Saturday, June 24, 2017

George Benson - 1971 [1987] "White Rabbit"

White Rabbit is an album by George Benson. The title track is a cover of the famous Great Society/Jefferson Airplane song by Grace Slick.

For George Benson's second CTI project, producer Creed Taylor and arranger Don Sebesky successfully place the guitarist in a Spanish-flavored setting full of flamenco flourishes, brass fanfares, moody woodwinds and such. The idea works best on "California Dreamin'" (whose chords are based on Andalusian harmonies), where, driven by Jay Berliner's exciting Spanish rhythm guitar, Benson comes through with some terrifically inspired playing. On "El Mar," Berliner is replaced by Benson's protégé Earl Klugh (then only 17) in an inauspicious -- though at the time, widely-heralded -- recorded debut. The title track is another winner, marred only by the out-of-tune brasses at the close, and in a good example of the CTI classical/jazz formula at work, Heitor Villa-Lobos' "Little Train of the Caipira" is given an attractive early-'70s facelift. Herbie Hancock gets plenty of nimble solo space on Rhodes electric piano, Airto Moreira contributes percussion and atmospheric wordless vocals, and Ron Carter and Billy Cobham complete the high-energy rhythm section. In this prime sample of the CTI idiom, everyone wins.

After three late-1960s A&M albums with mastermind Creed Taylor prior to the creation of CTI Records, guitarist George Benson hit 1971 running with two CTI debuts, issued a few months apart. Beyond the Blue Horizon was closer, in complexion, to his A&M recordings—harkening back, even, to his impressive 1966 Columbia Records two-punch, It's Uptown and The George Benson Cookbook—although the virtuosic, soul- drenched guitarist was clearly evolving as a player and maturing into one whose firebrand, virtuosic tendencies were becoming refreshingly balanced with greater maturity and restraint.

White Rabbit was (and remains) an anomaly in Benson's prodigious catalogue, with its heavy orchestration by CTI regular Don Sebesky. It's also the album that first paired Earl Klugh—a guitarist who, in the face of Charlie Byrd and Laurindo Almeida, took the nylon-string into the realm of light funk and soul—with the electric Benson. The partnership would last a couple more years to the more decidedly groove- centric Body Talk (CTI, 1973), which foreshadowed Benson's rocket to stardom with his move to Warner Bros. and 1976's megahit, Breezin'.

Despite some truly dated material—in particular the title track, an overblown look at Jefferson Airplane's drug-drenched, 1967 hit single—Benson transcends it all, with some brilliant playing, even as "White Rabbit" strives to break out of Sebesky's overbearing bolero-like arrangement. Herbie Hancock, too, turns in an energetic electric piano solo, and comps with soft (and welcome) pushes towards the outer reaches during Hubert Laws' flute feature, creating some much-needed tension and release, even as the track heads towards an overly cluttered ending that, with tympanis pounding, is indicative of CTI at its worst.

That said, Sebesky's gentle strings and harp on "Theme from 'Summer of 42'" are far more successful—and appropriate. It's easy listening, to be sure, with Benson joining Klugh on nylon string guitar, as the song moves into light Latin territory, but the more change-heavy take on a classical piece—Villa Lobos' "Little Train," taken from the composer's "Bachianas Brasilerias #2," is an album highlight; Benson's fleet-fingers matched by Hancock and bolstered by bassist Ron Carter and drummer Billy Cobham, who cook without overbearance.

Another dated track, The Mamas and The Papas' pre-Summer of Love hit, "California Dreamin,'" begins with an almost non-sequitur of Spanish tinges but, more than anywhere else on the album, demonstrates the simpatico interplay between Benson and Klugh, suggesting that Klugh was, indeed, a star in the making. Klugh's gorgeous intro to Benson's closing "El Mar"—the album's only original—sets the stage for an 11-minute highlight that suggests a stylistic breadth to Benson that, despite a subsequent career living as much in the pop world as anywhere else, has continued to this day.

An anomaly in Benson's catalogue, perhaps, and one with its fair share of weaknesses to offset its many strengths, this CTI Masterworks reissue of White Rabbit remains, in many ways, a curiosity that transitions between his more mainstream efforts and the soulful jazz/pop star he was about to become; not without its merits, but not essential either.

Track listing:

01 "White Rabbit" (Grace Slick) - 6:55
02 "Theme from Summer of '42" (Michel Legrand) - 5:08
03 "Little Train (from Bachianas Brasileiras No.2)" (Heitor Villa-Lobos) - 5:47
04 "California Dreaming" (John Phillips, Michelle Phillips) - 7:22
05 "El Mar" (George Benson) - 10:49

Personnel:

George Benson - guitar
Jay Berliner - acoustic guitar
Earl Klugh - acoustic guitar (5)
Ron Carter - bass
Herbie Hancock - electric piano
Billy Cobham - drums
Airto Moreira - percussion, vocals
Gloria Agostini - vibes, percussion

Woodwinds:
Phil Bodner - flute, alto flute, oboe, English horn
Hubert Laws - flute, alto flute, piccolo, flute solo on 1
George Marge - flute, alto flute, clarinet, oboe, English horn
Romeo Penque - English horn, oboe, alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet
Jane Taylor - bassoon

Brass:
Wayne Andre - trombone, baritone
Jim Buffington - French horn
John Frosk - trumpet, flugelhorn, solo (1, 5)
Alan Rubin - trumpet, flugelhorn

Wes Montgomery - 1966 [1997] "California Dreaming"

California Dreaming is the sixteenth jazz album recorded by guitarist Wes Montgomery and released in 1966. It reached number one on the Billboard Jazz album chart and number 4 on the R&B chart. It was reissued on CD in 2007 with an alternate take of "Sunny".

Wes Montgomery's last album for Verve (other than an exciting collaboration with Jimmy Smith) is a so-so orchestral date featuring arrangements by Don Sebesky. The material (which includes "Sunny" and "California Dreaming") is strictly pop fluff of the era and the great guitarist has little opportunity to do much other than state the melody in his trademark octaves. This record was perfect for AM radio of the period.

My step-father brought this home on 8-track in 1968 and to this day when I listen to it, I can go back to that place in time. Wes is on it, the arrangements are sharp, tasteful and evoke a mood that I will always cherish, even the cover fit to a tee. Wes was a unique artist, the likes of which we won't soon see again. Something about the early sixties...just makes me want to make a highball, throw a t-bone on the grill, light up a Kool Filter King, kick back and enjoy life...this is a great period piece.

Classic Jazz re-visited and enjoyed that's what this vintage music means to me and others who love it as well. I now own a classic piece of history (How sweet is that?) This was a vintage recording hard to attain and easy to enjoy Jazz America's only true original Art form...this album is sophisticated AND musical and in my opinion puts Wes' tone and imagination on display at their best ! I have a lot of Wes in my collection; this is my favorite ! (... the sidemen / arrangements are only spectacular !)

Although this the 'pop' Wes Montgomery, I think it show his remarkable guitar playing. He was a unique and wonderful artist. I highly recommend it

Track listing:

01 - "California Dreaming" (John Phillips, Michelle Phillips) – 3:08
02 - "Sun Down" (Wes Montgomery) – 6:03
03 - "Oh, You Crazy Moon" (Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke) – 3:44
04 - "More, More, Amor" (Sol Lake) – 2:54
05 - "Without You" (Marino, Myers) – 3:05
06 - "Winds of Barcelona" (Lake) – 3:07
07 - "Sunny [alternate take]" (Bobby Hebb) – 3:07
08 - "Sunny" (Hebb) – 4:04
09 - "Green Peppers" (Lake) – 2:56
10 - "Mr. Walker" (Montgomery) – 3:39
11 - "South of the Border" (Jimmy Kennedy, Michael Carr) – 3:13

Personnel:

Wes Montgomery – guitar
Herbie Hancock – piano
Bucky Pizzarelli – guitar
Ray Barretto – percussion
Grady Tate – drums
Al Casamenti – guitar
Richard Davis – bass
Bernie Glow – trumpet
Mel Davis – trumpet
Jimmy Nottingham – trumpet
Wayne Andre – trombone
Johnny Messner – trombone
Bill Watrous – trombone
Stan Webb – clarinet, English Horn, saxophone
Raymond Beckenstein – flute, piccolo, saxophone
James Buffington – French Horn
Jack Jennings – castanets, scratching, vibraphone
Don Butterfield – tuba

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

King Crimson - 1973 [1989] "Larks' Tongues In Aspic"

Larks' Tongues in Aspic is the fifth studio album by the English progressive rock group King Crimson, released on 23 March 1973 through Island Records. This album is the debut of King Crimson's fifth incarnation, featuring original member and guitarist Robert Fripp and new members John Wetton (vocals, bass guitar), David Cross (violin, Mellotron), Jamie Muir (percussion), and Bill Bruford (drums). It is also a key album in the band's evolution, drawing on Eastern European classical music and European free improvisation as central influences.

At the end of the tour to promote King Crimson's previous album, Islands, Fripp had parted company with the three other members of the band (Mel Collins, Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace). The previous year had also seen the ousting of the band's lyricist and artistic co-director Peter Sinfield. In all cases, Fripp had cited a developing musical (and sometimes personal) incompatibility, and was now writing starker music drawing less on familiar American influences and more on influences such as Béla Bartók and free improvisation.

In order to pursue these new ideas, Fripp first recruited bass guitarist/singer John Wetton (a longstanding friend of the band who had lobbied to join at least once before but had become a member of Family in the meantime). The second recruit was Jamie Muir, an experimental free-improvising percussionist who had previously been performing in the Music Improvisation Company with Derek Bailey and Evan Parker, as well as in Sunship (with Alan Gowen and Allan Holdsworth) and Boris (with Don Weller and Jimmy Roche, both later of jazz-rock band Major Surgery).

On drums (and to be paired with Muir) Fripp recruited Yes drummer Bill Bruford. Another longstanding King Crimson admirer, Bruford felt that he had done all he could with Yes at that point, and was keen to leave the band before they embarked on their Close to the Edge tour, believing that the jazz- and experimentation-oriented King Crimson would be a more expansive outlet for his musical ideas. The final member of the new band was David Cross, a rock violinist and occasional keyboard player.

King Crimson reborn yet again -- the then-newly configured band makes its debut with a violin (courtesy of David Cross) sharing center stage with Robert Fripp's guitars and his Mellotron, which is pushed into the background. The music is the most experimental of Fripp's career up to this time -- though some of it actually dated (in embryonic form) back to the tail-end of the Boz Burrell-Ian Wallace-Mel Collins lineup. And John Wetton was the group's strongest singer/bassist since Greg Lake's departure three years earlier. What's more, this lineup quickly established itself as a powerful performing unit, working in a more purely experimental, less jazz-oriented vein than its immediate predecessor. "Outer Limits music" was how one reviewer referred to it, mixing Cross' demonic fiddling with shrieking electronics, Bill Bruford's astounding dexterity at the drum kit, Jamie Muir's melodic and usually understated percussion, Wetton's thundering yet melodic bass, and Fripp's guitar, which generated sounds ranging from traditional classical and soft pop-jazz licks to hair-curling electric flourishes.

With his third lineup in four years, King Crimson guitar maestro Robert Fripp finally tapped back into a musical energy as powerful and groundbreaking as that of his 1969 debut In the Court of the Crimson King. The group's fifth album was a masterful mélange of painstaking composition and wild experimentation, as if Fripp were depicting a madman struck with glimmers of melancholy clarity. In the end, it's difficult to tell which passages were happy accidents and which were carefully constructed; and it's even harder to determine which are more impactful, as clattering trays, chiming bells, twittering birds, understated voices and clown-toy laughter intertwine with tinny, static-filled guitar, epileptic beats and violin lines that range from gorgeous to harrowing.

King Crimson‘s fifth album, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, is a pinnacle of progressive rock, even though its music is nearly unclassifiable. More than 40 years after its release, it remains a genre unto itself — a mishmash of heavy and soothing, beautiful and unsettling, experimental and melodic.
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic is King Crimson’s second classic album. With 1969’s groundbreaking In the Court of the Crimson King, the band basically invented progressive rock entirely, utilizing bandleader Robert Fripp’s epic approach to song construction, which layered aggressive fretwork with propulsive rhythms, jazzy woodwinds and the most iconic Mellotron sound ever laid to tape.
But just as soon as King Crimson birthed an exciting new musical movement, they retreated to the shadows. The band’s following trio of albums (1970’s In the Wake of Poseidon, 1970’s Lizard and Islands in 1971) were scattered with brilliance, but mostly just . . . scattered, with Fripp unable to maintain a consistent lineup of players from one release to another (or even track to track).
That pattern ended in 1972, when Fripp started recruiting a brand new lineup — one designed for an edgier, more unpredictable style of playing. He brought in two new drummers, designed to represent polar opposite ends of the percussive spectrum: Jamie Muir — an explosive percussionist with an unconventional approach and wild stage presence — and Bill Bruford, who’d already established his jazzy, inventive approach to drumming as a member of Yes. On top of that double-percussion foundation, Fripp added violinist David Cross and bassist and singer John Wetton.
That quintet lineup quickly earned rave reviews for their highly improvised live shows. In the liner notes to the 2012 Larks’ Tongues in Aspic reissue, Wetton reflected on the intensity of those early performances. “A lot of the time,” he said, “the audience couldn’t really tell the difference between what was formal and what wasn’t because the improvising was of a fairly high standard. It was almost telepathic at times.”

Tracks Listing:

1. Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part One (13:36)
2. Book Of Saturdays (2:49)
3. Exiles (7:40)
4. Easy Money (7:54)
5. The Talking Drum (7:26)
6. Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part Two (7:12)

Total Time: 46:37

Line-up / Musicians:

- Robert Fripp / guitar, Mellotron, electronic devices
- David Cross / violin, viola, Mellotron, electric piano, flute (3)
- John Wetton / bass, piano (3), vocals
- Bill Bruford / drums, percussion
- Jamie Muir / percussion, drums

Monday, June 19, 2017

Leo Kottke - 1973 [1996] "My Feet Are Smiling"

My Feet Are Smiling is American guitarist Leo Kottke's sixth album, and his second album recorded live. It reached No. 108 on the Billboard Pop Albums charts.

The songs were recorded December 19 and 20, 1972 at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the majority of the album's content being from the second night. "Blue Dot" was written three days before the concert.
The album was re-issued on CD in 1994 by BGO and in 1996 by One Way Records.

The prodigious technique, deadpan sense of humor, and infamous singing are all evident less than a minute into the opening tune. Performing solo and playing more slide guitar than usual, Kottke wows a supportive hometown audience in Minneapolis with some of the finest playing of his career. That's saying a lot. Sensational one moment and sentimental the next, he presents a varied, well-paced set that's worth adding to your collection if you can find it. The well-traveled "Louise" is only one highlight, although it's Leo's playing that will drop your jaw, not his singing.

Not since the death of THE greatest guitarist of all time, Chet Atkins, has there remained the only truly unique guitar virtuoso, and that's Leo Kottke. Too bad this came out WAYYYYY back in 1972, and it, along with his "Armadillo" CD [Six and Twelve String Guitars], are still my favorite's of his. I saw him live, in Dallas, back in the mid-'80's and he was EXTRAORDINARY, and he played several favorites from this CD. Listen, and see if you don't agree he's the best acoustic guitarist you've heard!

This was one of the first LP vinyl records I bought as a teenager and with the changing audio technologies and my numerous moves across the country over the past 30 years I lost the album. So, I wasn't sure if I would still like it. I was right. I didn't like it. I loved it! This is truly a classic album! There is no better 12 string guitarist than Leo. The songs are better than I remember and his deep voice draws you in to the classic ballads he sings.

I ran across Leo Kottke by accident. I bought a copy of his album Peligroso. It was great. I started buying his albums and they all were great. This one is one of the best and every song is terrific. Leo is one of the premier guitar players in America. He sings in some of his albums and others are instrumentals. He is great either way. I have 5 of his albums now and if any one of the five is better than the others it is this one. But, the worst one is great!

He has other album, all very good and some with no vocals. But, I gotta say Leo that I love your vocals on this one!

He does not disappoint! Truly an album for your collection!

Track Listings

  1. Intro
  2. Hear The Wind Howl
  3. Busted Bicycle
  4. Easter
  5. Louise
  6. Blue Dot
  7. Stealing
  8. Living In The Country
  9. June Bug
  10. Standing In My Shoes
  11. The Fisherman
  12. Bean Time
  13. Eggtooth
  14. Medley: Crow River Waltz/Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring/Jack Fig

Personnel:

Leo Kottke - Guitar, Vocal.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Various Artists - 2005 "Fusion For Miles" - A Guitar Tribute

Titled Fusion for Miles: A Guitar Tribute, this set is a bit unusual. A five-piece band that includes Dave Liebman on soprano sets up grooves and backgrounds that sound like Miles Davis' bands of 1969-1971. A different guitarist is featured on each of the ten selections, with the biggest names being Mike Stern, Bill Frisell, Bill Connors, and Pat Martino. Ironically, those four are each featured on pre-fusion Davis-associated songs ("So What," "Nefertiti," "Eighty-One," and "Serpent's Tooth") that are performed with funk rhythms and as if Davis had revived them in 1970. In addition to having a string of guitars in the foreground, it is unusual to hear this music without any trumpeters. But overall, the project is successful with plenty of fireworks and creative playing along the way, reviving music from 35 years earlier that still manages to sound fresh and slightly menacing.

Trumpeter Miles Davis shifted gears so many times during his forty-year career that doing a proper tribute which covers the entire time frame represents a distinct challenge. Perhaps that's why many artists have focused on specific periods in their Miles tributes. Producer Gary Guthrie put a new spin on Kind of Blue with A New Kind of Blue, while trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Henry Kaiser's Yo Miles! project has released three sets inspired by Miles' '70s electric period. Even trumpeter Wallace Roney, while not recording a tribute album per se, has taken one of Miles' mid-'60s albums, Nefertiti, and used it, along with other sources, as the foundation for his own work.
In the past year, guitarist Jeff Richman has released tributes to saxophonist John Coltrane (A Guitar Supreme) and guitarist John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra (Visions of an Inner Mounting Apocalypse). He's probably the first to try and put the departed trumpeter's greater career arc into perspective. The problem is that there's little to tie together Miles' various periods. One reason for this is that whenever he moved into a new musical space, he often alienated much of his existing fan base. Fans of Kind of Blue are not inherently going to be disposed towards Bitches Brew, and many who discovered Miles with the pop-funk of his last decade may find his more abstract mid-'60s quintet completely unfathomable.

Consequently Fusion for Miles starts with an immediate handicap. The bad news is that Richman's arrangements—featuring a core band of keyboardist Larry Goldings, bassist Alphonso Johnson, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta—don't go very far in finding the elusive common link. In fact, Richman often takes tunes that were the barest of sketches—for example, Miles' funk vamp of "Jean-Pierre" and the equally harmonically static jungle funk of his early-'70s "Black Satin"—and writes new passages to give them greater interest. While these radically altered and stricter arrangements give the guest guitarists more to work with, by its very virtuosity Fusion for Miles loses sight of one of Miles' core musical goals: creating specific vibes and particular feelings.

The good news is that Fusion for Miles is one heck of a great fusion record when taken on its own merits. It features a varied bunch of guitarists who range from the post bop sensibility of Pat Martino and Bill Connors, to more clear fusion from Jimmy Herring and Mike Stern, and the rock-centric approach of Warren Haynes and Steve Kimmock. Covering material from the late '50s ("So What") through the mid-'80s ("Splatch"), every guitarist digs into the solid foundation laid by the rhythm section. Unlike Richman's Mahavishnu Orchestra tribute, none of the core band members actually played with Miles, but the inclusion of one early-'70s Miles veteran, saxophonist Dave Liebman, on some tracks provides linkage. And while the individual tunes come from a multitude of spaces, Richman's arrangements bring them together for an album that is sure to please fans of pedal-to-the-floor fusion to no end.

Musicians and fans that revere Miles Davis’ late period work will treasure Fusion For Miles, an anthology whose participants consider “Black Satin,” “Back Seat Betty” and “Spanish Key” just as important as “So What” or “Nefertiti” (which are also part of the menu here). Organist Larry Goldings brings some blues/soul grit to the main lineup that also includes a tremendous funk bassist (Alphonso Johnson), a saxophonist just as comfortable with groove-heavy fare as the avant-garde (Dave Liebman) and a guitar-and-drum drum combo that are regulars in this setting (Jeff Richman and Vinnie Colaiuta, respectively).

Although personal favorites include Bill Frisell’s typically unusual but effective playing on “Nefertiti,” Pat Martino’s easy, sleek solos on “Serpent’s Tooth” and Bireli Lagrene’s balance between flash and soul on “Spanish Key,” there’s also Mike Stern’s steady playing on “So What” and Jimmy Herring’s resourcefulness on “Black Satin.” Richman’s arrangements retain much of the intensity and appeal of the original tunes, though the larger Davis aggregations generated more punch on “Black Satin” or “Back Seat Betty.”

As someone who initially loved (and still loves) the electric Davis’ ensembles as much as the great acoustic groups, Fusion for Miles is a worthy celebration of both approaches.

Track Listing:

01 Black Satin
02 Splatch
03 Jean Pierre
04 So What
05 Nefertiti
06 Eighty One
07 Serpent's Tooth
08 It's About That Time
09 Back Seat Betty
10 Spanish Key

Personnel:

Vinnie Colaiuta: drums;
Alphonso Johnson: bass;
Larry Goldings: keyboards;
Jeff Richman: guitars
Dave Liebman: saxophone.

Featured guitarists:

Jimmy Herring (1)
Jeff Richman (2)
Eric Johnson (3)
Mike Stern (4)
Bill Frisell (5)
Bill Connors (6)
Pat Martino (7)
Warren Haynes (8)
Steve Kimmock (9)
Bireli Lagrene (10)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Roy Buchanan - 1975 [1988] "Live Stock"

Live Stock is a 1975 live album by Roy Buchanan released on Polydor. The album documents a show consisting of blues standards and a few originals played in New York City, with an additional song ("I'm Evil") added from a later show in Evanston, Illinois. The cover photo was taken and sent to Roy by Australian music commentator Glenn A Baker.

Live Stock is, reportedly, one of two Buchanan albums that greatly influenced Jeff Beck, who dedicated a song to Buchanan on his 1975 album Blow by Blow. Buchanan's last album with Polydor, it was partly made to fulfill his contractual obligations so he could move on and accept Ahmet Ertegun's offer to sign with Atlantic.

By the time this long-player hit the street, Roy Buchanan (guitar/vocals) had already departed from his oft-acrimonious relationship with Polydor Records. To their credit, the label issued Live Stock (1975), which captured the artist in performance at Town Hall in New York City on November 27, 1974. This disc features the recently corralled combo of Bill Price (vocals), John Harrison (bass), Malcolm Lukens (keyboards), and Byrd Foster (drums/vocals). Interestingly, the instrumentalists would reconvene behind Buchanan for his next two studio albums, A Street Called Straight (1976) and Loading Zone (1977), as well as the thoroughly superior, import-only Live in Japan (2003). With the exception of the seminal Snakestretchers, this aggregate would stay with the guitarist for longer than any of his numerous other support bands. Practically by default, having returned Buchanan to the stage, the music instantly becomes more conducive to inspiration. The set list highlights both a sampling from earlier efforts, as well as a few covers that are personalized by Buchanan's inimitable stringed artistry. Whether by design or serendipity, each track focuses on his animated solos. Ranging from the driving boogie of Roy Milton's "Reelin' and Rockin" [note: not to be confused with Chuck Berry's rock & roll anthem of virtually the same name] to the stinging fretwork that commences the Memphis soul of Al Green's slithery "I'm a Ram," Buchanan is undeniably at the peak of his abilities. The spirited reading of "Further on up the Road" is particularly worthwhile, as his leads alternately from a rapid-fire slide action to emphatic wails that punctuate the melody with equal measures of deadly accuracy and limber precision. Live Stock is a primary recommendation for all dimensions of blues guitar lovers and those interested in experiencing the craftsmanship of the man once hailed as "The Greatest Unknown Guitarist In The World." Hardcore collectors and the like should also be aware of the essential nine-plus minute rendering of Neil Young's "Down by the River," which was recorded at this show, yet remained unissued until its inclusion on Sweet Dreams: The Anthology (1992) double-disc set. Equally as impressive, and as highly recommended, is the posthumously released archival American Axe: Live in 1974 (2003), as well as the previously mentioned Live in Japan (2003) -- both of which have the same musicians and similarly exceptional results.

First heard 'Can I Change My Mind' on KSHE in St Louis, summer 1975, while painting an older neighbor's fence(!). At the time I was a 'rock & roll only' fool, (thus the KSHE) but the groove on that tune killed me: I put the brush down and just stood there listening. Never knew who it was, or even the name of the tune, though much later had hints that it might be some guy named Roy Buchanan, never could find out for sure and never heard it again. 39 years go by, now I play guitar, bass, sax, and if it's got no groove, I am not interested! Stumbled onto Roy Buchanan earlier this year as a blues man, heard that this album was very good, so bought it unheard. You can imagine my joy when the CD got to track 5, and out of the stereo comes 'Can I Change My Mind' - that same song from my teen years - once again I put down what I was doing just to listen, and listen again, and again. It was like meeting a childhood friend you've not seen in decades.

Recorded At – Town Hall, New York
Recorded By – Record Plant Mobile Studio

Track listing:

1 Reelin' And Rockin' 2:11
2 Hot Cha                4:00
3 Further On Up The Road 4:39
4 Roy's Bluz              8:53
5 Can I Change My Mind 6:17
6 I'm A Ram        4:14
7 I'm Evil                6:01

Personnel:

Guitar – Roy Buchanan
Bass – John Harrison
Drums – Byrd Foster*
Keyboards – Malcolm Lukens
Lead Vocals – Billy Price
Lead Vocals – Roy Buchanan (4,7)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Western Vacation - 1986 [2010] "Western Vacation"

In the early 1980s, Steve Vai had just moved to California and bought a house in rural Sylmar California. At the time, it was a place with more animals than people. Steve's little house out in the wilderness, was a place where wayward musicians can come and call home. One of those musicians living at the house, was Marty Schwartz, Steve's friend from his Berklee School Of Music Days. When Steve broke his whammy bar during a gig in the Berklee recital hall, he asked if anyone had a spare rubber band, thats when a faint voice came from audience "Iv'e got one for you Steve!", that was the first time Steve met Marty.

In Steve's backyard, filled with chickens, ducks, and other various farm animals, Steve's first hand built studio, called Stucco Blue, was the birth place of, ''Western Vacation''. This album was created by Marty, and features a handful of Frank Zappa alumni, including keyboardist Tommy Mars, Vocalist Bob Harris, and Steve Vai, who was listed as the ''Reckless Fable'' on the ''Western Vacation'' track. Other musicians that played on this album were, Chris Frazier on drums, and Jac Mihanovic on bass.

''Western Vacation'' takes you on a progressive musical journey with uplifting melodic textures and dynamic musicianship! Bob Harris's voice is as sweet as a red velvet cupcake and the melodies on this record are so delicious. This album has been beautifully re-mastered in the ''Audio Laundry Mastering Lab'' in Steve's Encino studio, from the original 8 track tapes! This deluxe reissue features a wonderful booklet featuring a essay from Steve Vai and legendary writer and publicist Laurel Fishman.
Listen to Western Vacation and see if you can be transported to the idyllic 1980's in Sylmar. ''This captures that time and place with those wonderful friends,'' -Steve Vai.

I actually worked at the record pressing factory where this was originally pressed (yes...that means vinyl) and fell in love with it on first hearing back in the late eighties. This is some great, great playing...an example of what can happen when the musical stars align. This is a great snapshot of young musicians playing for each other and for fun. As a drummer, I still find inspiration in this album...twenty-odd years later!

This band is made up of a bunch of Steve's friends and Zappa alumni and was recorded in Steve's garage in the early 80's. It sounds like the fun Zappa stuff from prior to this recording and is also reminiscent of Steve's solo work from that era on Flex-Able. Even though Steve apparently only played on the title track his influence on the compositions and guitar work is clear. Or perhaps it is the other way around. Either way, a neat glimpse back at a number of talented artists. Thanks for sharing.

Western Vacation is a great album! I mainly purchased it because Steve Vai is not only my mentor, but my guitar teacher as well. I wanted to hear his early, early, works and here it is! This album wreaks an awesome 80's vibe and brings back many memories on such an awesome time for rock! Steve's(Reckless Fable) guitar solo on the title track is astounding! The vocals are very bubble gum 80's style, but hard to stop listening to! You buy this album and it will really bring you back to early 80's time period. Overall the music is awesome, Bass is killer, and you won't be disappointed! A+++ in my book!

Track listing / Personnel:

1 Western Vacation 6:55
    Backing Vocals – Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums, Percussion – Chris Frazier
    Guitar, Voice [Cowboys], Soloist [1st] – Martin Schwartz
    Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Tommy Mars
    Saxophone – Ric Cunningham
    Soloist [Long Guitar Solo] – Reckless Fable
    Vocals [Lead & Background] – Bob Harris
    Voice [Cowboys] – Mike O'Brien (2)

2 Nocturnal Emissions 2:05
    Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar – Martin Schwartz
    Bass – Stu Hamm*
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Other [Dedicated To] – Jim Moriarty

3 Fast Note People 4:01
    Backing Vocals – Jarrett Renshaw, Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Guitar – Martin Schwartz
    Keyboards – Tommy Mars
    Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Bob Harris
    Marimba – Brad Dutz

4 Send Us More Light 4:22
    Bass – Stu Hamm*
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Electric Piano [Rhodes] – Tommy Mars
    Guitar – Martin Schwartz
    Vocals, Keyboards – Bob Harris

5 Patty 4:44
    Backing Vocals – Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Guitar, Sitar [Choral] – Martin Schwartz
    Keyboards – Tommy Mars
    Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Bob Harris

6 The Velvet Line 5:31
    Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Backing Vocals – Martin Schwartz
    Backing Vocals – Joe Kearney, Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Keyboards – Tommy Mars
    Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Trumpet – Bob Harris
    Other [Dedicated To] – Joe & Mary Ellen Kearney
    Saxophone – Ric Cunningham


7 Delicious 3:12
    Keyboards [Improvisation], Vocals – Tommy Mars


8 Borrowed Time 4:30
    Backing Vocals – Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Guitar – Martin Schwartz
    Keyboards – Scott Collard
    Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Trumpet – Bob Harris

9 Burning Flame 3:07

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dejohnette Metheny Hancock Holland - 1993 [2002] "Parallel Realities Live"

Two CD set recorded live at the Mellon Jazz Festival in Philadelphia, 1990. Features Pat Metheny (guitar), Jack DeJohnette (drums), Herbie Hancock (keyboards) and Dave Holland (bass). 10 tracks including 'Shadow Dance','Solar','Eye Of The Hurricane' and more.

What a great live album. Ive listened to it about 20 times since purchasing. This group melds together very well and play an awesome set. Herbie and Dejohnette with Dave Holland are just real joys to listen to. Pat gives an interesting dynamic to the group. A fan of most contemporary jazz fushion will really enjoy this album.

This was one of the most underrated jazz supergroup assmebled. Between the Miles davis alumnis and Pat Metheny, this is the best concert I've seen of any genre when they came through Chicago around the same time. Based largely on Jack DeJohnette's Parallel Realities album, it adds Dave Holland to the studio effort. Pat Meteny collaborated with Dave Holland on his Question and Answer album around the same time which is also excellent. If you have the DVD, no need to get the CD since it is the identical material.

I never really appreciated jazz music until I got the laserdisc of this performance back in the 90s. Just amazing musicianship! This is what it's all about folks. Maybe you are like me: have a casual interest in a couple of jazz musicians but not crazy about "jazz". I can't recommend this highly enough. There's just something magical that happens when you put 4 musical giants like these together in the same room. Play this a few times and it might make a believer out of you, too. At least it will open your ears to a vast amount of music awaiting you.

I give this CD "2 Thumbs up!" Crimhead420.

Track listing:

CD 1
1 Shadow Dance 15:30
2 Indigo Dreamscapes 7:03
3 9 Over Reggae 7:36
4 Solar 13:09
5 Silver Hollow 8:25

CD 2
1 The Good Life 6:08
2 Blue 7:03
3 Eye of the Hurricane 15:31
4 The Bat 8:25
5 Cantaloupe Island 9:42

Total length: 98:32

Personnel:

Bass – Dave Holland
Drums – Jack DeJohnette
Guitar – Pat Metheny
Keyboards – Herbie Hancock

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dave Weckl - 2000 "The Zone" [CD/DVD]

An unusual double CD set that contains a "best-of" audio CD to Dave Weckl's own choice of ten selections from the recordings of the Dave Weckl Band and a DVD that features excerpts from his ground-breaking instructional video set A Natural Evolution. Titles contained on the audio CD include: Wet Skin, Alegria, High Life, The Zone, Wake Up, and more. The DVD has excerpts from all three of the A Natural Evolution videos, How to Develop Technique, How to Practice and How to Develop Your Own Sound. Altogether this set makes a great introduction to the work of one of the most notable of contemporary drummers.

A too-good-to-be-true package for aspiring jazz drummers everywhere, this incredible product features one disc of the best selections of the legendary fusion drummer's last three Stretch Records releases, and a special DVD with highlights from his three instructional videos put out by Carl Fischer. The ten tracks arguably feature some of modern jazz fusion's most adventurous jams and give hope that the genre that's not either traditional or smooth jazz can still thrive. The funk-drenched "Wet Skin" is Weckl's retro-soul-minded tribute to James Brown, with Brandon Fields' sax doubling ensembling with Jay Oliver's sly organ harmonies and Buzz Feiton's crisp and punch-rock guitar licks. "Alegria" means happiness, and the tune with that title is in turn wild and optimistic, a honking jam featuring Fields on tenor, soprano, and alto flute. Steve Weingart's feisty Fender Rhodes improvisations also give off an old soul fusion effect. The same sort of powerfully electric, intensely rhythmic horn-section vibe pervades the disc, with Weckl experimenting with meters and bringing in outside percussion on occasion. Steve Tavalione is also featured in sax on a few cuts, as is guitarist Frank Gambale -- all the best Los Angeles fusion freaks. Disc two is a DVD video sampler containing highlights from Weckl's three instructional videos available from Carl Fischer, in which the drummer provides insights into how to play effortlessly and organically (or "In the Zone"), how to develop technique, how to practice, and how to develop an original sound. Weckl writes in his liner notes that to him The Zone is a state "in which everything appears to be working on its own, with no effort involved." That pretty much describes his natural ability with the skins, and this set shows that he's eager to pass on the legacy.

This is an interesting release because it features a CD and DVD. The CD is a kind of "Best Of" collection of the cuts from previous DWB CDs, plus a couple of cuts from the Japan releases. These are "Tee Funk" - although previously recorded on Dave's solo release "Heads Up" - it's fun to hear it done by the band. The other is Steve Weingart's "Serenalin" - if you don't have the imports, these are great additions.
The DVD is a so-called "sampler" of the brilliant trio of instructional videos released by Carl Fischer. As with Dave's previous videos, the information and performances are at once exciting and motivating. The view into Dave's new "body movement" style of play is a testament to his commitment to further development as a player and instructor. The segment with Freddy Gruber is funny and often surreal. It's a treat to hear and see this man that so many players look up to. The inclusion of the information on sound and miking is a rare glimpse into an art that is too often ignored. The DVD is well produced and has some production additions from the original videos. The DVD format is great for this type of instruction - you can simply skip to the section where you left off. 
Great work by a great musician and soul.

Audio and video doesn't get any better than this project from Stretch Records (Concord Records distributor), and thanks to Carl Fischer and Weckl...this one-of-a-kind 2-CD-Set is right on target...anyone thinking about taking up drums or is playing in a band, needs to pick "THE ZONE" up...Dave makes all of this look so easy, you'll be playing like him in no time.
Techiques that take years to develope will experience a short-cut after witnessing this album...the entire package is a must have...and once again, thanks to the insight of Weckl, Fischer and Stretch Records.


Track listing"

    Disc 1 Audio CD

1-1     Wet Skin     6:11
1-2     Alegria     5:33
1-3     High Life     7:47
1-4     The Zone     6:08
1-5     Wake Up     6:48
1-6     Lucky Seven     5:55
1-7     Tee Funk     7:03
1-8     Rhythm Dance     5:59
1-9     Serenalin     5:57
1-10     Amanecer     8:29

    Disc 2 Instructional DVD Sampler

2-1     Dave Weckl Drum Solo    
2-2     Band Excerpt−High Life    
2-3     How To Develop Technique    
2-4     What Comes To Mind    
2-5     How The Body Works    
2-6     The Grip    
2-7     Exercise #1    
2-8     Freddy Gruber    
2-9     Band−Angel's Flight    
2-10     How To Practice    
2-11     Time By Natural Motion    
2-12     Band Excerpt−Wet Skin    
2-13     Develop Your Own Sound    
2-14     Tuning The Drums    
2-15     Microphones    
2-16     Mixing Console    
2-17     Band Excerpt−High Life    
2-18     Dave Weckl Drum Solo    
2-19     Credits    

Personnel:

    Drums, Percussion, Tambourine [Hi-Hat] – Dave Weckl
    Bass, Electric Bass – Tom Kennedy (2)   
    Guitar, Rhythm Guitar – Buzzy Feiten
    Keyboards – Steve Weingart
    Keyboards, Synth, Organ – Jay Oliver
    Lead Guitar, Guitar [Melody] – Frank Gambale
    Saxophone, Alto Saxophone – Steve Tavaglione
    Tenor Saxophone – Bob Malach
    Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Flute, Baritone Saxophone, Saxophone, Keyboards [Additional] – Brandon Fields 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Miles Davis - 1974 [1991] "Get Up With It" [Japan Import]

Get Up with It is a compilation album by American jazz musician Miles Davis. Released by Columbia Records on November 22, 1974, it compiled songs Davis had recorded in sessions between 1970 and 1974, including those for the studio albums Jack Johnson (1971) and On the Corner (1972). In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), J. D. Considine described the compilation's music as "worldbeat fusion".

One track, "Honky Tonk," was recorded in 1970 with musicians such as John McLaughlin and Herbie Hancock. "Red China Blues" had been recorded in 1972 before On the Corner, while "Rated X" and "Billy Preston" were recorded later that year with the band heard on In Concert. The remaining tracks were from 1973 and 1974 sessions with his current band including Pete Cosey.
"He Loved Him Madly" was recorded by Davis as his tribute to then-recently deceased Duke Ellington, who used to tell his audiences "I love you madly." English musician Brian Eno cited it as a lasting influence on his own work.

In a contemporary review, Rolling Stone magazine's Stephen Davis praised Davis' adventurousness and direction of his rhythm band, whom he called a "who's who of Seventies jazz-rock". Robert Christgau of The Village Voice wrote that, although Davis' recent albums have sounded slapdash with "noodling over a pick-up rhythm section," he still plays Get Up with It "since it contains over two hours of what sometimes sounds like bullshit: it's not exactly music to fill the mind. Just the room." In a 1981 review, Christgau wrote that only two of the six shorter songs—"Maiyisha" and "Honky Tonk"—make up "more than good" background music, but the two long pieces "are brilliant: 'He Loved Him Madly,' a tribute to Duke Ellington as elegant African internationalist, and 'Calypso Frelimo,' a Caribbean dance broken into sections that seem to follow with preordained emotional logic."
Alternative Press gave Get Up with It a rave review when it was reissued in 2000, calling it "essential ... the overlooked classic of psychedelic soul and outlandish improv ... representing the high water mark of [Davis'] experiments in the fusion of rock, funk, electronica and jazz". Stylus Magazine's Chris Smith said that it is "not an easy album to write, let alone think, about. It’s a bit more of an anything-goes hodgepodge than it is a sprawling masterwork, and is probably written about the least of all Miles’ electric work."

A confusing, bold, weird and remarkable statement that in many ways sums up a confusing bold weird and remarkable period of Davis' musical development. Tracks come from sessions between 1970 and 1974 (his last officially released studio material before his five year "retirement") and are of varying quality. I'm not a big fan of the straight blues "Red China Blues" which wastes a provocative title, and I don't feel like the closing 12 1/2 minutes of "Billy Preston" really goes anywhere interesting, though there are moments along its length when I'm entertained even if they don't stick in the memory after they're done. From here though, the quality level rockets upward, with the easy-going "Maiysha" next up quality-wise, making a nice groove that's suddenly derailed by a freaky Pete Cosey solo. "Mtume" is a fierce groover that shows off the great percussionist, but also allows for some nice interaction between the guitars and shows off his 70's "Pete Cosey group" in fine form - if this was a lightweight track, you can imagine how much better they can be. "Honky Tonk" is a nice, disjointed rhythm experiment from 1970 with many of the Bitches Brew players on it, including John McLaughlin who sounds great on this cut, though for me Miles' solo steals the show.

Then there's the great stuff, which numbers among the finest achievements Miles ever put down on tape: "Rated X" is an incredibly noisy, challenging and difficult piece of music, supposedly inspired as much by Stockhausen as any jazz antecedent. Miles sticks to a noisily dissonant organ here while electric guitar and electric sitar create churning, rhythmic patterns with very little in the way of "soloing" over a ferocious rhythm that the bass, drums, and percussion set up - a rhythm that Miles stops and starts on cue. This one's a bracing number that's not always what I'm in the mood for, but when I am ready to engage it, I don't know if he's ever been better. And as has been said many times here and elsewhere, the long tracks - "He Loved Him Madly" and "Calypso Frelimo," both over 32 minutes each - simply take the cake. "He Loved Him Madly" is a long, slow burning tribute to Duke Ellington in the year of his passing which builds over ambient rhythm and guitar into a fine flute solo setting the stage for an absolutely brilliant and gut-wrenching Davis trumpet solo. "Calypso Frelimo" is more "up," with a fast, dense opening sequence featuring solos by the horns, a slowed-down middle segment that gives a lot more (musical) space for everyone to work in, and then a return to the density and rocketing tempo of the beginning that allows the guitars to roam over the top, punctuated by brief trumpet statements (possibly meant to guide the proceedings). It's simply amazing, and each of the ten+ minute segments has its own flavor and character, though together they hold a cumulative power that the tracks separated probably wouldn't have garnered. Amazing stuff.


When Get Up with It was released in 1974, critics -- let alone fans -- had a tough time with it. The package was a -- by then customary -- double LP, with sessions ranging from 1970-1974 and a large host of musicians who had indeed played on late-'60s and early-'70s recordings, including but not limited to Al Foster, Airto, John McLaughlin, Reggie Lucas, Pete Cosey, Mtume, David Liebman, Billy Cobham, Michael Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Fortune, Steve Grossman, and others. The music felt, as was customary then, woven together from other sources by Miles and producer Teo Macero. However, these eight selections point in the direction of Miles saying goodbye, as he did for six years after this disc. This was a summation of all that jazz had been to Davis in the '70s and he was leaving it in yet another place altogether; check the opening track, "He Loved Him Madly," with its gorgeous shimmering organ vamp (not even credited to Miles) and its elaborate, decidedly slow, ambient unfolding -- yet with pronounced Ellingtonian lyricism -- over 33 minutes. Given three guitar players, flute, trumpet, bass, drums, and percussion, its restraint is remarkable. When Miles engages the organ formally as he does on the funky groove that moves through "Maiysha," with a shimmering grace that colors the proceedings impressionistically through Lucas, Cosey and guitarist Dominique Gaumont, it's positively shattering. This is Miles as he hadn't been heard since In a Silent Way, and definitely points the way to records like Tutu, The Man with the Horn, and even Decoy when he re-emerged.
That's not to say the harder edges are absent: far from it. There's the off-world Latin funk of "Calypso Frelimo" from 1973, with John Stubblefield, Liebman, Cosey, and Lucas turning the rhythm section inside out as Miles sticks sharp knives of angular riffs and bleats into the middle of the mix, almost like a guitarist. Davis also moves the groove here with an organ and an electric piano to cover all the textural shapes. There's even a rather straight -- for Miles -- blues jam in "Red China Blues" from 1972, featuring Wally Chambers on harmonica and Cornell Dupree on guitar with a full brass arrangement. The set closes with another 1972 session, the endearing "Billy Preston," another of Davis' polyrhythmic funk exercises where the drummers and percussionists -- Al Foster, Badal Roy, and Mtume -- are up front with the trumpet, sax (Carlos Garrett), and keyboards (Cedric Lawson), while the strings -- Lucas, Henderson, and electric sitarist Khalil Balakrishna -- are shimmering, cooking, and painting the groove in the back. Billy Preston, the organist who the tune is named after, is nowhere present and neither is his instrument. It choogles along, shifting rhythms and meters while Miles tries like hell to slip another kind of groove through the band's armor, but it doesn't happen. The track fades, and then there is silence, a deafening silence that would not be filled until Miles' return six years later. This may be the most "commercial" sounding of all of Miles' electric records from the '70s, but it still sounds out there, alien, and futuristic in all the best ways, and Get Up with It is perhaps just coming into its own here in the 21st century.

Tracks Listing

Disc 1
1. He Loved Him Madly (32:20)
2. Maiysha (14:56)
3. Honky Tonk (5:57)
4. Rated X (6:53)

Disc 2
5. Calypso Frelimo (32:10)
6. Red China Blues (4:10)
7. Mtume (15:12)
8. Billy Preston (12:35)

Total time: 123:52

Personnel:

- Miles Davis / trumpet (3), electric trumpet with wah-wah (1,2,5-8), organ (1,2,4,5,7), electric piano (5)

With:
- Steve Grossman / soprano saxophone (3)
- John Stubblefield / soprano saxophone (5)
- Carlos Garnett / soprano saxophone (8)
- Dave Liebman / alto flute (1,5)
- Sonny Fortune / flute (2,7)
- Lester Chambers / harmonica (6)
- Pete Cosey / electric guitar (1,2,5,7)
- Dominique Gaumont / electric guitar (1,2,7)
- Reggie Lucas / electric guitar (1,2,4,5,7,8)
- John McLaughlin / electric guitar (3)
- Cornell Dupree / electric guitar (6)
- Khalil Balakrishna / electric sitar (4,8)
- Badal Roy / tabla (4,8)
- Herbie Hancock / clavinet (3)
- Keith Jarrett / Fender Rhodes electric piano (3)
- Cedric Lawson / Fender Rhodes electric piano (4,8)
- Michael Henderson / bass guitar
- Al Foster / drums (excl. 3)
- Billy Cobham / drums (3)
- Bernard Purdie / drums (6)
- James Mtume Foreman / percussion (excl. 3)
- Airto Moreira / percussion (3)
- Wade Marcus / brass arrangement (6)
- Billy Jackson / rhythm arrangement (6)

Releases information: Recordings made in NYC - 1970 (track 3), 1972 (4,6,8), 1973 (5) and 1974 (1,2,7)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Scott Henderson, Steve Smith & Victor Wooten - 1998 "Vital Tech Tones"

The Vital Tech Tones were an American fusion supergroup formed in the mid-1990s composed of Vital Information drummer Steve Smith, Tribal Tech guitarist Scott Henderson, and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones bassist Victor Wooten. The group released two albums, both with Shrapnel Label Group's Tone Center Records before breaking up due to time constraints (the band was a side project for all three members). There is still some talk of a future reunion, but no official announcement has been made.
The band never played live, although Smith has performed with Henderson and Wooten on separate occasions.
The band's music is almost entirely instrumental, focused on virtuosic, free flowing soloing on top of a complex, solid groove. It is considered to be more on the rock end of the fusion spectrum.

Calling this group a power trio would not be fair, as it would be too much of an understatement. Guitarist Scott Henderson, bassist Victor Wooten, and drummer Steve Smith are three of the most inventive jazz-rock players who have pushed the style into uncharted waters during the late '80s and throughout the '90s. The clever name Vital Tech Tones infers each members primary bands: Smith's Vital Information, Henderson's Tribal Tech, and Wooten's Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. The combined talent level of the band is astounding and the music created here is a reflection of not only their technical abilities, but also their compositional talents. The program maintains a jazz-rock fusion feel, but there is enough variety in the compositions that raise this above just another blowing session. That being stated, the cover of "Giant Steps" has to be heard to be believed, as does the Jimi Hendrix-influenced "Lie Detector." A very rewarding session that proves that jazz-rock fusion can still be played with conviction, honesty, and integrity.

Perhaps a more spontaneous super-trio gathering of the post-70s fusion generation, Vital Tech Tones finds guitarist Scott Henderson chasing the voodoo down with mercurial bassist Victor Wooten (known for his scintillating slap-style as a member of Bela Fleck's Flecktones), and veteran jazz / stadium rocker, Steve Smith. The trio has assembled a wide ranging, often blues-based arrangement of group compositions / jams, and it proves an engaging showcase for Henderson's extreme talent, both in terms of solos and rhythm work. Drummer Steve Smith ably anchors Wooten's miraculous assortment of rumbling, popping, pyrotechnic baselines, most evident in tunes like "Snake Soda."
Tribal Tech fans will appreciate a new, bluesy version of "Dr. Hee," and the track "Crash Course" will clearly appeal to Allan Holdsworth devotees, as it recalls Holdsworth's IOU-era guitar trio arrangements. Perhaps most delightful is the angular interpretation of Coltrane's "Giant Steps," which is a worthy if slightly reckless update of that classic standard. Henderson is one of the few original electric guitar soloists capable of weaving an intelligent flurry of 128th notes with compelling emotional intensity and inventiveness, possessing ideas to match to his level of phrasing and technique. Wooten and Smith are comparable on their instruments, which means this trio typically hits its stride with warp-speed abandon.
Vital Tech Tones encompasses playing and extended soloing which straddles between the brilliant and the boisterous. While for some, the high-octane musical rapport here will stray into the territory of enlightened musical indulgence, Henderdson undoubtedly commands one of the premier guitar trios of recent memory. But that's just scratching the surface, as both Wooten and Smith's jazz and rock vocabulary demonstrate that no matter what the musical context, they're exceptionally creative and technically at a level few of their contemporaries can match.

"Well, what have we here then? Scott Henderson, Steve Smith and Victor Wooten - I think I know what to expect". WRONG! Put all your preconceptions to one side, and just enjoy. This album is going to be a little bit of a surprise.

You know how "fusion" music can sometimes become a bit predictable or even stale - bands simply rehashing what's been done before, only not as well. Then suddenly a band appears that literally EXPLODES onto the scene, to shake things up. Well, Vital Tech Tones is such a band.

I'm sure most fusion lovers are already aware of the aforementioned musicians' credentials, so they need no more introductions. What WILL surprise, and hopefully delight, such fusion enthusiasts, is what they create on this album. In my opinion, it comes across as a reaction against the staleness inherent in "some" fusion music. But, because I don't want to give too much away in my review, which would spoil the impact this band has on first hearing, I'll attempt to make vague comparisons instead. Thus, imagine, if you will, Scott with a touch of Jimi Hendrix in his playing, and if Steve added some of John Bonham's sheer power to his already awesome technique, then finally, if all the great bass players you'd ever heard gave a bit of themselves to add to Victor's playing - you'd be getting close to the sound of this phenomenally gifted trio, in this, their debut album.

The playing throughout is of course stunning. The compositions are varied in style - sometimes jazzy, heavy, complex, and funky - but always entertaining. It actually sounds like they were really enjoying themselves while making such a wonderful album. In fact, the amazing interplay within the band suggests to me that they were recording it live, thus capturing those rare moments of genius when they were all "in the zone". This is what jazz is supposed to be about anyway "reaching for that moment".

It's a gem of a performance. If you're looking for "jazz with attitude", this is the album for you - otherwise, look elsewhere. For the sheer sublime playing alone, this VTT album is worth buying. Take a risk - I promise you won't be disappointed!


Track listing:

1     Crash Course     7:00
2     Snake Soda     5:35
3     Dr. Hee     8:56
4     Everglades     9:41
5     Two For One     5:21
6     King Twang     4:10
7     The Captors     7:52
8     Giant Steps     5:45
9     Lie Detector     5:49

Personnel:

    Scott Henderson  - Guitar
    Victor Wooten - Bass
    Steve Smith - Drums 

Frank Gambale, Stu Hamm & Steve Smith - 2002 "GH3"

This disc is intense fusion with great soloing and excellent composition. The trio here just rip it up and pull out all the stops, virtuoso mania-style! The material is varied also, which is great, Frank Gambale uses both his electric and acoustic guitar with equalling effect, a true master player. Plus, there are Steve Smith and Stu Hamm individual solo showcase pieces which are moving and fun! Highly recommended and one of this years best in the fusion genre. Highlights include, All In Your Head, The Great Roberto, Geo 100, Saving Grace & The Challenger.

 I love rich melodic bass lines that are all over the fret board, and this cd (indeed, ALL of the cd's from Gambale Hamm Smith) delivers the goods.

For my money, you can leave your "chops" at the curb if there isn't any melody to augment them. But there are both chops AND melodies abundant on this cd. Stu Hamm is truly one of the world's premier bass players, Gambale frequently plays in the Allan Holdsworth style (that's a good thing), and drummer extraordinaire Steve Smith (Jean-Luc Ponty, Journey(!), Vital Information, etc., etc.) is an ideal drummer for this very-demanding style of music.

As a self-proclaimed "prog head", I guess I'd prefer a bit more in the way of keyboards here, but that's a minor quibble. I've got plenty of keyboard-driven progressive jazz fusion cd's to satiate those desires anyway. As a reference point, this bears close similitudes with the mid-80's albums of Bill Connors.

Interesting, driving, soulful music played exceptionally well, with fine production. It's exactly what I was seeking when I took a chance on this one.


If every track on here were like Confuse-a-Blues, it would have gotten 5 stars from me. That track has gotten more playing time at hardcore music parties than any other in recent memory with requests for more. I have to admit, I wasn't a huge fan of Stuart Hamm from the get go. Gambale and Smith always were ones I followed from first hearing. But, this group really came together on this cd with some challenging and "in your face" tracks on here...Hamm being a very nice part of it.

If you are a hardcore "fusionistic" music fan like me who really enjoys just a trio laying it down and challening your listening skills, this may be a good one to pick up.


I have seen Steve Smith and Vital Information perform on several occasions, and have also seen Stu Hamm. Having these three master musicians in the same band makes for one intense musical ride. I thought "The Light Beyond" was very good, and this release definitely takes things a step further. The tunes here give each member more than enough chances to display incredible chops, so no one will be dissappointed. Some fusion albums can go a bit over the top as far as the soloing, even for the serious musicians out there. However, not this one. The solos are mind-boggling, but they never detract form the songs, which are very well composed and arranged. These guys keep getting better and better! I hope they continue to put out new material.

I have listened to piles of fusion in my day, and this is one of the greats. No, it is not the most intense music out there, but is far more musical than most fusion, which ends up being a mere chops fest. All three of these excellent musicians play at their best, especially Frank Gambale, who simply wails. Every tune is strong too. Bring on more like this one.

Track listing:

1     All In Your Head     7:41
2     The Great Roberto     8:09
3     Confuse-A-Blues     9:43
4     Saving Grace     7:34
5     Culture Clash     3:37
6     Geo 100     9:06
7     November     4:43
8     The Challenger     6:33

Personnel:

    Frank Gambale - Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
    Stuart Hamm - Bass
    Steve Smith - Drums, Djembe, Shaker, Finger Cymbals 

Dave Weckl - 1994 "Hard Wired"

What was true of Master Plan is also true of Dave Weckl's third album as a leader of Hard-Wired -- it isn't the fusion masterpiece Weckl is capable of delivering, but it certainly isn't bad either. This time, the drummer's guests include keyboardist Jay Oliver and bassist Anthony Jackson as well as bassist John Patitucci, who like Weckl, was no longer a member of Chick Corea's Akoustic and Elektric Bands and was making his own albums a priority. The album's main emphasis is fusion that is fairly accessible, yet substantial and improvisatory. Tunes like the Asian-influenced title song and the groove-oriented "Crazy Horse" weren't recorded with hard bop's hard-liners in mind, but at the same time, they don't pander to NAC radio. As enjoyable as this album is, it isn't essential. One sensed that Weckl's best work as a leader was yet to come.

When you read other reviews (and mine!) just remember the profound musing ... opinions are like [anatomical descriptor here]: everyone's got one. Now for my second disclaimer: I am a drummer. That said, I enjoy this CD as much for the stellar non-percussion composition and performances as much as I do for the stellar percussion composition and performances.

This CD sizzles. It has some songs on it that could be said to have been written with "pop"y hooks in them, yes. It also has a masterful latin piece ("Dis' Place This") with some wild rhythms in it (love that piano part!), whimsical tunes ("Afrique" and "Just an Illusion"), moody songs ("In Flight" and "Where's Tom?"), jazzy urban grooves ("Crazy Horse" (amazing keyboard work) and "In the Pocket"), and a soulful, somber finish ("Tribute") with a wonderfully rich piano part (it takes getting through about a minute of muted key tones played to a ride cymbal to get to it) that the sax picks up and follows along with. The entire horn section is well-written and well-played throughout the album.

Weckl definitely gets his time in the spotlight, and NO ONE can do it quite like him. Some of the songs did take a few listens to get into, I admit, but this is now one of my favorite CDs of all time. If you think the samples on Amazon are interesting AT ALL, then BUY IT. I don't think you'll feel you wasted any money after only a few plays.


This is not only my favorite Weckl CD, but one of my favorite CDs of all time. When I heard Weckl with Chick's Electric Band I was blown away at his sound. When I heard his compositions on "Master Plan" with Jay Oliver, I was Floored. I had no idea this guy was as great a composer as he was a drummer! Not only are these guys masters of their instruments, they are also amazing composers. The rhythms, the melodies, the solos, are all beyond incredible. Jay Oliver is simply the best soloist I have ever heard. His 'mimic guitar' solo in "Crazy Horse" is the coolest 'guitar solos' I have ever heard. Whether you play drums, bass, guitar, keys, sax, horns or just love hearing the finest compositions played by the finest musicians, GET THIS CD! You will be BLOWN AWAY!

Hard Wired is definitely an improvement over Dave's previous solo album "Heads Up," especially in the aspect of songwriting. It might still be somewhat of a drummer's album, but after all it IS a drummer's album! Dave plays some great grooves with some crazy beat displacement/syncopation on the more latin-fusion flavored tracks, as well as some straighter pocket playing. Just an interesting side note- the "guitar" solo on track 5 that is mentioned in other reviews is actually Jay Oliver using a unique sound on the keyboard, and using the pitch bend! This is a must have for drummers, but also a good album for anyone who appreciates jazz fusion oriented, instrumental music.  

Track listing:

1     Hard-Wired     4:02
2     Afrique     5:53
3     Dis' Place This     6:38
4     In Flight     6:11
5     Crazy Horse     5:41
6     Just An Illusion     5:09
7     Where's Tom?     5:09
8     In The Pocket     5:29
9     Tribute     5:09

Personnel:

    Drum, Drum Programming – Dave Weckl
    Bass – Anthony Jackson (tracks: 1, 2, 3,), James Genus (tracks: 5, 6, 7), John Patitucci (tracks: 4, 9)
    Bass [Programming] – Jay Oliver (tracks: 8)
    Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Electronic Wind Instrument – Steve Tavaglione
    Synthesizer, Piano, Organ – Jay Oliver
    Trumpet – Scott Alspach  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

GRP All-Star Big Band - 1988 "Live In Concert"

This is a 2 CD set of a concert from Japan in 1987. The first CD is the allstar band (minus Chick Corea) and is 49 minutes long. Most of the tracks are 4 to 5 minutes long, except for the last which is 8 minutes. The second CD is Chic Corea's Elektric band, is 59 minutes. The sound quality of this concert is excellent (as you would expect from GRP).

The first three songs are by Diane Schuur. She just sings and lets her normal voice come through, such as on Love Dance. Note that Grusin, Ritenour or Scott do not appear on the Shuur songs.

On the remaining tracks on the first CD, Grusin, Ritenour and Scott take turns leading the band. Note that Scott is not on all of the tracks. The last two Grusin tracks are the best.

The second CD is all Chick Corea's Elektric band. The tracks are longer, with 2 over 10 minutes. For the most part, I think this live performance is much better than the Elektric Band studio albums. The first two tracks are nothing special, and consists of little blasts of solos. Things get more interesting as the CD moves on.

I bought this cd when it first came out. What really impressed me about this disc was the spacious sound stage. The over all sound was very defined. It had the feeling of being there live. Most CDs I have bought with in the last 17 years can't compare to quality of the depth of sound found in this recording. This was also released on laserdisc. This should be released on Blu-Ray, it would make for a great evening.

If you like dave grusin and chick corea and like me prefer more rock orientated jazz you must listen to this. With Vinnie Coluaita drumming for Grusin, and Weckl for Chick you drummers wont be dissapointed either. Includes the best version of Chicks 'Light years' I have heard with Daves kit sounding amazing (electronic tuned toms).'Rumble' is laughably good too!.All the Grusin classics like 'AM attitude' and some with Tom scott are all performed in a rocky/funky way with Ritnour adding to that feel with his trademark sound. Overall another brilliantly entertaining grp performance.

This double CD is most notable for its second half which has a strong outing from Chick Corea's Elektric Band, his pacesetting fusion band with guitarist Frank Gambale, altoist Eric Marienthal, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl. The first CD is of lesser interest since it contains three routine vocals by Diane Schuur and some dull R&B jams with guitarist Lee Ritenour, keyboardist Dave Grusin and saxophonist Tom Scott. This set is worth buying for Corea's contributions if seen at a budget price.  

Track Listing:

Disc: 1
  1. Deedles' Blues
  2. Love Dance
  3. Caught a Touch of Your Love
  4. Early A.M. Attitude
  5. The Sauce
  6. Water From the Moon/Earth Run
  7. Target
  8. Goodbye For Kathy
  9. An Actor's Life

Disc: 2
  1. Overture
  2. Time Track
  3. No Zone
  4. Sidewalk
  5. Rumble
  6. Full Moon
  7. Light Years

Personnel:

CD 1 [Vol. 1]
Barnaby Finch, Dave Grusin - Keyboards
Tim Landers - Bass
Vinnie Colaiuta - Drums
Lee Ritenour - Guitar
Tom Scott - Saxophone
Diane Schuur - Vocals

CD 2 [Vol. 2]
Chick Corea - Keyboard
John Patitucci - Bass
Dave Weckl - Drums
Frank Gambale - Guitar
Eric Marienthal - Saxophone

Monday, May 8, 2017

John Coltrane - 1966 [1970] "Coltrane Plays The Blues"

 Coltrane Plays the Blues is an album credited to jazz musician John Coltrane, released in 1962 on Atlantic Records, catalogue SD 1382. It was recorded at Atlantic Studios during the sessions for My Favorite Things, assembled after Coltrane had stopped recording for the label and was under contract to Impulse Records. Like Prestige Records before them, as Coltrane's fame grew during the 1960s, Atlantic used unissued recordings and released them without either Coltrane's input or approval.

Coltrane's sessions for Atlantic in late October 1960 were prolific, yielding the material for My Favorite Things, Coltrane Plays the Blues, and Coltrane's Sound. My Favorite Things was destined to be the most remembered and influential of these, and while Coltrane Plays the Blues is not as renowned or daring in material, it is still a powerful session. As for the phrase "plays the blues" in the title, that's not an indicator that the tunes are conventional blues (they aren't). It's more indicative of a bluesy sensibility, whether he is playing muscular saxophone or, on "Blues to Bechet" and "Mr. Syms," the more unusual sounding (at the time) soprano sax. Elvin Jones, who hadn't been in Coltrane's band long, really busts out on the quicker numbers, such as "Blues to You" and "Mr. Day." [Some reissues add five bonus tracks: two alternates apiece of "Blues to Elvin" and "Blues to You," and "Untitled Original (Exotica)." All three were recorded on October 24, 1960.]

An under-appreciated album in the Coltrane discography. I would argue that Mr. Knight is probably the "coolest" song Coltrane ever recorded, meaning that it still sounds fresh and innovative even today. Coltrane's playing on this album is not as muscular as some of his other albums, nor as beautiful as on 'Ballads' or 'with Johnny Hartman', but its some where in-between, and that is what makes it great. I think this some of the quartet's finest work. 

These recordings come from the same sessions that produced 1961's My Favorite Things. This is one of the least well know Coltrane albums, partly because it is an all blues format and partly because it was released at the end of his association with Atlantic records.
Plays The Blues features the talents of McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Steve Davis. It is the beginning of his work with Tyner and Jones in quartet form. For that alone this recording would be important.
Although this album is called Plays The Blues, this is by no means the only blues which Coltrane plays. There are blues elements, moods and feelings in all of his best-known recordings. Listen to "Slowtrane," "Blue Train," "Bessie's Blues" among others and one can't help but hear the blues vibe.
The original six tracks are fantastic and have that same blues vibe. They hit the listener right in the heart and soul and don't let go. All six are superb, but "Blues To Bechet," "Mr. Day," "Mr. Knight" and "Blues To Elvin" are absolute classics.

Track Listings:

  1. Blues To Elvin
  2. Blues To Bechet
  3. Blues To You
  4. Mr. Day
  5. Mr. Syms
  6. Mr. Knight
  7. Untitled Origional (Bonus Track For CD Only)

Personnel:

    John Coltrane — soprano saxophone on "Blues to Bechet" and "Mr. Syms"; tenor saxophone on all others
    McCoy Tyner — piano
    Steve Davis — bass
    Elvin Jones — drums