Thursday, 25 May 2017

Cal State University in L.A. (CSULA) Jazz Ensemble's 1978 debut by request






About the CSULA Jazz Ensemble:

The award winning California State University, Los Angeles Jazz Ensemble; Los Angeles Times jazz critic Zan Stewart gave them four of five stars in his May 1989 review. The jazz band had numerous student musicians that have made a name for themselves as professionals to include Sharon Hirata, Luis Bonilla, Jack Cooper, Charlie Richard, Danny House, Phil Feather, Corey Gemme, Eric "Bobo" Correa, Vince Dublino, Alan Parr, Paul De Castro, Alex Henderson, and José Arellano. There has been a consistent tradition of musicians coming from the CSULA program who have worked with major musical acts, on major studio and movie projects, and hold positions in higher education in music. The roster is self-evident as to the diversity and level of student musicians CSULA developed at that time and has for many years dating far back to musicians (graduates) such as Lennie Niehaus and Gabe Baltazar.

Bob Curnow is the "Hank Levy" of this outfit at least on this record, and you'll see most compositions are by and arranged by him.  He was a trombonist and arranger for the (great) Stan Kenton Band.

This was the first release by them and came late in the college band game, in 1978.  It is overall a bit disappointingly (for me) in the big band jazz vein, not so much as a slight though barely perceptible nod towards fusion.


First track has the incomparably unforgettable title of Nerkmobile and is by one Neil Finn:






On the other hand, the best composition appearing here is the last one, La Meme Chose, with its startling polyrhythms on a presumably odd time signature, and it's by trumpeter/pianist Jeff Holmes:










Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Dennis Dreith's Tales Of The Electric Pong Orchestra 1977 [with lossless upgrade]




I posted this 5 years ago, but wanted to rerip it.

"This album I personally found quite interesting due to its compositional quality. The first side is the standout, opening with the ten-minute tales of the electric pong. It starts with typical 70s funky fusion stuff but a well-composed trumpet passage then brings in a fugue-like passage, before the energy heats up again, for a third part that reminds of soft machine's rubber riff period. The last part is an almost atonal schoenberg or stravinsky composition similar to the most adventurous egg compositions with clarinet, english horn, flute:"









By Scott Blackerby (Reston, Virginia) (REAL NAME):

"Pelican Records was an offshoot of the California-based Baby Grand label. Apparently one of those mid-1970s tax scam enterprises, the Baby Grand/Pelican catalog's quite large, though there are big gaps in the documented catalog. 

Written and produced by Dennis Dreith (Ronald Fair serving as executive producer), this is nothing but speculation on my part, but my guess is that 1977's "Tales of the Electric Pong" reflected material Dreith had previously written and recorded for various television and movie projects. Pelican somehow got access to the results, repackaging it as a quickie tax dodge release. Given Dreith's musical background, that might not be a major stretch. He started his professional musical career in the mid-1960s working as an arranger and ghost writer for Hanna Barbera cartoons. That led to composing and orchestrating scores for television films and motion pictures such as Howard the Duck, The Shadow, Purple People Eater, The Punisher, etc. Whatever the story, musically the album featured a collection of throwaway atmospheric instrumentals - I've heard stuff like this referred to as incidental music, that bounced all over the genre map including experimental, funk. jazz-rock fusion, and easy listening moves. Nothing here was going to change you world, but then that was the intent. 

- Most of the first side was taken up by the instrumental 'Tales of the Electric Pong'. A three part instrumental suite, 'Tales', 'Interlude' and 'Three' sounded like a cross between Booker T. & the MGs and something that might have been penned for the soundtrack for a cheapy television detective series. Course that only made sense given Dreith's extensive background in television and films. Needless to say, the Booker T. segments sounded a lot better than the television soundtrack segments. rating: ** stars 
- Well, say what you will about this album, but the instrumental 'Trio for Alto Flute, English Horn, & Bass Clarinet' was an apt description of the tune ... Very experimental and somewhat atonal, it's almost guaranteed to send rock fans running for the door in a hurry. rating: * star 
- Giving credit where due, side two's 'Karuna' exhibited a nice jazz-rock guitar solo and a touch of funk in the mix, but still retained that distinctive television soundtrack feel - easy to imagine the main character detective strolling along a beach thinking about his case ... rating: *** stars 
- Another truth-in-advertising cut kicked along by a slinky melody and some of the cheesiest synthesizers you'll ever hear 'Southern Slink' was probably the standout performance. rating: *** stars 
- Another synthesizer-propelled number, 'Nrujo' was the kind of jazz-rock fusion background piece you would have heard in a happening 1970s restaurant. rating: ** stars "

Notice too that Dreith's discogs page (linked above) only has two ost's, presumably there is more by him to be discovered.




Saturday, 20 May 2017

US progressive band Radio Piece III






It turns out our old friend apps wrote up Radio Piece III well and quite accurately on rateyourmusic:

US Prog/Fusion trio,which started as an Avant-Garde/Jazz combo in 1976, but developed into a Progressive Rock band over the years. The original line-up featured keyboardist Tom Makucevich, drummer Richie Kuchta and bassist Tom Goroff. The line-up changed numerous times with only Makucevich being a stable member and the band performing either as a quartet or a quintet. By mid-80's Radio Piece were shortened back to a trio with Makucevich accompanied by Larry Benigno on keyboards and drummer Larry Mastroni. The first self-titled album of the band was released in 1984 on Radio Star Records. A very short but also very cohesive work, ''Radio Piece III'' clocks at just over 33 minutes, but it is an exciting work for all keyboard fanatics and lovers of the Fusion sound. With dominant work on analog synths, minimoog, vibraphone and Hammond, the band presents a unique style, often influenced by Canterbury bands with a humorous edge like The Muffins with plenty of double keyboard attacks and some great solos and breaks around. Some nice grooves by the rhythm section are interrupted by the massive virtuosic playing of keyboards, while the use of minimoog adds sometimes a very symphonic flavor in the style of Tony Banks. Other good reference points are Percy Jones' Tunnels and Canadian band Uzeb. The mix of the album is great and helps the listener identify the best out of each instrument. If you enjoy keyboard-based Fusion with light Canterbury and symphonic elements this work should probably be your next addition.


He didn't however review the next instalment, the 1987 cassette Tomato Pie Blues, which in my opinion was fantastic, and superior, but Tom takes up the baton and empty seat here in this musical chairs / relay race wildly mixed metaphor:

Heavily Canterbury influenced with irreverent lyrics and metronomic workouts. A little thin sounding for the style, but more meaty than most albums from 1987. Well worth the time to seek out a copy if you're a fan of the style. Early French TV is another pointer.


Actually I was quite shocked that Tom never reviewed them exhaustively for his cd reissue blog as this is fully in his wheelhouse.  Subsequently no one bothered to review the CD album Tesseract and Monuments, which was just as good as the previous work, and which most out there probably already have in their possession.  But I can leave it up to everyone out there to decide, right?  Except that we can't share the CDs for too long, as you all know.  (The second album was in fact officially reissued on CD too as you can see here in their discography, though I'm not sure if that means it can be bought anywhere out there in the real world --that's a separate issue.)

But back to the music.  The first album suffers a bit from unevenness in my opinion, with too much commercially compromising AOR tendencies, the best composition in my opinion being the Plants:






Oddly enough, perhaps because they completely gave up on commercial success, the next cassette was totally out-there progressive keys a la ELP / Egg (Dave Stewart group) instrumental magic, and it came zooming a hundred miles an hour out of the gate with the first track called Flag:






I love the way the composer here has absolutely no limitation with regards to tonic key/chord rules, showing zero respect for any kind of overall tonality (a hallmark of Dave Stewart too, way back when).   And I was quite pleased to hear that the title track of Tomato Pie Blues has nothing to do with either the (insipid) blues format, or, tomato pies.
Last track of the cassette repackages the (fantastic) Hallowe'en Suite of the first album.

Thirdly, Tesseract, which probably everyone already knows, continues along the same insane vein, as demonstrated by the grandiosely Rabelaisian Gargantua:





Wow.  Pretty magnificent to hear.

It should also be mentioned that the latter two works, like the above song, have a huge indebtedness to Frank Zappa's style of orchestral compositions played by slightly wacky pretend-woodwinds, etc., on digital keyboards (e.g., Holiday in Berlin).

Many thanks to everyone for collecting these for my and your enjoyment...


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Jayar's Foreign Soil from 1980






Here's a highly in demand rare release from the US, by artist Jayar, called Foreign Soil.  On the back the following blurb:

"The heavens call to you and circle around you, displaying to you their eternal splendors, and your eye gazes only to earth."

--Dante

Poor Dante, how many google searches does he earn today compared to Kendall Jenner?

The style is squarely in the late seventies American style of AOR, think Styx around their "Come Sail Away / Suite Madame Blue" period but a little less nuanced and/or bombastic (can something be both of those at the same time?).

One Turn Left is the only progressive instrumental, not written by Jayar:






Unfortunately as such it's not representative of the remainder here.


Monday, 15 May 2017

Back to Towson State College Jazz with the 1979 series




The series which included the so far reviewed 75, 77, 78 and 80 proved surprisingly popular for readers of this blog.  So when I saw a copy of 79 for sale I bought it pronto.  For me the last one, 1980's mostly fusion outpouring, was the best instalment of this franchise.  (Although my favourite single composition / track to listen to is still the Canadian college band's Jacobs Tailor.)  Here you can see that there are still 82, 85, 86, and in the CD era, 1991, 1996, and a CD from 2001.  Note that Hank Levy himself passed away at the relatively young age of 73 in that last year.

It's a mixed bag again, with some standards that really nauseate me (I Remember You), but some original compositions that are quite delightful, with the energetic closer (Hank Levy's Whiplash) a particular highlight:








Saturday, 13 May 2017

Dørge/Becker/Carlsen Feat. Marilyn Mazur in 1986's Canoe, by request





Set aside the sheer ridiculousness of the throwaway cover shot, wherein each artist appears either bored or stoned, or wishing to be, here's a request that turned out to be quite pleasantly enjoyable, information here.

The trio made another album the next year, Irene Becker keyboardist is third from left, Marilyn percussionist second from left, with the other gentleman Morten Carlsen (on saxes) on the right, and Dorge on the left.  This last artist, the guitarist, was the brains behind Thermaenius, recall.  And to be honest the music on this LP is very similar, instrumental fusion with some very intricate smooth jazz sounds, full of dreamy interludes of high-flying sax and electric guitar interplay above sustained synth chords.  Note the bio of that band on discogs:

Danish Fusion jazz band active late 1970's to early 1980's lead by Pierre Dørge. Since Thermænius folded, Dørge, Irene Becker and Morten Carlsen have continued playing together. First as Dørge/Becker/Carlsen and later with Becker and Carlsen as members of Dørge's New Jungle Orchestra that was formed after Thermænius, and the three of them continously performs as a trio.

Irene Becker was in a rock group (with Dorge on some albums) in the seventies, called Hos Anna, as you can see here.  Those lost albums are incredibly hard to find, although cheap as dirt, anyone know anything at all about the style, if it's simple pop or what?  That they are not logged in rateyourmusic, the master class for connoisseurs, is always a bad sign of course.

Sky of July, a Becker composition, is typical of the style:





Perhaps we can call this the next, or last, Thermænius album.










Wednesday, 10 May 2017

By Request: the 1976 NDR Jazzworkshop with Dauner and Ponty





These records are not cheap as they are understandably rare, but looked quite interesting.  A few were posted previously (thanks for that!) on the inconstant sol blog (mostly free jazz or improvised) as can be seen here.

A bit of background can be found on wikipedia, translated from the original German:

The NDR Jazzworkshop was first organized in 1958, in which jazz musicians from different bands and different scenes worked together and presented their work results in the concert after several days of trial. The NDR radio station of the same name later remained for the documentation of recorded jazz concerts.

Unfortunately there is no complete discography to be found there, or even in the database here.
But as mentioned in the wikipedia page, some luminaries like (obviously, from the cuneiform release) Soft Machine, Volker Kriegel, and of course Wolfgang Dauner in this installment have appeared in different years.

In fact the presence of the latter composer, to whom an entire first side is dedicated, is obviously the reason this record was of interest.  So what can we say about Dauner's composition which begins with a bloodcurdling scream?  Well, suffice it to say I will never play it in front of my kids and my wife, and I think that says it all.

Sadly, Ponty's track is a bit disappointing with its simple three-chord change:





While the remainder of the tracks, with Eje Thelin's improvised wailing and Al Jarreau babbling in the old jazz manner, are best left unmentioned.



Monday, 8 May 2017

A Swiss SOFA's 33/45 EP





https://www.discogs.com/Sofa-3345/release/2374710

Straightforward smooth fusion here.  The first side is 33 and 15 minutes and I suppose after running out of ideas the second side is 45 and only 10.

First track, inanely called It's so Cozy:








Friday, 5 May 2017

Bernd Köppen / Heinz Becker ‎– Tanz Der Altarfiguren 1984 -- by request












The front of the sleeve folds opens to reveal the image immediately below it.

Church organ plus free jazz sax, what else could go wrong here?  Information here.

First and title track:






Rather more approachable is the track called January 30, 1983:









Wednesday, 3 May 2017

RIO Random in Nothin' Tricky, 1977 USA




This band, god bless their crazy souls, released a one-off private pressed LP in 1977 that is absolutely what I want and crave in progressive rock: ingenious and inventive, totally original composition with textures and sounds that never seem to end in creativity.  First of all I'll post Tom's review from rateyourmusic:

Very interesting avant progressive band from Illinois. Starts off with a disco(?!) track, but you know it's a head fake from the beginning. Mostly the group Random go for a chamber music sound, with all sorts of other styles mixed in, most notably jazz. Highly inventive for 1977, and one has to presume Henry Cow were an influence here. Album is available for free on the band's website.

The other (higher) review from siriuspooka;

The title "Nothin' Tricky" is an understatement. This band from Champaign-Urbana, formerly named "Random Rhythm and His Miscellaneous Meter Review", have to offer an interesting mixture. As Tom mentioned, in some smaller parts Henry Cow comes to mind. I hear as main influence Oregon, but making a balancing act between chamber rock avantgarde things and merge american folk in rock in opposition. It clearly can be sorted under the category unusual and entertaining. That's why 4 stars.


I would like first to correct these two gentlemen, first of all, the starter (Not Yet) has a disco beat but we are not talking about the ridiculous joke song in Orchestra Njervudarov, as you can hear here:





For me the charm of this track is that appears to be a satire of library and other easy listening songs, with the schmaltzy strings playing over surprising chord changes, and yes, its point is clearly to trick the listener regarding the subsequent content.  The second misprision is that the band's name is not an understatement but rather tongue in cheek, like almost all the music here.  Humor in music: RIO showed it can be done in a sophisticated and intelligent way (unlike Njervudarov's attempt as mentioned above).

Overall the record is very similar to my old favourite Feigenbaum and Scott which appeared here, without vocals.  The intelligence of the chamber arrangements, recalling Quebeckers Conventum, shines through like a laser in track 6, Procyon Lotar: (!)





On the one hand it saddens me that musicians that put so much thought and effort into a totally unknown piece of work should be so neglected, especially in today's world of artistic simplicity, on the other hand it never ceases to amaze me how creative the human mind can be at its best...




Monday, 1 May 2017

Michel Herr and Engstfeld in Perspective, Belgium 1978




Recall Michel Herr?  His album Good Buddies was one of the best requests I've ever heard in my tenure here since I was salaried away from my day job to run this blog.  And obviously, blessed with an unforgettable cover.  In distinction, this is more along the lines of standard issue advanced jazz with meandering compositions and not so much to hold on to.

The other artists can be found here with more information.

Herr's electric piano on the ostinatos of Continuous Flow is highly appealing:





Album closes with Stratus which is all ECM all the way:






And indeed Engstfeld's soprano sax vividly reminds me of my old favourite Gallery with its atmospheric soaring.