Friday, March 02, 2012

Heavy Joker feat. Max Leth jun (Denmark, 1976)

I'm going to continue with another incredible find from our guru Tom although today on rereading his post I forgot he credited his connexions with this one. So may be we should be thanking the AC, midwest mike, and the zorro demon of zarapa. It's no secret that I love European jazz-rock, even more and with greater passion than I ever used to love American Jazz (and of course in University, I was a huge fan). Why? I can summarize in a dreaded powerpoint set of bullets:

-they are more composition-oriented
-they are classical-influenced
-there is less wankery of endless improvisations
-they don't got that swing
-the emotional tone is more varied
By that last point, I mean the mixtures of instruments create textures of emotional feelings that rarely if ever one finds on american jazz, esp. the quasi-ubiquitous (in Europe) combination of acoustic instruments with flute, or solo electric guitar with flute, think for ex. "Mireille" by Pierre Moerlen's Gong.

On this record you will notice that both the sides end in baroque patterns played by the remarkable pianist Max Leth jun. This was one helluvan expensive vinyl to get, and we often get the feeling Tom, with his accolades, provides a huge increase in cash flow to the record collectors or shops that have their hands on these big rarities. Does he get a cut from the take when he features a rarity on his cd reissue wishlist? Probably, and eventually I think he'll go to jail for it, or at least, be convicted for having too many rare records we don't have. I'd be willing to bet anything this particular one could've been had for less than 2 hundred prior to this posting, Dec. 2010:

"Heavy Joker - s/t. 1976 Polydor
Heavy Joker - Caesar's Palace. 1978 Mercury.

Earlier this year, I'd heard "Caesar's Palace" for the first time. I quickly dismissed it as an all too typical fusion album of the era, describing it as thus: "Warm and slick, this smooth jazz album is similar to the American group Spyro Gyra. Presumably the first album is considerably better, but I haven't heard it." Midwest Mike pointed out to me that the first album was indeed much better, and so he sent me a CD-R to see if I agreed with him. Wow - what a difference! Opening with a Canterbury like sequence, I knew instantly he was to be right. The next couple of tracks would foreshadow the direction they would follow on "Caesar's Palace", with some slick playing and somewhat trite melodic interplay. But they close side 1 similar to how it began in superb fashion. This leads to the excellent side long track broken up into 4 movements, that recalls some of the finest Kraut fusion bands (Missus Beastly, Frob, Kraan, etc..) while still maintaining the Soft Machine/Nucleus approach of quirky sophistication. Overall, a very pleasant surprise."

I've listened many times to this record, and there are a couple of throwaway (to me) funk tunes, but there is huge variety to the music. No doubt it's superior to the follow-up Caesar's Palace, I guess Max had the touch of genius in his hands. In particular his compositions really stand out, the last track Ambrosia on side 1, with its classical structures, and the side B long track called "Symphonia" (again the classical references) which starts with a really interesting riff on the piano over chords dropping down by a half-tone. Later still we get some really insane progressive grand piano soloing, before the fusion energy builds again to a climax, a storm washes into shore on Transylvanian Chase, synthesizers pound out a powerful pestersome beat, and at that point-- a danged scratch makes the record repeat a few times, oops sorry about that guys! Hopefully it sounds really clear in your lossless flac ! Anyways, I got to the scratch in time to push it through to the fugue-like conclusion of the record although the stomping of my feet on the hardwood floor as I scream at my two-year old and kick his R2D2 stuffed toy out of the way may distract a bit. I'm sure you'll be impressed with this, perhaps not so much with my rip and scratch, but the record is mint-condition otherwise.

One last comment, check out the back cover with the band members sitting on the grass. Classic hair and outfits! Should be in a museum.

First part of the long composition, side b:


Tristan Stefan said...



Many Many Thanks for this !

Harri Morgan said...

Thanks Tristan Stefan, this album has been on my wishlist as long as I've had a wishlist.

Expecting a lot of this album.

isabelbc said...

unbelievable! finally!
you are great!!
Isabel :o)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful album! Thanks!

Harri Morgan said...

I believe that this is the biggest release You've ever made!

Tristan Stefan said...

what did you think of it? comparing to expectations?

Harri Morgan said...


Anonymous said...

Every once in a while one of those rarities emerges out of the blue, in many cases they disappoint, after waiting a looking for it all over when u finally listen to it, you remember why they were obscure, there was a reason.

In this case, all expectations and more were blown apart, certainly one of those phenomenal albums that makes you wonder why in heavens this is so hard to find, why it took so long.

Thanks a lot to the person who let it be shared.

Michael said...

Thank you very much!
Nice post and real gem

nahavanda said...

i am listening over and over again, one of the best fusion i've heard for a looong time. thank you so much to bring it to attention tristan!! :)

Tristan Stefan said...

I'm so glad to hear you enjoy it... lots more rarities coming, don't worry!

Tristan Stefan said...

new and improved master shige rip:


Tristan Stefan said...

Addendum: You did an amazing job man!

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