Tag Archives: Fusion

Milky Way Six & Streng

I you havent already read the first post suggest that you start here

After Lambertland bassist and founding member Måns Groundstroem left Tasavallan Presidentti and was replaced by Heikki Virtanen, before the band made their final album “Milky Way Moses”. At first glance not much difference from what we had on the previous recording, but there are some important changes.

Music writing no longer only in the hands of Tolonen, this time Pöyry and Koivistoinen participates. There is a new lightness and you may say Milky Way Moses is much more straight forward than any of the previous albums.

I’m sure many listeners will find it pleasant especially if you already love typical 70’s progressive (Jazz) Rock, personally though I’m a fan of the oddity and unique moods of the previous albums that to some extent was lost here, never the less a great and special album from the early Scandinavian rock scene.

This was the end at Tasavallan Presidentti, or more precisely the end for a long long time, as the band reunited in 2005 to release their 6th album in 2006.

Frank Robson was now back on vocals and also creating the lyrics. Jukka Tolonen writing the music, besides two tracks completely by Robson. Another founding member Juhani Aaltonen also back as Pekka Pöyry who was suffering from manic depression tragically committed suicide in 1980.

The new album was another step in the direction of a more mainstream sound, fine Blues/Jazz Rock but anything distinctly “Tasavallan” is almost gone.

You may wonder why this is the 6th album, as I have previously only mentioned four, the reason is that there is an 1970 album by Pekka Streng & Tasavallan Presidentti called Magneettimiehen Kuolema.

The reason I did not mention in the Tasavallan Presidentti chronology is that the album was very much a Pekka Streng album.

Very interesting album in its own right though. An album I see as experimental or psychedelic prog folk, stylistically far from all the other albums.

Streng work was not recognized much in his own lifetime, but received some attention later on. Streng died of cancer in 1975 just 26 years old

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President of the Republic

Finnish “Tasavallan Presidentti” released their self-titled debut in 1969, the band was formed by the 17 years old guitarist Jukka Tolonen, drummer Vesa Aaltonen, English vocalist and keyboard player Frank Robson, Juhani Aaltonen (saxophones, flute) and Måns Groundstroem (bass, organ).

The debut is an interesting mix of many elements from blues rock jazz folk and even some minor classical inspired sections, it is all very interesting but that said it is also bit unfocused, can’t say the album turns out as a united piece of music, but definitely not bad either.

After replacing Juhani Aaltonen with Pekka Pöyry (saxophones and flute), Tasavallan Presidentti recorded their 2nd album in 1970. This album was originally only released in Sweden and very rare, but in 2002 it came out on CD and in 2014 it was released as “Limited Edition” on vinyl by Finnish Svart Records.

The album is in my opinion a steep up from the debut, the band are finding a more streamlined sound and style, still very varied but overall the album works better as “one piece of music”. The style is now very close you what I would for most parts call Progressive Rock with a clear jazz twist.

After the 2nd album Frank Robson was replaced by already established Finnish vocalist Eero Raittinen. Another important change is that Jukka Tolonen now took over the music writing that were a more shared process on the previous albums, something that might be the reason why we now has a huge development in the direction of the music and for the first time a style that is unique to Tasavallan Presidentti.

This is clearly Jazz/Rock but not in the American style where Jazz musicians take in elements from rock, this is the opposite way around, rock musicians taking in elements from Jazz, it makes a huge difference – I LOVE IT.

Lambertland was rather successful, number 7 on the Finnish album charts. It was released in UK and provided the band with some high profile concerts in UK and other countries.

As you may have already guessed Tasavallan Presidentti translate into President of the Republic.

to be continued…….

Cantaloupe and the Hancock

Undoubtable Herbie Hancock’s commercial  success really took off from his 1973 album Head Hunters, arguably peaking with his Academy Award for Best Original Score for Round Midnight in 1986.

But commercial  success is one thing another is his huge and impressive contribution to Jazz music overall.

“Tell me a bedtime story” from his 1969 album Fat Albert Rotunda

At the above album Hancock was already starting a transition into Jazz-Fusion that would be dominant in the 1970’s, but Herbie Hancock did recordings also all the way through the 1960’s, making his first solo release in 1962 with “Takin’ Off” on blue note

“Us3” a London founded Jazz-rap group had a huge hit with “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)” from their debut album  “Hand on the Torch” in 1992/93. The track was based on Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” using samples from the 1964 original.

“Cantaloupe Island” was recorded for Herbie Hancock’s fourth solo album Empyrean Isles from 1964, then I listen to this it is easy to understand why “Us3” took up the cover version, true brilliance where less is so much more.

 

The musicians for the original 1964 recording were: Hancock (piano), Freddie Hubbard (cornet), Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums).

Yume no Fusion

Japanese Kenso was originally formed in 1974, but founding and the only consistent member to this date, Yoshihisa Shimizu departed for Kanagawa Dental College and the band went on hiatus, but reformed in 1979 to released their first self-titled vinyl in 1981.

Yoshihisa Shimizu often comes to stage in a lab coat, to reflect his daytime trade.

The style on the debut was instrumental and very inspired by early 70’s British Progressive Rock.

 

Over the next few albums Kenso’s music changed towards a more Jazz Rock inspired style, British acts like Brand X or Bruford comes to mind, but also Return to Forever and many others.

That said Kenso is far from copying anyone, they have their own sound and style and I believe you can also sense something very Japanese in their music.

 

Besides the wonderful Hiromi Uehara  (a very different story altogether). Kenso is as far as I know the most well-known Jazz Rock artist coming from Japan and for very good reason, their music is very varied and complex, touching many subgenres of (prog) Rock and Jazz fussion, mostly instrumental but never boring or one-sided.

Current lineup:

清水義央  (Yoshihisa Shimizu) Guitars

小口健一 (Kenichi Oguchi) Keyboards

光田健一 (Kenichi Mitsuda) Keyboads

三枝俊治 (Shunji Saegusa) Bass

小森啓資 (Keisuke Komori)Drums

 

 

Kenso have made 10 studio albums, the latest in 2014, and a serie of live albums. They are also featured with 5 tracks on “Live at Progfest-2000” DVD released by Musea.

Kenso played NEARfest 2005

 

 

A Liquid Fusion from the Adriatic Sea.

After Miles was opening the door between Jazz and Rock with Filles de Kilimanjaro (68), In a Silent Way (69) and especially with Bitches Brew (70), there was a lot of good creative bands playing a great fusions of Jazz and Rock throughout the 70’s.

One of these Groups was Italian Agora from Ancona area at the Adriatic side of central Italy, Their first studio album (1976) was called Angora´2 based on the fact that they had already released a live album from Montreux international jazz festival.

 

Agora is a relative unknown band (outside the absolute inner fussion circle), playing a style that is not ground breaking, the similarities to the big Jazz/Rock fusion legends is very evident, but to me it is still a nice album with some very fine fusion. Especially the woodwind instruments works very well for me on this album.

 

 

Tommy Bolin, another short lived legend

Tommy Bolin is best known, as the replacement of Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple. He participated and co-wrote Deep Purple’s last 70’s album “Come Taste the Band”, not a bad album, but less successful at the time, most likely due to the relative shift in genre towards a less heavy and funkier sound and the lack of Blackmore’s characteristic soloing.

Bolin was not the typical hard rock guitarist, he was involved in many types of projects and genres, blues, jazz rock, funk ect. Bolin starts of in blues rock/ hard rock band Zephyr, a band with a sound comparable to that of Janis Joplin. They released their first self-titled album in 1969, Bolin released another album with them, before he left the band.

Bolin participated as the main guitarist on jazz fusion drummer Billy Cobham’s legendary 1973 album Spectrum. He shows us what he can do in a jazz rock / progressive rock setting, and he does it perfectly. Spectrum is a must for everyone interested in fusion, but it is also a testament to the huge talent of Bolin.

Bolin made 2 solo albums, Teaser (1975) and Private Eyes (1976), both exploring a wide range of styles, and with Bolin doing the vocal’s himself. On Teaser a series of prominent names appeared as guests, Jan Hammer, David Sanborn, Phil Collins and others.
From Teaser (Phil Collins on the drums)

Deep Purple disbanded in 1976, and Bolin concentrated on finishing his last solo album. It was during the tour promoting “Private Eyes”, on December 3rd. 1976, Bolin played a set as an opening act for Jeff Beck in Miami, after the set Bolin was partying with friends and later collapsed, Bolin never woke up again, The official cause of death was multiple-drug intoxication. Bolin became 25 years old. Rest in peace.

The Joy of Samla Mammas Manna

Samla Mammas Manna was formed in Uppsala, north of Stockholm , Sweden in 1969. They got a Record deal with Silence Records, and released their self-titled debut in the spring of 1971. Samla’s music was very playfull yet avant-gardistic, a kind of freeform Jazz/Rock with elements of Swedish folk tradition.
Samla have undergone name changes over the years, mainly due to changes in lineup. They also released albums as Zamla Mammaz Manna and von Zamla.

The form was further refined on their second album “Måltid” from 1973, where more elements of Frank Zappa’ish avant-garde, Jazz/Rock and Prog was added, “Måltid” stands as a highlight in their production.
Samla’s music has a wonderful sillyness, craziness and humour, very unique to the Scandinavian scene at the time, where everyone was very radical and focused on a political agenda.

Samla Mammas Manna, was part of the original “Rock in Opposition” movement, and took part in the first RIO festival in London. They participated in Several RIO events and Samla Mammas Manna also organized a festival in Stockholm. Samla Mammas Manna organized a Henry Cow tour in Sweden, and Etron Fou organized a tour for Samlas in France.

RockInOpposition_flyer

Lars Hollmer, the founding father and main creative force behind Samla, died 25 December 2008. But on the 2014 Japanese Rio festival held in November, his name, his music, and his spirit will be honoured, by Sola/Lars Hollmer’s global home project, a Band formed by Hollmer and Japanese Avant musician in 2001.

Lars Hollmer – The Global Home Project – 2002

Dedicated To You, But You Weren’t Listening

Keith Tippett is one of the great pianists of the British free jazz scene, for decades he has formed various groups creating brilliant jazz improvisations.


On his 1971 album “Dedicated To You, But You Weren’t Listening” credited to “The Keith Tippett Group” We have got an impressive avant-garde jazz, dissonance and swinging, wild and energetic sometimes chaotic, a unique and different take on Jazz Fusion.

The album Title, was taken from a track title on Soft Machine: Volumes Two (1969), and several of “The Keith Tippett Group” members, was also involved in “Soft Machine”, Elton Dean and Nick Evans joined Soft Machine from their 1970 album “Third”, Roy Babbington and Mark Charig from “Fourth” (1971).
Also original Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt, was playing on “Dedicated To You, But You Weren’t Listening”. But where Soft Machine’s output at the time, was clearly rooted in “Progressive Rock” although increasingly Jazz inspired, Keith Tippett’s work is mainly rooted in Jazz.


Members of The Keith Tippett Group, was also involved in the King Crimson albums released in the period. Tippett was involved in “In the Wake of Poseidon” (1970), he added a Jazz feel to Crimsons symphonic Rock, and notably playing a stunning solo on “Cat Food”. Keith Tippett, Mark Charig and Nick Evans played on “Lizard” (1970), Keith Tippett and Mark Charig was guests on “Islands” (1971).

The True Legend of Henry The Cow

Rock In Opposition, part 2 – Henry Cow.
The Core off Henry Cow was a trio, all multi instrumentalists credited with a wide range of instruments over their albums, Chris Cutler : drums, piano, trumpet, vocals, Whistle , Toy instruments ; Fred Frith : guitar, piano, violin, keyboards, bass, viola, xylophone, vocals ; Tim Hodgkinson : organ, clarinet, hawaiian guitar, piano, keyboards, saxophones, vocals. Besides the trio a series of other members and guest appeared in the band. The band was founded in the late 60’s but had it first record out in 1973.

From: The Henry Cow Legend 1973 (later released as Legend or Leg End on different labels)

Right from the debut Henry Cow played a highly sophisticated and complex combination of styles, seemingly inspired from as different directions as Progressive Rock like Soft Machine and Gentle Giant, Avant-garde Jazz, and Modern Classical music.

From Unrest 1974

During the middle of the 70’s, Henry Cow collaborated with another Avant-garde band, Slap Happy. Resulting in two 1975 albums, Slap Happy’s Desperate Straights and Henry Cow’s “In Praise Of Learning” both featuring members from both bands, notably German vocalist Dagmar Kraus, with whom Frith and Cutler would form Art Bears. Personally I prefer what they did with Art Bears, most of “In Praise Of Learning” seems to be too confused for my taste, but it does contain one masterpiece, with vocal extraordinary from Dagmar Kraus, the very beautiful “Beautiful as the Moon – Terrible as an Army With Banners”.

From “In Praise Of Learning” 1975

As a result of the work with Kraus, there was a disagreement within the band, about how much material should be song focused, and how much should be instrumental, as a result the material with songs was released as the “Art Bears” debut, and the instrumental work was released as Henry Cows final album, Western Culture. Even though Western Culture was Henry Cows last album, and a result of disagreement, today it seems as a highlight. The sound is great, and the music is still as fresh today as it was back then.
Uncompromising avant-garde at its best, as Henry Cow could do it so well, also a demanding album, most people won’t immediately enjoy. All the music was written by Tim Hodgkinson and female bassoon, oboe, sax player Lindsay Cooper, as all the Cutler/Frith material went to the Art Bears album.

From Western Culture 1979

Henry Cow was the founding force behind the RIO movement in 1978, shortly before the group would disband, and its members would move into different other band constellations.

Rock In Opposition

Rock In Opposition, part 1 – Introduction.
RIO came as a result of British avant-garde group Henry Cow’s frustration with the music industry in the late 70’s, having travelled in Europe for most of the 70’s, and met with other avant-garde bands, they came to the conclusion that the industry was only interested in the finances not the music, making it almost impossible to create an innovative art, within the system. They invited bands of similar interests to England, and created the first Rock in Opposition festival in 1978.

Japanese band Korekyojinn at the 2013 Rock In Opposition festival.

In the beginning it was a movement or organisation, but it has also become associated with a genre, used to describe an Avant-garde style of (Rock) music, incorporating elements from 20th century Classical music, free from Jazz and experimental Rock, into an eclectic highly complex progressive rock music. That said, not every RIO associated band, plays the same style of Avant-Garde so it is impossible to give a precise description. When the term is used as a genre it is sometimes associated with the works of Frank Zappa, but it would be more correct to say that he inspired many of the RIO acts.

Frank Zappa/The Mothers of Invention 1969

The original RIO festival included 5 different acts : Henry Cow (England), Stormy Six (Italy), Samla Mammas Manna (Sweden), Univers Zero (Belgium) and Etron Fou Leloublan (France). Soon the organisation also included Art Zoyd (France), Aksak Maboul (Belgium) and Art Bears (England), Art Bears was made of former Henry Cow members, as Henry Cow disbanded shortly after RIO was created.

Stormy Six – 1977

The organisation was short lived, but they had created attention, proved there was a need for a music not able to exist within the borders of the UK/US record industry, made a record company Recommended Records to distribute this music, and many bands have been inspired by them. The Rio movement is not dead, Rio festival are still held and new generations make RIO inspired albums.
Etron Fou Leloublan – live 1979