic integrity forever reigns. To the joys of making music in fine company. Indeed, the Czech bassist could hardly ask for better session mates with whom to share the infinite search that is jazz. To that end, he is further joined by pianist Chick Corea and saxophonist Jan Garbarek, the latter of whom produces some of his liveliest playing yet. For ECM fans, it should be especially poignant to hear Garbarek and DeJohnette reunited in the studio, a planetary alignment not heard on the label since 1982’s Voice from the Past – PARADIGM.

Although Vitous has never been one for predictability, he is a poster child for reliability. One catch of “Bamboo Forest,” and it’s obvious: he is a musician’s musician, whose muscling ranges from powerful to miniscule (note, for example, his acrobatics in the penultimate track, “Medium”). Spurred along by a Brazilian vibe, the joyous sweep of this album opener finds Garbarek ticking off a smooth list of errands, adding depth to the gloss with every lick of his reed. And really, it’s the Vitous-Garbarek-DeJohnette nexus that holds the molecule together throughout, flexing with especial limberness in “Univoyage.” Here DeJohnette holds down the fort while the rest flit about with all the freedom of the world at their wingtips. McLaughlin and Corea provide spectral flashes in the brightness of their playing, painting the stardust to Garbarek’s eagle-eyed navigation. The swanky “Tramp Blues” finds the same trio walking a tightrope of expression toward more playful destinations.

Other configurations, however, do arise organically from the mix. There is the bass-drums-guitar grouping of “Faith Run,” which deposits DeJohnette’s propulsion at the center of it all, now gilded by McLaughlin’s sparkling ringlets (it’s also the last of three tracks featuring light brass accompaniment). Yet another coloration introduces itself in “Sun Flower,” which brings Corea back into the mix alongside the dynamic rhythm section. Pianist, drummer, and bassist dance and divine by turns, Garbarek hanging low to bring earthier hues to canvas. Corea hangs around for “Miro Bop.” This swinging piece of prosody lights its fair share of fireworks from DeJohnette, while Garbarek again proves his chops and strategic deployment as a jazzman. The saxophonist joins Vitous in “Beethoven,” a slick lesson in translation with DeJohnette acting as interpreter. What goes around comes around as “Brazil Waves” ends the album in the same vein with which it began: an atmospheric ride through surging beats and melodic treats.

Universal Syncopations is a tapestry of sound woven by steady, practiced hands. Each musician knows when to make way for another’s pass of thread and to contribute his own color when appropriate. The overall effect is unanimous and gifts us with a chunk of unforgettable, life-affirming jazz, its heart in all the right places.


Track listing:

All compositions by Miroslav Vitouš except as indicated.

1. "Bamboo Forest" - 4:37
2. "Univoyage" - 10:54
3. "Tramp Blues" - 5:19
4. "Faith Run" - 4:58
5. "Sun Flower" - 7:21
6. "Miro Bop" - 4:03
7. "Beethoven" (Jan Garbarek, Vitouš) - 7:18
8. "Medium" (Jack DeJohnette, Vitouš) - 5:09
9. "Brazil Waves" (Garbarek, Vitouš) - 4:26


Miroslav Vitouš — double bass
Jan Garbarek — soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
Chick Corea — piano
John McLaughlin — guitar
Jack DeJohnette — drums
Wayne Bergeron — trumpet (tracks 2-4)
Valery Ponomarev — trumpet, flugelhorn (tracks 2-4)
Isaac Smith — trombone (tracks 2-4)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Jack DeJohnette / Dave Holland - 1973 [2002] "Time & Space"

"I like to mess up the rhythm--agitate it, shake it up, transform it, morph it, do different things with it--because time is space, so we're dealing with time and space; we're taking time and making it spacious, expanding it."

Jack Dejohnette and Dave Holland's collaborative album recorded in Tokyo, 1973. Features funk and calypso tinged tracks written primarily by Dejohnette with two tracks composed by Dave Holland.



Track listing:

1. Turned Around 6:30
2. Farah's Song 2:52
3. The Rain Forest 3:42
4. Hegwineeway 2:12
5. Lydia 6:10
6. Papa Daddy Revisited 13:45
7. Stride Vibes 2:48
8. Outside - Inside Blues 3:46
9. Time & Space 3:26


Jack DeJohnette - Piano, Electric Piano, Organ [Electric], Melodica, Marimba, Voice, Drums, Percussion
Dave Holland - Bass, Electric Bass, Voice, Percussion

Monday, May 7, 2018

Gary Burton & Pat Metheny - 2009 "Quartet Live"

Quartet Live is a 2009 live album by American jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton. The record also features Pat Metheny on guitar, Steve Swallow on bass, and Antonio Sanchez on drums. The album was recorded in June 10–11, 2007 at the Yoshi's jazz club and released in 2009 via Concard Jazz label.

When Gary Burton finally retired from his career as a Berklee administrator and professor, he also cut back on regular touring with a quartet, instead assembling groups for shorter durations. These performances come from two nights at Yoshi's in Oakland, reuniting the vibraphonist with former sidemen Pat Metheny and Steve Swallow, along with Metheny's regular drummer at the time, Antonio Sanchéz, who joined them for what was intended to be a one-shot concert a few years earlier at the Montreal Jazz Festival. The music includes both old and new material, with the former sounding fresh rather than a mere autopilot run-through that some reunion bands might offer, while the recent works prove to be just as enticing. The quartet's interpretations of Swallow's compositions include an intricate, fast-paced take of "Falling Grace" along with a lively "Hullo, Bolinas" (both of which Burton has played many times over his long career). Duke Ellington's "Fleurette Africaine (Little African Flower)" has been a part of Burton's repertoire since the mid-'80s, and though the vibraphonist's approach is brighter and played at a faster tempo than the composer's brooding recording, this updated look builds upon Ellington's magical gift for melody with brilliant improvising all around. Burton contributed the funky blues "Walter L," which finds the musicians having a lot of fun with its catchy theme. Metheny's "Question and Answer" also appeared on an earlier recording with Burton and Chick Corea, but the omission of piano gives this version a simmering, more intricate air. This reunion will hopefully lead to future recorded reunions by these four gifted musicians.

This much-anticipated quartet gathering, the New Quartet Live Album with Burton, Metheny, Swallow and Sanchez, is simply great! I love the flow of songs and the 4 sound wonderful together and sport-on. Pat has 3 songs; Gary has 1 song, as does Chick Corea - Neville Potter, Keith Jarrett and Duke Ellington. Carla Bley has 2 songs, as does Steve Swallow. Altogether there are 11 songs and IMO, Missouri Uncompromised is Super as is Little African Flower. The Album ends with Question and Answer and @ 13:02 in Length it is really performed smoking Hot! Pat plays his guitar synth on Q & A and I think it caps off the album really well and in my view, he sensitively plays his guitar synth to the scale of Yoshi's. The sound quality is excellent and the album was recorded in June of 2007 at Yoshi's in Oakland, CA. This new and hot Quartet Live album is highly recommended!

The album features three original members and jazz legends Gary Burton, Pat Metheny and Steve Swallow along with another new member, and perhaps one of the most prominent jazz drummers of his generation, Antonio Sanchez. The 11-song album was recorded live at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland, CA. Quartet Live! starts off with Chick Corea’s “Sea Journey,” one of many songs Corea wrote for the Burton group, and features songs written by Carla Bley (“Olhos de Gato” and “Syndrome”) and Keith Jarrett (“Coral”). Metheny’s composing talents are also represented here by tunes composed during his Burton Quartet years: the fast and furious “Missouri Uncompromised,” the haunting “B and G,” and “Question and Answer,” one of Pat’s most well-known pieces. The story begins in 1967 when bassist Steve Swallow joined with vibraphonist Gary Burton to form the original Gary Burton Quartet. In the early 1970s, then 19-year old guitarist Pat Metheny joined Burton’s band and one of the most celebrated careers in music began. A decade ago Metheny discovered drummer Antonio Sanchez, inviting him to join The Pat Metheny Group, and the two have been playing together ever since. The result is four legendary musicians, improvisers and composers all, each at the top of his game, bringing modern jazz history to life on Quartet Live!

This group sounds as if it's on even more of a roll on this California live recording than it was at a thrilled Barbican last summer. A guitar/vibes dialogue might sound like a recipe for lots of notes and chamber-jazz, but this band is as hard-grooving as Gary Burton's original 1970s quartet - which also featured this group's bass guitarist, Steve Swallow, and a 19-year-old Metheny. Burton, one of the most creative figures in the first wave of jazz-rock, achieved a near-perfect balance of striking tunes, jazz fluency and country-rock conviviality - and Metheny's singing sound and blues/rock licks were the ideal foil. This group recaptures all that, with help from Metheny's fiery young drummer Antonio Sanchez. There isn't a dud track, with the skimming groove of the opening Sea Journey bearing beautifully phrased and flowing solos from Burton, Metheny and Swallow, and the Latin ballad Olhos de Gato and the smoky Coral drawing gentle ruminations from vibes and guitar that are too fresh for smooth jazz. There's a storming blues on Walter L, a staccato postbopper over scalding drumming and Swallow's gleeful walk on Missouri Uncompromised, a glistening Burton dance over the lightest brushes groove on Hullo, Bolinas, and Carla Bley's chiming Syndrome is a bonus.

The combination of musicians sets this up to be a winner. The set list gives good distribution of compositions by Gary, Pat and Steve, with Antonio riding on his incredible skills. I agree with the growing swell of accolades that characterizes him as among the best (if not THE best) drummers currently on the jazz scene.



Track listing:

01 Sea Journey 9:00
02 Olhos De Gato 6:36
03 Falling Grace 7:18
04 Coral 6:23
05 Walter L 5:30
06 B And G (Midwestern Night's Dream) 6:53
07 Missouri Uncompromised 7:34
08 Fleurette Africaine (Little African Flower) 7:34
09 Hullo, Bolinas 4:48
10 Syndrome 4:42
11 Question And Answer 13:02


Vibraphone – Gary Burton
Guitar – Pat Metheny
Electric Bass – Steve Swallow
Drums – Antonio Sanchez

Joe Beck - 1975 [1987] "Beck & Sanborn"

Popular crossover smash session linking two instrumental pop stars for a 1975 album. Beck played in a slick, light style, while Sanborn, although restrained, would occasionally slip in a hot blues lick or a fluid alto solo.

We are extremely fortunate that these two stellar players got together to make this album, as it is the definitive one of its kind. Sanborn has never sounded better, period, and Beck is incredible in his simplicity yet perfectly grooved playing. Beck's improvisational ideas, mostly low key, are the perfect contrast to Sanborn, who goes wild on this album as only he can. To measure Sanborn's impact on the generation of alto players that followed him, all one has to do is listen to this recording. He is simply outstanding and unique. The rhythm section is also utterly fantastic - they never get in the way and always create the hippest feel possible on every song. This is a must-purchase recording! It will blow you away!

This 1975 Kudu album by Joe Beck was never reissued on CD in the United States but available only as a Japanese import on the King label. Beck is a masterpiece of mid-'70s funky jazz and fusion. Beck retired in 1971 to be a dairy farmer. He returned to make this album his opus. Featuring David Sanborn, Don Grolnick, Will Lee, and Chris Parker, all of the album's six tracks were recorded in two days. Overdubs were done in another day and the minimal strings added by Don Sebesky were added on a third day. "Star Fire" opens the set and features the interplay of Beck's riffing and lead fills with Sanborn's timely, rhythmic legato phrasing, and the communication level is high and the groove level even higher. On "Texas Ann," another Beck original, Sanborn hits the blues stride from the jump, but Beck comes in adding the funk underneath Grolnick's keyboard while never losing his Albert Collins' feel. On "Red Eye," Beck's two- and three-chord funk vamps inform the verse while Sebesky's unobtrusive strings provide a gorgeous backdrop for Sanborn, who stays in the mellow pocket until the refrains, when he cuts loose in his best Maceo Parker. The deep funk of Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin's "Café Black Rose" showcases the band's commitment to groove jazz with a razor's edge. The composition is full of nooks and crannies and syncopated intervallic elements for the rhythm section. Steve Khan's slide guitar adds electric Delta feel to a Sly Stone funk groove along with a Jack McDuff riff makes the whole thing feel like a greasy good time. Beck is essential listening for anyone interested in mid-'70s commercial jazz. The chops are there, but far more than that, Beck leads a band into a soul-deep blowing session with killer charts, nasty tunes, and killer vibes.

This album was originally released as an LP in 1975. It had 6 tracks and was 36 minutes long. The CD release has two bonus tracks and the total time is now 50 minutes. The sound quality is very good. The US edition is out of print, but you can find an import version, that is more expensive.

The band is Joe Beck on guitar and David Sanborn on sax with many studio musicians backing them up. This very good jazz with twinges of fusion. It is very typical of the jazz styles of the mid seventies. It is much better than the Sunday Brunch style of music that would come in the late seventies and early eighties.

All of the compositions are very good and interesting. The music is very fluid. The first 6 tracks are more on the mellow side. The two bonus tracks are more lively and electric. If you are a fan of Spyro Gyra or other soft jazz bands, you might not like this. If you like intelligent music with good compositions, this is a good CD to get. It is not the best jazz ablum of the time, but it is certainly a good album.



Track listing:

1 Star Fire 4:31
2 Cactus 4:55
3 Texas Ann 7:53
4 Red Eye 7:10
5 Cafe Black Rose 4:23
6 Brothers And Others 6:23
7 Ain't It Good 7:29
8 Spoon's Theme 6:57


Guitar – Joe Beck, Steve Khan
Alto Saxophone – David Sanborn
Bass – Will Lee
Cello – Charles McCracken, George Ricci, Jesse Levy
Drums – Chris Parker (2)
Keyboards – Don Grolnick
Percussion – Ray Mantilla
Violin – Charles Libove, David Nadien, Frederick Buldrini, Harold Kohon, Harry Cykman, Harry Lookofsky, Joe Malin, Max Ellen, Peter Dimitriades

Brian Bromberg - 1989 "Magic Rain"

This CD is an example of high-quality fusion. Not only are the electronics state-of-the-art for 1989 and the musicianship impeccable but several of the original melodies are memorable, there are lots of funky grooves and the solos are fiery. Bromberg, a virtuoso player on both electric and acoustic basses (including the piccolo bass) often sounds a bit like a guitarist; few can match his technique as he shows on his two unaccompanied solos "Just The Bass" and "Interlude." Keyboardist Jeff Lorber sounds more creative during his three guest spots here than he does on his own dates and there are also some worthwhile solos from tenor-saxophonist Ernie Watts. This CD from the defunct Intima label will be hard to find but fans of electric jazz will consider it worth the search.


Track listing:

1 Magic Rain
2 Isn't It Beautiful
3 10 West
4 Rio d'
5 Just the Bass
6 Little Steven
7 Blues for Fabian
8 L.A., Land of the Barking Car
9 Interlude
10 Melrose Avenue


Brian Bromberg - (fretted bass, piccolo bass, panning string fretted bass, panning string piccolo bass, piccolo bass synthesizer);
Bill Cantos - (vocals);
Brandon Fields - (alto saxophone);
Ernie Watts, Doug Webb - (tenor saxophone);
Rob Mullins - (piano);
Marc Hugenberger - (keyboards, percussion, programming, keyboard programming);
Jeff Lorber - (keyboards, programming);
Joel Taylor - (drums);
Steve Reid - (percussion)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Chick Corea - 2006 "The Ultimate Adventure"

The Ultimate Adventure is an album recorded by Chick Corea and released in 2006.

For the second time in two years, Chick Corea has assembled a band to give aural illustration to the fantasy writings of L. Ron Hubbard. For those who have trouble with Hubbard and his teachings, this may be a red flag to avoid the record altogether. The Ultimate Adventure is a tale that draws on characters from the Arabian Nights -- there is an ad for the book in the back of the CD booklet. With that out of the way, one has to deal with the music entirely on its own terms. Corea has spent decades playing both electric and acoustic jazz. This is the first time since 1976's My Spanish Heart that he has woven his love of both so completely into a single album. There are more than a few echoes here that call upon the ghosts of the earliest Return to Forever band -- primarily in the gorgeous flute playing of Hubert Laws and Jorge Pardo, in the saxophone artistry of Tim Garland, the drumming of Steve Gadd, and the percussion wizardry of not only Airto Moreira, but also of Hossam Ramzy -- just to name a few of this album's players. But as always, it's Corea's compositions and playing that make or break any of his outings. This one is complex, knotty, and contains nuevo flamenco sketches and exotic melodic grooves and rhythms from "North Africa" and the Middle East. The second part of the opening suite "Three Ghouls" -- which makes it ghoul number two, apparently -- showcases Corea on the electric piano and electronic percussion with Laws playing soulful and slightly funky. His flute gets double-tracked as it floats above Moreira and bassist Carles Benavent. It's spacey, airy groove is intoxicating. It morphs into the knotty percussive and slightly "out" part three, where palmas -- handclapped rhythms -- by Corea, Gadd, and Benavent are contrasted to the dissonant acoustic piano and funky Rhodes woven side by side in counterpoint. This stands in contrast to the electric, short, fused-out, three-part suite entitled "Moseb the Executioner." The first part is a tangled mix up of Garland and Corea's Rhodes. It ends in a percussion orgy by Moreira and Ruben Dantas with palmas by the entire band. There are gorgeous melodic interludes in "North Africa" courtesy of Pardo and Corea. "Flight from Karoof" is simply a fusion gem. Ultimately, Ultimate Adventure works extremely well; it's inspired, takes chances, and is compositionally a small wonder. Above all, it sounds like Corea and his band had a ball making it. Recommended for fusion-heads.

Like his 2004 album To the Stars, The Ultimate Adventure is a musical tribute to the work of science fiction author and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. The album draws heavily upon the rhythmic and melodic traditions of African, Spanish, and Arabian music.

The Ultimate Adventure peaked number 7 in the Billboard Top Jazz albums and also won two Grammy awards in 2007 for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance (Individual or Group) and Best Instrumental Arrangement.

Some artists find it enough to find their niche and work it over the course of their entire career, refining it in ways that keep it fresh but still inherently focused. But there are also others whose voracious musical appetites compel them to explore a wider musical world, all the while evolving an instantly recognizable voice. Over a lifetime, they continue to find new sources of inspiration and fresh ways to broaden their viewpoint, still managing to remain consistent and focused within their already established oeuvre.

Now in his sixties, pianist Chick Corea shows no signs of either slowing down or settling into any kind of comfort zone. Individual projects have demonstrated very specific focuses—the acoustic chamber music post bop of his Origin sextet, the free explorations of Circle, the elegant interplay of his duet with vibraphonist Gary Burton, the pedal-to-the-metal fusion of his middle-period Return to Forever group with guitarist Al DiMeola. Others have been reflective of grander designs. Concept albums like The Leprechaun (Polydor, 1976) and The Mad Hatter (Polydor, 1978) blended lessons learned from his fusion outings and the organic nature of his acoustic work with more ambitious writing. The most consistent of such recordings was My Spanish Heart (Polydor, 1976), where Corea brought his own distinctive narrative voice to material informed by the music of Spain.

His latest release, The Ultimate Adventure—like last year's Elektric Band reunion album To the Stars (Stretch)—draws its inspiration from the fiction of L. Ron Hubbard, Corea's Scientology mentor for the past 35 years. But here Corea brings together a larger cast of players, reuniting him with old friends like drummer Steve Gadd and flautist Hubert Laws, as well as more recent acquaintances, like woodwind multi-instrumentalist Tim Garland and the group that accompanied him on the recent Rhumba Flamenco.

Like his '70s concept albums, The Ultimate Adventure aspires to find the nexus point of Corea's many musical worlds, but while some of the textures on those earlier releases have ultimately become dated, Corea's use of technology here is integrated more seamlessly. When blended with acoustic piano, woodwinds and a host of percussion, the synthesizers, Fender Rhodes and electronic percussion blend naturally, completely devoid of the excesses that Corea has sometimes been accused of in the past.

While many of Corea's past interests are in evidence, The Ultimate Adventure also moves forward as he explores the music of North Africa, filtered through his own distinctive lens. It's more heavily percussion-oriented than anything he's done before—with as many as three percussionists and five pairs of hands clapping. The result is completely captivating: challenging yet accessible, a perfect combination of head and heart.

Consolidating his career, bringing together musical friends past and present, and making significant steps forward in its blend of detailed composition and improvisational prowess, The Ultimate Adventure proves that it's possible to continuously broaden one's musical horizons without losing one's voice in the process. A career-defining release from an artist who has already shaped and reshaped the course of modern music more often than most.

Adventure has been an operative word during the innovative keyboardist-composer Chick Corea’s four decades in jazz’s major leagues. Leading an assortment of ensembles of varying size, Corea has explored virtually every sonic landscape and unearthed a wealth of musical treasures.

The Ultimate Adventure is at once a recapitulation and a revelation. Drawing on an exceptional supporting cast with whom he’s previously collaborated productively (Hubert Laws, Airto Moreira, Steve Gadd, Frank Gambale) or with whom he’s more recently forged empathic relationships (Jorge Pardo, Carles Benavent, Vinnie Colaiuta), Adventure again displays that Corea is among our most inventive melodists who masterfully avails himself of multiple global sources, from Middle Eastern and flamenco harmonies and tonalities to several African rhythmic styles.

The Ultimate Adventure is an epic from beginning to end.


Track listing:

01 "Three Ghouls, Pt. 1" – 1:38
02 "Three Ghouls, Pt. 2" - 4:02
03 "Three Ghouls, Pt. 3" - 3:11
04 "City of Brass" - 6:38
05 "Queen Tedmur" - 5:15
06 "El Stephen, Pt. 1" - 6:39
07 "El Stephen, Pt. 2" - 1:47
08 "King & Queen" - 6:06
09 "Moseb the Executioner, Pt. 1" - 1:39
10 "Moseb the Executioner, Pt. 2" - 2:20
11 "Moseb the Executioner, Pt. 3" - 1:54
12 "North Africa" - 6:24
13 "Flight from Karoof, Pt. 1" - 6:11
14 "Flight from Karoof, Pt. 2" - 1:36
15 "Planes of Existence, Pt. 1" - 5:25
16 "Arabian Nights, Pt. 1" - 4:30
17 "Arabian Nights, Pt. 2" - 2:38
18 "Gods & Devils" - 2:15
19 "Planes of Existence, Pt. 2" - 2:50


Chick Corea – Piano, Rhodes piano, acoustic and electronic percussion, synthesizers
Steve Gadd – Drums, palmas (on "Three Ghouls", "El Stephen", "Flight From Karoof")
Airto Moreira – Vocals, percussion (on "Three Ghouls", "Moseb The Executioner", "North Africa")
Carles Benavent – Electric bass, palmas
Hubert Laws – Flute (on "Three Ghouls", "Queen Tedmur")
Hossam Ramzy – Percussion (on "City Of Brass", "Flight From Karoof")
Jorge Pardo – Flute, saxophone, palmas (all tracks except "Three Ghouls", "Queen Tedmur", "Moseb The Executioner", "Arabian Nights")
Vinnie Colaiuta – Drums (on "Queen Tedmur", "Moseb The Executioner", "North Africa", "Arabian Nights")
Tim Garland – Bass Clarinet (on "Queen Tedmur"), tenor saxophone (on "Moseb The Executioner")
Rubem Dantas (in Spanish) – Percussion, palmas (on "King & Queen", "Moseb The Executioner", "North Africa", "Planes Of Existence", "Arabian Nights", "Gods & Devils")
Tom Brechtlein – Drums, palmas (on "King & Queen", "Planes Of Existence")
Frank Gambale – Acoustic guitar (on "Arabian Nights")

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Steve Vai - 1998 [1984-1988] "Flexable Leftovers"

The Flex-Able Leftovers album, released on November 10, 1998 on Sony Records, contains five bonus tracks and is quite different from the original Flex-Able Leftovers EP. Unlike Steve Vai's other albums, which are mostly instrumental, almost all copies of Flex-Able Leftovers feature a Parental Advisory label, as a result of the song "Fuck Yourself" containing multiple profanities and sexual references. Other differences from the original version include the recording of live drums on "You didn't break it!" (Original was drum machine) and the complete re-editing and mixing of the songs.

Before his high-profile gigs with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake, Steve Vai served time as Frank Zappa's guitarist in the early '80s. And judging by Vai's first two solo albums released around this time, 1984's Flex-Able and Flex-Able Leftovers, he was heavily influenced by Zappa's songwriting and compositional skills. Although there is definitely a noticeable Zappa stamp on the tunes, Vai's own personality and awe-inspiring guitar chops are what really make these two solo albums so impressive. Also, Vai was one of the few guitar heroes of the '80s to stress the importance of songwriting over mindless soloing. While Flex-Able was a full album, Flex-Able Leftovers was originally just an EP of material that didn't make it onto the debut.

When Flex-Able was released on CD in 1988, a few tracks from Leftovers were included as a bonus, yet fans have wondered all along if the full EP would ever be released on CD. Ten years later, their wish came true. Not only has the EP been re-released, but unreleased tracks from that era are included, making up a full-length album. Vai's over-the-top humor can be sampled on the profanity-fest "#?@! Yourself" and the goofy "So Happy," while "Massacre" and "Natural Born Boy" feature his immense guitar skill. And Vai's unique songwriting talent is evident on such tracks as "Burnin' Down the Mountain," "The Beast of Love," and "Bledsoe Blvd." The 1998 version of Flex-Able Leftovers is highly recommended to guitar freaks everywhere, as well as lovers of completely original and cutting-edge rock music.

With $5000 and a homebuilt studio, Steve Vai recorded an album that made him a star and changed guitar music forever. On the 25th anniversary of Flex-Able, Vai delivers the most in-depth look ever into the making of his shred-tastic debut and his plans to remake it.

“I was completely scared to death of being famous,” Steve Vai confides. “And I just thought, There’s no way I could sell this music I’ve made. I don’t even want to try to sell it! It’s too personal.”

The music that Vai is discussing is Flex-Able, his first solo album. Released in 1984, a quarter of a century ago this year, it has become a classic among fans of virtuoso rock guitar and a landmark of the Eighties shred phenomenon that forever raised the bar for rock guitar technique. It has been reissued many times and in many formats, along with the now equally famous Flex-Able Leftovers bonus tracks. In commemoration of its silver anniversary, Vai is preparing a specially remastered, 25th anniversary deluxe reissue of the album that put him on the map.

Flex-Able was the disc that introduced Steve Vai to the world. Although he had already made several albums with Frank Zappa, Flex-Able was the first record that presented him on his own terms. His uncanny mastery of the fretboard, the strange voodoo he could work with a whammy bar, the soul-searching lyricism of his ballad playing, his compositional flair, even his mystical, tantric alien love god persona—the whole Vai story begins with Flex-Able.

The album is also an important early example of a rock musician seizing control of the means of production and distribution, and having it his own way. Vai recorded it in a home studio that he built with his own hands, and then released it independently. In that respect, Flex-Able is an important harbinger of our own digital D.I.Y. era of MySpace and YouTube, Pro Tools and Garage Band—except that Vai did it all analog, at a time before personal computers had even made their way into most people’s homes and the internet was still more than a decade down the road. Nonetheless, Flex-Able has sold more than 300,000 copies to date. Not bad for music that its creator thought would never sell.

Track listing:

All songs written by Steve Vai, except where noted.

"Fuck Yourself" (Listed as #?@! Yourself)[2] (Bonus Ed. 1998) – 8:27
"So Happy" (Vai, Laurel Fishman) – 2:43
"Bledsoe Bluvd" – 4:22
"Natural Born Boy" (Bonus Ed. 1998) – 3:34
"Details at 10" – 5:58
"Massacre" (Bonus Ed. 1998) – 3:25
"Burnin' Down the Mountain" – 4:22
"Little Pieces of Seaweed" – 5:12 (Vai, Larry Kutcher)
"San Sebastian" (Bonus Ed. 1998) – 1:08
"The Beast of Love" (Joe Kearney) – 3:30
"You Didn't Break it" (Bob Harris, Suzannah Harris) (1998 Version, with Robin DiMaggio (Drums)) – 4:19
"The X-Equilibrium Dance" (Bonus Ed. 1998) – 5:10
"Chronic Insomnia" – 2:00


Steve Vai – vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, coral sitar, keyboards, electric piano, bass guitar, background vocals
Mike Keneally – keyboards on "Fuck Yourself"
Tommy Mars – vocals, violin, keyboards
Stu Hamm – vocals, bass guitar
Bob Harris – background vocals
Joe Kearney – background vocals
Alex Acerra - background vocals
Larry Crane – piccolo xylophone, bell lyre, vibraphone
Robin DiMaggio – drums
Chris Frazier – drums
Deen Castronovo – drums
Pete Zeldman – percussion
Suzannah Harris – background vocals
Larry Kutcher - vocals and narration on Little Pieces of Seaweed