Tag Archives: Fusion

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

 

 

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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

Bruford – Plays the Jazz drums.

Bill Bruford have been a dominant figure in Progressive Rock, taking part in a lot of projects, especialy known for his work on what most consider the highlights of Yes albums from 1969-1972, ”Fragile” ”Close to the Edge” ect.ect. ; But what i will talk about today, is Bruford as a Jazz drummer.
From ”A Part, and Yet Apart” 1999

Bruford started his recordings of Jazz albums in 1978 with ”Feels Good to Me”, his solo project with a supergroup of tallented musicians, guitarist Allan Holdsworth, vocalist Annette Peacock, and other notable names. The album was in an experimental fusion style.
From ”A Part, and Yet Apart” 1999

Bruford continued his work with fussion Jazz over a series of albums under the ”Bruford” band name, before reforming King Crimson from 1981-1984, then started a new Jazz band in 1987, Earthworks.
It was with Earthworks, that he graduately moved towards a more traditional style of Jazz.
”From Feels Good To Me” 1978

Peyroux, Spalding, Hiromi Corea & Clarke

Today I will listen to some present female Jazz singers and preformers.
First Madeleine Peyroux, with her own song “Instead” from her album Bare Bones (2009). The song have a nice retro feeling, according to Peyroux, it is a reminder of how we should enjoy life and the things we have.

Madeleine Peyroux is an American Jazz/blues singer/songwriter, notable for her retro stripped down style. A one of a kind singer/songwriter filling the shoes of Joni Michell, with a very special voice, often compared to Billie Holiday. She moved to Paris at age 13 and began singing in the Latin Quarter, at age 15.
Her albums often contain cover songs mixed with her own compositions.

Now Esperanza Spalding, preforming “Radio Song” from her 2012 album, Radio Music Society

Esperanza Spalding is an American jazz bassist, cellist and singer. Her father is African American and her mother is of Welsh, Native American, and Hispanic descent.Mostly know to play Jazz, but also playing some blues, funk, hip-hop, pop fusion, and Brazilian and Afro-Cuban styles. In 2011, Esperanza received one of the music industry’s most prestigious prizes, the Grammy for Best New Artist.

Hiromi Uehara (上原ひろみ) is a composer and pianist born in Hamamatsu, Japan. Known for her superior keyboard technique, by age 12, she was performing in public, sometimes with very high-profile orchestras. When she was 14, she went to Czechoslovakia and played with the Czech Philharmonic. Age 17 she performed an improvised session with Chick Corea, when asked to join him onstage in Tokyo.

Chick Corea & Hiromi Uehara – Summertime


Regarding her style and what inspires Hiromi, she says : “I don’t want to put a name on my music, It has some elements of classical music, it has some rock, it has some jazz, but I don’t want to give it a name.” and “Some people dig jazz, some people dig classical music, some people dig rock. Everyone is so concerned about who they like. They always say, ‘This guy is the best,’ ‘No, this guy is the best.’ But I think everyone is great”….. “I love Bach, I love Oscar Peterson, , I love Franz Liszt, I love Ahmad Jamal, I also love people like Sly and the Family Stone, Dream Theatre and King Crimson.”
Last but not least, Hiromi with legendary bassist Stanley Clarke.

The tundra’s of Winter Rock

Previous post in this series.
Now to a Rock classics about winter, taken from The Rolling Stones, 1971 album Goats Head Soup.

Winter was officially credited to singer Jagger/Richards, but it is likely the work of Jagger and lead guitarist at the time, Mick Taylor. It was the first song recorded for the album and does not feature Richards at all. There is a deep melancholy, in this ballad, underlined by the strings, Mick Taylors guitar, and Jaggers vocal. They perfectly catch the desperation and sadness, winter can represent.

Now, after all this way to serious music, luckily there is also a funny side of winter :

In Rock music the funny approach to winter , was most excellently put on Record by Frank Zappa, on his famous 1974 album, Apostrophe (‘), in “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow Suite” a story about “Nanook the Eskimo” and “The Fur Trapper”, running over the first four tracks of the album.
With the Eclecticism of Zappa’s music, I am not going to try describing that, I just hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Frank Zappa : “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow Suite” first two tracks.

(The video is not a Zappa original, but it is a perfect fit)