Saturday, June 30, 2018

Paradox - 1996 "Paradox"

Drummer Billy Cobham, guitarist Bill Bickford, and bassist Wolfgang Schmid form a creative fusion trio on Paradox. The result is a powerhouse addition to Cobham's discography. The music ranges from the roiling heavy metal sludge of Bickford's "Four More Years," to the full-on funk of Schmid's "Fonkey Donkey," to Cobham's calmly lyrical "Walking in Five." Schmid is the principal writer, followed by Bickford, then Cobham. The best way to set the scene is with Paradox's version of "Quadrant 4." The original was the defining track on Cobham's 1973 debut release, Spectrum. Coming on the heels of Cobham's work with John McLaughlin's original Mahavishnu Orchestra, Spectrum is one of the essential documents of fusion's classic era. The original "Quadrant 4" was a showcase for the late Tommy Bolin -- a bona fide rock star of James Gang fame. The melding of Bolin's speed-freak boogie with Cobham's pummeling whirlwind got the attention of jazz and rock fans alike, achieving almost "hit single" status in both camps. For their version almost a quarter-century later, Cobham and company notch the pace back a bit, getting more heft and torque without losing any of the original's guitar god flash (Schmid almost steals the show with his own axe-slinging).

While Paradox is a tripartite accomplishment, it is also a personal return to form for Cobham, who, after the promise of his early solo career, became involved in many forgettable projects (does anybody remember Bobby & the Midnites?). Paradox doesn't match the howling, apocalyptic thunder of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but it is the equal of Cobham's own triumphant first release.

Paradox was one fine power fusion trio. Bassist Schmid is a known quantity in Germany. His first marks were made in Klaus Doldinger's group Passport. He has won many German music awards. New York guitarist Bill Bickford spent a decade in the band DeFunkt. Billy Cobham is Billy Cobham. The rhythm section of Cobham and Schmid start "Shoes in Seven" with a rocking beat similar in sound and purpose to Cobham's previous turn in the historic "Right Off" from Miles Davis's Tribute to Jack Johnson. Bickford goes with the flow by throwing in some very effective funky minor 9th chords. As Bickford solos it appears he is indeed paying tribute to "Right Off" as he mimics John McLaughlin's guitar sound. His chord knowledge seems to be very advanced. Cobham has engaged in many guitar/drum "duels" over the years. There is one of those on this cut as well. However, Bickford arms himself with only chords. It would seem he would be outmanned as Cobham usually goes into battle against single-note gunslingers who can shoot faster than the speed of sound. Instead Bickford matches every drum beat with every chord change. (Or is it the other way around?) It is quite an impressive feat either way. It is musical, too. Who knew that Billy Cobham was rocking things out again in a fantastic jazz-rock trio in the middle of the somewhat fusion-stale 1990s?

Before fusion engaged in a seemingly unbreakable love affair with elevators, it amplified stadiums globally with joyous eruptions of lacerating electric guitars and orchestral keyboards intertwined with blaring horn sections. Underneath those plugged-in sound collages were molten hotbeds of relentless rock and hand percussion that propelled all the pyro-madness with funk-informed grooves. Recalling the glory slickophonic years of fusion-rock, Paradox thumps mightily with the same frenetic electricity, extroverted pyrotechnics and herculean strength that elevated the careers of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Weather Report to rock star status. Comprised of fusion veterans, drummer Billy Cobham, bassist Wolfgang Schmid, and guitarist Bill Bickford, this all-star trio stomps like a thumperasaurus monster abruptly awakening from a deep sleep. The combined steroid power of Cobham's muscular backbeats and nasty drum fills, Schmid's thick elastic basslines, and Bickford's electromagnolia guitar musings are a force to be reckoned. From the opening "Fonkey Donkey" which strangely gallops with a subversive nod to Ornette Coleman's rowdier electric years, to Cobham's '70s classic, "Quadrant 4," which features the drumming juggernaut hammering some of his best soloing in recent years, this trio goes for broke with nearly every note. Although subtlety isn't a main ingredient in their repertoire, the relative soft "Walking In Five" and "Late Nite" offer brief moments of quieter pleasures. Light years from being a classic in any sort, Paradox does however provide ample evidence that the '70s jazz era was not a complete waste.

Track listing:

1 Fonkey Donkey (Wolfgang Schmid-Grandy) 5:14
2 Four More Years (Bill Bickford) 8:52
3 Quadrant 4 (Billy Cobham) 5:28
4 Myohmyohyeoye (Wolfgang Schmid-Grandy) 9:25
5 Walking In Five (Billy Cobham) 6:35
6 Jam O'James (Bill Bickford) 5:21
7 Late Nite (Bill Bickford) 9:03
8 Shoes In Seven (Wolfgang Schmid-Grandy) 4:58
9 Five In (Wolfgang Schmid-Grandy) 6:17

Personnel:

- Billy Cobham / drums
- Wolfgang Schmid / bass
- Bill Bickford / guitars

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Who - 1973 [1985] "Quadrophenia"

Released as a double-album in 1973, The Who’s rock opera QUADROPHENIA is a conceptual work set in the 1960s milieu of the Mod movement during which they began their career in west London. The central character of Jimmy is a disaffected youth who hates his parents and lowly job, but finds release from blue-collar drudgery with his fellow Mods, popping pills and riding motor-scooters to weekend concerts by bands like The Who. But the freedom he finds turns out to be illusory. The album title comes from the personalities of the four members of The Who, used to represent the four sides of Jimmy. Townshend has described the album as the best music he has ever written. In 1979 it was turned into a film, directed by Franc Roddam (and featuring a young Sting in a key role) and has been performed live by The Who, sometimes with guest performers. In 2012 The Who played the album in its entirety on tour.

Quadrophenia is the sixth studio album by the English rock band The Who, released as a double album on 26 October 1973 by Track Records. It is the group's second rock opera. The story follows a young mod named Jimmy and his search for self-worth and importance, set in London and Brighton in 1965. It is the only Who album to be entirely composed by Pete Townshend.

The group started work on the album in 1972, trying to follow up Tommy and Who's Next, which had both achieved substantial critical and commercial success. Recording was delayed while bassist John Entwistle and singer Roger Daltrey recorded solo albums and drummer Keith Moon worked on films. Because a new studio was not finished in time, the group had to use Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio. As well as the group's typical playing styles, especially from Moon, the album makes significant use of Townshend's multi-tracked synthesizers and sound effects, and Entwistle's layered horn parts. Relationships between the group and manager Kit Lambert broke down irretrievably during recording and he had left the band's services by the time the album was released.

Quadrophenia was released to a positive reception in both the UK and the US, but the resulting tour was marred with problems with backing tapes replacing the additional instruments on the album, and the stage piece was retired in early 1974. It was revived in 1996 with a larger ensemble, and a further tour occurred in 2012. The album made a positive impact on the mod revival movement of the late 1970s, and the resulting film adaptation, released in 1979, was successful. The album has been reissued on compact disc several times, and seen a number of remixes that corrected some perceived flaws in the original.

Quadrophenia was recorded at The Kitchen (later known as Ramport Studios), The Who’s own studio in Battersea, south London in May and June of 1973. It was immaculately packaged in a black-and-white gatefold sleeve, with extensive liner notes by Pete Townshend and a 44-page book of black-and-white photographs illustrating the central character Jimmy’s personal odyssey.

Track listing:

01 I Am The Sea
02 The Real Me
03 Quadrophenia
04 Cut My Hair
05 The Punk And The Godfather
06 I'm One
07 The Dirty Jobs
08 Helpless Dancer
09 Is It In My Head
10 I've Had Enough
11 5:15
12 Sea And Sand
13 Drowned
14 Bell Boy
15 Doctor Jimmy
16 The Rock
17 Love, Reign O'er Me

Personnel:

John Entwistle – bass, horns, vocals
Roger Daltrey – lead vocals
Keith Moon – percussion, vocals
Pete Townshend – guitars, keyboards, banjo, cello, vocals, sound effects

Additional musicians
Jon Curle – newsreader voice on "Cut My Hair"
Chris Stainton – piano on "The Dirty Jobs", "5:15", and "Drowned"

Jimi Hendrix - 1993 "The Ultimate Experience"

Great box set released in 1993, includes nicely packaged re-issues of The Experience's first 3 albums, plus the "best of", single CD collection shown on the listing photo. The "best of" CD is a little redundant, since all of those songs are already ON the first 3 albums, except for the last two tracks; the unforgettable "Star Spangled Banner" from the Woodstock concert, and "Wild Thing" from Jimi's American (re-) debut at the Monterey Pop Festival. I don't know that you could ever really make a perfect, single CD collection of Jimi's greatest songs, but this fourth CD comes close. Had I had a say in this box set's original release, I think including something like the "Concerts" CD, produced by Alan Douglas, containing a sort of "best of" concert would have been a better idea, but hey, any Hendrix is good by me!

I purchased this set when it first came out and it is the one box set that I can listen to over and over. Hendrix IS the best rock guitarist, in my humble opinion. This set contains all three of his studio albums that were released prior to his untimely death. But, the big bonus is the fact that they are the British releases of his albums. That means :Are You Experienced" has such gems as "Redhouse" "Stone Free" and others that were left off the American releases of the album. Each disc also contains a nice booklet and the fourth dis, which is a best of, does a better summation of what Jimi was all about than does the album "Smash Hits". I know that it says the set is not available, but if you ever see it, grab it. It will truely show you why Jimi is still considered a big influence among true guitarist.

CD 1 "Are You Experienced":


Are You Experienced is the debut studio album by English-American rock band the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Released in 1967, the LP was an immediate critical and commercial success, and it is widely regarded as one of the greatest debuts in the history of rock music. The album features Jimi Hendrix's innovative approach to songwriting and electric guitar playing which soon established a new direction in psychedelic and hard rock music.

By mid-1966, Hendrix was struggling to earn a living playing the R&B circuit as a backing guitarist. After being referred to Chas Chandler, who was leaving the Animals and interested in managing and producing artists, Hendrix was signed to a management and production contract with Chandler and ex-Animals manager Michael Jeffery. Chandler brought Hendrix to London and began recruiting members for a band designed to showcase the guitarist's talents, the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In late October, after having been rejected by Decca Records, the Experience signed with Track, a new label formed by the Who's managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp.

Are You Experienced and its preceding singles were recorded over a five-month period from late October 1966 through early April 1967. The album was completed in sixteen recording sessions at three London locations, including De Lane Lea Studios, CBS, and Olympic. Released in the UK on May 12, 1967, Are You Experienced spent 33 weeks on the charts, peaking at number two. The album was issued in the US on August 23 by Reprise Records, where it reached number five on the Billboard 200, remaining on the chart for 106 weeks, 27 of those in the Top 40. The album also spent 70 weeks on the US Billboard R&B chart, where it peaked at #10. The US version contained some of Hendrix's best known songs, including the Experience's first three singles, which, though omitted from the British edition of the LP, were top ten hits in the UK: "Purple Haze", "Hey Joe", and "The Wind Cries Mary".

In 2005, Rolling Stone ranked Are You Experienced fifteenth on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. They placed four songs from the album on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: "Purple Haze" (17), "Foxy Lady" (153), "Hey Joe" (201), and "The Wind Cries Mary" (379). That same year, the record was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress in recognition of its cultural significance to be added to the National Recording Registry. Writer and archivist Reuben Jackson of the Smithsonian Institution wrote: "it's still a landmark recording because it is of the rock, R&B, blues ... musical tradition. It altered the syntax of the music ... in a way I compare to James Joyce's Ulysses."

Track listing:

01 Foxy Lady
02 Manic Depression
03 Red House
04 Can You See Me
05 Love Or Confusion
06 I Don't Live Today
07 May This Be Love
08 Fire
09 3rd Stone From The Sun
10 Remember
11 Are You Experienced

Personnel:

Jimi Hendrix – guitars, lead vocals
Noel Redding – bass; backing vocals on "Foxy Lady," "Fire," and "Purple Haze"
Mitch Mitchell – drums; backing vocals on "I Don't Live Today" and "Stone Free"

CD 2 "Axis: Bold as Love":


Axis: Bold as Love is the second studio album by English-American rock band the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It was recorded to fulfill the Experience's contract, which stated that they had to produce two records in 1967.

Axis: Bold as Love was first released in the United Kingdom by Track Records in December 1967, as the follow-up to the band's successful debut Are You Experienced, which had been released in May. Reprise Records chose not to release it in the United States until 1968, because of fears that it might interfere with the sales of the first album. Axis: Bold as Love charted at number five in the UK and number three in the US. The album also peaked at number six on the Billboard R&B chart.

Track listing:

01 EXP
02 Up From The Skies
03 Spanish Castle Magic
04 Wait Until Tomorrow
05 Ain't No Telling
06 Little Wing
07 If Six Was Nine
08 You've Got Me Floating
09 Castles Made Of Sand
10 She's So Fine
11 One Rainy Wish
12 Little Miss Lover
13 Bold As Love

Personnel:

Jimi Hendrix – vocals, electric guitar, piano, recorder, glockenspiel on "Little Wing", voice of "Mr. Paul Caruso" on "EXP"
Mitch Mitchell – drums, backing vocals, "interviewer" on "EXP"
Noel Redding – backing vocals, bass guitars (four and eight-string), foot stomping on "If 6 Was 9", lead vocals on "She's So Fine"
Additional

Gary Leeds – foot stomping on "If 6 Was 9"
Graham Nash – foot stomping on "If 6 Was 9", backing vocals on "You Got Me Floatin'"
Trevor Burton – backing vocals on "You Got Me Floatin'"
Roy Wood – backing vocals on "You Got Me Floatin'"

CD 3 "Electric Ladyland":


Electric Ladyland is the third and final studio album by English-American rock band the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Released by Reprise Records in North America and Track Records in the UK in October 1968, the double album was the only record from the band produced by Jimi Hendrix. By mid-November, it had charted at number one in the United States, where it spent two weeks at the top spot. Electric Ladyland was the Experience's most commercially successful release and their only number one album. It peaked at number six in the UK, where it spent 12 weeks on the chart.

Electric Ladyland included a cover of the Bob Dylan song, "All Along the Watchtower", which became the Experience's highest-selling single and their only top 40 hit in the US, peaking at number 20; the single reached number five in the UK. Although the album confounded critics in 1968, it has since been viewed as Hendrix's best work and one of the greatest rock records of all time. Electric Ladyland has been featured on many greatest-album lists, including Q magazine's 2003 list of the 100 greatest albums and Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, on which it was ranked 55th.

Track listing:

01 And The Gods Made Love
02 Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)
03 Cross Town Traffic
04 Voodoo Chile
05 Little Miss Strange
06 Long Hot Summer Night
07 Come On
08 Gypsy Eyes
09 The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
10 Rainy Day, Dream Away
11 1983... (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)
12 Moon, Turn The Tides... Gently, Gently Away
13 Still Raining, Still Dreaming
14 House Burning Down
15 All Along The Watchtower
16 Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)

Personnel:

Credits taken from the 1993 MCA compact disc booklet.

Jimi Hendrix – lead vocals, guitar, piano, percussion, comb and tissue paper kazoo, electric harpsichord, bass on "Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)", "Long Hot Summer Night", "Gypsy Eyes", "1983", "House Burning Down", and "All Along the Watchtower"
Noel Redding – backing vocals, bass on "Crosstown Traffic", "Little Miss Strange", "Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)", "Burning of the Midnight Lamp", and "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)", acoustic guitar and lead vocals on "Little Miss Strange"
Mitch Mitchell – backing vocals, drums (except on "Rainy Day Dream Away" and "Still Raining, Still Dreaming"), percussion, lead vocals on "Little Miss Strange"
Jack Casady – bass on "Voodoo Chile"
Brian Jones – percussion on "All Along the Watchtower"
Al Kooper – piano on "Long Hot Summer Night"
Dave Mason – twelve-string guitar on "All Along the Watchtower", backing vocals on "Crosstown Traffic"
The Sweet Inspirations – backing vocals on "Burning of the Midnight Lamp"
Steve Winwood – Hammond organ on "Voodoo Chile"
Chris Wood – flute on "1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)"
on "Rainy Day, Dream Away" and "Still Raining, Still Dreaming":
Larry Faucette – congas
Mike Finnigan – organ
Buddy Miles – drums
Freddie Smith – tenor saxophone

CD 4 "The Ultimate Experience":


The Ultimate Experience is a 1992 compilation album of songs by songwriter and guitarist Jimi Hendrix. It features 20 of his greatest hits, most of them recorded with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and live renditions of "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Wild Thing". It was released in the U.K. in November 1992, and later on April 27, 1993 in the U.S. The album reached No. 25 in the UK Albums Chart and No. 72 in the Billboard 200. An HDCD remastered special edition UK picture disc version limited to 2500 copies was released in 1995. The track listing was compiled from a poll citing his most popular recordings for the European market. All songs were recorded between October 23, 1966 and July 23, 1970.

As a single-disc compilation, The Ultimate Experience is hard to beat. Drawing from all of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience albums, the 20-track collection hits all of the major highpoints -- "Purple Haze," "All Along the Watchtower," "Little Wing," "Red House," "The Wind Cries Mary," "Highway Chile," "Angel" -- and gives an accurate impression of why Hendrix was so revolutionary and influential. All three of Hendrix's completed studio albums are mandatory listening, but The Ultimate Experience is a terrific introduction to the guitarist.

Track listing
All songs were written by Jimi Hendrix, except where noted.

01 "All Along the Watchtower" (Bob Dylan) – 4:07 (Electric Ladyland, 1968)
02 "Purple Haze" – 2:44 (Are You Experienced, 1967)
03 "Hey Joe" (Billy Roberts) – 3:26 (Are You Experienced)
04 "The Wind Cries Mary" – 3:18 (Are You Experienced)
05 "Angel" – 4:17 (The Cry of Love, 1971)
06 "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" – 5:13 (Electric Ladyland)
07 "Foxy Lady" – 3:15 (Are You Experienced)
08 "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" – 3:35 (Electric Ladyland)
09 "Highway Chile" – 3:30 (Smash Hits [UK])
10 "Crosstown Traffic" – 2:14 (Electric Ladyland)
11 "Castles Made of Sand" – 2:45 (Axis: Bold as Love, 1967)
12 "Long Hot Summer Night" – 3:27 (Electric Ladyland)
13 "Red House" – 3:54 (Kiss the Sky)
14 "Manic Depression" – 3:37 (Are You Experienced)
15 "Gypsy Eyes" – 3:42 (Electric Ladyland)
16 "Little Wing" – 2:24 (Axis: Bold as Love)
17 "Fire" – 2:38 (Are You Experienced)
18 "Wait Until Tomorrow" – 3:00 (Axis: Bold as Love)
19 "Star Spangled Banner (live)" (John Stafford Smith, arr. Hendrix) – 4:05 (Woodstock, 1970)
20 "Wild Thing (live)" (Chip Taylor) – 6:54 (Monterey Pop, 1970)

Track 19: Recorded live at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, 8.18.69
Track 20: Recorded live at the Monterey Pop Festival, 6.18.67

Noel Redding is credited in the liner notes with bass on track 1, but the notes about the song specifically state Jimi played bass - "All Along The Watchtower is a classic example of Hendrix's bass-playing, on Noel Redding's righthanded bass. "I think Noel got pissed off and was in the pub - but the track didn't suffer," remembers Mitch Mitchell."

Personnel:

Listed above.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Charlie Haden Michael Brecker - 2002 "American Dreams"

American Dreams is an album by bassist Charlie Haden featuring saxophonist Michael Brecker recorded in 2002 and released on the Verve label.

Michael Brecker’s tenor saxophone, with its declamatory pronouncements and keening high notes, commands attention throughout American Dreams, but Haden’s bass is at the bottom of the dreamy feeling that pervades all but one track.

Haden’s title composition opens the album with the bassist playing a folk song-like melody over strings arranged in rich layers by Alan Broadbent. As the strings fade, pianist Brad Mehldau introduces a second melody. Haden interacts with Mehldau. Brian Blade skips brushes across drums and cymbals, crystal strokes against time that’s as soft as the mood. Just a degree above silence, the strings slip in under the trio, swelling as Haden works his way back into the first theme and concludes a performance of great simplicity and beauty.

The orchestral writing on six pieces arranged by Broadbent and three by Jeremy Lubbock is ripe with harmonic interest; on the two by Vince Mendoza sounds are more purely functional. Highlights include Broadbent’s scoring for violins and cellos on “America the Beautiful,” his paraphrase of the melody in support of Haden’s solo on “Young and Foolish” and Lubbock’s work with two ballads written by Dave Grusin with Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Lubbock’s mysterious ending on a sixth chord had me going back several times to the conclusion of “It Might Be You.”

Accommodating himself to the strings, Mehldau minimizes the role of his left hand and, for the most part, plays sparely. He turns a couple of finger-bobble lemons into lemonade. Mehldau has satisfying solos on Don Sebesky’s “Bittersweet” (formerly called “You Can’t Go Home Again”) and Ornette Coleman’s “Bird Food.” The Coleman piece, a slice of neobop, is the only uptempo quartet performance on an album of reflective music but, somehow, it fits with the others-a bit of Haden magic.

This quartet-plus-strings session is Charlie Haden's paean to an ideal America, made during a time that was ripe for such reflections. The band, with Haden on bass, Michael Brecker on tenor, Brad Mehldau on piano, and Brian Blade on drums, is unassailably strong. But listeners could have lived without the ear-candy sheen provided by the 34-piece orchestra, arranged primarily by Alan Broadbent, with additional contributions from Jeremy Lubbock and Vince Mendoza. (Broadbent and Mendoza also penned charts for Jane Monheit's In the Sun, released two weeks earlier.) Aside from outright banalities like "America the Beautiful" and "It Might Be You" (yes, the Stephen Bishop lite-radio hit), there are some saving graces, like Keith Jarrett's "Prism" and "No Lonely Nights," Mehldau's "Ron's Place," and Haden's two originals, "American Dreams" and "Nightfall." But Pat Metheny's "Travels" goes soggy without its Midwestern guitar twang, and Ornette Coleman's "Bird Food," one of only three tracks not to feature the orchestra, is so wildly out of place that its impact is somehow diminished -- notwithstanding a vivid pedal-point interlude about six minutes in.

American Dreams is an addition to Verve Records' collection of ..."with Strings" sessions pioneered by legedary producer Norman Granz. Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Harry Carney and others gave this genre a shot for Verve. Something about the grit of the sax sound in front of the orchestral string washes that jazz fans seem to either love or hate.

The strongest impression several listenings of of American Dreams leaves is: What a great quartet. "Charlie Haden with Michael Brecker" the label proclaims, but it could just as well say The New Charlie Haden Quartet. Pianist Brad Mehldau and drummer Brian Blade round out the core quartet, and the unit achieves a rare level of cohesion. Maybe it's the bassman, Charlie Haden; a truly great bassist brings everyone up a notch or two. He did it on bluesman James Cotton's '96 CD, "Deep in the Blues"; he does it with his own Quartet West.

Mehldau benefits the most here. His conversations with Brecker's sax are intimate and precise, his soloing inventive and restrained; and his "Ron's Place," done with just the quartet, is a pensive gem.

Songs by Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett, Haden's old running mate Ornette Coleman, an unexpectedly beautiful take on the unlikely "America the Beautiful," deft string arrangements, a few quartet takes to break the pacing up and keep it interesting

An essential CD for fans of the Verve ..with Strings genre.

Track listing:

All compositions by Charlie Haden except as indicated

01 "American Dreams" - 4:52
02 "Travels" (Lyle Mays, Pat Metheny) - 6:46
03 "No Lonely Nights" (Keith Jarrett) - 5:18
04 "It Might Be You" (Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, Dave Grusin) - 4:55
05 "Prism" (Jarrett) - 5:21
06 "America the Beautiful" (Katharine Lee Bates, Samuel A. Ward) - 5:23
07 "Nightfall" - 5:07
08 "Ron's Place" (Brad Mehldau) - 7:30
09 "Bittersweet" (Don Sebesky) - 6:46
10 "Young and Foolish" (Albert Hague, Arnold B. Horwitt) - 5:38
11 "Bird Food" (Ornette Coleman) - 7:31
12 "Sotto Voce" (Vince Mendoza) - 5:12
13 "Love Like Ours" (Bergman, Bergman Grusin) - 4:25

Recorded at Signet Soundelux in Los Angeles, California on May 14–17, 2002

Personnel:

Charlie Haden — bass
Michael Brecker — tenor saxophone
Brad Mehldau — piano
Brian Blade — drums
Unidentified String Orchestra
Alan Broadbent (tracks 1, 3, 6, 9, & 10), Jeremy Lubbock (tracks 4, 7 & 13), Vince Mendoza (tracks 2 & 12) — arranger, conductor.

Toots Thielemans - 1992 "The Brasil Project" Vol. 1

Toots Thielemans virtually introduced the chromatic harmonica as a jazz instrument. In fact, beginning in the mid-'50s, he never had a close competitor. Thielemans simply played the harmonica with the dexterity of a saxophonist and even successfully traded off with the likes of Oscar Peterson.

Thielemans' first instrument was the accordion, which he started when he was three. Although he started playing the harmonica when he was 17, Thielemans' original reputation was made as a guitarist who was influenced by Django Reinhardt. Very much open to bop, Thielemans played in American GI clubs in Europe, visited the U.S. for the first time in 1947, and shared the bandstand with Charlie Parker at the Paris Jazz Festival of 1949. He toured Europe as a guitarist with the Benny Goodman Sextet in 1950, and the following year moved to the U.S. During 1953-1959, Toots was a member of the George Shearing Quintet (mostly as a guitarist) and freelanced for the remainder of his lengthy career in music.

He first recorded his big hit, "Bluesette" (which featured his expert whistling and guitar) in 1961, and was subsequently in great demand (particularly for his harmonica and his whistling) on pop records (including many dates with Quincy Jones) and as a jazz soloist. Toots' two-volume Brasil Project was popular in the 1990s and found him smoothly interacting on harmonica with top Brazilian musicians. Heard on numerous movie soundtracks (including Breakfast at Tiffany's and Midnight Cowboy) and also on the opening theme of television's Sesame Street, Thielemans received Jazz Master honors from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2009. He died in Belgium in August 2016 at the age of 94.

This popular set matches the brilliant harmonica player Toots Thielemans with such top Brazilian performers as Ivan Lins, Djavan, Oscar Castro-Neves, Dori Caymmi, Ricardo Silveira, João Bosco, Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento, Caetano Veloso, Luiz Bonfá, Edu Lobo and Eliane Elias, in addition to bassist Brian Bromberg, keyboardist Michael Lang, trumpeter Mark Isham and Dave Grusin. Thielemans is often in a supportive role behind the many soothing Brazilian singers and performers. The atmospheric date surprisingly does not have any Antonio Carlos Jobim songs, instead emphasizing lesser-known tunes (other than Toots' greatest hit "Bluesette"). Easily recommended to fans of Brazilian pop and jazz, this CD was soon followed by a second (and equally rewarding) set featuring many of the same performers.

Think of it, getting one of the greatest harmonica player/whistler and the music of Ivan Lins. The mix of the two blends into a sound that is fresh, lifting, and delightful to listen. All the cuts are flawless perfection of talent. My personal favorite was "Casa Forte". If you are a fan of Bossa Nova you will love "The Brazil Project". A great addition to any collection. Absolutely fabulous cd. The Brasilain sound is magnificent and wonderful to listen to while relaxing.

If you like Toots Thielemans this a CD you won't tire of. Toots has long been the master on the harp. He truly elevates this instrument from one of a novelty type to one of serious distinction. It is an exemplary recording of Brazilian Jazz, laid back easy listening at it's best. A must for every serious collector.

Track listing:

01 Começar De Novo 3:54
02 Obi 4:22
03 Felicia And Bianca 2:59
04 O Cantador 4:09
05 Joana Francesa 2:56
06 Coisa Feita 4:25
07 Preciso Aprender A Só Ser 3:17
08 Fruta Boa 5:41
09 Coração Vagabundo 4:27
10 Manhã De Carnaval 3:27
11 Casa Forte 3:37
12 Moments 2:35
13 Bluesette 9:39

Personnel:

Toots Thielmans - Harmonica
Dave Grusin - Piano
Lee Ritenour - Guitar
Brian Bromberg - Bass
Marc Johnson - Bass
Mark Isham - Trumpet
Ricardo Silveira - Guitar
Ivan Lins - Keyboards, vocals
Djavan - Guitars, vocals
Gilson Peranzzette - Keyboards
Jamil Joanes - Bass
Teo Lima - Drums
Cassio Duarte - Percussion
Mike Lang - Keyboards
Oscar Castro-Neves - Rhythm guitar
Chico Buarque - Vocals
Joao Bosco - Guitar, vocals
Nico Assumpcao - Bass
Milton Nascimento - Vocals
Caetano Veloso - Guitar, vocals
Luis Bonfa - Guitar
Edu Lobo - Guitar, vocals
Eliana Elias - Piano

Toots Thielemans - 1993 "The Brasil Project" Vol. 2

Guitarist, harmonica player, and whistler Toots Thielemans' followup to the critically acclaimed Brasil Project doesn't stray far from its predecessor's path. There are 13 nice Afro-Latin selections with Thielemans backing such top Brazilian vocalists as Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, Ivan Lins, Caetano Veloso, and Dori Caymmi, among others, and guitarists Oscar Castro-Nieves and Lee Ritenour assisting Thielemans with delicate shadings and accompaniment.

This cd set, this being the first of 2, is considered by many the high point of Toot's capabilities. Great CD.

Talk about Toots Thielmans is talk of a music legend. Excellent performer of the harmonica and talented guitarist (whisteling and touching at the same time at the last theme ... cool!!! ), gives us his musical experience in the wonderful world of brazilian music along with an excellent musical luminaries as Eliane Elias, Gilberto Gil, Ivan Lins, Milton Nascimento, Caetano Veloso, Luis Bonfa, Oscar Castro-Neves , Dory Caymi, Djavan, i.e. the best of the current Brazilian music. Enjoy this beautiful cd.

Both CD's are magnificent ! I've worn them both out and have to purchase
another set. My best friends saw Toots in NYC at his 80th birthday. The show was unbelieveable ! So sorry I wasn't there ! I love Toots and have since I was a teenager.

All the songs are perfect for a relax moment after a long day at work. Travessia is my favorite one and it is like a promise of a deep journey into some green eyes of a loved one. This album is different from Brasil Project Vol 1. This one is deeper and really smooth.

This albun, differently from all other Toot's, it's just great! The songs "Papel Marche" and "Travessia" take you to a journey. they lift up your spirit. Try listening the albun in a quiet dark environment(or in your car), sweping a Sambuca and smoking a Cuban cigar. Well, my friend... why would you need to be a millionare? This is it! Pure good times.

Track listing:

01 Cê 5:27
02 Chôro Bandido 3:33
03 Retrato Em Branco E Preto 3:15
04 Obsession 3:30
05 Travessia 3:06
06 Flora 4:21
07 Unconditional Love 5:16
08 Papel Maché 2:58
09 O Futebol 3:32
10 Linda (Você É Linda) 3:47
11 Samba De Uma Nota Só 3:19
12 Oceano 5:16
13 Samba De Orfeu 3:38

Personnel:

Harmonica – Toots Thielemans
Bass – Brian Bromberg (tracks: 1, 4, 7, 13), Jamil Joanes (tracks: 5, 6), Marc Johnson (2) (tracks: 2, 3, 11), Nico Assumpção (tracks: 8)
Cello – Eugene Friesen (tracks: 2)
Drums – Steve Schaeffer (tracks: 3, 4, 9, 11), Teo Lima (tracks: 5, 6)
Electric Guitar – Ricardo Silveira (tracks: 9)
French Horn – John Clark (2) (tracks: 11)
Guitar – Caetano Veloso (tracks: 10), Djavan (tracks: 12), Dori Caymmi (2) (tracks: 4), Gilberto Gil (tracks: 6), João Bosco (tracks: 8), Oscar Castro-Neves (tracks: 1 to 5, 8, 9, 11, 13)
Guitar [Solo Guitar] – Lee Ritenour (tracks: 7), Luiz Bonfá (tracks: 13)
Horn [Hornette] – John Clark (2) (tracks: 3)
Keyboards – Gilson Peranzzetta (tracks: 5, 6, 13), Ivan Lins (tracks: 1), Mike Lang (tracks: 2, 4, 13)
Percussion – Bira Hawal* (tracks: 13), Cassio Duarte (tracks: 6 to 9, 13), Paulinho Da Costa (tracks: 4), Zero (José Roberto) (tracks: 13)
Piano – Dave Grusin (tracks: 12), Eliane Elias (tracks: 3, 11)
Rhythm Guitar – Oscar Castro-Neves (tracks: 7)
Trumpet – Mark Isham (tracks: 7)
Vocals – Caetano Veloso (tracks: 10), Chico Buarque (tracks: 9), Djavan (tracks: 12), Dori Caymmi (2) (tracks: 4), Edu Lobo (tracks: 2), Gilberto Gil (tracks: 6), Ivan Lins (tracks: 1), João Bosco (tracks: 8), Milton Nascimento (tracks: 5)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

John McLaughlin - 1994 "After The Rain"

After the Rain is a jazz album released in 1994 by John McLaughlin on Verve Records. The album reached number 9 in the Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart 1995.

In the early '70s John McLaughlin was one-third of the supergroup Lifetime with drummer Tony Williams and organist Larry Young. This particular CD from 1994 matches him with drummer Elvin Jones and organist Joey DeFrancesco, but the music has little in common with Lifetime. Instead many of the tunes can be considered to be tributes to John Coltrane; Jones's participation certainly reinforces that connection. McLaughlin, back on electric guitar after several years sticking almost exclusively to acoustic, is in top form on such numbers as "Take the Coltrane," "My Favorite Things," "Crescent," and "Afro Blue." The improvising is advanced and colorful with DeFrancesco keeping the proceedings swinging, and even if the results are not quite classic, the collaboration is somewhat unique.

After the Rain received much praise in 1994 from many critics who usually consider McLaughlin's approach to music a bit too cosmic. The feelings among McLaughlin devotees were more mixed, however—there was some talk that McLaughlin may be running out of ideas. After all, this was the second tribute album he had released in the last couple of years. There were even some complaints about his guitar tone. To be sure, it is a bit too warm. But when all is said and done, After the Rain is an outstanding recording.

This isn't to say it is the best or the most influential of McLaughlin’s albums, but it may be the most beautiful of his electric releases. It attains this status through its melodic textures, driving rhythms and overall musicality. And there is more to it than that. The beauty inherent in any recording can in some part be attributed to its spirituality. (Don’t worry; we are not going into Sri Chinmoy mode here.) The spirit that thrives on this album is rooted in its inspiration—and that spirit is of John Coltrane. The beauty of this album emanates from McLaughlin's heartfelt purpose to honor the great musician who opened the door for him and many others.

After The Rain features several tunes associated with Coltrane. Two of McLaughlin’s compositions are included. The trio also covers Carla Bley’s “Sing Me Softly of the Blues”. McLaughlin decided to showcase these compositions in a traditional Hammond B-3 trio format.

Former Coltrane sideman Elvin Jones' drumming evokes memories and emotions that can only be described as reassuring. His accents, bangs, thuds and grunts give great credibility to the affair. Jones' personal homage to Coltrane becomes clear through his brilliant playing; he provides a more than stable foundation for McLaughlin and organist DeFrancesco to build upon.

Joey DeFrancesco, who like most B-3 players, has a tendency to meander somewhat during solos, meanders not a wit. His playing emerges as purposeful and understated. However, when the need arises for driving power, he delivers.

McLaughlin's approach on After the Rain is more straight-ahead than it has ever been. At the same time, you know it is still JOHN MCLAUGHLIN. While a little more guitar bite would have been helpful, he does attain a light swing, a somber tone, and a lilting flow...words are lacking.

Pay special attention to this trio’s interpretation of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue”. It is a killer. Coltrane’s beautiful “Naima” receives a respectful treatment, quite different from McLaughlin and Carlos Santana’s acoustic tribute from Love, Devotion and Surrender. The album’s title cut, “After the Rain,” brings this loving tribute album to a soft and sober landing.

Every single tune stands as a highlight, but pay special attention to "My Favorite Things" because this is soon to be what this album will be to you.

http://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/search?q=john+mclaughlin

Tracks Listing:

1. Take the Coltrane - (6:01) (D.Ellington)
2. My Favorite Things - (6:16) (R.Rogers/L.Hart)
3. Sing Me Softly of the Blues - (6:31) (C.Bley)
4. Encuentros - (7:32) (J.McLaughlin)
5. Naima - (4:43) (J.Coltrane)
6. Tones for Elvin Jones - (6:34) (J.McLaughlin)
7. Crescent - (7:41) (J.Coltrane)
8. Afro Blue - (6:54) (M.Santamaria)
9. After the Rain - (4:54) (J.Coltrane)

Personnel:

John McLaughlin - guitar
Joey DeFrancesco - Hammond B-3 organ
Elvin Jones - drums

Keith Jarret And Jack DeJohnette - 1973 "Ruta And Daitya"

Ruta and Daitya is an album released on ECM by jazz pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette. It features seven duet performances recorded in the studio.

Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette, who continue their formidable partnership to this day, join forces for an early and unique collaboration. This being the tail end of Jarrett’s electric period with Miles Davis, Ruta and Daitya marks an archivally important transition into his imminent acoustic pilgrimages. “Overture Communion” captures our attention from the start with a funky, wah-wahed electric piano, warmly guiding us into the album’s exciting, yet somehow always plaintive world. The title track shakes things up with a spate of hand percussion as Jarrett flutes a more abstract improvisation than the one that began the album, though to no less captivating effect. When Jarrett abandons flute for piano, a markedly different shape brands itself into the foreground. In doing so, something gets obscured. It’s not that instruments from such seemingly disparate geographies cannot tread the same path, but simply that they don’t speak to each other as complementarily. Thankfully, Jarrett’s return to flute, this time of bamboo variety, puts us right back into the conversation. DeJohnette takes up a standard drum kit for “All We Got,” a cut that runs around in circles, even as it rouses us with its gospel-infused aesthetic. Jarrett finds himself acoustically redrawn in “Sounds of Peru.” Piano and hand drums work magically this time around as the duo hones further the groove it has been searching for. Jarrett opens up his playing, giving DeJohnette a wider berth in which to lose himself. No longer do the drums skirt the periphery, but frolic in the territory proper. There is even what amounts to a percussion solo as Jarrett coos in the background with delight, thus preparing him for an inspired passage that grinds bass notes in counterpoint to his running right hand. In “Algeria,” Jarrett sings into the flute again, leaving me to wonder why we don’t hear him on the instrument more often, though perhaps its linearity is somewhat limiting to a musician with such expansive hands (hence, his propensity for polyphonic playing). “You Know, You Know” brings us full circle to the electric piano for a more laid-back coolness before we end with “Pastel Morning,” a beautiful meditation on the electric piano. In the absence of punchy distortion, it sounds almost like a vibraphone, its gentler capacities allowed to float of their own accord.

The album’s title is a curious one, and offers at best a rather opaque X-ray of the conceptual skeleton it sheathes. Ruta and Daitya refer to two island-continents, remnants of the second cataclysm to befall the great island of Atlantis. Both were populated by races of titans, known as “Lords of the Dark Face” as a means of indicating their ties to black magic. If we are to believe Madame Blavatsky, who in her second volume of The Secret Doctrine outlines their genealogical significance in her mystical, albeit highly racialized, account of creation, the Egyptians inherited the cosmological legacy of the Ruta Atlanteans, as supposedly evidenced in the similarities of their Zodiacal beliefs. Whatever the origins, there is much to ponder in Ruta and Daitya. The sensitive pianism for which Jarrett is so renowned is in full evidence throughout, though for me his flute playing really sells the album. Jarrett proves himself more than adept and plays with an addictive sense of abandon. DeJohnette, meanwhile, enchants with a melodic approach to his kit, especially in his use of cymbals.

This isn’t an album I would necessarily recommend to those just starting their Jarrett or ECM explorations. For what it is—a meeting of two consummate musical minds—its importance is a given. While perhaps not as consistently inventive as other likeminded projects (see, for example, the phenomenal Charles Lloyd/Billy Higgins effort Which Way Is East), it is certainly more hit than miss, and strikes this listener with the ambitions of its musicians’ reach every time.

Splitting his time between the electric and acoustic pianos and a bit of organ, Jarrett teams up with drummer/percussionist Jack DeJohnette in a series of experimental duets, his only electric session for ECM. The all-acoustic title number ranges all over the lot, from tootling on a bamboo (?) flute to the energizing barrelhouse gospel riffs that would bloom in the solo concerts. Tellingly, there is little in this collaboration that predicts what Jarrett and DeJohnette would do in their Standards Trio of the '80s; rather, it anticipates the exotic Third World side of Jarrett's American quartet immediately in the future and adds a finishing flourish to his jazz-rock period. Indeed, the most memorably percolating playing by both musicians turns up in the electric numbers, where Jarrett utilizes the distinctively funky, wah-wah, fuzz-tone approach on electric piano that he developed with Miles Davis. As such, this is a valuable, underrated transition album that provides perhaps the last glimpse of the electric Keith Jarrett as he embarked on his notorious (and ultimately triumphant) anti-electric crusade.

All compositions by Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette except as indicated
Recorded at Sunset Studios, Los Angeles, CA, May, 1971

http://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/search?q=Jack+Dejohnette

http://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/search?q=Keith+Jarrett

Track listing:

1. "Overture/Communion" - 6:00
2. "Ruta and Daitya" - 11:14
3. "All We Got" - 2:00
4. "Sounds of Peru/Submergence/Awakening" - 6:31
5. "Algeria" - 5:47
6. "You Know, You Know" (Jarrett) - 7:44
7. "Pastel Morning" (Jarrett) - 2:04

Personnel:

Keith Jarrett – piano, electric piano, organ, flute
Jack DeJohnette - drums, percussion

Friday, June 22, 2018

Steps Ahead - 1994 "Live In Tokyo" 1986

Steps Ahead, one of the most influential jazz groups since their first debut is an all-star jazz oriented R&B band that originally included such players as Mike Brecker, Don Grolnick, Eddie Gomez and Steve Gadd in it's original line-up. Mainieri has revived the group several times since with such musicians as Warren Bernhardt, Eliane Elias, Rachel Z, Mike Stern, Tony Levin, Victor Bailey, Peter Erskine, Steve Smith and Bendik.

After the release of the album “Magnetic” in 1985, Michael Brecker and I, along with the revamped rhythm section of Mike Stern, Daryl Jones, and Steve Smith, embarked on a series of concert tours. One of these concerts was recorded live at Kan-I Hoken Hall in Tokyo and originally released on Laserdisc. Many Steps Ahead fans and musicians who caught this ensemble “live,” either at the ‘Bottom Line’ in New York City or at other venues, have inquired about the availability of recordings from these dates. With the assistance of Hisao Ebine and VideoArts in Japan, we were able to release this live recording on CD. I hope this recording brings you as much joy as I had performing with these great musicians.

This is a strong show of course it goes without saying to hear the great Michael Becker he shines on these songs. I love these songs first they are strong and on top of that performed so well. These guys into act with one another so well Michael and Mike have played together for years and it shows they have a lot musically to say to one another. It is cool to hear the electronics come into play here but not over done. I have always thought it was interesting that the great American form of music jazz is more popular outside of the US and thank God Japan has embraced this art form because like with this release we have it today . One thing that is cool to see and hear how good of a drummer Steve Smith is, he spend many years drumming behind the pop band Journey but you can hear he is good and fits right in with these guys. Steps Ahead have had a number of changes over the years in members of the band but have been able to keep the level of music up there. This is such a great album the whole thing just fits and plays well.

This is the only live recording featuring the legendary line-up of Michael Brecker, Mike Mainieri, Mike Stern, Daryl Jones & Steve Smith.

http://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/search?q=Steps+Ahead

Tracklist

1. Beirut 9:53
2. Oops 8:47
3. Self Portrait 7:30
4. Sumo 9:01
5. Cajun 8:14
6. Safari 6:23
7. In A Sentimental Mood 4:26
8. Trains 9:32

Personnel:

Vibraphone [Vibraphone, Midi Vibes] – Mike Mainieri
Tenor Saxophone, Electronic Wind Instrument [Ewi] – Michael Brecker
Guitar – Mike Stern
Bass – Darryl Jones
Drums, Percussion – Steve Smith

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Miles Davis - 1967 [1992] "Miles Smiles"

Miles Smiles is an album by jazz musician Miles Davis, released in January 1967 on Columbia Records. It was recorded by Davis and his second quintet at Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York City on October 24 and October 25, 1966. It is the second of six albums recorded by Davis's second great quintet, which featured saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams.

Miles Smiles showcases Davis' deeper exploration of modal performance with looser forms, tempos, and meters. Although the album did not follow the conventions of bop, neither did it follow the formlessness of free jazz. According to musicologist Jeremy Yudkin, Miles Smiles falls under the post-bop subgenre, which he defines as "an approach that is abstract and intense in the extreme, with space created for rhythmic and coloristic independence of the drummer—an approach that incorporated modal and chordal harmonies, flexible form, structured choruses, melodic variation, and free improvisation." Music theorist Keith Waters writes that the album "accentuated the quintet's connections to both the hard bop tradition and the avant-garde."

On three tracks from this album ("Orbits", "Dolores", "Ginger Bread Boy"), pianist Herbie Hancock takes the unusual step of dispensing with left-hand chords and playing only right-hand lines.

With their second album, Miles Smiles, the second Miles Davis Quintet really began to hit their stride, delving deeper into the more adventurous, exploratory side of their signature sound. This is clear as soon as "Orbits" comes crashing out the gate, but it's not just the fast, manic material that has an edge -- slower, quieter numbers are mercurial, not just in how they shift melodies and chords, but how the voicing and phrasing never settles into a comfortable groove. This is music that demands attention, never taking predictable paths or easy choices. Its greatest triumph is that it masks this adventurousness within music that is warm and accessible -- it just never acts that way. No matter how accessible this is, what's so utterly brilliant about it is that the group never brings it forth to the audience. They're playing for each other, pushing and prodding each other in an effort to discover new territory. As such, this crackles with vitality, sounding fresh decades after its release. And, like its predecessor, ESP, this freshness informs the writing as well, as the originals are memorable, yet open-ended and nervy, setting (and creating) standards for modern bop that were emulated well into the new century. Arguably, this quintet was never better than they are here, when all their strengths are in full bloom.

Without a hint of a doubt, the trumpeter Miles Davis' Second Great Quintet which he led in the mid-'60s rekindled his fire for music resulting in exuberant and adventurous music. Davis was reenergized by his young band which vitality and enthusiasm has made a big difference. Not only did it stretch Miles' boundaries, as the band was taking chances and experimenting, but it also helped him get through a difficult period in his personal life (the deaths of his parents, health issues and setbacks).

At the time, it appeared that the band was living a double life. The studio recordings, starting from E.S.P. (Columbia, 1964) showed the band in full flight as it created music that negotiated between the traditional and the experimental. While Miles had a distaste for free-jazz, obviously his band didn't, and Quintet's music clearly was informed by it. The resultant music was slippery, dynamic and it had an open-ended approach to harmony bolstered by elastic ways with rhythms. On the other hand, at concerts, the repertoire still consisted of old classics and standards. As best heard on the Live at the Plugged Nickel, the group approached these standards with such experimental zeal and elasticity that the songs became more daring and unpredictable.

On Miles Smiles, despite the band leader's period of personal setbacks and health, his band is playing music which is characterized by its exploratory and expansive nature. All things considered, this is a delicately great album, both unusual and tender in its art. Another indication of the band's stellar qualities as composers and performers are each band members' solo recordings from the period during Miles' hiatus, now considered to be classics, starting from Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage (Blue Note, 1965), Wayne Shorter's Speak no Evil and Juju (Blue Note, 1965) and Tony Williams's Spring (Blue Note, 1965).

While on E.S.P. they were still getting to know each other, this time they have honed their skills to the point of a musical telepathy. The music on Miles Smiles shows a group of brilliant musicians as they mesh their skills into a cohesive and tight unit and then interacting, stretching and challenging each other. So much of the album balances the tensions between the old and the new. As a result, these compositions are a prime example of how they took the out-there nature and experimentalism of free jazz and tightened it up with in twisting and propulsive structures. And somewhere in between these two opposite sides, the Quintet has carved its own place resulting in is some of the most exciting jazz ever played.

All of the compositions, starting from the opening "Orbits," through the classic Shorter composition "Footprints" and until the closing "Gingerbread Boy" are complex pieces with tricky meters, multiple sections, juggling with conventional and unconventional forms. The Quintet sounds like a juggernaut as it pushes for constant discoveries and refusing to settle in a rote behavior. Everything about it suggests that the levels of interacting and listening have risen to a higher plateau. As a result, throughout, the leader's horn feels energized and the collective takes Miles' distinctive tone to new realms.

How the band progressed onward after this record and how some of these tracks were incorporated into the Quintet's set list can best be heard on the Live in Europe: Bootleg Series Vol.1 (Legacy, 2011). Back then, this record won the record of the year in the 1967 Down Beat reader's Poll, while the Quintet also took the top spot as the best combo and Miles also was first on the chart as the best trumpeter. Obviously, Davis, Shorter, Williams, Carter and Hancock are no ordinary band and Miles Smiles is not one of the usual post-bop releases. This vinyl reissue is both a reminder for fans and an obligatory introduction for novices. Miles Smiles is the pinnacle of the acoustic jazz of any sort and one of the ultimate testaments to the true strength of the Second Great Quintet and its leader.

http://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/search?q=Miles+Davis

Track listing:

1. Orbits
2. Circle
3. Footprints
4. Dolores
5. Freedom Jazz Dance
6. Gingerbread Boy

Personnel:

Miles Davis – Trumpet
Wayne Shorter – Tenor saxophone
Herbie Hancock – Piano
Ron Carter – Double bass
Tony Williams – Drums

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Brand X - 1992 "Xcommunication"

Xcommunication (1992) is an album by jazz fusion band Brand X.

Xcommunication will leave you fairly gasping for breath. Lacking most of the British eccentricity of '70s Brand X but ripe with the experimental moves of bassist Percy Jones' solos, Xcommunication zigs and zags through a tumultuous landscape of swaggering synth effects, bizarre fretless bass, and frenetic drumming courtesy of new member Frank Katz. If any cut here is reminiscent of days past, it is "A Duck Exploding," which calls to mind the splendid Masques and Do They Hurt? sessions. Jones and guitarist John Goodsall have lost neither their touch nor their songwriting abilities. If anything, they have perhaps put the "progressive" elements of fusion back into proper perspective. Brand X have returned at quite an opportune time. Make no mistake about its '90s ambitions; Xcommunication cooks.

"X-Communication" is the 1992 comeback album for Brand X, a big ten years after their last release, 1982's "Is There Anything About?". For this album, the band are a trio: guitarist John Goodsall, bassist Percy Jones, and new drummer Frank Katz. "X-Communication" is filled with great progressive jazz/rock, including memorable jammers like "Xanax Taxi," "Liquid Time," "A Duck Exploding," and "Church Of Hype." Goodsall also gets in a beautiful acoustic solo piece, "Healing Dream." Although the group are without a proper keyboard player on "X-Communication" (Robin Lumley, where are you?), Goodsall plays the required keyboard parts by the use of a Midi-guitar (and he does it very well, too). The trio sound great on this release, with Goodsall's fiery fretboard work, Jones' thumping bass lines, and while Katz doesn't drum with quite the same flair that Phil Collins did, his performance on the skins is very impressive. Brand X's "X-Communication" is an excellent return for this classic jazz/rock fusion group.

Each song on this album tells it's own musical story with emotion and texture. What I like most of this album is the layers of music lying within the sounds. The album is well produced with a decided direction into the obscure. I am most impressed with the drumwork, Frank Katz did an excellent job. I am a fan of Phil Collins' drumming but feel Katz provided exactly what was needed for this incarnation of Brand X. Not a beat was missed. I like other Brand X albums better, but Xcommunication is a winner right along with the best. I call this a jazz fusion classic of the 90's.

http://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/search?q=Brand+X

Tracks Listing:

1. Xanax Taxi (5:57)
2. Liquid Time (4:39)
3. Kluzinski Period (7:00)
4. Healing Dream (3:51)
5. Mental Floss (3:17)
6. Strangeness (3:23)
7. A Duck Exploding (6:47)
8. Message To You (0:25)
09. Church of Hype (5:54)
10. Kluzinski Reprise (4:25)

Total Time: 45:38

Line-up / Musicians
- John Goodsall / guitar, MIDI guitar (keyboards and samples), co-producer
- Percy Jones / fretless bass, keyboards (6), co-producer
- Frank Katz / drums

With:
- Danny Wilding / flute (10) "Kluzinski Reprise".

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Billy Cobham - 2001 "Rudiments" - The Billy Cobham Anthology

"Rudiments" connotes that this is essential for drummers-and the 24 tracks of straight-ahead, funked-up and rock-infused jazz make it a real treat for the rest of us, too! The tracks are from eight 1973-78 Atlantic LPs and the supporting players include Jan Hammer, John Scofield, Randy and Michael Brecker and more; includes Stratus; Spanish Moss; Flash Flood; Moon Germs; 29; Shabazz , and more. Nearly two and a half hours of awe-inspiring performances!

If ever anybody deserved a two-disc anthology of his offerings as a solo artist it's fusion drummer Billy Cobham. After making his stellar debut with John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, Cobham made eight records for Atlantic from 1973-1978. To varying degrees, these recordings were true statements on the state of jazz-rock fusion. Many blame Cobham for being a member of the technical-expertise-is-everything school, and to a degree it may be true. But the tracks collected here by Barry Benson and Nick Sahakian provide evidence of something else entirely: that along with technical expertise in spades, Cobham had soul, groove, and a handle on how powerful rock & roll could contribute to jazz improvisation if harnessed in the right way. And every single track on these two discs does exactly that and more. For starters there's the majority of Cobham's classic debut, Spectrum, that featured contributions from guitarists Tommy Bolin (speaking of rock & roll), John Scofield (as he has never been heard since), and John Tropea as well as Jan Hammer from the Mahavishnu band. Spectrum's two finest tracks, "Quadrant 4" and "Stratus," are screaming jazz-rock with just the right hints of funk and groove that would become the hallmarks of Cobham's records after that. Also on "Stratus" it's interesting to note that Cobham and Frank Zappa were going for the same keyboard sounds simultaneously, and not just sonics, but phrasing. The sounds were perhaps derived from the two using the same session players including George Duke, the Brecker Brothers, and Alfonso Johnson among others. All of disc one is pure gold; there's not a weak second on it. And for that matter, disc two is solid as well; it's just that by the time these sets were recorded, Cobham's musical focus had shifted from jazz-rock to jazz-funk. The same tom-tom rolls are there, the constant rim shifts, and shaking, thunderous bass drum blasts and pops. Because of the exhilaration on disc one what comes across clearer on the second set is just how intricate and compelling Cobham is as a composer. These are scripted roles, with plenty of room for improvisation in the middle and often at the beginning and end; they are wonders of musical sophistication and raw gritty funky soul. In addition to almost three hours of crushingly innovative music, the liner notes are chock full of an extensive bio, critical, and session notes, a few outtakes and unreleased cuts and a cool clear plastic slipcase. This set is a document from a classic time in the evolution of both rock and jazz, and should be regarded as an essential purchase by fans not only of Cobham's but Bolin's, Scofield's, Miles Davis' electric era, the Breckers', and of course Mahavishnu's. Zappa fans from the era would also appreciate much of the material here.

Cobham was one of the building blocks of jazz-rock fusion. By the time he started his recording career in 1976, he had been part of three of the most important bands of the '70s, Miles Davis's groups, Dreams, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. A favorite of guitar players and fans because of the way he drives the string players, his debut album, Spectrum, is pure jazz-rock (featuring the late rock guitarist, Tommy Bolin, from the James Gang and Deep Purple). Bolin's tracks are at the beginning of this 24-track, two-CD retrospective and a very young John Scofield, is featured on guitar at the end of the CD. Back in the days before he joined Miles Davis, Scofield was part of Cobham's band that he co-led with George Duke, and of course, that band's funk classic, "Do What You Wanna" is included. In between those bookends are stunning examples of what it means to be a powerful drummer and to drive a band. There are liberal samplings of Cobham's solos, as well as tracks with his group that featured his partners from Dreams, the Brecker Brothers. Fusion lovers can't go wrong here, while smooth-jazz folks could gain a better appreciation of the roots of that genre.

The Good Book of fusion drumming, culled from a half-dozen years in the life of Billy Cobham. After serving in drum corps, the High School of Music and Arts, and the Army band, as well as gigging and recording with Kenny Burrell, George Benson and Junior Mance, Panamanian native Cobham was finally recommended by Jack DeJohnette to Miles Davis in 1969. Things took off like a bullet from there, and soon enough Cobham was firmly established as the Hot New Thing in jazz-rock drumming. He was also noted as a talented composer at the time.
Rudiments picks up following his tenures with Miles, Dreams and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Cobham debuted on Atlantic in 1973 with Spectrum and a band that included Mahavishnu keyboardist Jan Hammer, session bassist Lee Sklar, and young guitar wizard Tommy Bolin (who replaced Joe Walsh in the James Gang and Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple). The first five tracks on Disc 1 are drawn from those sessions, and they illustrate just what all the fuss over Cobham was about. His use of dual or triple bass drums presaged Alex Van Halen by years; in fact, Cobham is an acknowledged influence on most 70s and 80s hard-rock drummers. The hell-on-wheels “Quadrant 4” sets the pace for much of this anthology. Bolin is more honestly blues-oriented than John McLaughlin was, and this track sets the blues caravan rolling downhill without brakes. The long, tense synth and drums intro of “Stratus” collapses into a soulful, Zappa-ish guitar theme. The next three tunes are of similar temperament.

The remaining seven tracks of Disc 1 feature larger ensembles that include the Brecker Brothers and guitarist John Abercrombie. Randy and Mike Brecker poured more fuel on the Cobham fire, abetted by trombonist Glenn Ferris and keyboardists Milcho Leviev and George Duke alternately. “Spanish Moss” and “Flash Flood” are two sections of a tone poem powered by Latin percussion and urgent electric piano. The “Solarization” suite, “Lunarputians”, “Moon Germs” and “Solar Eclipse” (note Cobham’s preoccupation with things cosmic and atmospheric) continue the grand evolution of his pumped-up soul-funk-rock-jazz hybrid. The last track is perhaps the most dated of the bunch, rather like a Rocky soundtrack edit.

Disc 2 continues the odyssey with similar personnel and vibe. “Shabazz”, inspired not by Malcolm X but a chain of bakeries, begins with another thunderous drum solo and ends up in the same kind of groove as much of the prior disc. Things took a heavier turn with A Funky Thide of Sings, his crossover hit of ’75 that ushered in John Scofield. The Breckers’ “Some Skunk Funk” upped the ante of power fusion with its outstanding horn arrangement. “A Funky Thide...” has its roots in martial music as much as the funk. The following year, the horns were gone and Cobham was back to a quartet format. Scofield, bassist Doug Rauch and keyboardist George Duke (under the pseudonym “Dawilli Gonga”) recorded Life & Times, from which tracks 6-8 are drawn. As hot as the horn section was, the personnel reduction brings welcome breathing room for everyone to stretch out. Organist Allan Zavod makes an evocative guest spot on the title track, and Scofield’s own personality begins to emerge more fully.

Next are three tracks by the Cobham/Duke Band, including Scofield again and bassist Alphonso Johnson. Duke’s personal aesthetic, filtered through his experience with Zappa, dominates these tracks but Cobham is not to be denied, particularly his double-bass adventure on “Juicy”. The final track, “Arroyo”, marked the end of Cobham’s Atlantic contract in 1978. It’s back to the quartet again, with John Williams in place of Doug Rauch, and the melancholy vibe of the track indicates the closing of doors and moving on.

http://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/search?q=Billy+Cobham

Tracks Listing:

Disc 1:
01. Quadrant 4 (4:32)
02. Stratus (9:52)
03. Anxiety/Taurian Matador (4:49)
04. Snoopy's Search/Red Baron (7:44)
05. All 4 One [Outtake]* (4:16)
06. The Pleasant Pheasant (5:23)
07. Spanish Moss (4:10)
08. Flash Flood (5:12)
09. Solarization: (11:11)
  a) Solarization
  b) Second Phase
  c) Crescent Sun
  d) Voyage
  e) Solarization Recapitulation
10. Lunarputians (2:33)
11. Moon Germs (4:57)
12. Total Eclipse (5:58)

Total Time 1:10:30 (70.5 mins)

Disc 2:
01. Shabazz (13:49)
02. Some Skunk Funk (5:11)
03. A Funky Thide Of Sings (3:41)
04. Panhandler (4:07)
05. Neu Rock N' Roll [Outtake]* (6:28)
06. Life & Times (7:01)
07. 29 (2:35)
08. Earthlings (5:07)
09. Hip Pockets - The Billy Cobham/George Duke Band (7:10)
10. Juicy - The Billy Cobham/George Duke Band (6:53)
11. Do What Cha Wanna - The Billy Cobham/George Duke Band (5:00)
12. Arroyo (4:13)

Total Time 1:11:11 (71 mins)

*Indicates previously unreleased tracks

Personnel:

- Billy Cobham / percussion
- Jan Hammer / keyboards (Disc 1 Tracks 1-5)
- Tommy Bolin / guitar (Disc 1 Tracks 1-5)
- Lee Sklar / bass (Disc 1 Tracks 1-5)
- George Duke / keyboards (Disc 1 Tracks 6-8, Disc 2 Tracks 9-11)
- John Abercrombie / guitar (Disc 1 Tracks 6-12)
- John Williams / bass (Disc 1 Tracks 6-8, Disc 2 Track 12)
- Lee Pastora / latin percussion (Disc 1 Tracks 6-8)
- Milcho Leviev / keyboards (Disc 1 Tracks 9-12 & Disc 2 Tracks 1-5)
- Alex Blake / bass (Disc 1 Tracks 9-12, Disc 2 Tracks 1-5)
- Randy Brecker / trumpet (Disc 1 Tracks 6-12, Disc 2 Tracks 1-5)
- Garnett Brown / trombone (Disc 1 Tracks 6-8)
- Michael Brecker / woodwinds & saxes (Disc 1 Tracks 6-12, Disc 2 Tracks 1-5)
- Glenn Ferris / trombones (Disc 1 Tracks 9-12, Disc 2 Tracks 1-5)
- John Scofield / guitar (Disc 2 Tracks 2-12)
- Dawilli Gonga / keyboards (Disc 2 Tracks 6-8 & 12)
- Alfonso Johnson / bass (Disc 2 Tracks 9-11)

...and countless additional musicians (who contributed to a lesser degree and are unfortunately too many to list)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

John Scofield - 1988 [2014] "Loud Jazz"

The title, a phrase coined by Scofield's daughter, is the guitarist's typically witty take on the distinctive approach he had achieved with the quartet that included Robert Aries on keyboards, bassist Gary Grainger and drummer Dennis Chambers. To add to the fun, former boss George Duke was called in to take keyboard solos on six tracks. This album is most indicative of what Scofield achieved during his Gramavision years.

There are "loud" moments on this studio set, but the title cut's name is more a humorous attempt to describe the John Scofield Quartet's music than an accurate depiction of their style. The leader/guitarist, who sounds typically distinctive, welcomes guest keyboardist George Duke to five of his nine originals. Scofield's regular group of the era consisted of keyboardist Robert Aries, electric bassist Gary Grainger and drummer Dennis Chambers and they are also joined here by percussionist Don Alias. The music (which includes such numbers as "Tell You What," "Dirty Rice," "Wabash" and "Spy Vs. Spy") has few memorable melodies but plenty of dynamic playing by Scofield, who at this point was growing as a major stylist from album to album. A strong effort.

If I ever needed a title to categorize John Scofield releases from his Grammavision days, I couldn't find one more apt than Loud Jazz (Grammavision, 1988) This was the last of Sco's hot, electric funk fusion releases. He's still groovin' and in the pocket today, but not the electric, loud, in-your-face stuff evident on this album. Although I'm a fan of all of these early releases, and even some from the mid 70's, this is probably my favorite Scofield release. The reason is simple. All of the standard "Sco" stuff is there, but these tracks are more lyrical. The melodies and rhythms are less pushed. The album, overall, feels relaxed and hip.

And the classic gang is all there too. Gary Grainger is spry and funky on bass with Dennis Chambers doing what he does best with a powerful and punchy kick drum. They're joined by keyboardist Robert Aries and Don Alias on percussion, with George Duke taking the keyboard solos.

I can't think of a bad track on this album. Not even one that I get bored with. This is quintessential Sco-funk from the opener "Tell You What" to the title track. Like most Scofield albums, I find myself thinking "these guys had a lot of fun playing these tunes." There's energy, wit, humor-all the elements. I especially found the change of pace, almost melancholy ballad, "True Love" endearing. Even though there's room to take this and rip it like the other tracks despite the depressed tempo, Sco maintains the vibe, keeps it pretty, and does a wonderful job.

http://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/search?q=John+Scofield

Tracks Listing:

01. Tell You What (3:46)
02. Dance Me Home (5:55)
03. Signature Of Venus (4:42)
04. Dirty Rice (6:34)
05. Did It (5:38)
06. Wabash (4:33)
07. Loud Jazz (6:06)
08. Otay (6:14)
09. True Love (3:54)
10. Igetthepicture (4:07)
11. Spy Vs.Spy (6:16)

Total time 57:45

Personnel:

- John Scofield / guitar
- Robert Aries / keyboards
- George Duke / keyboard solos (1,2,4,6-8)
- Gary Grainger / bass
- Dennis Chambers / drums
- Don Alias / percussion

Friday, June 8, 2018

Michael Brecker - 1996 "Tales from the Hudson"

Tales from the Hudson is Michael Brecker's fourth album as a leader. It was recorded at the Power Station in New York City. It was recorded in 1996. The album also won Brecker two Grammy awards for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo (for his solo on "Cabin Fever") and Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group.

Michael Brecker, a major influence on today's young saxophonists, shows off his own influences a bit throughout this fine modern straight-ahead set. Brecker sounds surprisingly like Stanley Turrentine on parts of "Midnight Voyage," and otherwise displays his roots in Ernie Watts and John Coltrane. With the exception of Don Grolnick's "Willie T.," the music on the CD is comprised of group originals (five by the leader) and falls into the 1990s mainstream of jazz. While the tenor saxophonist has plenty of blowing space (really letting loose on the exciting closer, "Cabin Fever"), Pat Metheny is mostly pretty restrained (in a Jim Hall bag) except for his wild solo on guitar synth during "Song for Bilbao." Pianist Joey Calderazzo starts out sounding a bit like McCoy Tyner on "Slings and Arrows" before his own musical personality is revealed. When Tyner himself plays on "Song for Bilbao" (one of two guest appearances), one can certainly tell the difference between master and pupil. All of Michael Brecker's recordings as a leader (as opposed to his cameos as a sideman on pop records) are easily recommended and show why he is considered a giant by many listeners.

In the crowded field of excellent tenor players, Michael Brecker rises to the top of my list. I think the thing that gives Brecker an edge over the others is the fact that he is a master of so many genres of jazz. Many people are no doubt familiar with the electric, funky side of Michael Brecker as the co-leader of the Brecker Brothers and former member of Steps Ahead. He has done significant pop dates with Paul Simon, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell. One could easily fill a CD collection with albums on which he has performed as a sideman in many jazz contexts.

Yet this is only his fourth CD as a leader. All of them have been in the modern, progressive, straight-ahead jazz vein. This one is, to my ears, his most successful outing yet. I think the difference is that this one is a little less "progressive" or "outside." The melodies here are a little more accessible and memorable, yet the soloing is just as creative and adventuresome as we have come to expect from Brecker and the other jazz luminaries on this CD. The top-notch team of sidemen here are Pat Metheny on guitar, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Dave Holland on bass, and Joey Calderazzo on piano. Pianist McCoy Tyner and percussionist Don Alias are added on two tunes.

Six of the nine compositions are Brecker's. They are varied, thoughtful, and provide great vehicles for improvisation. Metheny contributes "Bilbao" from his Travels album, Calderazzo contributes a medium tempo swinger, and "Willie T." comes from the late pianist Don Grolnick, who produced Brecker's first two solo albums and performed with Brecker frequently.

I would especially recommend this album to those who have come to jazz through the "new adult comtemporary" door and are ready to take the next step towards discovering what real jazz is all about.

Brecker, whose tenor saxophone has graced pop performances by James Taylor and Paul Simon as well as plenty of straight-ahead jazz sessions, can be as exciting as any jazzman alive. His solos have a way of rising to a quick boil and catching you up in their immediacy. This happens several times on this album, an all-star date with guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Joey Calderazzo or McCoy Tyner, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette and guest percussionist Don Alias. It happens on Metheny’s “Song for Bilboa,” where Brecker chomps at the chord changes in a manner reminiscent of John Coltrane on “Out of This World” (from the album, Coltrane). It happens on “Willie T.” as he sweeps up to a swirling, raspy-toned climax with the drums knocking heatedly underneath. And it happens on “Cabin Fever,” an uptempo tour de force with Brecker cruising like a high-speed steamroller.

The tenor man’s estimable sidemen are in aggressive jazz form. They, too, seem caught up in the electric

https://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/search?q=Michael+Brecker

Track listing:
All tracks composed by Michael Brecker; except where indicated

01 "Slings and Arrows" – 6:19
02 "Midnight Voyage" (Joey Calderazzo) – 7:17
03 "Song for Bilbao" (Pat Metheny) – 5:44
04 "Beau Rivage" – 7:38
05 "African Skies" – 8:12
06 "Introduction to Naked Soul" (Michael Brecker, Dave Holland) – 1:14
07 "Naked Soul" – 8:43
08 "Willie T." (Don Grolnick) – 8:13
09 "Cabin Fever" – 6:59

Personnel:

Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone
Pat Metheny – guitar, guitar synthesizer
Joey Calderazzo – piano
Dave Holland – double bass
Jack DeJohnette – drums
McCoy Tyner – piano (tracks 3 and 5)
Don Alias – percussion (tracks 3 and 5)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Dave Weckl - 1999 "Synergy"

Synergy is a 1999 studio album by jazz-fusion group Dave Weckl Band.

Although Dave Weckl is an excellent drummer, not all of his recordings have been excellent. In the 1990s, you never knew if you would find something exciting or mundane on a Weckl album. But this fusion/soul-jazz disc turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Synergy, in fact, is the drummer's most consistently satisfying CD. Excessive producing was a major problem on some of his previous releases, but this time he generally avoids overproducing and goes for a real band sound. Joined by tenor and soprano saxman Brandon Fields, keyboardist Jay Oliver, guitarist Buzz Feiten, and electric bassist Tom Kennedy, Weckl has a solid team to work with and emphasizes improvisation and honest-to-God playing not high-tech studio gloss. Weckl's band sounds quite cohesive on a diverse, unpredictable outing that ranges from the funky "Wet Skin" and the Latin-influenced title song to the ominous "Cape Fear" and the delicate "A Simple Prayer." If you could purchase only one of Weckl's 1990s albums, Synergy would be the best choice.

Dave Weckl's fifth CD would have been just another good one in a string of many save one thing: the addition of guitar great Buzz Feiten to his usual outstanding rhythm section of Tommy Kennedy on bass and Jay Oliver on keyboards. Feiten's playing and writing talents lifted this release to a level not quite achieved since, giving the whole set an electric edge you can both hear and feel. This CD was recorded on the heels of an extensive tour, and I can only imagine the on stage excitement and creativity that led to such an outstanding musical set.

Audio quality is outstanding throughout, driven by Weckl's accomplished studio techniques and penchant for perfection. High Life is signature Dave Weckl, with an African-inspired drum groove over a tight rhythm section ending in a ridiculous drum solo. Panda's Dream is one of those Buzz Feiten tunes that makes this CD unique; it features a rock groove and guitar lead that makes this one of my all-time favorite Dave Weckl tunes. Swunk features a kind of half-time driving swing famous among drummers (and made popular by Weather Report) for how fun it is to play; checkout the full-blown straight-time swing under a good sax solo. A Simple Prayer is a Feiten ballad featuring a dreamy acoustic guitar. Cape Fear is an interesting groove with a haunting guitar melody, but nothing prepares you for the killer bass solo that ends the tune. After an opening bass solo, the title cut (Synergy) makes you want to get up and dance, and is also one of my favorites on the CD. Where's My Paradise is a second ballad written by Feiten and Oliver featuring some nice acoustic guitar work. Swamp Thing is another rocker featuring Buzz Feiten with a great horn lead, and quickly became one of my all-time favorite Dave Weckl tunes. If you're keeping count, that's two (2!) tracks off of one CD that made my "all-time favorite" list, and both are either written or co-written by Buzz Feiten featuring solos by the same. The last two cuts are really throw-aways for me: Cultural Concurrence is the obligatory Dave Weckl triggered drum solo, and Tower '99 is a re-work of Tower Of Inspiration off of his first CD (Master Plan). It's a nice groove, but I recommend checking out the original that features a killer horn arrangement.

Drummer Dave Weckl gained such a cultlike following playing with Chick Corea's Elektric and Akoustic bands in the 1980s that he could probably release an album of solo wood-block tapping and have it sell enough copies to make the effort worthwhile. So it's a pleasant surprise that Synergy is a decidedly group effort that thrusts the varied compositional talents and versatility of Weckl and his bandmates to the forefront instead of merely showcasing the leader's drum chops. Not that Weckl has been letting those chops sag; his solo percussion odyssey "Cultural Concurrence" and his ferocious soloing over the Latin groove of the title track are enough to give air drummers everywhere a workout. But what makes Synergy more listenable than some of Weckl's other efforts is the inspired group interplay that finds him and his longtime touring ensemble--saxophonist Brandon Fields, keyboardist Jay Oliver, guitarist Buzz Feiten, and bassist Tommy Kennedy--locking in on grooves that push beyond his normal jazz-fusion terrain. From the West African feel of "High Life" to the Cajun-tinged "Swamp Thing" to the swanky James Brown funk of "Wet Skin," Synergy is an inspired and varied outing.

Track listing:

01 "High Life"
02 "Panda's Dream"
03 "Swunk"
04 "A Simple Prayer"
05 "Cape Fear"
06 "Wet Skin"
07 "Synergy"
08 "Where's My Paradise?"
09 "Lucky Seven"
10 "Swamp Thing"
11 "Cultural Concurrence"
12 "Tower '99"

Personnel:

Dave Weckl - drums, tambourine, percussion
Brandon Fields - soprano, tenor & baritone saxophones, keyboards, synthesizer
Jay Oliver - organ, keyboards, synthesizer
Buzz Feiten - electric, nylon string & steel string guitars
Tom Kennedy - bass

Wayne Shorter - 1965 [1990] "The Soothsayer"

The Soothsayer is the seventh album by Wayne Shorter, recorded in 1965, but not released on Blue Note until 1979. The album features five originals by Shorter and an arrangement of Jean Sibelius' "Valse Triste". An additional take of "Angola" was added to later CD releases.

Part of an explosion of solo albums Wayne Shorter recorded just after he joined Miles Davis' band, The Soothsayer wasn't released until the late '70s. Listening to the album, it is hard to believe because it ranks with the best of his works from this incredibly fertile period. Shorter has been called Davis' "idea man," and the creativity and thoughtfulness that earned him that moniker are quite evident here. The album's five originals and one arrangement (of Sibelius' Valse Triste) show a multi-layered complexity that seems effortless even as it weaves together contributions from a very strong, stylistic sextet. Of particular interest is the interplay of the three horn players, including altoist James Spaulding and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. As a performer, Shorter also shows a lot of strength, with fluid, at times subtly evocative, solos that bloom with energy without ever seeming frantic or harsh. The title track shows Shorter at his most forceful and is one of the most passionate moments on the album, but even here, beauty seems to come first, while his low-key standard "Lady Day" embodies grace and calmness in every moment.

The Soothsayer may be comparably less of a benchmark in Wayne Shorter's discography, and remains to some extent overshadowed by its close contemporary Speak No Evil (Blue Note, 1964), but it's a solid and enduring album—despite 15 years between the recording session and the original LP release.

Things were happening big time for Shorter in early 1965, when The Soothsayer was recorded. After five years with drummer and band leader Art Blakey as musician, composer and, finally, musical director, the saxophonist had recently joined trumpeter Miles Davis' second great quintet. With Davis, Shorter would record six studio albums over the next three years—the first, E.S.P. (Columbia, 1965) was recorded two months before The Soothsayer—plus a further four under his own name.

There was an embarrassment of Shorter riches around, and The Soothsayer was initially shelved to make way for the release of the more structurally adventurous The All Seeing Eye (Blue Note, 1965). When Shorter left Davis and joined Weather Report, The Soothsayer, temporarily, was overtaken by events. It was finally released in 1980.

The album finds Shorter in the company of two Davis quintet colleagues—bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams—together with pianist McCoy Tyner, then a member of saxophonist John Coltrane's classic quartet, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and the relatively unsung alto saxophonist James Spaulding. Hubbard and Carter had been retained from Speak No Evil; Tyner had been featured on the earlier Shorter albums Night Dreamer (Blue Note, 1964) and Ju Ju (Blue Note, 1964). Spaulding and Williams were new recruits.

Shorter's virile playing aside, the album is worthwhile for the presence of drum prodigy Williams (Shorter's regular drummers of the time were Elvin Jones and Joe Chambers)—who turns in an inventive solo on "Angola"—and for the strength of Shorter's writing. The triple meter, medium groove "Lost," the opener, is quintessential Shorter of the period. Eight years before the release of The Soothsayer it was featured on Weather Report's Live In Tokyo (Columbia, 1972). "Angola," which follows, sounds like it could have been written earlier, for Blakey's band. The haunting "Lady Day" is a ballad tribute to singer Billie Holiday.

Of interest too is Shorter's re-arrangement of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius' pretty "Valse Triste"—on Speak No Evil, Shorter had credited Sibelius as a key inspiration for that album's "Dance Cadaverous." The word "deconstruction" may not have been common jazz parlance in 1965, but deconstruct is exactly what Shorter does here, sensitively and engagingly.

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Track listing:

All compositions by Wayne Shorter except where noted.

1. "Lost" – 7:20
2. "Angola" – 4:56
3. "The Big Push" – 8:23
4. "The Soothsayer" – 9:40
5. "Lady Day" – 5:36
6. "Valse Triste" (Jean Sibelius) – 7:45
7. "Angola" [Alternate Take] – 6:41

Personnel:

Wayne Shorter – tenor saxophone
Freddie Hubbard – trumpet
James Spaulding – alto saxophone
McCoy Tyner – piano
Ron Carter – bass
Tony Williams – drums