“In the North” is the new album from Greek guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos. Spiliotopoulos, who recently relocated to Sweden, has toured in the Asaf Sirkis Trio and performed with the likes of Kenny Wheeler and Gary Husband. “In the North” is an intriguing melange of Greek, ethnic and progressive influences. The mixture is often aggressively put forward, sometimes a bit darkly- sometimes not so darkly and more appropriately restrained. The material is full of tremendous interplay, most notably heard on engaging themes and ascending and descending lines played in unison or in contrast by Spiliotopoulos and saxophonist Orjan Hulten. The able rhythm section of bassist Palle Sollinger and drummer Fredrik Rundqvist round out the impressive band. “In the North” is serious progressive world-jazz music with an attitude. It is beautifully constructed, performed and recorded. A listener is sure to be rewarded for any time invested.
For a music lover, there is nothing quite like a new discovery. I just spent the last hour or so being bowled-over by multi-instrumentalist Beledo’s “Dreamland Mechanism.” The virtuosity presented is truly impressive, but that wouldn’t mean much if the material were run-of-the-mill. Luckily for us, Beledo's jazz-rock influenced compositions are packed full of surprise and wanderlust. And all the better, his bandmates- Gary Husband, Lincoln Goines, Dewa Budjana and other cool folks- are outstanding proponents. At first listening, I became curious. Now, I am hooked. It was like taking a really great world cruise in about an hour. You should book your passage ASAP.
Italian pianist Robertos Magris’ latest album, Enigmatix, is further proof that his lush sweeping lines can serve many masters. His love of the blues, fusion, American jazz and Latin landscapes is clearly demonstrated. The man can be, without imitating, Lonnie Liston Smith in one moment and Ramsey Lewis in the next. (Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” gets the Lewis treatment.) With a strong supporting cast, especially from bassist Dominique Sanders whose contribution runs through the proceedings like a serpentine guide wire, Magris’ ascendent compositions are presented in full scope. It is also good to hear jazz vocalist Monique Danielle, who I have reviewed favorably in the past, on one cut. (My guess is that Danielle is a Kansas City connection. Magris has a musical soft spot in his heart for the place.) Enigmatix is a fine outing worthy of many listens. My guess is that your second listening will occur about 1 minute after your first.
I have become a great admirer of Tim Kuhl’s work over the years. He appears to be a drummer and composer with no ego. His latest album, 1982, only bolsters that belief. Rhythm and tone underpin the intent of this work- not featured solos or star turns. The semi-electronica tunes are simple at first, as if you were listening to a minimalist Kraftwerk. Soon, however, momentum-building soundscapes, that are no so electronica and not so simple, hug the ground like a green fog as darker intentions poke their heads above it. Beckoning whispers and an earnest voice add poetic elements to the groove-laden narrative. This isn’t jazz or fusion, electronica or rock or anything easily put into any niche. What Kuhl, with the able help of his guests, has really created with 1982 is a profound sound sculpture. At only 33 minutes running time, 1982 should be the perfect length to convince you to stop what you are doing at this very moment and pay close attention. I know it is hard these days to take any time out, but do it. After listening to Tim Kuhl’s 1982, you will be left in deep contemplation. That is probably a far better place than where you were before you hit play.
Learn more about Tim Kuhl and order 1982 here.
It was a privilege to attend the early set on Saturday May 2 of the latest Mike Stern band at the Regattabar in Cambridge, MA. Imagine a band that features the phenomenal guitarist with Anthony Jackson on bass, Randy Brecker on trumpet and Dennis Chambers on drums! Each player holds a special place in music history. It was especially heartening to see and hear Dennis Chambers play again after his recent health scare. He looked great and he sounded great!
I am still working on my latest project. I can't wait for it to be released. However, sometimes research takes more time than you expect. This is especially true if you are waiting for certain responses. Patience is the key in such circumstances.
Witnessed a fine performance from the Levin Brothers at TCAN in Natick. They are reliving their youth in a quartet playing cool jazz from the fifties.
Another winning album from MoonJune Records. On Proof of Light, guitarist Mark Wingfield’s notes are forcibly extruded through the smallest of openings. Remarkably, he uses no synthesis at all during his lead playing to obtain this fascinating sound. That said, his unique style only matters because his compositions are so compelling. Some melodic heavy lifting is given to bassist Yaron Stavi and the wonderfully inventive Asaf Sirkis rounds out the trio on drums. Proof of Light is proof that Wingfield and his companions have it going on and you should listen as soon as possible.
Had a chance to listen to the new album "Groundswell" from Moraine (MoonJune Records) this morning. If a gun were held to my head, I'd call it "grunge jazz-rock swing." If not, I'd call it really good and well worth your time.
New Tony Williams Lifetime Images Emerge
A couple of months back, I was contacted by drummer Al Faaet. He was a fan of my Mahavishnu book. He wanted to help with the comprehensive Mahavishnu Orchestra gig list that we have been compiling for years. I get notes all the time from people who tell me they were at a concert that we don’t have listed. The problem is that many times they cannot prove it. Memories aren’t so perfect- especially memories from the 70s. (Those of you who lived through those years know what I mean.) So, I have learned to require some tangible proof before I place a concert in the gig list. A newspaper review, a ticket stub or some sort of provable record will do it. Well, Al had evidence in the form of the concert poster and he added, he had taken a few pictures. It turns out his photos were fantastic and historically important. They will soon be debuted in an eBook project I am currently working on.
Almost as an aside, Al mentioned he had some other photos too. Good previously unseen Mahavishnu Orchestra pictures are very hard to find. However, decent pictures of the Tony Williams Lifetime, the trailblazing jazz rock band that included John McLaughlin and helped pave the way for Mahavishnu and other jazz rock groups, were virtually nonexistent!
Al’s pictures were not of the first version of Lifetime with McLaughlin, organist Larry Young, and of course, leader Tony Williams. By 1970, the trio had added bassist Jack Bruce straight after the demise of Cream. Still, to see Lifetime, in any incarnation, in color and performing live is a true jazz rock treasure. Due to the position of the camera, only Larry Young’s sandals can be seen. That is a shame. Still, these are the best pictures of that seminal band I have ever seen.
Al Faaet: I had been turned on to Lifetime’s Emergency album in 1969 by the drummer in the band I was with in college. So, I was already a huge fan by the time I saw Lifetime in August of 1970 at Ungano's. (In New York City.) I had received my draft notice for September and had been burning the candle pretty hard all summer long with regular applications of psychedelics. Nonetheless, it was still astonishing to me that the Lifetime show got me much higher than anything else I had been doing all summer!
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I am currently hard at work on two new exciting Mahavishnu Orchestra related projects. Details soon!
The HuffingtonPost has picked-up the full story about the discovery of the long-lost Mahavishnu Orchestra Live in Seattle video!
See the homepage of this site for the exclusive viewing of the video Mahavishnu Orchestra Live in Seattle!
Jazz Rock guitar master Carl Orr really changes things up on Forbearance and what he gives us is a stunningly beautiful feast for the ears and the heart. Joined by an empathetic group of musicians, Orr may be quieter this time out, but his composing and brilliant guitar playing scream out louder than ever.
I only wish The Kai Eckhardt Band’s infectious, funky and clever Zeitgeist was the reality of everyday life. Luckily, its uplifting grooves, head-swaying melodies and witty lyrics are certainly the antidote for it.
I just finished writing the liner notes for an exciting upcoming Larry Coryell and Eleventh House album.
"This is not some nostalgia trip. This is not retro. This is contemporary hard-driving instrumental music sporting its own id. Diamond Dust is how a 21st century power trio should sound."- That is what I have to say about Diamond Dust's It's That Time.
Guitar Channel interviewed me here.
Read my interview with Carlos Santana here.
I highly, highly recommend Wolfgang Schalk's remixed and remastered "The Second Third Man"... and not just because I wrote the liner notes! Wolfgang is one of the finest and most creative guitarists we have. Add legend Michael Brecker and a fine band interpreting Schalk's provocative compositions and you have a wondrous result! I would not lie to you... Buy it here.
Conduit, guitarist Greg Diamond’s latest album is aptly named. A swirling solution of disparate styles and genres flows all through this music. Diamond can lay down husky bebop lines, sound like a nasty Carlos Santana or play it gentle. (And that is just on the first 3 tunes!) Saxophonists Seamus Blake and Brian Hoggins, pianist Mike Eckroth, bassist Edward Perez, drummer Henry Cole and conga player Mauricio Herrara are more than worthy compatriots in the non-homogeneous mixture that will have your head on a swivel one moment and your heart in your hand the next. Conduit does not fit easily into any category except really good music. Check out Greg's website.
I just interviewed Steve Howe, the legendary Yes guitarist, for my upcoming updated Mahavishnu Orchestra eBook!
I spoke with drummer Carmine Appice after a fantastic performance with Vanilla Fudge at TCAN. What a nice guy! I learned that his two all-time favorite bands are The Police and The Mahavishnu Orchestra.
I have an article at the Guitar Channel about the 40th Anniversary of the rise of the Mahavishnu Orchestra! Go to http://tinyurl.com/7no3aja
The exceedingly gifted guitarist Raul Mannola has a new album out. The album, Inner Visions of Flamenco, features both acoustic and electric guitars to produce a unique flamenco amalgam. Read about Raul, his new album and tour here
It was a real pleasure to be speak with Ian Patterson of allaboutjazz. The results are found in this in-depth interview.
I acted as guest blogger at Jazzstage.net. Read the blog here.
I heard the great bass player Tony Grey and his band at the Regattabar in Cambridge. Read more about this remarkable musician and his new album at his website.
Yet another fantastic review! I am so touched. This time out, the legendary rock critic and author Steven Rosen takes a turn. Read here.
Ian Patterson of allaboutjazz.com loves the book! Read here.
A rave review from Guitar International! Read here.
I was on Tom Gagliardi's Philadelphia radio and Internet show. As usual, had a great time. The interview is archived here!
Both evocative and in the here and now, veteran guitarist Joe Guido Walsh's Nothing Left To Say will appeal to fusion fans, progressive rockers and any listener with a clue.