|JAZZ ROCK FUSION REARS ITS UGLY HEAD
||[Jun. 23rd, 2003|11:47 am]
digraph hit me off with some MP3's from Heldon, which I guess is a french Jazz-rock fusion band. They kind of combine Can influences with stuff like Mahavishnu Orchestra. The problem with jazz-rock fusion was similar to the fate of a lot of genres -- collectively the artists started believing their own press, and records subsequent to their first 2 or 3 good ones tend to magnify and exaggerate their worst tendencies. This happens in a lot of different genres, no doubt, but with Jazz Rock Fusion it was doubly awful, because really great musicians became yoked with truly awful music. They all jump the shark eventually. But they all had their shining moments, so I'll try and list them:
Mahvishnu Orchestra "Inner Mounting Flame" -- decent songwriting, and incredible raw energy to the performances. Recorded prior to Jan Hammer getting his Mini-moog; I don't think he was at all limited by just having a Fender Rhodes and a couple of stomp boxes.
Weather Report "Sweetnighter", "I Sing The Body Electric" and Self-titled debut. The first 2 (s.t. and 'i sing...') are very much miles-davis influenced, but recommended for the variety of timbres and textures they get despite pretty bare bones recording and production. 'Sweetnighter,' may well be my favorite album of all time. Spacy, funky, loose, and just 'on' in a way they never were again.
Chick Corea/Return To Forever "Light As a Feather" -- again, pre-mogue synthesizer, it represents some of the best work of the brazilian percussionist Airto and his wife Flora Purim. Chick Corea is a very lyrical pianist, obviously influenced by Bill Evans, but later records really go into wankomatic overdrive. This one is just plain perfect.
Larry Coryell "Spaces" -- more jazzy than rocky, yet like all the other records I mentioned here, the least affected and most cooking-est (erk) of his work. I suppose he has made some good records since then, but back in the day, when I had to shell out $7 for a record to hear it, I got burned by him more than once with irritating wankfests, so I don't know what they are.
Miroslav Vitous "Mountain In The Clouds" -- very much in the post-miles vein, this album is spooky, vague, and wicked end to end. Of all the people mentioned here, Miroslav Vitous is the only one who A) didn't go for the brass ring of a big label contract, and B) Consequently never jumped the shark. Pretty much ANYTHING he plays on is wicked. Not coincidentally he plays on the 3 best weather report albums and Larry Coryell's Spaces.
Horacee Arnold "Tales of the Exonerated Flea" -- this record is legendary, has never been re-released, and is killer all the way through. The players on it are a who's who of the time -- Ric Laird(Mahavishnu Orchestra) Dom Um Ramao (Weather Report) Jan Hammer(Mahavishnu), Ralph Towner (Oregon), John Abercrombie ... if you ever see it buy on sight. I don't know if I can put my hands on my copy, which i remember got pretty trashed by my little brother Ian back in the day. Sony/Columbia has sat on reissuing this, for some reason, the way they sat on "Sweetnighter" for 10 years while re-releasing lesser Weather Report material.
John Abercromby "Timeless" -- Jan Hammer (again!) and Jack Dejohnette (of late 60s Miles Davis lineups) go all ECM on your ass. Anything on ECM is a 'buy on sight' at the thrift stores, by the way. Alternately fast and spikey and slow and droney. Great album.
Soft Machine "Six" -- the side-long "Soft Weed Factor" is brilliant minimalistic loopy goodness. I don't know if they did this with tape loops or played it live, either way the buildup in that track is something Richie Hawtin tries but never does as well as these guys do. Maybe it's the fact that there's something special about live musicians playing machine-like repetitions. That's certainly James Brown's secret...