Monday, August 15, 2022

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble - 1983 "Texas Flood"

 


Texas Flood is the debut studio album by the American blues rock band Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, released on June 13, 1983 by Epic Records. The album was named after a cover featured on the album, "Texas Flood", which was first recorded by blues singer Larry Davis in 1958. Produced by the band and recording engineer Richard Mullen, Texas Flood was recorded in the space of three days at Jackson Browne's personal recording studio in Los Angeles. Vaughan wrote six of the album's ten tracks.

Two singles, "Love Struck Baby" and "Pride and Joy", were released from the album. A music video was made for "Love Struck Baby" and received regular rotation on MTV in 1983. Texas Flood was reissued in 1999 with five bonus tracks including an interview segment, studio outtake, and three live tracks recorded on September 23, 1983 at The Palace in Hollywood, California. The album was reissued again in 2013, with two CDs in celebration of the album's 30th anniversary. Disc 1 is the original album with one bonus track, "Tin Pan Alley". Disc 2 is selections from a previously unreleased concert recorded at Ripley's Music Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 20, 1983, originally recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio program.

Texas Flood received positive reviews, with critics praising the deep blues sound, and Vaughan’s songwriting, while some criticized the album for straying too far from mainstream rock. A retrospective review by AllMusic awarded it five out of five stars.

Vaughan and Double Trouble had performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 1982 and caught the attention of musician Jackson Browne. He offered the band three days of free use in his Los Angeles recording studio. During Thanksgiving weekend, they accepted Browne's offer and recorded a demo. It was heard by record producer John H. Hammond, who had discovered artists such as Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen among many others. He presented the demo to Greg Geller, head of A&R at Epic Records, and arranged a recording contract.

It's hard to overestimate the impact Stevie Ray Vaughan's debut, Texas Flood, had upon its release in 1983. At that point, blues was no longer hip, the way it was in the '60s. Texas Flood changed all that, climbing into the Top 40 and spending over half a year on the charts, which was practically unheard of for a blues recording. Vaughan became a genuine star and, in doing so, sparked a revitalization of the blues. This was a monumental impact, but his critics claimed that, no matter how prodigious Vaughan's instrumental talents were, he didn't forge a distinctive voice; instead, he wore his influences on his sleeve, whether it was Albert King's pinched yet muscular soloing or Larry Davis' emotive singing. There's a certain element of truth in that, but that was sort of the point of Texas Flood. Vaughan didn't hide his influences; he celebrated them, pumping fresh blood into a familiar genre. When Vaughan and Double Trouble cut the album over the course of three days in 1982, he had already played his set lists countless times; he knew how to turn this material inside out or goose it up for maximum impact. The album is paced like a club show, kicking off with Vaughan's two best self-penned songs, "Love Struck Baby" and "Pride and Joy," then settling into a pair of covers, the slow-burning title track and an exciting reading of Howlin' Wolf's "Tell Me," before building to the climax of "Dirty Pool" and "I'm Crying." Vaughan caps the entire thing with "Lenny," a lyrical, jazzy tribute to his wife. It becomes clear that Vaughan's true achievement was finding something personal and emotional by fusing different elements of his idols. Sometimes the borrowing was overt, and other times subtle, but it all blended together into a style that recalled the past while seizing the excitement and essence of the present.

Track listing:

Love Struck Baby    2:19
Pride And Joy    3:39
Texas Flood    5:21
Tell Me    2:48
Testify    3:20
Rude Mood    4:40
Mary Had A Little Lamb    2:47
Dirty Pool    5:03
I'm Cryin'    3:43
Lenny    4:59

Personnel:

    Stevie Ray Vaughan – guitar, vocals
    Tommy Shannon – bass
    Chris Layton – drums

Friday, August 12, 2022

Greg Howe - 2017 "Wheelhouse"

 


Greg Howe Goes Back to His Roots for Blistering New Album

Described as his most personal work to date, Greg Howe's new album, Wheelhouse—which will be released on September 1— marks the guitar legend’s highly-anticipated return to solo instrumental work.

Tracks like “Tempest Pulse” and “Throw Down” showcase Howe’s infectious tone and fretboard wizardry while eclectic tracks like “2 In 1” combine a funk-infused vibe with Forties swing. But perhaps one of the biggest highlights on Wheelhouse; and one that long-time followers of Howe’s career will certainly find appealing, is the track, “Shady Lane”.

A song originally written by Howe and his brother back in the early Nineties, on Wheelhouse, "Shady Lane" is given a 21st century spin with an emotionally charged vocal performance by Richie Kotzen (Winery Dogs, Mr. Big). Kotzen also complements his fellow Shrapnel alumni by contributing a blistering guitar solo to the track as well.

Wheelhouse is an album that will once again raise the bar for guitarists, and a fitting return for one of the genre's most dynamically diverse artists.

Track Listing:

1. Tempest Pulse
2. 2 in 1
3. Throw Down
4. Landslide
5. Key to open
6. Push on
7. Let it slip
8. I Wonder
9. Shady Lane (Feat. Richie Kotzen)

Personnel:

    Greg Howe – guitar
    Rochon Westmoreland – bass (track 1, 3, 6, 7, 8)
    Pepe Jimenez – drums (track 1, 3, 6, 7, 8)
    Jon Reshard – bass (track 4)
    Kevin Vecchione – bass (track 2, 9)
    Gianluca Palmieri – drums (track 2, 9)
    Richie Kotzen – guitar vocals (track 9)
    Ronnie Foster – keyboard (track 2)

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Steve Gadd - 2018 "Steve Gadd Band"

 


This tasty set is the fourth from the airtight Steve Gadd Band. Atop Gadd’s distinctly supple sense of groove, we hear master pianist Kevin Hays (in for Larry Goldings) playing lots of earthy Rhodes with just the right touch—and singing on “Spring Song.” Michael Landau provides rhythmic snap and bluesy bite on guitar. Trumpeter Walt Fowler brings melodic focus with an unhurried, crystalline tone. Longtime Allan Holdsworth bassist Jimmy Johnson stays straightforward and in the pocket while hugging every compositional curve, not least on Holdsworth’s composition “Temporary Fault.”

The album opens with “I Know, But Tell Me Again,” a tune with a cheerful, delicious groove and feel, and a certain amount of funk. It is approximately two minutes into this track that we get a drum and percussion solo. It’s brief, but good, just a taste of what he does, for this album doesn’t really contain any extended soloing from Gadd. This is one of the tracks to feature Duke Gadd on percussion. “I Know, But Tell Me Again” was written by Jimmy Johnson and Steve Gadd. That’s followed by “Auckland By Numbers,” a sly, mellower number that kind of sneaks in, slinking around the room and catching you in its spell. There is a cool vibe to this one, and it features some seriously good work on guitar. I guess that shouldn’t be any surprise, since it was composed by guitarist Michael Landau. I also like the work on horn, which feels like a voice rising from the mist.

On “Where’s Earth?” a great, funky groove is established immediately. This is another of the tracks to feature Duke Gadd, this time on acoustic guitar. He also co-wrote the track with Kevin Hays and Michael Landau. This one takes us on an interesting journey outward, all the while that fantastic groove continues beneath, keeping us somewhat grounded. That groove helps answer the song title’s question, a question many of us may be asking ourselves these days. Or maybe what we ask is, Where is the Earth that we knew? This track features some good work on keys. Then “Foameopathy” eases in with a strange but soothing introduction, relaxing us. So it comes as something of a surprise when the tune takes a turn, the band creating another great groove, featuring some excellent work by Steve on drums. The horn and keys at times work somewhat in contrast to that groove. Then, a couple of minutes into the track, everything seems to come together, and the track takes on a rather bright sound. Soon we are back to that groove, and Steve’s work on drums is really the focus. His playing makes this one of my personal favorite tracks, but there is also some excellent work on guitar. As this track reaches its conclusion, it returns us to the beginning. This one was written by Steve Gadd, Walt Fowler and Larry Goldings. That’s followed by “Skulk,” a track composed by Larry Goldings and Steve Gadd. “Skulk” is a word I don’t hear all that often, which is a shame, for it’s a great word. It usually makes me think of that scene from Four Weddings And A Funeral, when Andie MacDowell says she could skulk around a bit if skulking were required. Anyway, this one has kind of a fun vibe and a catchy rhythm, and features more good work on guitar. But for me it is that keyboard part that is really the delight here. And I like that section just before the end when everything slows a bit. Then “Norma’s Girl” is a mellower number. It has a romantic side, and also an introspective side, and features some pretty work by Walt Fowler. “Norma’s Girl” was written by Jimmy Johnson.

“Rat Race” is another fun, funky, playful number, this one written by Michael Landau and Duke Gadd. Duke Gadd plays percussion on this one. That bass line stands out for me, but everything is working really well. People talk about getting stuck in the rat race, but I wouldn’t mind being caught in this groove, just remaining in it for quite a while. There are so many delightful touches, moments that make you smile, if not laugh outright. That’s followed by “One Point Five,” the disc’s final track to feature the work of Duke Gadd on percussion. There is something catchy about this track’s groove as well, with something of a Latin feel, and then just as you’re getting caught in it, the tune goes in a different direction, and ends up getting even better. This track features some nice work on keys, and a cool drums and percussion section. The track fades out on that wonderful percussion section. The group then delivers a good rendition of “Temporary Fault,” the album’s only cover, written by Allan Holdsworth, and originally included on his 1982 LP I.O.U. They then relax into a classic, soulful groove with “Spring Song,” this one written by Kevin Hays, and also featuring him on vocals. It is the album’s only track to include vocals, and it opens with these lines: “In our life and time there will be sorrow/No reason or rhyme as the days come and go.” Well, that sounds just about right.  Yet this track makes me feel good. That guitar lead is one of my favorite parts, but this entire track is wonderful. “We all want to win, but winning’s not the answer.” The album then concludes with “Timpanogos,” a tune with a sweet vibe, and containing some surprising moments. This one was composed by Walt Fowler, and it gives each musician a chance to shine.

Track listing:

01 I Know, But Tell Me Again - (Jimmy Johnson, Steve Gadd) 4:51
02 Auckland By Numbers - (Michael Landau) 5:20
03 Where's Earth? - (Duke Gadd, Kevin Hays, Michael Landau) 4:15
04 Foameopathy - (Larry Goldings, Steve Gadd, Walt Fowler) 6:37
05 Skulk - (Larry Goldings, Steve Gadd) 4:50
06 Norma's Girl - (Jimmy Johnson) 5:08
07 Rat Race - (Duke Gadd, Michael Landau) 6:35
08 One Point Five - (Jimmy Johnson) 4:13
09 Temporary Fault - (Allan Holdsworth) 3:42
10 Spring Song - (Kevin Hays) 4:54
11 Timpanogos - (Walt Fowler) 5:35

Personnel:

    Acoustic Guitar – Duke Gadd (tracks: 3)
    Bass – Jimmy Johnson
    Drums – Steve Gadd
    Guitar [Guitars] – Michael Landau
    Keyboards, Vocals – Kevin Hays
    Percussion – Duke Gadd (tracks: 1, 7, 8)
    Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Walt Fowler

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Ornette Coleman - 1959 [1992] "Change Of The Century"


Change of the Century is an album by jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman, released on Atlantic Records in May 1960. It sold very well from soon after its release. Recording sessions for the album took place on October 8 and 9, 1959, in New York City.

The second album by Ornette Coleman's legendary quartet featuring Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins, Change of the Century is every bit the equal of the monumental The Shape of Jazz to Come, showcasing a group that was growing ever more confident in its revolutionary approach and the chemistry in the bandmembers' interplay. When Coleman concentrates on melody, his main themes are catchier, and when the pieces emphasize group interaction, the improvisation is freer. Two of Coleman's most memorable classic compositions are here in their original forms -- "Ramblin'" has all the swing and swagger of the blues, and "Una Muy Bonita" is oddly disjointed, its theme stopping and starting in totally unexpected places; both secure their themes to stable, pedal-point bass figures. The more outside group improv pieces are frequently just as fascinating; "Free," for example, features a double-tongued line that races up and down in free time before giving way to the ensemble's totally spontaneous inventions. The title cut is a frantic, way-out mélange of cascading lines that nearly trip over themselves, brief stabs of notes in the lead voices, and jarringly angular intervals -- it must have infuriated purists who couldn't even stomach Coleman's catchiest tunes. Coleman was frequently disparaged for not displaying the same mastery of instrumental technique and harmonic vocabulary as his predecessors, but his aesthetic prized feeling and expression above all that anyway. Maybe that's why Change of the Century bursts with such tremendous urgency and exuberance -- Coleman was hitting his stride and finally letting out all the ideas and emotions that had previously been constrained by tradition. That vitality makes it an absolutely essential purchase and, like The Shape of Jazz to Come, some of the most brilliant work of Coleman's career.

Change Of The Century was an audacious album title, to say the least. On his second Atlantic release—and second with his most like-minded ensemble (trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins)—alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman pushed the freedom principal farther. At the same time, he looked backward too for inspiration. Having eliminated the piano on his Contemporary release, Tomorrow Is The Question! (1959), Coleman opened up wide improvisational opportunities. On that recording, he and his "freedom principle" remained partially inhibited by the presence of traditionalist bassist Percy Heath and drummer Shelly Manne, who resisted coloring outside of the lines as Coleman was attempting to do. But that was not so on The Shape Of Jazz To Come (Atlantic, 1959) and Change Of The Century. While the rhythm section continued to provide enough cohesive swing to propel matters, Coleman and Cherry stretched the melodic boundaries without the previous harmonic anchors.

Change of the Century is compelling in its embrace of contrasts. "Ramblin'" is funky organic, almost early rock and roll. Haden plucks and strums his way through a fractured 12-bar format that never fully resolves itself into the comfort of the anticipated. Coleman's solo over Haden's support is bar-walking rhythm and blues, lowdown and dirty, smelling of beer and Lucky Strikes. Cherry plays his famous pocket trumpet, sounding closer to Lee Morgan than anyone else, squeezing out hard bop lines like sparks from a metal lathe. Haden solos using the figures he has supported the whole piece with. His intonation is middle-of-the-note, relaxed and slightly wooden. "Ramblin'" retains an erstwhile harmonic structure, albeit only barely.

The head of "Free" is an odd premonition for composer/saxophonist Oliver Nelson's "Hoedown" from The Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1961), passing through an ascending and descending blues figure. Haden is rock solid throughout, even when the solo-going gets ragged and frayed. Higgins' accents are as potent as pepper, shoring up the edges of chaos on the briskly-timed piece. "The Face Of Bass" gives prominence to Haden while at the same time sounding strangely traditional for an album entitled Change of the Century. But it is a facade. Coleman encourages a careful abandon in the piece's overall structure and arrangement. Cherry pops on his solo, sometimes sounding like Freddie Hubbard, sometimes, Art Farmer.

"Forerunner" pretends that it is bebop, with a serpentine head and a deft drum break by Higgins. Coleman's solo is inspired, quenched in gospel and the blues. His tonal expanse is as big as his native Texas, informed by the many great tenor saxophone players from that state. Cherry emerges assertive, playing with swagger and attitude. So well constructed and delivered is his solo that it is easy to forget that a move toward a freer musical system is in the works. Haden remains stalwart in time-keeping, shepherding everything between the rhythmic ditches. The same can be said for the Charlie Parker-inspired "Bird Food," which is surveyed at a fast clip over a complex note pattern.

"Una Muy Bonita" is only passing Latin, with pianist Thelonious Monk phrasing and side- winding playing. Haden sets up a familiar clave beat with strummed chords. Coleman stages the piece to more insinuate a Latin vibe than to actually play one. After a lengthy introduction, Cherry solos muted, allowing himself a broad swath over which to play. The disc's closer, the title tune, was the most fully-realized "free jazz" at that point from Coleman. It is a wild phantasm of notes that are to "free jazz" what trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's "Bebop" was for that virtuosic genre. It is a clarion call played on impulse. Yes, finally things are really beginning to come apart at the seams, properly foreshadowing Free Jazz: A Group Improvisation (Atlantic, 1961). Coleman has fully gained his traction and is now ready.

Track listing:         

   Ramblin'               6:34
   Free                   6:20
   The Face Of The Bass      6:53
   Forerunner             5:13
   Bird Food              5:25
   Una Muy Bonita         5:51
   Change Of The Century  4:41

Personnel:

    Ornette Coleman — alto saxophone
    Don Cherry — pocket trumpet
    Charlie Haden — bass
    Billy Higgins — drums

Scott Henderson - 2015 "Vibe Station"

 


Guitarist Scott Henderson is one of a select few artists who raised jazz fusion from the embers in the 80s, namely with the band, Tribal Tech. Indeed, this unit proffered a much needed uplift via a far-reaching perspective and armed with a torrential improvisational credo on numerous fronts. Since then, the guitarist has performed with other high-flying units but as a solo artist, he often kicks out the jazz rock, fusion and blues rock jams within the power trio format. Henderson's searing wizardry is vividly perceptible on Vibe Station, as he often converses with himself by modulating distortion-based tones on his electric guitar and by creating a polychromatic aural feast with variable currents and intensity levels.

Henderson wreaks havoc on his guitar amid howling bottleneck notes, multihued chord voicings and ungodly hype-mode licks atop the rhythm section's slamming grooves and agile progressions. He often harmonizes with bassist Travis Carlton and during a variety of movements the trio summons an Armageddon with supple and heightening choruses within the prog-metal domain.

The title track "Vibe Station," is centered on jazz and funk motifs, countered by the leader's gravelly phrasings, blazing runs and shock-therapy type cadenzas. Henderson uses an electric sitar or perhaps some electronics-based sampling process on the humming and buzzing jazz fusion fest "Manic Carpet," abetted by his fervent call and response dialogue with drummer Alan Hertz during the bridge. And the jazz influences resurface with a Thelonious Monk-like primary theme and prickly bop lines on "The Covered Head," as the band surges into a lofty and tempestuous improv segment, revved up by Henderson's caustic shadings, weeping breakouts and supersonic single note riffs.

"Dew Wot?" is another piece where the tide shifts and momentum builds upon a twirling and shuffling cadence, seguing into a hot n' nasty blues rock foray, contrasted with knotty time signatures, used as a passageway into an interminable abyss. Ultimately, Vibe Station should be deemed essential listening for Henderson's legion of admirers, along with curious students and others not thoroughly acquainted with his formidable legacy.

Following on the heels of his amazing “HBC” trio with bassist Jeff Berlin and drummer Dennis Chambers, guitarist Scott Henderson returns with his 5th solo project, “Vibe Station”, exhibiting “elements of jazz, rock & blues, but has a bigger variety of textures and tones. The new all instrumental CD features bassist Travis Carlton (son of Larry) & drummer extraordinaire Alan Hertz. Henderson speaks of the new work as the most challenging project of his career.

Says Henderson, “I’m really excited about this record because our trio has been touring a lot and that energy came through on all the performances. The music is still blues-based, but also has a lot of harmonic content. The big change is no vocals, which challenged me as a guitarist to write material which can be played in a vocal way on the guitar, while incorporating my own chord-melody style. I think fans will enjoy the scope of this record because it has elements of blues, rock, jazz and funk. There’s something for everyone here.”

Henderson also said that the majority of the songs are layered with multi guitar tracks, utilizing many different guitars, pedals, amps and speaker combinations, making it the most textural and versatile sounding album he’s ever done. Travis Carlton on bass and Alan Hertz on drums make this project and live show very much groove-based.

Says Henderson, “I need to see people moving in their seats. I’m not interested on putting on an intellectual show for musicians only. I don’t believe I need to dumb down the music to appeal to people who aren’t musicians, because when Travis and Alan play together, the groove is going to attack you whether you’re a musician or not”.

Henderson’s impressive work over the years as co-leader of the group TRIBAL TECH, leader of his own ground breaking trio, and sideman to some of the best jazz artists of their generation, including the great Joe Zawinul, has elevated him to the front ranks of both Jazz and Blues. Besides being a world class player and premier composer, Henderson’s trademark is his beautiful tone and striking ability to blend Blues, Rock, Funk, and Jazz, creating a soulful and unique voice on the guitar.”

Track listing:

 01 Church of Xotic Dance - 7:20
 02 Sphinx - 8:59  
 03 Vibe Station - 7:10
 04 Manic Carpet - 7:25
 05 Calhoun - 8:42
 06 The Covered Head - 6:56
 07 Festival of Ghosts - 8:40
 08 Dew Wut? - 6:59
 09 Chelsea Bridge - 5:41

Personnel:

Scott Henderson: Guitar
Travis Carlton: Bass
Alan Hertz: Drums

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Joe Farrell - 1973 [2018] "Penny Arcade" - 1974 [2018] "Upon This Rock" - 1975 [2018] "Canned Funk"


Joe Farrell - 1973 [2018] Penny Arcade

Joe Farrell gained his greatest fame with his popular string of CTI recordings. For this set, he performs three of his originals (none of which caught on), guitarist Joe Beck's "Penny Arcade," and a 13-minute version of Stevie Wonder's "Too High." Farrell (heard on tenor, soprano, flute and piccolo) is in excellent form, as are keyboardist Herbie Hancock, Beck, bassist Herb Bushler, drummer Steve Gadd and Don Alias on conga. As is true of his other CTI sets, this Joe Farrell effort expertly mixes together some slightly commercial elements and superior recording quality with strong solos.

Penny Arcade is a jazz album by Joe Farrell on the CTI Records label. It was recorded at the Van Gelder Studio in October 1973
Track listing
Side one

    "Penny Arcade" (Joe Beck) – 4:45
    "Too High" (Stevie Wonder) – 13:15

Side two

    "Hurricane Jane" (Joe Farrell) – 4:25
    "Cloud Cream" (Joe Farrell) – 6:15
    "Geo Blue" (Joe Farrell) – 7:30

Personnel

    Joe Farrell – tenor and soprano sax, flute, piccolo
    Herbie Hancock – piano
    Joe Beck – guitar
    Steve Gadd- drums
    Herb Bushler – bass
    Don Alias – conga


Joe Farrell - 1974 [2018] Upon This Rock

Upon This Rock is an album by Joe Farrell released in 1974.

In 2008 it returned to media attention when Farrell's daughter sued Kanye West, Method Man, Redman, Common and their respective record companies over alleged sampling of the title track.

As one might guess from the album's title, this Joe Farrell date is a bit rock-oriented in places. Guitarist Joe Beck is the co-star, and Farrell (who switches between tenor, soprano and flute) is also joined by bassist Herb Bushler and drummer Jim Madison; "I Won't Be Back" has Farrell, Beck and Bushler joined by keyboardist Herbie Hancock, drummer Steve Gadd and the conga of Don Alias.

Track listing:

Side one

    "Weathervane" (Joe Farrell) – 8:00
    "I Won't Be Back" (Joe Beck) – 10:05

Side two

    "Upon This Rock " (Joe Farrell) – 11:54
    "Seven Seas" (Joe Beck) – 6:50

Personnel

    Joe Farrell – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute
    Herb Bushler – bass
    Joe Beck – guitar
    Jimmy Madison – drums
    Steve Gadd – drums (on "I Won't Be Back")
    Herbie Hancock – piano (on "I Won't Be Back")
    Don Alias – conga (on "I Won't Be Back")


Joe Farrell - 1974 [2011] Canned Funk:

Joe Farrell's final of six CTI dates has fairly lengthy versions of four of his originals. Farrell, who adds baritone to his usual trio of instruments (tenor, soprano and flute), once again welcomes guitarist Joe Beck as his co-star, along with bassist Herb Bushler, drummer Jim Madison and percussionist Ray Mantilla. The music is melodic, sometimes funky, and enjoyable if not essential, but all of Joe Farrell's CTI sets are worth acquiring.  

 Canned Funk is a jazz album by Joe Farrell for CTI Records. It was recorded at Van Gelder Studios November and December 1974. The album was released in 1975.

Track listing
Side one

    "Canned Funk" (Joe Farrell) – 7:20
    "Animal" (Farrell) – 9:55

Side two

    "Suite Martinique" (Farrell) – 9:03
    "Spoken Silence" (Farrell) – 7:43

Personnel

    Joe Farrell – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, baritone saxophone, flute
    Herb Bushler – bass
    Joe Beck – guitar
    Jim Madison – drums
    Ray Mantilla – conga, percussion

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Weather Report - 1978 [1991] "Mr. Gone"

 


Mr. Gone is the eighth studio album by jazz fusion band Weather Report released in 1978 by ARC/Columbia Records. The album rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart.

As the group was still looking for a drummer following the departure of Alex Acuña, outside drummers Tony Williams and Steve Gadd appear along with Peter Erskine, who would become Acuña's replacement. Singers Deniece Williams and Maurice White also appear on the track "And Then." The Pastorius-penned "Punk Jazz" was later the title of a posthumous compilation of Jaco Pastorius's music.

The record became a center of controversy when DownBeat magazine gave it a one-star review. Zawinul went on to deliver a furious response to this review during a later interview.

On Mr. Gone, Weather Report becomes merely a cover name for a Joe Zawinul/Jaco Pastorius jazz/rock/funk record production, with several guest drummers (Steve Gadd, Tony Williams, Peter Erskine), no resident percussionist, and Wayne Shorter as a still-potent solo saxophone threat. This album was denounced in its time as a sellout, probably on the reputation of Jaco's pulsating "River People," which is as close as WR ever came to outright disco. But there is lots of diversity and adventure here, as the creative core of the band uses the latest electronics to push out the boundaries of sound while maintaining tight control over structure. "The Pursuit of the Woman with the Feathered Hat" is quintessential Zawinul; the Third World-centered groove is everything, no chord changes to impede this rush of layered electronics, percussion, and voices. Shorter's spare "The Elders" flirts with the electronic avant-garde and he retrofits his Miles Davis-era "Pinocchio" in rapid-fire electro-acoustic garb. In other words, the multi-flavored WR stew continues to cook at a fine boil.

Mr. Gone is one of those recordings which causes debate among fans of Weather Report and Jaco. The album features two Jaco compositions, including “River People” and “Punk Jazz”. Jaco elaborated about “River People” during an interview with the BBC’s Clive Williamson: “I have a tune, ‘River People’, and I wanted a certain kind of feel, so I decided to play drums on it. We were in a transformation period, I broke my right wrist and we had some time off, and just Joe and I were in the studio. So we did ‘River People’ that way, building the tune up on the spot. It was all written out, so all Joe had to do was play his parts, and I played mine, and it just all gelled together, and I did some overdubs. In fact, we played the bass parts together ‘coz he got this synth sound, sort of a little twang, almost like a little guitar on the top, with my bass rolling on the bottom. So we just played to the click track, and I went back and overdubbed the drums with that, as opposed to ‘Teen Town’ where I played the drums first, and overdubbed the bass part afterwards.”

Track listing:

01  "The Pursuit of the Woman with the Feathered Hat" (Zawinul) 5:03
02  "River People" (Pastorius) 4:50
03  "Young and Fine" (Zawinul) 6:55
04  "The Elders" (Shorter, arranged by Zawinul) 4:21
05  "Mr. Gone" (Zawinul) 5:26
06  "Punk Jazz" (Pastorius) 5:09
07  "Pinocchio" (Shorter) 2:26
08  "And Then" (music - Zawinul, lyrics - Sam Guest) 3:22

Personnel:

    Joe Zawinul - modified Rhodes 88 electric piano, acoustic piano, two ARP 2600 synthesizers, Oberheim Polyphonic synthesizer, Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 synthesizer, Mu-Tron Bi-Phase and Mu-Tron Volume Wah effects, kalimba, thumbeki drums, sleigh bells, melodica, high hat, vocals (tracks 1 and 5)
    Wayne Shorter - tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones, vocals (track 1)
    Jaco Pastorius - bass, drums (tracks 1 and 2), timpani (track 2), vocals (tracks 1, 2, and 6)
    Peter Erskine - drums (tracks 1 and 7), hi hat (track 3), vocals (track 1)

Additional musicians

    Tony Williams - drums (tracks 5 and 6)
    Steve Gadd - drums (tracks 3 and 8)
    Manolo Badrena - vocal solo (track 1)
    Jon Lucien - vocals (track 1)
    Deniece Williams - vocals (track 8)
    Maurice White - vocals (track 8)

Friday, July 22, 2022

Steve Vai - 1996 "Fire Garden"


 Fire Garden is the fourth studio album by guitarist Steve Vai, released on September 17, 1996 through Epic Records. The album reached No. 106 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and remained on that chart for two weeks, as well as reaching the top 100 in three other countries.

As described by Vai in the liner notes, Fire Garden is a concept album divided into two "phases": "Phase 1" comprises tracks 1–9 and is entirely instrumental (with the exception of Devin Townsend's backwards vocals on "Whookam" and some more vocals toward the end of "Fire Garden Suite"), while "Phase 2", the remainder of the album, features Vai on vocals on every song except the instrumental "Warm Regards". Fire Garden was intended to be a double album, but during mastering Vai heard about the new 80-minute CD format (instead of 74 for a standard CD), which meant that both sides were able to fit onto a single disc.

"Dyin' Day" was co-written by Ozzy Osbourne during the writing sessions for Osbourne's 1995 album Ozzmosis. Another song from those sessions, "My Little Man", made its way onto Ozzmosis and is credited on that album as being co-written by Vai.

A recent acquisition and boy does Vai and crew deliver the goods here. All bases are covered : from all out dazzling heavy rock, to funky , to soulful, to clever. Hey complex yet emotional touching so many bases that to not have this part instrumental part song based cd would be too rob yourself of a genuinely exhilarating rock / great music thrill. Steve Via known to many for his guitar pyrotechnics yes but until now I didn t realise his excellent song writing abilities teaming up here with equally talented team of players. Fire Garden is the equal I think to much acclaimed Passion and Warfare, slightly less heavy rock than that lp, better songs and more variety. Stand outs for me is the 10 minute suite Eastern influenced title track, the rollicking Little Alligators and soulful Bother amongst several others.

Fire Garden is beautiful, rocking, dazzling and premier league music. Yeah its that good.

Track listing:

All tracks are written by Steve Vai, except where noted.

"Phase 1"No.    Title    Length
1.    "There's a Fire in the House"    5:26
2.    "The Crying Machine"    4:50
3.    "Dyin' Day" (Vai, Ozzy Osbourne)    4:29
4.    "Whookam"    0:36
5.    "Blowfish"    4:03
6.    "The Mysterious Murder of Christian Tiera's Lover"    1:02
7.    "Hand on Heart"    5:25
8.    "Bangkok" (Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Tim Rice)    2:46
9.    "Fire Garden Suite"
          "Bull Whip"
          "Pusa Road"
          "Angel Food"
          "Taurus Bulba"  9:56

"Phase 2"No.    Title    Length
10.    "Deepness"    0:47
11.    "Little Alligator"    6:12
12.    "All About Eve"    4:38
13.    "Aching Hunger"    4:45
14.    "Brother"    5:04
15.    "Damn You"    4:31
16.    "When I Was a Little Boy"    1:18
17.    "Genocide"    4:11
18.    "Warm Regards"    4:06

Total length:    74:05

Personnel:

    Steve Vai – lead vocals, guitar, all other instrumentation (except where noted), arrangement, engineering, production
    Devin Townsend – lead vocals (tracks 4, 9)
    Will Riley – keyboard (track 14)
    John Avila – bass (track 2)
    Stuart Hamm – bass (track 3)
    Fabrizio Gossi – bass (track 14)
    Chris Frazier – drums (track 1)
    Greg Bissonette – drums (track 2)
    Deen Castronovo – drums (tracks 3, 5, 7, 11, 12, 15)
    Mike Mangini – drums (tracks 8, 9)
    Robin DiMaggio – drums (track 14)
    C.C. White – background vocals (tracks 12, 17)
    Tracee Lewis – background vocals (tracks 12, 17)
    Miroslava Mendoza Escriba – background vocals (tracks 12, 17)
    Kimberly Evans – background vocals (tracks 12, 17)
    John Sombrotto – background vocals (track 17)
    Mark McCrite – background vocals (track 17)
    Jim Altan – background vocals (track 17)
    Julian Vai – spoken vocals – track (18)

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Ornette Coleman - 1960 "Free Jazz"

 


Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation is the sixth album by jazz saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman, released on Atlantic Records in 1961, his fourth for the label. Its title established the name of the then-nascent free jazz movement. The recording session took place on December 21, 1960, at A&R Studios in New York City. The sole outtake from the album session, "First Take," was later released on the 1971 compilation Twins.

The music is a continuous free improvisation with only a few brief pre-determined sections. The music was recorded in one single “take” with no overdubbing or editing.

The album features what Coleman called a “double quartet,” i.e., two self-contained jazz quartets, each with two wind instruments and each with a rhythm section consisting of bass and drums. The two quartets are heard in separate channels with Coleman’s regular group in the left channel and the second quartet in the right.

The two quartets play simultaneously with the two rhythm sections providing a dense rhythmic foundation over which the wind players either solo or provide freeform commentaries that often turn into full-scale collective improvisation interspersed with pre-determined composed passages. The composed thematic material can be considered a series of brief, dissonant fanfares for the horns which serve as interludes between solos. Not least among the album's achievements was that it was the first album-length improvisation, nearly forty minutes, which was unheard of at the time.

The original LP package incorporated Jackson Pollock's 1954 painting The White Light.[10] The cover was a gatefold with a cutout window in the lower right corner allowing a glimpse of the painting; opening the cover revealed the full artwork, along with liner notes by critic Martin Williams. Coleman was a fan of Pollock as well as a painter, and his 1966 LP The Empty Foxhole features Coleman's own artwork.

In the January 18, 1962 issue of Down Beat magazine, in a special review titled "Double View of a Double Quartet," Pete Welding awarded the album Five Stars while John A. Tynan rated it No Stars.

The album was identified by Chris Kelsey in his Allmusic essay "Free Jazz: A Subjective History" as one of the 20 Essential Free Jazz albums. It served as the blueprint for later large-ensemble free jazz recordings such as Ascension by John Coltrane and Machine Gun by Peter Brötzmann.

On March 3, 1998, Free Jazz was reissued on compact disc by Rhino Records as part of its Atlantic 50 series. The "Free Jazz" track, split into two sections for each side of the LP, appeared here in continuous uninterrupted form, along with a bonus track of the previously issued "First Take."

Track Listing:

1 Free Jazz 31:07
2 First Take 17:03

Personnel:

Left channel

    Ornette Coleman – alto saxophone
    Don Cherry – pocket trumpet
    Scott LaFaro – bass
    Billy Higgins – drums

Right channel

    Eric Dolphy – bass clarinet
    Freddie Hubbard – trumpet
    Charlie Haden – bass
    Ed Blackwell – drums

Saturday, July 16, 2022

John Mclaughlin, Jaco Pastorious, Tony Williams - 1979 [2007] "Trio Of Doom"

 


The Trio of Doom was a short-lived jazz fusion power trio consisting of John McLaughlin on guitar, Jaco Pastorius on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. They were brought together by Columbia Records in 1979 to play the Havana Jam festival in Cuba alongside Billy Joel, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, and others.

They were named by Pastorius. He had earlier called his bass the "Bass of Doom," because of its growling sound.

Their only live performance was on March 3, 1979, and it is recorded on Ernesto Juan Castellanos's documentary Havana Jam '79.

On March 8, 1979, the group reconvened in New York City to record the songs they had played live, but a dispute broke out between Pastorius and Williams that ended the trio.

Recorded at the 1979 Havana Jazz Festival, this short and powerful set, with Miles Davis alumni, drummer Tony Williams and guitarist John McLaughlin, and Weather Report bassist Jaco Pastorius, was one for the ages. The previously unreleased selections, one through five, are explosive, but mis-miked live tracks. Williams’ "Drum Improvisation" segues into McLaughlin’s fuzz-toned "Dark Prince," which does not swing in a silent way. Pastorious’ theme song "Continuum" is scaled down to its essential twilight textures, while the drummer’s "Para Oriente" - which later became a stable in V.S.O.P’s book, and was recast as "Angel Street" – is rendered here in a funky, pre-grunge mode. The guitarist’s "Are You the One, Are You the One?" previews the jam band craze. The rest of the cuts were recorded a week later in a New York studio, But the warts-and-all original sides are unmatched for their primal power.

Certainly the potential of a recording by this trio featuring guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Tony Williams (both members of Lifetime with organist Larry Young) along with bassist Jaco Pastorius -- aka the Trio of Doom -- is enormous. This compilation contains a performance of the trio at the Havana Jam in 1979, a U.S. State Department-sponsored cultural tour by a large number of American musicians who played on the same stage as Cuban aces. The band rehearsed and had about 25 minutes on the stage.

Five days after leaving Cuba, the band reconvened in a New York City studio and recut most of the tracks. The studio versions (cuts six, seven, and ten) were released on a pair of various-artists compilations from the Cuban concert. McLaughlin felt at the time that the live performances were unusable because of Pastorius' playing. He relates the details in brief in the liner notes by Bill Milkowski. What this means, of course, is that out of ten cuts here, seven have never been released before. That said, the sum total of all the music that the group cut together is a little less than 40 minutes. From this, the opening drum solo by Williams takes up nearly three, and 20 seconds is of an alternate take of the drummer's "Para Oriente."

But this is not a dodgy rip simply assembled to make money from the stuff of myth. Well, it is designed to make money from myth, but there is some seriously intense music here. For starters, Williams' drum solo that opens the album is to die for. There is no excess, no showing off -- only an intense orgy of rhythm. When McLaughlin and Pastorius join him, the crowd must have gone crazy because he shifts nonstop into the guitarist's composition "Dark Prince." While his solo is overdriven, distorted, and rangy, full of angles and twists and turns, Jaco's playing on the head, and in taking the tune out, is solid.

Perhaps at the time this didn't seem up to snuff, but it's hard to hear that based on the disc. The entire band is engaged with focused attention, ascending scalar and harmonic peaks together for its six and a half minutes. It is followed by a beautiful ballad by Pastorius called "Continuum," which appeared on his self-titled solo debut for Columbia. It's a gorgeous and deeply melodic ballad, and the bassist's playing is intensely soulful and lyrical. McLaughlin's chord shadings and voicings are not only supportive, they bring weight and depth, as does the beautiful hi-hat work of Williams. (Speaking of which, on "Dark Prince" and elsewhere, it's obvious that Williams is the true inventor of the blastbeat, not some generic heavy metal drummer.

To hear his incessant bass drum and chronic cymbal-and-snare workouts is inspiring.) "Are You the One, Are You the One?," written by McLaughlin, closes the live set, and it's a funky, kinetic, and knotty jam with Williams playing breaks as well as pummeling the toms to get the funk up out of the thing. Pastorius' groove is incessant, even when he is matching the guitarist note for contrapuntal note. That's the good news. The studio versions of these cuts may "sound" better technically -- mostly due to the amplification and balance given the drum kit -- but they lack the raw edginess of the live sides. Still, fans of the fusion era, and those interested in any of these personas, will be much edified by what is found here. If only there were more of it.

An album was released on June 26, 2007, on Legacy Recordings, containing five tracks from Havana Jam and five recorded in the studio.

Tracklist

   01 "Drum Improvisation" (Tony Williams) – 2:46
   02 "Dark Prince" (John McLaughlin) – 6:36
   03 "Continuum" (Jaco Pastorius) – 5:11
   04 "Para Oriente" (Tony Williams) – 5:42
   05 "Are You the One? Are You the One?" (John McLaughlin) – 4:51
   06 "Dark Prince (live)" (John McLaughlin) – 4:11
   07 "Continuum" (Jaco Pastorius) – 3:49
   08 "Para Oriente" (alternate take one) (Tony Williams) – 1:05
   09 "Para Oriente" (alternate take two) (Tony Williams) – 0:20
   10 "Para Oriente" (Tony Williams) – 5:28

Tracks 1–5 were recorded on 3 March 1979, at the Karl Marx Theater, Havana, Cuba. Tracks 6–10 were recorded on 8 March 1979, at CBS Studios, New York.

Personnel:

John Mclaughlin - guitar
Jaco Pastorius - Bass
Tony Williams - Drums

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Scott Kinsey - 2019 "We Speak Luniwaz"

 


On We Speak Luniwaz, Kinsey presents a sequence of creatively arranged Zawinul gems, plus a couple of original compositions, with a gifted core band (saxophonist/flutist Katisse Buckingham, bassist Hadrien Feraud, and drummer Gergö Borlai) and guest stars.

“Scott Kinsey’s realization of these Weather Report tunes manages to not only pay tribute to the works of Zawinul and Shorter but also to mine the music for discoverable gold. His band plays the daylights out of these tunes. This album deserves your attention.”
— Peter Erskine

Widely known as one of the most skilled keyboard players of his generation, Scott Kinsey is also one of the foremost interpreters of Joe Zawinul’s rich musical legacy. As musical director of the Zawinul Legacy Band, Kinsey has delivered electrifying performances in celebration of Zawinul’s groundbreaking work with Weather Report and the Zawinul Syndicate.

On 'We Speak Luniwaz', his Whirlwind Recordings debut, Kinsey brings his expertise to bear on re-imaginings of seven scintillating Zawinul compositions, plus one by Wayne Shorter and two originals. Joined by electric bass phenom Hadrien Feraud, saxophone/flute master Katisse Buckingham and Hungarian drummer Gergo Borlai, this accomplished crew generates sparkling energy and percolating grooves on entrancing Zawinul fare like “The Harvest” ('Dialects', 1986), “Victims of the Groove” ('Lost Tribes', 1992), “Black Market” ('Black Market', 1976), “Fast City” ('Night Passage', 1980), “Between the Thighs” ('Tale Spinnin’', 1975) and “Where the Moon Goes” ('Procession', 1983). For the funky “Cucumber Slumber,” ('Mysterious Traveler', 1974), Kinsey showcases Buckingham’s skills as rapper with a testimony to Joe in a segment titled “World Citizen.”

“Zawinul’s music has been near and dear to me ever since the moment I first heard it,” Kinsey wrote in the liner notes. “My objective was to try to do justice to this material, more than anything as a little thank-you note to someone who certainly changed my life,” added Kinsey. “And someone who gave us all so much through his uncompromising and impossibly high musical standards. What Joe did was create his own personal language that was always in the moment and totally fresh! So with time, I also learned to speak Luniwaz, perhaps using my own personal dialect… I’m pretty sure he would have loved this record.”

Scott Kinsey is something of a leading light in the world of fusion thanks to his collaborations with the likes of Scott Henderson’s Tribal Tech, Alphonso Johnson and  John McLaughlin, new-school types like Matthew Garrison and Tim Lefbvre, and hipsters such as Thundercat and Flying Lotus, not to mention a host of movie scores. Here he returns to the fusion well-spring by exploring the legacy of one of the genre’s founding fathers, with whom he also enjoyed a fruitful working relationship as keyboard programmer and whose legacy he already supports via the official Zawinul Legacy Band. There’s a host of well-loved Zawinul Weather Report classics on offer here, plus Wayne  Shorter’s ‘Port Of Entry’ and a pair of originals by Scott and the band (essentially the same line-up as the Legacy Band plus Hungarian power drummer Borlai). In addition, in the best Weather Report tradition there’s a pool of percussionists, many of whom worked with the man himself.

The band sound terrific, and Hadrien Ferraud in particular continues to justify his place as the current holder of the Jaco mantle with his awesome speed, accuracy and creativity. There’s a slightly disconcerting rap from saxophonist Buckingham on ‘Cucumber Slumber’ but elsewhere the creative choices throughout are totally in keeping with the genre. While the project has the whole-hearted endorsement of the Zawinul family, and undoubtedly keeps the flame burning for his unique vision, one may feel that this album points the listener back towards the brilliance of the originals rather than holding the attention in its own right. But maybe that’s the idea.

Track listing:

01 The Harvest     
02 Victims of the Groove     
03 Cucumber Slumber / World Citizen Medley     
04 We Speak Luniwaz     
05 Black Market     
06 Fast City     
07 Running The Dara Down     
08 Port Of Entry     
09 Between The Thighs     
10 Where The Moon Goes

Personnel:

Scott Kinsey - keyboards, piano, vocoder
Katise Buckingham - tenor & soprano saxophones, flute, rhymes
Hadrien Feraud - electric bass
Gergo Borlai - drums

Special Guests:

Bobby Thomas Jr - percussion
Arto Tunçboyaciyan - percussion
Steve Tavaglione - saxophone
Jimmy Haslip - electric bass
Michael Baker - drums
Danny Carey - electronic drums
Cyril Atef - drums
Brad Dutz - percussion
Naina Kundu - voice

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

John Mclaughlin - 2022 "The Montreux Years"


 Unlike some of the Montreux Years series, of which this is the fifth installment, John McLaughlin: The Montreux Years presents six different bands and/or configurations as opposed to one continuous concert, as it marks the iconic guitarist’s performances from 1978 through 2016.  Fans will immediately recognize that these are all date later than the early days of the fusion pioneering Mahavishnu Orchestra although another incarnation of that group does appear in his 1984 performance. Rest assured that there is plenty of jazz fusion and electronic pyrotechnics in this 2-LP/single CD collection but the primary draw for this writer, and likely many, are his two scintillating duet performances with the late flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. Unfortunately, his band Shakti and his collaboration with Carlos Santana are not here, however. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of stimulating music from his One Truth Band, The Free Spirits, The Heart of Things, and the 4th Dimension in addition to the ‘80s era incarnation of The Mahavishnu Orchestra.

The album unfolds almost chronologically except that The Mavahishnu Orchestra begins followed by 1978’s One Truth Band. The first track, “Radio Activity”, has saxophonist Bill Evans, keyboardist Mitchel Forman, bassist Jonas Hellborg, and drummer Danny Gottlieb, all going at full throttle behind Gottlieb’s thunderous beats to create glorious jazz fusion that hearkens back to the band’s original ‘70s sound with Evans and Forman filling the original spots occupied by violinist Jerry Goodman and keyboardist Jan Hammer.  The One Truth Band features L. Shankar (violin), Stu Goldberg (keyboards), T.M. Stevens (bass) and Woody “Sonship” Thomas (drums) in a more improvised piece that combines fusion, funk, and traditional jazz forms in “Friendship,” complete with pulsating basslines, more frenetic drumming and exhilarating solos from McLaughlin, Shankar and Goldberg.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra returns for the more contemplative, ethereal “Nostalgia,” which begins with Forman’s keyboard intro, making way for Evans on soprano before engaging in a call-and-response dialogue with the keyboardist. McLaughlin eventually enters, carrying the melody while Evans and Forman, now on Rhodes, comps.  The sound that each draws from his respective instrument is uncanny, with the synth, soprano, and guitar tones almost interchangeable. The piece builds in intensity before receding again into spacey tones – in all, a gorgeous piece. The Heart of Things band from 1998 bring the ebbing, flowing, and at times warped fusion workout, in 13 electrified minutes of “Acid Jazz.” Sections of the piece create rather intriguing soundscapes but around the nine-minute mark, McLaughlin delivers a blurring series of notes, echoed by the other players who are keyboardist Omaro Ruiz, drummer Dennis Chambers, percussionist Victor Williams, saxophonist/flutist Gary Thomas, and bassist Matthew Garrison. So, these first four pieces essentially present the now legendary fusion side of McLaughlin’s artistry.

“David” is the first duet between McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia who takes the primary lead role to McLaughlin’s acoustic strums and fills, before making his own glowing statement in the latter half – a fascinating display of guitar mastery that becomes even more riveting in the second piece, “Florianapolis,” which goes through several tempo changes, some at mind-numbing speed. These are 23 to-die-for minutes.

Another nice surprise awaits (we are taking you through the LP order while the CD order is slightly different) with The Free Spirits (a trio with Joey DeFrancesco on organ and trumpet, and Dennis Chambers on drums) from 1995 in “Sing Me Softly of the Blues.” It begins with McLaughlin’s intro and some soft organ accompaniment, both of which reach the boiling intensity (despite the title) pushed by Chamber’s thundering drumming and crashing cymbals. DeFrancesco also begins his solo slowly before building to the combustion point.

McLaughlin ends by playing a piece written by Paco de Lucia but never recorded – “El Hombre Que Sabia.”  This is the most recent of the selections, tracing to 2016 with The 4th Dimension (keyboardist Gary Husband, bassist Etienne M-Bappe, and drummer Ranjii Berot. You’ll hear Mclaughlin make lightning runs of his electric akin to de Lucia’s acoustic lines with Husband switching back and forth from synths to acoustic piano reflecting the guitarist’s runs. The sustained note at the end is the perfect close to these wonderful selections from McLaughlin. As with all the Montreux series albums, the sound is immaculate – true ear candy in every respect.

Ranked in Rolling Stones magazine’s list of ‘100 Greatest Guitar Players of All Time’, John McLaughlin became a long-time friend of the Montreux Jazz Festival, having played at the iconic Swiss festival many times. The performances in this new collection are curated from six shows between 1978 to 2016 with the various ensembles of ‘The Mahavishnu Orchestra’, ‘The Heart Of Things’, ‘The Free Spirits’, ‘The 4th Dimension’ and his fellow virtuoso and close friend Paco de Lucia. Encapsulating McLaughlin’s time at the festival, “John McLaughlin: The Montreux Years” opens with the 1984 track Radio Activity by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, which McLaughlin reformed in the 80’s for the release of the album “Mahavishnu”.

Fans of the jazz fusion pioneer can immersive themselves in the superb and classic material that defined McLaughlin’s career, which includes the track Acid Jazz from the album “The Heart of Things”. Further exploring McLaughlin’s impressive repertoire, “John McLaughlin: The Montreux Years” includes the tracks Sing Me Softly Of The Blues from 1994’s “After the Rain” and El Hombre Que Sabia from McLaughlin’s studio album “Black Light”.

John McLaughlin: “To speak about The Montreux Jazz Festival brings back so many wonderful memories. But since my association goes back to 1971, we are looking at 50 years of history! Whether it’s the different incarnations of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Shakti, The One Truth Band, The Free Spirits, The Heart of Things, Carlos Santana or with the late great Paco de Lucia, the list goes on and on. Not only all my musical performances at Montreux, but all my other visits to see my dear friend Claude Nobs the founder, my friends of the festival, join jam sessions, go hiking in the fabulous countryside around that lovely town. Montreux is a big part of my life’s musical and personal history and to share this selection of my performances on this recording makes me truly happy.”

As one of the greatest guitar players in music history, John McLaughlin has been cited a major influence on many 70’s and 80’s artists, including the likes of Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Mike Stern and more. In 2018 McLaughlin won a Grammy for Best Improvised Jazz Solo, for his solo on Miles Beyond from his album “Live at Ronnie Scott’s”. With a German tour scheduled for March 2022, McLaughlin remains one of music’s greatest musicians and the release “John McLaughlin: The Montreux Years” is a testament to his legacy.

Launched in 2021, ‘The Montreux Years’ is the embodiment of the spirit of the Montreux Jazz Festival and the legacy of its much-loved founder, Claude Nobs. Nobs refused to compromise on quality or settle for anything other than the best and this ethos lives on in the superb quality of the recordings compiled in ‘The Montreux Years’. Mastering has been performed by Tony Cousins at London’s iconic Metropolis Studios, incorporating MQA to capture the original sound of the special live performances. Like previous releases of the series “John McLaughlin: The Montreux Years”, will be accompanied by exclusive liner notes by McLaughlin himself and previously unseen photography.

Track listing / Personnel:

1 John McLaughlin & The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Radio Activity - 10:08
Bass – Jonas Hellborg
Drums – Danny Gottlieb
Keyboards – Mitchel Forman
Saxophone – Bill Evans (3)
Written-By, Guitar – John McLaughlin


2 John McLaughlin & The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Nostalgia - 11:18
Bass – Jonas Hellborg
Drums – Danny Gottlieb
Keyboards – Mitchel Forman
Saxophone – Bill Evans (3)
Written-By, Guitar – John McLaughlin


3 John McLaughlin & The Heart Of Things – Acid Jazz - 13:03
Bass – Matthew Garrison
Drums – Dennis Chambers
Keyboards – Otmaro Ruiz
Percussion – Victor Williams
Saxophone, Flute – Gary Thomas
Written-By, Guitar – John McLaughlin


4 John McLaughlin & Paco De Lucía – David - 11:15
Guitar – Paco De Lucía
Written-By, Guitar – John McLaughlin


5 John McLaughlin & The Free Spirits – Sing Me Softly Of The Blues - 8:05
Drums – Dennis Chambers
Guitar – John McLaughlin
Organ, Trumpet – Joey DeFrancesco
Written-By – Carla Bley


6 John McLaughlin & Paco De Lucía – Florianapolis - 11:56
Guitar – John McLaughlin
Written-By – Mitch Forman*
Written-By, Guitar – John McLaughlin


7 John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension–    El Hombre Que Sabià - 7:26
Bass – Etienne M'Bappé
Drums – Ranjit Barot
Keyboards – Gary Husband
Written-By, Guitar – John McLaughlin

Allan Holdsworth - 2003 [2017] "Then"

 


Then! is the second official live album by guitarist Allan Holdsworth, released in 2003 through Universal Music (Japan) and Alternity Records (US), then on 1 June 2004 through JMS–Cream Records (Europe).The recordings were taken from three consecutive concerts in Tokyo, Japan during May 1990.

Recorded twelve years before his latest release, the similarly-live All Night Wrong , and at the same location in Tokyo, guitarist Allan Holdsworth demonstrates that while he's come a long way in the ensuing years, there's absolutely no reason not to look back at archival material such as this and stand in awe of a stylist who has singularly redefined the potential of his instrument. Then! captures Holdsworth and his band, keyboardist Steve Hunt, bassist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Gary Husband, during a three-night club date in 1990 when sparks were flying.

Holdsworth's reputation as a perfectionist has kept this performance out of the public eye for all too long, and so kudos is due to Chris Hoard and Derek Wilson of Alternity Records for ultimately convincing him to release it. One wonders just how many other recordings are sitting in the can, and how much coaxing it will take to get Holdsworth to release them. Shows like this would go a long way in satisfying Holdsworth fans, and keeping their interest in the long space between studio releases.

One of the immediate pluses about Then! in comparison to All Night Wrong , which is a trio disk, is the presence of Hunt. Using many of Holdsworth's original synthesizer patches, the group is able to pull off tunes from Holdsworth's Synthaxe period, including "Atavachron" and "Non- Brewed Condiment," with no loss of orchestral richness. Holdsworth has always had a personal sound on synths, and while Hunt clearly has his own playing style, having the Synthaxe patches available help keep the proceedings well within Holdsworth's sonic universe.

Any misgivings Holdsworth may have had about his performances on this date are purely his own; there's nary a misstep during the entire performance, and Holdsworth executes his signature blinding legato runs with the apparent ease and personality that make him an often emulated but never copied guitar hero. With compositions that date as far back as the mid-'70s Alan Pasqua tune, "Proto- Cosmos," from his time with the New Tony Williams Lifetime, and an instrumental version of "White Line" from his I.O.U. days, Holdsworth is in stellar form.

But as much as Holdsworth's own compositions dwell in their own harmonic space, what may be the most revealing tracks on Then! are the three "Zone" pieces, group improvs that bookend the recording and break it up in the middle. Rarely settling into any semblance of rhythm or groove, these are more textural works that demonstrate a group with its own take on free improvisation. While his style is clearly his own, Husband's debt to Tony Williams is clear, and it's difficult to imagine that the chops-laden Jimmy Johnson has also been the simple groove-meister of singer James Taylor's band for over ten years.

Then! captures Holdsworth at one of his many high points. With a new studio record in the making, and a two-disc compilation of his past work imminent on Alternity, Then! provides another perspective of a guitarist who has, quite literally, reshaped the face of the instrument.

The willingness of Allan Holdsworth to allow "Live - Then!" to crawl forth from the vault (recorded in Tokyo in May of 1990) required twelve years of mental fermentation and no small amount of coaxing. "Live - Then!" recalls a prolific time in Holdsworth's recording career, and captures the range of dynamics and sustained musical detonations the group unleashed on their live audiences. Syd Schwartz, Vice President at Virgin Music International writes, "Since 'fusion' became a bad word somewhere along the way, I won't use it to describe the music on this release. Instead, I'll say that this is electric jazz of the highest caliber....this quartet vibrates with an intensity and near-telepathic interplay that needs to be heard to be believed. Jazzheads, progrock lovers, and jamband fans will all find much to enjoy in this sonic gem from Allan's archives....let's hope it's the first of many."

Track listing:

01. Zone I (4:08)
02. Proto-Cosmos (5:42)
03. White Line (9:39)
04. Atavachron (4:42)
05. Zone II (5:30)
06. Pud Wud (8:05)
07. House of Mirrors (4:26)
08. Non-Brewed Condiment (5:44)
09. Zone III (7:39)
Bonus track (Japanese edition)
10. Funnels (7:11)

Personnel:

- Allan Holdsworth / guitar, baritone guitar
- Steve Hunt / keyboards
- Gary Husband / drums
- Jimmy Johnson / bass

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Mark Varney Project - 1990 "Truth In Shredding"

 


Truth in Shredding is the first studio album by the Mark Varney Project (MVP), released in 1990 through Legato Records and reissued on November 4, 2003, through Tone Center Records. MVP was a short-lived collaborative project put together by Mark Varney, brother of Shrapnel Records founder Mike Varney. Mark founded Legato in the 1980s, which served as a jazz-oriented counterpart to the rock stylings of Shrapnel. This incarnation of the group features guitarists Frank Gambale and Allan Holdsworth. Besides one track written by Gambale, the rest are covers of existing jazz fusion compositions.

1990 Legato Records release of MVP (The Mark Varney Project), "Truth In Shredding", offers "a relentless, thrill-a-minute, Indiana Jones of instrumental music! The guitar work by two Guitar Player Magazine Reader's Poll winners is staggering!" Those two winners happen to be none other than Allan Holdsworth (guitar, synthaxe) and Frank Gambale (rhythm guitar, lead guitar), who also produced the album of seven instrumentals - 99% of which was tracked live! Intense, mind-numbing, intimidating - all have been used to describe the music on "Truth In Shredding" - recommended for fans ranging from fusion to progressive to metal.

MVP stands for the Mark Varney Project. He has been a longtime recruiter of guitar speed demons such as Yngwie Malmsteen and Tony Macalpine. Here he brings together accomplished and established players. It is a very intense fusion recording that can be an intimidating listen both in terms of technique and the consistent intensity maintained throughout. The metal-influenced Frank Gambale is one of the pioneers of the sweep-picking technique that allows him to generate mind-numbing speed. Allan Holdsworth proves a good counterpoint, as his unique approach also produces lightning-quick runs. Guitar fans, especially the younger crowd, will appreciate the extended solos and lack of any commercial hooks here. It is basically a blowing date. This is not to say that the musicians don't deserve credit for their playing -- quite the contrary. Out of the two, Holdsworth seems a bit more inspired and more comfortable in this setting. Tommy Brechtlein turns in a fine performance on drums, especially when given some space on "Bathsheba." If taken in short doses, the impact of this recording is more effective. Recommended for fans ranging from fusion to progressive to metal.

Track listing:

1. "Rocks"    Randy Brecker    7:01
2. "Humpty Dumpty"    Chick Corea    6:31
3. "The Fall"    Wayne Shorter    8:15
4. "Not Ethiopia"    Michael Brecker    9:36
5. "New Boots"    Frank Gambale    6:24
6. "Ana Maria"    Shorter    9:15
7. "Bathsheba"    M. Brecker    8:16
Total length:    55:08

Personnel:

Frank Gambale – guitar, engineering, mixing, production
Allan Holdsworth – guitar, SynthAxe, overdub engineering
Freddy Ravel – keyboard
Tom Brechtlein – drums
Jimmy Earl – bass
Steve Tavaglione – saxophone, EWI

Friday, February 18, 2022

David Garfield - 2018 "Jazz Outside The Box"

 


Well known as musical director of George Benson keyboardist David Garfield pursues his own dream as a solo artist. His debut album was a homage to the late drummer Jeff Pocaro Tribute to Jeff (1997).

Next albums were I Am The Cat...Man (1997), Music From Riding Bean (2001), Giving Back (2003), Seasons Of Change, The State of Things, Tribute To Jeff Revisited (2005). His newest project is Jazz Outside The Box (2018).

Garfield performs on the new album piano, Fender Rhodes and synthesizers. Further players are trumpeter Wallace Roney, percussionist Poncho Sanchez and drummer Steve Jordan. Guest musicians are Randy Brecker, Michael McDonald, Tom Scott, Eric Marienthal, Pete Christlieb, Bennie Maupin, Brian Auger, Will Lee, Airto Moreira, the Charlie Bisharat String Quartet, an orchestra conducted by John Clayton, the late guitarists Chuck Loeb and Larry Coryell, and John Densmore, who plays drums and orates on a spoken word segment.

Sting has written with Fragile from his album Nothing Like the Sun (1988) an emotional highlight of music history. Garfield creates with great passion to the affecting structure of the theme an arrangement which is an outstanding example of musicianship. Harvest Time evokes associations with the homeland of the Midwest with its infinite expanses.

In a Sentimental Mood, a jazz composition by Duke Ellington (1935), has inspired generations of musicians. Garfield adds some Latin flavor to his version which revels in a rich horn arrangement with Walt Fowler on trumpet in the lead. Garfield gives the song Roxanne by the group Police a jazzy finish.

Song for My Father by the Horace Silver Quintet (1965), is re-interpreted by Garfield in a sophisticated way.  John Densmore cites the original lyrics by Horace Silver. The bass line was used by Steely Dan for the song Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, Garfield quotes Rikki on his cover in returned tribute and merges it with motifs of The Doors and other composers.

Late keyboardist Joe Sample (The Crusaders) wrote Rainbow Seeker in 1978. This rendition features late guitarist Chuck Loeb and Steve Jordan on drums. Oliver Nelson created Stolen Moments for the 1960 album Trane Whistle by Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and replayed it on his album The Blues and the Abstract Truth in 1961. Since then a jazz standard Garfield continues this tradition of bebop.

Voodoo Gumbo/Citizen Coryell features guitarist Larry Coryell, to whom Garfield has dedicated this tune. The jazz fusion piece East Lou Brew is inspired by Miles Davis and features Wallace Roney on trumpet, Bennie Maupin on sax and Larry Coryell on guitar.

Sophisticated Lady is a jazz standard, composed as an instrumental in 1932 by Duke Ellington. Irving Mills wrote later the lyrics, whose words were added to the song by Mitchell Parish. On this rendition vocalist Leslie Smith delivers with his timbre an authentic feeling.

Drummer Billy Cobham wrote Red Baron for his solo debut album Spectrum in 1973. A milestone in the fusion jazz genre it surely deserves Garfield's revisit featuring an all star band with Randy Brecker (trumpet, flugelhorn), Brian Auger (organ), Oz Noy & James Harrah (guitars), Leland Sklar (bass) and more.

The visits to the Saturday Mass of Operation Breadbasket inspired Joe Zawinul to write Country Preacher, which is explicitly dedicated to Jesse Jackson. From this developed finally the idea for the album of the same name by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet in 1969. Mike Finnigan excels on organ and Eric Marienthal on sax on this perfectly arranged interpretation.

Prophecy is a composition that David Garfield developed quite melody consciously, but also with the impetus to create as much space as possible for expansive solos. David is not the only one to grab his keys. Vinnie Colaiuta sets stimulating accents on his drum set. The recognizable Arabic structure in rhythm and melody structure intensifies towards the end of the piece before it rises in the final chord.

My Favorite Things is a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. In the same named 1965 musical drama film the main actor and singer was Julie Andrews. Garfield mingles in his orchestral and heavily instrumented version genially elements of musical, jazz and Latin to an inspiring and lasting musical experience.

Final tune on this album is an abbreviated version of Song for My Father. Alternate versions of Red Baron and Harvest Time are available as download. According to reports from well-informed sources Garfield expects this project to be expanded into a trilogy with the album Jamming Outside the Box and the upcoming album Vox Outside the Box. If Garfield's creative power allows it, Outside The Box could even become an ongoing series. Garfield has already hinted that on Facebook.

David Garfield's Jazz Outside The Box is without no doubt worthy of a Grammy Award. Musical performance, artistic expressiveness, sophisticated arrangements down to the last detail, the overall stylistic concept, a superior grasp of the intricacies of melody, to summarize in short a reference project of contemporary music.

Personnel:

    Acoustic Bass – Carlitos Del Puerto
    Acoustic Guitar – Diego Figueiredo
    Alto Saxophone, Alto Flute, Soprano Saxophone – Marty Ehrlich
    Backing Vocals – Lisa Branly
    Bass – Chuck Berghofer, Darryl Jones, Jimmy Earl, Jimmy Johnson (5), John Peña, Leland Sklar, Neil Stubenhaus
    Congas – Poncho Sanchez
    Drums – Curt Bisquera, Jimmy Branly, Joe Porcaro, Steve Ferrone, Steve Jordan, Vincent Wilburn, Vinnie Colaiuta
    Drums, Drum Programming – Bennie Rogers III
    Drums, Voice – John Densmore
    Guitar – Chuck Loeb, Dean Parks, Denny Dias, James Harrah, Larry Coryell, Marvin Home, Michael Landau, Michael Thompson, Oz Noy, Steve Sykes, Tony Pulizzi
    Keyboards – David Garfield
    Organ – Brian Auger, Mike Finnigan (2)
    Organ, Vocals – Bill Champlin
    Percussion – Airto Moreira, Joey De Leon, Jr., Kevin Ricard, Lenny Castro, Luis Conte, Richard Tokatz, Richie Gajate-Garcia
    Piano – Terry Trotter
    Saxophone – Eric Marienthal, Jim Stevens (7), Larry Klimas, Pete Christlieb, Steve Tavaglione, Tom Scott
    Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – Bennie Maupin
    Steel Drums – Robert Greenidge
    Strings – Charlie Bisharat
    Strings [Arrangement] – John Clayton
    Tres – San Miguel Perez
    Trombone – Francisco Torres (3), Nick Lane
    Trumpet – Chuck Findley, Dan Fornero, Wallace Roney, Wayne Bergeron
    Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Randy Brecker, Walt Fowler
    Vibraphone – Emil Richards
    Violin – Dayren Santamaria
    Vocals – Bruce Hamada, Carmen Grillo, Leslie Smith, Michael McDonald, Robbie Wyckoff
    Vocals, Bass – Jason Scheff, Will Lee

Track listing:
 
01 Fragile (feat. Michael McDonald, Bruce Hamada & Diego Figueiredo) 5:40
02 Harvest Time (feat. Eric Marienthal & Airto Moreira) [Acoustic] 5:51
03 In a Sentimental Mood (feat. Poncho Sanchez & Larry Klimas) 5:53
04 Roxanne (feat. Robbie Wyckoff & Joe Porcaro) 4:25
05 Song for My Father (feat. John Densmore, Denny Dias & Randy Brecker) [Full-Length] 7:13
06 Rainbow Seeker (feat. Chuck Loeb & Steve Jordan) [Acoustic] 5:47
07 Stolen Moments (feat. Tom Scott & Joe Porcaro) 4:55
08 Voodoo Gumbo/Citizen Coryell (feat. Larry Coryell & Airto Moreira) 2:24
09 East Lou Brew (feat. Bennie Maupin, Wallace Roney & Larry Coryell) 5:46
10 Sophisticated Lady (feat. Poncho Sanchez, Leslie Smith & Pete Christlieb)6:16
11 Red Baron (feat. Randy Brecker & Brian Auger) 4:08
12 Country Preacher (feat. Eric Marienthal & Mike Finnigan) 4:59
13 Prophecy (feat. Michael Landau & Vinnie Colaiuta) 4:33
14 My Favorite Things (feat. Robert Greenidge & Terry Trotter) 5:33
15 Song for My Father (feat. John Densmore, Denny Dias & Randy Brecker) [Radio Version] 4:41
16 Red Baron (feat. Oz Noy & James Harrah) [Alternate Version] 4:07
17 Harvest Time (feat. Eric Marienthal & Airto Moreira) [Extended Version] 6:52

Monday, February 7, 2022

Jimi Hendrix - 2002 "Blue Wild Angel" - Live at the Isle of Wight

 


In 1970, Jimi Hendrix returned to the country where he'd skyrocketed to fame and gave his first performances in almost two years when he headlined the Isle of Wight festival. Sadly, it was also to be his last major public appearance: less than three weeks later, he would be dead. Compiled from that performance (also available in its entirety as a limited-edition double disc), these recordings reveal a guitar legend in good humor, yet restlessly exploring the broader musical directions he'd just laid down on sessions for what would become First Rays of the New Rising Sun (initially released posthumously as The Cry of Love). Backed by Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and Band of Gypsys bassist Billy Cox, Hendrix ranges from the improvisatory cacophony of "Machine Gun" and a retooling of his standard blues workout "Red House" to renditions of "Dolly Dagger," "Freedom," and "Hey Baby" that trade on the more rhythmic R&B and jazz influences he'd diligently worked into his music. At times jagged, and straining the limitations of the trio format (Hendrix had publicly mused about working with a big band shortly before his death), it's nonetheless a passionate, intriguing clue as to Hendrix's true ambitions and potential beyond his initial hype and stardom.

Blue Wild Angel: Live at the Isle of Wight is a posthumous live album by Jimi Hendrix released on November 12, 2002. The album documents Hendrix's last U.K. live performance at the Isle of Wight Festival on August 31, 1970, three weeks before his death. The set list for the concert contained songs from the original Experience albums, as well as new songs. Some were previously available on Isle of Wight (1971) and Live Isle of Wight '70 (1991). "Power to Love (Message of Love)", "Midnight Lightning", and "Foxy Lady" released in the US on the three record set The First Great Rock Festivals of the 70s: Isle of Wight/Atlanta Pop Festival" released on Columbia Records in 1971.

"Isle of Wight" is one of Jimi Hendrix' last recorded live sets and it's a winner! There has been some restoration from roadie tapes to fill in some bad sound, but you'd never know it. All Music Guide has savaged this performance (as well as the excellent Woodstock set), but don't let that discourage you. I prefer this set over "Band of Gypsies" and it even includes a killer version of "Machine Gun" minus Buddy Miles' whooping and hollering. Subtle he was not. Mitch Mitchell is back on drums along with Billy Cox on bass (his main instument is bass, unlike doubler Noel Redding). All the fire and energy we all love from Jimi and company are on display here. What more could the Hendrix fan want?

Track listing:

01 God Save The Queen     
02 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band     
03 Spanish Castle Magic     
04 All Along The Watchtower     
05 Machine Gun     
06 Lover Man     
07 Freedom     
08 Red House     
09 Dolly Dagger     
10 Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)    
11 In From The Storm     

Personnel:

Jimi Hendrix - Guitar
Billy Cox - Bass
Mitch Mitchel - Drums

Monday, December 27, 2021

Pat Martino - 2003 "Think Tank"

 


Guitarist Pat Martino has tempered his serpentine, machine-gun improvisational style over the years into a soft-focus, graph paper stencil. His playing, at once mathematically dense and puritanical in its economy, can impress with long bursts of harmonic complexity and stylistic flourishes that cross rockabilly-esque chicken scratch with ECM-style repetition. All of this is on display on his cerebral, blues-tinged 2003 album Think Tank. His third album for Blue Note since 1997's All Sides Now, it finds him paired with the equally protean talents of saxophonist Joe Lovano, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Lewis Nash. Together, they play with a thoughtful intensity that's both meditative and exploding with improvisational ideas. Lovano is an especially intuitive foil for the guitarist with a floating, kinetic style that's well-suited to these flowing compositions. They both spiral through the title song, an intriguing scientific theorem of a tune that Martino built out of the letters in John Coltrane's name. The track, as with much of Think Tank, finds them dancing around drummer Lewis Nash's ever-present swinging groove and bassist Christian McBride's funky drones. Equally engaging is the ballad "Sun on My Hands," in which pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Martino delicately play off each other in a kind of plaintive call-and-response that brings to mind Martino's dusky, reflective 1976 album We'll Be Together Again. Elsewhere, Martino offers up the sinister, Middle Eastern-tinged modality of "Africa," the driving post-bop exuberance of "Earthlings," and the sun-dappled haze of "Before You Ask." Think Tank is a deep album, but never cold.

In the sense that a think tank is a collection of bright thinkers, guitarist Pat Martino’s characterization for his new CD really does hold up for this one-off session. Martino shares the front line with tenorman Joe Lovano, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash to form a very strong mainstream band.

Since reemerging in 1994 after a brain aneurysm effectively made it necessary to relearn how to play his instrument, Pat Martino has found himself in a variety of recording situations. Most of his recent albums as a leader have been made for Blue Note, but even a brief survey of those reveals Martino as a restless spirit, constantly shifting styles and bandmates to pursue his ever-evolving muse. Recent years have seen the guitarist largely abandoning the slightly trippy modal workouts that informed his best Prestige LPs from the late ’60s in favor of getting back to his soul jazz roots, as on 2001’s Live at Yoshi’s and his guest spot on The Philadelphia Experiment project. For this reason alone, his new release Think Tank is likely to raise more than a few eyebrows, as it marks a return to the modal-flavored hard bop upon which his reputation is largely based.

Martino doesn’t pull any punches, either, as one look at the lineup he’s assembled for his journey quickly proves. The band is as close to all-star as it gets in jazz these days, featuring saxophonist Joe Lovano (himself a Blue Note regular), pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Lewis Nash. As is so often the case (Lakers fans, back me up here), putting together a collection of ringers doesn’t necessarily translate into the uncompromising brilliance that can be achieved by a working group, but the results of their meeting as collected on Think Tank are certainly worth checking out.

The band is at its most effective on a trilogy of spiritually inclined pieces: “Think Tank”, “Africa”, and “Quatessence”. According to Martino, the CD became sort of an unintentional tribute to John Coltrane, particularly after Martino composed the title track using a mathematical system based on the letters of the saxophonist’s name. Beyond its academic construction, though, it’s easily the disc’s highlight, balancing the guitarist’s jittery arpeggios, Nash’s exquisite snare work, and Lovano’s heated restraint to effectively capture the spirit of its tributee. Their take on Coltrane’s “Africa” is also worth mentioning, if only for the utter genius of Rubalcaba’s playing (which, incidentally, is on display throughout the CD). The pianist exposes himself as a highly adept accompanist, whether reserving himself with a spatial economy that’s the perfect antithesis to Martino’s voluminous runs, or striking the ideal combination of rhythm and harmony to bridge the soloist and rhythm section.

 Track listing:

1. The Phineas Trane     6:36
2. Think Tank     12:07
3. Dozen Down     7:54
4. Sun On My Hands     9:16
5. Africa     11:43
6. Quatessence     9:56
7. Before You Ask     6:51
8. Earthings     5:32

Personnel:

Guitar, Producer, Artwork By [Cover] – Pat Martino
Tenor Saxophone – Joe Lovano
Bass – Christian McBride
Drums – Lewis Nash
Piano – Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Liner Notes – Bela Fleck*