Friday, April 10, 2015

Perception - 1973 - Mestari


01. Chott Djerid (12:16)
02. Trabla air (10:46)
03. Mestari (19:07)
04. Waiting for Moby Dick (12:52)

- Didier Levallet / bass
- Jeff "Yochk'o" Seffer / saxophones, clarinets
- Jean-My Truong / drums, percussion
- Siegfried Kessler / piano, clavinet

Perception - 1972 - Perception & Friends

Perception & Friends

01. Colima
02. Adeqxi / Ville D'Avril
03. Le Horla
04. The Outsider
05. Mamelai

- Didier Levallet / bass (A1, B1)
- Jean-François Jenny-Clarke / cello (B3)
- Jean-Charles Capon / cello (B1, B3)
- Kent Carter / cello (B1)
- Teddy Lasry / clarinet, saxophone (A1)
- Manuel Villaroel / piano (A1, A2, B2, B3)
- Siegfried Kessler / piano (B1)
- Daniel Brulé / trombone (A1)
- Louis Toesca / trumpet (A1)
- Jean-My Truong / drums
- Jeff "Yochk'o" Seffer / saxophones, clarinets

Perception - 1971 - Perception


01. Chirato (6:50)
02. Phénobarbital - Septième Songe (12:45)
03. Debora (8:00)
04. Enitram - Narcisse (11:50)

- Didier Levallet / bass
- Jeff "Yochk'o" Seffer / saxophones, clarinets
- Jean-My Truong / drums
- Siegfried Kessler / piano, flute

This album is not zeuhl, despite the obvious link to Magma, the owners of the genre. Of course, this album was made in 1971, the same year Jeff Seffer began his stint in Magma, so the influence may not have settled in at this time.

This album shows a strong nod toward Miles Davis and his disciples of fusion. Most of Davis' fusion albums and his band's offshoots in these years were playing this style. Set up the song with a loose melody, play around with it for a short while, and see where the jam takes you.

Here, the music centers mostly around Seffer's airy woodwinds and Siegfried Kessler's electric piano. While their performances are nice, and even matches in intensity some of the similar American fusion albums at the time, it rarely lifts above the median level of this style of fusion.

The one part that stands out is the first half of Ph'nobarbital - Septi'me Songe. With Kessler playing sparse acoustic piano, and Seffer on what sounds like a bass clarinet, the song has a chamber rock feel, similar to what Univers Zero would be doing a few years later. Unfortunately, instead of buildin on this style, the piece evolves into the same free form jamming as the rest of the album.

Richard Raux - 2000 - The Interval

Richard Raux -
The Interval

01. Bo Blues        
02. Train D.W.    
03. This Nearly Was Mine     
04. Little Sam's Blues        
05. Witchitiato     
06. Concept Ville        
07. Blues for Bags    
08. I Cover the Waterfront     
09. Serail Seriel    
10. The Song Is You        

Double Bass – Wayne Dockery
Drums – Charles (Lolo) Bellonzi
Piano – Olivier Hutman
Saxophone, Flute – Richard Raux

If you check the French « Dictionnaire du Jazz » you won’t even find the name of Richard Raux.  A most deplorable – not to say scandalous - oversight considering this guy has been blowing his horn for over forty years, with everybody from Magma and Memphis Slim to Marion Brown, from Magma to Sonny Murray.  OK, you’ve got the message: Richard Raux is no smooth jazz blower, no Kenny G disciple, no cold wave electro jazz whatever you may call it. Richard Raux is not one of the guys who occasionally plays jazz but makes his bread somewhere else. He breathes jazz or, perhaps even more, he breathes blues.  It is probably due to some spacio-temporal accident that he was born in France, he should have been born in the Mid-West, in St Louis perhaps, or in Chicago, or Texas … in any of those places that have become famous for producing Tough Tenors.

There is something of Hal Singer in Richard Raux’s style – very understandable since they played together quite often when Hal was residing in France.   Just listen to « Bo Blues » and « Blues for Bags ».
But he is not limited to the blues and is not afraid to walk in Coltrane’s giant steps as in « Train D.W..  He certainly knows his classics. Songs such as « Concept Ville » et « Sérail Seriel » show a direct influence of Monk.  Add to the mix « Witchi-Tai-To », a psych-jazz anthem by the late Jim Pepper (feat.  vocals by Wayne Dockery) and a few standards,  Richard Rodgers’ « This Nearly Was Mine, »  I Cover the Waterfront», and « The Song Is You ». 

His partners in crime - Hutman, Dockery and Bellonzi - are not slouch either.

The result is an outstanding album.

ZAO - 1994 - Akhenaton


01. Elioth (7:37)
02. Thebes (7:11)
03. Baityare (8:11)
04. Cobra (6:38)
05. Yzzo (6:42)
06. Sable (3:48)
07. Ozz (6:07)
08. Sakkarah (5:49)
09. Des Fleurs Pour Nefertit (7:34)

- Dominique Bertram / 5-string bass, Fender Jazz bass
- Yochk'o Seffer / saxophone
- Jean-My Truong / drums
- Patrick Tilleman / percussion, violin, violin (electric)
- Faton Cahen / piano

17 years is a long time between albums but Cahen and Seffer wanted to get back on the horse after their earlier albums were reissued on cd in the early nineties. Jean-My Truong was the first to be informed about this and agreed right away to be part of it. Bertram (bass) and Tilleman (violin) also agreed so the lineup was set. The latter two were both temporary substitutes for Prevost and Lockwood in 1976, so they had played with ZAO. Interesting that Dominique Bertram's brother Gerard was part of the original MOVING GELATINE PLATES band playing guitar. Perhaps even more interesting is that Didier Thibault the leader of MOVING GELATINE PLATES used Dominique's bass until he could afford his own.

"Eloith" opens with mournful sax and piano until a full sound suddenly arrives 2 minutes in. It gets lighter with bass 3 minutes in as the contrast continues. Check out the bass 5 minutes in ! "Thebes" is really light Jazz. Cahen takes the lead 2 minutes in. Some interesting violin 4 minutes in with the sax taking a turn 5 1/2 minutes in. "Baityare" is fairly light as well with the violin leading the way for the most part. The bass is prominant though. A fuller sound 3 minutes in. The sax lights it up before 5 1/2 minutes. "Cobra" has a groovy sound to it. It's laid back with the Seffer taking the lead.

"YZZO" is led by drums, bass and violin. Piano then sax 3 1/2 minutes in. Sax and violin take turns. "Sable" has a good tempo to it with lots of violin. Not really a fan though. "Ozz" might be my favourite. Some great interplay in this one that for me recalls the past a little. Everyone shines on this one. "Sakkarah" has some good contrasts and is also one of the better songs on here. "Des Fleurs Pour Nefertiti" is mellow with piano and sax melodies. It's really a showcase for Cahen and Seffer who co-wrote the song.

Good record, but in my opinion it doesn't reach the heights of their seventies albums.

ZAO - 1977 - Typhareth


01. Merci Jacky
02. Typhareth (Beauté)
03. Troupeau De Bisons Sous Un Crane
04. Binah (Comprehension Feminine)
05. Les Temps Changent

- François'Faton'Cahen / piano, electric piano, synthesizers
- Hamid Belhocine / trombone
- François Debricon / saxophone, flutes
- Manu Katché / drums
- Michel Seguin / drums 'toubabou', percussion
- Gérard Prévost / electric bass

This is the only ZAO record not to have the dynamic duo of Cahen and Seffer on it, as Seffer left to go solo after the very successful "Kawana" album. Lockwood and Truong would also leave meaning that only Cahen and Prevost are left from the "Kawana" lineup. Cahen would be responsible for all the music and arrangements on this album. All traces of Zeuhl are gone, in fact this is a fairly light Jazz record. It's so much more though as I found out. There are so many intricate sounds to enjoy and lots of variety as well.This was just a pleasure to listen to.

"Merci Jacky" opens with percussion and keys as bass comes in. The bass becomes quite prominant with Prevost offering up some flanged-bass playing as Tom Ozric already mentioned in his review. The keys start to stand out after 2 minutes. Sax before 3 minutes and guitar a minute after that. I love the sound 3 minutes in and later at 5 1/2 minutes in.The sax is blasting away before 5 minutes. So many intricate sounds and the band interplay is pretty amazing. "Typhareth(Beaute)" opens with some atmosphere until we start to get a reserved melody of drums, keys and bass. Flute arrives before 2 minutes as we get such a beautiful melody. The sound is building slowly. Sax and trombone after 4 minutes. Just a gorgeous song that is as smooth as glass.

"Troupeau De Bisons Sous Un Crane" opens with percussion and clapping as drums, bass and horns come in. This is a fun, uplifting song to brighten your day. So many intricate sounds flood the soundscape. "Binah(Comprehension Feminine)" is a heavenly song featuring piano and flute. Sax after 3 minutes. "Les Temps Changent" opens with the sounds of a party going on as percussion and keys play. Sax comes in as the party sounds leave. Check out the piano as bass and drums play on. Amazing sound ! These guys are cooking. I just realized i'm head banging to a Jazz tune. Whoa ! Some screaming sax 6 1/2 minutes in.

I love this band and feel that this is a must for Jazz fans out there.

ZAO - 1976 - Live 76

Live 76

01. Shardaz (9:41)
02. Isis (8:07)
03. Tserouf (6:36)
04. Sadie (5:17)
05. Zohar (9:46)
06. Improcol (19:28)
07. Jumelles (6:39)
08. Kabal (4:57)

- Francois Cahen / piano & synthesizers
- Didier Lockwood / violin
- Gerard Prevost / bass
- Jean-My Truong / drums & percussion

This is an outstanding live performance done shortly after Yochk'o Seffer left the band. Didier Lockwood provides his usual excellence on violin, and Jean My-Truong is absolutely outstanding on drums. The whole band breathes a high level of energy into tracks from the first four Zao albums - in particular you can hear this in the performance of "Isis", where this author found the studio recording a bit lackluster and flat. The one downside of this album (and certainly why it can't get 5 stars) is that the audio quality is barely tolerable - particularly on "Improcol" where it threatens to almost drop off completely - pretty much bootleg quality throughout. Still, highly recommended for jazz-rock and zeuhl fans.

ZAO - 1976 - Kawana


01. Natura (7:06)
02. Tserouf (8:53)
03. F.F.F (Fleurs For Faton) (2:29)
04. Kabal (4:08)
05. Sadie (3:37)
06. Free Folk (10:39)

Bonus track on Musea CD reissue:
07. Salut Robert! (12:48)

- François Cahen / Yamaha acoustic piano, Fender electric piano, Korg synthesizer
- Didier Lockwood / acoustic & electric violin, artianal bass violin
- Gérard Prévost / Fender bass, hors phase bass, acoustic bass
- Yochk'o Seffer / Soprano & Sopranino saxes, vocals, piano on F.F.F.
- Jean-My Truong / orange double drums

Musicians on "Salut Robert!":
- François Cahen / keyboards
- Bill Gagnon / bass
- Christian Saint Roch / drums
- Yochk'o Seffer / saxophone
- Michel Seguin / percussion

 "Kawana" released in 1976 would be ZAO's most popular album thanks in part to how accessible it was, and also to the addition of MAGMA violinist Didier Lockwood. If you want to see Lockwood at perhaps his finest check out MAGMA's "Live / Hhai" record from 1975. Unfortunately when things seemed to be going so well for the band Seffer decided to leave and go solo, so he could do his own compositions and have complete control. Lockwood and Truong would then leave to form a band called SURYA. I have to tell you there is some amazing music on this album. I don't think it's their best, but two songs on here are right up there with their best compositions. Namely "Natura" and "Free Folk". I can't put into words how great the five members of this band are individually. "Kawana" is Hebrew for "pure intention".

"Natura" opens with piano and cymbals / drums before bass and then sax arrives. Violin joins 1 1/2 minutes in.There is a darkness to this song until before 3 minutes in when it changes and the tension disappears. It is so uplifting because the burden seems to be gone and everything is now lighter. The sax after 4 minutes is prominant, but the bass is relentless with the drums.The intensity comes back 6 1/2 minutes in,and it's cool to hear the nod to Zeuhl (MAGMA?) to end it. "Tserouf" is filled with intricate and beautiful sounds. A great rhythm of drums and bass is danced on by the violin and sax. A change after 2 minutes as the tempo picks up. So much going on but everything is in it's right place even at this fast pace. The violin and sax trade solos as Cahen has some fun on the piano. The drumming is outstanding in this fantastic passage.

"F.F.F.(Fleurs For Faton)" or "Flowers for Cahen" features dark sounding piano melodies that are joined by the violin that only adds to that feeling. "Kabal" is led by the sax and drums as the keys are sprinkled in. It turns into a collage of beautiful sounds. "Sadie" is mellow and slower paced with smooth sax melodies and light drums. Violin is tasteful as well. "Free Folk" opens with vocal melodies that remind me a lot of Zeuhl. Liquid sounding keys, drums, sax and bass(it's all over this track) lead the way. A great sound 2 minutes in. The bass and drums briefly become heavy. Check out the violin after 4 minutes. Lockwood shines ! The drumming is incredible ! The bonus track is called "Salut Robert !" and it's a live song at almost 13 minutes in length. A different lineup for this one though as Lockwood,Truong and Prevost aren't on this one. This doesn't disappoint at all, the percussion, sax, bass, piano and drums(o.k. I should have said the whole band) are absolutely killer on this live song.

Another winner from ZAO.

ZAO - 1975 - Shekina


01. Joyl (3:52)
02. Yen-Lang (8:07)
03. Zohar (10:54)
04. Metatron (8:15)
05. Zita (4:34)
06. Bakus (5:12)

- Yochok'o Seffer / saxes, clarinets, vocals
- François "Faton" Cahen / keyboards
- Gérard Prévost Electric / bass
- Jean-My Truong / drums
- Pierre "TV Boum" Guignon / percussion
- Michèle Margand / violin
- Marie-Françoise Viaud / violin
- Françoise Douchet / viola
- Claudine Lassere / cello

 I guess I shouldn't be so shocked at how good this album is, I mean Seffer and Cahen were a big part of MAGMA's early sound, and the first two ZAO records blew me away. I really am starting to adore this band. ZAO had to replace Joel Dugrenot on bass as he left to join CLEARLIGHT. So the deep vocal melodies he provided on "Osiris" would be missing on this one, leaving Seffer's higher pitched vocal melodies as the only vocals on this album. And really those vocals are the only link to the Zeuhl sound that is left. Not content to just repeat themselves there are some chamber-rock passages, as well as some dark, atmospheric soundscapes to go along with the Jazz melodies that are at times Zeuhl flavoured. For this record only they added a female string quartet named THE QUARTUOR MARGAND. This made ZAO an eight piece band and gave them more options when it came to the sound they wanted to create. The pictures in the liner notes are a real treat. There is a picture of all eight taken outside with most of them wearing coats. There is another picture of the four ladies all smiling happily, and then one more of them all 8 playing their instruments. When Seffer left the band after the "Kawana" album to do his solo stuff, he did so with the help of the QUATUOR MARGAND on his first album called "Ghilgoul". By the way this album's title is in reference to the place where God's presence resides. I think it resides in this music as well.

"Joyl" hits the ground running with an uptempo melody of sax, drums and keys. It calms down quickly though with sax being the most prominant instrument. The percussion is a nice touch, and the strings make a couple of appearances. This all sounds so good ! "Yen.Lang" features the whisper of the clarinet to open. Very atmospheric as vocal sounds, keys, cymbals, bass and clarinet slowly come and go with no real melody. There is an Eastern feel to this hence the song title. This is so different from anything ZAO has done before. It's far removed from either Jazz or Zeuhl. Violin starts to rise slowly out of this soundscape 5 minutes in getting louder and louder. Drums and clarinet are added. This sounds so amazing ! It's dark and the clarinet is relentless. A real chamber rock sound.

"Zohar" is where Jean-My Truong reveals that he is one of the best drummers on the planet. The bass throbs and the sax blasts away, but it's the awe inspired drumming that is the focus. The string quartet takes over completely 2 1/2 minutes in. I'm reminded of UNIVERS ZERO 3 1/2 minutes in as it sounds quite tense. The quartet stops 5 minutes in as we get a change in climate. This time it's percussion with spacey keys. Nice. It ends with a fantastic jazzy melody that has to be heard to be believed. The sax 9 1/2 minutes in is a highlight. "Metatron" opens with vocal melodies before the song takes off with sax and keys leading the way. The bass is prominant before 2 minutes and the drums are out of control. Vocal melodies are back with bass,drums and keys.This is unreal 3 minutes in. At this point i'm sitting here shaking my head and laughing. Seffer is blasting off sax solo after sax solo. Vocal melodies dominate 7 1/2 minutes in as it gets very Zeuhl-like. "Zita" is a slow moving track with vocal melodies, strings, keys and clarinet all taking part. Well done. "Bakus" opens sounding like a GENTLE GIANT song until the vocal melodies arrive. Uptempo with some more crazy drumming. Sax and percussion after 3 minutes.