Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sir Roland Hanna - 1978 - This Must Be Love

Sir Roland Hanna
This Must Be Love

01. Orange Funk
02. This Can't Be Love
03. It's A Small World
04. The Interloper
05. It Never Entered My Mind
06. Thou Swell
07. I Didn't Know What Time It Was
08. Dancing On The Ceiling
09. My Romance

10. This Can't Be Love (Alt - Take 1)
11. It's A Small World (Alt - Take 1)
12. Dancing On The Ceiling (Alt - Take 3)
13. My Romance (Alt - Take 1)

Recorded February 2, 1978 in New York City

Sir Roland Hanna: piano
George Mraz: bass
Ben Riley: drums

Originally recorded for Progressive and reissued by the Audiophile label, this set matches the talented pianist Sir Roland Hanna with bassist George Mraz and drummer Ben Riley. Together they perform six Rodgers and Hart songs (including "This Can't Be Love," "Thou Swell" and "Dancing On the Ceiling"), along with three of Hanna's originals. The musicians are heard throughout in top form, often speaking in a single voice. Excellent modern mainstream music.

Roland Hanna With George Mraz - 1978 - Sir Elf Plus 1

Roland Hanna With George Mraz 
Sir Elf Plus 1

01. Yesterdays 5:55
02. Meeting Of The Minds 4:38
03. My Shining Hour 4:40
04. Majorca (Based On Etude 6 By Chopin) 5:30
05. Where's That Rainbow 7:09
06. What, Does It Matter? 6:38
07. My Heart Stood Still 5:31

Bass – George Mraz
Piano – Roland Hanna

Recorded at Macdonald Studio July, 1977

A talented pianist with a style diverse enough to fit into swing, bop, and more adventurous settings, Roland Hanna was one of the last in an impressive line of great pianists who emerged in Detroit after World War II (including Hank Jones, Barry Harris, and Tommy Flanagan). After serving in the Army and studying music at Eastman and Juilliard, Hanna made a strong impression playing with Benny Goodman (1958). He worked with Charles Mingus for a period in 1959, and went on to generally lead his own trios. Hanna was an integral part of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis orchestra (1967-1974), and in 1974 helped found the New York Jazz Quartet (with Frank Wess). He was given knighthood (thus the "Sir") from the President of Liberia in 1970 in recognition for a series of concerts held to benefit Liberian children. Hanna recorded many solo dates and often with a trio, but also composed many works for groups of varying sizes - both for jazz groups and classical ensembles. His piece "Oasis" for piano and orchestra was performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1993. In addition to his busy performing schedule, Hanna was also an active educator and tenured professor at Queens College in New York. 

George Mraz has been a greatly in-demand bassist for straight-ahead dates ever since he emigrated to the United States in 1968. After a brief time playing violin and alto, Mraz studied bass at the Prague Conservatory and gigged at a club in Munich for a year. In 1968, he attended Berklee and he soon toured with Oscar Peterson (1970-1972). After moving to New York, Mraz became a member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra (1973-1976), worked with Stan Getz (1974-1975), and has since played with most of the top jazz players, including Walter Norris, Pepper Adams, Roland Hanna, Zoot Sims, Tommy Flanagan, John Abercrombie, Carmen McRae, Jimmy Rowles, Stephane Grappelli, and countless others. Other than an obscure duo date with Roland Hanna for Trio in 1976, George Mraz surprisingly did not have an opportunity to lead his own sessions until the mid-'90s when he signed with Milestone. His album roster includes Jazz (1995), Bottom Lines (1997), Duke's Place (1999), and Morava (2001).

Mike Nock - 1978 - In Out and Around

Mike Nock
In Out and Around

01. Break Time 7:05
02. Dark Light 5:50
03. Shadows Of Forgotten Love 9:30
04. The Gift 7:05
05. Hadrians Wall 7:35
06. In Out And Around 8:40

Recorded at Sound Ideas Studio, New York City - July, 7, 1978

Bass – George Mraz
Drums – Al Foster
Piano – Mike Nock
Tenor Saxophone – Michael Brecker

Mike Nock is a New Zealand pianist who had been playing with some of the top names in jazz in the U.S., and he assembled an 'all star' band for this straight ahead jazz CD.
It features astounding playing by Mike Brecker. According to a recent discography, Brecker has now appeared on more than 150 CD's, so, I can't say this is his best record, but it is surely one of the best. The other Brecker CD's that I have heard are fusion, and I will hypothesize that because of the heavy funk supplied by a fusion rhythm section, the horn is required to play less, and as a result, Brecker coasts. Of course, Brecker coasts at 200 mph. However, on this record there is no electric bass, no drum machine, and no coasting. Brecker plays a long solo on the title cut that is at the limit start to finish. His usual ferocious technique is on display, and this time it is coupled with an emotional intensity that makes this solo like a roller coaster ride, with the excitement of hair-pin turns and the exhiliration of free fall. At his best, Brecker is awesome.

John Abercrombie Quartet - 1981 - M

John Abercrombie Quartet 

01. Boat Song 9:52
02. M 6:17
03. What Are The Rules 7:28
04. Flashback 6:13
05. To Be 5:14
06. Veils 5:42
07. Pebbles 4:42

Recorded November 1980 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg

John Abercrombie: electric and acoustic guitars
Richard Beirach: piano
George Mraz: bass
Peter Donald: drums

For its third ECM outing, the John Abercrombie Quartet produced this viscous and mysterious entity known simply as M. Strangely out of print, this seven-part exercise in burnished reflection plows its foggiest waters in “Boat Song.” Abercrombie’s guitar weeps like bells over a harbor, skimmed for flotsam by Richie Beirach’s somber piano. At nearly ten minutes, this is the longest track of the album, and its darkness haunts all that proceeds from it. We encounter this also in “To Be” (a rubato wave notable for George Mraz’s effortless bass work), and the harmonic inversions of “Veils.” Here, Abercrombie’s sinewy melodic lines stretch farthest, slowly immersing its hands into the “Pebbles” in which we find closure. Peter Donald’s drumming is particularly fine here and shines like sunrays from cloud-break.

Despite Abercrombie’s often piercing swan dives and a pirouetting rhythm section, even the liveliest moments in “What Are The Rules” (a rhetorical move proving there need be none) or “Flashback” never lift their feet too high off the ground. The latter’s circular conversations draw around us a perimeter that we are free to overstep. Yet after being bathed in such sonic finery, we feel reluctant to do so. The result is one of Abercormbie’s lushest albums, with a shadowy and tinny production style that writes a different story every time.

John Abercrombie Quartet - 1980 - Abercrombie Quartet

John Abercrombie Quartet
Abercrombie Quartet

01. Blue Wolf 8:20
02. Dear Rain 6:49
03. Stray 6:31
04. Madagascar 9:00
05. Riddles 8:07
06. Foolish Dog 6:16

Recorded November 1979 at Talent Studio

John Abercrombie: guitar, mandolin guitar
Richard Beirach: piano
George Mraz: bass
Peter Donald: drums

One year after debuting with Arcade, the John Abercrombie Quartet cut out the auditory paper doll that is this curiously overlooked sophomore effort. What set the quartet apart from its contemporaries was not only the fluid playing of its frontman and the ways in which it intertwines with that of musicians who are clearly beyond intuitive, but also the sense of development in the structuring and ordering of tunes. Beginning with the pianistic groove of “Blue Wolf” and ending on the acoustically minded “Foolish Dog,” this self-titled peregrination winds itself into a tour de force of solemn virtuosity. From Richie Beirach’s overwhelming cascades to the contortions of bassist George Mraz, we encounter a virtual entity of unity whose heartbeat counts off to the drumming of Peter Donald and whose eyes glow with Abercrombie’s characteristic pale fire. This body unfolds into a misty landscape, where the gusts of “Dear Rain” spread melodies into the open pastures that is our love for harmony. Looser gestures like “Stray” (here, both verb and noun) share appendages with the resignation of “Madagascar,” which falls like a sheet from a clothesline in an oncoming storm. As the quartet grows in fully, Abercrombie’s gentle remonstrations graze the bellies of clouds with the barest touch of curled fingers, allowing “Riddles” to build their conversational nests in the branches of an undisclosed longing.

No matter how “into it” these musicians get, they always display an admirable restraint, so committed are they to the thematic altar around which they cast their spells. There is a sound that lingers on the palate, one that finds in its cessation the birth of something new.

John Abercrombie Quartet - 1979 - Arcade

John Abercrombie Quartet 

01. Arcade 9:36
02. Nightlake 5:31
03. Paramour 5:06
04. Neptune 7:30
05. Alchemy 11:31

Recorded December 1978  at Talent Studio, Oslo

John Abercrombie: guitar, electric mandolin
Richard Beirach: piano
George Mraz: bass
Peter Donald: drums

Toward the end of Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha, a rainbow spreads its band across the ocean to warn General Katsuyori not to proceed into the Battle of Nagashino that lies ahead, for to do so will mean certain doom. Tragically, he ignores it and rushes himself and his men into an all-out massacre. Such omens are rare outside of the cinematic imagination. And yet, if the reader will allow me to draw a weak connection here, we find a similar image in Arcade, the cover of which signals to us a music that does heed that call and luxuriates in the sonic benefits of its deference.

The title track, with its buoyant bass line courtesy of George Mraz (onetime member of the Oscar Peterson Quartet) and an effervescent Richard Beirach (rightful heir to the Tatum/Evans legacy) on piano, frames John Abercrombie’s adventurous fingers like gloves, making shadow puppets against the taut screen of Peter Donald’s drumming. This formula works from the get-go and provides plenty of magic from which the quartet spins one glorious melody after another. A splash of rain brings us to the “Nightlake” with downcast eyes as Abercrombie lays his rubato soloing over a liquid rhythm section. The results showcase the quartet at its best. “Paramour” is another stunner. Lush and romantic, it works over the listener in waves. Mraz digs deep into his emotional reserves for this one. Meanwhile, things are a bit more cosmic on “Neptune,” where a bowed bass cuts a swath of moonlight in the nebular darkness. Abercrombie launches tiny rockets into the stars with his mandolin, tracing new constellations on the way to becoming one himself. In closing, the group shows us what “Alchemy” is all about. From its humble awakenings arises a majestic beast. Every appendage is an instrument animating the harmonious whole, tickled by Beirach’s ivory and gilded in a layer of cymbals. As its heart contracts, the guitar lets out a plaintive cry, running ever so delicately into the shadows of resolution.

Abercrombie’s pinpoint precision abounds, his mid-heavy picking amplified to buttery sweetness, and shares notable interplay with Beirach. Over a yielding backing, these sustained reverberations occasionally coalesce in bright tutti passages. The resulting sound is nothing short of enchanting. A neglected classic to be sure, Arcade is available on CD only in Japan, and is one of three fine John Abercrombie Quartet sessions that one can only hope are next in line for an Old & New Masters treatment.

Colin Towns - 1978 - Full Circle

Colin Towns 
Full Circle

01. Full Circle (Main Theme) 10:40
02. The Park
03. Have You Got A Magnificent Problem? (Inside The Mental Home) 2:19
04. 'Pretty Men Are Very Receptive' (The Seance) 3:15
05. Kate (Opening Sequence) 2:45
06. Olivia 4:50
07. Love Scene 3:22
08. 'Magnus' - The Unwelcome Intrusion 3:53
09. Full Circle (Everything's Right Now) 7:08

Original music written and performed by Colin Towns

The port of entry to the world of film composing can often appear out of nowhere; for Colin Towns, that sudden opportunity presented itself one day in 1976. A young producer, Peter Fetterman, struggling to find finance for his low budget feature Full Circle hit on an intriguing idea. What if a composer was hired to record a demo of the soundtrack before the film was shot? The tape could be sent along with the screenplay to potential backers who could then "hear" the film as well as read it.

At this time, Colin was an established keyboardist and songwriter principally working in the rock milieu. He had been in bands since he was thirteen and was equally conversant with the medium of jazz. In the mid- 70s, Ian Gillan, former lead singer with progressive band Deep Purple founded his own self-named outfit and went on the road. Colin joined the team and became an indispensable member. The group was an immediate sensation in Japan and signed with Virgin Records, a relationship that spawned several gold albums. Gillan was to continue rolling into the 80s, but Colin was adapting his style and considerable talents; he sought a new outlet and film and television beckoned.

Full Circle (The Haunting of Julia) was eventually made and released in 1978. One of the reasons the film got off the ground was Colin's score. Somehow, instinctively, the young musician had captured exactly the right mood. His gentle synthesizer and keyboard-based textures, inflected with atmospheric voices and off-kilter sounds, subtly evoked the sad, scared longing of the lead character Julia Lofting (Mia Farrow). Based on the novel "Julia" by Peter Straub, the story is delicately harrowing. Julia is responsible for the accidental death of her daughter. Traumatized and dysfunctional, Julia is drawn to places where children congregate -- parks, playgrounds etc. Occasionally she watches a child who uncomfortably resembles her own. Soon, Julia's entire world begins to close in around her. She moves to a new home and believes it to be haunted. Gradually it appears the "ghost" may be a woman whose own child died in similar circumstances. Beyond the necessities of the horror genre, the music for Full Circle is a beautiful piece of work. Rarely has a synthesizer been employed more effectively. This is not just a question of a memorable theme. This score is shot-through with a melancholy that is positively disquieting. Everything from the theme's circular sense of resolution to the music's narrative linkage incorporating the mesmerizing song "Olivia" functions admirably. So effective was this music in the film that almost every review enthusiastically mentioned the score -- an almost unheard of feat for an art film in the 70s. Soundtrack aficionados quickly defined it as: "Seminal ... One of the finest genre scores ever." Virgin Records issued the album which became one of the top ten soundtracks that year. A single was also released which enjoyed considerable success (heard on this CD as the first half of track one).

After Gillan Colin turned his attention full-time to film composing. A plethora of British pictures followed: Shady, Knights and Emeralds, Rawhead Rex, Slayground, Bellman and True, Vampire's Kiss and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. For American television there was: Fellow Traveler, Daughter of Darkness, Hands of a Murderer and Curacao. His work for British TV includes: The Fear, Blind Justice, Capital City, The Fifteen Streets, Black Heath Poisonings, Clarissa and The Wedding Gift. The fall of 1994 will see the release of Colin's first major American feature assignment Puppet Masters for Disney's Hollywood Pictures division, a genre film based on the original "Body Snatchers" concept.

Not content to limit himself to film, Colin has also expanded his efforts in the concert hall. He has received several commissions for classical works, and his stirring three movement Concerto for Trumpet and String Orchestra is also presented here. A world premiere recording, this concerto was expressly composed for soloist Graham Ashton. Other concert pieces include: Postcards from the Front for chamber ensembles and Still Life and Shaking, a horn trio. Earlier this year Colin Towns' Mask Orchestra, a fifteen piece ensemble issued its first CD which was nominated as one of the top three jazz albums of 1994. Concerto for Trumpet and String Orchestra is a vivid portrait of Britain both past and present. It evokes the determination of an island people slogging through a rain-drenched landscape. It is really the sound of the worker's spirit; the particularity of the trumpet so reminiscent of the northern collieries and the brutal hardships contained therein. But sometimes the "spirit" breaks free and is allowed to float deliriously across the moors, through acres of purple heather and marsh, curving around the sheer, unclimable cliffs and finally onwards and outwards to the cold grey arms of the North Atlantic ocean.

On the other side of the Atlantic lies New York, and the closing piece on this disc. Colin's widely-praised American Suite captured all the sights and sounds of the new world. With 1930 Cityscape Colin returns to the jazzy crispness of Manhattan. Whereas American Suite focused on the birth and death of a single day, Cityscape's short-but-sweet punchiness features a great workout for saxophonist Phil Todd. This is a hip, hugely enjoyable homage to Gershwin and Bernstein; the ineffable sound of the speakeasy melded with the giddy uniqueness of the city's unforgettable skyline. It's possible sometimes to imagine music as a ball of energy, bouncing from country to country and travelling backwards and forwards through time, gaining energy and acquiring density. Its sheer inertia irresistible. If music is the true nature of boundless communication, then Colin Towns is an artist who speaks volumes in a language clear enough for all to hear.

Atlantis - 1978 - Top of the Bill

Top of the Bill

01. He's Got A Gun In His Hand 4:12
02. Hot Rocks 2:53
03. Out Of Tune 3:24
04. Don't Put The Lady Down 3:46
05. Northern Bounty 3:59
06. Haven't You Heard 5:26
07. Just Blues (Session) 11:28

Bass – Karl-Heinz Schott
Drums – Ringo Funk
Keyboards – Adrian Askew
Lead Guitar – Frank Diez
Rhythm Guitar – Rainer Marz
Vocals – Inga Rumpf

Atlantis was founded in the late summer of 1972 by Inga Rumpf (vocals), Jean-Jacques Kravetz (keyboards) and Karl-Heinz Schott (bass). These musicians previously played with the band Frumpy. The founding cast also included guitarist Frank Diez and drummer Curt Cress (formerly with the band Emergency).

After a few live performances in Germany, the first LP was produced in the studios of Island Records in London, which was especially popular in the USA, where Rumpf's blues-oriented voice was appreciated. Diez and Cress left the band after the recordings. For a four-week tour of England with Procol Harum and Traffic George Meier came as a guitarist and Udo Lindenberg as a drummer to Atlantis. These were replaced after the tour by Dieter Bornschlegel (formerly in the band Traumtorte) and Ringo Funk (formerly at Jeronimo), with which then the second LP It's Getting Better (1973) was recorded.

During another four-week tour of England, Jean-Jacques Kravetz left the band to join the band Randy Pie. Reiner Schnelle jumped in for him at short notice. At the end of 1973, the band ranked among the three most popular groups of the readership of the then important journal Musikmarkt. 

Already in the summer of 1974, the next personnel change took place. For Reiner Schelle came the British keyboardist Adrian Askew, for Dieter Bornschlegel came guitarist Alex Conti from the band Curly Curve. In this lineup, the third album Ooh, Baby was recorded in 1974.

In 1975, a tour through the US took place (usually as an opening act of Lynyrd Skynyrd), after which the band separated from Alex Conti, for now again the former guitarist Frank Diez and for the first time a second guitarist, Rainer Marz (formerly Ringo radio at Jeronimo), joined the group. The subsequent fourth LP Get on Board (1975) is clearly marked by hard rock American style, but was not a commercial success. 

In January 1976, Hull and Schott announced the dissolution of the band. However, there were until March 1976 still some more studio recordings that were released on the album Top of the Bill. 

Atlantis - 1974 - Ooh, Baby

Ooh, Baby

01. Brother 3:05
02. Son Of A Bitch's Son 3:51
03. Waiting And Longing 3:14
04. Mr. Bigshot 5:34
05. The Way I Choose 3:53
06. Ooh, Baby 2:53
07. Smiling People 3:33
08. New York City 4:41
09. Godfather 3:43
10. Leave It To The Devil 3:13

Bass, Backing Vocals – Karl-Heinz Schott
Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Ringo Funk
Grand Piano – Jean-Jacques Kravetz
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Alex Conti
Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals – Adrian Askew
Lead Vocals, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Inga Rumpf

Soloist, Piano – Jasper van't Hoff (tracks: B2)
Backing Vocals – Linda Fields

I  didn't have this or the next album when I did the original Atlantis/Frumpy posts, so here they are a bit late, but here they are!

One of Atlantis's stronger efforts in their typical 70's mainstream AOR style, with a nice balance of hard and soft tracks and some great heavy moments ("Godfather"), and funky pop ("Smiling People"). It's reasonably decent as a complete Lp, although still uneven (..like all of this bands Lp's) but it seems to play through the lesser tracks a bit more smoothly than the band's other efforts, so it gets knocked up a notch in my ratings.

I prefer the Euro edition of the Lp over the US as the lead in track "Brother" is much stronger than the fairly ordinary "Mainline Florida" which replaced it on US pressings.