Friday, January 22, 2016

The Advancement - 1969 - The Advancement

The Advancement 
The Advancement

01. Juliet.
02. Painful Struggle.
03. Stone Folk.
04. Grass Mass.
05. Sunflower.
06. She.
07. Moorish Mode.
08. Hobo Express.
09. Child At Play.
10. Fall Out.

Colin Bailey / Drums, Percussion
Lynn Blessing / Vibes, Harmonica, Organ
John De Rose / Classical Guitar
Hal Gordon / Conga, Drums, Percussion
A.A. Johnson / Guitar
Lou Kabok / Bass
Richard Thompson / Organ, Harpsichord

After collaborating with Gabor Szabo on such superb efforts as More Sorcery and Dreams, bassist Louis Kabok and drummer Hal Gordon further embraced jazz-rock fusion under the Advancement aegis, issuing their sole LP in 1969. The opening "Juliet" establishes a dark, moody atmosphere immediately bolstered by the intriguing "Painful Struggle," with its eerie vibes and Kabok's extended bass bridge. "Moorish Mode" is Gordon's star turn, highlighted by an impressively restrained drum break. But it's the most overtly rock-influenced cuts that make Advancement worth seeking out, in particular "Fall Out," an impressively heady melange of jazz, hard rock, and psychedelia.
- Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide

I heard of this album from that "related videos" bit on Youtube of all places, and great Milt Jackson's ghost am I glad I did. The Advancement's first and only album plays what I love to hear the most in my music, eclectic influences woven together so seamlessly you'd swear they had to be smashed together at CERN. In this case I understand that these musicians were trained in the jazz idiom, however the music also seems to encompass the rich musical trends happening around them at the time: psychedelic sounds, folk influence, and rock music rhythms. These elements are combined to create a stunningly unique and uncannily early form of jazz fusion; more philosophically aligned with the niche appeal of Frank Zappa's Hot Rats than the more strictly jazz-world influenced debuts of Weather Report or Mahavishnu Orchestra (all released in 1969 as well).

Juliet opens a flawless A-side with what I want to call a medieval influenced psychedelic rock tune. As the needle drops you can hear an overall sound and recording style that's reminiscent and true to the times, yet clearly isn't jumping on any trendy bandwagons either. Interestingly enough there is no jazz element at all to this opener, a strange move for seasoned jazz musicians. They make their jazz talents abundantly clear shortly thereafter on Painful Struggle, which slowly lifts off with a bowed upright bass solo before turning into a lengthy modal jazz-rock improvisation where the guitarist and vibraphonist get the chance to explore their imaginations.

Stone folk moves further into this unique fusion territory by bringing the rock style and psychedelic composition to a traditional jazz form. Likely the most well realized track on the album (and the only one with any vocals), its a great and catchy tune with a unique chord progression these guys just soar on. All of their influences come together beautifully here. The rest of the tunes play similarly to these. The trio of Grass Mass, Sunflower, and She drop that jazz influence to explore that rich psychedelic folk-rock sound again like Juliet. Moorish mode echoes the form of Painful Struggle, except this time in a more exotic Phrygian scale.

I feel that the latter half of the B-side dips slightly in this rich creative quality, but it is still fun to listen to. Some harmonica playing here and there that isn't particularly good but has some nice effects on it that add to the sound. Hobo Express is really just there as platform to do some collective improvising over a basic blues form. Child at Play is another nice psychedelic rock tune. The only real disappointment on the album though is Fall Out, which has a nice rock-oriented groove but all-together falls flat as a closer. It sounds incomplete and not as well conceived as the other tracks, like it should be on a collection of out-takes. Usually I just cut the album out on Child at Play and it suddenly works as a whole.

Highly recommended to those like me who appreciate eclecticism and unique charm enough to hear past a couple of more technical flaws. Ultimately I find this a hugely rewarding and irreplaceable listen, even over a year later this is still still getting a lot of plays.

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