Friday 28 September 2018

Back to Wall Matthews: Solo Piano and Guitar 1984

Just to quickly recap, my friend sent me a wonderful collection of amazing chamber jazz/fusion called Entourage Music Group etc., along the lines of famed band Oregon (and maybe the amazing Paul Winter Consort) this past summer.  Digging further into the discography I came up with an ssw called Bob Brown, then the guitarist/pianist Wall Matthews in his solo material, which proved to be quite similar to the group's output.  The album in question today though came after the 1981 called Dance in Your Eye, and it features, as the title might suggest, purely solo acoustic piano and guitar. 

The compositions are by Wall with the exception of a cover version of, oddly enough, the tired old Across the Universe.  (Can't we all just let the poor ol' grey Beatles songs rest and sleep in retirement, finally? When I'm a hundred and sixty-four, maybe?)  Overall the music then sounds quite similar to the newagey / easy-listeningish pianist Sandy Owen, who led the brilliant Iliad group for a short time in the seventies-- do you guys remember those old posts?  Or is there just too much new material to remember anything from more than a few months ago, which is what I often find.

As an example of the (unfortunately only 2) solo guitar pieces, Summer Steps:

Just beautiful, and nothing like it can ever be heard today, in my opinion.  The classical education combined with the aspiration for pure artistic beauty-- speechless.

A piano piece called Jesse's Birthday Song reminds me not a little of the music of Art Lande:

Not all is as good, unfortunately.  But I enjoyed the record a lot, especially for its relaxational quality.

Wednesday 26 September 2018

The Errol Parker Experience in ST, Baobab

From discogs:

Errol Parker, real name: Raphael Schécroun

French jazz pianist, organist, drummer and bandleader, born 30 October 1930 in Oran, Algeria, died 4 July 1998 in New York City, USA.

Thanks to wikipedia, we don't need to guess the relatively obvious, his nom de plume is derived from jazz pianist Errol Garner and Charlie Parker.

To continue the bio:

In 1964, Parker wrote the song "Lorre", which became a hit in France, and opened his own jazz club "Le Ladybird" on Rue de la Huchette. Following a serious car accident that impaired his playing, Parker emigrated to New York City, where his daughter was to begin university in February 1968. In America he started a second career as a record producer, but unable to find a suitable drummer he started to perform as a jazz drummer (which was not affected by his shoulder injury). He died of liver cancer in New York City, aged 72. [Editor: ?] His daughter was Elodie Lauten (1950-2014), a pianist and composer.

The first ST album is somewhat humdrum in its adherence to conventional jazz tropes such as the Brazilian piece and the first, jazz standard-like original composition-- in fact, Errol wrote all the music here and on the next record.

For the Baobab group, rounding out leader Errol, the guitarist is Bruce Johnson, saxophonist Monty Waters (like on ST), percussionist Adetobi, bassist James Fish Benjamin.  Notice the presence of the amazing Johnson well known (so to speak, of course) from his Sea Serpent album from 1980.

The music is an occasionally odd mix of fusion played by smaller jazz group with heavy ethnic clanging, kind of like a fusion group playing frantically in a market in Marrakesh to desperately catch people's attention, including by throwing in some odd dissonances, which fail partly because the listeners assume the musicians are just making mistakes, cf. the first side b track Jupiter:

To make up for any possible disappointment, I'll throw in the Bruce Johnson albums I have too.

Monday 24 September 2018

Arnie Lawrence and Treasure Island from 1983 by request

Arnie Lawrence is an American jazz saxophonist who made a superb improvised fusion album in 1976 called Unobstructed Universe.  So in addition to honoring the request for this LP I was curious to hear if it might be similar in any way shape or form.  Members of Unobstructed were Arnie Lawrence, Dick Hyman, Luther Rix, Mike Knotts, Ron McClure, Ted Irwin, & some of those artists (incl. Arnie) performed with my old rip Children of All Ages from pnf days who made a fantastic favourite of mine "Just Might Turn out to be Sages" with Bobby Dorough on vocals.  I mentioned at the time it's easy to romanticize children if you're not actually doing the daily childcaring/babysitting duties with real kids after which you will feel you're in a lunatic asylum, guaranteed, and be grateful that as adults we have self-control.  Anyways on this page you can see Arnie is performing with entirely other musicians for this LP.  He composed all the music and created the 'Treasure Island' fusion group or project.  Like old school jazz albums, the liner notes extensively document both his career history which included a stint performing on the Tonight Show Band with Doc Severinson (those old enough will remember him) and the stories behind every composition some of which were inspired by poems.  It should be noted that a lot of this is entirely improvised, just as was the case on the Children of All Ages albums.

So what about the music? Quite a bit of it reminds me of the great Alice Coltrane, thanks to the addition of harp, spoken poetry, and ethnic imports (so far, tariff-free) on her albums like World Galaxy. For example, the meditative and drony All-Ways and Forever:

Along with this album I'll post all the Children of All Ages albums, well worth hearing at least in some passages, and the Unobstructed Universe of crazy-ass fusion.

Note the far more attractive Japanese release album cover art:

It was me, or rather, my samsung phone, years ago, that made those terrible photos of covers you see on discogs btw, before I got the large flatbed scanner which, as you can easily tell, is now finally broken, many LP scans later.

Friday 21 September 2018

Lajos Dudas in Contrasts

This album presents to us the interesting premise of jazz variations on pieces by Liszt and Bartok. It would've benefited from a bit of the electric influences that were used for example in Romanian prog band Experimental Q to really push it over the edge, but we'll have to accept what we got here.

Csardas Obstine:

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Lajos Dudas with the great Toto Blanke in Sunshine State from 1985

I couldn't avoid buying this one when I saw the involvement of the great Toto Blanke, much mentioned here before.  He contributed one composition called Que tal Carlos and otherwise seems quite self-effacing, in fact that would apply as a description of his track.  Keyboardist Ernst Hartmann contributed 2 songs both kinda humdrum, with the remainder penned by the leader, clarinetist Dudas, whose brief discogs bio reads

Hungarian jazz clarinetist, born 18 February 1941 in Budapest, Hungary.

Despite the title the songs reference West Coast places incl. the famous and beautiful Pacific Highway, which I have yet to have the fortune to see:

Monday 17 September 2018

The Rare Wallgrens Orkester's Steel Bend Rock from Sweden 1973

Led by Swedish composer and pianist Jan Wallgren, this septet made a pleasant 'modal jazz' or post-bop album way back in 1973 that is yet super unknown (I think), the other album in their discography appearing less enticing with its many cover songs.  From a dial that ranges from pure jazz a la Charlie Parker on the left to pure fusion a la Bitches Brew to the right ventricle, this is perhaps a 5 degree slant to the more desired rightwards axis.  For those who are familiar with the Mingus collection, the totality of it reminds me not a little of Mingus' 70s albums like Mingus Moves or Changes.  The contents of the band as well as LP are listed here.  All compositions are by Wallgren.  The wonderful C minor track called Disponent Solvent:

Saturday 15 September 2018

Gerald Merceron in Jazz Compositions of Haiti, finally

Another album I've been searching for years ever since I heard the brilliant Mushi Widmaier's Kote Ou and thereafter discovered the genius composer Merceron.  With regards to the former record, I note the LP has finally been reissued, by Granit, and it came out last year.  Just a gorgeous piece of music with tropical and inventive songs, filled with warmth, tenderness and creativity.  Subsequently the 1979 VA album relating to the film Echec et Silence convinced me this was not a worthless quest.  The other two albums from the early 80s by Merceron were Tet San Ko and Bokassa Grotraka, the former probably featuring his most brilliant songwriting.

This record is clearly from an earlier time, perhaps the 60s, showing still the influence of Charlie Parker and similar classic American artists. The liner notes present his approach, which is to meld modern classical with jazz, crediting the presence of the great French pianist Martial Solal and Lee Konitz.

Chromatic Tension:

It's clear Merceron's piano credentials are quite unimpeachable, rather I should say impeccable, based on the final solo track:

Reminds me more than a little of the great Charlie Mingus' solo piano performances, even with respect to the title he brought to it.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

VA in Zattere alla Deriva (1996) limited time only

A very enjoyable mix of RIO and truly progressive musical sounds.  Credits can be found here on discogs, note the presence of John Zorn, Iva Bittova, Comelade, Fred Frith, etc., etc., making it overall sound a bit like all those Recommended Records compilations I posted so many many years ago-- remember?

Listening to the symphonic composition by the great Boris Kovac very near the end, just takes me straight to heaven:

Why is this music so tragically under-recognized today, despite the obvious quality?

Monday 10 September 2018

US Coalition's Birth, 1978

It's not a mistake, the front and verso are identical, completely.  Saved a bit of money on art direction there.  Not to be confused with the private pressed Mindsweepers band, these guys put out one very pleasant fusiony jazz album with vocals in 1978.  In particular the track "Thinking of You" has always been a big favourite of mine:

The kind of dreamy easy accessible jazz song that I miss so much in these pathetic days of rehashing the stupidest standards ad nauseam "It don't mean a thing if ain't got that swingy shit..."

Friday 7 September 2018

Now Sound by Love Live Life and Kosuke Ishihara, from 1975

Obviously a well-known band to both prog and fusion fans, this is a lesser known but significant work from their best days.  From discogs:

Love Live Life were an important seminal hub of Japanese rock, a stepping stone between the beat of the 1960s and more experimental rock of the 1970s. They are best-known for the heavy blues rock album Love Will Make A Better You, featuring guest star Kimio Mizutani. However they made another album largely devoid of English text on the cover, mysteriously titled 10 Chapters Of Murder - from Colin Wilson's "Encyclopaedia of Murder" according to the labels, which was some sort of conceptual rock outing with brassy, jazz and soul elements.

Actually that 'second album' proved very disappointing.  And in reality they made quite a few albums back in the day, all quite rare.

Note the nice Beatlesian tendencies on this flute solo which is the A4 track:

As for Kosuke Ishihara, from discogs:
Japanese saxophonist, composer and arranger. Born in Tokyo in August 1936.
As an all-instrumental library album with a great mix of funk and fusion, this is really excellent.

I'll throw in the 1973 album Ishihara did with the great Masahiko Sato, called Rumour, much freer and less enjoyable (for me).

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Open Music from Germany: Relaxing Waves (78), Timeless (79) and Blow Hole (81)

This German fusion quintet very similar to the much better known Bando Heidelbergensis Katamaran made three albums in the late seventies.  They were a little bit more discursive and open-ended, less tight than the others, but had some gorgeous moments, sometimes lofty and heart-breaking.

On Relaxing Waves' title track note the resemblance to classic Katamaran, or, more distantly, like cousins hundreds removed, to Soft Machine:

From their last album, more hydrological music called Deep Sea:

Members: Hans Jürgen von der Buchard, Helmut Schramm, Joe Koinzer, Thomas Jehle, Wilfried Kirner.

Monday 3 September 2018

The amazing Julien B's First Snow from 1978 / 1981

First of all let's start with the hype / hope, move on to the real.

From Popsike:
JULIEN B - First Snow (Germany - Telex B30002) 1981, Switzerland, with 3 promo inserts!    M/M-


Telex B30002 1981 or 1978 ?

According to newspapers at the time, 18 year old George Hennig was acclaimed as Basle’s answer to Jeff Beck & Mike Bloomfield. Regardless of all this praise - this exceptionally talented local hero decided not to follow the virtuoso-soloist route. In discovering his passion for Anglo-inspired song-writing whilst working together with many other well-known talents of the generation, he went on to evolve into an accomplished and versatile musician with deep comprehensive poetic & artistic credentials.

During the 70’s, a record-company based in Hamburg responded to his demo-recording and produced the Hennig album ‘First Snow’ for release in Germany. Due to popular demand, a second pressing of the album was subsequently ordered. Positive reviews, many live performances and studio jobs for mainstream musicians followed. Fitting into this busy schedule he also collaborated on soundtracks for TV and film whilst also producing his own albums ‘From Grey To Gold’ in 1981 and ‘Jewels In The Gutter’ in 1989.

The last decade has seen him working with fellow musician-travellers from the 70’s, ‘The Zodiacs’, local musical legends - writing songs for the band whilst continuing his own lifelong project exploring the interfaces between psychedelic and Celtic musical styles. He occasionally unites with the Zodiacs for rare stage appearances. George is currently living a peaceful but musically very busy life in the countryside, keeping mostly out of public view.

Over the years, producers, musicians and fans alike have all said George Hennig possesses an exceptional unique talent and personal style - falling somewhere between Ray Davies and Jeff Lynne. But whatever people may have said - I suspect George will continue to carry on playing in his own remarkable musical style as long as he is able.

After his self-produced 2007 album ‘The Definition Of Face’ on which he played all instruments, followed the 2010 album ‘GHOSTS’ - a collection of sometimes unconventional folk-pop songs which lie closer to his Celtic roots than his other favourite and often revisited ‘Swinging London’ 60’s style.

And now - seven years later - he returns with a new intriguing Pop Album ‘Of Piers & Repose’ - drawing inspiration once again from along the musical fault-line somewhere between the musical capitals of the world, Liverpool & London. Twelve songs & stories about transformation, philosophical final journeys and final goodbyes, the ‘innocence’ of his Sixties memories, and the ultimate philosophical question, whether love is finally able to overcome all adversity.

For insiders, it’s a comeback - for others perhaps the breakthrough of the year.
But for George Hennig himself, his ambition & destiny may have finally caught up with him.

Alan Kelly 2017

Now let's move on to the reality of this record.
It's a really good record-- for a complete obscurity, along the lines maybe of Memo's Capt. Thunder in quality, though not in sound, so I think everyone who enjoys 70s rock will like this and likely listen a few times, at least.  Some will hate it, and some will resent there's not more progressive material to hang one's critical hat on.  For me there are a handful of songs I've overplayed and actively enjoyed over and over again, including this last track called, Harlow:

I really love the otherwordly sound of it with the strings and the falsetto, similar a bit to Greek master-artists of the prog vein, Pete and Royce.  Part of the psychic magic of this song (in my opinion) is the way he, tidelike, switches from C minor melody to E minor (leading to G major) chorus.

When you look on the database, note that there is no credit either with the name Julien B or George Hennig regarding guitarist of Welcome or Circus (whose guitarist actually is Roland Frei), just a mention on a VA album under Wishing Well.  So I'm not sure if that business is part of the over hype typical of these rare records.
Doesn't matter-- this is fantastic stuff. And rare as hell.

Release 1978
All Songs written and composed by George Hennig, except “Anthem” by Peter Rusch and George Hennig
Produced by Harald Blobel and Silvio Panosetti
Recorded and mixed by Harald Blobel and Silvio Panosetti at Inter Music Studios Bottmingen
Photography: Régine Wetterwald
Artwork: Régine Wetterwald for Boosti-Design