Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Agora - 1976 - Live In Montreux

Agora 
1976
Live In Montreux



01. Penetrazione (5:21)
02. Serra S. Querico (8:33)
03. Serra S. Querico II (6:40)
04. Acqua Celeste (6:00)
05. L'orto di Ovidio (5:24)

Roberto Bacchiocchi - electric piano, vocals
Renato Gasparini - guitar
Ovidio Urbani - soprano saxophone, cymbal, vocals
Paolo Colafrancesco - bass, vocals
Mauro Mencaroni - drums, vocals

Recorded live at Mountain Record Studio, Montreaux Jazz Festival on July 7, 1975.


When a band releases an album called Live in Montreux, there's an implication that the band has had a long and prosperous career leading up to the occasion. Jethro Tull and Yes both released their own Live in Montreux albums in 2003, over forty years since either had first taken to the stage. Deep Purple notably released three live recordings from the Montreux jazz festival, and even then, the earliest was in 1986, after they had already etched their name in the rock music canon for eternity. The Italian progressive fusioneers Agora on the other hand had no such legacy of success when they were invited to play the Swiss festival. In fact, they didn't even have an album, much less a following to attest to their greatness. From what I can tell, their invitation to the Swiss festival was largely a matter of impressing the right sets of ears. Thus, their debut Live in Montreux was conceived, and from the half our performance captured, it's easy to see why they would be getting people excited. While I prefer the meticulous design and darker atmosphere of their in-studio follow-up 2 to this, Agora's so-called debut is a strong fusion record, with plenty of chemistry apparent in the way they play together. The only disappointment here is that Agora would dissipate before they ever capitalized on their strength as a band.

Agora's style usually finds itself somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between jazz and rock; whether someone wants to call them 'jazz fusion' or 'jazz rock' is up for debate, although their tendency towards rock beats has me leaning towards the latter. Although Agora has a guitarist, Renato Gasparini's playing tends to take a back seat outside of his McLaughlin-esque solos. While I would have expected for a band this close-sounding to the Mahavishnu Orchestra to thrust the guitars into the spotlight, there's a clear emphasis on the saxophone of Ovidio Urbani, although listening to the brilliant way he sneaks melody into their group explorations, I don't think I'd prefer them any other way. There is a thick layer of Rhodes piano often plying just beneath the saxophone; although Roberto Bacchiocchi never takes the forefront, his textures demand a lot of attention and give the music a dreamlike atmosphere I haven't often heard in jazz. Even moreso than 2, Live in Montreux showcases the proggy third axis of their sound, along with the jazz and rock elements. "Serra S. Quirico" has moments that seem to draw on the playful twang of Yes. Closer still are Agora's light vocal offerings with the harmonies typical of their compatriots in the Italian progressive rock scene; Premiata Forneria Marconi comes first to mind. It's not surprising given the band was just getting started at this point, but it should be noted that the quality of recording on Live in Montreux isn't the greatest. All of the instruments are audible and clear enough, but the production doesn't capture the sense of immediacy and immersion I'd look for in a live album. Still, considering it's the only potential weakness I can discern from their performance, I'd say Agora are doing just fine.

Part of the reason I'll go to lengths to check out little-known 'gems' or generally overlooked music is that I'm confident that I'll come across bands that will leap out at me, artists I wouldn't otherwise find due to a friend's recommendation. It's been a long time since a jazz fusion band leapt out at me like Agora does, and that's why the brevity of their career feels like such a disappointment. Even without the context of its improved in-studio successor, Live in Montreux suggests plenty of potential and creativity. The last few minutes of this record are about as smooth as jazz fusion gets; I'm really left to wonder how far they might have gone if Agora had stuck together longer. However, the 'unreleased materials' compilation Ichinen came out only recently, and apparently offers some insight into the band's current sound and incarnation. Perhaps that means there's hope we might hear something new and fresh from Agora before too long.

2 comments:




  1. http://www.filefactory.com/file/nttrndh8ahf/2843.rar

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  2. damn, that's another bomb just right there. thanks

    ReplyDelete