Wednesday 31 March 2021

The totally unknown US fusion band Jasmine, 1979


Smooth US fusion along the familiar lines of so much posted here like the recent Manzanita Pirate Lady, the well-known Landress - Hart Group's Dancing Moments, etc., etc...

Information here.  Obviously, a one-off, or unfortunately I should say.

From the blurb on the back:

Jasmine is the fruition of a dream of four young men who first met over two years ago as members of Mongo Santamaria's band. They decided they would like to form a band whose material reflected their various musical influences, which include jazz, latin, and pop. Although relatively young in years, they have had extensive experience with major artists.

Saxophonist (plus flute, clarinet) Roger Rosenberg has worked with big bands led by Buddy Rich, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, George Russell and Slide Hampton.  He has also been a featured soloist in small units led by Chet Baker, Lee Konitz, and Terry Nakamura.

Bill O'Connell, who plays keyboards for Jasmine, has worked with Robin Kenyatta, Ray Barretto, Ted Curson and Lionel Hampton. 

Philly-born Lee Smith has played bass with various pop and soul groups such as Billy Paul, the Delfonics, Major Harris and Blue Magic.

Steve Berrios who plays drums and percussion on the record, has worked and recorded with a diverse group pof musical personalities who include Randy Weston, Miriam Makenba, Harry Belafonte, Ronnie Dyson, Leon Thomas, Tito Puente, and David Amram.

The music on the album is made up of original material.  The group felt it would be easier to write new tunes that reflect their musical personalities than to try to adapt existing music to their style. The combination of some very heavy musical credentials plus a good helping of genuine musical talent creates in Jasmine a very special musical experience.

NB missing on the above list, Carmen Lundy vocalist on the one non-instrumental song Angelica.

Standout track is by Rosenberg and it's called Hokus Pokus and indeed to my ears sounds like magic partly due to the gorgeous reverberated flute sound, like a flock of birds taking flight:

Sunday 28 March 2021

More Jazz in the Classroom: Volume XV from 1975 (?)

Oddly enough not assembled with his siblings in the databased Jazz in the Classroom, this guy can be found here instead with artist entered as VA, logically enough.  Really, apt to blow the minds of those discogs databasers in the basement.  Then again, there's little info on that page anyways. Looking at the names on the verso I don't recognize a whole lot familiar but then again I'm not as well versed in the jazz artist nomenclatura as others of course.  The sound is quite a bit smoother as you'd expect from the later year, possibly this was the last in the series released, which is too bad since other college band assemblages went much later of course, think the fabulous NTSU (check the label or do a search at the top left).  Accordingly a little more enjoyable to my tired ears.  A little thing called Gemini:

Some other nice compositions to discover in there.

Thursday 25 March 2021

Back to More Jazz in the Classroom with Volume XI

Just to recap the wonderful adventure, so far we have heard X (Charlie Mariano), XII, XIII (Jacob's Tailor), here comes the missing XI, so still missing and worth locating is 14.

Information such as it is can be found here on discogs.  Among those who achieved brilliance subsequently, note Charlie Mariano already on the first track, Miroslav Vitous on bass, and John Abercrombie on guitar on one track, shocking.

The last track is called Vzdycky Me Maticka and, you'd think, was written by Vitous:

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Mike Maran's Fair Warning from 1973, by request


This is standard SSW stuff with orchestrations such as was so commonplace in Britain for this era (think Nick Drake's Bryter Layter), these done quite magisterially by Michael Gibbs who has appeared before in here of course, on the right inside of the gatefold the liner notes by John Peel are quite hilarious at times, being both complimentary and ridiculing 'yet another' ssw album.  I guess the artists were so proud of their lyrics they printed them all on both inside and verso, but at times, perhaps the majority of those, these are so high schoolish they are comical.  Some lyrics are by Maran and some by a lyricist called Steele.  The skilful arrangements are evident on a track called Monday Boy:

Considering how popular this kind of music is I was surprised it wasn't available digitally-- until now.  Because I wasn't sure of the contents I went cheap and got a less than NM LP this time--apologies for that or as I used to say, sorry about that, chief.

Sunday 21 March 2021

Gordon Brisker in Collective Consciousness, USA 1981

Recall he composed for the Magnussons, father and son, in Two Generations of Music (1982).  As a matter of fact notice that Bob Magnusson appears on this release databased here, as well as the familiar name of (keyboardist) Bill Mays.  This is the 6th post relating to Mr. Mays, but I still liked his Kaleidoscope the best.  Surprisingly our old favourite guitarist Don Mock is also here, but only on side a, and no Peter Sprague this time.  Mock's name has been repeated numerous times as a point of reference (though I guess James Vincent takes the cake on that score), I'm hoping everyone recalls his magnificent fusion opus Mock One.

On this LP the sound is fusiony in the late manner but there is a big band sound that is quite pleasant with Brisker's saxes augmented by trumpet and trombone.  Some of it is the inevitable commercialized fuzak but some is more composed in the chamber style we heard before on Two Generations, e.g. the Orientale track that closes it out:

It shouldn't be a surprise that Brisker was an alumnus of Berklee in Boston.

The last track on side one with Don Mock is oddly entitled Funny Fox (odd, in  conjunction with the music) but is appealingly smooth and film noir-ish:


 Then on the title track which opens side two, I'm surprised the music is not more intellectual rather than generic 'post-bop' contemporary jazz styling.

Friday 19 March 2021

Ed Thigpen's Action-Reaction 1974

Another request that came seemingly out of nowhere--I mean in the sense I would never have expected much from an album with drummer Thigpen, except that it includes our beloved Palle Mikkelborg, who seems to pop up roughly yearly on these pages with a hand in just about everything that came out of Denmark that was jazz-related.  (You can use the label at the bottom I think to search all the posts with him.)

On the credits page of discogs it's hard to tell that he wrote almost all of music on this LP, as well as plays trumpet.  Note that Mads Vinding contributed one too (recall he's famous for 1974's Danish Drive).  But if you look at the reissue, the requested CD Thigpen in Copenhagen, you can see there were actually two albums made in this period, the missing one is Asmussen Thigpen Quartet - Resource, from 1974 and that one does not include Palle.  Two different artists I guess were combined on one CD which probably blew the minds of the discogs database basement dwellers, because I would think the CD should have been included as a reissue rather than a separate compilation. But of course, I'm not one of those discogs vinylographical experts and happily I never will be.

The music is great and recalls such bordering on free jazz fusion as the earlier posted Contraband album, Aussie band Quasar (one of the best in the genre actually), Horacee Arnold's Tales of an Exonerated Flea, etc.

Here's the first track, called Le Matin which you'll agree has some wonderful composition in it, perfecting suited to the energetic fusion:

Again, thanks for suggesting this, anyone have the 'other' album, Asmussen Thigpen Quartet's Resource? (which appears to be a bit more disappointing, lacking Palle, & including some standards).

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Dietrich Jeske in Strings and Things, 1987, by request

Earlier I posted a brilliant album called Litfass, Spingbalance, with its remarkable teutonic style of intelligent, classical-influenced progressive fusion.  Most of that work was composed by Dietrich Jeske, back in 1977.  Here, a decade later, he returns with light fusion that recalls to me the later Akkerman albums from the eighties which, by the way, are all worth hearing, just as the later Focus albums are all worth hearing, having at least one wonderful musical treat in each of those albums, and there sure were many albums.  Not too much else in the database about him.

The track called Dreamwalker really sounds Akkermanly:

Obviously you will have to slog through a great deal of annoying fuzak to get to the nice passages, but there are some.  Kind of like my experience as a single man in the past, of dating.  So glad that's over.

Monday 15 March 2021

George Gruntz' Eternal Baroque 1974 by request, plus more

Just as you'd expect you have here instrumental fusion or jazzy renditions of 'cover songs' including baroque or classical compositions plus, surprisingly, Th. Monk, Ch. Mingus, and even Jan Akkerman and one of the Jack Bruce / Pete Brown songs (I Feel Free).  At least no part of Vivaldi's stupid Four Seasons got thrown in there.

I'm not sure the artist needs any sort of introduction, but here it is:

Swiss pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader, born 24 June 1932 in Basel, Switzerland, died 10 January 2013 in Allschwil, Switzerland. Musical Director of the "Schauspielhaus Z├╝rich" from 1970 to 1984.

The fusion fan should be well familiar with him thanks to the Piano Conclave Palais Anthology masterpiece set which came out in 1975 and featured along with Gruntz such keyboard luminaries as Dauner, Van t' Hof, J. Kuhn, etc.  Actually, the biggest Euro-pianists all congregated on that one.  Boy is that one ever brilliant.  Unfortunately nothing before or since really comes close, so far as I know.

What's most remarkable on this set is the highly imaginative and well-written arrangements, so well done in fact that sometimes they completely alter the entire song and transform it into something altogether different like the tired old Monk standard, Blue Monk, thank god in this case. For example  Them Changes, a composition by Buddy Miles:

I put in the other albums he made in the late 70s period. 

I forgot, he made another really amazingly beautiful album, a collaboration with Jasper again who composed most of it, called Fairytale in 1979 which everyone should be familiar with.  Here the lightness of the progressive fusion combined with the imaginative musical ideas and composition just absolutely knocks it out of the ballpark-- again.  As my wife always says at this point, 'sometimes you never even make it into the ballpark.'

Saturday 13 March 2021

Gijs Hendriks' Rockin' from 1972

He made quite a few albums with different formations and this one I think is his first opus, almost entirely composed by him.  The style of European fusion leaning quite a bit on the traditional jazz patterns is in evidence--think for ex. the Dauner outfit United Jazz and Rock Ensemble or similar ones like Finnish UMO (I think that's what it's called, could be mistaken).  So it's not as excitingly prorgressive as Toto Blanke's Electric Circus to use a well-known and celebrated example, but it was worth trying it out, I was pretty excited to imagine a lost gem in there.  You can imagine my disappointment when it turned out the first track, alluringly called Emptiness, and with a huge list of credits as you can see on the database, was just one long boring solo after another, with only about one minute of composed music and even that being somewhat disappointing. 

But don't be too turned off by my description, of course there's plenty of interesting music in here too.  

Btw notice that the keyboardist is Rob Van der Broeck, who was in masterpiece fusionary outpouring Third Eye, and then several, more jazzy, Free Fair albums.  Plus many other credits that others I'm sure know more about than me.

I found the first track on side b with the duet between acoustic guitar playing major chords in a melodic pattern and the alto of Gijs very nicely thought out, but note this is not representative of the whole:

In terms of a more representative composition, the first part of the long Influenza piece on the second side:

Thursday 11 March 2021

Magik Dayze, 1978, limited time only

For the longest time I wanted to post these guys.  I've loved them so much for years.

Without a doubt the most underrated hard rock band I've ever come across, even more underrated than Baby Grand or Ambush, or the earlier West Coast / Southern band Sand I posted long ago--I don't understand for the life of me how a group who made such stunning music, as good as any big FM star such as Styx or Foreigner or Journey who made it huge back in the day and got all those thousands of young groupies in their beds (ouch, 'metoo' would not like that comment much) could be so utterly forgotten.  If you know them already hopefully you'll agree they are horribly underrated.

I'll start by introducing you, if you never heard them before, to their big, mega-hit, number one on the charts (remember Billboard??) -- haha, as if-- called Highway Blues, which I've sung so many times in the car on the highway to work:

First of all, the major diatonic approach to the rhythm guitar is just gorgeous, I guess borrowing from a  West Coast kind of style, with a relatively standard chord change that moves up to the II minor, V7, but the chorus with the backup vocals just kills me in combination with the lyrics, possibly because of the way it reminds me so vividly of those 'road trip' experiences.

Then consider the 'homage' to Jimi Hendrix called Black Lightning, and dig how well the guitarist plays those Hendrickian licks:

Note that the band throws in some mellotron here and there, like Aerosmith did, adding a great deal of textural interest.

In terms of the history and info, note that in 1978 they released this LP as private pressed, stopping at eight tracks.  This constitutes the first songs on the folder below. Luckily for us, they then put out another wonderfully composed and produced 8 tracks making up an entire second album's worth of material to listen to which was dumped onto a CD not (yet) databased on discogs.  

Subsequently I found out the band sells more music online, here, where they describe themselves as the greatest unknown rock band of all time-- and without a doubt I have to agree.

Really amazing.

Tuesday 9 March 2021

Mexicans Sacbe in the Dos Mundos (1986) and The Painters (1988)

This band gets my vote for the most underrated and unknown fusion band hailing from South of North America.   Description from Discogs:

Mexican fusion jazz group from 1976 to 1996, formed by brothers Eugenio, Enrique and Fernando Toussaint.

In a series of 5 magnificent albums from 1977's ST to1983's Aztlan including Toussaint's 'solo' album from 1983, they made some really delicious instrumental fusion with all those original progressive touches we love so much, perhaps resembling the Quantum albums out of Brazil, a band which is maybe not even better known than the Toussaints.  I hope everyone is familiar with those.  Coming later in the 80s the 'missing' works Two Worlds and The Painters, themed after various artists with the dreaded obligatory Frida Kahlo of course in there, were bound to disappoint a bit--it's difficult to recall later albums which are truly impressive, maybe Joel Dugrenot's Mosaiques (1990) would be one of the few.  Of course, you can expect all those eighties musical cliches like the digital-sounding drum set, the echoey chord attacks, the screechy squealing Sanbornian saxes, etc.

From Dos Mundos, The track called Xel-Ha:

And from The Painters which is actually and surprisingly superior to its predecessor perhaps due to the cohesive conceptual work, Lichtenstein's splashes, in audiological form:

I just love the imagination that went into those smashing chords at the beginning.

Note the involvement of Paul McCandless on The Painters.

Sunday 7 March 2021

Mor's Stations from 1973, France


Again a complete change in direction.

This wonderful little group, who made only the one release in 1973, is famous (lol), in progressive circles at least, for the involvement of Dan Ar Braz the folk guitarist from Brittany who made the great album Douar Nevez but thereafter descended into ordinary acoustic folk ordinariness at least to my ears.  I'm sure I'll make someone really angry saying this or rather writing it but that drony celtic acoustic guitar just absolutely drives me bonkers, much like the drony ethnic acoustic Eastern/Turkish stuff that stays in the same key for ten minutes.  Just because it's really not that hard to switch to a different chord.

On the other hand this album is superbly crafted singer-songwriter material mostly acoustic but not always. It's similar to the posted Le Chien des Dunes album from long, long ago.  

Consider the track called Suzanne, which just astonishes me with the delicately shifting chord changes resembling waves under a boat shifting under you, as well as the astonishing CSNY-like backup vocal harmonies:

As you all already must realize, in a typical SSW album like this there might be 2-3 songs worth playing twice or more. Here, there are quite a handful, so, better than average for sure.

Friday 5 March 2021

Morning Sky Sea of Dreams, 1976 USA


This one gets my vote for the most poetic title ever-- bar none. The artist's name is Morning Sky and the title of the album, Sea of Dreams, and it's a one-off from this group I guess also privately-pressed, and surprisingly professional compared with what you'd expect.  At the same time, it's quite mixed, with singer-songwriter stuff that sounds a bit like late sixties songs, persumably from the beautiful singer (and flautist) whose name is Barbara London, plus some fusion and some outright progressive rock, as in the track called Laminar Flow, which was written by bassist John Hunter:

A bad rip was circulating previously, be sure to enjoy this wonderful fresh one.

Wednesday 3 March 2021

Seed Civilization, October 1999

Similar to the Brazilian Grupo Ramo from earlier, a lost album from twenty years ago plus-- not long, or, a long time ago?  This is Mike Oldfield-style prog, with all that entails, the recurrent themes, the electronic instruments mixed with acoustic, the dramatic buildups, etc., and an album that I'm sure you haven't heard before. 

Track 4, New Chaos:

So little info, impossible to tell if they made anything else.

Monday 1 March 2021

Akiko Yano in 3 LPs


From discogs:

Born Akiko Suzuki in 1955, (Tokyo, Japan), Akiko Yano studied jazz piano in high school and recorded her first album, Japanese Girl, in 1976. To the familiar wispy, girlish voice of Japanese idoru, Yano added something different: a whimsical sense of mischief and the ability to simultaneously sing and improvise on the piano. Japanese Girl caused a sensation in the Japanese music scene, with Yano standing out from the J-pop scene of the time as something entirely original and different. After a failed marriage to Makoto Yano, the producer of Japanese Girl, she went on to become the wife and musical partner of Ryuichi Sakamoto, soundtrack auteur and former member of legendary '80s ele-pop unit Yellow Magic Orchestra. The partnership saw Yano join YMO on tour worldwide in the early '80s as support keyboardist, and she began to cultivate her own following in the US. Little Feat supported her on the West Coast, and she also participated in recordings with UK rock band Japan, led by David Sylvian (who still writes songs with Sakamoto), and Thomas Dolby. Separating from Sakamoto, she moved to New York in the '90s, where she now gigs regularly and records with a range of musicians, mostly in the jazz field.

The second album (with the dolphin) is full of interesting songs and original ideas, it's from 1977 I think, but the remainder of the discography (well so far as I know, which is not much) not so appealing.

Track 3 as an example of the nice mix of pop with more inventive elements: