Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cătălin Tîrcolea - 1981 - Zboruri

Cătălin Tîrcolea 

01. Zboruri
02. Speranța
03. Latino
04. De-a Lung Și Joc
05. Pe Cinci
06. Balada
07. Exotica

Recorded between December 28th 1980 and June 6th 1981.

Bass – Iulian Vrabete
Drums, Percussion – Costin Petrescu
Panpipes, Percussion, Flute, Conductor [Formația Orchestrală Condusă De] – Cătălin Tîrcolea
Piano, Electric Piano – Mircea Tiberian
Strings, Synthesizer – Erwin Surin
Tenor Saxophone – Cristian Teodorescu
Trombone – Paul Pîrciu
Trumpet – Leopold Reisenhauer

Born in 1953, Catalin Tircolea began to study the violin at the age of 3 and had his first televised recital at 5 years, in 1958, playing Mozart. He continued to learn the violin at the High School, but gave it up in 1970 in behalf of a Romanian folk music instrument which fascinated him - the Pan-pipe, (Panflote, Flute de Pan) — his idea being to demonstrate its expressive possibilities in the spheres of symphonic, chamber and jazz music. A self-taught what concerns the technique of this instrument, he studied with tenacity, using piano and violin scores. In 1971 he participated at the folklore Festival in Koper (Yugoslavia), obtaining the 1st prize. During the next year, 1972, Catalin Tircolea toured Switzerland and Austria together with Benone Damian's band. Between 1973 and 1975 he had an engagement in Japan, playing a large repertoire : classic, folk, cafe-concert. In 1975 he began composition studies at the Bucharest "Ciprian Porumbescu" Conservatoire (with professors Gheorghe Dumitrescu, $tefan Niculescu, Liviu Rusu), finishing them in 1979 with the highest marks. In the meantime, in 1976, he took part, with his own band, at the Swiss folk music Festivals in Orbe and Lenzburg. Starting with 1978, Catalin Tircolea undertook a rich recording activity : for the Romanian "Electrecord" company, he played the solo part in Ramon Tavernier's LP entitled "Pan-pipe in Jazz", whereas in West Germany he recorded the LP "Fly with me" with the "Supermax" group, and afterwards, with the famous Dutch keyboard virtuoso, Rick van der Lynden the "Variations" album. In 1979, other two LPs, produced also in West Germany, were added to his discography : one of baroque, the other of folk music, both for Pan-pipe and organ. In 1981, again with "Electrecord", a new record followed, with Romanian folk music "hits", and in West Germany, at Dusseldorf, a digital recorded Pan-pipe and organ LP, with a repertoire reaching from musical classicism and romanticism up to impressionism. During the same year 1981, he took part at the Montreux Festival in Switzerland with the "WelI-tempered Pan-pipe", a colour production of the Romanian Television.
"Flights" this new LP, recorded between December 28th 1980 and June 6th 1981 in cooperation with a team of distinguished instrumentalists, selected from the elite of Romanian jazzmen and rock-musicians, especially with another young composer and pianist - Mircea Tiberian —, concentrates through its seven items a great stylistic variety, outlining especially jazz and jazz-rock. At the threshold of his artistic maturity, Catalin Tircolea - soloist of the Romanian "Electrecord" Company - asserts himself as a virtuoso, proving the unexpected technical possibilities of this singular and extremely difficult instrument. His demonstrations as principal soloist and conductor of the group, as well as a composer, are subordinated to an expressive aim: to use the refinement of the sonorous expression, conceived in subtle colour shades, in order to emphasize - in time and space — the fineness and the supreme elegance of the Flight.

Cătălin Tîrcolea - 1978 - Panpipe in Jazz

Cătălin Tîrcolea 
Panpipe in Jazz

01. Nu-ncerca Să Te Minți 5:08
02. Fără Vorbe 4:40
03. Non Stop 3:15
04. Mai Frumos Ca Orice Vis 3:22
05. De-or Trece Anii 3:32
06. Cîntec De Leagăn 3:22
07. Popas 3:07
08. Idealuri 2:58
09. Doină Și Joc 3:18
10. Lacul 2:53
11. Zig-Zag 3:54

Composed By, Orchestrated By, Conductor – Ramon Tavernier

Soloist, Panpipes – Cătălin Tircolea
Soloist, Voice – Elena Abagiu (tracks: A2, A4, B8, B10)
Vocals – Grupul vocal „5T“ (tracks: A2, A4, A5, B8, B10, B11)

Owing to his merits in scoring, harmonizing, becoming fully acquainted with various styles and mastering them, from the classical to the contemporary light music and to his ability in creating musical "ideas", Ramon Tavernier is fully entitled to the complex definition implied by the designation of Jazz Composer, unlike a lot of other musicians all over the world, who do not truly tally with it, if one is thinking about the true meaning conveyed by that notion.
Nearly ail the Romanian Jazz LPs issued of late are most remarkable as concerns the density of their musical substance — or, in other words, as concerns the lack in them of the "redundancy" phenomenon, as the so-called "backdoor pieces" are fully missing from them. In this connexion, one can easily become aware that the present collection of recorded pieces is marked by extreme diversity, conspicuousness and richness in its sonorous-imagistic sphere.
Although the record comprises various sequences whose rhythmical vitality stands apart, It is wholly pervaded by an intensely lyrical climate, closely related to the Romanian ethos of the Doinas, of the folk Ballads — and all this specific character of the record is pointed out again, owing to the presence of the Panpipe, which is afforded the chief part. Moreover, Ramon Tavernier has got the merit of being the first composer to use the timbre of the Panpipe in the Jazz pieces; Un trifoi cu patru foi (A Four-Leaves Shamrock) and Samba bossanova pentru nai (Samba Bossanova for Panpipe) and other ones, written by the composer more than 10 years ago, i.e. in 1966 for Gheorghe Zamfir to play them (the composer was using then the pen name of Constantin Alexandru) stand as witnesses to that effect. The composer is resuming now, at another level of the musical thought, those experiments, this time the soloist being the young Panpipe player Catalin Tircolea. The Panpipe is accompanied, in Ramon Tavernier's conception, by a rather small band, made up of a "rhythmical section" — i.e. the electric piano or organ, the guitar, the bass-guitar, the drums, the percussion — and of a trumpet, a trombone, a tenor-saxophone (sometimes "doubled" through the "playback" device); in several instances this band is accompanied by the Vocal group* "5 T" (whose members sing without words, according to the so-called "scat" technique) and incidentally a group of strings is added to the band in order to increase the specific ."colour" of a piece, as, e.g. Cintec de leagan (Lullaby). Although the timbre "power" of the band seems rather modest at first sight, its sonorous "resultant" proves itself to be most remarkable as concerns its amplitude, for the few instruments and human voices, assembled according to several ingenious formulas of timbre mixture, are thus able to fill up a rather vast sonorous space.
An attempt at grouping according to a certain criterion or to another the pieces on this record is rather difficult, owing to their before-mentioned diversity, both in "language" and in "character". However, we shall try to classify them according to the criterion (rather formal, of course) of the tempo equivalences — i.e. in "slower" and "faster" pieces. Thus we shall begin by pointing out to the sonorous graphicalness, expressed by means of subtle irisations within various polychromies made up of sundry hues and shades, of several Ballads such as Fara vorbe (Without words), Mai frumos ca orice vis (Fairer than any dream), Cintec de leagan (Lullaby), Idealuri (Ideals), Lacul (The Lake); they rise above the usual stylistic expressive effective sphere of the Jazz, and make the record highly interesting also for other, wider categories of lovers of music.
A fully different group, as concerns the musical expression, would comprise the "virtuosity" pieces. Indeed there is virtuosity of the best kind, both in their composition and in their interpretation, both in the ensemble and in the solo moments; here one might quote: Non-stop, De-or trece anii (Would the years pass), Popas (Halt), Zig-zag.
Again fully different, bordering on the interference zone between Jazz and chamber music, and displayed on an expressive background of genuine Romanian vibration, the piece Doina si joc (Doina and Dance) is thus one of the most accomplished from the whole record. Nu-ncerca sa te minti (Don't try to deceive yourself), is a "remaking" under the Jazz-Rock frame, of a more ancient successful hit of the composer's.
Although the space afforded for these comments do not allow us a more detailed analysis of the interpretation, we ought to point out to the highly important contribution in this respect due to the Panpipe player Catalin Tircolea, who has now become indeed a fully recognized soloist-instrumentist; to the Feminine Vocal Group "5 T", that have indeed suceeded in getting a highly deserving place in our musical landscape; to the other instrumentists, whose solo moments are most valuable in their extempore aspects — Marius Popp, Mihai Chirilov, Nicolae Farcas, Radu Goldis, Dan Mindrila, Sorin Movi-leanu, Adrian Tudorache; they all, directed and conducted by Ramon Tavernier himself, are making up a musical and artistic "team" of the highest cohesion.
Instead of a "conclusion" we shall now come back to the creative essence of the music recorded here, in order to point out to the fact that it has indeed succeeded in outlining a composition "profile" whose conception is full mature and whose inspiration is highly vigorous. At the same time — and this is indeed a most gratifying conclusion — those acquainted with Ramon Tavernier's works are fully aware that he has got still a lot more "to say" in the going on development and display of the Romanian Jazz, in the efforts to compel recognition in general for the real and true valuable music, as this Romanian composer has opened indeed a new "gate" in this respect by using only his own forces as such!
English version by Constantin Stihi-Boos

Stern Combo Meissen - 1996 - Live

Stern Combo Meissen 

01. Finlandia 13:53
02. Der Kampf Um Den Südpol 9:10
03. Wenn Ich Träume 5:29
04. Rhapsody In Blue 24:47
05. Happiness Is Just Around The Band 10:22

Recorded 16.07.1976 live at Kulturhaus "Fürstenwalder Hof" Fürstenwalde.

- Reinhard Fißler / lead vocals
- Bernd Fiedler / bass
- Norbert Jager / vocals, percussion
- Thomas Kurzhals / keyboards
- Lothar Kramer / keyboards, mellotron
- Martin Schreier / drums

Formed in 1964 in Meissen by drummer Martin Schreier and singer/keyboardist/percussionist Norbert Jager,STERN COMBO MEISSEN are maybe the eldest German classic Prog band still active today.Through a 10-year period they experimented through many styles of music,before establishing a keyboard-drenched sound in mid-70's with the addition of Thomas Kurzhals and Lothar Kramer on keys.By mid-70's the line-up included also singer Reinhard Fißler and drummer Bernd Fiedler.A performance of the band at Furstenwalder Hof in Furstenwalde was captured live in 1976 but never saw the light until 1996, when it was released on Edition Barbarossa.
The opening ''Finnlandia'' is among the best instrumental pieces recorded by a German band during the 70's, an adaption on the work of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.Grandiose organ-driven Classical/Symphonic Rock in the vein of EKSEPTION or TRIUMVIRAT with plenty of keyboard pyrotechnics and a fair dose of ethereal and smoother textures, played with passion and inspiration.In this album we find an early version of the classic psychedelic track ''Kampf um den Suedpol'', that became the band's landmark for years.The short ''Wenn ich traeume'' combines a more easy-going vocal-led style with spacey synthesizers and light organs.The very long ''Rhapsody in Blue'' is an amalgam of Stern Meissen's early sound, based on George Gershwin's eponymous work.It mixes inspirations from synth-drenched Fusion, powerful organ-driven Classical Rock and romantic Teutonic 70's Progressive Rock with some impressive work on synths, organ and piano, but some parts sound rather dull or dated, while the improvised ones are of marginal interest.Still this one is well-played with plenty of bombastic material.The closing track ''Happiness Is Just Around the Band'' is apparently a rework on Brian Auger's ''Happiness Is Just Around The Bend'', a nice, longer and majestic interpetation by the band with strong funky grooves and lovely organ as played by Auger, definitely a great cover.

A great document of Stern Combo Meissen's early years, prooving the band was on par with the best names from West Germany considering the prog scene of the country.Warmly recommended to all fans of keyboard-driven 70's Prog.

Stern Combo Meissen - 1980 - Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen

Stern Combo Meissen 
Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen

01. Allein 3:42
02. Hinwendung 13:28
03. Romanze 8:42
04. Innenwelt 6:50
05. Menschenzeit 6:03

- Martin Schreier / leader
- Thomas Kurzhals / keyboards
- Reinhard Fißler / lead vocals
- Lothar Kramer / keyboards
- Peter Rasym / bass
- Michael Behm / drums

Apparently Stern (Combo) Meissen were on stage in the mid- to end-seventies an absolute legend in the GDR but had to struggle with censorship, so their published regular albums mostly didn't do them much justice, and after the "Reise" they turned their backs on prog and morphed into an at times hardly endurable pop group.
"Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen" is quite an exception to this. It's a very fine album, although it came in 1980 too late - too late for what is considered to be the best time of the band, but also even in their own country the tides of music changed and the audience wanted more direct and less complex music - unfortunately it got far more of the latter than the former.

The music on "Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen" is very keyboard-oriented. There's only keyboards (two keyboarders), bass, drums and vocals. The vocals are only there for a few minutes, but these few minutes demonstrate very well the quality of the vocalist, Reinhard Fissler, and his very characteristic expressive voice. Fissler adds some warmth to the overall rather cool musical landscape on this album. The instrumental performances are very strong. Of course the keyboard work plays the key role. The Stern are obviously fans of ELP, their sound is unsurprisingly somewhat behind the "western time", and one can criticise the GDR-icon Thomas Kurzhals and Wolfgang Kramer for using a bit too much of that influence. Another reference is the West German symphonic band SFF. That said, not only are the keyboards virtuous and technically flawless, they are also somewhat less showy than Emerson's (if somewhat less wild and unpredictable). One way in which the "Reise" has an edge over all ELP work (except perhaps "Pictures at an Exhibition") is that it is very organic; it's a concept album in which all the compositions serve the overall musical message. The composition work is clearly classically influenced. There's some dynamic in terms of speed and intensity on this album, some parts are very calm and melodic, others more powerful, but overall the sound is quite homogeneous. This is in contrast to all other works of the Stern, in which there are always some attempts at different styles, at times welcome but more often than not rather on the annoying side for a prog fan. The "Reise" though is pure prog. Overall, the compositions are a good tasteful mix of complexity and musicality and very well done, if a bit on the cool intellectual side (as easily happens with lots of keyboard and no guitar).

The drummer Michael Behm and the bass player Peter Rasym also deserve to be mentioned. Behm is virtuous and precise, but the secret star of the show is Rasym; the bass on this album is not only flawless but very creative and colourful, and at the same time fits seamlessly into the overall teamwork. Surely a five star performance by this internationally probably totally unknown bassist.

Despite the ELP references, this album stands easily on its own as a highlight of GDR art rock which has its very own atmosphere and characteristic; actually it is the strongest GDR prog album that I know by some distance; unfortunately the Stern themselves never came close before or after (I don't know their 1996 released 1976 live album, which may be a contender).

"Reise Zum Mittelpunkt Des Menschen" is one of the two SCM's concept albums (the other one is "Weisses Gold"). The music on both albums has a countinuous flow supported by leitmotivs. The longest track "Hinwendung" shows a lot of ELP instrumental bombast but in a more original manner than TRIUMVIRAT (it's closer to SFF). While I like the symphonic dual keyboard playing the sounds gets cold and plastic over time. "Weisses Gold" album sounds much warmer but "Reise Zum Mittelpunkt Des Menschen" is more complex, especially the gloomy "Romanze". This track shows band's compositional skills in extended tonality. In spite of the title don't expect any romantic sounds in this one. At the end of the track is also a short but remarkable piano solo. The vocals are used very sparsely on this album in difference with "Weisses Gold". To sum it up: "Reise" and "Weisses Gold" are the only worthwille SCM's albums you should get. Others are not on the same musical level as these two. I prefer "Weisses Gold" but it's a matter of taste. Both albums are recommended!

Stern Combo Meissen - 1979 - Der weite Weg

Stern Combo Meissen 
Der weite Weg

01. Die Sage 7:50
02. Gib Mir, Was Du Geben Kannst 5:30
03. Was Bleibt 4:47
04. Der Motor 4:40
05. Der Frühling (Aus Dem Concerto Op. 8 "Die Vier Jahreszeiten") 12:20
06. Der Weite Weg 6:25

- Martin Schreier / leader
- Thomas Kurzhals / keyboards
- Norbert Jäger / percussion, vocals (4, 6)
- Reinhard Fißler / vocals (2, 6)
- Lothar Kramer / keyboards
- Werther Lohse / drums, vocals (1, 3)
- Bernd Fiedler / bass
- Michael Behm / drums, vocals

In my opinion excellent album. The title track, "Der weite Weg" is my favourite Stern Combo Meissen song. I heard it for the first time in 1982 and even now, 35 years after, when I listen to it - I'm not here, I'm far away in the sea (what is it - nostalgia or real quality of music?). "Der Frühling", the band's interpretation of Vivaldi's "The Spring" is a good example of delicate attitude to classical music. All other tracks are also worth to listen, only "Der Motor", a typical pop-rock song of that era, is weaker than other material. If you like melodic progressive with dual keyboards and nice soft vocals, this album is for you. I guess fans of Novalis will enjoy this album. But this band is not a Novalis clone - Stern Combo Meissen, at least in the 70s, had their own sound. Check "Der weite Weg" if you'll find it (it's not so easy outside former DDR).

Stern Combo Meissen - 1978 - Weisses Gold

Stern Combo Meissen 
Weisses Gold

01. Ouvertüre
02. Der Traum
03. Des Goldes Bann
04. Der Goldmacher
05. Die Flucht
06. Zweifel
07. Die Erkenntnis
08. Weisses Gold

Album concept based on: Johann Friedrich Böttger 1682-1719, alchemist and inventor, the creator of "white gold" circa 1709, the first white hard porcelain in Europe.

- Martin Schreier / leader
- Reinhard Fißler / lead vocals
- Norbert Jäger / percussion, vocals
- Lothar Kramer / keyboards, vocals
- Thomas Kurzhals / keyboards
- Werther Lohse / drums, vocals
- Bernd Fiedler / bass

- Ernst Kahler / narration
- Sinfonieorchester der Hochscule für Musik ''Hanns Eisler' Berlin, leader - Horst Föster
- Chor des Wachregiments ''Feliks Dzierzynski'' Berlin

In June 1978 comes the first true studio recording of Stern Meissen and the second of their original releases overall.The band had recruited Lift's drummer Werther Lohse and completed a seven-piece line-up that led them to the ambitious ''Weisses gold'' album on Amiga.''Weisses gold'' refers to porcelain and this concept work deals with the timeline for discovering it in Dresden by German alchemist Johann Friedrich Boettger.The band was helped by the Symphonic Orchestra of ''Hochschule Für Musik Hanns Eisler" in Berlin and its conductor Horst Foerster.
Gone are all the psychedelic leftovers of Stern Meissen's previous recordings and the band headed now for a monster symphonic sound full of grandiose interludes, elaborate orchestrations and complex segments.''Weisses gold'' sounds much like a RICK WAKEMAN album, maybe crossed with a discreet Teutonic aura akin to NEUSHWANSTEIN, and appears to be a cohesive, flowing concept with extended instrumental themes, a slightly operatic mood and the typical German vocals displayed in Stern Meissen's works.The tracks are mainly keyboard-driven with full equipment (piano, harsichord, Hammond organ, synthesizers and propably string synth), supported by the ethereal orchestrations of the symphonic orchestra, the result is very good and at moments fascinating Progressive Rock with twin and triple keyboard workouts, creating grandiose climates and bombastic passages.German actor Ernst Kahler is the man behind the narrations, strongly connected with the history presented.As Stern Meissen were always a band with a nice sense of atmosphere and melody, the greatest part of the arrangements are characterized by dreamy textures and cinematic soundscapes, but be sure to handle the extremely virtuosic synth flashes during the process next to some E.L.P.-like fanfares on Hammond organ.

Very good story-telling album with dense, technically efficient and carefully composed keyboard themes.Fans of TRIUMVIRAT, E.L.P., LE ORME, RICK WAKEMAN and the likes will finds this work simply beautiful.Strongly recommended.

A goody for lush symphonic rock fans! SCM is one of the better symphonic prog bands from Germany. "Weisses Gold" is their pinnacle recorded with a choir and an orchestra. A concept album about the accidental discovery of white china is filled with delightful symphonic compositions and tasty keyboard work. Their style is similar to SFF (another good German band) with added vocals. Sometimes the arrangements get very complex with interesting harmony. They're very different from bands like TRIUMVIRAT that try too hard to copy English prog. BTW I like those bands but I don't find them so original. SCM blend classical influence with krautrock in a unique and sophisticated way. "Weisses Gold" is a classic!

Stern Combo Meissen - 1977 - Stern Combo Meissen

Stern Combo Meissen
Stern Combo Meissen

01. Der Kampf Um Den Südpol
02. Der Alte Auf Der Müllkippe
03. Mütter Gehn Fort Ohne Laut
04. Eine Nacht Auf Dem Kahlen Berge
05. Licht In Das Dunkel

Recorded live: 20/21-May-1977, Nünchritz/Riesa.

- Martin Schreier / drums, leader
- Reinhard Fißler / lead vocals (1, 3 - 5)
- Norbert Jäger / percussion, keyboards, vocals, lead vocals (2)
- Lothar Kramer / keyboards
- Thomas Kurzhals / keyboards
- Bernd Fiedler / bass

DDR rock band from Meißen/Saxony. They started as beat in the mid 1960's, absorbing western influences alongside developing their own style. As Stern Combo Meissen they reinvented themselves as the foremost progressive rock outfit from the German Democtratic Republic in the mid 1970's onto the early 1980's. 

 Stern Combo meissen's first LP is a gem of an LP in a field - East German Prog - not exactly bursting at the seams with masterpieces (unlike Italian Prog). But this great debut is worth checking out, blending Hawkwind-lie space-rock with prog dynamics. On "Der Kampf um den Sudpol" the first side opens with atmospheric wind effects until an icy Rick Wright-type organs starts snaking out of the ether in a sublime Eastern modality, while synths fizzle and fart in the background, oscillating their way into the stratosphere. SCM sing in German, which also sets them apart from a lot of german bands (Eloy, Jane), but I think in the end this is better as the German vocal inflection often struggles around English language lyrics (see Grobschnitt's "RockPommels Land"). Stern Combo Meissen's LP's suffer from a bad vinyl pressing like many Eastern European rock LP's but the energy of their arrangements overcomes this one minor quibble. "Eine nacht auf dem Kahlen Berge" opens Side Two with some great keyboard work - its the keyboards that really shine on this LP as the six-man line-up boasts three keyboardists!! Thomas Kurzhals moog work is first rate, reminding me of the style of SBB from Poland. LP closer "Licht in das Dunkel" finishes in style with a great extended Yes-like dynamic, lots of moog-riffs and great swathes of string backing on organ and string-synth (although the sleeves dont' discern - it sounds like SCM use Solina string synths rather than Mellotron's giving them a Tangerine Dream like texture). Overall, a charming little addition to the German Prog collection - a band with a very varied sound taking in influences from Wish You Were Here-era Floyd, ELP, Hawkwind and Yes. A great mix of space-rock and prog and a keyboard players dream.

In 1977 it was time for the first official release of Stern Combo Meissen.Their classic track ''Der Kampf um den Südpol'', already presented live by the group, started hitting the charts and remains actually a hit until today.Surprisingly the official debut of the band was another live recording, carrying the band's name as a title and released on Amiga in 1977.
Not the average keyboard-driven band,Stern Combo Meissen mix in their debut lots of different styles,remaining a band with a wide sound spectrum as in their early years.''Der Kampf um den Südpol'' sounds sort of psychedelic rock with nice organ and is led by the vocals of Reinhard Fißler,while on ''Der Alte auf der Müllkippe'' the funky rhythm section blends with the spacey moog synths of the keyboard duo.''Mütter gehn fort ohne Laut'' is the first track where the band shows of their symphonic tendencies with mellow classical-influenced synths and organs leading the way.''Eine Nacht af dem Kahlen Berge'' is nothing else than Stern Combo Meissen's adaption on the classic Mussorgsky piece ''Night on the Bald Mountain''.A 13 minute track,where the band capture all of the classic piece's dramatic atmosphere through the fiery organ and the closing section full of moog sounds and deep bass lines.''Licht das Dunkel'' closes the album in a rather soft way with hypnotic bass lines around moog solos and dreamy vocals,while its ending sounds like a familiar complex ELP jam.

Stern Combo Meissen were among the daring bands in DDR (East Germany) to produce some highly sophisticated music.Their debut is a nice delivery of classical-influenced prog rock and deserves a wider recognition!

Electra - 1979 - Electra 3

Electra 3

01. Alter, Alter, Dankeschön (4:15)
02. Frau im Spiegelglas (3:10)
03. Gott Morpheus (4:10)
04. Einmal ich, einmal du, einmal er (3:25)
05. Beschreibung eines Zimmers (5:10)
06. Tritt ein in den Dom (10:10)
07. Der grüne Esel (3:50)
08. Manchmal (6:47)

- Bernd Aust / sax, flute, synths, vocals
- Gisbert Koreng / guitars, vocals
- Peter Ludewig / drums, percussion, vocals
- Wolfgang Riedel / bass, vocals
- Manuel von Senden / vocals, keyboards, percussion
- Rainer Uebel / keyboards, percussion, vocals

- Stefan Trepte / vocals

During 1975-79 and heading to their next album Electra kept the basic core and added a sixth member,  Manuel von Senden on keyboards and vocals, so ''3'' was expected to be their richest album to this date.Part of the Classical/progressive influences has been abandoned for the sake of a more rhythmic sound in the -so called- Deutschrock tradition, which wants the music to be vocal-dominated with powerful electric guitars and standard song structures with careful solos and groovy passages.But what these guys did actually was to filter their progressive spirit into the simplistic Rock mode, so the tracks contain lots of impressive organ and synth moves, pompous intrumental themes, hard guitar/keyboard interplays, even some Classical-spiced flute and grandiose multi-vocal harmonies.An interesting work, filled with memorable moments, which still maintain a proggy depth.

The third Electra album is a mix of some new material and archival stuff, and as such is all over the map. High points are the epics “Tritt ein in den Dom*” and “Manchmal.” There’s also more typical East Euro rock on “Alter, alter, dankeschön” and “Gott Morpheus” and a wacky, Grobschnitt-like take on a classic fairytale on “Der grüne Esel,” plus a couple of very typically East German sounding ballads (“Frau im Spiegelglas” and “Einmal ich, einmal du, einmal er”). Low point: their laughable stab at hard rock on “Beschreibung eines Zimmers,” complete with irritating, shrieky, Uriah Heep-like backing vocals.

*“Tritt ein in den Dom” (Enter the Cathedral) seems to be the oldest recording here, and features their original lead singer Stephan Trepte, at the time with his own band, Reform.

Electra - 1980 - Die Sixtinische Madonna

Die Sixtinische Madonna

01. Die sixtinische Madonna: Der Maler (11:01)
02. Die sixtinische Madonna: Das Bild (7:11)
03. Die sixtinische Madonna: Der Betrachter (7:38)
04. Scheidungstag (6:35)
05. Jahrmarkt (3:18)
06. Erinnerung (4:20)

- Bernd Aust / sax, flute, cello, vocals
- Manuel von Senden / synths, vocals
- Rainer Uebel / keyboards
- Gisbert Koreng / guitars
- Peter Ludewig / drums
- Wolfgang Reidel / bass

The 26-minute title suite (essentially a dissertation rationalizing why a Communist country should house an explicitly religious art artifact like Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, which was housed in an art museum in Dresden) was performed live at a youth festival in 1979. It’s a bombastic, Rick Wakeman-ish work, complete with choir and tons of synthesizers. That said, it’s a high point of their career, singer Manuel von Senden (nowadays living in Austria and working as an opera singer!) was never finer. Let down a bit on the B-side, though the ballad “Errinerung” is certainly lovely. The original Amiga Masters CD issue had as a bonus track “Über Feuer,” an old track from the Hallo-series days (and featuring original vocalist Stephan Trepte, then with Reform) with an explicit Jethro Tull fixation.

after I have heard "Die Sixtinische Madonna" which is their fourt studio album I am overwhelmed. This is a fnatastic example of how startling a prog composition could be.

I would compare the composition "Die Sixtinische Madonna" which other bands which have been inspired by classical music such as the Spanich "Los Canarios" or Italian "Premiata Forneria Marconi". Electra is a rock band which sounds like an orchestra and plays their rock music which excellent classical music in it. The main part of the album is the three-part track "Die Sixtinische Madonna" and that is the main reason to hear this album. In the start it reminds me of PFM's "L'Isola di Niente" and further they play only their own style of music. A rock opera with inspiration of symphonies, medieval music and rock of course. Sometimes we hear classical renaissance choir music but mostly we hear the magical strong German vocals of Bernd Aust and Manuel von Senden. Unfortunately my example of the record has quite bad sound, but it didn't obstruct me from enjoy it fully. The long piece by itself makes this a masterpiece

"Scheindungstag" and "Jahrmarkt" are more typical German rock songs with a strong vibrant vocal and fine melodies and finally "Erinnerung" is a lovely closer with an honest melody and sweet vocals. If anyone has the opportunety to hear Electra's fourth they should because the world earns the right to hear it. The title track, if the sound quality is reasonable, is in the world class of prog. Not many prog bands come from German Democratic Republic but some do and I am glad I listened to this. 

Electra - 1976 - Adaptionen


01. Borodin-Suite (13:20)
02. Bach '75 (6:25)
03. Säbeltanz (6:05)
04. Prelude cis-moll op3. Nr.2 (4:40)
05. In der Halle des Bergkönigs (3:05)
06. Türkischer Marsch (3:53)

- Bernd Aust / flute, sax
- Gisbert Koreng / guitars
- Peter Ludewig / drums
- Wolfgang Riedel / bass
- Rainer Uebel / synth, Hammond

1975 sees Electra-Combo changing their name simply to Electra, changing also their style and having some important line-up shakes.The band was heading towards an instrumental sound, so singer Stephan Trepte left to join the newly established Reform along with ex-Electra-Combo bassist Michael Demnitz.Gone were also Hans Peter Dohanetz and Peter Sandkaulen.They were replaced by new keyboardist Rainer Uebel and guitarist Gisbert Koreng.The same year the group releases their first album as Electra under the title ''Adaptionen'', again on Amiga.
As the title indicates, in this album the East-Germans take six classical arrangements and transformed them into rock compositions, drawn by some of the most important Classical composers: Alexander Borodin, Johann Sebastian Bach, Aram Chatschaturjan, Sergej Rachmaninov, Edvard Grieg, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.Electra use their music as the basis of their compositions and add their own character through strong organ jams and hard-driving flutes, among them the listener can find tons of sudden breaks and virtuosic solos, particularly led by Aust'es flute and Uebel's organ.The sound is very close to the likes of E.L.P., considering the heavy use of Hammond organ, although the strong and massive flute parts bring to mind bands such as OSANNA or NEW TROLLS.Today the album sounds a bit dated, the chosen style being the main reason for the fact, on the other hand the music here is tremendously consistent and solid all the way.The powerful electric guitars of Koreng add a Hard Prog flavor to the album, the Classical-inspired passages are adapted in an excellent deegree and the original touches next to them fit brilliant with the masters' Classical enviroment.

Electra - 1974 - Electra Combo

Electra Combo

01. Der Hahn mit dem roten Kamm (3:48)
02. Die Erde is 'ne Kugel (4:24)
03. Die Kraniche fliegen im Keil (4:41)
04. Einen kleinen Tag lang (6:31)
05. Feuer (3:49)
06. Das kommt, weil deine Seele brennt (2:16)
07. Augen, von der Liebe verlassen (3:33)
08. Tut mir leid (2:53)
09. Grosse Fenster (5:50)

- Bernd Aust / sax, flute, keyboards
- Peter Ludewig / drums, vocals
- Hans-Peter Dohanetz / keyboards
- Stephan Trepte / vocals
- Peter Sandkaulen / guitars
- Wolfgang Riedel / bass

German band ELECTRA was formed in 1969 by 5 students from the Dresden School of Music in what was then the eastern part of the divided Germany. They made a name for themselves by reinterpretating classical symphonic music using contemporary, electronic instruments as well as producing original compositions of elongated, progressive rock with a firm emphasis on elongated instrumental solos. They made their debut as Electra-Combo in 1974 with the album Electra Combo.

From 1975 and onwards they decided to stick with the shorter Electra band name. A string of critically acclaimed productions followed in the next few years, but in the 1980's the creative spirits of the band appeared to dwindle. Possibly due to the not too friendly politicial climate that developed in Eastern Germany in the final years before the iron curtain became history, perhaps due to line-up alterations or a general change of direction for the band. 

But following the fall of the iron curtain, Germany reuniting as one nation and old members returning to the band they rediscovered their creative and artistic roots again. So far not documented on a studio album however, as their latest studio effort was recorded as far back as 1989 in the shape of Der Aufrechte Gang (although not released until 2004). But Electra has continued being a presence on stage over the years and are still a popular and active live unit as of 2012.

 One of the long-lived acts from East Germany, Electra came from Dresden and were found in 1969 by wind instrumentalist Bernd Aust, bassist Wolfgang Riedel, guitarist Ekkehard Berger, drummer/singer Peter Ludewig and keyboardist Karl-Heinz Ringel.The band had a good live activity and by the time of their first album Ringel and Berger were replaced by singer Stephan Trepte, Hans Peter Dohanetz on keys and Peter Sandkaulen on guitars.As with many East German bands their debut ''Electra-Combo'' (1974) was released on Amiga.
Reputedly Electra had a very daring progressive sound, but the social conservation of DDR prevent the band of recording a trully adventurous album, while they even supported pop artists around the same time.So their debut was actually an incoherent mix of different styles with plenty of rough vocals, a raw guitar sound, somewhat dated organ work and a fair amount of flutes.Their style is quite close to that of JETHRO TULL's, filled with flute drives and solos, deeped in Blues and Heavy Rock aesthetics but in a rather commercial vein with simple song structures, only interrupted by some nice guitar, organ and flute solos.The grooves though are a bit interesting with the band breathing a hell of energy, guitars are really dominant supported by jazzy organs and a pounding rhythm section, while the talent of the members is evident, even in this commercial outfit.However the lack of trully adventurous musicianship, the somewhat dull vocals, the sometimes laughable lyrics (for those who understand German) and a couple of weak straight Blues tracks prevent the album of being an essential effort.

Classic commercial Deutsch Rock with a few interesting instrumental moments in each track, not a great album by any means but definitely a historical document of the age.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Irakere - 1994 - From Havana With Love (Live In Belgrade 1978)

From Havana With Love (Live In Belgrade 1978)

01. Ella 6:25
02. En Nosotros 7:53
03. Misa Negra 16:06
04. Despues Medianoche 10:44

Recorded live in Belgrade, November 4, 1978

Bass – Carlos del Puerto
Congas – Jorge "El Niño" Alfonso
Drums – Enrique Plá
Flute, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone – Paquito D'Rivera
Guitar – Carlos Emilio Morales
Keyboards, Arranged By – Chucho Valdés
Percussion, Vocals – Oscar Valdés
Piccolo Flute, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Carlos Averhoff
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Jorge Varona
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Valve Trombone – Arturo Sandoval
Vocals, Percussion – Armando Cuervo

Do not let the horrendous album cover scare you away, It is 70's Irakere, it is live, it is brilliant stuff!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Irakere - 1983 - Irakere & Sinfonica Nacional

Irakere & Sinfonica Nacional

01. Tema De Chaka 19:45
02. Homenaje A Charles Mingus 18:45

Recorded at Teatro Mella Abril 1983

Bass – Carlos Del Puerto
Guitar [Electric] – Carlos E. Morales
Leader – Chucho Valdés
Percussion [Cuban] – Jorge Alfonso
Percussion [Cuban], Vocals – Oscar Valdes
Piano – J. Valdes
Saxophone [Baritone], Flute – Jose L. Cortes
Saxophone [Tenor], Flute – Carlos Averhoff
Saxophone, Clarinet [Tenor] – Velazco
Trumpet – Jorge Varona, Juan Munguia

Two side-long tunes: "Tema De Chaka," recorded with symphony orchestra, and the jazz suite "Homenaje a Charlie Mingus." Ambitious, but a mess, as both sides are packed with half-written themes that go nowhere, interspersed with overlong solos (Averhoff and Valdés, surprisingly, are the main offenders). "Tema De Chaka" sounds like an overture to a lousy Hollywood film score, with lots of fluttering but no evident direction. The Mingus homage comes across a bit better, as at least del Puerto's humongous bass solo is interesting.

Irakere - 1982 - Irakere


01. Variaciones Sobre La Opera "La Molinaria" 9:38
02. Siete Tazas De Café 7:48
03. Que Se Sepa Yo Soy De La Habana 5:26
04. My Reverie 6:18
05. Los Caramelos 6:48

Congas, Percussion – Jorge Alfonso "El Niño"
Drums, Percussion – Enrique Plá
Electric Bass, Vocals – Carlos Del Puerto
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Carlos Emilio Morales
Keyboards – Chucho Valdés
Percussion, Vocals – Oscar Valdés
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Flute – Carlos Averhoff
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Trombone, Vocals – Arturo Sandoval
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Vocals – Jorge Varona

 Classical music is represented by a pallid take on Debussy's "My Reverie" and another shot at Beethoven ("Variaciones Sobre La Opera 'La Molinara'"). Then there's and two band compositions: "Siete Tazas De Café" (in the same midtempo jazz vein as "Las Hijas De Anaco") and the Van Vanesque, good-time "Que Se Sepa, Yo Soy De La Habana." Cortés adds witty solos to several numbers; on the downside, Valdés apparently flipped for a cheesy synthesizer around this time, and its thin, wan tone pervades several cuts (Gregorio Battle's "Los Caramelos"). Trumpeter Juan Munguía had joined the band by this point, though I don't know if he appears on the disc. 

Irakere - 1982 - El Coco

El Coco

01. Las Hijas De Anaco 6:11
02. Zanaith 7:41
03. El Coco 8:40
04. Ese Atrevimiento 10:01
05. Molinaria 7:10

Recorded at Sound Inn Studio, Tokyo, August 3,4,5, 1980
Remixed at Victor Studio, Tokyo, using JVC DAS 90 Digital Audio Mastering System.
Special Thanks to: Mr. Eduardo H. Gispert, Mr. Ramón Calcines

Alto Saxophone – German Velazco Urdeliz
Bass – Carlos Puerto
Drums – Enrique Plá
Guitar – Carlos Emilio Morales
Keyboards – Chucho Valdés
Percussion – Jorge Alfonso, Oscar Valdés
Tenor Saxophone – Carlos Averhoff
Trumpet – Arturo Sandoval, Jorge Varona

Recorded during the same Tokyo sessions where Cuba Libre was recorded, this out-of-print album features the 1980 version of Chucho Valdes' Irakere, a remarkable Cuban band comprised of four horns and a six-piece rhythm section. Paquito D'Rivera had defected, but trumpeter Arturo Sandoval was still a key part of the music, along with trumpeter Jorge Varona, tenorman Carlos Averhoff, altoist German Urdeliz and the stirring percussionists. The heated band performs four obscurities (including two by Valdes) and an adaptation of a Beethoven melody. In addition to the long studio verion of El coco already mentioned, this 5-track vinyl LP has two eclectric tracks not found elsewhere: Las hijas de Anaco, a jazz-samba hybrid, and Zanaith, a jazz ballad. Molinaria, a classical/jazz hybrid, was later re-recorded in Cuba on LD-4018.

Irakere - 1979 - Chekere Son

Chekere Son

01. Chekeré Son
02. Quince Minutos
03. La Semilla (Including Calabazita)
04. La Comparsa
05. Camaguey
06. Cha Cha Cha

Recorded At – Estudios EGREM
Mixed At – Victor Studio, Tokyo

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute – Paquito D´ Rivera
Bass, Bass Guitar [Guitar Bass], Tuba – Carlos Del Puerto
Congas [Tumbadora], Bata [Tambores Batá], Percussion [En General] – Jorge Alfonso
Congas [Tumbadora], Bata [Tambores Batá], Timbales [Paila], Bongos, Percussion [Engeneral], Lead Vocals [Cantante Del Grupo] – Oscar Valdés
Drums – Enrique Plá
Guitar, Alto Saxophone, Flugelhorn [Fliscorino] – Carlos Emilio Morales
Percussion [Percusión Cubana], Vocals – Armando Cuervo
Piano, Organ, Keyboards [Bajo De Teclas], Leader [Director Del Grupo] – Chucho Valdés
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Flute – Carlos Averoff
Trumpet, Trombone [Trombóne De Pistones], Percussion – Arturo Sandoval, Jorge Varona

Recorded at EGREM Studio in Havana, Cuba, on May 25 ~ June 1, 1979
Mixdown at Victor studio, Tokyo, Japan
Manufactured & distributed by Victor Musical Industries, Inc., Tokyo, Japan

This session was recorded in Cuba for a Japanese company and released on JVC and Milestone, It would be Paquito's last session with Irakere

1) Chéquere-son - This is a different and much long version of the opening song of Irakere's second studio album, LD-3660
2) Quince minutos - This is a very different version of the very non-Cuban sounding easy-listening jazz number that became the title track of LD-4267 in 1986.
3) La semilla & 6) Cha cha cha - Both of these found their way onto LD-4004, EGREM's Selección de éxitos, Vol. II.
4) La comparsa - This is the only known studio version of the opening number of the famous 23 y 12 concert.
5) Camagüey - When EGREM inexplicably re-released LD-3660 as LD 3926, this recording replaced Chéquere-son as the opening track.

Irakere - 1980 - Irakere 2

Irakere 2

01. Gira Gira 5:40
02. Claudia 6:06
03. Ayer Te Conoci 5:15
04. Añunga Añunga 6:10
05. Baila Mi Ritmo 6:10
06. Xiomara 6:12
07. Cien Años De Juventud 7:47
08. Por Romper El Coco 5:23

Jesús "Chucho" Valdés, piano
Oscar Valdés, vocals, percussion
Carlos Emilio Morales, guitar
Carlos del Puerto, bass
Paquito D'Rivera, alto sax & clarinet
Carlos Averhoff, tenor & baritone sax
Arturo Sandoval, trumpet
Jorge Varona, trumpet
Enrique Pla, drums, percussion
Armando Cuervo, percussion
Jorge "El Niño" Alfonso, percussion

Recorded at CBS Recording Studios, New York.
Mixed and edited at Mediasound Studios, New York.
Mastered at CBS Recording Studios, N.Y. on the CBS Discomputer™ System.

There were at least two studio sessions in 1979 -- the last two before Paquito's departure in May of 1980. One in April 1979 in New York and one May 25 to June 1, 1979 for a Japan only release.

April, 1979 - New York Session:

This session produced six odd tracks (Claudia, Ayer te concí, Añung añunga, Gira gira, Baila mi ritmo and Ciento años de juventud) that don't appear to have ever been issued in Cuba and can only be had on compilations. The one on the left is missing Gira gira, and is paired with better sounding transfers of 7 of the 8 studio tracks from LD-3660 (leaving out the studio version of Juana 1600). The one of the right leaves out Ayer te conocí, and is paired with 4 of the 5 live Grammy-award winning tracks from LD-3769, (leaving the live version of Juana 1600!). It's highly ironic that both of these reissuers chose to jetison Juana 1600, which, with its prominent use of batá rhythms and folkloric coros, is much more interesting -- both musically and historically -- than some of the less original studio tracks from these foreign sessions which offer little more than derivative collages of American jazz and fusion.

The seventh track was the first studio version of one of Irakere's main live vehicles of the time, a steaming dance track called Por romper el coco. The New York version comes in at 5:22 and features a trombone solo by Sandoval. An 8:40 studio version (titled simply El coco) was recorded in August of 1980 in Japan. There's also a live version on the 1978 23 y 12 concert.

If you are looking to have te complete session in digital format you will need these:

Irakere ‎
The Best Of Irakere

01. Gira Gira 5:43
02. Claudia 6:02
03. Ilya 9:17
04. Añunga Ñunga 6:02
05. Ciento Años De Juventud 7:47
06. Aguanile 4:57
07. Misa Negra (The Black Mass) 17:37
08. Adagio On A Mozart Theme 5:44
09. Xiomara 6:13
10. Por Romper El Coco 5:22

Chekere-Son - Best Of Irakere 1978/80

01. Chekere-Son 6:49
02. 38 1/2 5:12
03. Moja El Pan 3:53
04. Xiomara 5:33
05. Iya 5:35
06. Ayer Te Conoci 5:15
07. Añung Añunga 6:10
08. Baila Mi Ritmo 5:12
09. Por Romper El Coco 5:23

As an extra bonus I will leave you with this steaming hot 46 minutes set of Irakere opening for Stephen Stills in Passaic New Jersey on March 23, 1979 (It's in Black and White... but well worth the wach!):

March 23, 1979
Capitol Theatre
Passaic, NJ

01. Juana 1600
02. Mozart Concerto un D for Flute
03. Adagio
04. Aguanile
05. La Danza de los Nanigos
06. 100 Años De Juventud
07. Bacalao Con Pan

Audiences fortunate enough to experience a live IRAKERE performance when the group exploded out of Cuba in the late 1970s witnessed the group's rapid ascension to the exalted realm of the musically extraordinary. During the all-too-brief period when they were still performing as a unit, IRAKERE earned its rightful place alongside American jazz geniuses Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and other innovators and expanders of progressive musical horizons who heard something a little different and devoted their talent to the search for it.

IRAKERE pushed the jazz frontier deeper into the African heart of Cuba. Instead of using Cuban percussion patterns to enhance jazz compositions, they made their country's traditional music an equal partner or featured player in their work.

The members, Carlos del Puerto (bass), Carlos Emilio Morales (electric guitar), Jorge "El Nino" Alfonso (congas), Enrique Pla’ (drums), Oscar Valdés (vocals and percussion), Armando Cuervo (also on vocals and percussion), Jorge Varona (trumpet and flugelhorn), Arturo Sandoval (trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone and vocals), Paquito D'Rivera (soprano/baritone/alto sax), Carlos Averhoff (soprano/tenor sox, piccolo and flute), and Jesus Chucho Valdés (arranger, composer and all keyboards), were all formally trained, student of jazz, and world (lass soloists, (as Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D'Rivera, woodwind magicians, continue to demonstrate). Their contribution to the evolution of jazz as a gracious musical form that can accommodate and celebrate all cultures is rooted in the group's deliberate intent to cross-pollinate jazz instrumentation with traditional Cuban/African inspired music that weaved Batá drums (two sided Afro-Cuban drums associated with rituals instead of conga drums and timbales) and chekeres into their arrangements.

From a percussion perspective, it's still very polyrhythmic, but the layers often have an earthy, spiritual aura to them and the group's dense musical background allows them to leave few musical stones unturned.

The vibrant "Gira Gira" showcases the interplay between drum set, congas, and chekere using a Congo rhythm with Chucho on Fender Rhodes, the keyboard instrument of choice for Herbie Hancock and other progressive jazz musicians during that period. There's a smooth segue into a bass guitar and bass drum driven disco downbeat, a steady cadence that pauses for a sorrowful flute phrase bathed in distortion to give it almost a rock sound and a bluesy guitar riff. The song is lively and complex but also political With its message about workers whose suffering in obeying the commands of the foreman or overseer echoes the pain of their slave ancestors. In that context, the drum/bass beat embodies the sound of a long march, the forced footsteps of workers being led into an endless day of pain, toil, and indignity, the flute and guitar solos sound like a lament, a momentary, solitary wail
in the wilderness.

It's got a good beat and you can dance to it, but the full power in this modern day ode to mistreated workers lies in its connection to a historical necessity to hide or take refuge inside the music of one's homeland.

American slave owners prohibited the use of African dialects among their slaves, often punishing them severely for practicing traditional musical rituals honoring births, deaths, marriages, etc. Drumming in particular was deemed as subversive with its potential for communicating in yet another language the slave owner did not understand, but where the drumming, (often achieved with spoons, wooden boxes, beating on porch rails or anything handy) was allowed to follow, particularly in Cuba, it become the heartbeat, the pulse, the unifying force of a strong willed people who set their music free in a hostile land even while they lived in bondage.

Having imported their own musical heritage through dance and the voice of stringed instruments (the forerunners of today's guitar), Spanish slave masters in Cuba were more tolerant of the African passion for drumming. (Their influence was enduring-there's a Spanish high-society danzón feel to "Ciento Años De Juventud" included in this collection, but it starts with a Fats Domino/Jerry Lee Lewis kind of piano tinkling.) Under the guise of celebrating sacred Catholic rites, slaves in Cuba were able to preserve their Yoruba language and music and honor its African deities, or orishas. Music became the Cuban slaves' weapon of resistance and a barrier against complete assimilation, eventually infiltrating the fabric of village life all over the island.

It was the merging of what was available at the time to a musical people: the intricate patterns of Spanish stringed instruments and the propulsive, rhythmic, multi-layered drum/dance/voice triad of African celebratory or religious music, that formed the foundation for Afro-Cuban jazz.

Though separated by language and geography (and ultimately politics), there have always been jazz musicians in Cuba who played as well as anyone anywhere and admirers on both sides of the water. Years before the embargo, Swing Era big band leaders borrowed heavily from Cuban musicians who migrated to New York. American audiences easily accepted contemporary Afro-Cuban dances, La Rhumba, La Cha Cha Cha, La Congo, and El Mambo, embracing Desi Arnaz as a musician more readily than as the husband of its beloved Lucy

Through their collaborations (depending on who you talk to), Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo, Charlie Parker, Stan Kenton, Machito, and Mario Bauzá are credited with contributing a hybrid strain to that genre, and naming their offspring Cu-Bop. They left the ground fertile for a new Afro/Cuban/American musical discovery.

But until IRAKERE's successful experiments with blending both traditional jazz and traditionally Cuban elements and the political maneuvering that one assumes had to take place allowing the group to bring it off the island during the Cuban embargo-they were the first Castro-era group to record and tour abroad – the merge was incomplete.

The group's finesse in calling all historical and musical forces into play (along with the inspiración style of improvisational singing) gave them a potent arsenal from which to create. No song is without several well conceived and interestingly placed influences, particularly the three movements of the 17-plus-minutes-long "Misa Negra (The Black Mass)" which stretches across a galaxy of sound using chimes, cymbals, bird whistles, a haunting background vocal melody, call and response singing. Almost a suite but definitely a masterpiece of composing and arranging, "Misa Negra" establishes a cosmic aura, featuring Chucho's brilliant keyboard strategy, and breakneck arranging for the brass section. Tempo and mood change along the way.

Introduced by cowbell, the song "Ilya" demonstrates the power of call and response not only between the primary vocalist and background vocalists but among the singers and drummers. Pushed by a 6/8 rhythm into a religious/Yoruba direction, the chorus (or coro) inspires the singer in a kind of intense conversation with each "speaker" responding to the passion of the others. (Sandoval shines in this selection named after one of the bata drums.)

Unless the planets align themselves again to produce a reunion of these exemplary musicians, fans of their music can only experience IRAKERE through old records, IRAKERE, IRAKERE 2, the Havana Jam LPs, etc. But the advances in recording technology since the group disbanded present old fans and new audiences with the chance to hear them on CD which provides this music with the sound quality it so richly deserves.

Irakere was an amazing band. Something like this does not happen very often. Musicians so uniquely talented together in one band. I had read about them being one of the premier Cuban bands, and I got this compilation. The first time I heard it, I couldn't believe it. These guys know their Latin roots to a T, yet they mix that with a lot of different styles. Disco/Funk style grooves, complete with psychedelic synthesizer give way to the deepest Latin groove, capped with monstruos solos by the great Arturo Sandoval or Paquito D'Rivera. Dark, African tribal-like melodies interspersed with spoken-word phrases. Even classical music, Cubanized! I never get tired of it. I can never get tired of fearlessly made music. Music made with the sole purpose of exploring possibilities. Yet, one can feel the sense of humor. You feel they are having fun, they enjoy the creative process, they enjoy the off-beat combinations that seem to work like magic. One can only join in the enjoyment. If you like Latin music at all, and you also enjoy music that combines seemingly disparate elements, Irakere should be on your list of bands to consider. 

Irakere - 1978 - Irakere


01. Juana 1600
02. Ilyá
03. Adagio On A Mozart Theme
04. Misa Negra (Black Mass)
05. Aguanile Bonkó

Jesús "Chucho" Valdés, piano
Oscar Valdés, vocals, percussion
Carlos Emilio Morales, guitar
Carlos del Puerto, bass
Paquito D'Rivera, alto sax & clarinet
Carlos Averhoff, tenor & baritone sax
Arturo Sandoval, trumpet
Jorge Varona, trumpet
Enrique Pla, drums, percussion
Armando Cuervo, percussion
Jorge "El Niño" Alfonso, percussion

Recorded live at the Newport Festival, New York and  at Montreux Jazz Festival by Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland during the group’s tour through the United States and Switzerland during June/July, 1978

North American Latin jazz audiences were knocked out when this LP came out, for it was the first idea many of us had of the explosive power of this Cuban jazz/rock band, which had been let briefly out of Cuba to tour. Columbia taped them live at New York's Newport Festival and Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival, and the result was a noisy, ambitious, frenzied, tremendously exciting mixture of everything but the kitchen sink. Co-founder, keyboardist and arranger Chucho Valdes was as thoroughly attuned to the thumping electric bass, the careening buzz of a synthesizer and bell-like electric piano as he was to his homeland's complex rhythms and his own classical training -- and despite the cultural embargo, the 11-piece group was in touch with then-current developments in American jazz/rock. "Juana Mil Ciento," curiously the only track not available on CD, comes roaring out of the box with an incendiary mix of battering Cuban drumming, Arturo Sandoval's wild trumpet and Paquito D'Rivera's wailing alto. Paquito also contributes a free-floating, sometimes slapstick fantasy on themes of Mozart. The most audacious number is the 17 1/2-minute "Black Mass," which unleashes Valdes' staggering classical piano technique, knockabout rock guitar, Cuban chanting, high-wire brass, and lots of drums without somehow losing its train of thought. All but one of these tracks were reissued on CD as part of The Best of Irakere; admittedly, the LP's raucous sound is a bit more exciting than the cleaned-up CD. 

Around 1972, some of the members of the Cuban Modern Music Orchestra decided to form their own group, and by 1973 it had been organized into what is now known as IRAKERE.  When these musicians, all impeccable soloists, left the best orchestra in the country, they had but one purpose in mind: to put all their efforts into what could be called 'experimenting,' joining a trend begun by others who were trying to renovate popular music.

Chucho Valdés (piano) and Paquito D'Rivera (alto sax & clarinet), both composers and arrangers, were, from the beginning, the main inspirers of IRAKERE. Oscar Valdés would be in charge of giving a different personality to the percussion section, adding to it his knowledge of ancesteral songs in African language, one of the most important and least known forms of music of the Afro-Cuban musical heritage. Other members of the group also come from Cuban Modern Music Orchestra: Emilio Morales (guitar), Carlos del Puerto (bass), Enrique Pla' (drums) and Arturo Sandoval and Jorge Varona (trumpets. Later additions were Carlos Averhoff (tenor & baritone sax) Jorge Alfonso and Armando Cuervo (percussion) to complete the group as it is today.

IRAKERE has two advantages over all the other groups who have a similar musical approach: the virtuosity of its soloists, who are excellent improvisers, and then, the cohesion which comes after playing together for many years. Chucho, Paquito and Carlos Emilio have been associated almost since the beginning of their professional careers: first in the Havana Musical Theatre Orchestra and later on in a group that was led by Chucho, which had as a vocalist Amado Borcela (Guapacha'), who has since died, and with whom they made a number of records for EGREM, earning quite a lot of popularity in the sixties. Later on they formed different quartets and quintets (with Pla', Oscar and sometimes with Sandoval or Varona) to play at sporadic concerts and festivals in Cuba and abroad. Their most outstanding performance outside of Cuba was during the 1970 Polish Jazz Festival, where the Cubans were heard and praised for the first time by renowned jazz artists like Dave Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan.

But let us leave IRAKERE's past history and come to present times. After having become the most brilliant and solid group within the new stream in Cuban music, they met, during the (one and only) Jazz Cruise's stay in Havana in 1977, (such luminaries as) Stan Getz, who had come to Cuba often during the fifties, and Dizzy Gillespie, who strangely had never visited the country of his collaborator, Chano Pozo. The interest and enthusiasm that IRAKERE stirred up among the members of the Cruise  - including musicians, jazz critics and producers - was like a preview of what would happen during the group's tour through the United States and Switzerland during June/July, 1978, and outstanding performances at the Newport and Montreux Jazz Festivals.

Japanese Edition

The press reviews that appeared in The New York Times, and San Francisco Examiner and Billboard, were very enthusiastic about IRAKERE, but a few questions arose that showed that there was some confusion. Is it really jazz that IRAKERE plays? Has it anything to do with "salsa"? Can the group be classified as "Latin-jazz-rock'' or as ''Latin-fusion'' or ''salsa-fusion"?

The truth is that although the majority of the IRAKERE musicians have played jazz for many years, they have more experience and more solid roots in Cuban music. And the presence of Cuba in IRAKERE is not only in its percussion, it is also in its way of playing: in the phrasing, in the attack and sense of rhythm of the soloists, as well as in whole passages.

Our novelist, Alejo Carpentier, who is also a renowned authority on music, has said that Cuban popular music is "the only music that can be compared with 'Jazz in the 20th century.' Is it not strange that these two musical forms have been compared so frequently. Their affinity comes from before the existence of jazz as such. We know all about the history of the beginnings of jazz, but we don't always associate it with the ending of slavery in Cuba, between 1880 and 1889, and the massive immigration of black Cubans, free but jobless, to places like New Orleans. Neither is it unusual that along with French and English names, one finds among the first jazz musicians names that show their Spanish roots (Lorenzo Tio, Luis Tio, Manuel Perez, Willy Marrero, Paul Dominguez), nor that Jelly Roll Morton, when asked about where jazz came from, included Cuba among its places of origin.

More well known are the international influences of the habanera and the rumba, until we come to the 1940s and 1950s, the Cubop era. During this period, the impact caused by the meeting between Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie can be added to the influences of Machito, Perez Prado, Mario Bauzá, Mongo Santamaria, Chico O'Farrill and many others. The "fusion'' between elements of jazz and Cuban music has a long history having nothing to do with the more recent merging of jazz and rock, which sometimes adds certain so-called ''Latin'' elements which are in reality, Afro Cuban or Afro-Caribbean. As far as salsa is concerned, it is 99 percent Cuban music of the '40s and '50s. This is why if IRAKERE are jazz musicians, they are so in a very substantially Cuban way. 
If Chucho Valdés was familiar with the piano styles of Horace Silver or Bill Evans more than ten years ago, he also knew the peculiarities of the son, the contradanza and the danzón. At times we here reminiscences of Art Tatum in some passages, yet the other side of Chucho's style is given by his mastery of Cuban classical piano: Cervantes and Samuell in the 19th century and Lecuona in the 20th, and in a more popular vein, Antonio Maria Romeu. Going down this road, who knows if, with the coming of IRAKERE onto the musical scene, we are getting to the roots and to the redevelopment, with a newer viewpoint, of practically inexhaustible materials.

Chucho's compositions, as well as those of other members of the group, reflect a receptiveness; to what is going on internationally, including free jazz and the so-called European musical vanguard. They put these to work as a form of personal expression, underlined by the knowledgeable use of rhythms that have African origins and which are mixed and renovated with great originality. One of the contributions has been to incorporate, into a musical context that once only accepted Congo and Dahomeyan elements, the intricate and vigorous Yoruba and Carabali rhythms which have been well known in Cuba but which had not been "integrated'' into the mainstream of our music. Another characteristic of these compositions are the frequent changes in time and atmosphere, a typical element in Yoruba music. "Misa Negra" ("Black Mass"), is perhaps the best example of this, although it can also be heard in "Ilya,'' "Aguanile'' and others.

As to the individual contribution by each soloist, we must let them speak for themselves. You can't deny Paquito D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval owe a lot to Parker and Gillespie, but can there be a more logical debt?

In Paquito's explosive sense of humor, the fierce intensity of Arturo, and Chucho's controlled lyricism, we find very personal facets in their playing. Like IRAKERE, there are many other young Cuban musicians who also play jazz in a style deeply rooted in Afro-Caribbean music and who at the same time have definite personal styles. IRAKERE is an outstanding example within a real musical 'explosion.' Which is saying a lot.

Leo Brouwer - Irakere - 1978 - Concierto / Teatro Karl Marx / Septiembre 1978

Leo Brouwer - Irakere 
Concierto / Teatro Karl Marx / Septiembre 1978

01. Ragtime (El Animador)
02. Misa Negra
03. Concierto De Aranjuéz
04. Adagio
05. Romance (Juego Prohibidos)
06. Preludio No. 3

Chucho Valdés: Piano
Leo Brouwer: Guitar

Paquito d'Rivera: Alto Sax
Carlos del Puerto: Acoustic and Electric Bass
Enrique Plá: Drums
Jorge “El Niño” Alfonso: Congas
Juan Munguía: Trumpet
Arturo Sandoval: Trumpet
Jorge Varona: Trumpet
Germán Velazco: Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute
Carlos Averoff: Tenor Sax, Flute
José Luis “El Tosco” Cortés: Flute
Carlos Emilio Morales: Electric Guitar
Oscar Valdés: Vocals, Percussion
Ele Valdés & Carlos Alfonso: Vocals on Misa Negra

"Leo Brouwer-Irakere" Documents An Exceptional Concert That Sought To Break The Barrier Between Classical And Popular Music (Havana, 1978). Thus, It Brought Together For The First Time Leo Brouwer -Considered At The Time One Of The World´S Most Important Guitar Soloists - And The Afro-Cuban Jazz Group IRAKERE. The Group, Winner Of A GRAMMY In 1978, And The # 1 Ranking Latin Jazz Band

Alternate Cover

One of my favorite albums of all times, mind blowing stuff... Do yourself a favor and get a copy before you die.