Brian Auger´s Oblivion Express – Live At Winterland (1975)

FrontCover1.jpgBrian Auger has always demonstrated a rare devotion and dedication toward developing new musical forms. Equally comfortable with pop, R&B, and jazz, Auger was a founding member of the group, Steampacket, which helped launch the careers of singers Long John Baldry, Julie Driscoll, and Rod Stewart. Partnering with Julie Driscoll, Auger formed the Trinity, which recorded some of the most intriguing albums of the late 1960s, achieving international recognition for their cover of Dylan’s “This Wheel’s On Fire” in 1968. Straddling jazz, rhythm & blues, folk, gospel and pop in equal measure, the Trinity albums refused to be categorized. Auger’s intention was to overlay soulful pop rhythms with jazz harmonies and solos and his late-1960s recordings exemplify this unique approach. Following the demise of the Trinity, he formed Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express at the dawn of the 1970s, another genre-defying group that would gain him much wider recognition, eventually entering the jazz, pop and R&B charts simultaneously. The Oblivion Express created high energy, jazz-inspired music, with Auger’s high energy Hammond organ style, in the tradition of Jimmy Smith, dominating the proceedings.

This performance, recorded at San Francisco’s Winterland, when Auger’s Oblivion Express opened for Fleetwood Mac, captures the band during a particularly interesting time and with its quintessential lineup. The band’s album Reinforcements had just been released and their stage repertoire here includes two fresh new band originals from that album, as well as three of the most impressive jazz-inflected covers from their earlier releases.

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Following Auger’s high-spirited introduction of the band members, they launch headfirst into the leadoff track from the new album with “Brain Damage.” A collaboration written by vocalist/guitarist Alex Ligertwood (who would soon be recruited as lead vocalist for Santana) and lead guitarist Jack Mills, this is an explosive opening number that explores a diverse range of influences resulting in a progressive jazz/rock fusion sound. Auger’s high energy Hammond organ style, in the tradition of Jimmy Smith, is exemplary, and the musicians maintain a tight, cohesive blend on the extended improvisations held togethre by percussionists David Dowle (who would later go on to record four early albums with Whitesnake) and Lennox Laington.

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Venturing back to material from the Second Wind album, they next deliver a tight rather economical performance of Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance,” before again stretching out on Wes Montgomery’s classic, “Bumpin’ On Sunset.” Here, the group establishes a relaxed, but nonetheless infectious groove, featuring Auger’s superb, yet never over-bearing technical abilities and the entire band reaching inspired heights. Like the best jazz bands, the Oblivion Express plays with deep feeling and a cohesiveness that is a rarity among rock bands of the mid-1970s.

They next return to the Reinforcements material for a crack at Clive Chaman’s “Foolish Girl.” A recruit from the Jeff Beck Group, Chaman is an outstanding and creative bass player and this composition ventures into the funk territory that would be explored by groups like the Average White Band and countless others as the decade progressed.

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The set concludes with a foot-stomping, full blown funky jazz blowout on a cover of Les McCann’s “Compared To What.” The original version of the song is a powerful example of black pop and soul that wasn’t afraid to address political issues; in this case the Vietnam War, and it is no less powerful in the hands of the Oblivion Express. Although lyrically the song is clearly dated to the late-1960s, Auger’s bluesy Hammond organ licks have a timeless appeal and he and the group’s offbeat humor are apparent throughout.

All through this performance, Auger’s technique is jaw-dropping and the amount of energy he and the group generates is unparalleled and relentless. The broad-minded musical attitude and skill of these musicians is never less than impressive and they manage to bridge the gap between rock and jazz-fusion in a way that remains inviting, accessible, and musically compelling. (wolfgangs.com)

Recorded live at the Winterland (San Francisco, CA), Nov 29, 1975
Excellent soundboard recording

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Personnel:
Brian Auger (organ, vocals)
Clive Chaman (bass)
David Dowle (drums)
Lennox Laington (percussion)
Alex Ligertwood (vocals, guitar, percussion)
Jack Mills (guitar)

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Tracklist:
01. Introduction / Brain Damage (Ligertwood/Mills) 15.56
02. Freedom Jazz Dance  (Harris) 5.59
03. Bumpin’ On Sunset (Montgomery) 14.45
04. Foolish Girl (haman) 8.26
05. Compared To What (McDaniels) 12.28

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Elodie Lauten ‎– Waking In New York – Portrait Of Allen Ginsberg (2003)

FrontCover1.jpgElodie Lauten was born in Paris in 1950, the daughter of jazz musician Errol Parker, and came to New York 1973 when she was ‘discovered’ by poet Allen Ginsberg and encouraged in her already precocious excitement for sonic invention. She went to New York University, learnt a lot from LaMonte Young and others, married, became a Buddhist, and is the inspiration for dance and concert events, sound installations and the staging of operatic presentations, workshops and collaborations with instrumentalists and librettists. She has a formidable list of work which includes some curiously esoteric articles.

WAKING IN NEW YORK is about experiencing daily life in New York through the eyes of Ginsberg, pictured in the later part of his life. From his apartment in the East Village, he tells everything about his state of mind, his body, his food, his work, his political causes – the Middle East, the death penalty, peace – all in the same breath. He is in a constant dialogue with his muses, Freedom and Compassion. He tells stories about the real people in his neighborhood, from the junkies and the homeless to the yuppies. Ginsberg expresses his love of life in a down-to-earth, occasionally satirical vision of the world, alternating with moments of deep emotion and classic lyricism. There is an uplifting ElodieLauten02.jpgelement in Ginsberg’s tolerant and all-inclusive vision of the city with its exciting jaggedness, its energy. Elodie Lauten met Ginsberg in 1973 when at 22, she first came to New York. She stayed at his East Village apartment, and occasionally accompanied him in his public readings. He introduced her to Buddhism with the chanting of mantras and meditation and became somewhat of a mentor. In her setting, she closely followed Allen’s train of thought, alternatively introspective and expansive, edgy, playful or lyrical, sometimes triggering hints of different musical styles and unexpected chord changes. Because of her deep understanding of Ginsberg’s personality and philosophy, she felt strongly about a melodic setting as opposed to narrative over music, as others had done before: in Waking in New York, every word is sung, even the most unlikely. (by elodielauten.net)

Her most recent piece was the première at the Willow Place Auditorium, Brooklyn of Symphony 2001 in its revised and unabridged version. This is a joyful nineteen-minute orchestral celebration of the Millennium in Sioux songs, mystery, magic, Buddha, making light of the dark predictions of Nostradamus, and building seven very brief movements from correspondences between colours and their sound frequencies.

ElodieLauten03.jpgClose on its heels follows the subject of this CD review, Waking in New York, a flow of Allen Ginsberg’s introverted thoughts and impressions compiled only six months before his death, and made into a kind of Two Act musical by Elodie Lauten, with singers Mark Duer as Ginsberg, Meredith Borden as Compassion, with Tyler Azelton and Sherrita Duran as the two faces of Freedom. Lauten is described as a leading light of postminimalism, and this piece seems to be doing something like that, a minimal approach to word setting, harmonic structuring, instrumental colour and even the text itself.

For a short time its fascination is mesmerising, but neither music nor text are quite Sondheim, and only a strong personal enthusiasm or connexion would stimulate concentration for over an hour on this recording. It could be better live, and it does make one curious about other works (like that Symphony 2001), but on CD its mechanical syllabic setting, show-style vocals and instrumental constraint creates a longing for greater subtle invention [listen — track 3, 0:00-1:00]. The Lauten website is, however, quite a revelation. ( by Patric Standford)

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Personnel:
Rafael Agudelo (bass)
Mustafa Ahmed (percussion)
Tania Askins (viola)
Tyler Azelton (Soprano vocals)
Meredith Borden (Soprano vocals)
Mark Duer (Baritone vocals)
Sherrita Duran (Soprano vocals)
Grigory Kalinovsky (violin)
Jaram Kim (violin)
Elodie Lauten (synthesizer)
Bill Ruyle (drums)
Ulla Suokko (flute)
Andrei Tchekmazov (cello)

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Tracklist:

Act I:
1 May Days 1988/Part I: Day After Day 6:04
2 May Days 1988/Part II: How Many More Years 7:06
3 Lunchtime (Meredith Borden) 3:10
4 The Charnel Ground/Part I: See The Supervisor 6:46
5 The Charnel Ground/Part II: Giving Away The Giver 5:28

Act II
6 Personal Ads 3:39
7 Jumping The Gun On The Sun 3:40
8 Manhattan Thirties Flash 3:21
9 Song: The Weight Of The World Is Love (Sherrita Duran) 6:37
10 Waking New York/Part I: O New York 6:35
11 Waking In New York/Part II: Out Of The Womb 9:53
12 Waking In New York/Part III: Well Come & Be Balm 3:48

Music: Elodie Lauten
Lyrics: Allen Ginsberg

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Elodie Lauten, an American composer known for her operatic setting of the work of Allen Ginsberg, died on June 3 in Manhattan. She was 63.

The cause was cancer, her publicist, Jeffrey James, said.

Ms. Lauten’s style, which incorporated elements of minimalism, pop, jazz, blues, classical composition, electronic music and improvisation — and often combined traditional orchestral instruments with ambient sounds like bird song, sirens and amplified heartbeats — defied handy categorization. While not every critic warmed to that style, many praised her as a skilled melodist who could write music of surprising, satisfying consonance in a dissonant age.

Widely recorded, her work was performed at the Lincoln Center Festival, the New York City Opera, the Whitney Museum, La MaMa, the Kitchen and Theater for the New City, all in Manhattan, and at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, among other places.

Ms. Lauten’s best-known composition, “Waking in New York,” is a chamber-opera setting of a cycle of poems by Ginsberg about the life of the city and its people. Scored for voices, strings, flute, percussion and synthesizer, it received its premiere in 1999. (Ginsberg, a friend and mentor, supplied her with the libretto in 1996 but did not live to see the opera performed: He died the next year.) (New York Times, by Margalit Fox, June 10, 2014)

Johnny Griffin – A Blowing Session (1957)

FrontCover1.jpgA Blowin’ Session is an album by jazz saxophonist Johnny Griffin, recorded and released in 1957 on Blue Note Records. It was remastered and reissued in 1999, featuring an alternate take of “Smoke Stack”.

While listening to A Blowin’ Session — so named because of the four horn players featured on the album — one wonders why Johnny Griffin didn’t become a “saxophone colossus” like contemporaries Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, or John Coltrane (who plays on this album). Griffin firm tone and blisteringly fast runs on the tenor sax place him head and shoulders above both Coltrane and Hank Mobley on this set. (To be fair, Coltrane was likely still an active user of heroin and alcohol when this was recorded, prior to the spiritual awakening and subsequent sobriety he experienced in the Summer of 1957, which he discusses in the liner notes to A Love Supreme.) As a band leader, Griffin leads a tight group, anchored by two legendary players on the rhythm section: Paul Chambers (bass) and Art Blakely (drums). The four horns come off a bit gimmicky at times, especially during the choruses, and the arrangements are fairly predictable. Either way, Griffin runs a tight ship here. The opener, “The Way You Look Tonight,” is the clear highlight, showing off everybody’s talents expertly. Otherwise, the remaining three tracks are quite solid, though the covers are a bit better than Griffin’s originals (“Ball Bearing” and “Smoke Stack”). Aside from Griffin and the rhythm section, Coltrane’s playing shows signs of his emerging and signature style, though he’s not quite yet to the place where he could pull off something like “Giant Steps.” Lee Morgan is as fluid and forceful as ever. The only weak link here is probably Hank Mobley, who seems dwarfed by the talent surrounding him. All in all, fans of hard bop will find plenty to enjoy about this album, and revel in its all-star lineup. (by yerblues)

Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, New Jersey on April 6, 1957

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John Coltrane, Johnny Griffin and Hank Mobley at Griffin’s A Blowing Session, Hackensack NJ, April 6 1957

Personnel:
Art Blakey (drums)
Paul Chambers (bass)
John Coltrane (saxophone)
Johnny Griffin (saxophone)
Wynton Kelly (piano)
Hank Mobley (saxophone)
Trumpet – Lee Morgan (trumpet)

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Tracklist:
01. The Way You Look Tonight (Kern/Fields) 9.41
02. Ball Bearing (Griffin) 8.11
03. All The Things You Are (Kern/Hammerstein) 10.14
04. Smoke Stack (Griffin) 10.14
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05. Smoke Stack (Aalternate take) (Griffin) 11.00

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