Thursday, October 8, 2015

Mark Egan - 2007 "As We Speak"

(2-CD Set) The new release from legendary contemporary jazz bassist, composer and producer Mark Egan is an all-star trio recording featuring guitarist John Abercrombie and former Pat Metheny Group bandmate and Elements co-founder Danny Gottlieb on drums. This tour de force super trio showcases Mark, who is considered by many to be one of the world's leading bassists, performing highly interactive original compositions. This incredible 2CD set contains that rare combination of 16 stellar compositions, first rate musicianship and virtuoso solos from one of the most influential contemporary jazz improvising musicians in history. "As We Speak" is an important bass recording of our time and an absolute must for any creative music listener.

A daring, highly interactive trio outing from one of the premier electric bassists of contemporary jazz, a high water mark in his recording career

The only reason this gets 5 stars is because there are not more to give.
This is a double CD, trio with Egan on fretless bass, John Abercrombie on guitar and Danny Gottlieb on drums.
The music is contemporary improvisational. No standards here. It is very much in the moment and it is a first class example of jazz musicianship at its best.
The tunes range from engaging, mid-tempo jazz grooves (do NOT read that as "smooth jazz") to highly interactive free form improv. Most of the compositions are Mark's.
The musicians are constantly interacting, trading ideas. (I've had the CD for months and every time I play it, it sounds new) Egan's fretless Pedulla sings. It is the hallmark of the recording but does not dominate it. In fact, blindfold you might mistake this for a John Abercrombie CD. John is clearly enjoying himself here and this could be some of his best trio work ever. The give and take is palpable. Gottlieb is subtle and creative. Not constantly pushing as he might in a quartet, but weaving in and out, supporting, driving, creating.
And to top it all off, the production and recording quality couldn't be better.
I just can't say enough about how good this recording and this music is. But because it is released on a small label, As We Speak will probably not garner any big awards. And that is a true shame because this is great music and a recording.

This is full of some subtly exciting music on these two discs, recorded over two days, and produced by Mark Egan. There's a lot of tight ensemble work here. Egan's five string bass, and Abercrombie's guitar mesh into a seamless blend. Egan's (at times) lead bass blends effortlessly with Danny Gottlieb's drumming, which is very tight and on the money. His sensitive touch and constantly changing drum patterns are truly one-third of this trio's sound. He plays busily but never cluttered or overpoweringly.

Listen to "Stiletto" on Disc Two for a perfect example of the group's playing chops. Both Egan and Gottlieb, along with Abercrombie, have created some intense, tightly woven music in the truest sense of the guitar/bass/drums format. There's no pyrotechnics here. Abercrombie keeps everything at a subtle boil, and when he steps out for a solo, he's still a part of the trio's overall sound. Egan's bass work is always inventive and organic, and Gottlieb's drumming keeps the various parts from flying apart.

The first track, "Spirals", is a good introduction to this set but, if anything, the music seems to get even better the further you listen. Fans of early Pat Metheny Group will occasionally detect the sound from the Metheny/Egan/Gottlieb period of that group. All the compositions were written by Egan, except one ("Alone Together"), with four other tunes written by the trio. The discs snap in, inside a four panel cardboard holder. There's track information, small photos of the group, and a short essay from both Egan and Gottlieb.

This is one of those releases that rewards the listener the more you hear this music. The interplay between the players is very intuitive, and almost seems to be a living, breathing thing. If you're interested in some complex yet unfussy jazz, from three veterans of the genre, check this out.

While the innovations of the late Jaco Pastorius continue to be felt to this day, he's not the only electric bassist to develop a recognizable fretless sound. Born the same year as Pastorius, Mark Egan has built his career around a denser tone and more eminently lyrical disposition. While Pastorius was capable of equal melodism but often resorted to greater bombast, Egan has remained distinctive and been a more consistent team player. As We Speak is a strong example—the bassist's most open-ended blowing session as a leader, and a sharp contrast to the more produced Freedom Town (Wavetone, 2001).

Egan teams up with drummer Danny Gottlieb and guitarist John Abercrombie for this intimate trio date. Gottlieb and Egan go back over thirty years, best-known as charter members of guitar icon Pat Metheny's first group and their ongoing collaboration, Elements. Abercrombie may be the new face here, but his ability to fit any context—chameleon-like but always distinctly himself—makes him the perfect choice.

While Abercrombie continues to record as a leader for ECM, it's been many years since either Egan or Gottlieb have recorded for the German label. Still, this double-disc set of largely Egan compositions, recorded over just two days, has a certain in-the-moment vibe that wouldn't be out of place on that label. Songs like the ethereal "Spirals, with Gottlieb's delicate cymbal work and Abercrombie's sixteen-note motif, constantly reharmonized by Egan's shifting harmonic center, seem custom-fit for ECM, opening up into a free middle section that recalls the chemistry of Abercrombie's work with the Gateway trio.

It's no surprise that Egan was listening to Gateway when he conceived this project. On the title tune he manages to double its lengthy theme with Abercrombie, while dropping down deep throughout to give the song its harmonic foundation. This kind of shifting roleplay makes the disc so compelling. But what's perhaps most remarkable is how deep the shared chemistry is for a first meeting. Egan and Gottlieb would be expected to have an almost telepathic connection, but Abercrombie sounds as if he's been playing with them for years.

While the overall ambience is atmospheric and light, and many of the tunes open up into freer space, Egan's not averse to writing changes. The bluesy yet lyrical "Mississippi Nights features Abercrombie and Egan trading off the theme, while Gottlieb's brushwork keeps a subtle groove throughout.

Four free improvisations on disc two manage to generate some added heat to this generally understated session. Egan's "Stiletto also motors along, with Gottlieb creating a lightly funky foundation, while the rubato "Plane to the Trane is driven by Egan's singing tone.

Egan has been a busy sideman with everyone from Gil Evans to Sting, but this effort is distinctive and special. One of those unexpected gems that crop up only occasionally, As We Speak suggests a personal direction that he should pursue far more often.

Atmospheric and serpentine, the two-disc As We Speak finds electric fretless bassist Mark Egan leading his trio through a series of enigmatic and propulsive original songs. An acolyte of the late great bassist Jaco Pastorious, Egan has a lithe touch on his instrument, and tracks such as the leadoff "Spirals" evince a hypnotic, fusion-esque aesthetic. Joining Egan here are the equally superb jazz giants guitarist John Abercrombie and drummer Danny Gottlieb. These are three technical dynamos as well as artists sensitive to creative group interplay. Cuts such as "Dream Sequence" showcase this as Abercrombie and Egan both lay down harmonic lines against each other allowing Gottlieb to fill in the background with organic cymbal flourishes and flickering drum patterns. Cinematic and expansive, As We Speak has a real spark of intimacy and is a truly engaging work.

Disc 1

1       Spirals
2    As We Speak
3    Vanishing Point
4    Mississippi Nights
5    Alone Together
6    Your Sweet Way
7    Three-Way Mirror
8    Tone Poem for My Father

Disc 2
1    Shade and Shadows
2    Next Left
3    Dream Sequence
4    Depraw
5    Stiletto
6    Plane to the Trane
7    Time Out
8    Summer Sand


Mark Egan - Bass
John Abercrombie (guitar);
Danny Gottlieb (drums).

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Steely Dan - 1993 "Citizen" 1972 - 1980 [4 CD Box]

Citizen Steely Dan is a four-CD boxed set musical album by Steely Dan, released in 1993. The set is a collection of all of Steely Dan's albums (up to 1993) in chronological order, and also contains a non-album single ("FM (No Static at All)"), a non-album B-side ("Bodhisattva (Live)"), a rare compilation track ("Here at the Western World"), recorded during the sessions for The Royal Scam but released only on the 1978 Greatest Hits, and a previously unreleased demo of "Everyone's Gone to the Movies" (a song from their 1975 album Katy Lied).

The set is not, however, a complete compilation of every track released by Steely Dan up to 1993. Missing are both sides of the band's 1972 debut single ("Dallas" b/w "Sail the Waterway"), neither of which has ever been re-issued on CD. This is due to the band's dislike of the songs and refusal to allow them to be reissued.

Until 1998, this was the only place to find the remastered versions of the Steely Dan albums. However, because the albums were split up irregularly amongst the discs (in some cases with the track order changed), the remastered studio albums were issued in 1998, albeit without bonus tracks.

The first pressing features "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" using the single edit of the song. This version omits the percussive opening for the song. The second pressing of the boxed set features the version from the album although it was reissued without any information noting the change.

Glen Meadows remastered the CD set from the digital masters archived by Donald Fagen, Gary Katz and Roger Nichols in 1982. These digital tapes were prepared because the original analog tapes were in very poor shape. The earliest CD mastering for all the Steely Dan albums in 1985 used these digital tapes but MCA inexplicably used deteriorating analog masters for all later CD pressings until the 1998 remasters. This information was discovered by Roger Nichols in 1991 when he was asked his opinion of the Mobile Fidelity Gold reissues of Aja and Gaucho. Nichols discovered that the "Gaucho CD was even a different speed, about a quarter tone sharper" when compared to the original CD that he was involved in.

The 1993 boxed set remaster was the first time since the originally issued CDs that the albums used the correct source tape.

 Collecting all of Steely Dan's albums in chronological order, plus all of their two or three B-sides and one demo in a four-CD box, Citizen Steely Dan is only worthwhile for the fan replacing their old records. The remastering on the box is exactly the same as the newly upgraded CDs, and everything but the demo is available on other discs.

Track listing

All songs by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen except where noted.

    Disc One: Can't Buy a Thrill (tracks 1-10), Countdown to Ecstasy (tracks 11-16)
    Disc Two: Countdown to Ecstasy (tracks 1-2), Pretzel Logic (tracks 3-13), B-side (track 14), Katy Lied (tracks 15-21)
    Disc Three: Katy Lied (tracks 1-3), The Royal Scam (4-12), non-album single (track 13), Aja (tracks 14-16)
    Disc Four: Aja (tracks 1-4), non-album single (track 5), Gaucho (tracks 6-12), previously unreleased demo (track 13)

 Tracks Listing

 Disc: 1

1. Do It Again - 5:54
2. Dirty Work - 3:08
3. Kings - 3:45
4. Midnite Cruiser - 4:06
5. Only a Fool Would Say That - 2:55
6. Reelin' In the Years - 4:36
7. Fire in the Hole - 3:26
8. Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me) - 4:19
9. Change of the Guard - 3:38
10. Turn That Heartbeat Over Again - 4:58
11. Bodhisattva - 5:17
12. Razor Boy - 3:10
13. The Boston Rag - 3:10
14. Your Gold Teeth - 6:59
15. Show Biz Kids - 5:23
16. My Old School - 5:45

Disc: 2

1. King of the World - 5:00
2. Pearl of the Quarter - 3:49
3. Rikki Don't Lose That Number - 4:07
4. Night by Night - 3:38
5. Any Major Dude Will Tell You - 3:08
6. Barrytown - 3:19
7. East St. Louis Toodle-Do (Duke Ellington, Bubber Miley) - 2:48
8. Parker's Band - 2:43
9. Through with Buzz - 1:32
10. Pretzel Logic - 4:31
11. With a Gun - 2:17
12. Charlie Freak - 2:43
13. Monkey in Your Soul - 2:34
14. Bodhisattva (Live) - 7:41
15. Black Friday - 3:40
16. Bad Sneakers - 3:19
17. Rose Darling - 3:03
18. Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More - 3:13
19. Doctor Wu - 3:54
20. Everyone's Gone to the Movies - 3:44
21. Chain Lightning - 2:59

Disc: 3

1. Your Gold Teeth II - 4:12
2. Any World (That I'm Welcome To) - 3:53
3. Throw Back the Little Ones - 3:13
4. Kid Charlemagne - 4:37
5. The Caves of Altamira - 3:32
6. Don't Take Me Alive - 4:14
7. Sign in Stranger - 4:21
8. The Fez (Becker, Fagen, Paul Griffin) - 3:58
9. Green Earrings - 4:05
10. Haitian Divorce - 5:48
11. Everything You Did - 3:54
12. The Royal Scam - 6:31
13. Here at the Western World - 4:00
14. Black Cow - 5:08
15. Aja - 7:56
16. Peg - 3:55

Disc: 4

1. Deacon Blues - 7:33
2. Home at Last - 5:32
3. I Got the News - 5:04
4. Josie - 4:31
5. FM - 5:05
6. Babylon Sisters - 5:48
7. Hey Nineteen - 5:07
8. Glamour Profession - 7:28
9. Gaucho (Becker, Fagen, Keith Jarrett) - 5:30
10. Time out of Mind - 4:11
11. My Rival - 4:30
12. Third World Man - 5:14
13. Everyone's Gone to the Movies (Demo) - 3:57


    Donald Fagen – Organ, Synthesizer, Piano, Piano (Electric), Vocals, Vocals (background)
    Walter Becker – Bass, Guitar, Harmonica, Trumpet, Bass, Flugelhorn, Keyboards, Vocals
    Jeff Baxter – Guitar, Pedal Steel, Spanish Guitar
    Ray Brown – Bass (Upright)
    Randy Brecker – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
    Larry Carlton – Guitar
    Rick Derringer – Guitar, Slide Guitar
    Steve Gadd – Drums
    Steve Khan – Guitar
    Jeff Mironov – Guitar
    Anthony Jackson – Bass
    Rick Marotta – Drums
    Jeff Porcaro – Drums
    Mark Knopfler – Guitar
    Elliot Randal – Guitar
    Lee Ritenour – Guitar
    Timothy B. Schmit – Vocals (background)
    Wayne Shorter – Flute, Saxophone
    Michael McDonald – Keyboards, Vocals, Vocals (background)
    Joe Sample – Clarinet, Piano (Electric)
    Tom Scott – Clarinet, Flute, Arranger, Conductor, Sax (Alto), Sax (Tenor), Lyricon
    Chuck Rainey – Bass
    David Sanborn – Sax (Alto)
    Paul Humphrey – Drums
    Hiram Bullock – Guitar
    Wayne Andre – Trombone
    Jerome Aniton – Speech/Speaker/Speaking Part
    Patti Austin – Vocals (background)
    Ben Benay – Guitar (Acoustic)
    Crusher Bennett – Percussion
    Pete Christlieb – Flute, Saxophone
    Gary Coleman – Percussion
    Ronnie Cuber – Sax (Baritone)
    Denny Dias – Guitar, Sitar (Electric)
    Wilton Felder – Bass
    Victor Feldman – Percussion, Marimba, Vibraphone
    Michael Fennelly – Vocals (background)
    Venetta Fields – Vocals (background)
    Bob Findley – Horn
    Chuck Findley – Arranger, Horn, Brass
    Frank Floyd – Vocals (background)
    Gordon Grady – Vocals (background)
    Diva Gray – Vocals (background)
    Jay Graydon – Guitar
    Ed Greene – Drums
    Paul Griffin – Arranger, Keyboards, Piano (Electric), Vocals (background)
    Don Grolnick – Arranger, Keyboards, Clavinet
    Lani Groves – Vocals (background)
    Patricia Hall – Vocals (background)
    Jimmie Haskell – Arranger, Orchestration
    Jim Hodder – Percussion, Drums, Vocals
    Jim Horn – Flute, Saxophone
    Slyde Hyde – Horn, Brass
    Plas Johnson – Flute, Horn, Saxophone
    Royce Jones – Percussion, Vocals, Vocals (background)
    Walter Kane – Clarinet (Bass)
    Howard Kaylan – Vocals (background)
    Jackie Kelso – Flute, Saxophone
    Jim Keltner – Percussion, Drums
    Clydie King – Vocals (background)
    John Klemmer – Horn
    Rebecca Louis – Vocals (background)
    Johnny Mandel – Arranger
    George Marge – Clarinet (Bass)
    Nicky Marrero– Timbales
    Sherlie Mathews – Vocals (background)
    Myrna Matthews – Vocals (background)
    Lew McCreary – Brass
    Leslie Miller – Vocals (background)
    Lanny Morgan – Saxophone
    Rob Mounsey – Synthesizer, Arranger
    Michael Omartian – Piano
    David Palmer – Vocals, Vocals (background)
    Dean Parks – Guitar
    Bill Perkins – Saxophone
    Bernard "Pretty" Purdie – Drums
    Pat Rebillot – Piano (Electric)
    Jerome Richardson – Sax (Tenor)
    James Rolleston – Vocals (background)
    John Rotella – Saxophone
    Zachary Sanders – Vocals (background)
    Valerie Simpson – Vocals (background)
    Casey Syszik – Vocals (background)
    Mark Volman – Vocals (background)
    Florence Warner – Vocals (background)
    Ernie Watts – Saxophone
    Toni Wine – Vocals (background)
    Snooky Young – Flugelhorn

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Helmet Of Gnats - 2004 "Helmet Of Gnats II"

A Helmet of Gnats has been around in various incarnations since around 1980, playing music of bands like U.K., Return to Forever, Zappa, Brand X, Happy the Man, Ponty, Focus and the Dixie Dregs along the way. You can hear the amalgamation of these bands in the unique sound of their second eponymous cd...and it is simply SUPERB!

All of the band members attended Berklee College of Music at one point or another, and their pedigrees show up in the flawless chops they exhibit. Guitarist Chris Fox plays some very melodic lines with a sound that reminds me most of Allan Holdsworth and Jeff Beck in many places. Influenced by Rick Wakeman and Eddie Jobson, Matt Bocchino provides a great symphonic rock background to much of this jazz fusion, frequently favoring the organ as his weapon of choice. Bass player Wayne Zito lists Chris Squire as one of his influences, but I hear a lot of fretless bass a la Jeff Berlin and the like. And drummer Mark Conese is more on the jazz side of drumming (think Bill Bruford and Billy Cobham), but he keeps a strong, confident groove driving these songs as well.

If I could fantasize an all-instrumental supergroup of Beck, Jobson, Berlin and Cobham, it would sound like this! They do not disappoint, folks - very energetic and interesting, with original and complex compositions.

The 3-1/2 minute "Lesser Beings" is the only quirky/spacy track that they could have left off the album (and delighted me even more). But the rest of the album is fast-paced, melodic, fusiony, groove-driven, symphonic progressive rock bliss...and gnats a fact ;-)

This record is one of those records that delivers exactly what i am looking for in a record; rising/falling action and a level of performance that only gets better as the record progresses. Each track has a life of it's own as well as a life within the greater context of the record. Just in the first few tracks, the band shows you what they can do, and trust me...they can do. From the very beginning, to the very end, the record shows the various types of music the band works with while truly illustrating the sound of the band itself. With multiple movements in each piece and virtuosic mastery of their instruments, helmet of gnats proves to be an outstanding progressive band that, you can tell, puts much care into the production of their music. 

A Helmet of Gnats biography
Chris Fox- Guitar- Berklee College of music. Played briefly with Eddie Jobson (Zappa,UK,Yes)
Mathew Bocchino -Keyboards- Attended Berklee Collegel of music
Mark Conose-Drums-Berklee College of Music and Miami Univeristy
Wayne Zito-Bass-Berklee College of Music

As you can see the members of this band have a great pedigree in music. They bring their assorted talents to the group known as A Helmet of Gnats. As that name suggests music high in energy but balanced in virtuosity. A blend of Jazz with a dash of classical elements underlined by some very good in your face rock.

In 1980 guitarist Chris Fox and keyboardist Mathew Bocchino decided to form a band while in high school. This band was to play the music of such progressive giants as UK, Frank Zappa and Kansas. They called themselves Left Testicle and only played three concerts (small wonder with that name). By 1982 this band had morphed into more of a fusion cover band called "By-Product" doing covers by Return to Forever, Bruford and The Dixie Dregs. Their live shows left everyone wanting more.

The band changed their name to Helmet of Gnats in late 1982. After several line up changes at bass and drums AHoG played mostly Dixie Dregs covers. More Personnel changes left the band without a bass player. They recorded some demos using a Roland midi sequencer for the bass lines but by 1988 they had disbanded.

Chris and Matt reformed in 1990 a more mainstream band with a female vocalist. They called themselves "Doctor Curious" named after the singers gynecologist. After a short time Chris and Matt decided they wanted a return to the instrumental adventurous music they loved. They fired the signer and took back the name Helmet of Gnats. They released a self titled album in 1996 with Nicki Defala on bass and Nicki Vitiello on drums. By 2000 the band had replaced the Nicki's with Wayne Zito on bass and Mark Conese on drums. In 2004 they released their second CD A Helmet Of Gnats II. They tour with this line up to this day.

Fans of fusion such as Return to Forever and Dixie Dregs will enjoy this band. Recommended highly!

Why this artist must be listed in :
Great band in the fusion style of Return to Forever and Dixie Dregs. Samples can be heard on the bands web site:

A Helmet of Gnats 1996
A Helmet of Gnats II 2004

I received this CD thru SwapaCD from Chris, the guitar player :-)

Track Listing:

1. Almost Babylon
2. Chinese Leftovers
3. Yesterday's Brain
4. Crumbs
5. Lesser Beings
6. Misfit Toys
7. Chimps in Space


Chris Fox- Guitar
Mathew Bocchino -Keyboards
Mark Conose-Drums
Wayne Zito-Bass

Monday, October 5, 2015

Kevin Eubanks - 1985 "Opening Night"

I seen Kevin's band in St. Louis shortly after he left the tonight show. He had a few of the guys (musicians) with him from the show. They ROCKED!! He is one of those players in the upper most part of the atmosphere, he's a master.

Track listing

    1 Opening Night 4:00
    2 Shades of Black 5:02
    3 The Navigator 4:43
    4 Thought About Thinking 4:03
    5 In Flight From Omelas 4:06
    6 A Place Before You've Been 6:01
    7 Vera's Isle 4:50
    8 To Be Continued 4:41


Kevin Eubanks
    Guitar (Acoustic), Producer, Bass, Guitar (Electric), Guitar
Branford Marsalis
    Sax (Tenor)
Buster Williams
Kent Jordan
    Flute (Alto)
Big Black
    Bass, Tumba, ?
Tommy Campbell
David Eubanks
Kenny Kirkland
Marvin "Smitty" Smith

Various Artists - 1996 "Sometimes God Hides" Young Persons Guide To Discipline Vol. I

On Aug. 9, 1996 I seen King Crimson at the H.O.R.D.E. Fest with other bands including, Lenny Kravitz, Blues Traveler, Rusted Root..etc.. Wearing my Larks Tongues In Aspic T-Shirt some young gentleman approached me asking if I liked King Crimson, I said of course! and he handed me a post card, told me fill it out and they would send me a sampler CD, I did and a few weeks later I recieved this in the mail.

Sometimes God Hides is a musical stew made up of guitar-laden progressive and jazz-rock tracks, mainly from King Crimson and their solo members. With the likes of Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp leading the way, this sampler from the DGM label offers a kaleidoscopic journey through the amazing guitar craft of these talented musicians, along with some excitingly vivid excursions from Trey Gunn and the California Guitar Trio and a peculiar mix of new age and ambient from the Europa String Choir. Subtitled "The Young Persons' Guide to Discipline," these 23 tracks open up a whole new world of guitar and string manipulation, fusing familiar techniques with aberrant rhythms, electronic pastiches, and appealing yet incongruous string arrangements. Cuts such as Belew's "Burned By the Fire We Make" and King Crimson's "Red" (from an official bootleg album out of Argentina) tread on cordial rock ground but are still entertaining while, at the other end of the spectrum, tracks like Peter Hammill's haunting a cappella entitled "A Better Time" and "Voices of Ancient Children" from Los Gauchos Alemanes swoop and soar with a blend of new age mystery and modernized ambience. While the focal point of most of the songs is the guitar, the surrounding atmosphere of trancelike keyboard runs and unique string applications creates a multi-dimensional effect throughout each track. Moody and eccentric, this sampler makes for a truly peculiar instrumental journey. 

This CD is a VERY GOOD sampler of the various artists signed to Discipline Global Mobile (Robert Fripp's label). It features 23 long clips of the music by those artists, and focuses mainly (as should be expected) on Fripp's bands and offshoots.
The "flow" of the album is very good, and actually works as an album, even if it is only a sampler.
The thing about King Crimson's/Robert Fripp's music is that after you discover it, and begin digging for the music that's "near" to it (band member's solo careers, Fripp's other bands), you find a LOT of great music. This CD is a great way of having a general view of all that music.

An excellent overview of music available on Robert Fripp's "Discipline Global Mobile" label. If you've already expanded your mind with King Crimson, this may blow your mind.

Track listing / Personnel:

1. Cage - King Crimson
2. Red - King Crimson
3. Burned By The Fire We Make - Adrian Belew
4. Sleepwalk - California Guitar Trio
5. Mingled Roots - Tony Levin
6. Midnight Blue - Robert Fripp
7. Hope - Robert Fripp String Quintet
8. THRaKaTTaK I - King Crimson
9. Radiophonic II - Robert Fripp
10. Voices Of Ancient Children - Los Gauchos Alemanes
11. A Better Time (Acapella) - Peter Hammill
12. 2006 - Robert Fripp
13. Train To Lamy Suite - California Guitar Trio
14. The Last Three Minutes - Ten Seconds
15. The Third Star - Trey Gunn
16. Sermon On The Mount - Europa String Choir
17. Be Longing - Gitbox
18. Scanning II - Robert Fripp
19. Inductive Resonance - League of Gentlemen
20. Real Life - Trey Gunn
21. A Connecticut Yankee In The Court Of King Arthur - Robert Fripp & The League Of Crafty Guitarists
22. Epitaph - King Crimson
23. Sometimes God Hides - Robert Fripp

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Various Artists - 1998 "Sometimes God Smiles" Young Persons Guide To Discipline Vol. II

The second volume of Discipline Global Mobile's sampler of some of prog rock's most prominent guitar gurus is seven tracks richer than the first and is bettered by the jazz-infused likes of Projekct One and Projekct Two, a band made up of ex-King Crimson members. A slight bit jazzier and more full-colored than the first Young Person's Guide to Discipline, Sometimes God Smiles is bolstered by four amazingly attractive tracks from Be Bop Deluxe's Bill Nelson, with "The Strangest Things, the Strangest Times" coming out on top. King Crimson's contributions of "Three of a Perfect Pair" and "Easy Money" are passable tracks, but they can't hold a candle to cuts like Matt Seattle's "Lindisfarne" or the trip-tinged outer layer of Mr. McFall's Chamber's "Allegretto." Covering all the angles of guitar-formulated rock, jazz, and ambient-based music, Sometimes God Smiles takes these genres to appeasable extremes, with each group working in bits of blanketed synthesizers and assorted instrumental washes to heighten each song's elemental makeup. Void of any self-absorbed showiness or blatant pretentiousness, the music that makes up this sampler is both tantalizingly obscure and modernly expressive, with something different to be heard with each listen.

Jeez, that's some typing I had to do. All in all 30 tracks from the Discipline stable including tracks from albums released this year, that I do now know (like Bill Nelson). Also some tracks are featured from forthcoming releases.

The Music
Well I hope you will understand me not going through all the songs, especially since some of them are alreayd featured on this web page: 1, 2, 6, 9, 10, 11, 15, 17, 22, 26 and 27, which I will therefore skip. First there's the stormy percussion and hectic keyboards of ProjeKct Two's Heavy Construction, then Costello/Langers Shipbuilding played in a rather classical way by Mr. McFall's Chamber. After the samples and quick percussion of Bill Nelson's Wild And Dizzy we come to the promising sound of the acoustic guitar Tony Geballe's Native Of The Rain. After the short pianic Profaned Sanctuary Of The Human Heart by Bill Nelson we continue with an oldy: the loud Of Bow And Drums with Belew's typical drawn-out vocals and Belew himself follows with the indeed filmic Score With No Film. After another piece by Nelson we come to Radical Dance's Sabre Dance that sounds a lot like Fripps Soundscapes with rhythm and really seems to have nothing to do with the all-familiar Sabre Dance (in fact the credits list Fripp, Mastelotto and David Singleton). The California Guitar Trio play the well-known Allegro Con Brio from Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 from their latest album. Mr. McFall's Chamber continue with Shostakovitch Allegretto and followed by the percussion of Prism from King Crimson's forthcoming live album Live In Mexico City. Another live track is 4(i) from Space Groove's Live At The Jazz Cafe, seemingly scheduled for release in early 1999. After this raucuous track Bill Nelson makes his final appearance with a somewhat funky track. One Jacob Heringman makes a lone, live appearance playing Toccata Seconda and is followed by a revamped 21st Century Schizoid Man which is only 50 seconds long. The album closes with the all-familiar Dinosaur, sounding quite classical at first, Matt Seattle's live performance on bagpipes, letr joined by acoustic guitar, of the Highlanderish Lindisfarne and Fripp's On My Mother's Birtday from the forthcoming Live On G3.

The booklet features information on all the releases sampled on this album, except the ones that have not been released.

Although I would want to make a slight exception for the classical pieces and Seattle's Lindisfarne on this album, for a compilation it has a distinctly consistent sound. All music is off the beaten path and the only really familiar sounding tracks are by King Crimson, far and away the best known and probably best-liked of the bands here. But it is close to wonderful that a compilation can be such that one does not even notice the going from one track to the next at times (such as going from Nelson's The Profaned Sanctuary Of The Human Heart to Hammill's Nothing Comes). As such this positively priced sampler is THE way to get to know the Discipline stable and to convince yourself that there might be something worthwhile on it. Although the music on this album is often more "interesting" to listen to, than "beautiful", I myself need no such convincing.

Track listing / Personnel:

1)     King Crimson - Three Of A Perfect Pair - Absent Lovers     4.19
2)     Adrian Belew - Never Enough - Belewprints     2.12
3)     ProjeKct Two - Heavy Construction - Live Groove     2.12
4)     Mr McFall's Chamber - Shipbuilding - Like The Milk     1.42
5)     Bill Nelson - Wild And Dizzy - Atom Shop     1.23
6)     Bruford Levin - Original Sin - Bruford Levin Upper Extremities     2.32
7)     Tony Geballe - Native Of The Rain - Native Of The Rain     2.09
8)     Bill Nelson - Profaned Santuary Of The Human Heart - What Now, What Next?     0.43
9)     Peter Hammill - Nothing Comes - Everyone You Hold     2.06
10)     Robert Fripp - Pie Jesu - Pie Jesu     2.56
11)     Bill Bruford - Amethyst - If Summer Had Its Ghosts     2.59
12)     Adrian Belew - Of Bow And Drum - Op Top Zoo Wah     3.06
13)     Adrian Belew - Score With No Film - The Guitar As Orchestra     1.20
14)     Bill Nelson - The Strangest Things, The Strangest Times - What Now, What Next?     1.52
15)     Gorn, Levin, Marotta - Shepherd's Song - From The Caves Of The Iron Mountain     2.39
16)     Radical Dance - Sabre Dance - Previously Unreleased     2.56
17)     Robert Fripp - On The Approach Of Dbout - That Which Passes     0.29
18)     California Guitar Trio - Allegro Con Brio, Symphony No. 5 - Pathways     2.58
19)     Mr. McFall's Chamber - Allegretto - Like The Milk     1.57
20)     King Crimson - Prism - Live In Mexico City     1.27
21)     ProjeKct One - 4(i) - Live At The Jazz Cafe     4.12
22)     ProjeKct Two - Space Groove 2 - Space Groove     2.44
23)     Bill Nelson - Spinning Dizzy On The Dial - Atom Shop     1.59
24)     Jacob Heringman - Toccata Seconda - Unreleased Live Performace     1.41
25)     ProjeKct Two - 21st Century Schizoid Man - Live Groove     0.50
26)     Bruford Levin - Interlude - Bruford Levin Upper Extremities     0.18
27)     King Crimson - Easy Money - The Night Watch     6.04
28)     King Crimson - Dinosaur - Live On Broadway     4.16
29)     Matt Seattle - Lindisfarne - Out Of The Flames     2.34
30)     Robert Fripp - On My Mother's Birthday - Live On G3     3.50 

Bill Bruford - 1979 "One Of A Kind"

Bruford were a band that former Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford formed and led in the late 1970s.
Bill Bruford had assembled a band for his debut solo album, Feels Good to Me, with Dave Stewart (keyboards), Jeff Berlin (bass), Allan Holdsworth (guitar) and Bruford (drums). That album also had Annette Peacock on vocals, and Kenny Wheeler on flugelhorn. A second album was then released under the band name Bruford and was mostly instrumental, and on the live album The Bruford Tapes (a live show originally broadcast for radio station WLIR) and associated tour, guitarist The 'Unknown' John Clark replaced Holdsworth. Bass player Berlin sang the vocals on Gradually Going Tornado.

One of a Kind is an album by the British band Bruford. It was released in 1979 and is a collection of progressive melodies with much jazz exploration, in style that can be defined within the limits of jazz fusion. It is also considered a classic in instrumental rock. The group led by drummer Bill Bruford features guitarist Allan Holdsworth, bassist Jeff Berlin and keyboardist Dave Stewart. Some of the material ("Forever Until Sunday", which features an (originally) uncredited Eddie Jobson on violin, and "The Sahara Of Snow") was originally performed live by U.K. on its 1978 tour, but taken for use on this album when Holdsworth and Bruford exited that band. Stewart's "Hell's Bells" used a fragment penned by his former National Health colleague Alan Gowen (the 3-chord pattern underlying the guitar solo).

Bill Bruford ended his brief affair with U.K. and condensed his original outfit to a quartet, releasing a second album of sinewy, celebratory jazz/rock fusion, One of a Kind. Good-humored twists and turns abound in the music, punctuated by Bruford's steadying if slightly subversive rhythms, Allan Holdsworth's flashes of fire, Jeff Berlin's insistent bass, and Dave Stewart's remarkably colorful keyboards. At the heart of many of these songs is an uplifting melody, a trait shared with fusion artists like Weather Report and Jean-Luc Ponty, though Bruford's outfit favors a faster pace than the former and pursues more musical avenues in a single song than the latter. When he takes to tuned percussion, Bruford can even sound like Frank Zappa (both bands have a funky side to them). Standout cuts this time include "Hell's Bells," "Fainting in Coils" (which, in an indirect link to his previous employers, would have felt at home on Robert Fripp's Exposure), "Five G," and "The Sahara of Snow." The remaining tracks are a little less muscular, and the band's strength would seem to lie in fusion propelled by the complex rhythmic patterns of Bruford and Berlin (i.e., when the band leans closer to the rock side of the fusion family). Those who enjoy their fusion with a healthy dose of rock will find One of a Kind a fair match for anything from Return to Forever or Brand X. Note that many of these songs also appear in live versions on the beat-the-boots release The Bruford Tapes

Bill Bruford ended his brief affair with U.K. and condensed his original outfit to a quartet, releasing a second album of sinewy, celebratory jazz/rock fusion, One of a Kind. Good-humored twists and turns abound in the music, punctuated by Bruford’s steadying if slightly subversive rhythms, Allan Holdsworth’s flashes of fire, Jeff Berlin’s insistent bass, and Dave Stewart’s remarkably colorful keyboards. At the heart of many of these songs is an uplifting melody, a trait shared with fusion artists like Weather Report and Jean-Luc Ponty, though Bruford’s outfit favors a faster pace than the former and pursues more musical avenues in a single song than the latter. When he takes to tuned percussion, Bruford can even sound like Frank Zappa (both bands have a funky side to them).

Track listing

    "Hell's Bells" (Alan Gowen, Dave Stewart) 3:32
    "One of a Kind, Pt. 1" (Bill Bruford) 2:20
    "One of a Kind, Pt. 2" (Bruford, Stewart) 4:00
    "Travels with Myself — And Someone Else" (Bruford) 6:10
    "Fainting in Coils" (Bruford) 6:33
    "Five G" (Jeff Berlin, Bruford, Stewart) 4:41
    "The Abingdon Chasp" (Allan Holdsworth) 4:50
    "Forever until Sunday" (Bruford) 5:46
    "The Sahara of Snow, Pt. 1" (Bruford) 5:18
    "The Sahara of Snow, Pt. 2" (Bruford, Eddie Jobson) 3:23


    Bill Bruford – percussion, drums, speaking the role of the Mock Turtle on "Fainting In Coils"
    Allan Holdsworth – electric guitar
    Dave Stewart – keyboards, synthesizers
    Jeff Berlin – bass
    Eddie Jobson – violin on "Forever Until Sunday"
    Anthea Norman Taylor (currently Mrs. Brian Eno) - speaking the role of Alice on "Fainting In Coils"
    Sam Alder (of E.G. Records) - voice of the narrator on "Fainting In Coils"

Larry Coryell - 1972 "Barefoot Boy"

Produced by Bob Thiele and recorded at Electric Lady studios with engineer Eddie Kramer, Barefoot Boy is one of Larry Coryell's finest recordings as a leader. "Gypsy Queen" was recorded prior to bassist Mervin Bronson's arrival at the studio, and features the percussion section locking into a groove over which Coryell lays down a riff and Steve Marcus cuts loose with a fiery soprano sax solo. When it's his turn to solo on this opening number, Coryell turns up the heat, sounding like a cross between Jimi Hendrix and Sonny Sharrock. (Coryell played with Sharrock on Herbie Mann's Memphis Underground.) "The Great Escape" finds Coryell cooking over a bass and percussion groove, with Marcus on tenor sax. "Call to the Higher Consciousness" is a side-long 20-minute jam in which all the players take a ride, with Marcus once again cooking on the soprano sax. Roy Haynes is superb throughout, working in tandem with the percussionists to keep the music moving. This recording is a noteworthy example of the possibilities inherent in the early days of fusion, blending the electrifying energy of rock with the improvisational excitement of jazz.

Probably Larry Coryell's most important album outside the Eleventh House efforts, Barefoot Boy is the first truly jazz-rock album of his. Although LC took the Village Gate line-up of Bronson and Wilkinson, he future regular collabs Steve Markus (sax) and his old school friend Mike Mandel (KB) to make a sensational line-up that will make the next few albums' basis. With one of the poorer artwork of his early discography, BB is just three tracks but do they ever smoke, breathing in some cool rapid conga-fuelled rock and swallowing a wild sax and spewing out a torrid incandescent lava flow that will set fire to your speakers if listened to loud, let alone your brain cells.

Indeed the 12-mins Gypsy Queen is a long steady rapid-fire rock beat, but it serves as a base for Markus' absolutely wild sax solo, while Coryell either supports Markus or outdoes him in astounding Hendrix-like solos. The following 8-mins+ Great Escape is a much funkier (but in a very rock way) driven on Bronson's bass, where again LC is pouring his heart into his solo. Somehow the second Traffic line-up (Kwaaku Reebop) is not far away. The flipside is a sidelong extrapolation of The Higher Consciousness, where Markus and Coryell directly take the track into pure Nucleus-like fusion with Mandel pulling the track later in a Coltrane mode, although he won't match Tyner's brilliance, but still manage a good rendition. Too bad the track is plagued with an almost 4 minutes drum solo (Haynes is no Elvin Jones), but once the track resumes, complete madness has taken over the musos

Although LC had made some terrific albums up to this one, they were, shall we say a bit in the Hendrix mode, something that dramatically changes with BB. Well LC had found a stable group and it would be the same line-up to appear on next year's just as superb Offering and the much poorer Real Great Escape, before LC will take Mandel to found The Eleventh House. Possibly LC's crowning achievement, this album is an easy five star. 

I was privileged to see Larry Coryell several times in New York during the years that they recorded "Barefoot Boy." This studio album comes as close to a live performance as any I have ever heard. "Barefoot Boy" is, hands down, THE BEST Coryell you'll ever hear. He has evolved through many phases, and is still quite active today, but the late 60's--early 70's Coryell remains his finest. This music is called "jazz-rock fusion," but it is much more jazz than rock. For sheer wailing power, you can't beat it. If you only buy one CD this year, make it this one.

A lesser-known but essential fusion record. Few have touched the energy of jazz-rock cosmic explorations more than Larry Coryell during his alcohol fueled mid-70s heyday. In the spirit of Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Inner Mounting Flame" or Return To Forever's "Light as a Feather", "Barefoot Boy " thrusts the listener into a organic ebb and tide of electric explosion and jazz introspection. Backed by the solid and funky rhythm section of drummer Roy Haynes, bassist Mervin Bronson, Coryell and soprano sax player Steve Marcus trade scorching sequences of notes.
The album's first track, "Gypsy Queen", is a cosmic spin-off of Gabor Szabo's composition. "The Great Escape" is rooted in deep funk and an unorthodox rhythm pattern. Timed at just long that 20 minutes, "Call to Higher Consciouness" exposes the band's dynamism. The melodic slow burning track lives up it's name. Barefoot Boy is essential for any complete jazz fusion or guitar hero collection. 

Tracks Listing

1. Gypsy Queen ( 11:50 )
2. The Great Escape ( 8:39 )
3. Call To Higher Consciousness ( 20:00 )

Total time : 40:29

Recorded at Ladyland Studios 1971

Line-up / Musicians

- Larry Coryell / guitar
- Steve Marcus / soprano saxophone, side 1 tracks 1,2
tenor sax, side 2
- Mervin Bronson / bass, side 1, track 2, side 2
- Mike Mandel / piano side 2
- Roy Haynes / drums
- Lawrence Kilian / congas
- Harry Wilkinson / percussion

Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention - 1968 [1991] "The Ark"

This is a bootleg album, released by Frank Zappa without enhancement, and also available as part of the Beat the Boots! box set. It features a live performance by the Mothers of Invention in July 1968 at the Ark, a club in Boston. Apparently, the Mothers themselves were recording the show, so it appears in adequate sound quality, and it catches the Mothers as they were moving from the doo-wop sound of their Verve albums to Uncle Meat. There is an extended version of "King Kong," from the latter.

"The Ark" is by far my favorite CD from the "Beat the Boots #1" series. In fact, it is one of my favorite Zappa CDs in general, even when viewed with respect to his immense catalog. What makes this disc so wonderful is that the sound quality is excellent (remember, this was originally a bootleg) and the tunes exhibit the full splendor and diversity of the early Mothers of Invention. "Big Leg Emma" really cooks with its strong drumbeats and precise changes. Then, hilariously, Zappa tells the audience that he will play something that "will be better for you in the long run" and delves into an avant-garde classical music piece ("Some Ballet Music"). Fantastic! The Mothers also demonstrate their doo-wop skills on "Valerie" and then collectively proceed to take the house down with a rousing medley of "Uncle Meat/King Kong." In sum, the vast array of styles represented on this disc (all played with virtuosity) make this a great CD to own whether you are just getting into Zappa's music or have been a fan for decades.

I've always been wary of the Beat the Boot series; sure, they offer the "real deal," as compared with the You Can't...series, but...
Anyway, this release changed my opinion. The Ark is WONDERFUL, and as stuff by the original Mothers is hard to come by, it's a fascinating artifact. Although side one seems to be running a bit slow, it's a direct copy of the bootleg release of the same name (although, truth be told, it isn't the best copying job on earth). It's worth it all, though, for My Guitar and the other tracks that will delight your teenage ears. Zappa's stage presense at the time, the Contemptuous Band-leader, is also interesting to hear (compare this to his Roxy and Elsewhere persona).

Recorded at a venue called The Ark in Boston, ostensibly in 1968 (but some experts say 1969), this album would have attained classic status simply on the strength of being the first bootleg to be produced from a master tape stolen from Mr Zappa.
Other customer reviews frown upon the sound quality. I do not understand them. Sonically, it's as good as "board tapes" ever get. If anything lets the disc down, it's the sleeve - which omits to mention trumpeter Buzz Gardner even though he provides "the BIG solo" on the epic track that concludes the album. (Until I found out he was on the album, I presumed that solo was being played on a saxophone fed through a VCS3-type synthesizer. Well, you live and learn...)
A cynic might say `Thank God the tape was stolen before FZ had the chance to screw it up!' Because Zappa generally didn't allow us to hear unedited examples of the Mothers' lengthy improvisations, or works-in-progress that resurfaced three or four years later. But thanks to some enterprising bootlegger - and thanks to Rhino Records for releasing it legitimately - we can make up our own minds about `Some Ballet Music'. Some like it, some hate it. It combines some key themes from `The Adventures of Greggery Peccary' with a slightly different `Dance of the Just Plain Folks', scored for two woodwinds, one trumpet and two percussion. And we can all enjoy the 20-minute-plus medley of `Uncle Meat' and `King Kong' - which includes a brief Zappa/Tripp/Black massed-percussion jam and a chaotic Charles Ives-style blend of the two main melodies, as well as solos from Motorhead Sherwood, the two Gardner brothers (both magnificent), Zappa and Ian Underwood (until the tape cuts out).
Elsewhere, `Big Leg Emma' is sung by Black, the seldom-heard `Status Back Baby' is sung by Zappa (and it's in 4-4 time for some reason), Zappa explains his latest scheme for a subversive hit single, Roy Estrada adds something to `Valerie', and Zappa plays a brilliant solo on `My Guitar' (though this too gets cut off prematurely).

Tracks Listing

1. Intro (0:51)
2. Big Leg Emma (3:42)
3. Some Ballet Music (7:16)
4. Status Back Baby (5:48)
5. Valerie (3:30)
6. My Guitar (6:46)
7. Uncle Meat/King Kong (23:49)

Total Time 51:53

Recorded at The Ark, Boston (July 1968)

Line-up / Musicians

Frank Zappa / Guitar & Vocals
Roy Estrada / Bass & Vocals
Don Preston / Keyboards
Buzz Gardner / Trumpet
Ian Underwood / Alto Sax & Piano
Bunk Gardner / Tenor Sax
Motorhead Sherwood / Baritone Sax
Jimmy Carl Black / Drums
Arthur Dyer Tripp III / Drums

John McLaughlin - 1969 "Extrapolation"

Extrapolation is the debut album by jazz guitarist John McLaughlin. It was recorded at Advision Studios in London on January 18, 1969 and first released later that year by Giorgio Gomelsky's Marmalade Records.
The album was not released in the US until 1972, following McLaughlin's success as the leader of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The first US release and all other subsequent re-issues are on the Polydor Records label.

If you were looking for one John McLaughlin record you might play for a curious friend, this would be the one. Extrapolation was McLaughlin's first album release as a leader, and it sounds as fresh today as it did way back in 1969. From the opening strains of "Extrapolation" to the closing softness of "Peace Piece," this album presents a fine modern European jazz quartet in full charge of the sounds of their time.

Extrapolation features the under-appreciated John Surman on sax, Tony Oxley on drums and Brian Odges on bass. (Odges had just replaced Dave Holland, who was on his way to meet Miles in New York).

This quartet blazes through McLaughlin's JAZZ-blues-rock compositions and forms a hodge-podge of restless rhythms and irresistible hooks. Yet, despite its freeness (not meant in a strict jazz sense), Extrapolation is also quite cogent and thematic, as most tunes effortlessly run into each other. As always with McLaughlin, all of the players are allowed to excel and this makes for a very pleasing mix. Odges is surprisingly active and some even believe Surman steals the show. Oxley was a young star who never seemed to catch on in the States, but he remains a well-respected drummer in Europe.

Extrapolation also offers glimpses into the future. It presents the melody that would eventually become "Follow Your Heart." We discover "Arjen's Bag" (named after Dutch bassist Arjen Gorter) and "Pete the Poet." And don't forget about Binky. There is a bit of a beatnik sensibility to this album.

It would take the world 20 years to discover how truly timeless this album was. Extrapolation is definitely a jazz record. The great traditional jazz guitarist Joe Pass didn't have much interest in Mahavishnu John McLaughlin or fusion music. But someone played him this record once, and he commented that at least this guitarist (McLaughlin) knew how to play jazz. You think?

Track listing

All tracks were composed by John McLaughlin.

    "Extrapolation" – 2:57
    "It's Funny" – 4:25
    "Arjen's Bag" – 4:25 (re-titled Follow Your Heart when recorded the following year with Joe Farrell, and by McLaughlin solo on My Goal's Beyond)
    "Pete the Poet" – 5:00
    "This Is for Us to Share" – 3:30
    "Spectrum" – 2:45
    "Binky's Beam" – 7:05 (This track is often listed incorrectly as "Binky's Dream")
    "Really You Know" – 4:25
    "Two for Two" – 3:35
    "Peace Piece" – 1:50


    John McLaughlin – guitar
    Brian Odgers (incorrectly named "Odges" on the album notes) - bass
    Tony Oxley – drums
    John Surman – baritone and soprano saxophones

Gateway - 1978 "Gateway II"

Gateway was an American jazz trio formed in 1975. The members were John Abercrombie, guitar, Dave Holland, bass, and Jack DeJohnette, drums. The group has also joined Collin Walcott on his debut album Cloud Dance (ECM 1062) recorded in 1975. The trio reunited temporarily for a performance in 2012 to mark DeJohnette's 70th birthday

Gateway 2 is the second album by Gateway, a trio composed of John Abercrombie, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. It was recorded in 1977 and released on the ECM label in 1978. The Allmusic review by Scott Yanow states "the playing on the five group originals is generally more fiery than introspective. None of the individual selections are all that memorable but the group improvising does have plenty of surprising moments".

In this era of tawdry sequels, it’s almost difficult to believe that John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette could have surpassed the profundity of 1975’s seminal Gateway. I say “almost” only because each member of this dream trio has yet to let this committed listener down and always comes to the studio bearing a basket overflowing with fresh ideas. Not only do the results of this 1978 follow-up not disappoint, they ascend into their own category.
At first we aren’t sure what to think in the carefully executed half-sleep of the 16-minute “Opening.” Amid tinkling icicles Abercrombie’s guitar wavers above the bass as it gradually forms intelligible words out of the scattered letters with which we are confronted. The process is so intensely organic that we find ourselves being lulled into its speech-like rhythms. As the snare becomes more forthcoming with its intentions, Holland fleshes out its implications with a tantalizing loop, through which Abercrombie hooks his song with a sound that is wiry yet ethereal. Just as engaging in his supportive statements, he provides ornamentation for Holland as DeJohnette rides with fierce precision into a fine solo of his own. The steam of malleted cymbals condenses into the following “Reminiscence.” Holland and Abercrombie blend into a larger instrument in this pensive track that sounds like the acoustic shadow of Pat Metheny’s “Midwestern Night Dream” (see Bright Size Life). “Sing Song” is another dose of milk-and-honey goodness. Wonderfully nuanced drumming here from DeJohnette uplifts even as it placates. Meanwhile, Abercrombie leans back into an ergonomic continuity that soon plateaus into an engaging turn from Holland, whose quintessential bass line in “Nexus” opens the band to a limber display of virtuosity. Abercrombie is again transcendent in this tower of syncopation, from which trails the Rapunzel-like strands of a limitless creative cache. DeJohnette’s piano turns “Blue” into an ending that is as bitter as it is sweet.
For those who haven’t heard this unit’s first album, I recommend doing so before settling into this one. Not because either is “better” than the other, but only because the development between the two is more readily appreciated when experienced chronologically. In any case, Gateway 2 is its own animal that thrives best in the habitat of our appreciation.

Track listing

1.    "Opening" (John Abercrombie/Dave Holland/Jack DeJohnette) - 16:17
2.    "Reminiscence" (Holland) - 4:32
3.    "Sing Song" (Abercrombie) - 6:55
4.    "Nexus" (Holland) - 7:55
5.    "Blue" (DeJohnette) - 8:14

        Recorded in July 1977 at Talent Studio, Oslo, Norway


    John Abercrombie: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric mandolin
    Jack DeJohnette: drums, piano
    Dave Holland: bass

Brand X - 1998 "The X-Files"

THE X FILES- A Twenty Year Retrospective: Brand X

Notes: A compilation of mostly previously unreleased rarities: disc 1 feaures Brand X recordings, while disc 2 consists of various other projects that have involved John Goodsall or Percy Jones. The X-Files delivers some great fusion playing.

Well, they had to get around to that title eventually. A scattershot and somewhat misleading retrospective, this two-disc set is strictly for die-hard Brand X fans. Although the set is subtitled "A 20 Year Retrospective," this is in no way a career overview. Disc one consists of ten previously unreleased live recordings in reverse chronological order, from the 1997 Manifest Destiny tour to the group's initial mid-'70s lineup, when Phil Collins and Robin Lumley were the band's drummer and keyboardist. Unsurprisingly, this disc gets more interesting as it goes on, reaching its pinnacle with the rocking (but annoyingly muddy-sounding) "Don't Make Waves." Disc two technically is not Brand X at all, but a sampling of extracurricular projects by group leaders John Goodsall and Percy Jones, in tandem and separately. These tracks come mostly from the '90s, which is long after Goodsall and Jones lost their ability to create dynamic and challenging music. As a result, the disc is of mild curiosity at best and is profoundly irritating at worst.

Brand X was another one of those bands who were beloved of other musicians and the more discerning of critics but which despite everything, never had the commercial success that it deserved.
They were a jazz fusion band active 1975–1980. Brand X started in 1975 as a 'jam' band signed by Island Records' Richard Williams. Williams A&R man Danny Wilding wrote down the name 'Brand X' to keep track of their activity on the studio calendar and the name stuck.
Noted members included Phil Collins (drums), Percy Jones (bass), John Goodsall (guitar) and Robin Lumley (keyboards). Not long after jazz/rock fusion greats Brand X put out their 1980 album, Do They Hurt?, the band members went their separate ways until their comeback in 1992. Goodsall and Jones formed a trio version of Brand X with drummer Frank Katz in 1992. To make up for the lack of a keyboard player, Goodsall used a Gibson Max MIDI-guitar system to trigger synths, samples and keyboard sounds along with his guitars. This line-up went on to record Xcommunication (1992) and Manifest Destiny (1997), and tour Japan and Europe in 1997 with keyboard player Kris Sjobring and ex-Gong drummer Pierre Moerlen replacing Katz.
The X Files features music from both periods of the band’s career.
Disc one of this extraordinary album consists of ten previously unreleased live recordings in reverse chronological order, from the 1997 Manifest Destiny tour to the group's initial mid-'70s lineup, when Phil Collins and Robin Lumley were the band's drummer and keyboardist.
Disc two technically is not Brand X at all, but a sampling of extracurricular projects by group leaders John Goodsall and Percy Jones, in tandem and separately. These tracks come mostly from the '90s, and are well worth checking out.

Bruford had an early association with Brand X, rehearsing with the band for a few weeks before commitments to King Crimon curtailed his involvement, apart from some occasional live appearances on percussion. However, Bruford's appearance on this album comes from a later project: in 1977, Goodsall, Bruford and members of San Francisco band Automatic Man got together for what the liner notes describe in one place as a band called Vertical Invader and in another as work towards a solo album for Goodsall. The only surviving recordings from those sessions are these two tracks. They are good tracks, much in the style of Goodsall's other work; Bruford's contribution is unobtrusive on "Here I am Now", but somewhat more distinctive on "Measure the Sky". (Goodsall made a brief appearance on Bruford's Feels Good to Me.)

As an archival compilation, Jones and Goodsall are not even sure who plays on some tracks, being uncertain of the percussionist on (8) or of the drummer or keyboardist on (10). (HP, 2 Nov 02)

Track listing:


 1. The X-Files Theme           Live@ The Strand '93
 2. True To The Clik           Manifest Destiny '96
 3. Nuclear Burn/ Cambodia       Live@ The Cabaret '93
 4. Healing Dream           X-Communication '92 (remaster)
 5. Thalidomide Squid           Live@ The Bottom Line '94
 6. Born Pretty In a Disco       Live in Japan '97
 7. Noddy Goes to Sweden       Dudley University '76
 8. Kugelblitz               Missing Period '76
 9. Don't Make Waves           Live in America (unreleased)
10. John "No" Doe           unknown & unreleased


 1. Dance of Life           Goodsall/ Ciago Project '97
 2. Saladin               Fire Merchants '89 (remaster)
 3. Inseminator               Percy Jones Tunnels '93 (remaster)
 4. World's In Modulation       Fire Merchants 'Landlords Of Atlantis' '94
 5. G. Storm               Wilding-Bonus Pleasure Signals '78
 6. Measure The Sky           John Goodsall Project '77
 7. Here I Am Now           John Goodsall Project '77
 8. The Other Side Of The World       Zoo Drive '85
 9. Animal               Floor Project '88
10. The Ocean               Malcolm Bruce Project '97
11. $10,000 Bookshelf           Percy Jones Propeller Music '90
12. Finger Power           Percy Jones/ F. Katz Single '97
13. From a Mountain Top           Floor Project '88

Personnel on DISC 1:

Percy Jones: all tracks (except 4)
John Goodsall: all tracks
Frank Katz: 1, 2, 3, 5
Franz Pusch: 2
Pierre Moerlen: 6
Kris Sjobring: 6
Mike Clarke: 7
Robin Lumley: 7, 8, 9
Morris Pert: 7, 9
Phil Collins: 8, 9
Preston Heyman: 8

Personnel on DISC 2:

John Goodsall: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13
Percy Jones: 3, 10, 11, 12
Ronie Ciago: 1
Doug Lunn: 2, 4, 8
Chester Thompson: 2
Frank Katz: 3, 12
Marc Wagnon, Van Manakas: 3
Toss Panos: 4
Danny Wilding, Phil Collins, John Giblin: 5
Bill Bruford, Bayete, Donny Harvey: 7
Paul Delph, Rick Parnell: 8
Mick McClinden, Mike Barsimanto, Krash: 9, 13
Malcolm Bruce, Pierre Moerlen: 10
Mike Clarke, Shankar, Jeff Llewelyn: 11

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Allan Holdsworth - 1976 [1990] "Velvet Darkness"

Velvet Darkness is the first studio album by guitarist Allan Holdsworth, released in 1976 through producer Creed Taylor's CTI Records.
The tracks for the album were originally recorded by engineer Rudy Van Gelder at his Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey. According to Holdsworth, this was done during a rehearsal session, after which the tapes were released by CTI without his or the other band members' consent. None of the musicians involved ever received royalties for their work. Holdsworth therefore considers the album an unauthorised release and not part of his discography.

This debut solo release by Allan Holdsworth has an "in the raw," coarsely presented, jam-session quality complete with warts and all, as well as real gems of jazz fusion shining through. A first hearing of this release in its vinyl version might provoke laughter at how really bad it sounds compared to Holdsworth's other releases as well as his playing with other groups. As it turns out, Holdsworth himself abhors this release (considering it "a real terrible disaster"), and has taken legal action and had it removed from production for several reasons. The original label used rehearsal tapes to compile it, deeming it unnecessary to finance real sessions. During the recording session, Holdsworth had to hurry through each song and apparently never obtained the masters to go over before release. In essence, the original release was nothing more than a taped rehearsal, packaged by CTI as an album without Holdsworth's permission. This recording has been bootlegged by label after label, none of the musicians involved ever saw any royalties, and no legal paperwork exists. (The recording's known labels and release/re-release dates include CTI Records [1976], King Records [1976], Epic Associated Records [CD, 1990], King Records [Japanese-only CD, 1994], and CTI Records [Japanese-only CD, 1997]. Velvet Darkness was also released in 1997 on an unknown label in Japan as a bootleg CD; an original copy of the vinyl LP album had been transferred to the CD.) This 1990 release with alternate takes (just more pieces dredged up from the jam-session practice tapes) is indeed an interesting snapshot of young stellar musicians doing their thing in a laid-back but energetic fusion-funk-rock groove. It is for all the above reasons that this is indeed a completist/collectors item nowadays. Included are the now very rare recordings of Holdsworth playing acoustic guitar and violin, which he does very well. The alternate take of "Gattox" is a special treat, featuring Holdsworth soloing with an intensity and emotive power that echoes all the best dynamics jazz fusion could offer in the '70s. Obtaining this release second-hand is probably the only and most proper way to find it now.

I agree with the other reviewers that this is a FANTASTIC work from Holdsworth. Perhaps my favorite. (Hard to decide between this and his completely opposite and awesome jazz album, None Too Soon.) The acoustic numbers on Velvet Darkness are incredible and beautiful. I would love to hear a whole album of that. I wonder if there are other songs from this session.

This album is very raw. High energy. Crisp sound. Keyboards are cheesy sounding, but when were they not from that era? The drums are GREAT. Allan plays violin on this one also. I met him once during the I.O.U tour (25 years ago???), and he told me he hated this album intensely. In fact I asked him to sign mine, and he refused. He actually tried to BUY it from me!! He was not kidding. He said he wanted it out of circulation. I cannot imagine why.

I love it alot, and find myself still listening to it surprisingly often even after all these years. It has held up better than many of his others thru the years. There are GREAT riffs on this. If you like Holdsworth even a little get this.

Tracks Listing

1. Good clean filth (5:20)
2. Floppy hat (2:46)
3. Wish (4:20)
4. Kinder (3:07)
5. Velvet darkness (4:42)
6. Karzie key (3:11)
7. Las May (1:38)
8. Gattox (4:51)

Total Time: 29:55

1990 CD release bonus tracks:

9. Good Clean Filth 5:38
10. Kinder 3:07
11. Velvet Darkness 4:44
12. Karzie Key 2:15
13. Gattox 6:47

Line-up / Musicians

- Allan Holdsworth / electric guitar, acoustic guitar, violin
- Alphonse Johnson / bass
- Alan Pasqua / piano
- Narada Michael Walden / drums

John Scofield - 1987 "Pick Hits-Live"

Pick Hits Live is a live album by the jazz musician John Scofield.

One of guitarist John Scofield's best sessions for Gramavision, this live date features his regular band of the period, a quartet with keyboardist Robert Aries, electric bassist Gary Grainger and drummer Dennis Chambers, who had been playing together regularly for a year at that point. The close communication between the musicians on such numbers as "Pick Hits," "Protocol" and "Blue Matter" could only come from the players fully understanding each other's musical personalities. The music, electric but adventurous, funky but definitely exploratory jazz, is difficult to describe, but easier for Scofield's fans to enjoy.

This album documents a 1987 Tokyo concert when, in Scofield's words, "the band and the audience came together and developed a special momentum of their own that only happens on our best nights." All of the stops are out here, as such favorites as "Thanks Again," "Blue Matter" and "Heaven Hill" are taken to new levels of intensity. Featuring the Robert Aries/Gary Grainger/Dennis Chambers rhythm section that had spent the previous year touring with Scofield and perfecting their take-no-prisoners approach to his music.

This cd is absolutely a milestone in jazz music. As much so as Miles Davis'or John Coletrane's contributions to the change in the landscape and direction of jazz, John Scofields genious on this recording shines. Also the stellar, and at times unbeleiveaable performances of the finest rhythm section to walk the earth: Jim Beard on keys, Gary (not Tim) Grainger on Bass and Dennis Chambers on drums. It just doesn' get any better than this! This recording is a 'must-have' for any serious jazz musician.....period!

The cd, recorded live in Japan, features John Scofield's hottest band, with the amazing Dennis Chambers on drums, and Tim Granger on Bass. The songs come mainly from Blue Matter and Still Warm, both seminal Scofield. Scofield himself tears up the fretboard. But don't expect mindless pyrotechnics. His phrasing is pure jazz, more idiomatic to the sax than the guitar at times. To see Dennis Chambers live is a rare treat. Hearing him drum here is a humbling experience. The double bass work alone is a clinic for aspiring drummers. The band is amazingly tight, navigating time signatures and breaks adroitly. The dynamic range of the band makes each song a much more visceral experience than the studio versions.

This man plays many styles and has played with many great musicians, but this live set is his best. The band is awesome especially the drummer Dennis Chambers. Gary Grainger on bass and Robert Aires on keyboards fill out this outstanding quartet. The first two cuts are fusion, the 3rd "Heaven Hill" is a blues number, which any blues fan would love. On track 4, "Protocol" this thing starts to cook and it doesn't stop until the end of "Trim." The rhythm section puts down an incredible beat that is the perfect background for some of the best fusion guitar this side of Mahavishnu.

Track 7: "Trim" is one of the best fusion tunes you will ever hear, it is 17 minutes of WOW. This is the one that makes having this CD necessary. "Georgia On My Mind" slows things down for a little while John solos on this classic song. "Make Me" is the perfect way to end this set. This is the way fusion is supposed to sound and leaves you wanting more. John plays classic jazz, funk, fusion, grove, and some smooth jazz: He never sounded better than he does here however. This is a 5 star, must have jazz classic.

Track listing

1.    "Pick and Pans"
2.    "Pick Hits"
3.    "Heaven Hill"
4.    "Protocol"
5.    "Blue Matter"
6.    "Thanks Again"
7.    "Trim"
8.    "Georgia On My Mind"
9.    "Make Me"


    John Scofield - guitar
    Robert Aries - keyboards
    Gary Grainger - bass guitar
    Dennis Chambers - drums

Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies - 1969 [1996] "The American Metaphysical Circus"

The American Metaphysical Circus is a 1969 psychedelic album by Joseph "Joe" Byrd. It was recorded after his departure from the band The United States of America, and featured some of the earliest recorded work in rock music utilizing extensive use of synthesizers and vocoder, along with an extended group of West Coast studio musicians Byrd named "The Field Hippies".

As a "conductor" and organ/electronic synthesizer player, Byrd is very much the leader of this circus. With a couple drummers, a half-dozen horn players (including a young Tom Scott), three female vocalists, and a half-dozen or so other musicians popping up over the course of the album, there are a lot more people involved in this project than there were in the (relatively) stable lineup of the United States of America. Despite the ambition of this LP, it ultimately serves to illustrate just how Byrd benefited from the unique synergy provided by the other members of the U.S.A. There are all kinds of adventurous electronics and eclectic ideas bouncing back and forth, but the songwriting is simply not as strong as that of Byrd's previous group. The best songs are the ones which most strongly recall the U.S.A. in their spacy melodicism ("Moonsong: Pelog") and driving psychedelic pulse ("You Can't Ever Come Down"). Unfortunately, the female singers on these tracks are no match for The U.S.A.'s Dorothy Moscowitz, although they seem to be aspiring to the same dreamy, icy quality. Byrd himself is quite a mediocre singer, as his attempts at taking the lead on straightforward rock material prove. Otherwise, there are some bad takeoffs on gospel and old-time music, haphazard primitive early synthesizer, and dated social commentary/satire. As ambitious in its scope as Byrd's first rock project, this album is not nearly as successful. 

After his first album with a band called "United States of America," Joe Byrd released this, his masterpiece, in 1969. Even without the aid of mind-expanding drugs it is obvious that metaphysics is central to the overall theme of this great concept album.
The first section, "The Sub-Sylvian Litanies," is an attempt to turn reality inside-out. Literally meaning "beneath the forest," its three odes get right to the core of our very existence. It employs themes built upon the fourth degree of the octal scale, a Greek mode called phrygian.
The middle section, "Four Songs for a Departing President," are a slap in the face to former president Lyndon Johnson. It is a condemnation of both his "Great Society" movement and his perpetuation of the Vietnam War. "Gospel Music" is a tribute to Byrd's brother, Ruddell, who was imprisoned at Leavinworth for evading the draft.
Finally, the third section deals with aging under the sub-heading "The Southwestern Geriatrics Arts & Crafts Festival." Often morose and overly nostalgic, it nevertheless presents a clear view of the way our elders are shuffled off to nursing homes to await death.
The song writing and arrangements are superb, the use of synthesizers is tasteful and the theme is awesome. You have to get out of the box to receive the full experience this album has to offer.

This album did a great deal to change my brain when I was in high school in the early '70s. Concurrent with ingesting a multitude of substances that shall remain unmentioned, this album saw many, many spins on my and my friends' turntables. It was always a significant experience. There is literally EVERYTHING on this record. Vaudeville, jazz, electronic, psychedelic powerhouses, acid rock, spoken word, and much more. Joe Byrd was an unrecognized genius who put out two incredible, ahead-of-their-time records (The United States of America being the other). Sometimes our minds were expanded. Other times our minds were blown. But our minds always received an EXPERIENCE listening to this fine, unique, well-produced and well-composed music. There is nothing else like it. Nothing!

I originally owned this album as a vinyl record when I was in high school. I bought it for the wrong reason - purportedly the first part of the recording is like an LSD trip. This album kindled my lifelong interest in "new" music. I literally wore the pressing out, I liked it so well.

The pioneering use of a quality synthesizer arraignment superimposed on lyrical vocals. The composer, Mr. Byrd, obviously wrote and orchestrated each piece as though it were a symphonic work. This album is not for people who hate experimental music. John Coltrane's Africa Brass, or Ornette Coleman Shape of Jazz to Come are similar artistic endevors in the jazz vein.

Track listing:

The Sub-Sylvian Litanies

    "Kalyani" – 3:52
    "You Can't Ever Come Down" – 3:02
    "Moonsong: Pelog" – 3:47

American Bedmusic - Four Dreams For A Departing President

    "Patriot's Lullabye" – 2:49
    "Nightmare Train" – 3:20
    "Invisible Man" – 3:33
    "Mister 4th of July" – 1:48

Gospel Music For Abraham Ruddell Byrd III

    "Gospel Music" – 4:29

The Southwestern Geriatrics Arts and Crafts Festival

    "The Sing-Along Song" – 4:05
    "The Elephant at the Door" – 5:13
    "Leisure World" – 2:36
    "The Sing-Along Song (Reprise)" – 0:48


    Pot - Piano, Conductor, Harpsichord
    Ed Sheftel - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
    Christie Thompson - Vocals
    Ernest "Ernie" Anderson - Voices
    Fred Selden - Clarinet, Saxophones, Flute
    Ted Greene - Guitar
    Joseph Hunter Byrd - Organ, Producer, Vocals, Keyboards, Conductor, Synthesizer
    Larry Kass - Tabla
    Michael Whitney - Guitar (Classical)
    Chuck Bennett - Bass Trombone
    Victoria Bond - Vocals
    Bob Breault - Engineer
    Ray Cappocchi - Tuba, Tenor Trombone
    Dana Chalberg - Flute, Piccolo
    John Clauder - Percussion, Drums
    Susan de Lange - Vocals, Electronic Voices
    Meyer Hirsch - Flute, Saxophones
    Don Kerian - Trumpet, Cornet
    Gregg Kovner - Drums, Percussion
    Tom Scott - Clarinet, Saxophones, Flute
    Harvey Newmark - Bass (uncredited on album)
    Harihar Rao - Percussion (uncredited on album)