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R. J. Heath "djaitch" (Loughborough, Leics, UK)

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Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play The Blues- Live From Jazz At  Lincoln Center
Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play The Blues- Live From Jazz At Lincoln Center
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 8.73

5.0 out of 5 stars Synergy, 30 Sep 2011
I've surprised myself by really liking this collaboration of Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton, when in the past discovering either of those two names associated with new projects, have usually disappointed. Indeed my initial surprise came from reading a review in the London Time several weeks ago, where the critic stated this is 20's New Orleans jazz fused with Chicago style blues but it works. He cited the rearranged 'Layla' for comment(apparently included in the set at the request of one of Marsalis's band) so I felt compelled to hear this, with at least a certain cynercism about how far it would work to my ears. Any hestitacy was down to my long feeling that Clapton's music had laid back so far, it had fallen over and gone to sleep/not had anything new to say, while Marsalis's long term utterances about fusion have been a turn off. Therefore I admit to slight amusement in a seemingly ironic situation, i.e. Marsalis being involved playing a form of jazz fusion - psomething he has not done on record since his contributions to the 'Fuse' albums in the early 80's.

Now, having obtained the CD I've been propelled to also buy the DVD, and gained even more enjoyment seeing the genuine pleasure that each musician gets from the others' playing. This recording is excellent in most aspect. Musicvally it is a form of jazz fusion perhaps not tried before but it works. However, as fusion it is not obvious, since we are given largely excellent played New Orleans style 20's jazz but with Clapton dropping in nicely, largely playing electric Chicago blues. And I've almost worn out Layla, it is very different from original Derek & The Dominoes' version and alone worth the 10 for the DVD/CD set. The CD and DVD bothprovide copious evidence of musical synergy, players from somewhat different backgrounds provoking each other into some superior playing without showing off and definitely integrating superbly well throughout.

The Very Last Time
The Very Last Time
Price: 12.44

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Add with If, Heaven and Satisfaction., 22 Sep 2011
This review is from: The Very Last Time (Audio CD)
Amongst the A to Z of brass rock bands, I've long scratched my head to think beyond the names of the UK's contribution coming from Heaven, If and Satisfaction, and remained unsure about Keef Hartley's bigger groups. Imagine my surprise (name the US brass rockers?), when recently the liberally minded Jazz Music Archives recommended the CD reissues of an early 70's UK band, Rock Workshop. Added surprise came from discovering the legendary Alex Harvey was the band's voice, in a time before SAHB made headlines. And for a jazz fusionist afficiado, guitarist Ray Russell's name as leader, teased.

Having purchased both their albums from Amazon, I have been particularly pleased with the band's second studio recording'The Very Last Time', which for the purposes of this CD, has some added live pieces. The brass rock here owes something to Chicago's late 60's/early 70's sound, but the good sax solos give something not heard with Chicago, and there is a great deal deal more of a jazz feel in the solo work - especially the purely instrumental-only tracks. It is pleasure to hear Harvey's voice in this setting, bookending several songs and giving their opening/closing bars a rock bluesy heaviness that Chicago rarely went for. Indeed the addition of a lady, I believe from the liner notes called Ginger, we are given blues-based brass rock echoing that of the SF band Cold Blood. One weakness are the lyrics, largely giving a drippy hippy sentiment or three - therefore dropping the album half a star.

So I have to asked myself why did I miss the band the first time around, when IMHO they are superior to Heaven and Satisfaction - even so, If still remain the favourites?

Theme of Secrets
Theme of Secrets
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 18.73

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Innovative for its time, 21 Sep 2011
This review is from: Theme of Secrets (Audio CD)
Both previous reviewers haven't brought out the fact that this was one of the first releases (original cat no. PRIVATE1501-2), of the now defunct Private Music label, which I believe was originally owned by member/members of Tangerine Dream, so devoted to electronic music. 'The Theme of Dreams' was therefore recorded at the height of the ambient music craze in the mid 80's and so is a recording containing music largely of its time. Nevertheless it is innovative in terms of instrument use. The Synclavier was then apparently was a rich man's toy and so resident mostly in a handful of recording studios that could afford it, (i.e. analogous to the early Moog synths of the late 60's). In passing, hadn't Jobson's previous boss Frank Zappa*, fully processed the music heard on 'Jazz From Hell on the instrument?

I think first heard the LP version of this on decent hi-fi in Toronto in '87 or '88, and was immediately bowled over by the first 3 or 4 tracks as being state of the art sounds and music. What appears to be a glass sphere sampled whilst repeatedly bouncing up and down on a hard floor (i.e the sort found on Christmas trees but in my experience, too often breaking on the second impact when dropped), still is a spectacular effect to my ageing ears. If one cares to cast around to Private Music's back catalogue, you'll also find from the same period a longish acoustic piano composition/solo by Jobson on the album 'Piano One' (it had 3 other pianists' contributions), very much in the ambient/reflective style and is rock-free.

Simply, this album was innovative when first released and then would have been far from dated. It can be considered a valid part part of Eddie Jobson's history, remembering that through the 90's Jobson was perhaps better known for writing incidental music for US cop TV shows than playing rock.

*Another of Zappa's employees (concomitant with Jobson - both are seen in a photo on the sleeve of Zappa's Zoot Allures album) is Patrick O'Hearn, who both recorded for Private Music and used the studio's Synclavier about the same time.

Playing the Band: The Musical Life of Jon Hiseman
Playing the Band: The Musical Life of Jon Hiseman
by Martyn Hanson
Edition: Paperback

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Salute You, 27 Dec 2010
I was very impressed by this entertaining and informative biography of one the greats of British jazz and jazz fusion, Jon Hiseman. While not quite 'warts and all', we do get a clear sense of the author standing back to analyse the various periods and changes in Hiseman's musical life, helped in no small way by his having the opportunity to talk and tease out all the background details with many of the key players in his musical history. While this book is relatively long, there no sense of overdoing things to any point of tedium - space is made to describe and discuss events and developments without prolonging. For these reasons, you will find more clarity and understanding of what makes Jon Hiseman and his long-term colleagues tick, than found in most published musical biographies. If there were any major regrets by any of the former members of Hiseman's bands, they aren't obvious, but rather more hinted at by a sense of omission. Indeed, the honesty of the text makes quite clear which players were hired and fired, but who then invariably speak of their time with Hiseman as being formative and/or educational. Later reunions clearly show that any bitterness was short-lived or even non-existent. Indeed, the most critical of his role here is Jon Hiseman himself, but nevertheless Jon comes across as a comparatively nice guy - albeit somewhat hard-nosed and self-critical, but certainly as a survivor in the tough business of fusing jazz, rock and blues.

I did start to think at one point, that author Hanson was going to over-do Colosseum's original 3 year period, but with 400 plus pages of text in total, there is no shortage of detail about all the other bands forming Hiseman's musical family tree, with plenty to mull over with respect to the post-1972 years . There are individual, but interconnected histories of Colosseum, Tempest, Colosseum 2, Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia as well as the Hiseman family business. This is not just the story of Jon Hiseman alone. In one sense, the neat, continual use of thumb-nail biogs of the key players reinforces the importance of each and every one of Hiseman's bands, both to the author and Hiseman himself. In one particular area of importance we get to understand why Jon & Co. turned to Europe, achieving far more accolades and a large fan base here than in North America: Europe's gain is America big, big loss.
So, I am pleased to report that this is one of the most comprehensive rock/jazz/(blues) biographies I've read in respect of its completeness and balance, due in no small part, I'm sure, to the access Martin Hanson had to the main players and, more importantly, their enthusiastic willingness to talk honestly and openly to him. Thus you are getting the real deal, from the collective horses' mouths, so to speak. All-in-all, this biography has a freshness, which clearly comes from the author's enthusiasm for Hiseman and his music, but without any fawning or gratuitous flattery. I have to add the book is extremely readable - I can't recall at any time flicking through any dull pages attempting to seek something more readable. Finally, I also have a sense of being brought right up to 2010 in the company of musicians who are still working hard and making music that is still very much alive and relevant today.

24 Tales
24 Tales
Price: 10.96

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best jazz fusion album in 2010?, 4 May 2010
This review is from: 24 Tales (Audio CD)
Abstract Logix Records are continuing to provide some excellent 2010 jazz fusion releases, especially after the recent John McLaughlin issue.

Alex Machacek's '24 Tales' is made up of 24 tunes ranging from 30 seconds to 5 minutes each in length and running into each other, apparently built round an extended improv drum solo by Marco Minnemann. Alex demonstrates himself to be one of the very best of the new jazz rock fusion guitarists, with a growing international standing. You might call this record a 'calling card' revealing the virtuosity and styles of playing at Alex's finger tips, but I wouldn't press that too far.

From the explosive start, expect to find tunes that touch on the Zapparesque, shred, a mere hint of the Holdsworthian, maybe post-bop and lot of what I now called 'Machacekian playing' i.e. with a distinct new sound coming through. With the relatively short length of all tunes, expect none to outstay their welcome but the whole has a distinct coherency, which had me playing the CD straight again as soon as it had stopped. Musically the best album in the genre I've heard this year.

Walk The Nile
Walk The Nile
Price: 7.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The herd are stampeding again, 15 Mar 2010
This review is from: Walk The Nile (MP3 Download)
Dispite having three Moonjune Records promos (especially a long awaited Mike Ratledge tribute) for long car journey of entertainment this weekend, I spent most time listening to Elephant9's 'Walk The Nile' quite a few times and with great pleasure; (downloadable as MP3s from Amazon, with the CD out at the end of the month). Their 2008 'Dodovoodoo' delightfully borrowed from and skated all over the early jazz rock scene. From the handful of critics who bothered to write, a list of a couple dozen early influences were to be found across the resulting reviews. 'Walk The Nile' seems more focussed. This is largely Hammond and or overdriven electric piano led, which with thrashing drumming results in what at first sounds like good old fashioned jazz rock but with something of the 21st century, that is difficult to nail. I tend to go along with Elephant9's label, Rune Grammofon's blurb wrt the citing and parallelling with the original Tony Williams Lifetime, although I would go further saying this recording has echoes of the Jack Bruce edition of the 'Turn It Over' period, especially with its dirty deep down thudding bass. But it is not a copy: the drumming here deliberately lacks the precision of the late Tony Williams creating some of the degrees of separation. And whilst the Lifetime thing is more obvious in the shorter high speed tunes, the long slower tracks suggest psychedelia, such as the title track.

An album of high energy music, (and in view of my initial hearing, certainly drive time music), which I need a little time before deciding if this is going to impact on me to the same extent as Elephant9's first - my favourite album of 2008. But it is the best I've heard of its type this year.

Animals As Leaders
Animals As Leaders

1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy math rock?, 10 Dec 2009
This review is from: Animals As Leaders (MP3 Download)
Interesting album - or should I write: for me an album made up a number of very interesting tracks amongst some indifferent tracks, so the whole may sound rather confused wrt what bag this music is in. We start off with speed shred metal nodding to math rock and then go off at tangents - excellent in my book. My favourite track, 'Behaving badly' is the closest I've heard to the math rock of Battles (but I don't listen to that much math rock - indeed this is a genre which I dip into trying to find music that appeals). Elsewhere the math rock is a lot heavier than Battles' but played with considerable precision. On the downside, a couple of the tunes sound similar wrt composition to other tunes heard on the album, hence I feel there is a repetition of ideas - so suggesting the album could have stood the pruning of a few superflous tunes.

On balance, an album worth checking out, but IMHO suffering from a few low points.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2011 4:48 PM BST


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One for the Boosh, 14 July 2009
This review is from: Propensity (Audio CD)
How many good studio recordings from the last 4 decades or more, lie lingering in the vaults of recording studios or in a deep and dusty nook of a musician's loft? These seem to need some good memories of those involved and then painstaking searching to recover, (master, etc.) and release; 'Propensity' appears to be one of these records that deserve recovery and fuller exposure.

The two recordings on this ep were made in September 1978, but not mixed until 1997 by a rare ex-pupil of Holdsworth, Jakko Jakszyk, and finally mastered early summer 2009 in the USA. The music finds Holdsworth during a very busy period of self-evaluation at the end of the 70's (including doubts about being in the music industry), and at the same time experimenting across a broad range of jazz (e.g. as illustrated by the radio broadcasts with John Steven issued over 3 CDs, the two albums recorded in France with Gordon Beck, industry rejected demos with Hiseman and Bruce, and according to Gary Husband laying down the 'IOU' album - which itself was released several years later). John Stevens ran a "school" of jazz improv and was well known in the UK for being one of the top free drummers. Danny Thompson was very much in demand on the UK folk circuit but also known for his uncompromising jazz playing. BTW one of the best folk rhythm sections I've heard, is that of Thompson and Stevens found on John Martyn's 'Live At Leeds' album.

The liner notes here are relatively limited (for instance, there is no answer to why there are only two tracks lasting approximately 26 minutes here?). So I guess these recordings were done in a similar way to the John Stevens/Allan Holdsworth radio recordings of this period, predominantly as improvisation. And with this probable spontaneity by a trio who seem to know each other well, most things are melodic. The playing skills of all three musicians are of the highest orders and pleasure to hear. And for me, the real joy is a rarity, an extended 12-string acoustic guitar solo by Holdsworth on the first track, 'Jools Toon'. The second track is longer and find Holdsworth playing electric guitar, flavoured with some of his signature playing.

This ep will be of great interest to Holdworth fans in particular, (e.g. Julian of the Mighty Boosh!!!), filling another brief gap in his musical history. But fans of Thompson (note who's name comes first in this pecking order), and Stevens will take great pleasure from this too.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 11, 2009 11:25 AM BST

Never Hear The End Of It
Never Hear The End Of It
Offered by Giant Entertainment
Price: 6.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The not so difficult 17th or whatever album?//?!, 25 Jun 2009
Of all places, correspondents at the Prog Archive website, mid-summer 2008 alerted me to Sloan, both the band (I'd never heard of them before) and their music - perhaps it helped having Canadians at PA in promoting their local talent. Combined with a good deal at Amazon.UK, I took the risk and ordered a copy of 'Never Hear The End Of It'. What a revelation on hearing it for the first time: concentrated on this disc is all what was good about pop from the late 60's and early 70's, sprinkled with a little punk.

'Never Hear the End of It', having most tunes being around 2 and half minutes in duration, that tend to segue one into the next track, combined with super hook after super hook being tossed in our direction, then it has to be said this is a great album. it is an album that can be put on at (retro-)parties to provide 60 or so minutes dancefloor-filling. And my guess is that those older dancers would both be thinking they were enjoying faintly familiar tunes, but also be scratching their heads thinking when they last heard this specific tune and by whom (further whether it was the 60's or the 70's they last heard it?).

Other reviewers mention Big Star as a influence; that band isn't the only one that provide the flavour here. There are broader 60's/70's America influences including some mid-60's garage and freak beat, plus not a little 60's Brit beat infusing Sloan's music. 'Never Hear The End Of It' has both several stand out tunes, while the whole album can be played and played again. So an excellent album of consistently written and recorded pop tunes, many of which would stand their own with the greats of the 60's.

This is also an album that sent me to discover Sloan's hits album 'A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005' with equal levels of enjoyment. More please.

Jazz for the Deaf
Jazz for the Deaf
Price: 15.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Metal jazzed up, 25 Jun 2009
This review is from: Jazz for the Deaf (Audio CD)
Over the last two year's Mörglbl have deservedly taken off and become "internationally recognised", at least in prog/jazz rock fusion circles. Some people may smirk at the idea of virtuoso rock players coming from France - however, through Mörglbl's four album releases, exposure live on stage and video on You Tube, those claims of excellent musicianship, great song writing and considerable wittiness, will be found to be most justified. Indeed the power trio Mörglbl is a damned good band, mixing jazz rock with metal/heavy rock and that very special ingredient, infection Gallic humour. So now after extentively touring the planet, for instance getting rave reviews in the USA (the UK next ??), Mörglbl have found time to record and release 'Jazz for the deaf'.

'Jazz For The Deaf' is a good album but I found on first listening it does not have the immediate impact of 'Grotesk', which had a consistent run of excellent and instantly memorable tunes. But then 'Jazz' continues to grow on me with repeated plays, since the whole is consistently well above average but suffers from having fewer stand-out tunes. The fact is 'Jazz ' doesn't grab me as much as 'Grotesk', perhaps because (ironically) there is less jazz/jazz fusion and instead there is more emphasis towards the metal side of their playing - is this the new drummer?? However, this record isn't jazz-free, and most tracks use that old trick of the early prog-rockers: play the main part of the song as rock but do the instrumentals as jazz. Everybody who's heard my Mörglbl albums, have commented on Godin's excellent guitar work being Vai-like, but I hear the Holdsworthian breaks too combined with heaps of originality, so don't accuse him being a Vai-clone. Then I don't get the Primus (do they mean Les Claypool?) connection - I don't hear it in the albums or samples found on You Tube, (so have I missed something by not being able to attend any gigs as yet?). Ivan Rougny on electric bass, is a much different sort of bass-playing virtuso - freer and jazzier.

Having said all that, 'Jazz' is still a superior jazz-fusion-going-metal album (or vice versa) definitely worth buying by the already converted, but is not the one to start discovering Mörglbl for the first time.

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