Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Indo Jazz Fusions with Larry Adler (February 2, 2022 British Progressive Jazz)

This is one of those occasions when we ‘labellers of music’ get stuck in our own glue. Consider the complication: A group called Indo Jazz Fusions containing Indian and British musicians, an American-born guest, and the result, a uniquely beautiful music which is patently not quite Indian, not quite jazz, not quite contemporary-American. I think the most accurate thing you can say is that it can only be played the way it is by men in contact with the jazz tradition.

The group is led, and all the compositions save one were written, by John Mayer. Born in Calcutta, trained first in Indian music, then in classical European music, he came to England about twenty years ago to pursue an orchestral career as a violinist. More recently he has devoted his time entirely to composition and to his Indo Jazz Fusions unit, an idea dating from four or five years ago. As a group it’s been through a number of changes so that now it’s a very fiery, jazzy unit indeed, which doesn’t mean that it’s no longer Indian, as can be heard in the first piece - Raga Malika, based on the rules of the classical Indian raga, a set scale of notes - a kit of parts almost - from which all the resulting solos are built. The rhythm in that case, twelve beats. Not to a bar so much as twelve beats in a recurring cycle.

In Serenade you’ll notice the pastoral nature of the sound of Larry Adler’s harmonica against Stan Sulzmann’s flute. In John Mayer’s composition Romance, from which guitar, sitar and tabla are absent, it reaches a degree of intensity seldom heard outside the music of Vaughan Williams, and the piece has one of the most sinuous, unpredictable melodies I’ve ever heard.

Larry Adler is the first man as far as I know to have made the harmonica a concert instrument, a feat he achieved in the 1930s, and it’s from the late Thirties that George Gershwin’s Summertime comes. It’s the first time that John Mayer has ever arranged a standard number for this group, and the results are very beautiful indeed.

Sarabande by John Mayer is a little more Indian in flavour, though it has a familiar title. In this, John Mayer himself plays violin.

The final piece is a return to the raga form, in this case built on a rhythm of eighteen beats. Among the things you’ll hear is a kind of duetting between Jim Moyes on guitar and Clem Alford on sitar. A technique known as the Raga Mehga.

I think that Britain is the only place where so many elements could be brought together so successfully.

Peter Clayton - July 1970 

1. Raga Malika
2. Serenade
3. Romance
4. Summertime
5. Sarabande
6. Raga Megha

Recorded 'live in-studio' in London, July 1970
Previously unreleased

Larry Adler - harmonica (tracks 2-6)
John Mayer - piano, violin
Stan Sulzmann - alto saxophone, flute
Jim Moyse - guitar
Clem Alford - sitar
Jeff Clyne - bass
John Marshall - drums
Keshav Sathe - tabla

Tape transfer by Ian Priston

Restored and mastered by Matt Parker for British Progressive Jazz

Don Rendell Sextet - The Odysseus Suite (February 2, 2022 British Progressive Jazz)

1. The Odysseus Suite part 1: Intro / Farewell Penelope
2. The Odysseus Suite part 2: Odysseus, King of Ithaca
3. The Odysseus Suite part 3: Siren's Song
4. The Odysseus Suite part 4: Veil of Ino

Live studio session recorded in London, October 1970

Based on Homer's Odyssey
All tracks composed by Don Rendell

Don Rendell - saxes/flute
Stan Robinson - saxes/flute
Peter Shade - vibes/flute
Michael Garrick - piano
Jack Thorncroft - bass
Trevor Tomkins - drums

Tape transfer by Dave Harwood

Restored and mastered by Matt Parker

John Taylor Sextet - Eye To Eye: Live 1971 (February 2, 2022 British Progressive Jazz)

1. And Think Again 08:53
2. Wait For Me 10:50
3. Awakening 04:31
4. Eye To Eye / Aw 04:58

Recorded live in London, April 1971
Previously unreleased

John Taylor - piano
Kenny Wheeler - trumpet, flugelhorn
Chris Pyne - trombone
Stan Sulzmann - alto sax, flute
Chris Laurence - bass
Tony Levin - drums

Tape transfer by Dave Harwood

Resorted and mastered by Matt Parker

John Dankworth Orchestra - Composition With Colour: Live 1971 (February 2, 2022 British Progressive Jazz)

1. The Imaginary Mirror
2. Altisidora
3. A Family Joy
4. Orinoco
5. Eleven Plus
6. Composition with Colour
7. Earth Man

Recorded live in London, March 1971
Previously unreleased

John Dankworth - alto sax, clarinet
Martin Drover, Kenny Wheeler, Hank Shaw, Henry Lowther - trumpets
Mike Gibbs, David Horler - trombones
John Jenkins - tuba
Tony Cook - french horn
Don Fay, Duncan Lamont, Stan Sulzmann - sax & flutes
Bruce Graham - piano
Chris Spedding - guitar
Tony Campo - bass guitar
Kenny Clare - drums
Ray Cooper - percussion

Tape transfer by Dave Harwood

Illustration by Piergiorgio Cupellini

Restored and mastered by Matt Parker

Miles Okazaki - Thisness (March 20, 2022 Pi Recordings)

"convulsive beauty, propulsive rhythm, elusive meaning...a spontaneous and unpredictable work of art, accordingly discordant, subversively accordant, a pendulum crushing the cage of temporality. This is Surrealism in practice. This is jazz. This is freedom."
- from the liner notes by Robin D.G. Kelley

Thisness is Miles Okazaki's third volume of compositions for Trickster, a quartet featuring Matt Mitchell on piano, Anthony Tidd on drums, and Sean Rickman on drums. The album is a set of themes that are shuffled and connected in different ways to make four large movements. Okazaki describes the process in the liner notes:

"Our previous albums were made up of what I would simply call "songs," but for this project I decided to expand the format. The intention was to make something like an exquisite corpse, the collective improvisations developed by the Surrealists. So for this album my job as composer was to bring in some ideas, set them in motion and then listen, trying to recognize the value of serendipitous events at transitional points in the music and lead the band down whatever path may be opening. The borderlands are where the Trickster hangs out, the undefined space where logic dissolves and creativity thrives. My hope was that the listener would enjoy the experience of passing through these boundaries between contrasting episodes."

The music draws on a few sources of inspiration that have connected creative elements: a magical "far off place" called Salt Creek, from a watercolor by Linda Okazaki, the writings on Surrealism by Robin D.G. Kelley, architectural concepts from producer David Breskin, and the poetry of Sun Ra. The idea that this band has been working toward since their first album is most fully realized on Thisness, a sound that discards notions of logic and control and strives toward something more like collective dreaming.
1. In Some Far Off Place
2. Years in Space
3. I'll Build a World
4. And Wait for You

Miles Okazaki – Guitar, Vocals, Robots
Matt Mitchell – Piano, Fender Rhodes, Prophet-6
Anthony Tidd – Electric Bass
Sean Rickman – Drums