We Became Snakes (1986) by Saccharine Trust

Categories: 1986 and Music.

A lot has been made of the latent jazz influences on hardcore and post hardcore bands – Black Falg is supposed to have listened to Free Jazz for example. But never was I expecting a hardcore band to make music you might actually confuse with jazz. There are times on this bizarre, crazy record that you could possibly mistake these guys for one of the “Downtown” NYC jazz combos trying to incorporate punk and metal into their music in the 80s. But then, the lyrics come back, and you are reminded that this is indeed rock music. This is a Read More

Instrumental Asylum (1966) by Manfred Mann

Categories: 1966 and Music.

Jazz fusion and jazz rock barely existed, if they existed at all, when this bizarre EP was recorded. Manfred Mann drops their pop music and their lead singer for a horn section and keyboard and vibraphone (!!!) solos on fairly radical covers of rock and pop songs. What did Jack Bruce do to this band? Despite its brevity, this is a bit of a landmark recording for what it suggested and for beating nearly everyone else to this genre (to the best of my knowledge). The jazz influence is more soul jazz than anything else, but it’s still rather remarkable. Read More

Grupo Irakere (1978)

Categories: 1976, 1978, and Music.

So much of what I’ve read about this band focuses on their Grammy-winning North American breakthrough, as if the first time North Americans heard this music was the first time it was really vital and worth listening to. And I do understand that distribution was a different beast in the ’70s, but still, it’s a little rich to tell everyone that the first album Columbia released by this band is their “best.” Anyway, I bring this up because, in searching for their North American debut, I found, instead, this gem, their second release. (Their North American debut was either their Read More

Azimuth (1975) by Azymuth

Categories: 1975 and Music.

I have a problem. For the last 18 years or so, I have been keeping track of what music I want to listen to. The list is now gigantic. But that’s not my problem. I know I will never listen to everything on the list. It’s an aspirational list not a practical one. The problem is that I didn’t track [i]when[/i] I added particular albums to the list. So I might have added something last year or 17 years ago. And the problem with that is my tastes have changed. (I would say they’ve matured.) And so some of the Read More

Prism (2013) by Dave Holland

Categories: 2013 and Music.

This is some pretty excellent jazz fusion. Before I get to the album, I must say that I am embarrassed to admit that, all this time, I just though Kevin Eubanks was Jay Leno’s band leader for 15 years or whatever, and that’s it. And here he is, shredding. Huh. Holland mostly stays out of the way of his soloists, and that’s to his credit. And when he does solo, it’s a nice contrast to decidedly more fusion guitar solos and keyboards. The compositions are strong: knotty things that show off the abilities of all involved, and which lack any Read More

Hard Groove (2003) by the RH Factor

Categories: 2003 and Music.

Despite the huge number of collaborators, I feel like this is Hargrove’s most personal album. He admits that this emerged from home recordings and it doesn’t surprise me. The man was suffocated by what he was told he had to be, and then, in his spare time, he fiddled around with some contemporary (and not so contemporary) sounds and came up with something utterly unique is discography.  It’s interesting to note that even the older genres dabbled in appeared well after Hargrove’s supposed beloved era of bop. It’s unfortunate that the mainstream jazz establishment takes talented players like Hargrove and Read More

The Bad Plus Live at the Wintergarden Theatre, December 12, 2013

Categories: 2013 and Music.

I only knew the Bad Plus from their jazz covers of rock songs and I actually was completely unaware that they were doing their own material for some time. No matter; this band is incredible. I can’t decide who was the most impressive: their drummer was totally awesome – using his small kit in some really interesting ways and really making each “chorus” different from the last; the bassist was restrained much of the time but could really play when he soloed or filled. And the piano player, who I thought might have made a bum note or two, was Read More

The Sound of Summer Running (1998) by Marc Johnson

Categories: 1998 and Music.

So this is about as conventional, straight-head Metheny-esque jazz fusion as I could possibly imagine. And that’s just a little surprising given the presence of both Metheny and Frisell, who one would assume would push each other. Johnson does not in any way stand out to my ears as a composer, and the band, which should be awesome, never makes me sit back in wonder. I also feel like I have heard this way too much on Toronto’s jazz radio station Jazz 91, which plays jazz. Jazz! And I feel this way even though I’m quite sure I’ve never heard Read More

Unspeakable (2004) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2004 and Music.

I think there is a real tendency to look at a few of the moments on this disc – when Frisell really lets loose in the ways he can – and decide that this is some kind of return to form – for those people who do not enjoy his Americana obsession. My problem isn’t with his playing – though occasionally he does play it too straight – it’s more with the music surrounding his playing. I’m all for artists taking risks and this is a real curve ball given the kind of music he had mostly been making over Read More

This Meets That (2007) by John Scofield

Categories: 2007 and Music.

The title is indeed apt: this is an eclectic record, covering all sorts of styles. And that is all well and good. But it leaves me wanting something a little more. I feel like this is pretty mild-mannered – almost polite – eclecticism. Everything is tasteful and well-executed but there’s nothing here that shocks me or moves in the way that it should. I don’t feel particularly compelled to write anything about it, which is probably everything that needs to be said about how I feel about. 6/10 Read More

Beautiful Dreams (2010) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2010 and Music.

I can’t help myself and keep wondering about how jazz this is. It’s sort of an odd approach to jazz, as it’s more seemingly about a jam or a vibe than it is about improvisation, at least to my ears. But that doesn’t remove its fascination for me: one of the early tracks could almost be prog – if that was improvised, I am very surprised – and the whole thing seems to exist in this odd space between jazz and rock and some other genres, while clearly sounding like it should be jazz. I guess this is where we’ve Read More

East / West (2005) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2005 and Music.

More like West / East. For some reason Frisell seems to have switched the dates around, so that we encounter the newer, harder set first. And that’s not a bad thing. Though both sets show it off to some degree, it is the “west” set that, to my ears, is one of those great statements of the wondrous possibilities of post-free jazz. Frisell and his band make music that both questions and adds to tradition, and there is a healthy influence of minimalism as well, at least in the longer pieces. The “east” set is more subdued and more in Read More

Trojan Jazz Festival (2010) by theHEAD

Categories: 2010 and Music.

This album gets off to a weird note when the opening of the first track sounds straight out of early ’70s Roxy Music. But things definitely pick up after that. The set is apparently totally improvised, and the interaction between the players is pretty solid. This band has managed to find a relatively unique niche where they integrate a lot of should-be-cheesy synthesizers into music that is definitely not cheesy and which stays interesting even when it seems like things should be getting boring. 8/10 Read More

Frances the Mute by the Mars Volta (2005 GSL)

Categories: 2005 and Music.

The more I listen to the Mars Volta the more I become convinced that they are pretty much the only mainstream band keeping the spirit – if not the sound – of progressive rock alive. They manage to combine relatively adventurous ideas – whereas early prog rock usually borrowed from Romantic music or mainstream jazz, they borrow from free jazz and funk – with the volume that only a few select prog rock bands from back in the day actually managed. Too many of the revivalist neo-prog bands don’t are about the “rock” part of progressive rock but these guys Read More