четверг, 31 октября 2013 г.

John Stevens' Away - At Home (2013)

John Stevens' Away - At Home (Loose Torque, 2013)

John Stevens: drums
Robert Calvert: saxophones
Jon Corbett: trumpet
Nick Stephens: electric bass
Nigel Moyse: guitar
Martin Holder: guitar

01 - Openersanni
02 - Just a Matter of Time
03 - Relative Space
04 - Whoops a Daisy
05 - Homewhats That

A funk and soul music binge undertaken by John Stevens when he was laid up after surgery was the impetus for the group Away. Though it remains dwarfed next to Stevens’ accomplishments with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Away was the drumming giant’s unique way of tapping into the jazz-rock craze of the mid and late 1970s. Away released several albums on the Vertigo label in that time period, and recordings have been sporadically released in the years and decades since, but for the most part, much of the group’s output has been largely unavailable, existing only as assorted notations in the mind-boggling John Stevens discography. Over the past few years, however, Away bassist Nick Stephens has taken to releasing some vintage recordings on his own Loose Torque label, and it’s a wonderful thing. You see, Away was a group that made most fusion bands sound like mere fission.

Away at Home was recorded in 1978 at the Plough Stockwell, a frequent haunt of the band. For this gig, Jon Corbett joined the group, creating a formable funk-jazz sextet of sax, trumpet, drums, bass, and dueling electric guitars. While there’s no question this ensemble was wading into the same waters as Miles Davis, Weather Report, and others across the pond, there’s an energy continually present on Away at Home that seems sorely lacking from a lot of American electric jazz. Away at Home presents an unsubtle, driving music that both embraces the intoxicating headspace of a tightly locked groove and captures the intensity of the classic free jazz free-for-all. Away feared no tempo or crescendo.

Away at Home features four long tracks (and a short fifth piece), most of which are extended mash-ups of tunes from Away’s Vertigo LPs. “Relative Space” makes its mark with an unbearably catchy descending horn line, the track rocketing along until it eventually segues into the  funky, cymbal-driven beat of “What’s That.” The beat is reprised much later at the end of the band’s set, sending the audience through the roof. It’s a perfect encapsulation of what made Away more remarkable than so many of their contemporaries: a small club exuberance that always trumps the bloated, arena-rock detachment that would become fusion’s downfall.

Away at Home is piece of jazz-rock history worth grabbing on to, especially when there’s currently so little from this group to go around. It’s also a side to John Stevens that some of his fans might not be aware of, and a great reminder of what a tireless, passionate force he was in all realms of this music. [Free Jazz Blog]


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четверг, 17 октября 2013 г.

Faruq Z. Bey With Northwoods Improvisers - Infa'a (2006)

Faruq Z. Bey With Northwoods Improvisers - Infa'a (Qbico, 2006)

Faruq Z. Bey: tenor & alto sax
Mike Carey: tenor, alto sax, flute, kalimba
Skeeter Shelton: tenor, soprano sax
Mike Gilmore
: vibes
Mike Johnston: bass
Nick Ashton: drums

A1. Oncala        
A2. Ethiopia        
B1. After Death        
B2. Ode To E. R. 

"Qbico often has cool color-swirled vinyl, but this time it seems like it’s mood-vinyl, a soothing and fervent green spins around the turntable almost as an entrancing as this release itself. There are minor flashes of red and blue and white…but the green is elemental and rich. This supports the garden of sound cultivated here, Bey’s sax takes deep roots, often shadowed and wrapped with brotherly vines from fellow saxmen Mike Carey and Skeeter Shelton. Nick Ashton’s drums drop dewdrops on all the players, moist with cymbals plenty. Mike Gilmore’s vibes are what make this so green…so alive…hell they even make a track called “Ethiopia” sound lush. That has a nice mystic run to it, and in the latter half bassist Mike Johnston and Ashton get one of those infinite grooves ala Parker and Drake going, magic carpet rise! Again Gilmore is the sonic photosynthesis here..listen to him wrap up that “Ethiopia” number. On the flipside we explore life on “After Death” with Mike Carey communicating via kalimba and Bey slowly stirring the song along. Again an almost Egyptian flare rises from the ashes, if anyone stumbles on this review by way or searching jazz and Gilmore, as Sun Ra built an Arkestra that took to the skies, in Detroit Faruq Z. Bey and his Northwoods are in full bloom. Pristine earth soul jazz." Thurston Hunger KFJC FM on-line review
"The music exists in a space cleared long ago by Coltrane's tireless modal searching and Sun Ra's insinuating pulse, yet it still appears fresh and purposeful - a music pleasingly at ease with it's own history". Julian Cowley; The Wire Feb. 2007 [Qbico]


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