Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds Of Fire (1973)

FrontCover1.jpgBirds of Fire is the second studio album by American jazz fusion band the Mahavishnu Orchestra. It was released on January 3, 1973 by Columbia Records and is the last studio album released by the original band line-up before it dissolved.

As with the group’s previous album, The Inner Mounting Flame, Birds of Fire consists solely of compositions by John McLaughlin. These include the track “Miles Beyond (Miles Davis)”, which McLaughlin dedicated to his friend and former bandleader.

In addition to the standard 2-channel stereo album there was also a 4-channel quadraphonic version released during the 1970s. This appeared on LP in the SQ matrix format.

A remastered version of the album was released on CD in 2000 by Sony Music Entertainment. It features a new set of liner notes by JazzTimes critic Bill Milkowski, as well as photographs of the band. In 2015 the album was re-issued on Super Audio CD by Audio Fidelity containing both the stereo and quad mixes.

The back cover of the album features the poem “Revelation” by Sri Chinmoy. (by wikipedia)

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Emboldened by the popularity of Inner Mounting Flame among rock audiences, the first Mahavishnu Orchestra set out to further define and refine its blistering jazz-rock direction in its second — and, no thanks to internal feuding, last — studio album. Although it has much of the screaming rock energy and sometimes exaggerated competitive frenzy of its predecessor, Birds of Fire is audibly more varied in texture, even more tightly organized, and thankfully more musical in content. A remarkable example of precisely choreographed, high-speed solo trading — with John McLaughlin, Jerry Goodman, and Jan Hammer all of one mind, supported by Billy Cobham’s machine-gun drumming and Rick Laird’s dancing bass — can be heard on the aptly named “One Word,” and the title track is a defining moment of the group’s nearly atonal fury.

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The band also takes time out for a brief bit of spaced-out electronic burbling and static called “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love.” Yet the most enticing pieces of music on the record are the gorgeous, almost pastoral opening and closing sections to “Open Country Joy,” a relaxed, jocular bit of communal jamming that they ought to have pursued further. This album actually became a major crossover hit, rising to number 15 on the pop album charts, and it remains the key item in the first Mahavishnu Orchestra’s slim discography. (by Richard S. Ginell)

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Personnel:
Billy Cobham (drums, percussion)
Jerry Goodman (violin)
Jan Hammer (keyboards, synthesizer)
Rick Laird (bass)
John McLaughlin (guitar)

BackCover1.jpgTracklist:
01. Birds Of Fire 5.49
02. Miles Beyond (dedicated to Miles Davis) 4.45
03. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters 2.55
04. Sapphire Bullets Of Pure Love 0.24
05. Thousand Island Park 3.23
06. Hope 1.56
07. One Word 9.55
08. Sanctuary 5.04
09. Open Country Joy 3.55
10. Resolution 2.10

Music composed by John McLaughlin

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And here´s a very intersting album … with music from The Mahavishnu Orchestra … arranged for a string quartet … the Radio String Quartett from Austria (click on the pic):

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Mo Foster – Bass Response (1983)

FrontCover1.jpgMo Foster is a British session bassist. He is also a music producer and songwriter/composer. Foster has played on and produced countless albums, singles and film soundtracks. He is a published author and occasionally teaches at music seminars all over the UK.

Foster’s first attempt as a musician in public was in primary school playing the recorder and violin. In secondary school he changed to a “much cooler” instrument and became the bass player (using a Dallas Tuxedo bass) in his school band, The Tradewinds.

Foster cites his interest in bass guitar as coming from hearing Duane Eddy’s song “Rebel Rouser” for the first time. “A school friend played the 78 on his parents’ big radiogram and it just filled the room with this powerful sound. It was one of those rare moments when your soul is touched and I realised that the deep sound behind Eddy’s guitar came from something called a bass guitar, though I didn’t see one until I watched Jet Harris on TV. So I bought an acoustic guitar for £2 and figured that I’d get that bass sound if I just tuned the strings down an octave, but of course it just made a pointless, fapping noise.”

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Foster studied physics and mathematics at the University of Sussex in the mid-1960s. During his student days he played both drums and bass in a wide variety of bands including the US Jazz Trio and The Baskervilles. Once he left university, a short spell as a laboratory research assistant convinced him that a career in music was preferable to a career as a scientist. During mid-1968 Foster, along with friends Lynton Naiff, Mike Jopp, Grant Serpell and Linda Hoyle, formed the progressive jazz/rock group Affinity, which was managed by the late Ronnie Scott. At the time they released one eponymously named album, though in the last few years archived tapes were discovered which enabled a further four Affinity related albums to be released.

After Affinity played their last gig in 1970 Foster decided that rather than being an over-educated but unemployed musician he needed to join another band. He placed a classified ad in Melody Maker magazine stating “Bass Guitarist: ex-name group, wishes to join established Family/Colosseum/Traffic type group”. He expected no response, but a music producer called Christos Demetriou (i.e. Chris Demetriou) unexpectedly called and offered him a job with ex-Manfred Mann singer Mike d’Abo’s band.

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After touring with the band both in the US and in the UK, Foster’s name started to get around. In 1971 he was hired to do a studio session for a Russ Ballard song, “Can’t Let You Go” at Lansdowne Studios. “I knew nothing and turned up with a flask and sandwiches because I didn’t know how long I’d be there for. There was Clem Cattini on drums, Ray Cooper on percussion, Mike Moran on keyboards, Ray Fenwick on guitar, all fine players and nice guys who thought my naiveté was amusing! That was the beginning of a word of mouth situation which gradually mushroomed.”[3] The European disco scene was growing and session work was increasing and Foster was hired to play on a lot of the popular hits of the time including Jimmy Helms’ “Gonna Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse” and Cerrone’s hit “Supernature”.

In his early days as a session player Foster, having been self-taught, could not read music and freely admits that he bluffed his way through a lot of sessions. Finally at a session at Abbey Road Studios, playing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, it got so difficult to follow the music by listening to the drummer and guitarist that he vowed to teach himself. This he then did.

As a session musician Foster claims he has played on over 350 recordings …

MoFoster06.jpgDuring his time as a session player, Foster was asked to work on many film soundtrack sessions, too.

In 1975 Foster pioneered the teaching of bass guitar in Britain by founding the first-ever course at Goldsmiths College, University of London. As of mid-2007, along with guitarist Ray Russell and drummer Ralph Salmins, Foster is embarking on several music seminars at different educational establishments around the UK, the most recent (September 2007) being held at Leeds Metropolitan University. The trio have also been invited to give a similar seminar at the famous Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts music school which was started by Sir Paul McCartney. He has also contributed several articles to bass playing specialist magazines.

One of Foster’s most memorable bass lines was in the theme tune to the late-70s UK TV show “Minder” starring Dennis Waterman. The tune, “I Can Be So Good For You” started out life as a track on Waterman’s solo album, it was then re-jigged as the show’s theme tune. He achieved the atypical bass sound by using an unusual bass slap technique on an aluminium Kramer 650B bass guitar.

Foster has cited several well known bassists as being the inspirations to both his playing and his compositions, including Carol Kaye, Jet Harris, Jack Bruce and Stanley Clarke.

In the mid to late 80s Foster was the ‘M‘ in the jazz/rock trio called RMS with fellow session musos, Ray Russell and Simon Phillips. They released (originally on Peter Van Hooke’s then at the time fledgling MMC record label) an album called Centennial Park which was remastered and re-released in 2002 on the Angel Air record label. This in turn prompted the release of a live album from 1982 that had never been heard publicly before RMS: Live at the Venue, 1982.

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As a result of the success of these two CD releases, a DVD (which featured guests appearances by Gil Evans and Mark Isham) was released a year later. RMS: Live At The Montreux Jazz Festival, 1983. Both the CDs and DVD were produced by Foster and Ray Russell.

In the mid-1980s, Foster joined up with comedy writer/actor Mike Walling to form the core of the imaginary, but tragic RJ Wagsmith Band. Together they wrote a chart topping song for Roger Kitter (aka “The Brat”). They also penned what became one of the few one-hit wonders that never actually made it into the charts. “The Papadum Song” was about two losers who go into an Indian restaurant for a meal after a football match. The song got quite considerable airplay and Walling and Foster appeared together on the BBC children’s programmes Blue Peter and Granada TV’s Get It Together. Unfortunately there was an industrial dispute at Phonogram Records and no records actually got to the shops.

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At the latter end of the 1980s Foster decided that he would like the freedom to perform, produce and record his own music rather than that of someone else. He was able to call on some of his many friends who happened to be some of the UK’s foremost session musicians to help him. Since 1987 he has released five solo albums.

Apart from his five solo albums Foster has produced – or co-produced – albums for Deborah Bonham (The Old Hyde), Dr John (Such A Night), Maggie Bell (Live at the Rainbow), Affinity (Live Instrumentals 1969, 1971–72, Origins 1965–67, and Origins Baskervilles 1965), Survivors (Survivors), Maria Muldaur (Live in London), Adrian Legg (Fretmelt), RMS (Centennial Park, Live at the Venue 1982), RMS with Gil Evans (Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1983 DVD), The RJ Wagsmith Band (Make Tea Not War).

In addition Foster has composed and produced hundreds of titles for the major Production Music Libraries, co-wrote with Ray Russell the instrumental “So Far Away” for Gary Moore, co-wrote with Mike Walling the comedy hit single “Chalk Dust” for The Brat, co-wrote with Kim Goody the song “Sentimental Again” which reached the final in the Song for Europe Contest in 1990, and co-wrote with Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, and Kim Goody the main song “In My Car” from Ringo’s album Old Wave.

In 1997 Foster authored a semi-autobiographical and anecdotal book about the birth and rise of Rock guitar in the UK during the period 1955 – 1975.

MoFoster03.jpgThe book’s title is Seventeen Watts?, the title having arisen from the school band member’s quandary of “do we really need that much power?” when a 17W Watkins Dominator Amplifier was acquired as a replacement for the ‘aging’ 5W amp they had previously been using. The US edition of the book was entitled Play Like Elvis and had a different foreword, this time written by Duane Eddy.

The first half of the book covers the emergence of a new breed of the rock guitarist. It features many anecdotes describing the efforts of now prominent guitarists to not only learn chords but to work out how to build their own guitar because they could not afford the ones in the music shop window. There are stories and quotes from guitarists such as Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Joe Brown, Clem Cattini, Eric Clapton, Lonnie Donegan, Vic Flick, Herbie Flowers, Roger Glover, George Harrison, Mark Knopfler, Hank Marvin, Brian May, Gary Moore, Joe Moretti, Pino Palladino, Rick Parfitt, John Paul Jones, Francis Rossi, Gerry Rafferty, Mike Rutherford, Big Jim Sullivan, Andy Summers, Richard Thompson, Bert Weedon, Bruce Welch, and Muff Winwood.

The second half of Seventeen Watts? is devoted to the rise and eventual demise of the London studio session scene. Foster seeks to present an insider’s view of this creative world, and to convey a sense of the absurdist flavour of musicians’ humour.

Most recently Foster has worked as an archivist/interviewer on the recent UK Channel 4 series Live From Abbey Road, which involved interviewing musicians and bands who were performing live sets at EMI’s world-famous Abbey Road Studios.

MoFoster10Foster now concentrates on producing albums for others, composing music, session work, played with Brian May and Brian Bennett on a 12-hour session at Abbey Road Studios for a re-make of Cliff Richard’s 1958 hit “Move It”), writing, researching and remastering his back catalogue (not only for his solo projects but also for other artists).

Foster has also resumed playing concerts with his band RMS, featuring Ray Russell, and Gary Husband – notably with Gary Moore at a recent charity concert Vibes From The Vines.

In April 2012, he performed at the Jet Harris Heritage Foundation tribute lunch with The Shadowers and Daniel Martin on Nivram and Diamonds

Although Foster has an interest in science it does not extend to the technology used in his instrumentation. He was once asked by a magazine journalist what type of pick-ups he used, he replied “Errr black ones?”

Over the years Foster has collected several different types of bass guitar including a custom-built Moon MBC fretless 5-string, an Overwater Progress 5-string and an Alembic Omega (since stolen). Invariably though, he uses his two main basses, his Fender Precision and particularly his Fender Jazz which he considers to be his “voice”.

The Fender Jazz bass guitar started out life as a standard 4-string bass, but in 1976, after being inspired by Jaco Pastorius’ fretless playing, he commissioned a symphony bass repairman by the name of Neville Whitehead to replace the standard neck with a fretless version. The replacement neck was a planed-down real ebony neck removed from a 100-year-old upright bass. For six months Foster struggled with the pure black neck as there were no indicators for finger positioning.

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Eventually giving up the fight, he employed luthier Dick Knight to mark fretlines on the neck. After going to this trouble he was surprised to learn that Pastorius achieved the same thing by merely pulling off the frets and filling the resulting holes with epoxy resin. Since the early 80s the bass guitar has undergone several component replacements including the bridge and the pick-ups.

Foster eschews complex amplifiers with equalisers and a multiplicity of functions, preferring ones that simply “have an on-off switch and a little light”. Despite this, on one occasion whilst touring with Jeff Beck, with Simon Phillips on drums. Phillips’ drums were amplified to such an extent that Foster could no longer hear his bass, so he was forced into having a system made up from two BGW power amps and a speaker rig consisting of Altec, Gauss and JBL drivers. It was so powerful it was called the “trouser lifter” as a person’s trousers flapped when passing it.

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Mo Foster´s bass collection

Foster has stated that his interests in the physical sciences have remained with him throughout his non-scientific career and he stays informed on scientific innovation by reading New Scientist magazine. He enjoys wordplay-based, non-PC and scatological humour, and enjoys radio shows such as “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” and “The Goon Show” on BBC Radio 4, as well as the comic Viz, particularly the “Roger’s Profanisaurus” section.

He is married to Ricky and they have one son, Luca. Luca is following in Mo’s entertainment footsteps and recently appeared (alongside Mo) in a Radio Northampton adaptation of The Gruffalo. On 14 October 2014, Foster was presented with a BASCA Gold Badge Award  in recognition of his unique contribution to music. (by wikipedia)

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And here´s one of his countless libary albums, dedicated to the wonderful sound of the bass guitar Mo Foster in his own words:

In the 70s and 80s I began getting calls to play on recording sessions for a form of music which at first I didn’t understand: library music. The composers would be players I already knew from regular sessions, musicians such as Alan Hawkshaw, Alan Parker, and Ray Russell. It was a friendly set-up and the producers encouraged me to write.

Library music (also known as production music) is the name given to recorded music that can be licensed to customers for use in film, television, radio and other media. It’s ready to wear music.

The logic behind it was that — for a reasonable fee — you could use the music on a production with the rights already ‘cleared’ worldwide. And as the composer gave their consent for any use of the music, it was always a surprise to see where a composition would later appear. A famous example of this was a piece — written by the late Stanley Meyers — that was eventually used as the theme in the famous film The Deer Hunter.
The various television and advertising agencies required the music to be recorded in specific lengths but in the days before the ease and sophistication of ProTools most edits were performed directly on the tape with a razor blade. The engineer needed to have a steady hand.

Often the composer would make life easier for everyone by writing each piece in readily useable lengths such as 59” and 29”

My first commission in 1983 was for Weinberger, now known as JW Media Music. The album — in vinyl format only — was called Bass Response.
Lansdowne studio was hired and I was able to bring in the best musicians: 
The music was performed live with no overdubs.

There was no sequencing in those days so I was required to write out full charts for each of the various pieces from which individual parts were then copied for each of the musicians. They had to be good readers.

Since that day I have composed and recorded a wide range of library music.

Mo Foster is one of my favorite bass players and if you listen to this album … you would know why …

In other words: He´s a master of the bass !

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Personnel:
Harold Fisher (drums)
Mo Foster (bass)
Tony Hymas (piano)
Mark Isham (synthesiser)
Frank Ricotti (percussion)
Ray Russell (guitar)

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Tracklist:
01. Skywalker 1.55
02. Stateside I 2.32
03. Stateside II 2.33
04. Stateside (Underscore) 2.15
05. Fender Bender 2.05
06. Cloudscape 2.49
07. Times Square 2.41
08. Velvet Bass 2.0
09. Inspiration I 2.10
10. Inspiration II 2.15
11. Moody And Blue 2.05
12. Night Prowler I 1.35
13. Night Prowler II 2.07
14. Sad Goodbye 3.11

All songs were written by Mo Foster, except “Skywalker” which was written by Mo Foster & Ray Russell

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Mo Foster first bass and amplifier (1960)

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More Mo Foster will come !!!

Hadley Caliman – Iapetus (1972)

FrontCover1.jpgHadley Caliman (January 12, 1932 in Idabel Oklahoma – September 8, 2010) was an American bebop saxophone and flute player.

After studying at Jefferson High School (Los Angeles) (the same school of fellow saxophonist Dexter Gordon) with trumpeter Art Farmer, Caliman performed or recorded with Carlos Santana, Joe Henderson, Earl Hines, Freddie Hubbard, Jon Hendricks, Earl Anderza, Patrice Rushen and several other jazz notables.

In the late 1960s, he was briefly a member of a jazz-rock fusion group led by Ray Draper. He recorded his first solo album in 1971.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Caliman was active leading a quartet and quintet in the Seattle area, served on the music faculty at Cornish College of the Arts, and taught Hadley Caliman1978private lessons to area musicians.

Caliman lived in Cathlamet, Washington for many years.

He died of liver cancer in September 2010, at the age of 78. (by wikipedia)

On Mainstream, early 70s,  … the followup to Filles that Miles never made. Made w/ Bobby Hutcherson’s early 70s band w/o Bobby, pretty “trippy” but damn does it hold up well today to these ears.

Hadley’s been on the scene since the late 40s, had a long bout w/drug addiction (which he speaks of openly). Those Catalyst sides are good, espescially the one w/Elvin. Hadley had another Mainstream album before Iapetus that I’ve not heard, but its reputation ain’t so great. Iapetus, however, is one-of-a-kind in my book, one of those “lost treasures” that time is trying really hard to forget. It ain’t “straight ahead jazz”, though. Not everybody would share my enthusiasm I’m sure, if for no other reason than I’ve hyped the damn thing so much that it’ll probably seem anti-climatic. But I can’t help myself. I really do think it’s that good.

Caliman can also be heard on Santana’s Caravanserai, playing the saxophonic skronk that opens the album. (by J.Sngry)

In other words: Not only a fascinating Jazz-Rock album from this period, but a forgotten masterpiece …

Latin vibes, spiritual jazz-soul all in Coltrane’s feeling and early 70’s electric sound on the second album of Hadley Caliman.

Listen and enjoy !

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Personnel:
Hadley Caliman (saxophone, flute)
Todd Cochran (piano)
Hungria Garcia (timbales)
Luis Gasca (trumpet)
James Leary (bass)
Victor Pantoja (congas)
Woody Theus (drums)

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Tracklist:
01. Watercress (Cochran) 3.47
02. Ambivalence (Cochran) 7.37
03. Dee’s Glee (Caliman) 7.38
04. Iapetus (Cochran) 9.58
05. Quadrivium (Caliman) 3.48
06. Green Eyes (Cochran) 5.15

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Hadley Caliman
Hadley Caliman (January 12, 1932  – September 8, 2010)

Radio String Quartet – Celebrating The Mahavishnu Orchestra (2007)

FrontCover1.jpgHiding political tics behind faux-formalist boilerplate, pop aesthetes accused them of imposing Solidarity and Agent Orange on their musical material, but in fact such subjects signaled an other-directedness as healthy as Michael Stipe’s newfound elocution. Admittedly, with this one beginning “The world is collapsing around our ears,” I wondered briefly whether “Losing My Religion” was about music itself, but when Stipe says they thought about calling it Love Songs, he’s not just mumbling “Dixie.” Being R.E.M., they mean to capture moods or limn relationships rather than describe feelings or, God knows, incidents, and while some will find the music too pleasing, it matches the words hurt for hurt and surge for surge. The Kate Pierson cameos, the cellos, and Mark Bingham’s organic string arrangements are Murmur without walls–beauty worthy of DeBarge, of the sweetest soukous, of a massed choir singing “I Want To Know What Love Is.” (Press release)

This must surely be one of the most unusual releases in ACT’s distinguished canon. The idea of a classical string quartet playing the fusion era compositions of guitarist John Mclaughlin is initially mind-boggling but it all works surprisingly well. So well in fact that the project has won the endorsement of McLaughlin himself who demonstrates his approval by supplying the albums liner notes.

The seeds of the project were sown in 2000 when Austrian composer and accordionist Klaus Paier asked violinist Bernie Mallinger to assemble a string quartet to play on Paier’s CD “Moviemento”. The album was a considerable success and was nominated for an “Amadeus Award”.

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Mallinger’s string quartet acquired a life of it’s own and over the course of several personnel changes and numerous projects the group metamorphosed into the radio.string.quartet. The modish name hints at Mallinger’s willingness to reach beyond the classical repertoire and to embrace more diverse and contemporary styles of music.

He is joined in the radio.stringquartet by fellow violinist Johannes Dickbauer who studied classical violin in Salzburg and Vienna but also has an aptitude for jazz.
Cynthia Liao, another classically trained player is on viola, with Asja Valcic, from Zagreb completing the quartet on cello. Both Liao and Valcic have expressed their enjoyment of playing in the group and of the challenges and freedoms it offers them musically.

Mallinger had been a fan of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and was intrigued by the way Mclaughlin integrated the violin of Jerry Goodman (later succeeded by Jean Luc Ponty) into a jazz-rock context. He felt that re-arranging Mclaughlin’s music for string quartet would bring out the melodic and harmonic aspects of Mclaughlin’s compositions, qualities that were sometimes hidden by Mahavishnu’s somewhat bombastic approach. Mallinger’s arrangements reveal the structures within Mclaughlin’s compositions and bring out the beauty of tunes such as “A Lotus On Irish Stream”.

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This is not to say that the string quartet’s playing lacks energy. Indeed at times they play with a verve and intensity (as on “The Dance Of Maya” and “Birds Of Fire”) that I have never previously encountered from this instrumental line up. There is a great interaction between the players and a drive that also brings out the rhythmic qualities of Mclaughlin’s music. These string players play pizzicato and utilise their bows to create the kind of percussive effects that would be unthinkable in classical music but which are totally appropriate in this context. Mclaughlin’s complex compositions represent a considerable technical challenge to the players and they respond brilliantly. The arrangements by Mallinger and Klemens Bittman are superb and must have been a real labour of love.

Although Mclaughlin incorporated a string quartet into the second incarnation of the Mahavishnu Orchestra the results were surely nothing like this. Radio.string.quartet have put their own stamp on the music and created a different type of fusion as classical discipline combines with the spirit of jazz improvisation to create something unique. There are even a few folk inspired flourishes for good measure.

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The project is a total success on it’s own terms and is a superb blend of passion and precision. However it is very intense and hearing the whole album in one sitting represents a considerable challenge to the listener. Although the album may be less of a commercial prospect than label mates E.S.T. it is to ACT’S credit that they continue to foster such adventurous music.

Fans of Mclaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra should find this album fascinating and hopefully enjoyable. Others like myself, who found Mahavishnu rather too bombastic and OTT will welcome the opportunity to view Mclaughlin’s compositions in a new light. It may even inspire me to revisit the original Mahavishnu recordings, which go back some thirty-five years, heaven help us all.

Radio.string.quartet performed this music to considerable critical acclaim at the 2006 Berlin Jazz Festival. They subsequently performed it at London’s Vortex Jazz Club in May as part of ACT’s fifteenth anniversary celebrations, but I’ve not heard any feedback regarding that concert as yet. On the evidence of this recording it must have been a very interesting evening. (by Ian Mann)

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Personnel:
Johannes Dickbauer (violin)
Bernie Mallinger (violin)
Cynthia Liao (viola)
Asja Valcic (cello)

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Tracklist:
01. Open Country Joy 3.58
02. A Lotus On Irish Stream 6.18
03. Vital Transformation 4.55
04. The Dance Of Maya 6.37
05. Dawn 5.03
06. Dream 5.06
07. Thousand Island Park 3.04
08. Meeting Of The Spirits 5.33
09. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters 4.59
10. Hope 1.44
11. Birds Of Fire 5.01
12. You Know, You Know 5.15
13. Sanctuary 6.52
14. Resolution 2.31

Music composed by John McLaughlin

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When I was first given the demo CD of the recordings of the compositions I wrote for the “Mahavishnu Orchestra” performed by the radio.string.quartet.vienna, I imagined something of dubious quality.
Remember, these compositions were written for an electric jazz-fusion group 34 – 35 years ago, and while the 2nd version of Mahavishnu Orchestra had a string quartet within the group, the drums, bass and electric guitar were always there and very present.
From the first note I was struck by the way this group had ‘appropriated’ my music and made it their very own. They even got the atmosphere which was present all those years ago. The other aspect that touched me deeply was the importance they attach to improvisation, and they do improvise!
The quartet is also not without humour: just listen to that version of “Celestial Terrestrial Commuters”…
This is no ordinary string quartet. The love of, and the dedication they have to their respective instruments is marvellous, and the fact that they have taken what was electric jazz-fusion music, fused it with their training in ‘classical’ music, and conserved the ‘electric’ atmosphere is outstanding.
Throughout the listening of this recording, the radio.string.quartet.vienna brought me back to the wonderful days of the Mahavishnu Orchestras with true enjoyment. Thank you! (John McLaughlin)

 

Placebo – 1973 (1973)

FrontCover1.jpgThis Jazz-Rock group from Belgium was founded by Marc Moulin:

Marc Moulin (16 August 1942 – 26 September 2008) was a Belgian musician and journalist (print, radio, TV). In the early-mid seventies, he was the leader of the jazz-rock group Placebo (not to be confused with the English alternative rock band with the same name). He went on to become a member of the avant-rock band Aksak Maboul in 1977 and also formed the pop group Telex in 1978. Moulin was one of Belgium’s jazz legends, making jazz-influenced records for over 30 years.

Marc Moulin was born in Ixelles, Brussels in 1942 and was the son of Léo Moulin, a sociologist and writer, and Jeanine Moulin, a Belgian poet and literary critic. Moulin began his career in the 1960s playing the piano throughout Europe and in 1961 won the Bobby Jaspar trophy for Best Soloist at the Comblain-la-Tour festival. Moulin made his first recording, the Jazz Goes Swinging LP with The Saint-Tropez Jazz Octet (also known as Johnny Dover Octet) in 1969. Two years later, he formed the band Placebo with his close friend, guitar player Philip Catherine. Placebo recorded three albums (‘Ball Of Eyes’, ‘1973’ and ‘Placebo’) and one 45 rpm single from 1971 until the group split up in 1976.

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After Placebo disbanded, Moulin formed Telex with Michel Moers (vocals) and Dan Lacksman (synthesizer) in 1978 and his style shifted to electro pop.[2] He also began working as producer for artists such as Lio, Michel Moers, Sparks, Philip Catherine, French crooner Alain Chamfort and left-field artists such as Anna Domino and Kid Montana. During the ’80s, Moulin worked as a radio producer, appeared regularly on radio shows, and wrote for various Belgian publications, including ‘Télémoustique’.[4][5]

Moulin died of throat cancer on 26 September 2008. He was 66 years old. (by wikipedia)

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This is studio album number two for this Jazz/Rock band from Belgium. A nine piece here with plenty of horns including tenor sax, soprano sax, trumpet, trombone, bass clarinet and flugelhorn. We also get flute, bass, guitar, drums and a variety of keyboards including synths from band leader Marc Moulin.

“Bolkwush” is a great opener as we get keys, drums and bass right away as horns arrive blasting and they will come and go. Love that trumpet just before a minute as other horns continue to come and go. I also like the low end sounding keys and bass along with the steady, punchy sounding drums. “Temse” has intricate drum work as horns and flute kick in briefly. The electric piano takes over as the horns return. Such a good groove to this one as the horns come and go over top. Some clavinet too after 2 minutes.

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“Phalene” has a relaxed sound to it of electric piano, drums and a horn to start. Bass joins in as well to this lazy and smokey sounding song. Such a chilled-out track as it drifts along with different sounds coming and going over top. Love that electric piano. “Balek” might be my favourite though. We get these deep sounds that pulse as drums help out. Melancholic synths and horns start to come and go. Electric piano after a minute. The melancholic synths are back after 2 1/2 minutes to the end.

“Polk” is kind of funky as electric piano joins in. Horns before 1 1/2 minutes replace the piano but the latter returns a minute later. “Only Nineteen” opens with bass and drums and they create an excellent sound here as the electric piano joins in quickly. Some brief blasting horns before 2 1/2 minutes before they turn steady playing over top.

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“Red Net” has relaxed electric piano as slowly played horns join in. This is really laid back. Electric piano leads the way for the most part other than early on and late. “Re-Union” is different from the rest. Atmosphere hums and hovers as it floats along throughout. Sounds like electronics over the final minute which is kind of cool. (Mellotron Storm)

In other words: Excellent and hypnotic Jazz-Rock !!!

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Personnel:
Frans Van Dijk (trombone)
Johnny Dover (horns)
Nick Fissette (trumpet)
Nick Kletchkovski (bass)
Marc Moulin (keyboards)
Freddy Rottier (drums, percussion)
Richard Rousselet (trumpet)
Alex Scorier (saxophone, flute)
Francis Weyer (guitar, bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Bolkwush 5.44
02. Temse 3.45
03. Phalene 7.52
04. Balek 4.22
05. Polk 3.22
06. Only Nineteen 3.51
07. Red Net 5.41
08. Re-Union 5.24

Music composed by Marc Moulin

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Chick Corea & Return To Forever – No Mystery (1975)

LPFrontCover1No Mystery (1975) is the fifth studio album by jazz-rock fusion band Return to Forever.

All members of the group contributed compositions to this album. Side A contains heavily funk-influenced material composed by each member of the group, whereas Side B is filled by Chick Corea compositions. Chick Corea won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Individual or Group Grammy Award in 1975 for this album. (by wikipedia)

The fourth edition of Return to Forever was a band that emphasized the screaming wah-wah guitar of Al Di Meola and every electric keyboard Chick Corea could get his hands on to play furiously fast runs. Where the initial, airy Flora Purim/Airto/Joe Farrell edition gave way to the second undocumented group featuring Earl Klugh, and the third band with electric guitarist Bill Connors, this RTF was resplendently and unapologetically indulgent, ripping through riffs and charted, rehearsed melodies, and polyrhythms like a circular saw through a thin tree branch. Their immediacy and visceral power is why rock audiences were drawn to them, impressed by their speed-demon vagaries as much as their concern for musicality. Thank goodness No Mystery had more than its share of toned-down acoustic moments, as well as the powerhouse fighter jet stance that most of their fans craved. It’s not nearly as balanced as the previous album Where Have I Known You Before?, but expounds on those themes — inspired by Neville not Harry Potter — in a more progressive though louder manner.

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The bold, dancing, and funky “Dayride” in a higher octave and vocal-type keyboard range perfectly identifies the group sound in a scant three-plus minutes. The two-part, 14-minute “Celebration Suite” gives you a larger view of the classical Bartok/Chopin influence of Corea, and the dramatic medieval or regal stance they alchemized with so many keyboard sounds. It’s pseudo-funky, Spanish in a 6/8 rhythm, wailing with Di Meola leaping forth in true guitar hero form, with some group-oriented perfunctory subtleties and complex lines. The title track is the jewel, an acoustic romp through fields of flowers with Lenny White on marimba buoyed by a beautiful, lilting, memorable melody and shifting loud and soft dynamics — a classic in the repertoire and a fan favorite. The tromping beat of “Jungle Waterfall” supersedes Stanley Clarke’s lithe lines, while noise keyboards dominate the silly “Sofistifunk.” Corea’s acoustic piano is featured on the chordal, grandiose solo “Excerpt from the First Movement of Heavy Metal,” and in duet with Clarke. the improvised “Interplay” shows a more spontaneous rather than rehearsed side of these brilliant musicians. Over time, No Mystery yields mixed results, where initially they were viscerally driven and ultimately impressive. The next phase of the group, as indicated by this recording, would take them into even more technologically dominated music. (by Michael G. Nastos)

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Personnel:
Stanley Clarke (bass, organ, synthesizer, vocals)
Chick Corea  (keyboards, vocals, syntesizer, snare drum, marimba)
Al Di Meola (guitar)
Lenny White (drums, percussion)

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Tracklist:
01. Dayride (Clarke) 3.25
02. Jungle Waterfall (Corea/Clarke) 3.03
03. Flight Of The Newborn (Di Meola) 7.24
04. Sofistifunk (White) 3.54
05. Excerpt From The First Movement Of Heavy Metal (Corea/Clarke/White/Di Meola) 2.45
06. No Mystery (Corea) 6.13
07. Interplay (Corea/Clarke) 2.17
08. Celebration Suite, Part I (Corea) 8.19
09. Celebration Suite, Part II (Corea) 4.37

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L to R: Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola, Chick Corea –  Return To Forever performing in 1974 at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York.

Chicago – Chicago VIII (1975)

FrontCover1Chicago VIII is the seventh studio album, and eighth album overall, by American rock band Chicago, released in 1975. Following the experimental jazz/pop stylings of Chicago VII, the band returned to a more streamlined sound on this follow-up.

After five consecutive years of constant activity, the members of Chicago were feeling drained as they came to record Chicago VIII at producer James William Guercio’s Caribou Ranch in Colorado in the summer of 1974. While the variety in styles explored on Chicago VIII were reminiscent of Chicago VI, this particular album had a more distinct rock feel, as exemplified on Peter Cetera’s “Anyway You Want” (later covered by Canadian singer Charity Brown) and “Hideaway”, as well as Terry Kath’s Hendrix tribute “Oh, Thank You Great Spirit” and James Pankow’s hit “Old Days” (#5). The ballad “Brand New Love Affair, Part I & II” charted at #61.

Preceded by Lamm’s nostalgic “Harry Truman” (#13) as lead single, Chicago VIII was held over for release until March 1975 as Chicago VII was still riding high in the charts. While it easily reached #1 in the US, the album had a lukewarm critical reception — still commonly considered, by some, as one of their weakest albums from the original lineup, resulting in the briefest chart stay of any Chicago album thus far. It was also the first album to feature session percussionist Laudir de Oliveira as a full-fledged band member rather than merely a sideman, the first addition to the original lineup.

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Inside the original LP package was an iron-on t-shirt decal of the album cover and a poster of the band in a station wagon being pulled over by a policeman.

This album was mixed and released in both stereo and quadraphonic. In 2002, Chicago VIII was remastered and reissued by Rhino Records with two unreleased songs: “Sixth Sense” (an instrumental, or possibly a backing track) by Kath and “Bright Eyes” by Lamm, as well as a version of “Satin Doll” recorded for a Dick Clark’s “Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” special – all as bonus tracks. (by wikipedia)

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Road-weary and running low on steam, the members of Chicago began tinkering with their formula on the nostalgic Chicago VIII. Robert Lamm continued to loosen his grip on the songwriting, allowing Peter Cetera, Terry Kath, and James Pankow to pen the majority of the album. The enthusiasm and drive that the band had displayed on their previous efforts was audibly escaping them, best exemplified by the lazy drawl that Cetera affects on his otherwise rocking “Anyway You Want.” Finally, the jazz tinges continued to appear less and less, replaced by a brassy R&B approach that provides a more rigid structure for their tunes. But these factors don’t necessarily count against the band, as many songs have a lazy, late-afternoon feel that provides a few feel-good moments. Pankow’s “Brand New Love Affair — Part I & II” is a smooth, light rock ballad that Terry Kath wraps his soulful voice around, transforming it into a brooding lament on lost love. This track also begins to incorporate the multi-vocalist approach that would become the trademark of their ’80s work, as the second half of the song is sung by Cetera and Lamm as well. Kath’s “Oh, Thank You Great Spirit” is another winner, as his delicate vocals drift along on a sparse and psychedelic (for Chicago at least) sea of guitars. Pankow’s “Old Days” may be the only other notable track, a powerful rocker that showcases his tight compositional skills and provided the band with the only memorable hit song from the record. Lamm’s contributions are the least-commercial songs, as his arty and dynamic tracks are nostalgic entries that show him moving in an atypical direction lyrically and musically. Only his “Harry Truman” really connects, and the instrumental tributes to Depression-era jazz and the goofy singalong ending manage to render the song silly before it can really sink in. Although not terrible by any means, Chicago VIII is heavily burdened by their obvious desire to take a break. The band hits upon some wonderful ideas here, but they are simply too weary to follow them up, and the resulting album has none of the tight orchestration that reigns in their more ridiculous tendencies. (by Bradley Torreano)

Oh no, no … this is a pretty good album by Chicago … listen to “Oh, Thank You Great Spirit” or “Hideaway” and you´ll know, what I mean.

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Personnel:
Peter Cetera (bass, vocals)
Terry Kath (guitar, vocals)
Robert Lamm (keyboards, vocals)
Lee Loughnane (trumpet, background vocals)
Laudir de Oliveira (percussion, background vocals)
Walter Parazaider (saxophones, flute, clarinet, background vocals)
James Pankow (trombone, background vocals)
Danny Seraphine (drums)
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background vocals on 06.:
Caribou Kitchenettes
John Carsello – Donna Conroy – Bob Eberhardt – Steve Fagin – Kristy Ferguson – Linda Greene – Brandy Maitland – Katherine Ogden – Joanne Rocconi – Richard Torres – Angele Warner

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Tracklist:
01. Anyway You Want (Cetera) 3.39
02. Brand New Love Affair, Part I & II (Pankow) 4.28
03. Never Been in Love Before (Lamm) 4.10
04. Hideaway (Cetera) 4.44
05. Till We Meet Again (Kath) 2.03
06. Harry Truman (Lamm) 3.00
07. Oh, Thank You Great Spirit (Kath) 7.19
08. Long Time No See (Lamm) 2.47
09. Ain’t It Blue? (Lamm) 3.29
10. Old Days (Pankow) 3.32

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