Thursday, November 30, 2017

Brân - 1975 - Ail Ddechra

Ail Ddechra

01. Y Ddôr Ddig (3:30)
02. F'Annwyl Un (3:01)
03. Y Gwylwyr (3:00)
04. Wrth Y Ffynnon (4:19)
05. Ynys Gudd (2:27)
06. Myfyrdod (2:19)
07. Rhodiaf Hen Lwybrau (2:44)
08. Mor Braf (2:54)
09. Caledfwlch (3:04)
10. Blodyn (3:45)
11. Y Crewr (3:36)
12. Breuddwyd (4:04)

- John Gwyn / guitars, vocals
- Nest Howells / vocals, keyboards
- Gwyndaf Roberts / guitar
- Dafydd Meirion / drums, flute

BRÂN were a Welsh band who began life as a marginally progressive folk-leaning act and moved steadily toward a more conventional sound as they shifted lineups numerous times during their five-year existence. Mk4 of the group recorded a third studio album in 1978 shortly before they fractured with the departure of founding member John Gwyn. The band was noteworthy for recording solely in Welsh, a characteristic that surely endeared them to their countrymen but undoubtedly limited their commercial potential.

The band's early lineup included vocalist/keyboardist Nest Howells, whose angelic voice cemented the band's sound well inside folk territory in their early years. She would depart after the second release, when the band would abandon any pretense of progressive music with a heavy guitar attack that has been referred to as "crotch-rock" in their waning years.

Gwyn would go on to a career in television and soundtrack music, while a handful of the remaining members would reform as the mainstream rock band MAGGS, and two eventually formed the boogie-rock act LOUIS AR ROCYRS. Remnants of the earlier BRÂN including Howells would resurface as the prog folk act PERERIN. Nest Howells would also give birth to Welsh pop singer ELIN FFLUR.

BRÂN were a band whose claim to progressive status is largely limited to their first (and some of their second) studio releases; while they would end up as a decidedly conventional band, those first recordings and their ties to PERERIN merit some attention in the annuals of progressive rock.

Brân’s first album is the only one that really fits in the progressive folk fold; the ones that followed only became progressively more commercial-sounding, and by their third with the departure of keyboardist and angelic vocalist Nest Howells the group abandoned all pretense of being anything but a regional b- list contemporary Welsh rock band.
Too bad, because thanks almost exclusively to Ms. Howells (along with the songwriting and pretty decent of John Gwyn) the band showed some promise in the mold of groups like Mellow Candle or Fuchsia. I’ve read several places that the most excellent prog folk band Pererin had its roots in this group, but in reading the various album lineups for both groups the linkage isn’t particularly strong. Indeed, most of the members that remained in Brân by the time their third album released all ended up in very conventional and forgettable regional groups.

This album clearly demonstrates the two sides of the band, at times seeming to almost compete for attention. The opening “Y Ddor Ddig” is a rather simple and melodic pop-rock tune in the seventies mold of bands such as the Bay City Rollers or Greg Kihn Band; nothing progressive, just decent bar- band fodder. Ultimately forgettable.

If you give up after that one though you’ll miss out on Ms. Howells’ near-operatic soprano that fairly drips with rustic, bucolic resonance from the opening notes of “F'annwyl Un” through “Y Gwylwyr “ and “Wrth Y Ffynnon”. Each of these follows a similar pattern of simple rhythm, tasty electric guitar breaks and Ms. Howells plunking away on her keyboards (that sound like a spinet at times) and crooning blissfully. Not really the highest order of progressive folk, but the noteworthy guitar work and tastefully understated bass are just enough to keep things from passing as either traditional folk or pop.

The band actually makes an attempt at mixing their mainstream rock sensibilities with Ms. Howells’ inherently folk vocals on “Myfyrdod” to mixed effect. The guitar work and percussion are cheesy and quite dated, while Nest’s voice comes off awkward and disjointed and results in something that probably felt as unnatural to record as it sounds. Not the track to start with if you want to hear the best these guys had to offer.

Speaking of the Bay City Rollers by the way, check out “Mor Braf” and “Blodyn“ for other examples of that three-chord seventies spandex rock but once again unconvincingly peppered with Howells’ voice at oddly-placed intervals. The latter one sounds more like a tavern drinking-song as well, something I suppose every live band needs in their arsenal but which should be left off studio albums in my opinion.

But the good outweighs the bad here, and tracks like “Caledfwich” and “Y Crewr” with their ballad-like tempo and wispy flute are much more suited to her voice and make the off-kilter songs a bit more tolerable.

The closing “Breud Dwyd” is an interesting and beautiful composition that is undeniably the best track on the album and probably of the band’s career, indolent in a charming way with Howells’ classically- inspired piano solo and delicate organ bleats and a couple of mild guitar forays just pronounced enough to remind you this is rock you’re listening to. The interesting part of this song is that the band also recorded a more upbeat version with vocals, which was released both as a rare single and on a Welsh folk compilation album several years after their demise. Its one of the few times I’ve heard of a band releasing the same basic tune in such distinctly different renditions. Just a bit of trivia but cause for a couple minutes of pondering as to what their intent was.

Anyway, I like this album even with its unevenness and lack of any real masterpiece tracks. Overall I’ll say this is easily decent, though not quite outstanding.

Eric Kloss - 1998 - Sweet Connections

Eric Kloss 
Sweet Connections

01. Sweet Connections 5:04
02. Wrapped In A Cloud 7:27
03. The Sands Of Time 7:20
04. Places In My Past 5:40
05. Irish Fantasy - The Ballad Of Charlotte McGhee 10:51
06. Love Is Here To Stay 5:53
07. Days Of Wine And Roses 5:41
08. Gil's Tune 8:42
09. The Seasons 9:25

Alto Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Bass – Steve Tisher (tracks: 7 to 9)
Drums – Terry Silverlight (tracks: 7 to 9)
Piano – Gil Goldstein

Recorded live on December 19 & 20, 1979

Eric Kloss is one of many artists recorded live at E.J.'s in Atlanta before it ceased operations in 1982. Unlike typical guest artists performing there, Kloss doesn't simply play with a local house band; he is joined throughout both dates by pianist Gil Goldstein, with bassist Steve Tisher and drummer Terry Silverlight added on the last three selections. Kloss, who abruptly seemed to have ceased performing and recording without explanation during the 1980s, is in great form on these 1979 live sets. The duo leads off with "Sweet Connections," a furious original credited to both men. The saxophonist's lush ballads "Wrapped in a Cloud" and "The Sands of Time" are followed by a fairly straightforward interpretation of rocker James Taylor's "Places in My Past." Goldstein shows off a bit in a rollicking duet of the standard "Love Is Here to Stay," with Kloss adding a bit of a wry solo. Like other recordings made at E.J.'s and issued on its equally defunct namesake label, the piano sounds a bit muddy and distant, making one wonder if the musicians realized they were being recorded, though this rare opportunity to hear Eric Kloss in a live setting late in his career overcomes any sonic shortcomings.

Eric Kloss - 1979 - Celebration

Eric Kloss

01. Celebration 6:53
02. The Force 10:07
03. Afterglow 5:12
04. Heavy Connections 6:06
05. The Samba Express 7:52
06. Blue Delhi 7:46

Bass – Mike Richmond
Drums – Terry Silverlight
Guitar – Kenny Karsh
Keyboards – Barry Miles
Saxophone [Alto] – Eric Kloss

Recorded at Dimensional Sound Studio, NYC - January 6 & &, 1979

The music on this obscure LP (the last in a long string of Eric Kloss Muse recordings) is often funky and in the fusion vein. The altoist is joined by keyboardist Barry Miles (who contributed the only one of the six pieces not written by the leader), guitarist Kenny Karsh, bassist Mike Richmond, and drummer Terry Silverlight. The playing is on a high level and the compositions are complex,

Eric Kloss - 1978 - Now

Eric Kloss

01. We Are Together 7:32
02. Now 6:39
03. Morning Song 6:35
04. Hey, Hey, Whatta You Say? 5:21
05. Autumn Blue 6:22
06. Booga Wooga Woman 7:04

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Bass – Mike Richmond
Cowbell – Efrain Toro
Drums – Jimmy Madison
Keyboards – Mike Nock

Recorded January 4 & 5, 1978 at Van Gelder Recording Studio, Englewood, N.J.

Tenor/altoist Eric Kloss recorded often from 1965-1981 before disappearing from jazz. His sound was fairly original, he was technically skilled, and, even though his impact was fairly minor, he did record many worthwhile sessions, most of which are currently hard to find. On this LP, Kloss (joined by keyboardist Mike Nock, bassist Mike Richmond, and drummer Jimmy Madison) performs six of his originals, none of which caught on. The music is generally lyrical and the leader plays well, even if the rhythm section is fairly anonymous, but little all that memorable occurs.

Eric Kloss / Barry Miles - 1976 - Together Images

Eric Kloss / Barry Miles 
Together Images

01. Relay 6:58
02. The Wise Woman 6:24
03. Together 6:09
04. Song For A Mountain 4:19
05. The Goddess, The Gypsy & The Light 13:05
06. Opus De Mulier 1:55

Alto Saxophone – Eric Kloss (tracks: A1, A2, B2, B3)
Electric Piano – Barry Miles (tracks: A2, B3)
Piano – Barry Miles (tracks: A1, A3, B1, B2)
Synthesizer – Barry Miles (tracks: B1)
Tenor Saxophone – Eric Kloss (tracks: A3, B1)

Recorded July 19 & 20, 1976 at CI Recording, NYC

Eric Kloss / Richie Cole - 1977 - Battle Of The Saxes, Vol.1

Eric Kloss / Richie Cole
Battle Of The Saxes, Vol.1

01. Ebony Godfather 9:52
02. Robin 11:22
03. D.C. Farewell 7:45
04. Harold's House Of Jazz 13:00

Recorded Live At The Tin Palace, New York City, March 1976

Richie Cole: Alto Saxophone (Right Channel)
Eric Kloss: Alto Saxophone (Left Channel)
Rick Laird: Bass
Eddie Gladden: Drums

Except for one obscure release from the year before, this Muse LP has the earliest recording of Richie Cole as a leader (actually a co-leader with fellow altoist Eric Kloss). Cole and Kloss battle it out on four lengthy songs with "Harold's House of Jazz" (which is actually based on "Cherokee") being the highpoint. Worth searching for.

Eric Kloss - 1975 - Bodies' Warmth

Eric Kloss
Bodies' Warmth

01. Lady
02. Joni
03. Bodies' Warmth
04. Scarborough Fair
05. Mystique
06. Headin' Out

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Drums – Terry Silverlight
Electric Bass – Harvie Swartz
Guitar – Vic Juris
Piano, Electric Piano, Synthesizer – Barry Miles

Recorded 6/24 & 6/25 1975.

Eric Kloss joined forces with Barry Miles' Silverlight on this outing and for touring at the time.The results aren't quite as fusion orientated as the Silverlight connection might lead you to believe and it's not until the final "Headin' Out" that we get some balls out banging fusion.Solid album overall.

Eric Kloss - 1974 - Essence

Eric Kloss

01. Love Will Take You There 15:38
02. Affinity 8:57
03. Essence 16:36
04. Descent 3:41

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Bass – Buster Williams
Drums – Ron Krasinski
Piano, Electric Piano – Mickey Tucker
Trumpet – Hannibal Marvin Peterson

Recorded 12/14/73 with the interesting - especially from this time - lineup of Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson (as he was then billed), Mickey Tucker (who "appears courtesy of Bluenote (sic) Records" a reference to the New Heritage Keyboard Quartet, I guess) , Buster Williams, Ron Krasinski (drummer, apparently a buddy of Kloss' who apparently "went to California to pursue his musical career". Hope that went ok...) & on one tune Sonny Morgan on percussion.

Tunes are very much "of the time", meaning modal in spots, slightly free-ish in spots, occasionally "rock-ish" in a non-commercial way. Kloss was always a "follower", but to me that's not necessarily a derogatory assessment. This is a guy who started waaaay young and was very much learning - as in going beyond what he already knew - as he went along. If you wnat to look at it "artistically" then hey, big whoop, next, move on. But looked at as one man's journey, well, maybe it should or shouldn't have been documented to the extent that it was for as long as it was (especially early on), but it was, and there's a story there, a human one of some interest if not necessarily a musical one of larger interest. Simply put, the guy's a "good player", and you can make of that what you want and probably not be wrong no matter what.


On this album, Kloss came to play hard and had a band who was more than willing and able to match him (and more than match him). These cats are burning, especially Peterson who was in the first flush of his Gil Evans-facilitated exposure, and Tucker, who's one of the best, most consistently interesting, ever-so-slightly idyosyncratic, pianists/keyboardists that not enough people have heard of (or heard enough of). If Kloss sounds at times like a student who's learned his lessons well and convincingly, these guys sound like the cats he was hoping to get it done with once he did.

Trust me when I say that this is one of those sleeper albums that you can go through your entire life not hearing and still have a good, excellent, even, life. But hearing it ain't gonna hurt a damn thing, and may well be considered a bonus. And if you're into Hannibal and/or Tucker, then you pretty much GOT to hear it.

Eric Kloss - 1972 - One, Two, Free

Eric Kloss
One, Two, Free

01. One, Two, Free
a. One, Two, Free
b. Elegy
c. The Wizard
02. It's Too Late
03. Licea

Bass – Dave Holland
Drums – Ron Krasinski
Electric Piano, Tambourine – Ron Thomas
Guitar – Pat Martino
Saxophone [Alto] – Eric Kloss

Recorded August 28, 1972.

Although based in the hard bop tradition, altoist Eric Kloss was always open to the influence of the avant-garde. This stimulating session features Kloss, guitarist Pat Martino, keyboardist Ron Thomas, bassist Dave Holland, and drummer Ron Krasinski really stretching out on Carole King's "It's Too Late," "Licea," and the three-part "One, Two, Free." Eric Kloss pushes himself and his sidemen throughout the date, and even if the Fender Rhodes sounds a bit dated, the high musicianship and chance-taking are still exciting to hear.

Pittsburgh native Eric Kloss (b. 1949) was one of the most distinctive, original voices to emerge on alto sax in the mid-60s. He was only 16 when the first of his eleven Prestige albums was released in 1965. These records featured the cream of the crop of New York musicians and the young Kloss more than held his own with heavyweights like Booker Ervin, Jaki Byard, Chick Corea, Cedar Walton, and most notably, guitarist Pat Martino.

Kloss switched to the Muse label in 1972 and debuted with this outstanding quartet recording, One, Two, Free ; which remains his finest achievement. In a group featuring Martino on guitar and Ron Thomas on electric piano as well as bassist Dave Holland and fellow Pittsburgher Ron Krasinski on drums, Kloss pushes and pulls his group to take chances that explore the outer edges of bop, fusion and even funky pop music.

The 18-minute, three-part title track is clearly influenced by Bitches Brew (on which bassist Holland also participated). But here, like on the surprisingly substantial funk of Carole King's "It Too Late," Kloss's arched sound and searing style move the ostinato vamp in a more avant-garde direction (the way Arthur Blythe later would). Martino gets a notable share of the solo spotlight and never ceases to amaze in his mixture of cool chordal comps and fleet runs up and down the fretboard.

Kloss's beautiful ballad, "Licea," guided by Dave Holland's moody, signature string work, is the jewel of this collection and probably deserves to be better known. Martino waxes lyrically before Kloss enters for a rueful countenance that's worth the price of admission.

32 Jazz was wise to bring One, Two, Free back into circulation - and maintain Don Schlitten's beautiful cover-art photography too. Priced well below other recent jazz reissues, One, Two, Free is a significant chapter in 1970s jazz and provides a great opportunity to discover the interesting music of Eric Kloss (who, despite no widespread releases since the early 1980s, still performs infrequently at Pittsburgh events with his vocalist wife). Even though there's 42 minutes of music here, one wishes creative interaction this good kept on going. Recommended.

An extraordinarily gifted altoist, Eric Kloss first appeared on the scene at the age of 16, when his debut record won him critical acclaim as a blind child prodigy. By the time of this recording, the 23-year-old Kloss had lived up to his early promise, growing as an open-minded musician with experience playing with such jazz heavy-weights as Jaki Byard, Booker Ervin, Jack DeJohnette, and Chick Corea.
One, Two, Free is an avant-garde album of often funky music, with its strong rhythms rooted in the driving bass lines of Miles Davis-veteran Dave Holland and the vintage Fender Rhodes sounds of Ron Thomas. Kloss and guitarist Pat Martino stretch imaginatively on the 18 minute title track (seamlessly divided into three parts), crafting a memorable original that approaches the electric intensity of Miles Davis‘ work from the same era.

Carol King’s “It’s Too Late” starts off with tongue-in-cheek straightness, but once the theme is stated, the pop-song is turned on its head and transformed into a funky vehicle for exploration. The closing track, “Licea,” is complex and cerebral, but rewards close listening. Featuring two originals and one cover tune, all over 10 minutes long, One, Two, Free is an adventurous blast from the past that still retains its freshness and is definitely worth owning. Buy it, and help rescue one of the unsung heroes of the saxophone from undeserved obscurity.

Eric Kloss - 1972 - Doors

Eric Kloss 

01. Doors
02. Waves
03. Quasar
04. Sweatin' It
05. Love
06. Libra

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Bass – Gene Taylor
Drums, Tambourine – Ron Krasinski
Piano, Electric Piano – Neal Creque

Recorded January 1, 1972.

Eric Kloss: Past And Prescient
March 30, 1984
Washington Post

The latest album in the racks by saxophonist Eric Kloss isn't new at all. Entitled "Doors," it was recorded in 1972 at a pivotal point in Kloss' career. At the time he was moving away from the confines of post-bop structures and beginning to experiment with freer forms and different styles. "Selective electicism" is how he described it.

Kloss has since gone on to make his mark in jazz as an individualistic and adventurous musician and composer. But "Doors" reveals the saxophonist first spreading his wings, and a dozen years later the music still holds up.

The album opens with the title track, paying homage in 9/8 time to poet William Blake's "doors of perception." Muted keyboards, over-dubbed horn duets, spacious silences and a recurring figure in the bass create an entrancing, rather impressionistic effect. our other tracks (or "doors") bear similarly apt one-word titles: "Waves" is an idyllic retreat, carefree and alluring; "Quasar" has enormous collaborative energy; "Love" is part sentiment, part emotion; and "Libra" balances two over-dubbed tenor saxophones of differing musical temperaments -- one jazz, the other rock.

Because a conceptual album like this requires a cohesive and intelligent group effort, Kloss was fortunate to have pianist Neal Creque, bassist Gene Taylor and drummer Ron Krasinski along for the ride. Kloss' playing on alto and tenor saxes is often striking and always sensitively executed, but the individual and collective contributions of his fine rhythm section consistently add to the album's enduring appeal. 

Eric Kloss - 1970 - Consciousness!

Eric Kloss

01. Sunshine Superman 10:37
02. Kay 10:24
03. Outward Wisdom 6:05
04. Songs To Aging Children 6:58
05. Consciousness 8:36

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Bass, Electric Bass – Dave Holland
Drums – Jack DeJohnette
Guitar [6 String, 12 String] – Pat Martino
Piano, Electric Piano – Chick Corea

Recorded January 6, 1970

One common feature of every Miles Davis group is the stellar rhythm section -- whether it's Garland/Chambers/Jones, Kelly/Chambers/Cobb, or Hancock/Carter/Williams. Yet one of the best Miles rhythm sections, Corea/Holland/DeJohnette, didn't make much of an impact in the studio; while they were absolutely scorching in concert (as any of the Fillmore concerts will attest to), this 2-on-1 CD gives a good idea of what they could do in the studio.
Eric Kloss was (and supposedly still is) an edgy post-bop altoist, obviously aware of Coltrane's innovations but with a very distinct, individual sound. On some of the tracks he plays tenor. Anyway, he definitely deserves mention alongside Jackie McLean and Gary Bartz.

The first album, To Hear Is To See (tracks 1-5), is relatively more "inside" and it's interesting to hear the rhythm trio swinging in a more conventional setting (one month later they'd be recording Bitches Brew). Like a lot of other jazz cerca 1969-70, there's a definite rock influence both in the rhythms and in Corea's use of the electric piano (he also plays acoustic). Consciousness! (tracks 6-10) was recorded in January 1970, and sounds a lot more like the intense Fillmore recordings. Pat Martino, who joins the band on guitar, is an explosive presence.

This is highly recommended to any fan of Corea, Holland, or DeJohnette as well as to anyone who likes the sound of late 60s post-bop jazz. And besides, you will never hear a funkier version of "Sunshine Superman" in your life. 

Eric Kloss is a world renowned alto and tenor saxophonist, a multi-instrumentalist, recording artist, composer, clinician, educator, and television personality. Blind from birth music became his vision. A true child prodigy he performed with his mentor Sonny Stitt at age 12. Backed by jazz guitarist Pat Martino, his recording career began at age 16 with the release of “Introducing Eric Kloss”. Blending hard bob, be-bop, pop, rock, funk, free jazz, classical and world music, he went on to release 22 critically acclaimed recordings on the Prestige and Muse labels. A who’s who of jazz masters appeared as sidemen on his albums including Gerald Veasley, Barry Miles, Don Patterson, Jaki Byard, Gil Goldstein, Richard Davis, Alan Dawson, Cedar Walton, Jimmy Owens, Kenny Barron, Booker Ervin, Leroy Vinnegar, Billy Higgins, Kenny Barron, Bob Cranshaw, and Alan Dawson. His most acclaimed album, Eric Kloss and the Rhythm Section, features the Miles Davis rhythm section of Corea, DeJohnette, and Dave Holland. Kloss toured the USA and Europe for 25 years wowing audiences with his technical brilliance and wild improvisations.

Eric was a frequent guest on the PBS TV show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, second only to pianist Johnny Costa for most appearances by any musician. In 1989 he became a spokesman for Yahoo Music promoting and performing with the sax-like MX-11 wind synthesizer. In the 1990s he began teaching at Duquesne University and went on to become head of the jazz department at Carnegie Mellon University. As an educator and clinician he mentored a new generation of jazz performers and instructors. The Fantasy Jazz label has reissued several of his recordings: First Class, About Time, the 2 CD box set Eric Kloss & the Rhythm Section/Love and All That Jazz, and the 2 CD box set Sky Shadows/In the Land of the Giants. Eric withdrew from teaching and performing in 2001 when he became seriously ill. He continues to write and plans to perform and record if his health improves. The unreleased work Cosmic Adventures demonstrates his musical mastery.

An excellent album from Eric Kloss that again teams him with the Miles Davis rhythm section of the period (Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette) plus guitarist Pat Martino, who was really stretching out at this time. The resultant electric grooves are way different than Kloss' earlier work, yet still much tighter and more soulful than his later stuff -- with some slight bits of funk and soul jazz to keep things real. All tracks are fairly long, and the record features versions of "Sunshine Superman" and "Songs To Aging Children" -- plus the tunes "Consciousness" and "Outward Wisdom"

Eric Kloss - 1969 - To Hear Is To See

Eric Kloss 
To Hear Is To See

01. To Hear Is To See 5:32
02. Kingdom Within 6:01
03. Stone Groove 6:58
04. Children Of The Morning 8:27
05. Cynara 9:35

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Bass – Dave Holland
Drums – Jack DeJohnette
Keyboards - Chick Corea

Recorded July 22, 1969.

An all-star rhythm section backs up saxophonist Eric Kloss for this 1969 Prestige release. Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette (all of whom were working with Miles Davis in the late '60's) join the saxophonist for a set of varied but consistently good post-bop tunes.

At first listen the tune appears to be a funky blues in the style of Horace Silver or Duke Pearson. On closer inspection one will find that the melody is actually cleverly phrased in 7/8. Kloss’s joyful solo sounds like an adventurous Cannonball Adderley and Chick Corea’s comping on Rhodes supports him perfectly. 

Things go in a different direction on “The Kingdom Within” as it opens with a free improv section that eventually turns into lovely modal tune. In his solo Kloss sounds almost like Coltrane on alto with soulful blues-inflected modal sound. “Stone Groove” is funky and swings but drifts freely into other rhythmic areas during the solos. Once again Kloss’ solo is the highlight here and the band sounds their best as they reach a fever pitch at the apex of his solo.

“Children of the Morning” is an optimistic sounding straight-eighth number and possibly the weakest track. Kloss doesn’t seem to muster the energy he achieves in the other tunes, but Corea gives probably his best solo of the record. For “Cynara” the band dives back into time signature play with a tight 5/4 vamp and a beatifully dissonant melody. The tune is a nice vehicle for Kloss and Co. and they are able to slip in and out of time and harmony with ease.

This is arguably Kloss’ best recording, thanks in large part to the excellent rhythm section. As with most good jazz, the soloist feeds off of his rhythm section who, in turn, feed off of him creating some really great music.

Eric Kloss - 1969 - In The Land Of The Giants

Eric Kloss 
In The Land Of The Giants

01. Summertime 7:31
02. So What 12:08
03. Sock It To Me Socrates 5:14
04. When Two Lovers Touch 5:33
05. Things Ain't What They Used To Be 5:46

Alto Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Bass – Richard Davis
Drums – Alan Dawson
Piano – Jaki Byard
Tenor Saxophone – Booker Ervin

Recorded NYC, January 2, 1969

Eric Kloss' sessions for Prestige somehow always get overlooked – but do yourself a favor and don't pass this one by! The record's a crackling bit of modernist free play, with a very soulful edge – and the group includes Booker Ervin, Jaki Byard, Richard Davis, and Alan Dawson all joining Kloss as he hits his mid-period "exploratory" stage. His alto is super-crisp here, and although he's reaching out a bit more than on earlier albums, he never manages to lose the swing that made him sound so great right out of the box. 

An absolutely stunning, up-tempo version of Miles Davis’ “So What” featuring the towering and vigorous tenor saxophone work of the late Booker Ervin. Here, Kloss and Ervin take turns reaching for the stars via soaring and electrifying lead soloing!........Not a cutting contest yet these esteemed gentlemen perform with conviction as if they were possessed by spirits... Kloss’ sweet alto sax tone and sumptuous phrasing is evident on “When Two Lovers Touch”. On the Ellington classic, “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” Kloss’ expressionism and emotive lyricism displays mature sensibilities and expertise for such a young lad.

Eric Kloss - 1968 - Sky Shadows

Eric Kloss 
Sky Shadows

In A Country Soul Garden 6:23
Sky Shadows 13:16
The Girl With The Fall In Her Hair 6:43
I'll Give You Everything 6:41
January's Child 8:10

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Bass – Bob Cranshaw
Drums – Jack DeJohnette
Guitar – Pat Martino
Piano – Jaki Byard

Recorded August 13, 1968.

This 1968 release from saxophonist Eric Kloss has many fine points and a couple of puzzling technical lapses. Kloss, heard on alto and tenor, is definitely one of the strengths. Only 19 at the time of this session, the young sax player is well up to the challenge of playing with his more seasoned bandmates. The set reunites Kloss with guitarist Pat Martino, who was with Kloss for the saxophonist's recording debut at the age of 16. The date features four excellent advanced hard bop/post-bop pieces by Kloss and one from Martino. On guitar, Martino is consistently marvelous, both as a simpatico accompanist and as a soloist. Drummer Jack DeJohnette is also superb, and his playing is captured with tremendous clarity and balance. Unfortunately, bassist Bob Cranshaw is mixed so low he is often inaudible. Also odd, pianist Jaki Byard, while bringing his renowned power and versatility to the session, sometimes sounds separated from the rest of the band. Recording imbalances aside, this is a worthwhile set, particularly for the opportunity to hear Kloss in collaboration with Martino again. This music can now be found on the CD compilation Sky Shadows/In the Land of the Giants, which also includes Kloss' 1969 release, In the Land of the Giants.

Eric Kloss - 1968 - We're Goin' Up

Eric Kloss
We're Goin' Up

01. Get The Money Bluze 2:33
02. I Long To Belong To You 6:48
03. Gentle Is My Lover 7:51
04. We're Goin' Up 5:34
05. Of Wine And You 6:06

Alto Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Bass – Bob Cranshaw
Drums – Alan Dawson
Piano – Kenny Barron
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Jimmy Owens

Eric Kloss - 1968 - Life Force

Eric Kloss 
Life Force

01. Soul Daddy 4:05
02. You're Turning My Dreams Around 4:56
03. Life Force 11:46
04. Nocturno 6:38
05. St. Thomas 5:24
06. My Heart Is In The Highlands 8:48

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Bass – Ben Tucker
Drums – Alan Dawson
Guitar – Pat Martino
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Jimmy Owens

A pivotal album for Eric Kloss, and one that has him reaching for the freer style that would characterize his work for the next decade – but which also has him sticking pretty close to his soul jazz roots, and laying down some tight modal grooves. The group here includes Jimmy Owens on trumpet, Pat Martino on guitar, and the tight rhythm team of Ben Tucker and Alan Dawson. 

Eric Kloss - 1967 - Grits & Gravy

Eric Kloss 
Grits & Gravy

01. A Day In The Life Of A Fool 3:30
02. Repeat 3:05
03. A Slow Hot Wind 3:00
04. Gentle One 3:55
05. Grits And Gravy 2:30
06. Softly As In A Morning Sunrise 4:58
07. You Don't Know What Love Is 6:00
08. Milestones 10:10

Alto Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Baritone Saxophone, Flute, Percussion – Danny Bank (tracks: A1, A3, A5)
Bass – Richard Davis (tracks: A2, A4, B1, B2, B3), Ronnie Boykins (tracks: A1, A3, A5)
Drums – Alan Dawson (tracks: A2, A4, B1, B2, B3), Robert Gregg (tracks: A1, A3, A5)
Guitar – Billy Butler (tracks: A1, A3, A5)
Piano – Al Williams (tracks: A1, A3, A5), Jaki Byard (tracks: A2, A4, B1, B2, B3)
Vibraphone – Teddy Charles (tracks: A1, A3, A5)

A1, A3, A5 Recorded @ Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 21, 1966
A2, A4, B1, B2, B3 Recorded @ Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 22, 1966

Blind, smart as a whip, and technically proficient at even this early stage in his career, Kloss went on to make some remarkable albums up through the early ‘70s and then disappeared into academia. While his first two records featured him with organ combos and have been paired on a compact disc reissue, it was his third album as a leader that truly solidified his stature. Despite its hokey title, Grits and Gravy spoke to Kloss’ merits as a distinctive jazz artist, as opposed to a gimmick concocted to take advantage of some youthful charm.

Composed of two 1966 sessions, Grits and Gravy has its more commercial moments in the three cuts featuring female background vocalists and a larger ensemble. Even still, “A Slow Hot Wind” and “A Day In the Life Of a Fool” manage to include some magical moments where Kloss makes the most of his limited solo space. The real meat here though comes in the five selections that find Kloss and his alto horn going head to head with the legendary rhythm team of Jaki Byard, Richard Davis, and Alan Dawson. Let’s face it; this threesome would scare off many a musician double Kloss’ age at the time, making his showing here even all the more remarkable.

Clocking in at just a tad over ten minutes, Kloss leaves us a true tour-de-force in the guise of “Milestones.” Taken at breakneck speed, the alto man delivers phrase after phrase with fluidity and dazzling technique. His tonal manipulations and the way he ventures into the upper register suggest that men like John Coltrane and Archie Shepp had left their influence on Kloss. Byard is equally inspired in his message, with Dawson and Davis providing the glue to hold it all together. Often cited as a test for any jazzman is his way with a ballad and in that department Kloss exhibits maturity beyond his years, a take on “You Don’t Know What Love Is” providing the proof.

While many of Kloss’ Prestige sides have made their way to compact disc, Grits and Gravy remains inexplicably out-of-print. This is a shame considering that it just might be among his best-recorded works. Years before Wynton Marsalis would be ushering in a new era of youthful exuberance, Kloss demonstrated that earlier decades had their own ‘young lions’ as part of the jazz landscape.

Eric Kloss - 1967 - First Class Kloss!

Eric Kloss
First Class Kloss!

01 Comin' Home Baby 2:44
02 The Chasin' Game 7:03
03 One For Marianne 6:44
04 Chitlins Con Carne 2:49
05 Walkin' 5:28
06 African Cookbook 7:06

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Bass – Leroy Vinnegar
Drums – Alan Dawson
Piano – Cedar Walton
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Jimmy Owens

The people at Prestige knew they had something special when they discovered Eric Kloss; here was a blind teenager who had grown up studying all the musical styles of the fifties and sixties and had the chops and ideas to hang with the best of them. To that end, the record label quickly recorded Kloss in a variety of settings to capitalize on his prodigious talents. 

Much is made of Kloss being a teenager at the time of these recordings, but this means little unless he could keep up with the veterans. Fortunately, this album shows that he could. Kloss hasn't been heard form in quite some time, but recordings like this late-'60s collection may help him earn some widely deserved acclaim.

Eric Kloss With Don Patterson & Groove Holmes - 1966 - Love And All That Jazz

Eric Kloss With Don Patterson & Groove Holmes 
Love And All That Jazz

01. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
02. Just For Fun-k
03. The Shadow Of Your Smile
04. No Blues
05. Love For Sale
06. I'm Glad There Is You
07. Gemini

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Eric Kloss
Drums – Billy James (tracks: A1, A2, A4 to B2), Grady Tate (tracks: A3, B3)
Guitar – Gene Edwards (tracks: A3, B3), Vinnie Corrao (tracks: A1, A2, A4 to B2)
Organ – Don Patterson (tracks: A1, A2, A4 to B2), Richard "Groove" Holmes (tracks: A3, B3)

Eric Kloss was only 17 when he recorded his second Prestige LP, Love and All That Jazz, in 1966. At that age, most jazz musicians are lucky to be featured on an album as sideman, let alone record as a leader and have a contract with an independent label of Prestige's stature. When other teenage jazz musicians were playing in high-school bands, Kloss was working with heavyweights like Richard "Groove" Holmes and Don Patterson (both of whom are featured on this vinyl LP). It was the sort of story that a publicist would love to pitch -- blind teen-age jazz prodigy from Pittsburgh plays with "Groove" Holmes when he isn't old enough to vote. But Kloss wasn't a novelty; he really did have impressive chops, and the saxman brings a great deal of confidence and conviction to Love and All That Jazz (which employs Holmes or Patterson on organ, Vinnie Corrao or Gene Edwards on guitar, and Billy James or Grady Tate on drums). Although Kloss (who is heard on both alto and tenor) could handle jazz-funk and modal post-bop, hard bop was really his forte -- and passionate, hard-swinging bop is exactly what he delivers on the Thelonious Monk-influenced "Just for Fun-k" (a Kloss original) and performances of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" and Miles Davis' "No Blues" (as opposed to "All Blues"). But not everything on this record is up-tempo. Jimmy Dorsey's "I'm Glad There Is You" is a soulful example of Kloss' ballad playing, and the saxophonist is equally expressive on a seductive, Brazilian-influenced version of Johnny Mandel's "The Shadow of Your Smile." Although Kloss was still a teenager in 1966, there is nothing adolescent about Love and All That Jazz.

Eric Kloss With Don Patterson - 1965 - Introducing Eric Kloss

Eric Kloss With Don Patterson 
Introducing Eric Kloss

01. Close Your Eyes 6:45
02. Old Folks 5:35
03. 'S 'Bout Time 8:05
04. That's The Way It Is 5:29
05. All Blues 5:37
06. Embraceable You 4:00

Drums – Billy James
Guitar – Pat Martino
Organ – Don Patterson
Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone – Eric Kloss

 A child prodigy of the ‘60s, saxophonist Eric Kloss holds the distinction of having a record contract with Prestige Records at the ripe young age of 15. He attended the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, where his father was Superintendent.  Technically proficient at an incredibly young age, Kloss had been tutored by no less than Sonny Stitt, who took the young boy under his wing.  He went on to record a dozen or more albums up through the early ‘70s and making his last recording in 1981, disappeared into academia as an “educator” He is still living in Pennsylvania

Anyone brave enough to join Sonny Stitt onstage knew that he risked public humiliation if he didn’t meet the moody alto saxophonist’s impeccable standards. So when Eric Kloss sat in with Stitt at Pittsburgh’s Crawford Grill, the 12-year-old alto player wasn’t going to get any breaks due to his age-or his blindness. Stitt called “Cherokee” in B-up a half step from its usual key, and a tricky one for anyone playing a reed instrument. Knowing he had to play the melody on the bridge, Kloss’ mind started racing as the song kicked in. “It’s a minor third from B-flat to the C-sharp,” he thought, “and if you go from the B up to the D, and if I know that the concert E that I have to play is a ninth above, I think that’s right.”

He took a deep breath and blew what he hoped was the right note. When his guess proved correct, Stitt grabbed Kloss’ knee and enthusiastically responded, “Yeah, man.” Not only had Kloss passed the audition, the elder saxman became a friend and teacher, dining at the Kloss home and teaching young Eric breathing and fingering techniques.

A couple years later, again at the Crawford Grill, Kloss had a lesson of another type while absorbing the sounds of the John Coltrane Quartet. During a break before the final set, Kloss approached Coltrane as he ordered an orange juice. “It was like trying to touch Jesus’ robe,” Kloss says, remembering the experience 41 years later. “‘Mr. Coltrane, Mr. Coltrane, I’m 14 years old and you really inspire me.’

“And I could feel him looking at me. He said, ‘If you’re a musician, don’t waste any time.’ And he walked up on the bandstand.”

The quick, simple advice has stayed with Kloss in the ensuing years, underlying a prolific discography, work as a bandleader and periods spent as an instructor at three universities. Yet more than two decades have passed since Kloss released his last album, 1981’s Sharing (Omnisound), a duet with pianist Gil Goldstein.

The liner notes to the recent Fantasy twofer reissue of Grits and Gravy and First Class Kloss (collectively titled First Class!) end on a mysterious and somewhat disparaging note that plays up his absence.

Kloss currently lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh with his wife of 20 years, Candee. In recent years frequent bouts with migraine headaches and asthma have kept him from performing with any regularity. He admits that he can only play the saxophone for 45 minutes before his strength diminishes.

But things appear to be on the upswing. He’s been trying to find medical help to overcome his problems and regain his stamina. Lately the flute has become his main instrument since it doesn’t present the resistance of a saxophone mouthpiece. Last summer, he sat in at a few weekly concerts presented by the Pittsburgh Jazz Society. After years away from the stage, Kloss was told he stole the show after sitting in with a salsa band one night. “I said, ‘Man, I was born to do that,'” he explains. “I can’t help it. I mean, look at these hands. They’re long and thin, and they sure ain’t made to hold a jackhammer.”

Born in the Pittsburgh suburb of Greenville, Eric Kloss picked up the saxophone at the age of 10 and knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life playing it. His father, the late Dr. Alton G. Kloss, served as the superintendent of the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind, where young Eric first began taking music lessons. By the time Eric was 12 his father was taking him to jazz clubs where he regularly sat in with local musicians, such as Bobby Negri and Charles Bell, as well as national acts like Stitt.

One Friday night organist Richard “Groove” Holmes invited Kloss to a session that was being recorded at public television station WQED the following afternoon. Holmes later played the recordings of “‘Round Midnight” and “Work Song” for executives at Prestige. “I got a call and they said, ‘Don’t sign with anyone else,'” Kloss says. By the age of 16, he made his recording debut, 1965’s Introducing Eric Kloss, in the presence of organist Don Patterson, guitarist Pat Martino and drummer Billy James.

Organ trios were de rigueur by the mid-1960s, but it was clear to anyone who heard Kloss, who was equally fluent on tenor, that his improvisational gifts would not be limited to the chitlin’ circuit. Don Aliquo Sr., a veteran Pittsburgh tenor saxophonist, remembers a jam session at the Kloss house when the younger player was only 13. “That night all we did was free stuff, and it was really off the wall,” Aliquo says. “But you could hear the magnificent potential in Eric. He definitely had his own style. You can hear certain things in other players that you can say ‘That’s a Parker idea’ or ‘That’s bebop.’ But I don’t recall ever being able to do that too much with Eric.”

Prestige’s Cal Lampley came up with two new settings for Kloss on his third album, 1966’s Grits and Gravy. On three songs, a commercially oriented group that features flute, vibes and female backup singers joins the saxophonist. Despite the backdrop, Kloss still plays with a fire that cuts through the languid arrangements, especially on the title track where some fevered wails overcome the obtrusive vocals.

More impressive, though, are the remaining five quartet tracks, where pianist Jaki Byard, bassist Richard Davis and drummer Alan Dawson back Kloss. Each musician had at least two decades on the then 17-year-old alto player, but music bridged the generation gap as their exceptional versions of “Milestones” and “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” prove. “I didn’t feel any fear at all,” Kloss says of the session. “When you have good musicians and you have a certain amount of talent yourself, it all sort of happens.”

By the time Kloss recorded Life Force in 1967, he had released four albums and even scored a hit single with his version of “The Shadow of Your Smile.” Fresh out of high school, it seemed like he was ready to join the big leagues. But the day after recording the album in New York, he came home and started his freshman year at Duquesne University. “It was really schizophrenic,” he recalls. “In one way, I was a rising jazz star and in the other way I was trying to figure out, just like all the other freshmen, what you were supposed to do.”

Kloss stuck to the books and eventually graduated from Duquesne, while maintaining his active release schedule. Sky Shadows, recorded in 1968, reunited him with Martino and Byard and features bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The LP finds the group exploring unusual time signatures. “Pat blew my mind because I had all these tunes figured out, standard things,” Kloss says. “He said, ‘Man, you don’t want to make spaghetti dinner music.’ So I went home and revamped the whole thing. I wrote some tunes in 6/4 and 9/8 because Pat just opened it up.”

The five tracks-one by Martino, the rest by Kloss-exemplify the group’s sense of adventure. “You say to yourself, ‘What kind of music is this?’ That was my impression after I recorded it,” Kloss remembers. “That’s when jazz is at its best, when nobody has any point of reference. Everybody has to listen to each other. Everybody has to be on edge.”

Before Kloss began playing saxophone, he had been a fan of Elvis Presley and the Ventures, so when fusion introduced into rock elements into jazz he welcomed the combination. Plus, he was able to work with Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette not long after they participated in Miles Davis’ earliest electric excursions. Again, he wasn’t interested in simply borrowing someone else’s idea. “We took [fusion] and put the avant-garde in it,” Kloss says.

His move from Prestige to Muse coincided with an evolution of his music, and Kloss feels his 1970s albums presented more of an accurate representation of his perspective. “I came up in a funny time, because a lot of the players that I was playing with before were 20 to 30 years older than I was,” he says. “And I had listened to their records, and I loved them. It was a tradition and I could play whatever-‘Straight No Chaser’ and ”Round Midnight.’ But I knew that wasn’t me. I knew that I had something new to say.”

The spiritual concepts underlying albums like Life Force and Consciousness! were in full bloom by the time he recorded 1978’s electric Now. “That’s when I started meditating-where you go and meditate for a week. When you come back, you just float,” he says. “In the middle of the night I heard this tune, and the next day I remembered it and put it on tape. I called it ‘Now’ because I could really experience the moment as it was going by.”

Keyboardist Barry Miles joined forces with Kloss for a few albums during the 1970s, and the two of them embarked on several tours, including one to Europe. By 1979, Kloss was living in New Jersey, close enough to New York to secure occasional live shows and studio sessions without dealing with too many big-city hassles.

He frequently came back through Pittsburgh and during one trip he met his future wife Candee, whose singing voice reminded him of Billie Holiday. Kloss asked her to sing some of his songs, and what began as a musical collaboration wound up becoming a romantic one. The two were married in 1983, by which time the saxophonist had moved back to Pittsburgh in hopes of settling down with a steady job that allowed him to play on the side.

Kloss, who taught briefly at Rutgers University, took a position at Duquesne teaching improvisation classes and giving private lessons. Later he joined Carnegie Mellon University, heading the jazz studies department. Pianist David Budway, a Pittsburgh native who in recent years has played in New York with Regina Carter and Jeff “Tain” Watts, taught at Duquesne at the same time as Kloss. He remembers the saxophonist as an unending source of musical ideas, who could frequently be found behind the drum kit during improvisation classes. “Eric’s groups at school, he was teaching them songs like ‘Little One’ [from Miles Davis’ E.S.P.] and I was downstairs trying to teach my kids ‘Billie’s Bounce,’ which I thought was important,” Budway says. “But I could never understand how to get to that level where as an educator you were saying, ‘We’re going to work on “Little One”‘ or ‘We’re going to work on “Nefertiti.”‘”

As he remembers it, Kloss felt like the “back to acoustic jazz” movement of the 1980s was limiting his students. “There was the Miles Davis album called Tutu that was cutting edge, and I wanted to continue on that, but with students,” he says. It didn’t happen “because everybody wanted to learn bebop. And I know most bebop like I know the back of my hand.”

Kloss and his wife co-led the band Quiet Fire for several years, which played songs written by both of them that bordered on fusion, with vocals, and maintained the complexity and detail of his best work. Budway played a couple shows with the band and remembers the music as “harmonically challenging [with] specific voicings, real intricate times and nice melodies.” But when Kloss fell ill, he backed away from performing and parted ways with Carnegie Mellon in 2001.

Now 58, Kloss says he has 20 to 25 years of music in him, and he will do what it takes to let it out. He speaks at length about the spiritual beliefs, which like his music have been shaped over time and keep him looking ahead. “If I didn’t believe in God, I would have given up a long time ago,” he says. “In the face of it, the future really looks bleak, but on the other side of it there’s just enough to provide some hope and things like that.

“Whether I get a chance to make another record or be on the stage or anything else in my life, I’m going to pursue my music to the best of my ability. I’m going to follow the same star I’ve been following all along, no matter what happens.”

 Introducing Eric Kloss...and what an introduction. The 16-year-old Eric Kloss joins forces with organist Don Patterson in what is a top-flight date for both of them. Patterson always had premier players with him who were attuned to his unique blend of hard-bopping soul jazz. In his debut recording, Kloss is equal to any of them. Regular Patterson collaborators -- guitarist Pat Martino and drummer Billy James -- are also on board. Martino is superb in his rhythm and solo work, his extraordinary technique and natural way with the blues always a sure bet on a Don Patterson date. Similarly, James' progressive style and command of the blues are key to this group's sound. The titular star sticks to his tenor, except for a modern, swinging treatment of "Embraceable You," where he switches to alto. Kloss favors the higher end of the tenor's register, plays with little or no vibrato, and makes little use of the tenor's trademark honks and barks. Although he is not unorthodox in his approach, Kloss, while still a teenager, does not sound overtly like anyone else, except, perhaps, for an inevitable John Coltrane influence. For this session, the program comprises standards, originals, and blues, including a version of Miles Davis's "All Blues," which gets a slightly more low-down treatment than usual, without sacrificing the tune's innate sophistication and cool. Kloss went on to record many fine sessions in the ensuing years, including dates with members of the rhythm section on Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, but since the early '80s, he has been absent from the jazz scene. When he arrived with this introduction, though, Kloss combined with the others in this quartet to produce a hard bop, organ jazz session that stands with the best.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Apothecary - 1973 - Apothecary


01. Holding You 4:48
02. Sometime, Somewhere 3:46
03. The Christian 3:47
04. Sunset 6:24
05. Say Goodbye To Me 4:05
06. People For Peace 2:40
07. My Love To You 2:53
08. Fly 4:51
09. In The End 4:12

Bass – Bill Block
Guitar – Bruce Riddiough, Mike Houlihan
Percussion – John Kruck, Phill Haase
Synthesizer [Arp] – Denny Tabacchia (track 3)

Whatever else we are or ever hope to be, we are "Everyman."
All life depends on measured breaths and metered beats.
We are linked to each other by the chain of common experience.
Apotecary sings the songs of you and me, claiming their lyrics from the shared experiences of millions of timeless men, picking at your brain with easy lyrics, poking a hole in your soul with their melodies. And as "Minstrels of the Common Man,"nthey ask only that "I think of you and you think of me."
Peg Gidion

I've seen this one posted on several blogs, always with one track cut and one missing, and more than once it has been requested over here. So I called my Cuban connection in Florida, and yes sir!. He had a mint copy of the album. Yesterday night he made me a lossless rip and here it is for your Thanksgiving Day enjoyment. All thanks to Guery my musical soul brother!

I know next to nothing about this band and their background, so I hope someone can add some background info about these guys for our enlightenment. 
All I can say is that I absolutely love this one. It's pretty good, melodic rock. Not really psychedelic, progressive, rural-country but just good melodic rock music. About half of it is acoustic based but not in a finger-picking or solo guy strumming way. Instead the acoustic guitars are piled up on top of each other to make them quiet driving. As far as albums released by Paramount this is at the top as best on the label in my collection.
Get it and play it LOUD!

Stepps - 1976 - Waltz For Tiger Joe

Waltz For Tiger Joe

01 Kolour Kode
02 If I Knew
03 Kryptonite
04 Make Me
05 Flowers
06 End of Play
07 Step Up Behind
08 Cumulus (Improvised Solo)

Bass – Michael Vidale
Guitar – Ian Hildebrand
Keyboards – Alex Ditrich
Percussion – Ralph Cooper
Percussion, Lead Vocals – Bernadine Morgan

I always hope to stumble across a totally forgotten and yet totally amazing piece of music that I had no idea even existed. This doesn't happen nearly as often as I'd like, but when it does happen, it's always a welcome surprise. So it's with great pleasure that I am able to present one such piece of music for you today.

Stepps were a Sydney-based five-piece band who played around town during the second half of the seventies. The band appeared at a variety of venues around Sydney and held down a weekly residency at the Royal George Hotel. Their other notable achievements included a live broadcast concert in 1978 on ABC and airplay on the radio station that used to be known as Double J (the old name for the 'Triple J' radio station for you overseas people and Gen Y kids).

The band decided to self-release an album of their material to promote their music. The band pressed the album themselves and even photocopied the artwork for the cover themselves at a local printing firm. As is often the case with this type of release, not many were pressed – in fact, the run was limited to only 50 copies. The yellow-label privately pressed record is housed in a plain white sleeve adorned only with photocopied pages that are hand-pasted to both sides of the cardboard cover. The material on the album was recorded in 1975 and 1976 in Sydney, and released early in 1976.

The style of music is jazz-rock with an unashamedly optimistic mood. Bernie Morgan's singing is quite beautiful on the songs she features on. Her voice compliments the music perfectly. But it's the musicianship that is the real highlight of the album. In terms of Australian music, obvious reference points (in terms of both musical style and the record as an artifact) are Canberra's Yaraandoo and the Rob Thomsett Group's Haro album. While I haven't given Yaraandoo a proper listen, this album is a much better record than the later mentioned.

The whole first side of Waltz For Tiger Joe is fantastic. The opening track washes over your ears like warm sunshine. It's quintessentially Australian jazz-funk sound is similar in places to Jackie Orszaczky's 1975 LP, and Bernie's singing also reminds me of Kerrie Biddell's best jazz moments. If I Knew is a jazz ballad that changes up into a mostly instrumental fusion number. The first side finishes with the best cut on the album – Kryptonite. Written by the band's guitarist, Ian Hildebrand, the distorted intro gives way to a compelling guitar riff that easily lodges itself in your head. Washes of keys and funky drumming keep this tune grooving all the way through until the players weave their way into a bass-guitar solo interlude that acts almost as a signature for the band. And as the bass player signals his intent to conclude, the other players effortlessly reintroduce that compelling guitar riff.

The band can't top Kryptonite for the rest of the record, but they get close with Side Two's opener Make Me – a great vocal jazz cut with Bernie Morgan at her most prominent post on the whole record. What's great about this number is the way that the music perfectly compliments Bernie's voice, even following her individual words in some parts. It's a great indicator of how effectively the players must have worked together – that coalescence of sounds that's so hard to achieve. The other great cut on Side 2 is End Of Play, composed by Oleg Ditrich, the band's keyboardist (is that a real word?). It's quite a long number, and in typical fusion style, there's plenty of changes to keep it interesting. Bernie adds to the flavour in parts, but it's mostly an instrumental affair. 

All in all, I think this record is fantastic. While particular songs do stand out, the record works really well as a complete album, and will certainly get some play from me this summer!

I was quite surprised to find that this album has been re-released on CD, although it now appears to be out of print. You can buy the album through iTunes here. Note though that the album seems to be touched up compared with the original release.

The thing I just love about finding privately pressed albums is that you often find little mementos that make the record so much more personal. Sometimes the record is signed, and sometimes there are other signs that the record was passed directly from the band (or a member) to someone they know or had a connection with. In this case, I was very lucky to find a hand-written note included in my copy of this record. It's written from Ralph Cooper and Bernie Morgan, the drummer and singer respectively. I'm not sure to whom it is addressed, but it seems likely that they might have been a radio programmer.

A great Aussie Fusion act from Sydney, which never made it to the recordings of a proper album, Stepps performed regularly from mid- to late-70's at local clubs and hotels and even got some rare airplay on TV and radio at the end of their brief road.They recorded the album ''Waltz for Tiger Joe'' (1976, private) on their own forces, but only 50 copies were pressed and handed to friends, so there are no signs it was ever commercially available. Shame, because they played dreamy yet intense Jazz Fusion with some Canterbury edges, similar to National Health and Belgians Cos, fronted by Morgan's wordless voice experiments and the stunning performance of the musicians, leading to great grooves and unexpected breaks. This was far from average Fusion, the album has a constant tendency towards jazzy Prog Rock through all those tempo changes and complex instrumental patterns, which combine Female vocal Pop and Fusion and electric piano-driven Jazz Rock. Great guitar work and some furious piano paces, who also delivers a few impressive synth flights throughout. Pretty long tracks with lots of instrumental room and lovely interplays.

Snakes Alive - 1974 - Snakes Alive

Snakes Alive 
Snakes Alive

01. Abberations (8:52)
02. Snakes Alive (5:18)
03. Theme for Myra (7:18)
04. Dear Suzy (11:23)
05. Fruit Pie (6:27)

Michael Vidale / bass
Peter Nykyruj / drums
Alex Ditrich / keyboards
Boris Peric / guitars
Jonas Thomas / sax, flute, vocals
Colin Campbell / trumpet
Ralph Cooper / percussion

Recorded at EMI 301 Studios, Sydney.
EMI is not mentioned on the label since it was a private pressing of 50 copies only.
This original LP did not have a jacket and came in a plain white sleeve.
Alex Ditrich, Michael Vidale and Ralph Cooper went on to form jazz rock group Stepps.

Australian band SNAKES ALIVE was a short-lived band project consisting of Michael Vidale (bass), Peter Nykyruj (drums), Alex Ditrich (keyboards), Boris Peric (guitars), Jonas Thomas (sax, flute, vocals) and Colin Campbell (trumpet). Their sole album was recorded and privately released in a limited number of copies back in 1974, and have never seen an official label release nor a legit CD reissue

Did not think we'd ever see this one. This was an album released as a demo in a quantity of 50 without a cover. It's mainly known due to its presence online, and someone later had appended a cover. This new CD reissue is maintaining the cover (not sure of the source of the artwork honestly) and is adding one bonus track. Here's what the label says (using Google Translate): "A work that was recorded as an item in the collector as an Ultra / Rare item that was recorded in Australia in 1975 and that only 50 test presses exist. There used to be a small number of pirate CD - R boards of this board - raising before, but this time it is the first regular board using the master taken from the master tape. Like Australia, it is a masterpiece on which a thrilling jazz rock sound with saxophone, flute, trumpet etc added to it. Release on paper jacket, SHM-CD!"

In the early 70s, the music world was teeming with jazz fusion bands. The major two schools were a) The technically proficient, as defined by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever and Weather Report. And b) The Miles Davis long track deep groove, with many followers in Germany (in particular the MPS label), Poland, Italy, USA and beyond. These were jazzers who were fascinated with rock's rhythms and power. But finding rockers who were fascinated by jazz was a much more rare breed. And that's why they call it jazz fusion. Snakes Alive are a rock fusion band. Of course bands like Mahavishnu come to mind. Even early Zappa and Xhol Caravan. But, you know, Finch did too - for example. There are vocals, but they're sparse. Trumpet, sax, flute, organ, guitar are the solo instruments. And it rocks with a capital R. This is a good one, that's slipped way under the radar.

Apparently this quite forgotten Australian album was never officially released. There were just these 50 private pressing copies made. And there isn't a vinyl reissue yet so if you want to get this one to your record shelf it's a pretty hard (maybe even impossible) task unless you're rich. It seems like there aren't even any unofficial bootlegs available which is pretty odd.

On the musical point of view this record offers some nice jazz-rock with progressive rock influences. The instrumental work is solid and in some points the guitar sounds very impressive. However I don't like the fact that the album includes horns. Luckily they're not dominating the overall sound but I still could do without them just fine.

If you're interested in jazz-rock, jazz-fusion or jazzy prog rock you might wanna check out this incredibly rare album.

German Oak - 2017 - Down In The Bunker

German Oak 
Down In The Bunker 

101. Screaming Skeletons
102. Missile Song
103. Belle's Song
104. Nothing

201. Belle's Song (Extended)
202. Missile Song (Extended)

301. Bear Song
302. Happy Stripes (On Cats)
303. Ghost Guitar
304. Bear Song (Alternative)
305. Harpy & Peregrine
306. Python Vs. Tiger
307. Giant Rock; Boulder Golem

Packaged in a four-panel wallet with a 20-page booklet featuring liner notes in English and German. Track times do not appear on the release, taken from computer.

"Producer's note: At the band's request, the Nazi speeches included on Manfred Uhr's Witch and Warlock German Oak CDs have been removed, and, at [Wolfgang Franz] Czaika's request, the songs have been retitled... Czaika and the band didn't choose the titles given to their songs when Uhr initially released them... On this anthology, the two long songs from the original German Oak album have been pitch corrected to play at the speed that the band recorded them; Manfred Uhr sped them up for the album's initial release..." (liner notes)

"The four tracks from the original German Oak album have been restored from vinyl. The remaining tracks were taken from cassette, and have been treated with similar reverb and compression to those Manfred Uhr used for the original album's issue." (liner notes)

Bass Guitar – Harry Kallweit (tracks: 1-2, 2-2, 3-1, 3-4), Rolf Mors
Drums – Ulrich Kallweit
Lead Guitar – Wolfgang Franz Czaika
Organ – Manfred Uhr (tracks: 1-1, 1-4)
Rhythm Guitar – Norbert Luckas (tracks: 1-1, 1-4)

A krautrock lost classic - once only available for loads of cash or on dodgy bootleg, now lovingly remastered and reissued.

The first and only LP by Düsseldorf’s German Oak isn’t the absolute rarest krautrock record in existence, but it’s up there. Its backstory ticks all the hyperobscurity collector cliché boxes: released during a burgeoning period for strange, indulgent music from the Fatherland (1972), at the behest of an overbearing manager as clueless about the market as his charges. Pressed privately in tiny numbers, most copies remained unsold, until leaking onto the collector market in the 1980s.

Until now, anyone who’d heard (of) its nightmarish proto-industrial space jams, seen its extraordinary black metal demotape-alike sleeve art, and wanted to cradle their own copy could either pay hundreds of quid for an original or much less for a snide reissue. That’s changed thanks to American archive label Now-Again – specifically Now-Again Reserve, their sublabel for unfeasible rarities – who’ve come through with a hulking remastered triple-disc package, extensive bonus material and an illuminating interview with German Oak guitarist Wolfgang Czaika.

Anyone previously familiar with German Oak will notice a few changes. Firstly, it’s not called that any more, it’s titled Down In The Bunker, a reference to the subterranean second world war-era bolthole in which the album was recorded. The song titles have changed, too. German Oak never bothered with such things, so their manager and sometime organist Manfred Uhr chose them. The group’s Malcolm McLaren or John Sinclair figure, if evidently without the marketing nous, Uhr pushed the ‘bunker’ theme to the hilt: the LP’s brief intro and outro pieces, which bookend two epic workouts, were titled ‘Airalert’ and ‘1945 – Out Of The Ashes’ (now ‘Screaming Skeletons’ and ‘Nothing’). This is already chancing your arm in Germany, so the unreleased cuts Uhr dug up for a quasi-bootleg early 90s CD issue – including songs he’d named ‘Swastika Rising’ and samples of Hitler speeches – shone a light on the band they’d done pretty much nothing to encourage. Which is why they’ve retitled everything and excised the dodgy samples.

That said, German Oak’s music is often noxious and creepy enough to feel like an antecedent of some of the underground’s notable fash-flirters: Death In June, Current 93 and Coil seem to be born in the 19-minute ‘Missile Song’, which cycles through clanging metallic percussion, ultra-sparse crypto-jazz drumming, a bass sound beamed in from a deep bath next door, outbreaks of haphazard haunted house onomatopoeia by unnamed instruments. It’s a bit ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’, early Faust, Sun Ra even, but sonically stunning for three rudderless rock trippers who basically just tossed this onto tape with no real thought about what might become of it.

‘Belle’s Song’, at 16-and-a-half minutes, is the original LP’s other main event, and the railroad boogie rhythm at its core cleaves closer to rock convention – the more eccentric end of it though, certainly. Groundhogs fans might well dig on this fuzz and wah and chug, for example, even/especially when Czaika bends his guitar off the map in sick psych style and Ulli Kallweit’s drumming breaks for the border with buoyant freeness in the closing moments.

The extended and alternate takes which fill discs two and three are divertingly gnarly, but don’t indicate much obvious potential for German Oak to have become pored over by obsessive live bootleg collectors, Grateful Dead or Velvet Underground style. The original edits of ‘Belle’s Song’ and ‘Missile Song’ run to 26 and 34 minutes respectively – I’m reviewing the CD version here and am curious as to how the latter fits onto one side of vinyl – and become slightly more and slightly less weird, also respectively, in doing so. ‘Missile’ is gussied up with lengthy periods of hard rock scorch which is perfectly decent in itself, but a distraction from the eldritch immersion created by the edit; ‘Belle’ fleshes out the rubbery reverbed guitar sound that Czaika switches to having departed the boogie rhythm.

The remaining seven songs were recorded in Czaika’s house, and find German Oak getting riffier and more Hendrixian: things like ‘The Bear Song’ (retitled from ‘The Third Reich’ – I call this an example of the great German humour, except not sarcastically) and ‘Python Vs Tiger’ burble along with a pleasingly lumpen tone and the suspicion that a majority of LSD-using experimental rock bands of the era had rehearsals that sounded much like this. Although this release is the very first to have the full collaborative approval of the German Oak members, even this comes with a caveat: Czaika dismisses their entire output in the interview as “musical scrap and waste … sins of our youth”. The ever-swelling reissue market teems with variations on this, of course: one-time, one-shot lost crazies tracked down only to express (sincere or otherwise) astonishment that anyone might now care about their throwaway hobby band. Not many of them are dug up with as much tender care as Now-Again offer, and few of them sound as unearthly and ahead of their time as German Oak.

Julian Cope Review of original album:
In the strange Olympic summer of 1972, the Dusseldorf instrumental group German Oak entered the Luftschutzbunker, or Air Raid Shelter, in order to record their eponymous first LP. Following in the footsteps of the percussive and organic Organisation and the remarkable Dom, German Oak had every reason to believe that this 3rd LP to be recorded by a Dusseldorf band would be warmly received. Unfortunately, German Oak were not only wrong in their assumptions that locals would embrace their music, but even local record shops rejected all the group's attempts to sell the albums in city outlets. Such was their lack of success that 202 of the original 213 copies were stored in the basement of the group's organist until the mid-1980s, when a thirst for undiscovered Krautrock finally brought German Oak back from the dead.

But what is the sound of a group that was so rejected during its time of recording? Well, imagine a brutally recorded, brazen and ultra-skeletal industrial white funk played with all the claw-handed crowbar technique of the Red Crayola recording their famous "Hurricane Fighter Plane," over which is superimposed the what-instrument-could-that-be rumblings of Gunther Schickert's G.A.M. meeting the Electronic Meditation incarnation of early-T. Dream. That is the sound of German Oak. Imagine Faust's reverb-y schoolroom in Wumme being party to a jam between Riot-period Sly Stone on itchy-scratchy bass and the pre-Kraftwerk ensemble Organisation (specifically "Milk Rock"), without their being formally introduced, and with all the hang-ups that this would entail. Again, this is the sound of German Oak.

It is a strangely skin-of-your-teeth genius. It is a toe-curlingly heartfelt method acting of the most in-your-face kind. In places it's a sort of gormless Gong, even a moronic Magma - a Teutonic tribe standing in the ruins of some Roman temple, playing barbarian riffs on classical instruments too sizes too small. Aerosmith's Joe Perry once said: "When all you've got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." He must have been listening to German Oak.

With German Oak, what seems, after two minutes, to be a simplistic and worryingly trite riff, becomes, after 8 minutes, to be the only real-honest-riff-in-town. Like the legendary death-blues of Josephus' (also 16-minutes-plus) epic "Dead Man", this is music which does not hit you instantly in the face, but is an accumulative groove, building and building on the endless repetition of some bog-standard soul-type "Please Please Please" bass line or rhythm guitar sequence.1

There is a remarkable space within German Oak's music, which may have been caused by their ultra-rudimentary playing, or may have been because they just listened ultra-attentively to each other as each player struggled for the notes. But, whatever the reason, German Oak conjured up a mythical sound in the grand Krautrock tradition. And as a quintet without a lead singer, they were a rare five-piece who never got in each other's way. Throughout the music of German Oak, the bass and the lead guitar are frequently mistakable for each other, until the fuzzy lead will slowly claw itself out of the sonic mire of sound and drag itself arduously and inelegantly to the top of the heap. The drumming is often furious and even overplayed, yet it is often the single constant of the group.

Perhaps German Oak hit the nail on the head when they credited group members as the "Crew" and refused to give full names. Such was their sense of space that they often sounded like a trio and actually never like five people. Perhaps, like Can, they worked in pairs and recorded in parallel as opposed to one live performance. But somehow I doubt it. The recording quality and attention to sound separation is far too slack and haphazard. No, I'm sure the reason that the characterless "crew" credit sums up German Oak's attitude best, is because it conspires to make them all sound like the dwarves whose job it was to hold up the four corners of the Viking world-view. Separately they were nothing - together they were everything.

Wolfgang Franz Czaika, here known only as Caesar, is credited with "Lead- & Rhythmguitar". The busy flourishes of insistent drumming are by Ullrich Kallweit, here known only as Ulli "Drums/Percussion". His brother Harry Kallweit, just known as Harry, contributes "Electric bass/voice". This leaves the tail-gunners' places to be filled by the wonderfully-named Manfred Uhr AKA Warlock on "Organ/fuzz-organ/voice" and Norbert Luckas AKA Nobbi on "Guitar/A77/Noises". And, like the simple Amon Duul 1 credits, the friendly nick-names make the group appear even more mysterious and out-of-reach.

The German Oak LP consisted of two very long Krautgrooves, one on either side, with a short organ themed instrumental intro and outro at the beginning and end. Side One begins like a crusty hunt led by hunt saboteurs, as the one minute and fifty seconds of "Airalert" fades in from the mists of time with a hopeful and entirely amateurly recorded organ. Side One is then given over to the enormous eighteen-minutes of "Down in the Bunker", where feedback whistles and screams and factory interior-sized organ roars, whilst relentless hammering on metal suggests that the workers are in there building something over the din. Portentous manically-bowed cello-style film theme bass guitar and scraping cymbals rise out of the maelstrom to prepare the listener for the onslaught to come. Sonically, it is pure sound, like the primal intro beauty of G.A.M.'s 1976 album, or the pure sound of Guru Gurus's UFO, and the opening section of Ash Ra Tempel's "Amboss".

As though recorded in a deep river gorge from beyond time with dozens of old fridges and cookers strewn across its banks, this proto-industrial sound truly invokes the ancestors. And it is perfectly understandable that German Oak's sleeve notes read: "As we played down there in the old bunker, suddenly a strange atmosphere began to work. The ghosts of the passed whispered." Far from being deluded, German Oak's crew are understating - for this track is alive with the dead, awash with a flood of ur-spirits from the recent past and the days of Yore. Banshee-like glissando guitars and Mani Neumaier-like voices creep up the north side of the track, mount the battlements and howl at us and the members of the group.

Side Two begins with the reverb'd minor key horseback charge of "Raid Over Dusseldorf". The whole bulk of side two is taken up by this furious and rudimentary psychedelic ride, reminiscent of the Chocolate Watchband. Indeed, my friend and Brain Donor guitar cohort Doggen has suggested that it is the rhythm of the horse which heavy rock most often emulates. I would tend to agree with this assertion, as this rhythm can be found everywhere in rock, from the central spine of the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" to the middle of David Bowie's "Width of a Circle". And I would even cite Robert Browning's 19th Century poem "How they brought the good news from Aix to Ghent" as an example of how pre-rock'n'roll this rhythm really is.

The final track of the album is the 2-minutes short "1945 - Out of the Ashes", which returns to the organ-led hunting sound of the opening "Airalert" before cross-fading into the tolling of a lone bell.

Though I am rarely a fan of extra tracks being added to CD reissues, we must count ourselves lucky in this case to have been handed the three superb pre-LP German Oak workouts located herein. The five-minute "Swastika Rising" sounds like the Plastic Ono Band meeting both Faust and Organisation; all rudimentary organ, splatter drums and a barely coherent and wandering psychedelic fuzz guitar. Following this, the ten-minute "The Third Reich" starts with a Hitler Rally speech, before slipping inside yet another hypnotic and insistently mesmerising teen Funkadelic groove with scything and Scythian psychedelic guitar. A brazen disabled lead guitar mindlessly scatters seedling riffs across an infertile field of unidirectional bass riffing and extremely formulaic drum fills, played relentlessly and robotically. The final extra track, "Shadows of War", is like an overladen Chinook helicopter struggling to lift off from its pad; the organ chords seemingly weighted down by the reverb'd wodges of clawed bass. Then another Hitler Rally cut-up sends us into a collage of over hasty milk delivery as an obligatory Stuka raid finally cuts us down in a single all-terminal bomb blast.2

I noted in Krautrocksampler that the German postwar youth scene was trying to work itself free of its recent Holocaust history, and German Oak in particular seem to have wrestled with these demons for longer than most. Their sleeve-note dedication seems all-the-more poignant and moving for its pathos and poor translation:

"We dedicate this record to our parents which had a bad time in World War 2."