Monday 31 August 2020

Another remarkable library series with Rocchi, The New Sound Quartet, with Crazy Colours & Disco Way

Here's something I know will make a lot of people happy.
When I heard Crazy Colours by this group which made 3 records, I went crazy of course knowing this was partly written by Rocchi, who we've posted many times before here in the past.  Consider the Tender Melody by him:

And the progressive and really quite remarkable chord changes on Dreams:

You can see the compositional credits for this record here.  Note that this track was written by guitarist Ernesto Verardi, who appeared in the Modern Sound Quartet, whose three records I posted on this blog here, here.  I wish someone had told me about the New SQ at the time!  There are so many people out there familiar with these Italian libraries in enormous depth, which never ceases to amaze me.  Notice that the discography of Verardi, also a composer, is absolutely huge.  Or rather, ginormous.  Who knows how many lost treasures in there too.

Anyways, I then had to buy the other albums from these guys. The album called Disco Way which I would bet any amount of money came out in 1981 or within one or two years surrounding, has nothing to do with disco but rather is quite funked up, a sure crowd-pleaser I know for those who love to sample.  Notice that for this release Oscar Rocchi wrote all the music.  The track called Divina with the shimmering synthesizer chords and melody played by the spacey digital woodwind really nails it for me:

This sounds like it should have been the soundtrack--and maybe it was-- for one of those sexy Italian movies where a teenaged girl spends most of the second part of the film in countryside milieus naked or half-naked making out with different older men until a younger guy finally has unconsensual sex with her and takes away her virginity (they did stuff like that back 40 years ago-- today, you go to jail for all that).  And that's it, that's my summation of all Italian cinema of the nineteen seventies.

Altogether a very strong library album, full of pleasant songs, not a single throwaway, though perhaps lacking the angular originality of some of Crazy Colours or perhaps the combinatorial creativity of a foursome of composers.

More to come, of course, stay tuned....

Saturday 29 August 2020

Ennio Morricone in the wonderful, beautiful Ideato

I once posted a beautiful unknown album he made here.  Actually that one remains one of my all-time favourite Library LPs.  (At this point of course 'all-time favourite' probably encompasses several dozen, as my wife loves to point out.  Or even hundreds.  And 'all-time' would have to be limited to about a month-- partly with the memory as it is now.)

Presentimento is so beautiful it sounds like it must be magic.  How is it possible some men were given such a gift to take us to heaven from our lowly lives here on the earth?  Notice how two thirds of the way into the track the song completely changes key and sound, until that gentle french horn returns (classic Morricone) to play the thoughtful melody:

Thursday 27 August 2020

The remarkable 'lost' composer/arranger Yuri Chugunov and Scriabiniana


A well-known composer, jazz theorist, teacher, conductor, saxophonist, public figure, he is not burdened with sonorous titles, but if you ask jazz musicians in any city of our country if they know this name, you will certainly hear an affirmative answer. And this is natural, since for over 20 years several generations of Russian jazz musicians have been studying harmony according to his textbook "Harmony in Jazz".

Yuri Nikolaevich is also widely known as the author of a variety of instrumental, vocal and orchestral works. This is the secret of his popularity.
Yuri Nikolaevich Chugunov was born in Moscow in 1938. His father was a universal musician (composer, theorist, conductor, cellist). Parents sent Yura to a children's music school, where he began his musical education in the piano class. However, the child's nature could not stand boring activities, and to everyone's disappointment, Yura categorically refused to study music.
A few years later, having heard for the first time the enchanting sounds of the saxophone, Yura realized that this was the instrument of his dreams. However, in the Stalinist era, the saxophone was considered an alien instrument, which could only be played by “rootless cosmopolitans,” and not Moscow pioneers. Then, on the advice of familiar musicians, Yura enters the music school for the second time in the oboe class. This instrument is closest to the saxophone in fingering. Classes were going well, and in 1957 Y. Chugunov entered the wind department of the music school at the Moscow Conservatory.
And then an irresistible passion fell upon him - to compose music. The dream of his childhood came true - Yura bought himself a huge old baritone saxophone. Now all his free time he enjoyed improvisation on the saxophone, imitating the playing of the famous American baritone player D. Maligan and composing jazz themes.

In 1960, a jazz club began operating in Moscow, on the Raushskaya embankment. This became an epoch-making event for Moscow jazz musicians; it became possible to regularly rehearse, hold concerts and festivals. Yuri Chugunov became one of the most active members of the jazz club. His original ensemble (Y. Chugunov - baritone-sax, S. Berezin - alto-sax, N. Bryzgunov - trumpet, B. Rukingluz - trombone) sounded at many concerts. The ensemble's repertoire consisted of traditional jazz themes arranged by Y. Chugunov and his author's pieces. In the jazz club, fate brought him together with the alto saxophonist, architect and artist Alexei Kozlov, who had a great creative influence on Yu. Chugunov.
In 1965, Yu. Chugunov took part in the first All-Union Jazz Festival in Moscow, where his plays "Waltz" and "Now I am Calm" were awarded a special diploma.
In 1966 the well-known composer and conductor Yu.S. Saulsky created an experimental jazz orchestra with a large vocal group VIO-66 in Moscow, where he invites the best young jazz musicians of the country and, of course, Yu.Chugunov to work.
Acquaintance with Saulsky greatly helped the development of Chugunov's composer's creativity. In the person of Yu. S. Saulsky, he acquired an experienced, educated, benevolent friend and teacher. Yu. Chugunov arranges a lot for "VIO-66", creates his own, more and more mature original works. The famous American jazz expert V. Kanover, being an honorary guest of the III All-Union Jazz Festival "Jazz-67", highly appreciated the orchestral suite by Y. Chugunov "A Journey to Jazz Rhythms".

It would seem that everything was going in the best way. By the age of thirty, Yu. Chugunov had received universal recognition as a saxophonist, conductor, arranger and composer, but careful self-assessment and the highest professional exactingness lead him to the conclusion that it is necessary to acquire systematic and fundamental theoretical knowledge.
Yuri Nikolaevich is preparing intensively for admission to the composer department of the Moscow Conservatory, but does not pass the competition. Then friends come to his aid, young composers A.K.Vustin and B.I.Tobis, who disinterestedly share with him their knowledge, composer experience, support him morally. During this period, Chugunov creates "Sonata for Piano", "Sonata for Violin and Piano", "Quintet of Winds", "Ballad for Trumpet and Orchestra" and many miniatures.
In 1971, Yu. Chugunov entered the composing department of the State Music and Pedagogical Institute named after V.I. Gnesins in the class of People's Artist of the USSR, Professor A.I. Khachaturian. During the years of study at the GMPI them. Gnesinykh Yuri Nikolaevich creates a number of large-scale works "Symphony in three parts", the cantata "In memory of Pablo Neruda", "Concertino for clarinet", "Variations for trumpet and piano", "Quartet for strings", overture "In memory of George Gershwin".
While studying at the institute, Yu. Chugunov leads an amateur big band in the Setun recreation center, which participates in concerts and competitions with constant success.
In the same period, in the jazz studio of the Moskvorechye Palace of Culture, Chugunov organized an experimental jazz vocal ensemble, for which he created many original.

(auto google translator from Russian)

A textbook on arrangements, indeed.  Notice the beginning of the following track, where the guitar plays a suspended arpeggio that descends down two half-tones and the orchestra takes the intro down as the bass plays the same arpeggio, before modulating (!) into a different key for the verse melody:

Truly when I hear music like this I'm reminded of that line in The Man who Planted Trees which I always paraphrase: 'When I think of what this one man has done, it fills me with awe, that one man  can sometimes equal the work of God'.  Equally remarkable in that composition is the way the melody and chords keep changing like the top of a shimmering ocean at a beach with very little of the 'familiar' chord changes we have heard before. Really, the sheer originality is shocking, especially when combined as it is with the deep sense of what is harmonious to human ears.

The Concerto for Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra is absolutely remarkable too, mixing in perfect proportions fusion and modern classical music in the same way for example In Spe did with their unique, sui generis, masterpiece Typewriter Concerto, or Russian band Horizont with Portrait of the Boy, or in the fall when I posted the VA album with the concerto for hammond organ by Lorencs, here:

Notice how the digital keyboard enters to the forefront to dialogue with the sax, very clearly bringing in a progressive rock element.

Overall, musically very similar to Nazaruk's gorgeous Forest Awakens my old favourite, or the superb Igor Brill threesome we posted earlier, or more recently the tenderness of Babayev.

Many thanks to our Russian commenter who pointed this out in relation to its similarity with Claus Ogerman, both emotionally and in the arrangements.  From him:

"all recordings were made in the 70s and 80s with the State Television and Radio Orchestra.
The tenor saxophone is played by the soloist of the orchestra Tovmas Gevorkyan, he lived for 95 years, died in 2015 and of which he worked for more than 30 years in this orchestra (there is a separate collection of his recordings, if you are interested, I will post it)."

I think for sure we are all interested!!
I don't think I've ever seen a case where music of such high quality and professionally done has been to such a degree unknown or unavailable-- as you can see if you try to look for him in the database of discogs.
I mean, this is what I live for, to find or hear lost treasures that don't deserve to be forgotten, like the Peter Wolf album from here.
But this one really takes the cake.  Thanks so much to those who help here, and have the generous spirit to share with all those with ears to hear!!

Tuesday 25 August 2020

Milky Way with Ray Gomez, 1987

As usual I was looking around for other albums that might be of interest in relation to Ray Gomez, and came upon this one curiously not so well known, perhaps because of the late year of release (1987) just within the CD era, but then the powerful light shining, supernova-like, from the famous artists listed really drew me in, as you can see from the release page.

From the blurb within:

The brainchild of the composers, C. Spendel and M. Urbaniak, Milky Way is a musical concept for the 90s... mellow, melodious fare that soothes the listener, yet offers enough substance to intrigue. Armed with an arsenal of MIDI equipment that would boggle the mind, Spendel and U. weave dense, intricate danceable grooves with their instruments.  This high-tech expertise is neatly balanced by their human expression and interplay with an array of special guests: Lenny White from Return to Forever, bassist Victor Bailey of Weather Report, guitarist Ray Gomez formerly of the Stanley Clarke Band, trumpet great Randy Brecker, and vocalist Urszula Dudziak... 
Ray plays with screaming blues abandon on the ominous ballad, "Out of Brooklyn"...

As a matter of fact C. Spendel was featured often in these pages, I've ripped a few of his records in the past, in the phenomenal Chameleon band, and he was also in the Jazztrack albums.  I guess Urbaniak is far too well known to bother covering here.  On the other hand while we're on the topic of Stanley Clarke, I was shocked to see he made a really all-out progressive album in the European tradition, mixing classical music and emotional depth with fusion, on the 1975 Journey to Love album-- notice the Concerto for Jazz-rock Orchestra that closes it out.  Unfortunately the beauty of that amalgam was never really replicated again in his oeuvre, at least, to my knowledge.  I'm probably making a fool of myself for not having been acquainted with that particular album.

So you can tell right away we stepped out of the magical 70s (in the previous album) and well into the fuzacky 80s with the squealing Sanborn Sax sound I complained about earlier, plus the echoey digital-like drums, and the vocal-imitating synthline that reminds me so vividly of the Pat Metheny Band.  However, the compositions sometimes are really strong, I particularly like the Mysterious Bookshop:

As well it's one of those albums that's all over the place with a very jazzy bluesy sax ballad, high-energy electric fusion, commercial garbage, etc., as well as (luckily for us) some more carefully composed tracks.

Monday 24 August 2020

Ray Gomez' Volume (1980) in lossless, by request

Many thanks to the commenter who pointed this release out to me.  Ray played with Joachim Kuhn, most notably on the brilliant and beautiful fusion album Sunshower, as you can see here.

Most of the album is quite ordinary electric blues, electric pop, or hard rock, and not progressive at all.  It is, however, very pleasant if taken on its own terms-- like a little bit more educated version of a Steve Miller Band album with no radio-friendly hooks, jokes, and zoo sounds.

On the other hand the closer Blues for Mez combines really tight, gorgeous guitar lines on the strat with those awesome bent notes and finger-pickin' licks with a really nice, original chord structure that goes way beyond 12-bar banality, some of the dark intensity of it recalling the great Ralph Towner:

AVE CAESAR, those who are about to rock salute you... 
Play it out loud friends

Sunday 23 August 2020

Interjazz 6 (1989) feat. a host of famous artists (Dasek, Stivin, Viklicky et al.)

This one-- information here, again has some very familiar names.
Dasek you might remember from that long ago post in which his duets with Toto came up.  An incredibly talented and remarkably fast guitar player who reminds me a lot of American Ralph Towner with the really original chord patterns which are so difficult to play due to the structure of the guitar, built up as it is in 4ths and 5ths.
Surprisingly, Viklicky, seen here before, and also in relation to the Mini Jazz Klub series I think, is disappointing in his contribution.

A1 Salut (Alexej Fried)
A2 Good Morning (Václav Zahradník)
A3 Africana (Georgi Garanian)
B1 Par Pondus (Emil Viklický)
B2 Touch & Go (Peter Hurt)
B3 Des'sch Too Much (Albert Mangelsdorff)

The second track, by Zahradnik:

Friday 21 August 2020

Milan Svoboda returns for the Interjazz series, no. 5 (1986)

After that detour or two, wonderful as it was, we go back to the scheduled series from before.

Obviously, I got this on the strength and reputation of Milan Svoboda.  I raved about his April Orchestra 32, which should still be up, and then he appeared with the Prague and Czech jazz orchestras.  I'm pretty sure I posted those before too.  Note that he studied at the famous Berklee in Boston, mentioned frequently in these posts.

Information can be found here.  Note the involvement of Karel Ruzicka (track B2) who was featured here before, and Namyslowski (track A3), who was here before too.

A1 Pocta Panu G. E. / Tribute To G. E. (Milan Svoboda)
A2 Z Tlusté Roury / Out Of The Thick Pipe (Wróblewski)
A3 Krakovský Jazzový Festival / The Cracow Jazz Festival (J. Śmietana)
B1 Koňský Mol / Horse Moth (Wróblewski)
B2 Habanera ( Karel Růžička)
B3 Velese, Jen Vesele Con Funebrio / With Joy Unbounded, Con Funebrio (Svoboda)

Maybe the best composition is the one by Wroblewski, who made a few good fusion or jazz records in the 70s worth seeking out, the one called Out of the Thick Pipe:

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Joachim Kuhn's Don't Stop Me Now, By Request

Check out the photo on the back!!  Don't you all miss those hair-days?

I guess everyone knows him, I've mentioned his name many times and his masterpiece cinemascope, and posted some of his less-known works in pnf days.

Mostly commercialese, but there is one half-interesting track called Summerset, note the slightly non-radio-friendly progressions in middle and end:

Tuesday 18 August 2020

Claus Ogerman, Part Two, some more of his albums as arranger

I guess this is why I do this blog-- so people can give me recommendations I would never, ever have thought of.  I was shocked that other people were even familiar with Ogerman, but even more thrown off by the commenter who recommended I read the long and discursive blog post dedicated to him, to be found here on this page, which absolutely nailed it, in many ways.  Every album I love was referenced there, including the Evans collaboration Symbiosis, Gate of Dreams, the Brecker City Scape, Streisand, Oscar Peterson, and then more even that I wasn't aware of.  I guess everyone with a passing familiarity to jazz knows Jobim mostly today due to his constant appearance in those nuisance jazz standards that keep showing up at jazz festivals every summer in your local city (The Girl from Ipanema), what I had never realized was that my favourite Jobim album and to me his masterpiece, a 1976 opus called Urubu, was arranged by Ogerman!! So I dug it up to post it because it really belongs with the other works from him.  Jobim of course was way too popular a songwriter to come up with progressive music, I mean he never needed to right, but on the second side of this collaboration, the musical world absolutely goes straight up to heaven in a ramjet-fuelled, teraton-powered, billionaire-financed, space-z rocketship that belongs in the museum of godhead eternity as far as I'm concerned-- just consider the compositional acheivement of the Arquitetura de Morar (surprisingly to me this means architecture to live, not die, though the latter would have seemed more poetic):

Music cannot possibly, ever, get more beautiful than that, as far as I'm concerned.  The whole of the second side is similar, the blogspot mentioned Saudade do Brasil as remarkable too.

At the risk of getting into trouble I'll quote from the blogpost, written by Steven Cerra, in part, regarding some of the albums here and in the prior post, with some editoral comments from myself:

In 1969, Claus wrote an album for Oscar Peterson titled Motions and Emotions on the MPS label. Some of it's good, some of it's commercial, and some of it is knockout, above all the chart and performance of the Jobim tune Wave. The chart is, as one might expect, exquisite, but particularly noteworthy is the extended ending, and the way Claus can build incredible tensions with rising ostinatos. It is stunning writing, and the extended closing passage an indication of an emerging method in his compositional techniques.

[Ed. It's true the ending of Wave that old chronic failing kidneysed wrinkled standard is fantastic with the churning orchestral sounds, but the real standout brilliant arrangement is Dreamsville-- check that one song out for the most stunning piano + orchestra ever written.]

In the 1977 album Amoroso that Claus wrote for Joao Gilberto, one finds the Italian song Estate, which means "summer." The arrangement is almost unbearably poignant. That one recording launched the tune as an international jazz standard. Then in 1979, Claus wrote Terra Brasilis (Warner Brothers) for Jobim. The album (containing another of the tunes I wrote with Jobim, Double Rainbow), came out in 1980.

[Ed. This was a bit more disappointing compared to Uluru.]

After that, Claus arranged and orchestrated only his own music, including Cityscape, featuring tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, in 1982. In 1989 they collaborated again on Claus Ogerman featuring Michael Brecker.

But let us back up to 1976. That was the year of an album on Warner Bros entirely of Claus's compositions, a suite titled Gate of Dreams. It is marvelous, haunting, brooding, expressing that poignant Prussian melancholy that I think is the core of Claus's work. Bill Evans called the suite "a reminder of finer things." And so it is. But it presents problems to those who want to put things in labeled shoe-boxes as "classical" or "jazz" or "pops" because Claus draws on all these idioms. It's simply gorgeous, with the writing reflecting all his musical experience up to that time. And it is the shape of things to come in Claus's writing. The Gramophone critic who in 1988 couldn't find out who Claus was wrote of the Tagore Lieder. "I can only report that these seven songs are in a loose post-serial idiom." He got that right, and also the perception of their "sparse, tonal lyricism."

The post is incredibly detailed in its in-depth knowledge of everything Ogerman has written, including the first album with Evans, with Symphony Orchestra, all the way through to the Lyrical Works.  The only thing missing to me is mention of the awesomely heart-breaking song I Loved You.  I guess also the song I raved about earlier called This Dream (on the Freddie Hubbard collaboration).
I would also reiterate (which he did) that the streak of melancholy and philosophy that travels through his music seems to emanate from his roots in middle-Europe.

To my utter surprise this commenter mentioned also the following album, with Danilo Perez, called Across the Crystal Sea.  (Not mentioned in the blogspot, I think?)
I say this of course because the music is classic, 100 percent, unadulterated, no sugar added, Claus Ogerman, you can see he wrote 6 out of 8 songs on there, often based on themes from classical or other composers.  If you don't believe me, listen to the last and phenomenalest track:

His situation also reminds me of Teo Macero, another formidable arranger with huge successes in the jazz world who was capable of remarkable modern composition as well, compositions that for the most part are neglected and forgotten today.  I've featured so much from him on these pages too.  Obviously, the personality was totally different, with Teo fully in the jazz world and the excitement of fusion.

Monday 17 August 2020

Starting the Czech Interjazz Series with 1 (1970), 3 (1976), 4 (1979)

Another interesting VA in a series expansively covering from 1970 onwards and upwards to the later 1980s, with some of the most famous Czech artists we've heard many times before on these pages, such as Stivin (who was in Jazz Q), Dasek (who played with Jazz Cellula), Svoboda (I raved about that April Orchestra he was featured in), etc.  A possibly incomplete listing appears here.

The first album is quite basic big band, the 2nd simplicity itself, the fourth free jazz.  The third though is interesting, and has both Brom's Orchestra on side b (which is why I came upon this) and the JOCR I featured before (for ex., here) on side a.  All and complete infos here.   The third track, with the title of Produkt Uboczy:

Saturday 15 August 2020

A review of most of Claus Ogerman's stuff with the unprecedented Chorlieder, from 1985

I was looking through the voluminous discography of Claus Ogerman again as I often do when I noticed there was an interesting classical composition called Chorlieder which was unavailable, so I bought it on the assumption it might be more approachable.  It wasn't, but that's OK, it's always worth the search.  It's actually purely a cappella music with no orchestra, no musical instruments but the human voice.  So that's annoying (as any married person well knows).  I've mentioned him before in the context of the similar Colombier recently, but really there's no arranger quite like this man, he's incomparable.  His gift is to create really original arrangements out of sometimes really ordinary jazz standards or well-known classical pieces.  I also brought him up when I talked about the 'jazz with strings' stuff, with his collaboration with Freddie Hubbard, his composition called This Dream. Links for all those might be down, I will reup if anyone asks, no problem.

In the beginning, back in my college days, I was familiar with the Bill Evans album with symphony orchestra where he brings his talents to rearrange some old classical melodies like Faure's Prelude, but on that work there are also some really surprisingly progressive compositions, for ex. his Elegie:

On the other hand, in 1974's Symbiosis, Evans plays piano in a wonderful concerto-style composition with 5 movements.  I loved that so much I played parts of it at my wedding, in the church.  No one liked it.  Except me, and maybe the bats in the roof.  But it's amazing.  So yes, me and Claus go back a long ways, and we're real tight.  The work gets resurrected for the later albums, the Concerto I included too, and the Lyrical Works CD that came out much later.

Collaborations with Barbara Streisand (yeah, her!!) and Akkerman are equally shocking for those who like me grew up with classical music and so expect nothing but drivel and the same boring chords from that style of music.  I'm going to draw your attention to the incredibly meditative, delicate, and tender way she sings a song from the famous Orff Carmina Burana:

Which is so hard to imagine for her.

But it's in the 1976 work Gate of Dreams, which I think was presented first as music for ballet, that he really made his masterpiece.  It absolutely blew me away when I first heard it as a university student, and it still blows me away.  It's one of those albums everyone should really know, but doesn't.  Again he recycled components from it in later albums like Lyrical Works.  Time passed Autumn part 3:

In my life I don't expect to hear any more compositions as beautiful as that one, ever.

The two albums he made with Michael Brecker were also really good, sentimental, warm, progressive, but solid throughout.  Then more recently I decided to listen to the Lyrical Works CD and I was shocked to find the song called "I loved You" which is a poem by a Russian writer--I forget who-- he set to music.  In fact that song was probably written for Streisand in the classical album she made.  But the way it's sung with the orchestral backing absolutely sends me to heaven:

Here the genius of the song is the simplicity of the melody coupled with the deep yearning and aching pain of the lyrics (I hope you find someone who loves you as much as I loved you) sung over an ever-shifting series of chords mostly diatonic that become difficult to hang on, being so oddly original, sounding a bit like she's standing on waves.  The Streisand version is just singing on top of piano, presumably played by Ogerman and is useful as it allows you to delineate the chords more clearly.  One of the best songs I've heard in the last decade, hands down.  Tragically unknown.

So there you go.  One of my favourite composers of all time, just wanted to complete some of his discography with the Chorlieder.  I should add there is a lot of dreck in his output too, commercial stuff he put out with ordinary easy listening or jazz.  I had to wade through a lot of that to get to these gems.
Also the collaboration with Oscar Peterson was fantastic, as I recall.