Friday, 16 August 2019

Slovenian Quatebriga in 4 albums spanning 1984 to 1997

From discogs:

Slovenian jazz group Quatebriga started in 1984 when Begnagrad members - bassist Nino de Gleria, drummer Ales Rendla and guitarist Igor Leonardi teamed up with saxophone player Milko Lazar and later with David Jarh. In the following years the group changed a couple of members but the firm base remaining Lazar - de Gleria - Rendla trio. In that time also some other musicians were working with the band: Aci Lukač - keyboard, Branko Mirt - electric guitar, Matjaž Albreht - flute and saxes, and Agim Brizani - percussion.

In any case, they made a mix of folk and fusion with RIO elements, even free jazz, similar to Kebnekajse and others.  The one drawback possibly is the recycling of material from one album to the next.

From the debut album, Uverture & I Remember Begnagrad:

Favorite Things, from 1987:

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

2 Hungarian fusion albums: VA Session at Night (1980) and Tomsits Jazz Group's Dream and Reality (1978)

Here are two really wonderful Hungarian fusion albums.  Starting with the chronologically earlier Tomsits Jazz Group headed by orchestrator, pianist, and trumpeter Rudolf Tomsits (note the early passing at age 67) we have the perfect, for me, mix of fusion with european classical elements in an aptly named session called Dream and Reality.

The first and introductory track is called Dream:

While the Village Samba, oddly enough given the title, gives me everything I need from fusion and then more:

The other album here from 1980 is a VA.  Note that a number of different musicians have contributed to the whole, though it adheres together quite perfectly from beginning to end with a nice fusion energy carried through with creative and intelligent musical ideas, for example, eschewing the usual jazz or fusion chord changes and showing a depth of emotional sincerity that is very pleasing.
The Operetta:

Monday, 12 August 2019

French Composer Michel Colombier [limited time only]

Here's some material that just made me drop everything when I heard it, surprised I had never paid attention to this composer before.  In particular I already knew of the 'famous' Wings album with the unforgettable theme Emmanuel, from 1971, but hadn't heard a remarkable fusion opus he made in the late seventies which falls squarely in the great progressive fusion tradition of those years, and can be easily overlooked when swamped by his library-OST body of work.

First of all we can reassure ourselves that on wikipedia he is a famous individual.  As follows:

Michel Colombier (May 23, 1939 – November 14, 2004) was a French composer, songwriter, arranger, and conductor. In a career that spanned over four decades, he composed over 100 film and television scores, as well as chamber music, ballets, and concept albums.  He won a César Award for Best Original Music for Élisa, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and three Grammy Awards.

I note that he worked with French progressive (electronic) artist Michel Magne, and Petula Clark, Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert, etc.  Regarding the opus Wings from 1971, we can actually use allmusic for the customary professionally written description full of the standard music review cliches:

With the Tijuana Brass mostly on hold at the time, Herb Alpert commissioned what was immediately touted as a landmark project from French musical polymath Michel Colombier -- a pop symphony with the positively Mahlerian ambition to encompass the entire world in about 37 minutes. Alpert produced it, the gnomelike Paul Williams contributed lyrics, and Colombier composed the music and recorded it mostly in Paris, with additional big-band tracks and voices added at A&M Studios in Los Angeles.

Though Paul Williams, who was a genius of seventies songwriting, probably wouldn't appreciate the description.  The fact is, the album is all over the place in terms of orchestration, styles, and themes, a quality I don't usually mind as long as there is a sense of cohesiveness somewhere, but that's lacking on Wings.

The song Emmanuel, with its classic French soundtrack sound, has a story behind it.  Michel wrote it for his son who died at the horrifically young age of 5, drowned in a swimming pool.  If you haven't heard that track, here it is on youtube.  It was used on French TV in that era and so was well known in that country.

In any case the album I'm referring to here today is the ST 1979 album in which he definitely took to flight with the spirit of fusion.  What's equally ridiculous is the star power that got assembled for this one LP, almost like a Grammy Award audience from the period: Larry Carlton, Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock, Jaco Pastorius, etc.

The opening, called Sunday:

Did he perhaps make more fusion as ultra-competent as is featured on this LP somewhere?  It's genuinely hard to tell from the database information as listed here, and I don't feel the need to wade through a ton of soundtrack material to find out.  To explain why I threw in two of those seventies OSTs.

Then in 1983, he lands back on terra firma from the high-flying seventies with Old Fool Back on Earth, a magnificent double-CD set of compositions that recalls to me the Claus Ogerman works such as Gate of Dreams (his masterpiece), Cityscape, Elegia, etc.  It's true it's a bit too long in the sense there is a lot of filler, a multiplicity of ideas that could have used some paring down, but it's really quite stunning.  And it flows together beautifully, unlike Wings.

Note the lovely illustrations better seen on the CD here.

The chord changes which evoke shifting ripples on a pond never cease to entrance me on the Nympheas (i.e. water lilies, as in the over-exposed impressionist paintings)

When I think of how this music is indebted to artists like Ravel from the early 20th century but travels so much farther in the direction of breathtaking beauty with the help of twentieth century jazz or pop harmonies in its soft skill and depth of feeling, I just stand in awe at what the human mind has created in the musical sphere.  Can't wait to see what those AI programs will accomplish in the same dept. after 2030 when 'the singularity' takes them far beyond us.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Fusion band Birdland, 3 albums

From discogs:

Jazz band from Bern, Switzerland formed in Spring 1978 by Yugoslav students. 
Predrag Banković - guitar 
Dragan Marinković - bass (1978-1979) 
Boris Relja - piano 
Beat Rauch - drums, from 1979 percussion 
Umil Bengi - percussion (1978-1979) 
Borivoje Vukadinović - bass (from 1979) 
Peter Hurni - drums (from 1979)

The first album never lets us down, from beginning to end, with the hard energy of the electric guitar, reminiscent of German masters Dzyan.  You can't kill the beast, indeed:

But the beast did suffer some, a bit of osteoarthritis already in its older age on the second album.
And it fared even worse by the third, though it featured that one wonderfully inventive churning composition Golgotha:

Perhaps time for a DNR on the beast now.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Pondus's Myrornas Frammarsch (1979) and Myrbein's Myrornas Krig (1981)

Both bands made but one album each.  Beginning with Pondus, who present to us an all over the place varied mix of folk, rock, and fusion-- and that's by no means a complaint for us of course, just for the music industry (RIP), like Kebnekajse (I refer mostly to their III album) and Samla Mammas they use acoustic guitar and folk to spice up the electric guitar passages.  One of my favourite all time straight up songs taken from a progressive rock album, shoulda been a hit in the seventies, is the stunning song Livets Låga:

I love the casual melancholy of the melody and the way the chord progression builds upwards in a climactic way till the flute plus electric piano take it back down again for another verse.  God forbid we should ever come across such a well-crafted beautiful song again written today.

The album closes out with a masterful guitar-based fusion lava outpouring called Flumlåten well worthy of Mahavishnu John McLaughlin:

Turning our attention now to Myrbein (info here), let's start with the second track, called De Fyra Stånden.  Here we have echoes of co-nationals Blakulla, prog masters Kultivator (recently reissued to CD with some very disappointing bonus tracks), with the heavy grinding fuzzy electric guitarwork:

Most of the tracks feature grinding electric guitar, always a difficult endeavour in progressive rock, here not always successful, but often enough for us to walk away happy.
The album title has a wiki entry here, btw.

Monday, 5 August 2019

American Ocean's Sunrise from 1982

From discogs:

Early 80s jazz fusion band from Cincinnati, OH. All-analogue keys, nice fuzzy rock guitar, all original compositions. This is a pleasant surprise, as it definitely has more of a mid-to-late 1970s sound. The trumpeter uses no effects, and sounds a little like Mike Lawrence did on those later 11th House LPs. The compositions are all over the place... some have definite Return to Forever type vibes, some veer closer to Stanley Clarke's stuff circa "Journey to Love" (lots of slap bass), some approach a sort of slick fusiony post-bop... not a bad LP and fairly typical of US private fusion recordings of the late 1970s (though it is from 1982!).

Despite the manifest enthusiasm of the blurb presumably from a reviewer with fairly low standards, it's not as good as others of the same ilk we've posted before like Franklin Street Arterial, Landress-Hart, etc., etc.  So many others we've posted before here in these pages.

But I love the way they go just fusionary crazy on the track called The Bubble:

Obviously, I found this one when I was searching backups for the previous German Ocean.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Ocean's Melody (81) and Double Vision (84)

Here are two albums from an ELP-like keyboards outfit that produced just miracles of compositional glory in the progressive tradition of the seventies, a bit behind the times, but, Happy the Man (that) said Better Late than Never.  If you don't know them you'll be shocked at the quality of their ideas.  The discogs page shows the artists, specifically, the composers' names are Mike Hoffman and Peter Kunz, for what it's worth.  Moving on to the music, here's an exemplary piece from the first album called 7 to 8 Melody with a completely inappropriate for the times mellotron solo:

And the next piece Wild Pig sounds like something left off by mistake from a Le Orme album smack in the middle of the most classic period of Italian prog.  Amazing.

Shockingly, the follow-up album, although comprising shorter material with the standard decadal LP number of songs, is just as impressive, showing they were quite intransigent, or perhaps foolhardy, in their dedication to creative originality.  Consider Ballade Zwo, which goes farther than anything on the first album into the verboten modern university composition classical direction:

This is followed by a track dedicated "To Keith" (Emerson, presumably).
I love the way both albums reward repeated listening, with new tangents and directions always to be discovered.