Friday, 18 September 2020

Richard Kruza - Oui [feat. Zbigniew Namyslowski] (1988)

From discogs:

Music composer, vocalist; lecturer of Bartók Béla College of Musicart.
Plays vibraphone, keys instruments, synthesizer, piano & percussions.
Born in Chojnice, Poland on July 16, 1939.
Died March 19, 2020

Note that our previously featured Namyslowski is credited as producer on this record.
The music was written by Kruza, except one track by Csaba Deseo, remember him?
In keeping with the later year of 1988 the music is a bit more unnecessarily accessible than one would have wanted.
There are the usual loud echoey chords that were so typical of the 80s casio keyboard sound and needless to articulate, the dreaded digital drum machine.  The whole is entirely quite libraryish, with all instrumental descriptive tracks.

A very throwback track, Between you and me, note that it's Kruza who is playing the vibes here:

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Last of the Retour to Haiti with Gerald Merceron in Haiti Insolite, Kako 1915 (Unusual Aspects of Haitian Music)

Here is what I assume to be the last of this series of Haitian jazz/fusion albums related to the brilliant and unknown Gerald Merceron.  Of course, there may always be more albums not entered yet in the database that will turn up later, it always surprises me when that happens--though it shouldn't by now.  In terms of this blog, a search function just might work for you here, though it has been problematic for me for the oldest posts from probably more than 5 years back.

It all started about that far back when I discovered the Kote Ou album from Mushi Widmaier-- posted here, an album which remains for me one of the most underrated unknown masterpieces in the world.  I bought an original LP from 1982 for less than 100 USD and couldn't believe it when I saw it selling in the hundreds about 2-3 years later.  Subesequently of course you can see a rerelease came out in 2017, so anyone can hear the beauty of the music.  Nonetheless, I'm sure the original release will remain a collector's item and thus appropriately priced.  Mushi produced some more music that can be found and sampled on amazon, here, or here on youtube. Anyways, that LP led to the Energie Mysterieuse one from 1979 with involvement and most compositions from Merceron, and that one was unquestionably brilliant too, especially in the melding together of classical and fusion, and the really oddball and original melodic lines Merceron was able to come up with, like magic, as I always say, compared to the average songwriter facing a piano or guitar and coming up with a circle of fifths progression or even worse, a mixture of I, IV, V, maybe the II minor.

As a result of the strength of that one I resolved to collect all the remaining albums, there was an original Jazz Compositions from Haiti which proved generically disappointing, and was posted the most recent, 2 years ago, then the brilliant Tet San Ko in which the nutty imaginative songwriting technique just went through the roof, out of the ballpark, and the follow up one called Bokassa Grotraka that made fun of the cannabilistic dictator or Napoleonic 'emperor' of Central African Republic-- a story so crazy that you have to read it on wikipedia to believe it.  Mention should also be made of the solo album of Lionel Benjamin, who sang on almost all the releases, including this one.

This is the rarest by far of the 5 related albums from Merceron, and quite indisputably the worst, being mostly regular jazz.  Information here.  Sigh-- a recurring problem when I try to complete these discographies, necessary as it is.  The first track is one of the wonderful crazy melodies typical of Merceron, but the second half of side a is a purely improvised solo piece that seems to me a little self-indulgent.  The second side as I said is given over to the generic jazz in quartet format.

Here is the first track, the title track:

The blurb on the front:

Modern classical music art songs and jazz themes composed by Gerald Merceron, played by Brazilian, American, Haitian and French musicians
This record includes "Criar" with lyrics by Agostinho Netto, late president of Angola, music composed played and sung by Gerald Merceron

Monday, 14 September 2020

Polish sax player Namyslowski, again in the ST, 1978, and Air Condition, 1981

I posted his Jasmine Lady album, back here, hopefully there are those who remember the name.
His discography can be found here.  Note that he played in the Klaus Lenz grouping, which I posted too a few times (most recently here, the amazing Sleepless Nights).  He was also in the superb hard-fusion Swedish band Pop Workshop which created two masterpieces of fusioneering space travel in the early 70s.  Get those if you don't already have.  Their Song of the Pterodactyl is absolutely priceless.

His 1981 Air Condition album was a bit too fuzackyish, though it led to 2 other albums from the same grouping (the LP title led to the artist name), and those are both really good and well worth seeking out for the fusion fan.
But the ST Namylovski (with a v) from 1978 is just amazing.   Some songs were recycled from the 'with strings' predecessor 1977 with 'w' album, which was reissued and is easy to find, with arrangements by Zbigniew.

The astonishing Time Passing track, or Passage of Time, just throws me off the earth with its chromatic and intriguing, utterly unique chord changes that seem to flow from one planet to another, but with such beauty, never mind the utterly priceless electric piano intro section that to me blows away the majority of what Chick and Herbie ever wrote (pianist is Slawomir Kulpowicz, not familiar with the name at all, others for sure can enlighten us).  It's difficult for me to even identify or discern most of the specific chords in there. The sax melody flows so smoothly over the shifting chords underneath, it just amazes me:

Friday, 11 September 2020

Anthony Davis with his missing piece, Return from Space, 1985

Some very very beautiful artwork, and amazingly varied to boot, in his oeuvre.   You have two mosaic-like images, an abstract expressionist monochrome, the gorgeous sky-perspective photo of lying humans (Buddhist monks?) from his masterpiece Episteme 2, a surreal or fantasy cliff painting, a watercolour abstract, and then the second from bottom, a mix of cubism and more modern realist expressionism.  Really lovely stuff.  Note that after the mid-80s (link for discography below), in keeping with the zeitgeist, the gorgeous cover art disappears, and pretty quickly too.  Maybe coincidentally with the start of the CD era.

These are all the albums he made from the first Past Lives in 1978 to this rip, 1985's Return From Space, missing sadly so far from the digitalese cybersphere.  Until today that is.

From discogs:

Anthony Davis (born February 20, 1951 in Paterson, New Jersey) is an American composer, jazz pianist, and student of gamelan music.  Davis composed an opera entitled X (about Malcolm X), taught at Yale University, and has played with Anthony Braxton and Leo Smith. In 1981, he formed an octet called Episteme. He also wrote the incidental music for the Broadway version of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. He incorporates several styles including jazz, rhythm 'n' blues, gospel, non-Western, African, European classical, Indonesian, and experimental music.  Davis is with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and has received acclaim as a free-jazz pianist, a co-leader or sideman with various ensembles. Such ensembles include those which featured Smith as bandleader from 1974 to 1977.  Davis is professor of music at the University of California San Diego. His opera, Wakonda's Dream, is a tale of a contemporary Native American family and the history that affects them.  His latest opera, "Lilith" (libretto by Allan Havis) will have its world premiere at the Conrad Prebys Music Center in UCSD on December 4, 2009. The story is about Adam's first wife and will be set in a modern era.

From the blurb:

From The Original Soundtrack Recordings and The Original Compositions for Return From Space (Wonder Nonfiction)
Towa Production and Fuji Television Network Inc. Presents A Filmlink International Picture in association with Theodore Thomas Productions
Special Thanks To: NASA
℗ & © Gramavision Records

I don't see a lot of google for the show, whatever it was, possibly because it was Japanese, and made for TV (?).  Doesn't matter.  The lovely third track, Into The Outer Space [sic], sounds a lot like the best of ECM's Art Lande (E.g. Rubisa Patrol).  Flautist is Marty Ehrlich.

The often-mentioned Sea of Tranquillity is oddly hyperactive on this record, usually being represented by a droney one-chord synth a la early TD, and the composition with the sea of jostling horns reminds me a lot of my old favourite Berklee alumnus Paul Nash:

Everything was written by Anthony Davis, of course.  Some lovely arrangements here and there recalling his masterpiece Episteme.

I should of course dispense with the usual political comments about how the last landing on the moon was just under 50 years ago, how no one could ever have imagined that it would already be the end of non-earth exploration for humans, how this provides a very simple example to resolve (in an Occam's razor sense) 'Fermi's Paradox,' and how I don't expect any travel beyond the earth in the near or distant future with conditions as they are especially after the big Nov. election in the US and the looming world-changing tragedy of climate change that will soon irrevocably change all our lives for the remainder of humanity's time on the planet, may it at least be long. 
Really have to leave all that stuff out...
As James Vincent said, We're Space Travellers, on our way home...
Let us at least make our home last.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Level F - A Stitch in Time (recorded 1975-1980) [no download]

Without a doubt the best classic progressive rock I've heard in some years, surpassing even the Zopp from last post, this is easily available here on bandcamp and I urge everyone to download it.  It was never released back in the day (composed in the late 70s).  Sounds like anything from the past among the best we've ever heard, such as instrumental ELP, late-stage King Crimson, the exceptional Romanian band Ex Q, on these pages, I brought to light the very similar Radio Piece III, or, moving to the French zeuhl dept., the amazing Xalph record.

We're talking the real deal here, including bizarre chord changes, dissonances galore, tritones and minor seconds, strange instrumentation, strange melodies, etc., all the hallmarks of this utterly unique genre.  From their page:

A Stitch in Time is a set of recordings by Level F, a Prog Rock band that was active between 1975 and 1980 in Oxford. The line up was

Malcolm Levitt - guitar
Phil Bastow - keyboards
Simon Thorpe - bass
Mark Pilkington - drums

The recordings were made by Simon's cousin, Chris Thorpe, in a home studio at the top of his parents house - Whitegates, Sparken Hill, Worksop, UK. We think it was in the spring of 1979.

The album also includes three other bonus tracks that were recorded earlier at the Oxford University Recording Society's premises in North Oxford - probably in 1976. At that point, the band's keyboard player was Marc Sheffner who was replaced by Phil Bastow in 1977.
released April 1, 1989

Malcolm Levitt - guitar
Phil Bastow - keyboards (tracks 1-13)
Simon Thorpe - bass
Mark Pilkington - drums
Marc Sheffner - keyboards (tracks 14-16)

Codifier, a near-perfect musical track for me, starts with a beautiful dissonant electric piano arpeggio atop of which a reverb-laden fuzzy electric guitar plays an angry melody, a third through, the tempo changes, the music accelerates, then, typical of our favourite prog, two-thirds through another complete change in direction with a very Canterbury-like, Mike Ratledge-like, more jazzy organ / synth soloing passage:

The following track called Caroline shows a phenomenal skill at original songwriting, and melodically is not only one of the best songs I've heard in a more library genre, but stands as a simply beautiful track on its own odd-chord-change terms:

What's more amazing still is that almost every one of the 16 tracks is very strong and original.
Not only a remarkable set of classic prog, but a wonderful discovery seemingly unadvertised and unknown even among those who collect this style.  Deserves to be well-known without a doubt.  Thank you to everyone who helps bring this music to the attention of humanity.