Chicago – Night & Day – Big Band (1995)

FrontCover1Night & Day: Big Band is the eighteenth studio album by the American band Chicago, and twenty-second overall, released in 1995. It is a departure from Top 40 material for a more thematic project, with a focus on classic big band and swing music.

Chicago left Reprise Records and started their own imprint, Chicago Records, to re-distribute their music. This album was carried by Giant Records, a subsidiary of Warner Music, who also distributes Reprise.

With producer Bruce Fairbairn, Chicago recorded Night & Day: Big Band from late 1994 to early 1995 and released it that May. Although Bruce Gaitsch played guitar on the sessions, the guitar slot would eventually be filled that year by Keith Howland, who remains Chicago’s present guitarist. Joe Perry of Aerosmith was brought in to add a solo to “Blues in the Night.”

The album reached #90 in the US, on the Billboard 200 chart.

Chicago made its “television variety debut” in February 1973 on a television special honoring Duke Ellington, “Duke Ellington … We Love You Madly,” which aired on CBS. They performed the Ellington composition, “Jump for Joy.” They were the only rock musicians invited to appear on the show. Walter Parazaider cited the group’s participation in the television special, and Duke Ellington’s comments to them afterwards, as important factors in their decision to record this album (by wikipedia)

Chicago 1995

Generally, when contemporary performers have taken on retro projects like this one, they have tended to emphasize their fidelity to the sources — consider Linda Ronstadt hiring arranger/conductor Nelson Riddle to recreate his string backgrounds for albums like What’s New. Chicago takes a different approach to the swing band classics it tackles here — it Chicago-izes them. The arrangements are by trombonist James Pankow, who manages to make everything from Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” to Glenn Miller’s theme “Moonlight Serenade” sound like a lost Chicago track. Those familiar with the originals, many of which were instrumental hits, may be surprised to hear the lyrics to songs like “Sing, Sing, Sing.” Clearly, the group is aiming more at pleasing contemporary fans than evoking nostalgia, and it succeeds in reinventing some well-established standards, even if older fans may find some of these versions radically altered. (by William Ruhlmann)

Chicago
Great production and very high musicianship. If you are of a certain age and don’t want to hear stylistically different versions of the classics then this is not for you. These are not covers, but rather they are versions of this great music. I had to listen a couple of times before I really started to appreciate these reimagined arrangements. Moonlight Serenade, Chicago, In The Mood, and Take The A Train are highlights. One of my very favorite Chicago recordings. It reminded me of when they were great once upon a time. Only thing that would have made this better is if Danny Seraphine with his jazz-fusion style were the drummer. Tris Imboden is a good drummer, but not suited to this type of music. The band swings, but Tris doesn’t. (Ralph Longo)

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Personnel:
Bill Champlin (keyboards, guitar, vocals)
Bruce Gaitsch (guitar)
Tris Imboden (drums, harmonica)
Robert Lamm (keyboards, vocals)
Lee Loughnane (trumpet, flugelhorn)
James Pankow (trombone)
Walter Parazaider (woodwinds)
Jason Scheff (bass, vocals)
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Luis Conte (percussion)
Jack Duncan (percussion on 06.)
Sal Ferreras (percussion on 06.)
Jade (vocals on 03.)
Joe Perry (guitar on 07.)
Paul Shaffer (piano on 03.)
Bruce Fairbairn (trumpet solo on 01.)
Tonino Baliardo (guitar on 08.)
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The Gipsy Kings:
Nicolas Reyes and Patchai Reyes (vocals, rumba flamenco guitar)

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Tracklist:
01. Chicago (Fisher/Lamm) 3.07
02. Caravan (Ellington/Mills/Tizol) 3.23
03. Dream A Little Dream Of Me (André/Kahn/Schwandt) 3.13
04. Goody Goody (Malneck/Mercer) 4.04
05. Moonlight Serenade (Miller/Parish) 4.26
06. Night And Day (Porter) 5.36
07. Blues In The Night (Arlen/Mercer) 6.05
08. Sing, Sing, Sing (Prima) 3.22
09. Sophisticated Lady (Ellington/Mills/Parish) 5.11
10. In The Mood (Garland/Razaf) 3.44
11. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Ellington/Russell) 3.39
12. Take The “A” Train (Strayhorn) 5.36

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Jan Akkerman – Profile (1973)

LPFrontCover1Jan Akkerman (born 24 December 1946) is a Dutch guitarist.[1] He first found international commercial success with the band Focus, which he co-founded with Thijs van Leer. After leaving Focus, he continued as a solo musician, adding jazz fusion influences. (by wikipedia)

Profile is the second solo album by Dutch jazz guitarist Jan Akkerman.

In 1972, Focus was experiencing planetary success with the single “Hocus Pocus” and the accompanying LP Moving Waves. With this kind of momentum, guitarist and leader Jan Akkerman decided it was time for a parallel solo career. Profile is not disconnected from his work with Focus, but was at the time a good medium to show the extent of his talent. The two main musicians on this record apart Akkerman himself are Focus alumni Pierre van der Linden (drums) and Bert Ruiter (bass). The first half contains “Fresh Air,” a 20-minute epic in seven parts. This is a jazz-rock track like Focus rarely recorded (except maybe the In and Out of Focus version of “Anonymous”). Akkerman is smoking on the electric guitar and the whole thing sounds a lot like early Mahavishnu Orchestra: There is a strong sense of urgency to it coupled with the feeling that these guys were having a wonderful time.

Jan Akkerman 1974

The second half is more eclectic in styles and in results. Here, Akkerman indulges in his interest for medieval and classical music. A rendition of “Kemps Jig” (a medieval tune that was also part of Gryphon’s repertoire) and an Etude by Carcassi are both played on the lute, and Diabelli’s Andante Sostenuto is performed on Spanish guitar. A rather poor blues number and two Focus-inspired tracks complete the set. More technical, the album’s second half is a showcase for Akkerman’s guitar chops, but it is really “Fresh Air” that best exemplifies his talent both as a composer and a performer and puts this album Jan Akkerman 1974_02.jpga cut above other prog guitarists’ solo projects, namely Steve Howe’s first two records. (by François Couture)

This album is full of excellent electric & acoustic guitars and Baroque lute parts. Akkerman here can be classical (Baroque), hard rock and even slightly bluesy, and sometimes a bit folk. He includes some powerful rhythmic elements, especially on the first side of the record. The album is at least very original and unique. The first side is an epic track of nearly 20 minutes, full of good moments, sometimes melodic, although it may sound experimental, improvised and raw like the more bizarre stuff of Jimi Hendrix, if you consider the visceral electric guitar notes and the fast drums: it reminds me a bit the Lenny White’s “Venusian Summer” album. The other side is made of short tracks full of acoustic and electric string instruments, with sometimes good bass and drums parts. Jan Akkerman proves here that he is an outstanding guitarist. (by greenback)

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Personnel:
Jan Akkerman (guitar, bass)
Pierre Van Der Linden (drums)
Bert Ruiter (bass)
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Jaap Van Eyck (bass on 08.)
Ferry Maat (piano on 08.)
Frans Smit (drums on 08.)

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Tracklist:
01. Fresh Air (Akkerman) 19.55
01.1Must Be My Land
01.2.Wrestling to Get Out
01.3. Back Again
01.4.This Fight
01.5.Fresh Air – Blue Notes for Listening
01.6.Water and Skies Are Telling Me
01.7. Happy Gabriel?
02. Kemp’s Jig (Anonymous) 1.35
03. Etude (Carcassi) 1.33
04. Blue Boy (Akkerman) 2.26
05. Andante Sostenuto (Diabelli) 4.09
06. Maybe Just A Dream (Akkerman) 2.35
07. Minstrel/Farmers Dance (Akkerman) 1.46
08. Stick (Akkerman) 3.39

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Pete York, Brian Auger & Colin Hodgkinson – Steaming (1985)

FrontCover1.jpgI guess, every serious fan ofRock & Jazz music should know this names:

Pete York – Brian Auger – Colin Hodgkinson:

Everyone has a great career and everyone is a real important part in the history of Rock & Jazz music …use wikipedia to discover them …

A digital live recording of the trio in Freiburg, Germany, in April 1985. After their fine work the previous year with Spencer Davis, the tightness of York and Hodgkinson’s interplay on this release comes as little surprise. Auger makes for a fine third, though, with his electric piano lines wafting effortlessly over the rhythm section of “For No One.” Despite a long and loping cover of Donovan’s “Season of the Witch,” and a Hammond romp through a Jimmy McGriff number, the emphasis brought by Auger’s presence is on electric jazz-rock. The band even gamely covers a couple Billy Strayhorn chestnuts mid-show. Like the York/Hodgkinson concerts with Spencer Davis, though, it’s Hodgkinson’s solo bits that steal the spotlight. His sinewy “Catcote Rag” bass solo features some lovely glissando playing, and the “San Francisco Bay Blues” hearkens back to his string-shredding bass blues with Back Door. (by by Paul Collins)

In other words:

LinerNotes

What more can I say? Listen to this exciting and rare Jazz-Rock album …

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Personnel:
Brian Auger (keyboards, vocals)
Colin Hodgkinson (bass, vocals)
Pete York (drums)

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Tracklist;
01. No One (Brunell) 4.40
02. Freedom Jazz Dance (Harris) 6.15
03. Catcote Rag (Hodgkinson) 3.04
04. San Francisco Bay Blues (Fuller) 3.23
05. Take the “A” Train (Strayhorn) 2.42
06. Prelude To A Kiss (Ellington/Gordon/Mills) 3.23
07. The Hawk Talk (Bellson) 3.27
08. Season Of The Witch (Leitch) 11.46
09. All About My Girl (McGriff) 6.12
10. Going Down Slow (Burnett) 5.06
11. Compared to What (McDaniels) 10.07

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Colosseum II – Electric Savage (1977)

LPFrontCover1Two small changes in Colosseum II’s second album: Neil Murray left the group to join National Health (I believe), replaced by unknown John Mole, and most important the group became an almost-instrumental beast, which for their kind of music fit them best. If I say Almost-instrumental, it’s because Gary Moore sings on one track, sounding a bit like Steve Winwood, but let’s face it, Colosseum II doesn’t need a singer!! Coming with a bizarre electronic tribal neon artwork, Electric Savage heads further into RTF and Brand X fusion than ever before. If most of the music is still penned by Gary Moore, there is a tendency towards more democracy as Airey pens two himself, while Hiseman co-writes four.

Opening on Hackett-ian (solo) guitar lines, Put It This Way dives head first hard fusion filled with power riffs, Brand X-style. All Skin & Bone is a fantastic percussive track that uses the same Hackett-ian guitar and probably the album’s highlight. Rivers is the only sung track of the album, and as mentioned above, it sounds like a Steve Winwood solo track. The group also had a more progressive slant and here The Scorch is the prime example of it, where the group moves through a series of rhythm pattern and moods, but mostly doing so in a fury, as would indicate the title. Very classical exit of this track and a brilliant quartet, especially Hiseman.

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The flipside starts on the cheesy Lament, but it’s not an over-ripe camembert, either, just a slightly pompous facet of their prog moods, a bit the logical continuation of Scorch. Next up, Desperado returns to the 100 MPH fusion of Brand X that we’d visited in the album opener. The album closes on two Airey compositions, the first is a great crescendoing airy (pun intended) track, where Don & Gary exchange wild leads on a mid-tempo and background synth layers, while its alter ego Intergalactic Strut shines among a thousand galaxy, hinting at RTF’s seventh. If I say shine, there is a slight eclipse with

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While it was not so obvious on SNF, Moore has more problems being himself on such a blatant jazz rock album, than he does on a blues or hard rock album, and here , he’s more credible when either crunching riffs away or pulling blues wails from his axe, than really adding a jazzy blue note. When he does try, he seems either taken by Hackett or goes purelt classical. Incidentally, I was never a fan of Airey’s keyboard style (especially when playing in the Purpe galaxy), but for some reasons, in Col II, he was never more credible than here, and if some synth choices of his are questionable, but it’s got to do more with the era’s choice of arms, more than artistic choices. Outside a few loonies (like Mooney), Hiseman’s drumming is still miles ahead of many of his English peers (Bruford, Collins & Dunbar excepted) and he mixes himself a tad higher in the group’s overall sound, but it’s nothing shocking, on the contrary.. It even enhances his insane playing. Either this album or the following carbon-copy Wardance will be the perfect intro, but you’re wary of redundancy in your shelves, you’ll have to check whether you would need more than one. (by Sean Trane)

But … the original Closseum was for the history of British Jazz-Rock much more important …

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Personnel:
Don Airey (keyboards, clavinet)
Jon Hiseman (drums, percussion)
Gary Moore (guitar, vocals)
John Mole (bass)

Booklet1Tracklist:
01. Put It This Way (Moore) 4.56
02. All Skin And Bone (Moore/Hiseman) 3.47
03. Rivers (Moore/Hiseman) 5.51
04. The Scorch (Moore) 6.03
05. Lament (Traditional) 4.40
06. Desperado (Moore/Hiseman) 6.00
07. Am I (Airey) 4.17
08. Intergalactic Strut (Airey) 5.58

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JonHiseman

Passport – Looking Thru (1973)

USFrontCover1Well, Passport is not really prog, but it’s still a excellent fusion/jazz-rock band with some progressive elements on some songs (like the title track on this album). I like the playing from the band, especially Curt Cress’s (later Triumvirat) fantastic drumming and Klaus Doldinger’s great saxophone playing. The songs, with “Eternal Spiral” beign a personal favorite are all very good and accessible, and this one should do the trick for fans of this genre. The overall result is a tight, fast and impressive Jazz-Rock album by this great german band. I’ll with pleasure recommend this one! (by Bj-1)

Ah Passport. Underrated and sadly overshadowed by bands like Mahavishnu, RtF and Weather Report. This has always been one of my favorite jazz fusion albums. Not having heard any of their other albums means I have a fresh take on this album and I won’t be comparing it to other albums they have done. Anyways, “Looking Thru” is a very good fusion album slightly similar to Mahavishnu or Return to Forever but a bit more melodic and accessible than them while still remaining complex. “Rockport”, “Tarantula”, “Ready for Take Off” and the title track are prime examples. They are very well structured and played though. My favorite songs however, are when they branch out to a bit more of a progressive feel in the rhythm and keyboard playing.

Doldinger01

“Eternal Spiral, “Eloquence”, “Things to Come” and the title track all have fantastic keyboard, drum/percussion and sax playing with a slight prog feel. As with many fusion groups, the piano (electric here) is the main keyboard instrument and it sounds wonderful though there is also organ and moog abundant here as well. Great sax playing as well from Doldinger. His styie is very unique with a fantastic sense of style. I have many fusion albums and still have never found a band very similar to Passport so if you want a fairly unique progressive jazz-fusion album with great playing and VERY memorable melodies, give “Looking Thru” a chance. You probably won’t regret it. (dalt 99)

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Personnel:
Curt Cress (drums, percussion)
Klaus Doldinger (saxophone, synthesizer, piano, mellotron)
Wolfgang Schmid (bass, guitar)
Kristian Schultze (keyboards)

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Tracklist:
01. Eternal Spiral 4.04
02. Looking Thru 8.01
03. Zwischenspiel 1.37
04. Rockport 3.36
05. Tarantula 4.53
06. Ready For Takeoff 4.50
07. Eloquence 5.17
08. Things To Come 2.46

Music composed by Klaus Doldinger

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Howe-Wooten-Chambers – Extraction (2003)

FrontCover1.jpgExtraction is a collaborative studio album by guitarist Greg Howe, drummer Dennis Chambers and bassist Victor Wooten, released on October 7, 2003 by Tone Center Records.[2] According to Howe, the album went through a very difficult recording process which spanned two years, resulting in disagreements between the three musicians and Shrapnel founder Mike Varney, as well as several delays in the release date.

“A Delicacy” is a re-recording of an instrumental released on Now Hear This, a 1991 album by Howe II (an earlier band formed by Howe). “Proto Cosmos” is a jazz fusion composition by pianist Alan Pasqua that appeared on The New Tony Williams Lifetime’s 1975 album Believe It.

Todd S. Jenkins at All About Jazz gave Extraction a mixed review, describing it as “just about evenly divided between well-crafted, thoughtful compositions and dead-end chops demonstrations.” Praise was given to each musician for their technical craft and musical contributions, but criticism was directed at some of the songs for being “pretty much inconsequential filler, the kind of aimless noodling that almost put fusion in its grave a decade ago.” Furthermore, he remarked that Howe “tries to say too much at times” and Wooten “tends to fall into the 16th-note babble pattern.” Jenkins concluded by saying “Extraction does have its moments, but it’s not the most wisely considered entry in anyone’s catalog here.” (by wikipedia)

Dennis Chambers

Greg Howe’s first record, critically acclaimed by the guitar cognoscenti, was voted by readers of Guitar Player Magazine as one of the best two records of that year. Throughout the decade Greg has developed his style further and has amassed a legion of fans which have led him to gigs as a guitarist for Michael Jackson, Enrique Englesias, N’Sync and Justin Timberlake. Greg’s solo albums have always been laden with musical integrity and have inspired many. “Extraction” brings him together with bassist Victor Wooten who has carved out a brilliant career as a solo artist, music educator and as a member of the critically acclaimed Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Dennis Chambers is known for his work with Steely Dan, Parliament, Funkadelic, John McLaughlin, and Santana. Each musician on this CD is arguably the best at what they do and they are three of the most three of the most respected players in the circle of musician’s musicians. (guitar9.com)

Victor Wooten

Although he’s primarily known as a heavy metal shredder, guitarist Greg Howe can pretty much adapt to any style thrown his way — including jazz fusion. And this is precisely the style that is featured throughout 2003’s Extraction, which saw Howe joined by such top-notch instrumentalists as Victor Wooten on bass and Dennis Chambers on drums (as well as David Cook on keys). Longtime fans of Howe who are hoping for at least a glimpse of his hard rock roots are out of luck here, as the tunes often recall the carefree fusion days of the 1970s, when such artists as Billy Cobham, Stanley Clarke, and Al di Meola were consistently giving a clinic with chops-heavy tunes.

Greg Howe

As far as modern-day fusion goes, Extraction is pretty darn consistent from front to back, as evidenced by such uptempo ditties as “Extraction” and “Crack It Way Open,” as well as more tranquil moments like “Tease” and “Ease Up.” Howe, Wooten, and Chambers have certainly succeeded in summoning up a heavy ’70s vibe throughout Extraction, and as a result, the album wouldn’t sound out of place played between School Days and Where Have I Known You Before. (by Greg Prato)

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Personnel:
Dennis Chambers (drums)
David Cook (keyboards)
Greg Howe (guitar, guitar synthesizer, keyboards)
Victor Wooten (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Extraction (Howe) 6.14
02. Tease (Howe) 6.07
03. Crack It Way Open (Howe) 6.00
04. Contigo (Howe) 6.30
05. Proto Cosmos (Pasqua) 4.16
06. A Delicacy (Howe) 2.25
07. Lucky 7 (Howe) 6.02
08. Ease Up (Howe) 6.21
09. Bird’s Eye View (Howe) 6.19

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Jan Akkerman – Live At Montreux Jazz Festival (1978)

FrontCover1.jpgA perfect live album.

This Jan Akkerman record is a real gem! After firs spin I was convinced this by far his best live album. The material comes mainly from his self-titled record (1977), though Tommy (of the Eruption suite) of Focus is added and two new compositions in the spirit of the self-titled Jan Akkerman album. The recording of this live album is perfect, nothing more can be expected, not even today.

For newcomers. Jan Akkerman is ex-guitarist of Dutch prog band Focus. In his solo career he concentrated on jazz-rock/fusion and some historical lute-guitar playing. Though at first (Profile, Tabernakel) Jan akkerman would use his rockin’ electric guitars most of the time, in 1977 Jan decided to become the master of the clean jazz-guitar. This resulted in the 1977 self-titled album with clean guitars, a great band and the best of string arrangements. The compositions had a relaxing but slightly magical vibe and some up-tempo moments. Most of the compositions of this record were played on this live album.

Now, the problem Akkerman and band had to face was the fact that on the album these unbelievable string arrangements made a big contribution to the end result, but they weren’t able to get such an arrangement for their tour. The problem was successfully solved by adding an inspired percussionist (I love his contribution) and some synths that JanAkkerman06both helped to establish a more progressive climate, though the main genre would still be fusion. The two minuted atmospheric synth opening track by Jasper Van ‘t Hoff really gets me warm for the rest of the album!

A nice track from the Focus era, Tommy, is played with precision but the great vocals of Thijs van Leer are a loss. Still the band makes a great symphonic jazz track with that magical feel and the great guitar solo’s (this time clean) of Jan Akkerman.

Conclusion. This recording is perfect, the tracks are great, there’s a magical progressive climate on this concert, all instruments are played perfect, some problems concerning the arrangements were solved very intelligent and Jan Akkerman plays plain beautiful. There’s only one letdown: the album is short. Running for 35 minutes this doesn’t live up to the standards of these days. Still this album is highly recommended to basically every-one who can hear the difference between elevator music and great Fusion. A big four star.

After some more listens I have decided this is a masterpiece.  A warm recommendation! (by friso)

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Personnel:
Jan Akkerman (guitar)
Tom Barlage (keyboards, saxophone)
Willem Ennes (keyboards)
Jasper Van ‘t Hoff (keyboards)
Cees van der Laarse (bass)
Neppie Noya (percussion)

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Tracklist:
01. Transitory (v.Hoff) 2.08
02. Skydancer (Akkerman) 8.37
03. Pavane (Akkerman) 7.17
04. Crackers (Akkerman) 6.53
05. Tommy (Barlage) 3.38
06. Azimuth (Bijlsma) 6.11

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