Thursday, August 31, 2017

John McLaughlin with The One Truth Band - 1979 - Electric Dreams

John McLaughlin with The One Truth Band
Electric Dreams 

01. Guardian Angels (0:52)
02. Miles Davis (4:54)
03. Electric Dreams, Electric Sighs (6:27)
04. Desire And The Comforter (7:35)
05. Love And Understanding (6:39)
06. Singing Earth (0:38)
07. The Dark Prince (5:17)
08. The Unknown Dissident (6:18)

- John McLaughlin / Electric guitar, 6 + 12 + 13 string acoustic guitars and banjo
- L. Shankar / Acoustic and electric violin
- Stu Goldberg / Electric piano, Moog synthesizer with Steiner Parker modifications, Prophet synthesizer, Hammond organ
- Fernando Sanders - Fender bass, acoustic bass, vocals on "Love And Understanding"
- Tony Smith / Drums and vocals
- Alyrio Lima / Percussion, amplified Chinese cymbals
- David Sanborn / Alto saxophone on "The Unknown Dissident"

Recorded at Soundmixers Studio, New York City, November & December 1978.

The last three minutes of "Desire and the Comforter" from Electric Dreams say it all about John McLaughlin. He just tears apart his electric guitar with cascades of funk, blues, rock, jazz, and Far-Eastern scales. Every strike of a string has individual meaning. His guitar soars above the chord changes and captures the spirit of the music. He leaves space (or texture) where it should be left. Like no other guitarist on earth, John McLaughlin knows when not to play, despite claims from those who say he plays too many notes. And even though there are a million notes a minute on this tune, the spaces in between the notes create the epiphany. 

McLaughlin recorded Electric Dreams with the One Truth Band, which also included L. Shankar on violin, Tony Smith on drums, Stu Goldberg on keyboards, Fernando Saunders on bass, and Alyrio Lima handling various percussion duties. The OTB was a much more rhythmic unit than JM's previous bands, and although its members may not have been the "master" musicians like those who comprised The Mahavishnu Orchestra, they certainly knew how to "funk a groove". Electric Dreams is full of such grooves and infectious tunes. Sure, we could have lived without the God-awful "Love and Understanding". But Electric Dreams offers the beautiful "Electric Dreams, Electric Sighs", featuring JM on banjo! The classic “Dark Prince” is a brooding, straight-ahead jazz-fusion homage to Miles that overshadows the album’s other Miles tribute piece, “Miles Davis."

On this recording, McLaughlin used a guitar that had a scalloped fret board. The concave spaces allowed McLaughlin to stretch notes beyond believability. A main component of the band's sound, Shankar's far-eastern violin, does seem ill placed at times, and Goldberg's synth patches are outdated in some areas as well. But, these issues actually endow the album with a bit of charm. The veterans Smith and Saunders make for a very steady rhythm section. Lima is more effective in concert than on this recording. Saxophonist David Sanborn, a guest star on several McLaughlin albums, makes a more than welcome guest appearance on the haunting “Unknown Dissident”. 

The mix wasn't always successful. But on the whole, Electric Dreams offers some of the best composing and playing of McLaughlin's career and has been unfairly overlooked.

Johnny McLaughlin - 1978 - Electric Guitarist

Johnny McLaughlin 
Electric Guitarist

01. New York nn My Mind (5:45)
02. Friendship (7:00)
03. Every Tear from Every Eye (6:50)
04. Do You Hear the Voices that You Left Behind ? (7:39)
05. Are You the One ? Are You the One ? (4:41)
06. Phenomenon: Compulsion (3:21)
07. My Foolish Heart (3:22)

- John McLaughlin / electric guitar
- Jack Bruce / bass on track 5
- Billy Cobham / drums on tracks 1 & 6
- Stanley Clark / acoustic bass on track 4
- Chick Corea / piano and mini-moog on track 4
- Tom Coster / organ on track 2
- Jack DeJohnette / drums on track 4
- Stu Goldberg / electric piano, organ and mini-moog synthesizer on track 1
- Jerry Goodman / violin on track 1
- Neil Jason / bass on track 2
- Alphonso Johnson / Taurus Bass Pedals and Bass on track 3
- Alyrio Lima / percussion on track 2
- Armando Peraza / congas on track 2
- Patrice Rushen / piano on track 3
- David Sanborn / alto saxophone on track 3
- Carlos Santana / electric guitar on track 2
- Fernando Saunders / bass on track 1
- Tony Smith / drums on track 3
- Michael Walden / drums on track 2
- Tony Williams / drums on track 5

Releases information
Recorded at Sound Mixer Studios (tracks: in New York and Devonshire Studios (tracks: 2.4.5.) in N. Hollywood, CA.
Recording dates: January 16 (2.), January 18 (5.), January 20 (4.), January 26 (1.), January 28 (3.), January 30 (6.), February 2 (7.), 1978.

If you listen to McLaughlin's version of "My Foolish Heart" from 1978's Johnny McLaughlin - Electric Guitarist, it's hard to logically explain how the same guitarist had also produced the sounds found on so many of his earlier records. It's hard to reconcile this tune with his approach on his debut Extrapolation, Miles' Tribute to Jack Johnson, Larry Coryell's Spaces, and various recordings by the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Shakti. None of those earlier performances would have prepared you for McLaughlin's beautiful treatment of Victor Young and Nat Washington's jazz standard. His warm and serene arrangement sounds like the antithesis of what McLaughlin was known for.

Electric Guitarist was meant to be a comeback record for McLaughlin. Columbia Records was none too pleased that McLaughlin had produced three straight records with his Indian acoustic world music group Shakti. These records would eventually reach legendary status, but at the time they sold embarrassingly poorly. There was hope at Columbia that Electric Guitarist would bring John McLaughlin back to the top of the record sales heap. In the end, although it sold well, it did not sell as many records as Columbia had hoped.

Electric Guitarist features many of McLaughlin's contemporaries, including Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Jack DeJohnette, Billy Cobham, Narada Michael Walden, Carlos Santana, Jerry Goodman, and David Sanborn. There is not one weak cut on the entire album. Electric Guitarist also marks the first recorded use of McLaughlin's scalloped fretboard electric guitar, an idea from his Shakti experience that gave him a brand new sound. McLaughlin was able to bend notes and even chords beyond limits. This technique opened up a whole new vocabulary for his compositions.

Key cuts to play really loud include a duet with Billy Cobham, "Phenomenon-Compulsion," and "Are You the One? Are You the One?," featuring Tony Williams and Jack Bruce. This tune harkens back to the great Tony Williams Lifetime that featured McLaughlin, Bruce and the late Larry Young on organ. Even though, for obvious reasons, Young couldn't make this gig, he would have loved this tune. "Do You Hear The Voices You Left Behind," based upon the changes of Coltrane's "Giant Steps," is an unrelenting jazz force that McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Jack DeJohnette play for all they are worth.

Many all-star recordings do not live up to their promise. This album is not one of them. Johnny McLaughlin- Electric Guitarist was the last important recording of the initial jazz-fusion movement.

This is the first or second solo album after McLaughlin's adventures in Mahavishnu Orchestra and the world music Shakti duo. In some seven years, the sizzling jazz-rock of the early 70's had been metamorphosed into the slick fusion that will over-crowd the market by the end of the decade. So you should expect nothing like John's brilliant early solo career (pre-MO), but rather a much cooler and less enthralling music, filled with a star-studded guest list. Yes, appearing on this album is almost the whole planet of late 70's fusion, plus a slightly surprising Jack Bruce apparition even if John was a regular on Bruce's early 70s solo albums and their Tony Williams tenure. I guess that after three acoustic Shakti records, McL fet the need to remind us that he was first and foremost an electric one, but I find his choice of artwork very disputable since the end of MO, and here we are hovering the zero.

NY On My Mind sounds like early MO going absurdly soft in the middle section, ruining the overall track, while Friendship is in the Santana realm (little wonder looking at the players), but it's plagued by cheesy heard-elsewhere front riff. The tear-jerking Every Tear is yet another McL riff that is now all too well-known and this umpteenth recycling of the formula is not only stale, but even slightly irritating, especially considering ther goalless soft jazz jamming coming in the middle section. The amazing quartet on Do You Hear The Voices give in a good performance, but too much showmanship from Stanley, Jack and Chick is losing points. TWL MkIII in the following Are You The One??? While again quite impressive in showmanship (you never have to ask twice JB to show off ;o)), but again the track falls a little flat overall. Phenomenon could sound like a work in progress of MO track that was never released, with McL nearing metal guitar riffs and Cobham roffling away o,n his drums, shooting everyone in sight >> some Math prog or Brutal prog groups probably found their inspiration here. The last guitar ditty closes this unfocused album, a bit as if McL wanted to remind us of all he had done so far.

The music developed is along the all-too over-stretched spectrum lines of later-RTF, the contemporary-Weather Report (yuuuckkk!! Bad albums from these guys during the late 70's), the then-present-day Santana and JL Ponty and the dozens of other acts flooding the style. Whether this type of album is really susceptible to please the proghead is rather doubtful. Yes, most of the tracks are impeccably played, but their respective interests are rather uneven. But nevermind me, as I find that McLaughlin's career will be of a lesser interest from the early 80's onwards, but the last two albums he made in the 70'S (this one and Electric Dreams) still hold some delightful moments. But these moments are not numerous enough and too many different sessions are used to make this song assemblage, rather than a focused album, making this album not that worthy of acquisition.. Certainly not an album that should be used as an introduction to understand McLaughlin.

Carlos Santana & Mahavishnu John McLaughlin - 1973 - Love Devotion Surrender

Carlos Santana & Mahavishnu John McLaughlin
Love Devotion Surrender

01. A Love Supreme 7:48
02. Naima 3:09
03. The Life Divine 9:30
04. Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord 15:45
05. Meditation 2:45

Bass – Doug Rauch
Congas – Armando Peraza
Drums – Billy Cobham, Don Alias, Jan Hammer
Guitar, Piano – Mahavishnu John McLaughlin
Guitar – Carlos Santana
Organ – Khalid Yasin (Larry Young)
Percussion – James (Mingo) Lewis

Liner Notes – Sri Chinmoy

Quick! Name an album on which John McLaughlin plays piano and Jan Hammer plays drums. Give up? The answer: the much loved but often maligned 1973 collaboration between Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin, Love, Devotion and Surrender. (At this time John was still MAHAVISHNU and Carlos was not quite yet DEVADIP.) Now if anyone out there in musicland can determine on which cuts John McLaughlin played the piano and Hammer played the drums - you win a prize! 

In 1973, Carlos Santana had become mesmerized by the music of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. His interest became so strong that he literally followed the band on tour across America. He and McLaughlin became friendly. One night John McLaughlin had a dream that the two should record an album together. He took that dream to Clive Davis, the head of Columbia Records, and Love, Devotion and Surrender was born.

LDS delivers some of the hottest playing you are ever going to hear. John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana play their respective butts off, especially on the inspirational "Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord". The rapid-fire machine gun bursts and call and responses make for an electric guitar Nirvana. Other musicians assembled for the recording included Santana compatriots Armando Peraza, Don Alias, Doug Rauch and Mike Shrieve. John McLaughlin brought along Jan Hammer, Billy Cobham and the legendary organist Larry Young. Imagine a Latin Mahavishnu Orchestra! 

At the time of this recording’s release, the patience and reverence afforded gurus was waning. This could help explain the relatively poor sales of Love, Devotion and Surrender relative to expectations. After all a smiling Sri Chinmoy, in all of his splendid grandeur, was pictured on the album cover. It may also help explain the many negative reviews. In hindsight, you will probably find that most of these reviews came from Santana fans that just couldn’t figure out what was going on with their hero. 

Despite all outward appearances, the fact of the matter was that this album pointed much more in the direction of John Coltrane than it did any guru or religious movement. Santana is, like McLaughlin, a devoted Coltrane admirer. McLaughlin and Santana even make the effort of trying to pull off “A Love Supreme,” and it works very well. (Even the vocals are effective). An acoustic treatment of “Naima” does the master proud, too. The other players are strong on all tunes. Cobham, in particular, is a powerhouse. 

In recent years, Love, Devotion and Surrender has begun receiving the praise it so richly deserves. (Bill Laswell has even released a well-received remix.) LDS remains a milestone in the history of fusion music. We can only hope that McLaughlin and Santana will find an opportunity to record together again soon, something both men have hinted at.

McLaughlin, Holland, Surman, Martin, Berger - 1971 - Where Fortune Smiles

McLaughlin, Holland, Surman, Martin, Berger 
Where Fortune Smiles 

01. Glancing Backwards 8:54
02. Earth Bound Hearts 4:15
03. Where Fortune Smiles 4:01
04. New Place, Old Place 10:24
05. Hope 7:19

John McLaughlin - guitar
John Surman - soprano & baritone saxes (all except 3.)
Karl Berger - piano (all except 2.)
Dave Holland - bass (all except 2.3.)
Stu Martin - drums (all except 2.3.)

Recorded at Apostolic Studios, New York City, late May 1970.

Though it is often regarded as an album recorded under the leadership of guitarist John McLaughlin, Where Fortune Smiles is more truthfully an equal collaboration between McLaughlin and saxophonist John Surman. Recorded in 1970 and released the following year, this is an ambitious free-jazz release that hardly resembles the style of fusion that McLaughlin is most renowned for. With its loose structure and dissonant melodies, Where Fortune Smiles may not be an album for everybody, but it's still an interesting purchase for curious jazz collectors.
As I've previously mentioned, Where Fortune Smiles should not be looked at as a John McLaughlin solo observation, and maybe even viewing it as a collaboration between McLaughlin and Surman is a bit unfair. Although all of the tracks are credited to the aforementioned musicians, the compositions are so loose in their structure that the direction of the music largely depends on where the soloist decides to take the piece and how bassist Dave Holland and drummer Stu Martin decide to hold the song together. It's a challenging listen for sure, especially if you're not well-versed in free jazz, but each track still has a distinct melody to latch onto. The solos are consistently enjoyable, with Karl Berger's frantic vibraphone work stealing the show for me. The man's playing is simply outstanding, and the other musicians deliver great performances as well.

Some of the tracks here - namely, "Glancing Backwards", "New Place, Old Place", and "Hope" - are totally off the wall jam sessions, but there are some more mellow tracks to break up the madness with "Earth Bound Hearts" and "Where Fortune Smiles". The former features some nice soloing from John Surman, and the latter has some great melodic playing from both John McLaughlin and Karl Berger. While I wouldn't call either of them particularly standout tracks, they serve as effective breaks from the dense and highly improvisational nature of the other tunes.

On the whole, it's a bit tough to recommend Where Fortune Smiles since it is such an improvisational and difficult listen, but I don't think avant-jazz aficionados would regret picking this one up at all. While I personally demand a bit more structure from my jazz music, I still found plenty to enjoy here. Where Fortune Smiles is a cool little album from a quintet that I wish recorded more material, and while it may not be essential, it's a nice bridge between free jazz, post-bop, and fusion.

Free jazz is what this release is all about. For listeners who don't normally immerse themselves in this sort of thing, it's a record that can be enjoyed only about once a year. But it remains a must-listen. Whoa! that a quote which will later turn into "One Word" from Birds Of Fire ? Listen to McLaughlin's far-out guitar. Listen to Holland's resonating bass. Listen to Surman as he reveals things to come. Listen for a historical perspective on music which McLaughlin would later deliver.

Mahavishnu John McLaughlin - 1971 - My Goal's Beyond

Mahavishnu John McLaughlin 
My Goal's Beyond

01. Peace 1 7:15
02. Peace 2 12:18
03. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat 3:15
04. Something Spiritual 3:35
05. Hearts & Flowers 2:05
06. Phillip Lane 3:35
07. Song Of The Wind 2:00
08. Follow Your Heart 3:17
09. Song For My Mother 3:30
10. Blue In Green 2:37

John McLaughlin - acoustic guitar
Jerry Goodman - violin
Dave Liebman - tenor & soprano sax, flute
Charlie Haden - bass
Billy Cobham - drums
Airto Moreira - percussion
Badal Roy - tablas
Eve McLaughlin (alias Mahalakshmi) - tambura

Recorded in New York City, March 1971.
Produced by John McLaughlin.

Technically, the acoustic guitar playing on 1970's My Goals Beyond does not approach the skill exhibited on most of John McLaughlin's recordings. Flubbed notes pop up here and there, and although this album is famous for McLaughlin's "solo" renderings of such classic tunes as Mingus' "Good-Bye Pork-Pie Hat," Bill Evans and Miles Davis' "Blue in Green" and his own wonderful composition "Follow Your Heart," Mclaughlin actually pre-recorded the chords and soloed over them.

However, no small amount of flubbing or overdubbing can take away from the fact that this album is a true masterpiece. MGB set standards for acoustic guitar playing which remain today. McLaughlin's soloing and chord playing was a revelation even to those familiar with his electric guitar style. He snapped the steel strings with the confidence of a warrior. His playing was amazingly fast, yet still melodic, and his tune selection was unusually eclectic. He was coming from an entirely new place. 

The most impressive performance is the ensemble rendering of McLaughlin's "Peace One." Charlie Haden opens the composition with an infectious bass groove, and the tune features crisp, snapping acoustic guitar and Far Eastern tonal colors. Dave Liebman is especially up front on sax. Other members of the band included future Mahavishnu Orchestra band mates Billy Cobham and Jerry Goodman. Airto and Badal Roy also come along for the joyful ride. Violinist Goodman, in particular, makes some very strong statements. 

So popular has this record become over the years that several labels have purchased it from catalog and re-released it. You can't kill this thing with a stick. In addition to the original Douglas 9 production, MGB has also appeared on the Warner-Electra, Ryko and The Knitting Factory labels (the latter being its latest reissue, from 2000). 

MGB is considered to be a milestone in the career of John McLaughlin and the history of acoustic jazz guitar. To this day, there are many who claim it is still the greatest of all McLaughlin records. I recommend listening to this record once a month for the rest of your life. 

We shouldn't forget that it took guts to record an acoustic guitar album during the times of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. So although over the years the album has sold well through reputation, it totally bombed when it was released.

This would McLaughlin's last solo album before the release of Electric Guitarist in 78, as Mc will have two group projects, first the Mahavishnu Orchestra, then Shakti. And this album actually has some ramifications in both projects: MGIB is the album where McLaughlin meets violinist Jerry Goodman and drummer Billy Cobham (both members of MO) and most of the second side shows the tastes McL has for Indian music, something he will delve in with Shakti.
MGIB comes with a stellar cast of supporting musicians, but weirdly enough, he doesn't need them for the whole of the first side, as it is strictly acoustic and a solo performance (some Gong banging on two tracks). A series of 8 guitar pieces, half of which are covers of jazz giants such as Mingus, Corea and Miles interspaced with three original tracks, fill up the first half of the album and no matter how well executed, they are pretty well sleep-inducing, aside in the superb Song For My Mother (and profits for his guru ;-) and the excellent Phillip Lane, both being McLaughlin compositions, filled with fiery guitar lines; the third Follow Your Heart completing the podium.

The flipside is rather different (if you forget the Miles cover), with two lengthy tracks totalling almost 20 minutes, both of them delving into Indian classical music and driven by solid raga beats. The first piece of Peace (I know, toooo easy ;-)) is a killer track slowly evolving from an acoustic fusion jazz, where only Malahakshmi's sitar give an Indian sound at first, but the track slowly morphs into a raga (tabla drums slowly appears), with Liebman's flute adding a magic touch, soon relayed by Goodman's violin. By mid-track, the song had veered into a full-blown raga, but the musicians manage to return to the original acoustic jazz-fusion. The second instalment is almost as equally impressive, Liebman's saxello, Goodman's violins taking the forefront. In both tracks, McL could've added some fiery guitar lines, but chose to remain discreet.

As usual with McL's solo albums, MGIB is a bit of a pot-pourri, but certainly less so here than in later 70's solo ventures. Soon McL would take Cobham and Goodman with him and found one of jazz-rock's most stupendous JR/F groups Mahavishnu Orchestra over the next five years with two different line- ups. While I wouldn't call this album even close to essential, compared to MO's oeuvre, MGIB does merit its fourth star, principally on the strength of McL's compositions, crushing the covers, no matter from whom they are.

John McLaughlin - 1970 - Devotion

John McLaughlin 

01. Devotion 11:26
02. Dragon Song 4:13
03. Marbles 4:05
04. Siren 5:55
05. Don't Let The Dragon Eat Your Mother, Brother 5:18
06. Purpose Of When 4:45

John McLaughlin - guitar
Larry Young - organ & electric piano
Billy Rich - bass
Buddy Miles - drums & perc

Recorded at Record Plant Studios, New York City, February 1970.

Originally released in 1970 but re-released regularly since, Devotion is a hard driving, spaced-out, distorted hard-jazz-rock album featuring organist Larry Young, drummer Buddy Miles, and the little known bassist Billy Rich. This album was recorded close to the period when McLaughlin had been jamming with Jimi Hendrix, Young, Miles and Dave Holland. Terrible bootlegs exist of some of their jams, but bad sound quality and McLaughlin's guitar on the fritz make the bootlegs a ripoff.

Devotion was also sort of a ripoff. To this day, McLaughlin is angry about the way former Hendrix producer Alan Douglas mixed this record. Apparently, Douglas spliced bits of music together here and there that were not supposed to be connected. Despite this obvious problem, and the fact Douglas paid McLaughlin only $2,000 to record both Devotion and My Goal’s Beyond , this album is chock full of wonderfully ominous riffs and sounds. Devotion is an overlooked landmark album. 

“Marbles" opens up the album and is truly an early fusion masterpiece. (Some CD reissues of Devotion have changed the order of the tunes...don't ask why). The catchy hook is infectious. Years later, McLaughlin would employ the same riff often while with Shakti. You should also check out Santana’s cover version on his hard to find album with Buddy Miles, Live. 

McLaughlin focuses more on tension and dynamics than on speed, and Larry Young plays mysterious and otherworldly chords. Miles keeps a constant thud-thud-thud churning throughout and Billy Rich effectively doubles McLaughlin’s themes. No slow ballads. No pretty melodies. This is just pure unadulterated jazz-grunge. Those familiar with the Mahavishnu Orchestra will enjoy picking out the passages that would later become signature tunes. Devotion is awfully messy at times, but you won’t mind cleaning up afterwards.

Do you ever get the feeling some albums are simply a free for all for shady and less shady labels? I have seen this album released in at least a dozen different versions on some of the most dubious label with different artwork, none fitting the original one. And of course as you'd figure when such is the case, the Charly label is involved, and it is the version I have, graced with a picture of John in the mid-80's. This is really a bit sad because this album is a real scorcher, one of the rockier releases of McLaughlin's lengthy career.
And believe me, when I say scorcher (but not flawless), this is a real one keeping in mind that we are in the jazz-rock mould, but sometimes it sounds like jazz-metal. John has assembled a stellar cast around him including Buddy Miles (Santana, Hendrix etc.), Larry Young (the great organist in Tony Williams' Lifetime, whom he hooked up with after his two album stint with them) and lesser-known Billy Rich. Jerry Goodman (ex-The Flock and future-MO) is also helping out after the previous My Goal's Beyond. But these guys rock your brains out even if there are some lengths. This album comes also after the two albums he'd done with Miles Davis (Bitches Brew and Tribute To JJ). However at the speed these guys were recording albums (three solo for McLaughlin this year, plus his other projects), there are some misses and the messy (shoddily recorded) Siren is just one example. A torrid piece, but wasted by inappropriate recording.

Tracks like the 11-min+ title track are awesome in its power and tension and not a second is wasted. Clearly on all tracks, virtuosity is the key word, but no one commits the blunder of indulgence either and the whole group maintains a much-needed tightness when this type of music is recorded. If Dragon Song is yet another hard-driving guitar track, the following Marbles is a more reflective one where Young's organs plat first role with McLaughlin's lightning fast guitars having trouble to surface, but the interplay between the two is awesome. The rest of the tracks are still of the same calibre of the first few on the first side of the vinyl.

I have heard some purists dismiss this album as a collection of jams (some of the song's abrupt ends and sudden shifts give this theory some credibility), and if such was the case, these guys were among the bests ever. McLaughlin's next step was to form the superb and famed Mahavishnu Orchestra, which would keep him occupied for a while. But while this album is miles away from MO, it is no less essential for McLaughlin fans.

John McLaughlin - 1969 - Extrapolation

John McLaughlin 

01. Extrapolation - (3:52)
02. It's Funny - (4:23)
03. Argen's Bag - (4:10)
04. Pete the Poet - (4:48)
05. This Is for Us to Share - (3:33)
06. Spectrum - (2:45)
07. Binky's Beam - (7:05)
08. Really You Know - (4:25)
09. Two for Two - (3:43)
10. Peace Piece - (1:50)

- John McLaughlin / electric & acoustic guitars
- John Surman / baritone & soprano saxes
- Brian Odges / bass
- Tony Oxley / drums

Recorded at Advision Studios, London, January 16, 1969.
Produced by Giorgio Gomelsky.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN is one of the most important jazz rock fusion musicians who goes back to the very beginning of the genre in the early 60's in England, was instrumental through Lifetime, Miles Davis's seminal works and the Mahavishnu Orchestra in progressing the genre. With his latest album "Industrial Zen", JOHN MCLAUGHLIN demonstrates he has still much to say and do in jazz rock innovation. 

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN was born 4th January 4 1942 in Yorkshire, UK. His mother was a violinist although JOHN starting learning piano from the age of 9 but within two years took up the guitar. At the end of the 50's he was playing with Pete Douchar & His Professors of Ragtime. He then moved to London. He first came the British public's attention in the mid 60's as a member of Georgie Fame's Blues Flames, in what BBC Four Jazz Britannia series, rather anachronistically called 'Britain's formative jazz rock years'. However, during this time JOHN MCLAUGHLIN was paying his dues and became a sought after session guitarist for pop recordings, while playing blues and jazz for pleasure for instance recordings with blues harpist Duffy Powers and working with Alexis Korner. He joined the Graham Bond Organisation (with Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker), had a brief spell with Brian Auger's Trinity. 

British jazz by the mid to late 60's had begun to develop its own independent voice (rather than doing largely inferior USA jazz impressions). JOHN MCLAUGHLIN was first recognised to be a new innovative guitarist whilst working as part of Danny Thompson's Trio, (their album "Trio Live 1967", was not to be issued for several decades, however), for instance merging bebop and Wes Montgomery's guitar style. However, Montgomery was not the only influence; MCLAUGHLIN recently said: "I grew up in the 60's listening to the music of Coltrane and Miles. But even then the music played with Georgie Fame was good R'n'B. The Graham Bond Organisation with Baker and Bruce was a powerful band pushing boundaries. When I went to the USA to join Tony in Lifetime it was crazy. We pushed at boundaries even more, didn't we?"

In 1968, jazz in the UK took a major turn of direction moving from experimental, often free and/or atonal jazz, to take on board the energy and the electricity of rock - while many young jazz musicians were finding work doing sessions for rock musicians, in a flurry of cross-fertilisation. In 1969 MCLAUGHLIN recorded the ground-breaking "Extrapolation" (with his group of Tony Oxley, Brian Odges and John Surman formed the year before) and Jack Bruce's "Things We Like", (although not released for some time after). "Extrapolation" in particular, showed what the world was to become familiar with in the 70's: power, speed and precision while playing unusual time signatures.

In the same year, at the recommendation of bassist Dave Holland, Miles Davis's drummer Tony Williams rang from the USA asking MCLAUGHLIN to cross the Atlantic to join him and organist Larry Young, in what was to become a pioneering jazz rock group Lifetime. The double "Emergency" resulted, although it wasn't until Jack Bruce joined on bass, and the album "Turn It Over" appeared, that the band started to reach beyond a handful of fans. During May 1970 MCLAUGHLIN was joined in NewYork, by John Surman (saxes), Karl Berger (piano), Dave Holland (bass) and Stu Martin (drums) to record "Where Fortune Smiles", an album which musically owed more to British straight jazz of the time, 
"Emergency " had some influence on Miles Davis encouraging him to go electric and seek a wider audience. MCLAUGHLIN as invited to play on Davis's seminal, jazz rock/funk albums "In A Silent Way", "Bitches Brew"," Big Fun" and "A Tribute to Jack Johnson". Then MCLAUGHLIN got a late call to join Davis for (what became very much later), the multi-CD set "Cellar Door Sessions". However, as is well known Davis's producer Teo Macero edited the recordings down to the double set "Live Evil" released in the 70's. With Davis's recognition of MCLAUGHLIN with many guest live and recording appearances, and indeed naming tunes after him, JOHN MCLAUGHLIN's reputation rapidly grew as the essential guitarist to have on board recording sessions: during the early 70's recordings were with. Larry Coryell, Carla Bley (her 3 LP set "Escalator Over The Hill") and many others. 

Like many fellow guitarists, Jimi Hendrix's appearance on the scene had had a major effect on MCLAUGHLIN. In 1970 Mitch Michell, (who had been in Georgie Fame's band with JOHN, and also a serious Lifetime fan), invited MCLAUGHLIN to a New York recording session to meet Hendrix: unsurprisingly jamming resulted. Like of lot of Hendrix jams this impromptu session was recorded and eventually appeared in a semi-bootleg form. MCLAUGHLIN's "Devotion "reflects both Hendrix's influence and some late period psychedelia applied to the electric jazz, playing with Larry Young (from Lifetime) and Buddy Miles (ex. Hendrix's Band Of Gypsies). The eastern influence can be heard on a largely acoustic album "My Goal's Beyond", when MCLAUGHLIN first played with Billy Cobham, recorded in 1971.

Arguably the most popular of the second wave jazz rock bands, with respect to albums sales and concert audiences was the Mahavishnu Orchestra, which came into being late 1970. This featured violinist Jerry Goodman (MCLAUGHLIN's first choice Jean-Luc Ponty was to appear in the second line-up), keyboardist Jan Hammer (subsequently Gayle Moran, then Stu Goldberg), bassist Rick Laird (followed by Ralphe Armstrong), and drummer Billy Cobham (then later Narada Michael Walden). The band was respected by both the rock and jazz audiences for their technical virtuosity and complex fusion of jazz, eastern music and jazz rock, usually played at high speed involving both soloing from one of the three lead instruments, and more often complex interplay of the three as a trio. In such a caldron of experimentation, where individual brilliant talents produced a group synergism that exceeded the parts, then it was perhaps it is inevitable that eventual discord lead to a parting of the way of the original line-up, this after three very successful albums. "The Lost Trident Sessions" was to appear many years after, while it is known Columbia Records archives houses many unreleased live recording - the live 1971 Cleveland recording has been mastered for some time with the intention of release.

With the folding of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra, MCLAUGHLIN headed in quite a different and less frenetic direction with Shakti, one of the first popular Indo - jazz fusion bands (although John Mayer/John Harriott had released a couple of albums in the genre in the mid 60's). MCLAUGHLIN was a follower of the guru Sri Chinmoy, as was Carlos Santana, leading to an album in 1973 "Love Devotion Surrender"; (tracks were later remixed by Bill Laswell on the album "Divine Light"). JOHN MCLAUGHLIN's interest and use of other world musics has been broad. In the early 80's and again in the 90's McLaughlin worked with flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía and Al Di Meola (Larry Coryell in some outings) as the Guitar Trio, playing what got to be known as "flamenco" or "Latin jazz fusion". In recent times he has toured with Remember Shakti, which may be suggested to be more Indian classical music and less jazz. In part because of his partnership with classical pianist Katie Labecque, JOHN MCLAUGHLIN has written and performed a guitar concerto ("Mediterranean Concerto") and most recently in 2003 wrote and recorded the ballet score, "Thieves and Poets".

However, throughout the period between the split of the original line-up of Mahavishnu Orchestra and now, JOHN MCLAUGHLIN has worked on numerous jazz and jazz fusion projects as indicated by the discography below (for instance, we are promised a belated release of the Trio Of Doom's - MCLAUGHLIN, Pastorius, Williams - late 70's recordings in the next year). There have been a number of great line-ups that have not recorded the recording studios, e.g. in 1978/9 my personal dream-line-up of the time, Cobham Bruce MCLAUGHLIN and Goldberg, 1986 MCLAUGHLIN and Jonas Hellborg as a duo. A sample of the range of musicians MCLAUGHLIN plays with and the variety of musics he plays can be heard on the monster CD set "The Montreaux Concerts" (2003). He is a great believer in jazz rock fusion as a continuing innovative force of jazz, as illustrated by his latest recording "Industrial Zen". He attracts the very best musicians to record with him (e.g. Michael Brecker, Jonas Hellborg, Jeff Beck, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke) while always seeking new talent. A number of tributes have appeared covering the music of the bands MCLAUGHLIN has lead or been part of, reflecting th strength of the music: e.g. Mahvishnu Project, The Trio Beyond. JOHN MCLAUGHLIN is one of the most important guitarists of both the 20th and now the 21st Century, greatly regarded by all as a very versatile, influential and innovative musician.

If you were looking for one John McLaughlin record you might play for a curious friend, this would be the one. Extrapolation was McLaughlin's first album release as a leader, and it sounds as fresh today as it did way back in 1969. From the opening strains of "Extrapolation" to the closing softness of "Peace Piece," this album presents a fine modern European jazz quartet in full charge of the sounds of their time.

Extrapolation features the under-appreciated John Surman on sax, Tony Oxley on drums and Brian Odges on bass. (Odges had just replaced Dave Holland, who was on his way to meet Miles in New York).

This quartet blazes through McLaughlin's JAZZ-blues-rock compositions and forms a hodge-podge of restless rhythms and irresistible hooks. Yet, despite its freeness (not meant in a strict jazz sense), Extrapolation is also quite cogent and thematic, as most tunes effortlessly run into each other. As always with McLaughlin, all of the players are allowed to excel and this makes for a very pleasing mix. Odges is surprisingly active and some even believe Surman steals the show. Oxley was a young star who never seemed to catch on in the States, but he remains a well-respected drummer in Europe.

Extrapolation also offers glimpses into the future. It presents the melody that would eventually become "Follow Your Heart." We discover "Arjen's Bag" (named after Dutch bassist Arjen Gorter) and "Pete the Poet." And don't forget about Binky. There is a bit of a beatnik sensibility to this album.

It would take the world 20 years to discover how truly timeless this album was. Extrapolation is definitely a jazz record. The great traditional jazz guitarist Joe Pass didn't have much interest in Mahavishnu John McLaughlin or fusion music. But someone played him this record once, and he commented that at least this guitarist (McLaughlin) knew how to play jazz. You think?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Shoji Aketagawa - 1975 - Aketa’s Erotical Piano Solo & Grotesque Piano Trio

Shoji Aketagawa 
Aketa’s Erotical Piano Solo & Grotesque Piano Trio

01. カソフア _ このしみこそをこのぜしこみしのて _ フソー _ ラドソン _ ノモゥ
02. テーア・フォー・トモナ
03. ワルッ・フォー・フー

Shoji Aketagawa solo piano recorded on 30 March 1975

Shoji Aketagawa - piano
Miyazaka Takashi – drums
Yamazaki Kouichi – bass

Recorded live on 31 March 1975, live at Aketa No Mise

Hideously rare Japanese free jazz private press monster LP. First release on the Aketa label. This one looks and feels like all those obscure private presses you became to love, white jacket with paste on paper on front and Xeroxed two page insert. Released in an edition of about 250 copies or so. Balancing between free improvisation, minimal trance-inducing composition interludes with Aketa humming and scraping is throat while all this is taking place. The second side of the album sees Aketagawa teaming up with drummer Miyazaka Takashi and bassist Yamazaki Kouichi. As a trio the force of Aketagawa is even more unrelenting, venomously spiked up and delivering a high-tension clash of free spirits.

Sabu Toyozumi - Mototeru Takagi - 1971 - If Ocean Is Broken

Sabu Toyozumi - Mototeru Takagi 
If Ocean Is Broken

01. Song For Yoo-Ki Lee
02. If Ocean Is Broken
03. The Alilan Pass
04. Nostalgia For Che-ju Island

Sabu Toyozumi – drums, percussion
Mototeru Takagi – tenor sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet

Limited edition of 200 copies, somewhat modified design, pressed on blue and red vinyl (very rare). Recorded live in April 1971 at Yasuda Seimei Hall, Tokyo, Japan.
In the front cover is photo of Kubira (Shotora) a Kamakura period sculpture, on the back cover is an image polychromed wood statue of En no Gyoja, also from the Kamakura Period (1185-1333).

Recorded live in April 1971 at Yasuda Seimei Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Thanks to Sabu & Yoshi.
The cover photo is an image of a polychromed wood statue of En no Gyoja, from the Kamakura Period (1185-1333).

Unreleased free jazz from Japan in its prime, recorded live in Tokyo in 1971. Mototeru Takagi already released two beautiful duo LPs back then with master Japanese drummers like Masahiko Togashi (Isolation) and Toshi Tsuchitori (Origination), so this last DLP is complete in a sense the set of duo recorded with the best, 1st generation, free music drummers from Japan. On the other side it's complete also, the duo recorded by Sabu with the greatest reeds player from Japan (still of the 1st generation); being, his various duos with legendary Kaoru Abe, already documented on Qbico (Senzei) and elsewhere. About the music: raw and passionate = primitive beauty; both musicians are in top form and surely in their most creative period. Mr. Takagi plays tenor, soprano sax and bass clarinet, while Sabu is on drums and percussion. Original recordings were very well preserved (fortunately) and the pressing came out wonderful! Cover by qbico which Sabu can really dig, saying that En no Gyoja is deeply respected by him, he opened the way...

Ryo Fukui - 1977 - Mellow Dream

Ryo Fukui 
Mellow Dream

01. Mellow Dream 9:48
02. My Foolish Heart 6:54
03. Baron Potato Blues 7:02
04. What's New 5:55
05. Horizon 9:27
06. My Funny Valentine 3:16

Bass – Satoshi Denpoh
Drums – Yoshinori Fukui
Piano – Ryo Fukui

Recorded August 17 & 18, 1977 at Yamaha Hall/Sapporo

Ryo Fukui's second input which is a great addition to the modal jazz movement. Comparing this album to his first release, "Scenery" would be a bit unfair, because this is different and shows Fukui going towards a different direction. This is a much more energetic, and bombastic album which features an AMAZING, and almost dance-able song called "Horizon." It's a 9 minute trip which ultimately reminds me of racing to a finish line, which pretty much sums up the speed of the song, which compliments the composition perfectly. I feel like Ryo Fukui is definitely not a generic jazz musician either, because you can just feel his personality running through these songs, and if you haven't heard his first album, I highly recommend that you do so, because it shows him at his best, while this album almost reaches that peak. What drags this album down is that some parts seem to lose momentum and overall drag songs such as "Baron Potato Blues."

Ryo Fukui - 1976 - Scenery

Ryo Fukui 

01. It Could Happen To You
02. I Want To Talk About You
03. Early Summer
04. Willow Weep For Me
05. Autumn Leaves
06. Scenery

Bass – Satoshi Denpo
Drums – Yoshinori Fukui
Piano – Ryo Fukui

Originally released in 1976.
Recorded 9/7/1976 at Yamaha Hall, Sapporo.

By the mid 70s, America’s jazz craze was merely a dwindling memory.  Since its creative peak in the late 50s, Americans had witnessed the creation of rock, funk, and soul, which had overtaken jazz as the most popular forms of music. The genre had simply been pushed and pulled in too many directions, struggling to keep up with the times.

Even the finest musicians of the previous decade were struggling to stay relevant among the new generation, fusing jazz with popular music in order to continue their commercial success.

Miles Davis dove deeply into jazz-rock (Bitches Brew, Jack Johnson), Herbie Hancock experimented with synthesizers and futuristic funk (Head Hunters, Thrust) and Freddie Hubbard was caught up in the smooth jazz movement (any post-Windjammer album). Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders attempted to add Eastern musical scales and philosophies to the genre, resulting in a bizarre spiritual jazz movement. Even John Coltrane had advanced beyond bop before his death, opting instead to explore the atonal realms of free jazz alongside Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman.

The increasingly experimental nature of jazz in the 1970s was enthralling but ultimately lead to further disconnect from a mainstream audience, who looked for danceable styles of music. And artistically, the genre had its back against the wall.

Outside of America, however, jazz still had hope.

In Japan, the movement was still gaining traction, with hints of fusion barely beginning to appear. By 1976, however, one of the finest albums of the decade was released to little acclaim in America – Scenery. Ryo Fukui, a self-taught pianist released his own take on some of the most classic jazz standards, stunning Japanese audiences. Critics and fans alike were reminded of the modal masterpieces of McCoy Tyner and his distinctly powerful style.

Although Fukui was among the few Japanese jazz artists that has gained a following, he was far from the first in the country’s history. Japan’s brief obsession with jazz began to build slowly after the conclusion of World War II, as American culture was slowly accepted in the country. Government officials attempted to ban jazz in the 1940s, citing it as “music of the enemy”. But as American troops increased their presence in Japan, their music began to spread as well. They grew tired of the nations traditional music, wishing their danceable big-band and swing music was available instead. Thus, troops in occupied cities began hiring musicians, teaching them to play various jazz tunes.

Some American musicians toured the South Pacific (most famously swing clarinetist Artie Shaw) but there was only so much music to go around. Demand for jazz in Japan increased and naturally, the number of jazz musicians skyrocketed.

Following the war, Japanese musicians kept performing, ironically popularizing a genre established in a country which had just been one of Japan’s greatest enemies. Growing up in this new post-war musical climate, Fukui gained an interest in jazz, teaching himself how to play the piano at 22 (source). Six years later, he released his full-length debut, Scenery.

Scenery begins with “It Could Happen To You”, an original hard bop take on a piece made famous by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra (among many others) in the mid 40s. It builds slowly from a serene, calming introduction to a furious, upbeat tune which would make any pianist proud. Beautiful piano solos surround the chorus, which sound like they came straight out of a cool jazz Charlie Brown soundtrack from the decade before.

Next, Fukui tackles “I Want to Talk About You”, a standard originally performed by John Coltrane on his solo debut in 1958. It’s a tranquil work of modal jazz which is a perfect transition from the previous bop-based song. It’s equal parts aesthetically beautiful and technically proficient, providing a great tune for both jazz beginners and professionals.

The album reaches a crescendo by “Early Summer”, a heavier, more chord-driven piece reminiscent of the early Blue Note modal records of the early 60s. About halfway through the song, Fukui transitions effortlessly from his mellow melodies to a high-energy sweeping solo, which lasts about three minutes. Here’s where the Tyner influences are most apparent – unlike his other calming tracks on this album, Fukui has some slamming chord processions and furious solo work, which seems to span the entirety of the piano.

It’s chaotic – yet never feels forced, like many of the other avant-garde/funk pieces of the era. Remaining smooth as always, Fukui pushes the boundaries of the solo without ever losing the rhythm or overall structure of the song. After an equally impressive drum solo from Yoshinori Fukui, the song comes full circle to conclude with a similar riff present on the intro.

After two more beautiful modal pieces, the album concludes with “Scenery”, from which the album takes its name. Fukui creates some sharper, more precise piano work, as opposed to the previous two, which rely on more smooth, legato melodies. It’s a perfect blend of the two styles present on the album – meshing the upbeat, jovial nature of the first half with the more solemn, slow elements towards the end of the second half. As the album comes to a close, Fukui provides perfect, calming exit music, letting listeners know the album that their time together is almost up.

While members of the avant-garde, fusion and free jazz movements of the 1970s attempted to stand alone in their own unique fashions, it was ironically the traditional piece that has since separated itself as a masterpiece. Fukui stayed true to his form, electing to perform jazz standards in his own unique manner. While his music lacked the classical sophistication of Bill Evans or the wild personality of Miles Davis, it accurately and succinctly blends jazz influences from multiple eras. Meshing hard bop, modal and cool jazz influences, it maintains an atmosphere of majesty, serenity and peacefulness. Although Ryo Fukui didn’t break any new barriers, his original tweaks to classic standards set Scenery aside as one of the finest jazz records of the decade.

Masahiko Togashi & Isao Suzuki - 1978 - A Day In The Sun

Masahiko Togashi & Isao Suzuki 
A Day In The Sun

01. A Day Of The Sun 7:59
02. Birth Of Yellow Eggs 4:26
03. onely Blue 7:08
04. Creatures In The Deep Blue Sea 7:51
05. Silvery Flash 4:27
06. Awakening Of The Fresh Green 5:27

Bass, Bass [Piccolo], Cello, Piano, Instruments [Solina] – Isao Suzuki
Drums, Percussion, Synthesizer, Instruments [Solina] – Masahiko Togashi

Recorded : February 1-3,1979 at King Records Studio #2, Tokyo.

"A Day Of The Sun" is two Japanese jazz greats duo's album. Percussionist Masahiko Togashi (besides of pianist Masahiko Satoh) are key figure of Japanese free jazz,played with virtually everyone of important Japanese advanced jazz musician and recorded lot of albums,some of them (especially recorded in late 60s - early 70s)are part of Japanese jazz "golden fund". Acoustic bassist Isao Suzuki is even more legendary figure - in Japan he is usually titled "Godfather of Jazz".

Born in Tokyo in 1933,he started his jazz career in 1953 playing bass with Louis Armstrong when the later to Japan that year.I have read in Isao's interview that he was in Armstrong concert and next day found out that Armstrong band is searching for bassist. Isao asked his mother to buy him a bass (he never played the instrument before) and went to rehearsal. According to Isao, bandleader hired him and showed how to play bass - that's how he started.Later he played for two or three years in US Navy base band and than joined Jun Kiyomizu band - his first Japanese band ever.He played around Japan (mostly in local cabarets) till late 60s when "Ginpary"(or "Silver Paris" - psychedelic jam sessions on very early Japanese free jazz stage) fashion pushed mainstream jazz musicians aside.Isao still participated in some gigs and even was one-time member of quartet with Sadao Watanabe,Togashi and Kikuchi(that was one of "Ginpary" session where Isao met Masahiko Togashi for the first time).In 1969 he played with Art Blakey who invited him to America where Isao stayed for two years (mostly traveling around the country and Canada in old Caddilac with Art Blakey and playing gigs mostly in black clubs).Art Blakey's band of the time included George Cables,Woody Shaw and Ramon Morris.Isao played lot of jams with Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell,Elvin Jones,Duke Pearson and Lee Morgan among others. He spent a lot of time in Rudy Van Gelder recording studio as well where Rudy tough him many secrets of good recording sound.Isao even was a bassist in Ella Fitzgerald band, but when one day in airport on their way to Canada Art Blakey got basted on cocaine,Isao same day just took the flight back to Japan.On return he made a lot introducing his experience in development of jazz in Japan.His first albums for Three Blind Mices (cult audiophile label,kind Japanese ECM but with very physical,deep and warm sound)built recordings sound and mix quality standard for decades to come.In 1980 he released "Self-Portrait" - first ever one-man recording using multilayer techniques in Japanese jazz (Isao played 22 different instruments on this album).

Main Isao's personality importance is still that that he's one among few extremely respectable Japanese jazz artists having hard-bop background.Other his generation known jazzmen come mostly from big bands (formed under US bases orchestras influence),late 60s pushed ahead new noisy and angry generation which stepped right to radical avant-garde.

With all series of strong hard-bop albums,Isao stayed innovative for decades though. His second important influence was fusion,but he released albums containing Latin jazz or even modern electronic remixes. During his long career Isao played with percussionist Masahiko Tagashi quite regularly, on Masahiko's or his own albums. "A Day of The Sun" is duo's collaboration,significant for both artists. Similarly like fusion popularity fast decrease in mid-late 70s on Western jazz scenes left lot of jazz musicians on the thin ice (and sometimes without job),in Japan that time is a time when jazz lost its importance as major part of modern musical culture. One of popular trend where many previous avant-garde and fusion artists switched to became etno-influenced improvisational (often meditative) music. "A Day Of The Sun" (percussionist and bassist duo recording,both uses some synth and other instruments though) is one good example. Fortunately differently from many of similar releases music here doesn't become endless hypnotizing noodling and successfully avoids similarities with upcoming new age. Two musicians are both too big personalities and too great masters to fade to grey zone - even if there are very free form compositions presented,them all have lot of blood and bones (deep physical bass, multilayered and complex percussion,all the time changing rhythms and grooves); probably good comparison is some ECM early proto-ambient recordings, where sound still wasn't all that liquid and super-polished. 

Togashi will continue developing same formula on his later works,Suzuki will return to his more usual mainstream jazz, but "A Day Of The Sun" will stay as great evidence of two giant collaboration and excellent example of non-boring improvisational music.

Masahiko Togashi - 1976 - Guild For Human Music

Masahiko Togashi
Guild For Human Music

01. First Expression 8:07
02. Second Expression 4:29
03. Third Expression 8:15
04. Fourth Expression 6:45
05. Fifth Expression 2:44
06. Sixth Expression 10:18

Bass – Yoshio Ikeda
Cello, Bass – Keiki Midorikawa (tracks: A1 to A3, B2)
Keyboards – Masahiko Satoh (tracks: B1, B3)
Percussion – Masahiko Togashi, Yoshizaburo Toyozumi, Tatsuzi Yokoyama
Woodwind – Hideo Miyata, Masami Nakagawa, Shigeo Suzuki

Recorded May 23, 24, 26, & 27, 1976 at Nippon Columbia's 1st studio, Tokyo, Japan.

If you are looking for an album that will transcend you into another dimension then you have come to the right place. This is the progressive-exploratory side of jazz and trips right over fusion.....smack dab!

This album is not for the faint-of-heart! It is a study in both sound and textures with some crazy percussion throughout.

"Guild For Human Muisc" is composed of 6 "expressions" which is a very good choice of words to depict there songs. Togashi blends his vast array of percussion with various woodwinds, keyboards, flutes and bass effects creating a very lunaristic - transcedental'ish album that verges on extraterrestrial! other words this is far out stuff....

The end result is an album that really works considering how "lunaristic" it is.......

The sound quality is also outstanding and is pure audiophile territory!

Masahiko Togashi - 1974 - Song For Myself

Masahiko Togashi 
Song For Myself

01. Haze 9:46
02. Fairy-Tale 10:48
03. Song For Myself 8:02
04. Song For My Friends 11:37

Recorded at Victor Studios, Tokyo

October 10, 1974 (tr.1)
September 23, 1974 (tr.2)
September 30, 1974 (tr.3)
July 25, 1974 (tr.4)

Drums, Percussion – Masahiko Togashi
Sadao Watanabe - flute (tr.1)
Masahiko Satoh - piano (tr.2)
Masabumi Kikuchi - piano (tr.4)

The intimate nature of the title is very apt on this one – as the album features spare duets between drummer Masahiko Togashi and other Japanese musicians – including the great Sadao Watanabe on flute, and either Masahiko Satoh and Masabumi Kikuchi on piano! The sound is open, and sometimes a bit free – but in a way that's very inventive, and never too overpowering – as Togashi finds a way to really keep things grounded, and work in the best collaborative spirit with each musician. A real standout on the East West catalog of the 70s.

Maple Leaf - 1972 - Maple Leaf

Maple Leaf 
Maple Leaf

01. Prologue ~ Birth ~
02. Abandoned kitten's story
03. Urban · 4 am
04. Graduation
05. Sadness helmet
06. Farewell my friend
07. Dusky by goodbye
08. Seaside depression
09. Festival Part I
10 Letter from tomorrow
11. Festival part II
12. Jumping alone Jamie
13. Epilogue ~ Regent regression
14. Time division in the morning
15. Ogle's prose (theme)

Makoto Kanzawa (g, vo)
Yasushidori Ogisu (g, vo)
Yuichiro Enoki (b, b)
Yoko Nakajima (vo)

Excellent!  Very exciting mix of songs that runs through an assortment of related styles, male/female vocals, always upbeat, a sax and bacharachesque trumpet solo thrown in, very well produced, and tight, my friends, tight.

Kazuki Tomokawa - 1978 - Ore no Uchi de Nari-yamanai Mono

Kazuki Tomokawa 
Ore no Uchi de Nari-yamanai Mono

01. Circus
02. Rinjyu
03. Kojyo
04. Kikyo
05. Kuwana no Eki
06. Natsu no Hi no Uta
07. Yogore-chimatta Kanashimi ni
08. Haru no Hi no Yuugure
09. Rokugatsu no Ame
10. Boya

Tsuneo Ogaki: drums
Shinichi Takemura / Keiko Niwa: bass
Takeshi Mori: guitar
Kyoko Furuie: piano
Yoshinobu Hiraiwa: organ, keyboard
Toshiaki Ishizuka: percussion
Hirokazu Ishii: tuba
Shoji Maeda: flute, sax, piccolo
Sakae Yamada: french horn
Takashi Kato / Yoshinori Tada / Sadaji Okubo / Yoichiro Kobayashi: violin
Hiroo Horiguchi: cornet violin
Sachio Eto: ocarina
Ikuo Morimoto: harmonica
Manjyushage: chorus

The complete title is Ore no uchi de nariyamanai mono - Nakahara Chuya sakuhinshu. I only noticed the tiny furigana next to ? recently, I always read it as 'uta'. In any case, the title means 'Poems that won't stop crying inside of me - Collection of works by Chuya Nakahara', and this is the 4th studio album by bluesy folk hero Kazuki Tomokawa (?????); if you've been following this blog, you should know him by now. This is one from the first 2 decades of Tomokawa's career, before he was picked up by P.S.F. Records, and these albums are to this day far less easy to obtain than the later ones. The songs, settings of poems by Nakahara (whom you can get to know better here) are quite lavishly orchestrated. Once you get to know them, you can treat yourself to a comparison with ??????? (yes, that's basically the same title, with the first line omitted), a 2003 album (it was originally only to be found in the lavish P.S.F.-released 13-CD box) on which Tomokawa records all these songs again solo. I kind of like the almost bombastic arrangements on some of the versions here, though they may be an acquired taste for some.

Kazuki Tomokawa - 1977 - Senbadzuru Wo Kuchini Kuwaeta Hibi

Kazuki Tomokawa
Senbadzuru Wo Kuchini Kuwaeta Hibi

01. Opening Theme [1:34]
02. Say With Conviction, I Am Alive [2:18]
03. Kill Or Get Killed [3:53]
04. Memory [3:15]
05. What's Happened? [3:52]
06. NaMaHaGe [5:57]
07. My Home Lives Inside Me Just Like It Does In A Dog [6:04]
08. Kids In The Town Of Hachiryu [4:13]
09. Don-Pan Bushi Carousing [5:37]
10. A Runaway Boy [3:48]
11. An Ode To A Failed Death

J.A. Seazer (arrangements)
Takeshi Mori (guitare, guitare électrique)
Tatsuji Nagasu (guitare)
Yoshinobu Hiraiwa (claviers)
Kei Ishikawa (basse électrique)
Makoto Aihara (batterie)
Tsuneo Oishi (batterie)
Koji Ishii (tuba)

Kazuki Tomokawa, with Senbazuru wo Kuchini Kuwaeta Hibi, as a favored treatment of artistic personalities from the northern provinces, signed his first collaboration with JA Seazer, a major producer of the seventies, gravitating in the high spheres of the avant-garde theater -guard alongside the priceless writer, playwright and filmmaker Shuji Terayama. After Morita Doji, Seazer joins Tomokawa to work on a studio album in total break with Kansai folk; The fashion (at least, that of the margin) is to the psychedelic decomplexed and the musical arrangements sought. It is obvious from the starting blocks with the presence of a real good instrumental theme. From the scale, from the drama - listen to the cello of "What's Happened": clearly, Accompaniment is much better worked and seductive in its form. Tomokawa is suddenly more accessible to everyone, through this graft in the vein of Tenjo Sajiki ("Memory"). The maestria of Seazer is undeniable, his reputation far from being usurped, helped by Takeshi Mori on guitar. Farewell folk rock plan-plan, place to the cavalcades in the countries of an exotic prog on the border of art rock. "NaMaHaGe" sends a funky bass line in 5/8, well-felt flute arrows, the battery strikes more by chasing the synths: it swings, it swings and waddles with a small side Ennio Morricone without diluting In fact) the nerves in ball of the principal interpreter. "Say with Conviction, I am Alive" is the direct affirmation, It is the best-known title of Tomokawa, a hymn to the life of all concerts that never does in half measure. Two other notable hits, intended for a single ("Kids in the Town of Hachiryu") whose face B "Runaway Boy" is a classic of a formidable efficiency. Coated with subtle arrangements that give a hellfishing fishing to neat texts, the album is undoubtedly the best possible mise en bouche possible for anyone who would like to discover the howler philosopher by the seventies box, without leaving feathers there. Even the mandatory passage on the traditional terrain is passed to the magic sieve of the man with the wand - once listened, the exalting "Don-Pan Bushi Carousing" risks squatting skulls for quite a while. It is a small miracle that everything is so well taken away. Senbazuru is a pretty pavement in the pond on which you wiggle in spite of a share of shade very present; A pleasure not so guilty, for never Tomokawa seems withdrawn. On the contrary, he sings of the timeless without conforming to more formal expectations: "An Ode To A Failed Death", a psychedelic apex with the stunning violin part, arises thus gently on the opening theme of the album in outro . Energetic and powerful. Opening of the album in outro. Energetic and powerful. Opening of the album in outro. Energetic and powerful.

Kazuki Tomokawa - 1976 - Nikusei

Kazuki Tomokawa 

01. おじっちゃ 4:24
02. 冬は莫迦くへなあ 2:20
03. あめらんくゆらん 3:32
04. だがつぐ 2:42
05. 似合った青春 3:22
06. 歩道橋 6:15
07. 春だなあ 2:57
08. 冷蔵庫 0:50
09. 木端微塵 3:10
10. トドを殺すな 2:47
11. ハーモニカ 4:22
12. ちいさな詩 3:26
13. 石 3:10

Originally released on Harvest Records in July 1976.

After a first solo effort in 1975, Nikusei ("A Natural Voice") is the second studio album released by Tomokawa. Both its style and its wider distribution contributed to turn the man into one of the front-runners in Japanese outsider folk music. Here the young Tomokawa wails and screams emotionally hard enough in order to strip the paint of the walls. Nevertheless at times he gets quite emotional and laid back in order to hush his haunting demons to sleep. Just a splendid piece of Japanese acid folk and chant exorcism. Tomokawa’s music is violent, emotionally charged with insane screaming modes, piercing sensitivity, cathartic rhythmic purge, thrashing acoustic guitar aesthetic and harsh, reflecting the atmosphere of the bleak northern prefecture of Aomori. In other words, if you don't like what you're hearing, you'll rather skip the man's music and miss an exceptional discography of avant-folk genius.

Kazuki Tomokawa - 1975 - Yatto ichi maime

Kazuki Tomokawa 
Yatto ichi maime

01. Seishun
02. Tamashii
03. Yumiko no Haru
04. Koku-ka
05. Haka
06. NamMyoHouRenGeKyo
07. Denwa
08. Rancho Akita Ondo
09. Chikyu Gakko
10. 23sai no Teikou
11. Ishimori-san
12. Niibon
13. Dorobou-neko Yoru Hashiru
14. Akarui Yoru

Kazuki Tomokawa: acoustic guitar, superior-pipe
Kazuo Suguro / Ikutaro Fukuda: acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Takashi Maeda: bass
Takeshi Yagishita / Toshio Hagiwara: drums
Toshiaki Ishizuka: percussion, fuurin
Toyofuji / Toyoshizu: shamisen
Iroha Sisters: ohayashi
Katada-Keiki-Shachu: taiko, Chanchiki, transverse flute
Hiromi Yoshida / Katsumi Choshu: acoustic guitar, chorus
Kyoko Furuie: piano, organ
Santa Yamakawa: poetry reading
Hisayo Fukida / Chikako Honda / Reiko Komine / Akiko Moriyama
Masayuki Nakai / Hisao Iwase / Santa Yamakawa: backing chorus

Poet, singer, artist, bicycle race commentator, essayist, actor, drinker.
An artist who miraculously embodies the romance of the vagabond poet, a rarity in an age where our very freedom means we have forgotten how to live.

Born in Hachiryu-mura (now renamed as Mitane-machi), Akita in northern Japan on February 16, 1950, Tomokawa’s real name is Tenji Nozoki. He was brought up by his grandparents, surrounded by the lush nature of the Mitane River which flows into Lake Hachiro. During his years at Ukawa Middle School, Tomokawa was a notably poor student and displayed no interest in literature. However, by chance one day in the library he came across the poem Hone (Bone) by the early 20th century Japanese symbolist poet Chuya Nakahara. This poem shocked him to the core, and he started writing his own verse. After leaving middle school, he entered Noshiro Technical High School, a school famous for its basketball program. While managing the school basketball team, he read widely – devouring books by the likes of decadent novelist Osamu Dazai and noted literary critic Hideo Kobayashi. (He later coached the team for a while, one of his students going on to represent Japan at the Olympic Games).

Inspired the example of Bob Dylan and others, the early 1970s in Japan witnessed a boom in folk music. Tomokawa found himself caught up in the movement, taught himself to play acoustic guitar and began to set his poems to music. In 1975 he made his long-awaited record debut, releasing the album yatto ichimaime (Finally, The First Album). Around this time he got to know the members of the radical Japanese rock band Zuno Keisatsu. He got on particularly well with the group’s percussionist, Toshiaki Ishizuka, who would go on to become one of Tomokawa’s most important musical collaborators. In the late seventies, Tomokawa would become heavily involved with several theatre companies, writing songs for their plays and even appearing on stage as an actor. This was a period when he seemed to seek ever new spaces into which to expand his creativity. It was also during this period that he first became interested in art.

Tomokawa held his first solo show in Tokyo in 1985, with the support of the art critic Yoshie Yoshida. Since then he has had shows all over Japan, and has attracted the attention and praise of artists and opinion-makers like the outsider author Kenji Nakagami and the poet Yasuki Fukushima.

Kazaguruma - 1973 - Kazaguruma


01. ニんな静かな夜が
02. リンゴを売る少年
03. いやだなあ
04. 手紙
05. 其の日暮しの虫字虫方字
06. やがて子供達は
07. さよならなんて
08. まるで菓のように
09. 今 を
10. 爱想つかして
11. 踞るだけの私
12. 適 伸

今田勝 (Masaru Imada)
林立夫 (Tatsuo Hayashi)
Jun Fukamachi: Keyboards
Katsu Hoshi: Guitar
Haruomi Hosono: Bass
Hiro Yanagida: Keyboards
Seiji Tanaka: Drums
Chito Kawaci: Drums

Polydor MR-5030, July 1973, Japan

Obscure folk duo accompanied by a who is who in Japanese rock scene... insanely hard to get!

Jun Kamikubo - 1972 - Nothingness

Jun Kamikubo

01. 勲章いっぱいぶらさげて [Getting Into The Ecstacy]
02. 死んだら恋人よ [Reflection Of Sentimentalism]
03. 天国行きの最終便 [Blues Of Movement]
04. 愛が欲しい [Get What You Want]
05. 半分終わった俺の人生は [What's My Life]
06. 人生は舞台劇 [I Want To Be What I Can]
07. 何となく何となく [Go Through The Wind]
08. 殺ったのは俺じゃない [Leaving My Position]

Music By, Arranged By, Vocals, Guitar [Lead, Side], Bass, Drums – 上久保ジュン (Jun Kamikubo)

I wonder what type of weed was prevalent in Japan around this time. It must have been potent, because there's a certain downer feel to the heavy records produced in the country that has a flavor all it's own. I mean, as this album gets going with "Getting Into the Ecstasy," that is one seriously, almost barbituate pace and feel we've got going here. The material isn't always that strong, but the balance of heavy to weak tracks is pretty strong. Recording however is pretty bad, and the vocals could be a lot better. I do like the farty, Jack Bruce-like bass sound though.
Jun Kamikubo's sole work Nothingness reminds me quite a bit of the Blues Creation's Demon & Eleven Children album. That is, a mix of blues and heavy psych. There's also some naive 60s styled pop, awesomely drenched in fuzz and old-stock organ. And yes, they had to throw in a "I gots the blues-real-bad, yeaaa I do" song per protocol. And even a Grateful Dead-ish "Truckin'" type number. So a diverse album that represents a compendium of the USA's 1960s scene. Through a Japanese filter. Works for me.