David Sancious and Tone – Transformation (The Speed Of Love)
1976 Epic Records PE 33939| Genre: Fusion, Jazz-rock, Progressive rock
If, like me, you thought that Incident on 57th Street and New York City Serenade were the high points of Bruce Springsteen’s early career, then you should probably give your attention to musical polymath and chameleon David Sancious. Sancious was keyboardist for the E. Street Band on their first two albums, and contributed to the title track of Born To Run. I think it would be a safe claim to say that his sensibility probably helped sculpt the “epic” sound they were crafting, particularly on the longer songs, but if you have The Boss too firmly in mind when putting on this record, you might be jarred by just how dissimilar it seems. I’ve always been a champion of things eclectic, but Sanscious might be too eclectic for his own good at times. With his virtuosity on multiple instruments taking front and center stage, it is hard not to marvel at least a little at the breadth of vision, but sometimes they straddle the grey area between stylistic transcendence and plain confusion. His debut record for Epic (Forest of Feelings, 1975) was produced by none other than legendary jazz-fusion drummer Billy Cobham, and at times the music comes close to holding its own with Return To Forever or Weather Report or Mahavishnu Orchestra, and at other times sounding a bit like a slightly funky Rush without the benefit of no horrible lyrics (everything here is instrumental).
Larry Coryell – Coryell 1969 Vanguard Apostolic VSD 6547 | Vinyl rip in 24 bit 196 khz | Art at 600 and 300 dpi
Jazz-Rock / Jazz-Funk / Soul / Fusion / Psychedelic
I’ve been holding back on posting about this album until I could commemorate the 10th ANNIVERSARY of this blog. It’s a very special record to me from the great guitarist Larry Coryell, who passed away in 2017. It’s unique in that it captures him in a kind of transition between his time playing in the psychedelic rock group The Free Spirits and his future as an icon of jazz fusion, in the pre-Bitches Brew era when that genre was still fresh and nascent. And it’s soul-shaking, mind-melting grooviness from start to finish. I like to imagine that Hendrix heard this album and decided to shelve the Experience on the spot and start up his Band of Gypsies. Bernard “Pretty” Purdie on the drums and Chuck Rainey on bass are holding down a solid soul groove here, which just elevates the vibe to transcendent levels. Continue reading
After the phenomenal double-LP ‘Leaving This Planet’, which featured Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson as rocket fuel, Earland continued in a similarly cosmic-jazz direction. He made one more LP for Prestige, a live album of new material called Kharma, and then began a new phase at Mercury Records with this jazz-funk-latin-disco-rock fusion called Odyssey, which also became the name of his spaceship, I mean vehicle, for releasing this kind of thing for the next few years. This album has never ever been issued on CD. Meet you after the jump to continue the voyage.. Continue reading
Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Nagasuram, Flute – Charlie Mariano
Vocals (on “Mirror” only) – Asha Puthli
Written-By – Charlie Mariano (except A4)
Produced and mixed by Arif Mardin
Recording engineer – Gene Paul
Although his name appears on classic records by Mingus, Chico Hamilton, Shelley Manne, Elvin Jones (hey, lots of drummers seem to like him), I think I first started really paying attention to Charlie Mariano through his work with the wonderful Toshiko Akiyoshi, to whom he was married for a few years in the 60s. Incidentally this is also how I discovered Lew Tabackin, who became Toshiko’s second husband and formed a much longer musical partnership. Along with Phil Woods, these artists constitute a group of highly prolific jazz cats about whom I’d love to spread some enthusiasm. Might as well start here, even if this is an atypical example.
I had no idea Mariano had made any records this heady until I stumbled on it. The garish cover art, with a creepy eyeball thing glaring out at you, acts like a sort of magnet. It either attracts or repels you away, depending on your musical polarity. I’m not sure the album art does the music justice, and in fact I would nominate it for my art gallery of Garish and Gaudy 1970s Jazz-Funk Album Covers, a project I am initiating right now (other inductees include a Blue Mitchell record I picked up recently, and this amazingly fugly George Duke/Billy Cobham thing).
Musicians of Mariano’s caliber can pretty much do whatever they want and pull it off. I don’t know what kind of soundscape he had in mind when he went into the studio to make this album, but with the help of some very competent friends, he created a canvas on which he could moan, wail, and shriek (pleasingly) on soprano and alto sax in ways I did not expect. The band he put together to create this moody, genre-blurring music with vaguely spiritual inclinations is more than up to the task. One pleasant surprise is the presence of a young Tony Levin on bass, years before he would start progging it up with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. Levin was not a complete stranger to soul jazz/funk sessions in the early 70s – other records I have with him from this period include Jack McDuff and Deodato – but this is probably the first time that he really stood out for me in this capacity. This may partly be due to the fact that he is featured right alongside upright bassist George Mraz. Levin lays down the lower register funk, freeing up Mraz to do more textured and melodic things in the upper register.
Airto is somewhat underutilized on this record. He doesn’t seem fully present or into it all the time, sometimes more like a percussionist “playing in the style of Airto” rather than the man himself. Perhaps Mariano kept his eccentricities on a short leash, or maybe this was just session #374 for Airto in 1972 and goddamnit what do you want from the guy, does he have to be on fire all the time or what? Keysman Pat Rebillot satisfies the urge to hear some Fender Rhodes and also favors us with some acid-drenched, reverby organ on the opening cut, but his solos don’t really push the music anywhere adventurous. Session vet David Spinozza gets in some nice solos on the guitar, in particular on the title track. Drummer Ray Lucas is one of those guys who probably never got his due recognition. His credits include King Curtis, Roberta Flack, Eugene McDonald, Shirley Scott, Donny Hathaway and a ton of other people: he was even briefly a bandmate of Hendrix, as part of Curtis Knight and The Squires. There is nothing flashy about his playing, it doesn’t call attention to itself, but it casts a solid foundation to build around, and provides agile fills and texture when needed. Never underestimate the importance of simply playing time. Indian singer Asha Puthli contributes vocals to the album’s titular track (she also appeared on Ornette Coleman’s “Science Fiction” sessions from the same year). At first I thought this was wordless vocalizing before I checked the back of the LP cover and saw that she was singing the free verse poem there. I’ll have to assume her voice is deliberately submerged in the mix, perhaps to trigger subliminal spiritual contemplation.
Deliberate, because producer Arif Mardin was no amateur. That guy knew how to mix. And this record sounds great. In fact, in spite of the fact that I started with a not-quite-perfect copy (although in better shape than the cover would indicate), the sound is pretty solid. This is not only the mixing but also the famous Monach Pressing Plant who should get a shout-out. Quality control!
All of the compositions are by Mariano except for Michel Legrand’s famous “Summer of ’42” theme, which is here given a languid deconstruction where Charlie plays the flute. Slow funk grooves are blended with modal and outside riffing. The second track, “Shout,” is like the opening of a baptist tent revival meeting, with Charlie coaxing harmonics from his sax by overblowing furiously. F-Minor Happy is very Deodato-esque (Deodatismo?), a more rough-hewn and stoney take on CTI-style jazz funk. “Vasi Bindu (Raindrops)” is a free and open piece coming halfway through the second album side, as if to help us come down from the plateaus of the massive title track. The album closes with the short “Madras,” which features Charlie on the nagasuram for the first time on this album. This South Indian instrument ends the record on a truly ceremonial note, sounding a bit like Mariano may have been trying to beat Don Cherry to doing the soundtrack for The Holy Mountain. It makes you sit up and pay attention.
This record goes pretty deep, but is also just a damn pleasurable listen that you can enjoy while going about your day. I feel the need to point that out because a lot of the adjectives used in this post (heady, spiritual, free, modal) would tend to indicate a record that might get in the way of activities like reading a novel, making love, writing a novel, or tidying up the house (unless you are the type of person who likes to fold laundry and clean bathrooms while listening to Anthony Braxton or AEoC in which case this warning doesn’t apply to you). I hereby declare this record completely safe for “taking care of business.” It might uplift you and inspire you to seek enlightenment, but it won’t automatically induce a trance state, epileptic fit, or other central nervous system anomaly.
Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.
I saved this album from being thrown in the trash by a college radio station. A bunch of us volunteer DJs had been tasked with sorting through thousands of LPs in a storage space over the course of several months and deciding what was worthy of putting into the main library and what would be discarded. I came in at the end of the process, when the management told us we could just scavenge for things to keep before they began tossing stuff for good. It was and still is a fantastic radio station, but I discovered a lot of the indie kids considered a lot of quality music to be unworthy. And a lot that was pretty collectible too, without much defacement to the album covers – Judy Sill white label promo, going to the trash? Bridget St. John on Dandelion? One-off heavy psych rock bands like Alamo or Granicus? Or Coleman Hawkins and Bud Powell records on Pablo, kind of boring past-their-prime recordings like everything on Pablo but still surely not destined for a landfill. It was my moral obligation to save these from oblivion and take them home. Including this album, a specimen that has potential to accomplish the rare feat of pleasing or at least sparking the interest of both the “rare groove” hunter and those into whimsical prog-rock bands fond of making up their own mythological universes.
During the Great Radio Purge of 2008, Most of the good jazz had been put back into the library. Now granted the first stage of this ‘trim the fat’ operation worked on the honor system, presuming that someone stumbling across a Sun Ra album on Saturn Records was going to keep it at the station and not take it home… This may be why I absented myself from the first stage, wishing to avoid such ethical dilemmas. Also, volunteering isn’t a very lucrative occupation , I was already doing two radio shows for them, and doing any more would impinge on innate laziness. In any event, I was remotely aware of André Cecarelli’s name as a figure in European jazz and jazz fusion, but mostly I was attracted by the bright mandala oil painting gatefold cover because I like shiny things. Opening it up, I found some guide notes that had been typed by the reviewing DJ and glued neatly to the inside jacket, which is a nice touch since usually they are handwritten on index cards fixed sloppily on the jacket with a glue stick, or just written directly on the album covers in ballpoint pen. After appreciating the DJ-reviewer’s tidiness, I then noticed some of the additional musicians on the recording: Janick Topp and Claude Engel (Magma), Didier Lockwood (Magma, Pierre Moerlan’s Gong), Ernesto ‘Tito’ Duarte (Barrabas), Alex Ligertwood (Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, Santana). I mean, c’mon, it had to be worth at least a listen, right?
The album may not be as far out as this list of heavy friends playing on it might lead you to believe, nor as good as it probably ought to be, but it has some intense moments. I am less enamored of it than the DJ tasked with reviewing it in 1978, but then he or she also seemingly did not recognize any of the musicians who played on it and so perhaps had lower expectations than I did. As the reviewer states, this is much less jazz (as might be expected from something on the Inner City label) and much more fusion or jazz-rock (they suggested calling it “big band fusion…”) The reviewer makes a comparison to Mahavishnu Orchestra, which I don’t really hear: this stuff takes itself far less serious than anything John McLaughlin has ever played on. There is none of the sci-fi loonyness of Magma either, which may be a relief to many of you. If anything this stuff puts me in mind of Jean Luc-Ponty and George Duke, or maybe just mid-70s Zappa when George Duke was playing on his records. Bonus points for the use of steel drums on the track “Ded’s Circus.”
If I had to some this album up in one sentence it would be: “The kind of record that Howard Moon from The Mighty Boosh would get very excited about.” In fact the gravely spoken word on the interlude “What the…” on side two sounds suspiciously like the Spirit Of The Blues character from that show.
As a bonus, I photographed the track-by-track notes from the anonymous late-70s college DJ before having a go at removing them. Word to the wise, removing adhesive material that has been in place for over thirty-five years is not a guaranteed success (but I knew that before beginning). The stickers weren’t really bothering anybody, but I knew they were there and it would bother me sometimes late at night and I would consider digging through a few thousand LPs to find this one and try to remove them at 4 a.m. I opted to leave the reviewer’s overall impressions in place, however. I mean it’s part of the history now, right?
Paulinho da Costa AGORA Released 1977 on Pablo (2310-785) OJC Reissue 1991
A1 Simbora 8:44
A2 Terra 4:23
A3 Toledo Bagel 5:50
B1 Berimbau Variations 3:50
B2 Belisco 6:54
B3 Ritmo Number One 8:27
Digitally remastered by Phil De Lancie (1991, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California).
Recorded at Kendun Studios, Burbank, California (August 6 through 16, 1976). Includes liner notes by David Griffin and Paulinho Da Costa.
Recording information: Kendun Studios, Burbank, CA (08/06/1976-08/16/1976).
Arrangers: Erich Bulling; Claudio Slon ; Paulinho Da Costa; Steve Huffsteter .
Paulinho da Costa (vocals, whistling, berimbau, tamboura, ocarina, congas, bongos, cuica, guiro, pandeiro, reco-reco, shaker, surdo, triangle, wood block, percussion, waterphone);
Octavio Bailly, Jr. (vocals, bass);
Claudio Slon (vocals, synthesizer, drums, water drum, timabales, percussion);
Larry Williams (saxophone, flute);
Gene Goe (trumpet, flugelhorn);
Mike Julian, Frank Rosolino (trombone);
Greg Phillinganes (acoustic and electric pianos); Lee Ritenour (guitar).
Nothing mind-blowing here but this is a solid record from a guy with a lot more album credits than he has records as a bandleader. Having played with Brazilian greats like Elza Soares and Martinha da Vila, by this time Paulinho da Costa was well entrenched in the slick LA jazz studio-musician scene. That slickness threatens to over saturate this entry on the Pablo label but Paulinho’s energy on percussion manages to pull it back from the brink more often than not. The opening “S’imbora” may not hook you immediately with its crystalline jazz-funk fusion but by the end of it you would be hard-pressed not to admit they are cooking something savory. “Terra” is one of two percussion-centric cuts here, this one consisting of a dinner-party Santeria or Candomblé groove; the other, “Ritmo Number One” is a samba freakout and easily the most energetic thing on the album. “Toledo Bagel” lets Paulinho prove his mettle as a salsero. “Berimbau Variations” is more than what its title implies. It opens up with an otherworldly swell of notes and features an interesting flute riff in a pretty tightly-composed piece clocking in a three and a half minutes. The band here are all more than capable but somewhat lifeless and restrained for the material, perhaps due to their California studio habitus they just can’t manage to break out. Keys player Greg Phillinganes (who has some sweet credits with Roy Ayers, Syreeta, Harvey Mason and others) gets some good runs on the electric piano but doesn’t really cut it playing salsa on the acoustic piano. Larry Williams (Seawind, Shiela E., Michael Jackson) has a nice solo on “Belisco” but elsewhere his playing tends towards nondescript. Steve Huffsteter (Willie Bobo, Shorty Rogers, Moacir Santos and many more) is under-utilized here in my opinion although he gets to employ his arranging skills to great effect on “Belisco.” Lee Ritanour is still Lee Ritanour. Drummer Cláudio Slon is a fine drummer and also played with Paulinho in Sergio Mendes’ Brasil ’77 group, so it is kind of surprising that they don’t sound more ‘in the pocket’ here. I think the issue is the mix: Cláudio’s drum kit is tucked away under the other instruments, foregrounding Paulinho – it is his session, after all – but I think if they had pushed him forward a few decibels it would have given the tracks more impact.
All in all this is a strong record. His Pablo release “Muito Bem!” with Joe Pass gets a “pass” from me in spite of seeming like it might be a promising record. His second record as a bandleader, “Happy People” (not to be confused with the Brazilian-themed Cannonball Adderley album) is also pretty good.