Thursday, January 31, 2013

Jost Band - W.A.S.A. (We Are Still Alive) (GER, 1980)



One really doesn't know what to expect with these unknown records.  This is yet another find from the growing bin records store, that is, a find from discobasso. Not a well-known record as you can see here: http://rateyourmusic.com/artist/jost_band  (well, after I post the rip you will slowly see people claiming it as their own).  Nor is there even an entry for it on discogs:
http://www.discogs.com/artist/Jost+Band  save for their appearance in the wonderful compilation,  Nachwuchswettbewerb Pop '79 - Rock / Jazz, which featured great german artists Matter of Taste, Rozz, and Ex Ovo Pro.  I think there's a copy still available in basso's store but those records go quickly-- hurry if you want to pick it up.

So what about the music?  Setting aside the mildly ridiculous first song, I was excited at the hints of Zauberfinger with the adventurous but rock-based songwriting.  Of course this is not quite as good as the Hans Raffert work, but it is strong and interesting to listen to.  A couple of songs might even be the kind you play over and over again in the car on the long commute to work.  When I heard the second song I had to stop for a second, did he really say "Doctor doctor prescribe me your daughter?"  I will include it as a sample below, stay patient until the wonderful synths-draped ending in F sharp sustained.  Also the ninth song "Die Show" is amazing in its odd chord changes-- unfortunately it is marred by a trinnie drums intro that I probably should have removed.


Pinkel mir in den mund:



Die Show:





Monday, January 28, 2013

Håkon Graf, Jon Christensen, Hovensjø Sveinung ‎– Hideaway (Norway, 1982)



I guess these artists need no introduction, it may even be that some of you have heard this record already. But here I present a perfect new rip to do it justice.   Hakon appeared in the essential album "Blow Out" but you may not know he was also in the formidable Vanessa outfit that is also essential listening for progressive fusion fans, as well as Ruphus who put out many albums in the seventies.   (Those rhythm section dudes were on the Blow Out album too, the member they lost was guitarist Jon Eberson, so it's basically 75 % of the former.)

Is the progressive spirit cast off on this album as was true for so many artists at this time (e.g., Toto Blanke, Joachim Kuhn)? ...Kind of, but you be the judge.  In general this strays away from the high octane fusion into a more mellow, synths-heavy brew of warm chemicals.

Btw all tracks were written by Graf except the last one, a trad. norwegian folk song, arranged by him.
I sample below the most progressive number,  "Tender Stranger," with its interesting arpeggio modulations in and out of different keys.  ECM-style bass (could almost be Eberhard Weber) passes in and out of the shadows of the spacey synths veiling the electric piano like an aurora borealis.  Even more aurora appears on track A4, Open Mind, a blinding amount of it in fact, so pull out your sunglasses.

One big detraction, not only is side b short (under a quarter of an hour), but it's pretty uninteresting too in comparison to a.

A2: Tender Stranger:






Friday, January 25, 2013

Working Progress (FRA, 1976)

 
I will first quote from ashratom from his famed website where he featured well-nigh 2 years ago plus this little fusion one-off band, and when I read this I thought I must get a copy of this record.  Well it only took 2 years to get the vinyl but finally patience is rewarded with  rarities.
 
http://cdreissuewishlist.blogspot.ca/search/label/Working%20Progress

"As mentioned yesterday, we have a new patron of the CDRWL - The Alaskan Connection (no, it's not Sarah Palin). And here's his first submission. I wasn't familiar with it prior, not even on one of my many esoteric want lists. And of course guess who's involved? None other than Mr. Obscuria himself - J.P. Massiera.

This one starts off in the funky fusion style, but it's a head fake, something you can almost predict with Mr. Massiera. Within the album you'll find sweetly sung soft female vocals ala Cortex, indigenous islander music, a little Zeuhlish horns - flute and vocal piece, and even some straight jazz. For certain, all of that is fine and dandy, but it doesn't prepare you for the middle of the album with the lengthy West Indies tribal percussion and underground fuzz guitar soloing. This sequence elevates the album to a must listen experience, even it's not entirely consistent."
Thereupon he gave it a priority 3.

CREDITS:
Bass [Contrabass]– Bunny Brunel*
Bass, Vocals– A. Bonfils*
Choir– R. Ceccarelli
Drums– A. Ceccarelli*
Engineer [Sound Engineer]– Massiera J. Pierre*
Guitar– J. C. Chanavat*
Mixed By– Alain Tadie
Percussion– M. Delaporte*
Piano– F. Martin
Recording Supervisor– Claude Lemoine
Saxophone, Flute– J. David
Trombone– J. Costa (2)
Trumpet– R. Laily

Note the presence of A. Ceccarelli, who is all over fantastic fusion records from France.  Bassist Bunny Brunel also made a great fusion record called Touch in the late seventies.  If you love the french style of fusion to me this is absolutely a masterpiece, I sit back and hear the insane energy and creativity coming out the speakers and it takes me to paradise.  With the breathy sweet female vocals (oddly enough I don't see a credit for the female vocalist inside), the bits of composed passages, I think you get everything you want in one record in one package here.  My one complaint would be that it's quite short (being under half an hour) -- admittedly as was common for french albums.

Take a taste from track 2 with its absolutely anomalous but gorgeous modulations and changes:
"  I'm stretching my soul to make it sound like something...."  goes the bizarre commentary in the middle of the song.... dig it, man!!!



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Schlachtvieh - Ein Rock-Oratorium Gegen den Krieg (GER, 1980)




 

 
 
 
A beautiful and extremely poetic but difficult album of various artists dedicated to the subject of war, it covers the full range of german styles with electronic, minimalist, hard krautrock, experimental, gentle flute-ballads, all flowing together from beginning to the shattering end.  Absolutely to me a masterpiece of progressive music at its finest, by the end it evokes a feeling similar to reading a hugely romantic and sprawling novel like something by Stendhal, or perhaps All Quiet on the Western Front.

So what about war (krieg) -- is the new current era of peace destined to last or will it shudder to a close when resource depletion, famines from climate change, etc., hit us really hard?  I think I mentioned before Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker's monumental evidence-stuffed book "Better Angels of our Natures" wherein he discusses the actual stats in favour of declining violence both within states and between states, i.e. wars, and that evidence is compelling.  Think about for ex. how casually bullying in schoolyards was treated as an issue even 10 - 20 years ago compared to today when it is taken very seriously indeed.  Now think of how much worse schoolyard bullying would have been 100 years ago or the analogous bullying 1000 years ago.

 I'm not religious, but the ancient mystery of why there is so much suffering in the world has a ready answer  from the scientific point of view in fact here the irony is that humans are able to appreciate the ideal contrasting with the reality of the universe we have been given, because the final answer is that each species suffers equally more or less due to the demands of competition for limited resources and this is mandated by the natural logic of evolution and the nature of life tied to the problem of the second law of thermodynamics that entropy must increase... that is, each lifeform necessarily must fight for itself and there cannot be any sustained abundance due to the limited energy flows. But there is double irony to that question which ancient theologians could not have foreseen, because in the 1960s it did become obvious to many scientists (and even politicians) that if we tackled the large system-wide (world) problems of overuse of resources, deterioration of natural environment, and population size, certainly the whole human population could live comfortably, middle-class-like, essentially forever with a size of the order 2-3 billion, and I include of course all inhabitants of India, China, and Africa. But this would have required dismantling the colonial predatory apparatus that put poor countries at a huge disadvantage compared to Europe and N. America. The whole of the 20th century is a history of how the rich enslaved the poor countries in various ways, esp. in Africa, where these poor countries upon gaining independence then got caught in the proxy cold war between the US and the USSR. Not only were they economically exploited in various ways, often merely so corrupt leaders could prosecute civil wars, they were overloaded with enormous quantities of weapons, and the opposing side invariably received an equal amount. So there is a sense to which you could say there really was no chance for that utopian ideal of the 1960s to happen, ever.  On the other hand, without the distraction of the cold war, I think we really could have considered seriously solving these system-wide problems in that era.

That is the modern irony: we could have ended suffering for all humans or at least the vast majority, and we blew it. Today I see that we are headed straight into a kind of funeral pyre, since by 2100 it is expected once again, since this prediction came out years ago, that the earth overall will be about 6 degrees C warmer. As usual expect the Africans in particular to suffer inordinately. We are thus following the worst case scenario predictions of the IPCC.

And in our hearts, we have to accept if we are honest this is not at all a surprise, since we have been doing this for so long aware of what is happening all around us. This is our future, that we have collectively chosen for ourselves and our children and grandchildren: The worst case scenario.



Thursday, January 17, 2013

KOM & Agit Prop - Väinämöisen soitto (Fin, 1977}







Our very own Mr. H. Morgan seems to be on a roll here, another hugely impressive gem appears as if out of the blue-- hard to understand why or how there could still be such masterpieces hidden in the darkness of oblivion after all the collecting and unearthing, but let the music stand as its own witness.

Here's a quick summary from RYM:
"Very jazzy, folky and rocky, so this must be good. Also, there's structures that resemble modern classical, and classical pop. Hard folk fusion with beautiful vocals, though the theme is anyway quite funny. First performed in 1974."

Musicians  (Please note the presence of one of the greatest fusion guitarist-composers in history in my opinion, Jukka Hauru:)

Bass – Tapani Tamminen
Chorus – Agit Prop-Kvartetti*
Composed By – Eero Ojanen
Drums – Ari Valtonen
Guitar – Jukka Hauru
Horn [Birch Bark Horn] – Erkki Saarela, Pekka Milonoff
Orchestra – KOM-Kvartetti
Piano – Eero Ojanen
Producer – Pekka Aarnio
Recorded By – Erkki Hyvönen, Harri Sutinen
Vocals – Martti Launis, Monna Kamu, Pekka Aarnio, Sinikka Sokka
Vocals [Elocutionist] – Marja-Leena Kouki

Full title of the album is: " Väinämöisen Soitto - Cantata for four singers and jazz quartet.  Two Communistic Protest Groups, KOM-kvartetti and Agit-Prop, made together this very special Fusion album without any political aspects of any sort."  -- Mr Morgan.
(In fact, it is based on the finnish national epic, the Kalevala, as he mentions in comments below.)

Isn't it amazing how that special human yearning for a perfect society made itself manifest in such a horrific way in the 20th century with the rise (and fall) of communism?  Yet this yearning is with us, in everyone, with conservatives who look to the past for perfection and  liberals who look forward to a utopia in the future. And this (to the evolutionist)  is part of the toolkit which natural selection put in our brains to make us work together better in a society full of individual actors with irregular actions, since we can always establish how imperfect human relations are in the present (in our surroundings) in comparison with the ideal we automatically, as it were, have in our imaginations.  Even young children understand this idea with their emphasis on equality.  In the same way when we look at human faces we are automatically at all times comparing with an unconscious " ideal "  face we hold in our minds.

Many thanks to Mr. Morgan for his sharing of this " ideal " record: "Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen!" - Karl Marx






Sunday, January 13, 2013

Heikki Sarmanto - Open Ear (Fin, 1976)

 
 
 
From our finnish-irish friend Mr Morgan:

Composer and pianist Heikki Sarmanto is a leading Finnish jazz scene figure who has been internationally praised for his symphonic, orchestral and jazz ensemble works. During the early 1960s, Sarmanto studied at the Sibelius Academy in Finland. Shortly thereafter he won a prestigious award for the International Competition of Jazz Composition in Minneapolis, MN. He also performed in numerous Finnish jazz recordings including Christian Schwindt’s “For Friends and Relatives” (RCA Victor) and Esa Pethman’s “The Modern Sound of Finland” (RCA Victor).

Sarmanto entered the Berklee College of Music in Boston, in 1968 where he honed his piano and composition skills with coaching from Herb Pomeroy, Charlie Mariano and Margaret Chaloff. In 1969 he released the first recording under his own name in 1969 titled “Flowers in the Water” (EMI/Columbia), which was taken from a live recording at the University of Jyvaskyla.
In 1970, Sarmanto was chosen “Jazz Musician of the Year” in Finland. Back in Boston, he joined fellow musicians Lance Gunderson (guitar), Craig Herndon (drums), George Mraz (bass) and fellow Finn Juhani Aaltonen (saxophone) to record what would be released 38 years later as “Boston Date” (Porter Records). This quartet, with Pekka Sarmanto replacing George Marz, would be known as the “Serious Music Ensemble”. They would go on to record “Counterbalance” and “Like a Fragonard” (EMI/Odeon) in Finland. These two powerful recordings showcase both of Sarmanto’s amazing abilities as a piano player and composer. They incorporate elements of jazz, folk, improvisation and even rock to make a distinctive statement.

In 1971, he was awarded top honors at the Montreux Jazz Festival in both piano and combo categories. Sarmanto continued to record for EMI/Odeon with the big band recording “Everything is it”. Throughout the 70s, Sarmanto continued to record albums that ranged from big band to ...Expand to read entire bio >arrangements based upon poetry.

In the 80s, Mr. Sarmanto was chosen by Sonny Rollins to arrange and conduct his “Saxophone Concerto”, which premiered and was televised in Tokyo in 1986. Some of his key works include “New Hope Jazz Mass” dedicated to Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, which was received with unequivocal praise at the opening of Saint Peter's Church in New York, and also Suomi Symphony, which premiered to rave reviews at Carnegie Hall in 1988.

He was instrumental in founding the internationally lauded UMO Jazz Orchestra and was appointed its artistic director in 1999. Sarmanto headed the Jazz Studio at the Sibelius Academy which is highest institute of Finnish music and now home to the foremost jazz department in that nation.

Sarmanto's collaboration with Brazil's great lyricist, Fernando Brant, and the gifted guitarist-arranger, Juarez Moreira, resulted in the beautiful CD “A Lua Luara”. It featured one of Brazil's top vocalists, Claudya de Oliveira. Sarmanto is currently working with the famous French music publisher Alphonse Leduc to produce a CD and sheet music of his newest work titled “Impressions-Paris”, which includes 20 solo piano works. In 2008 Sarmanto composed the jazz opera “Manon”, which premiered in Estonia with great success.

He has toured the United States, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa and continues to actively expand his musical horizons. Porter Records along with Heikki Sarmanto and EMI Finland have begun to re-release a substantial body of Sarmanto’s previously unavailable early work for both the enjoyment of new and old enthusiasts of jazz.
 


Credits: Heikki Sarmanto - Piano , Electric Piano , Moog
Pekka Pöyry - Alto + Soprano Sax , Flute /
Pekka Sarmanto -Bass
Esko Rosnell - Drums & Percussion
Juha Björninen - Guitar

Maija Hapuoja - Vocals

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Headband - Fette Bruhe (GER, 1982)

 
 
A long time ago a very generous fusion collector posted their album Straight Ahead (their first I think) and it absolutely blew me away.  It's only thanks to others that I later realized they had done three records in total.  After hearing all three I think this is actually their masterpiece. (The other one btw is called "Suntalk" and has a side-long suite on b that I find a little too drawn-out.)  The weird and quirky fusion just never lets up on this outing from 1982 (called "fat broth" I think, you will see a recipe for the LP/broth on the back) and there is an utter minimum of wanky improvising.  It's amazing what was going on in Germany at this time in music.  Of course even in N. America fusion was not yet dead but it was slowly becoming a dirty word especially among the cool and among the influential music reviewers.
 
Bass, Vocals– Cläusel Quitschau
Drums– Manfred von Bohr
Guitar– Jan Reimer
Keyboards, Vocals– Michael Herting
Producer– Headband
Saxophone– Norbert Stein
 
I realize of course an mp3 rip has been circulating of this record, I think it was posted on the growing bin website first, but I really wanted to do it justice so you can hear every detail of the thought these superb musicians put into their work.  And in each song there is some very odd angularity or unique aspect to the riff that makes for intensely interesting listening, I think you'll agree. Consider track 6, Dampfwalzer, where under a furious rhythm section the guitarist plays virtually an atonal solo full of odd hendrixian sounds.  Very abruptly the passage ends and you get the frantic sax on abnormal chords synths space effect (as in Nazaruk's Hymn to the Midnight Sun I posted before).  The last track, Turkis, is my idea of a swan song to fusion, with the best and most beautiful melodic harmonies of any record, harking back to the seminal british and american masters, recalling perhaps a lot of Toto Blanke and Electric Circus who by that time had moved on from fusion .....
 
RIP fusion:
 
 

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A. Riccardo Luciani + Marco Melchiori - Inchiesta sul Mezzogiorno (Edizioni Ciclamino 101)



Happy new year to everyone and best of luck with all.... for my part the year 2012 was one of the most productive in music history and I'm hoping so will be 2013...

As far as I know, though I might be wrong, there were three library records this duo did in the seventies all in a very similar style.  The other 2 were posted on pornotrond's blog dusty shelf.
http://pornotrond.blogspot.ca/2012/08/ciclamino-marco-melchiori-r-luciani_16.html and the one before.  The other two are called Atmosfere and Aspetti della natura.

I realize I have said all of this before but I was shocked at the quality and great beauty of the compositions and did a search to see if there were missing records-- I know many times I've talked about how wonderful some of these library records can be, and I wish I was a specialist in the genre so as to understand what to look for (as with the great "contemporary contrasts" record), but I'm just following the others.

Note that side A is composed by A. Riccardo Luciani and side B by Marco Melchiori.
Those who don't have a taste for classical music in particular won't be too keen on side A, it's reminiscent of the Milan Pilar compositions from the older library I shared, "Pastoral Seasons."
Side B is electronic and keyboard music.
Between the two, I feel the former has a bit of a leg up.  Luciani has numerous credits if you scan his discography:
http://rateyourmusic.com/artist/a_r__luciani
Couldn't there be hidden gems in that list that we could bring to light?  As I said I wish I knew which are available to sample and which are still outstanding that might be gemological.

This third record in summary doesn't disappoint, it's exactly what I was expecting and I'm sure many out there will find it as soothing and peacefully relaxing in a very melancholy way, as I do.

Here's a good taste of the music from track A7 by Luciani:



And track B2 from Melchiori: