Monday, December 30, 2013

John Mayall - The Turning Point

This prophetically titled project represents yet another crossroad in John Mayall's ever evolving cast of prime British bluesmen. This album also signifies a distinct departure from the decibel drowning electrified offerings of his previous efforts, providing instead an exceedingly more folk and roots based confab. The specific lineup featured here is conspicuous in its absence of a lead guitarist, primarily due to Mayall recommending himself out of his most recent string man. After the passing of Brian Jones, the Rolling Stones decided to tour and at the behest of Mick Jagger, Mayall suggested Mick Taylor -- who had been with him since Crusade (1967). Mayall gave this potentially negative situation a positive outcome by retooling the combo into an acoustic quartet featuring old friends as well as some vital new sonic textures. Mayall (vocals/harmonica/slide guitar/telecaster six-string/hand & mouth percussion) joined forces with former associates Steve Thompson (bass) and Johnny Almond (tenor & alto sax/flute/mouth percussion), then added the talents of Jon Mark (acoustic finger-style guitar). It becomes readily apparent that Mark's precision and tasteful improvisational skills place this incarnation into heady spaces. The taut interaction and wafting solos punctuating "So Hard to Share" exemplify the controlled intensity of Mayall's prior electrified outings. Likewise, Mark's intricate acoustics pierce through the growl of Mayall's haunting slide guitar solos on "Saw Mill Gulch Road." The Turning Point also examines a shift in Mayall's writing. The politically charged "Laws Must Change," the personal "I'm Gonna Fight for You J.B." and the incomparable "Room to Move" are tinged with Mayall's trademark sense of irony and aural imagery. - by Lindsay Planer, AMG

Artist: John Mayall
Album: The Turning Point (Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore East, New York City)
Year: 1969
Label: Polydor (1987)
Runtime: 47:20

1.  The Laws Must Change (John Mayall) 7:22
2.  Saw Mill Gulch Road (John Mayall) 4:48
3.  I'm Gonna Fight for you J.B. (John Mayall) 5:24
4.  So Hard to Share (John Mayall) 6:57
5.  California (John Mayall/Steve Thompson) 9:31
6.  Thoughts About Roxanne (John Mayall/Steve Thompson) 8:21
7.  Room to Move (John Mayall) 4:57

John Mayall (Vocals, Harmonica, Slide Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Tambourine, Mouth Percussion)
Jon Mark (Acoustic Finger-Style Guitar)
Johnny Almond (Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Flutes, Mouth Percussion)
Steve Thompson (Bass Guitar)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Al di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucia - Friday Night in San Francisco

Loose and spontaneous, this (mainly) live album is a meeting of three of the greatest guitarists in the world for an acoustic summit the likes of which the guitar-playing community rarely sees. Broken up into three duo and two trio performances, Friday Night in San Francisco catches all three players at the peaks of their quite formidable powers. The first track features Al di Meola and Paco de Lucía teaming up for a medley of di Meola's "Mediterranean Sundance" (first recorded by the duo on di Meola's classic 1976 album Elegant Gypsy) and de Lucía's own "Rio Ancho." It is a delightful performance, full of the fire and inhuman chops that one expects from two players of this caliber. However, the two guitarists obviously have big ears, and they complement each other's solos with percussive, driving rhythm parts. There is a laid-back, humorous element to Friday Night in San Francisco as well, best witnessed in di Meola and John McLaughlin's performance of Chick Corea's "Short Tales of the Black Forest." Rapid-fire licks from the pair soon give way to atonal striking of the body of the guitar, running picks along the strings, etc. Before the farce is completed, they have played a blues and quoted the Pink Panther theme. It is funny stuff, and it serves to dispel the image of the trio, especially di Meola, as super-serious clinicians more concerned with technique than music. The other great piece of evidence against such a narrow-minded claim can be found in both the quality of the compositions featured on Friday Night in San Francisco as well as the sensitivity and dynamic variation brought to the performances. A perfect example of this is the sole studio track, a McLaughlin composition entitled "Guardian Angel" (the opening theme of which is taken straight from "Guardian Angels," a song that appears on McLaughlin's 1978 Electric Dreams album). It is a fine piece, and one that features a haunting melody as well as some of the best solos on the record. All in all, Friday Night in San Francisco is a fantastic album and one of the best entries in all of these guitarists' fine discographies. - by Daniel Gioffre, AMG

Artist: Al di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucía
Album: Friday Night in San Francisco
Year: 1980
Label: Phonogram (1981)
Runtime: 41:12

1.  Mediterranean Sundance/Rio Ancho (Paco de Lucía/Al di Meola) 11:35
2.  Short Tales Of The Black Forest (Chick Corea) 8:44
3.  Frevo Rasgado (Egberto Gismonti) 7:57
4.  Fantasia Suite (Al di Meola) 8:54
5.  Guardian Angel (John McLaughlin) 4:00

Al di Meola (Acoustic Guitar)
John McLaughlin (Acoustic Guitar)
Paco de Lucia (Acoustic Guitar)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Wynton Marsalis - Live at Blues Alley

This double album features the great trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and his 1986 quartet, a unit featuring pianist Marcus Roberts, bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. Although Marsalis during this period still hinted strongly at Miles Davis, his own musical personality was starting to finally shine through. With the versatile Marcus Roberts (who thus far has been the most significant graduate from Marsalis's groups), Wynton Marsalis was beginning to explore older material, including on this set "Just Friends," and "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" other highlights include lengthy workouts on "Au Privave" and Kenny Kirkland's "Chambers of Tain." This two-fer is recommended, as are virtually all of Wynton Marsalis's recordings. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Wynton Marsalis Quartet
Album: Live at Blues Allley
Year: 1986
Label: CBS (1988)
Runtime: 117:36

CD1 [56:11]
1.  Knozz-Moe-King (Wynton Marsalis) 6:03
2.  Just Friends (John Klenner/Sam M. Lewis)  8:21
3.  Knozz-Moe-King (Interlude) (Wynton Marsalis) 3:52
4.  Juan (Marcus Roberts/Jeff Watts) 7:33
5.  Cherokee (Ray Noble) 2:50
6.  Delfeayo's Dilemma (Wynton Marsalis) 9:20
7.  Chambers of Tain (Kenny Kirkland) 15:11
8.  Juan (2) (Marcus Roberts/Jeff Watts) 2:55

CD2 [1:01:25]
1.  Au Privave (Charlie Parker) 14:35
2.  Knozz-Moe-King (Interlude) (Wynton Marsalis) 2:38
3.  Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans (Louis Alter/Eddie DeLange) 11:30
4.  Juan (Marcus Roberts/Jeff Watts) 3:15
5.  Autumn Leaves (Joseph Kosma/Johnny Mercer/Jacques Prévert) 9:41
6.  Knozz-Moe-King (Interlude) (Wynton Marsalis) 3:48
7.  Skain's Domain (Wynton Marsalis) 9:39
8.  Much Later (Wynton Marsalis) 6:15

Wynton Marsalis (Trumpet)
Marcus Roberts (Piano)
Robert Leslie Hurst (Double Bass)
Jeff "Tain" Watts (Drums)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Djivan Gasparyan & Michael Brook - Black Rock

With Black Rock, Canadian composer Michael Brook applies the same approach he used in his two Real World collaborations with Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn (Mustt Mustt and Night Song) to a new relationship with Armenian duduk specialist Djivan Gasparyan. This partnership proves to be more consistently fruitful than the first, producing a record of dazzling eclecticism and uncommon soulfulness. Gasparyan's duduk, an ancient instrument similar to the oboe, has an extraordinary range of expression: It exudes a heart-rending plangency on the mournful "Fallen Star," seductive sensuality on "Forbidden Love," and languid serenity on "Together Forever." Gasparyan also sings on the record, lending the gentle warmth of his voice to the textured instrumental work. Brook's arrangements -- consisting primarily of keyboards, light drums, and evocative ambient electric guitars -- bring a contemporary edge to the ancient mystery and emotiveness that characterize Gasparyan's work. Black Rock is open to the same criticisms of cultural exploitation that plagued the Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn albums, but one hopes that this fascinating cultural hybrid will be accepted on its own terms as a rich and expressive new creation. - by Evan Cater, AMG

Artist: Djivan Gasparyan & Michael Brook
Album: Black Rock
Yaer: 1998
Label: Real World
Runtime: 44:10

1.  To the River (Djivan Gasparyan/Michael Brook) 4:13
2.  Fallen Star (Djivan Gasparyan/Michael Brook) 4:52
3.  Take My Heart (Djivan Gasparyan/Michael Brook) 4:36
4.  Together Forever (Djivan Gasparyan/Michael Brook/Richard Evan) 6:53
5.  Freedom (Djivan Gasparyan/Michael Brook) 5:29
6.  Forbidden Love (Djivan Gasparyan/Michael Brook) 5:42
7.  Immigrant's Song (Djivan Gasparyan/Michael Brook) 6:56
8.  Dark Souls (Djivan Gasparyan/Michael Brook) 5:25

Djivan Gasparyan (Duduk and Vocals)
Michael Brook (Guitar, Bass, Keyboards and Programming)
Richard Evan (Guitar, Bass, Keyboards and Programming)
Jason Lewis (Drums and Percussion)
Roel Van Camp (Accordion)


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