Fusion Blog; Nu Jazz Broadcast; MySpace

John Luciano, top-notch ContemporaryJazz.com reviewer, has launched his own blog. iJazz Therefore I Am covers music John loves including 70s and 80s jazz fusion. Among the acts he’s posted about already include Jeff Lorber Fusion, Spyro Gyra, and Tom Browne.

A fellow 37-year-old spinning nu jazz music? Sounds like my kind of guy! The surprising part of it: DJ Santo’s show is on terrestrial radio here in the States!

Be my friend! ContemporaryJazz.com has a page on MySpace.

Review: MSM Schmidt – Transit

The next time someone asks me to define contemporary jazz, I have the answer: Transit from MSM Schmidt. The project is an ideal fusion of jazz and rock. It has excellent compositions that allow its stellar cast of musicians to let loose and improvise. It’s a plugged-in, fired-up affair that will reinvigorate a sagging spirit.

When I first heard the opening track, “Journey To Fukuoka,” I immediately thought of the Dave Weckl Band. It has the energy and sound of the DWB and features former DWB saxman Brandon Fields. Like every track here, this one has a who’s who of contemporary jazz lineup – Jimmy Haslip on bass, Joel Rosenblatt on drums, Judd Miller on EVI, Mitchell Forman on piano, Mike Miller on guitar, with Kai Thomsen and MSM Schmidt throwing in synth parts. Rosenblatt is joined by Ric Fierabracci on bass for the next track, the sentimental “Little Joe.” Walt Fowler is spotlighted on trumpet with a nice piano solo by David Garfield. Fields is impressive on soprano sax on the gentle, more acoustic “Country X.” Wolfgang Haffner and Dave Carpenter provide the rhythm and Mike Miller switches from electric guitar to acoustic. You can’t help but notice Forman on piano and not just because of his solo. He adds the right touches at the right places. “Song For Michel” is a beautiful dedication to Michel Colombier that features memorable solos by Rick Braun, Fields, and Forman. Two more A-list contributors show up on this track – Will Lee and Vinnie Colaiuta.

The tempo is kicked up on “Rizma.” Rosenblatt hasn’t really been restrained on this recording and this may be the track where he shows what he’s got the most. Mike Miller rocks the electric guitar solo then again switches to acoustic for another beautiful performance on the sweet “Caroline.” MSM Schmidt adds a nice synth backdrop and Ernie Watts adds a tender sax solo. Watts is up front again on the appropriately titled “Slow Moves,” a downtempo piece that still moves because of the active bass of Ernest Tibbs and drums of Wolfgang Haffner. It sounds like the next composition, “Xpress,” might have a Joe Zawinul influence. An entire new cast is assembled on this track – Scott Kinsey on keyboards, Scott Henderson on guitar, Steve Tavaglione on sax, Jimmy Earl on bass, Kirk Covington on drums, and Brad Dutz on percussion. MSM still delivers the synths (it’s his recording, after all). There’s also world music flavor on the following track, “Sphere.” Kai Thomsen lays out a keyboard soundscape that Haslip, Judd Miller, Watts, Forman, and Rosenblatt play effectively on.

There is unmistakable energy on Transit, from a ballad to especially this last track. “Falling Down” is a piece that starts with some cool electric piano and synths, then adds syncopated horn parts, bass, piano, trumpet, and sax solos, and later evolves into an all-out jam. Haffner, Forman, Tibbs, and Mike Miller are laying it all out toward the end.

I didn’t mention every solo by every musician. There are lots of them and they are all good. Mitchell Forman is featured on five tracks and I just ran out of ways to say “Forman delivers yet another memorable solo.” Mike Miller impressed me on every track he was on. Musicians who aren’t soloing are also giving their all. There are no background parts. Every bassist and drummer, keyboardist – you can hear everyone is into this music. Reading through the project history, it seems this recording was put together piece by piece but, man, it often sounds like these guys were having fun together live in the studio.

It helps that the music is written to allow the guys to do their thing. MSM Schmidt wrote all of the music except for “Xpress.” Not bad for a guy who describes himself as “an amateur musician who in a fit of megalomania scraped the money together” to put the project together!

If I were giving grades for recordings, I’d have no choice but to give Transit by MSM Schmidt an A. It excels on every level – playing, compositions, production – you name it. It’s an energetic recording that belongs in the library of every contemporary jazz fan.

Buy the download from iTunes!

Gongzilla

Gongzilla - East Village SessionsFusion is officially back. Maybe it never left, but I haven’t seen media exposure like I’ve seen this year for bands like The Bad Plus and Garage a Trois. Now Reuters has picked up information about Gongzilla. Like the aforementioned bands, Gongzilla bridges jazz and rock in a style that the band claims is “not for the faint of heart.”. According to bassist Hansford Rowe, they are attracting both the older jazz fans and college-age adults to their concerts. Check out the article while it’s still available! Gongzilla’s new CD, East Village Sessions, was released on June 2.

Chick Corea Elektric Band Concert Report

Chick CoreaJohn Vidor recently caught one of the few Chick Corea Elektric Band Reunion concerts at The Blue Note in NYC on October 26. John has been kind enough to write this report and supply the pictures below. Thanks, John!

“Having lived in the New York City area for over 15 years until 1985, and now living in upstate New York, it is always a pleasure going back for a visit, especially when going to see a jazz show. On Saturday, October 26, my wife Gladys and I had the pleasure of attending the reunion concert of the Chick Corea Elektric Band at The Blue Note. Chick was joined by Eric Marienthal, Frank Gambale, Jimmy Earl, and Dave Weckl. To say that the show was one of the finest we ever saw would be an understatement. The fact that we were sitting only one seat back from stage-center in this hallowed center of jazz only added to the enjoyment. From this vantage point, one can see the drops of sweat, the popping veins, and the intense concentration of the band members as they perform. Chick’s choice of the term “Elektric” for this band not only refers to the instrumentation, but, at least in my opinion, to the charged atmosphere created by group as they play. It was a full house at the Blue Note last Saturday, with people of various ethnic backgrounds coming together to enjoy the show. I heard Brazilian, German, Russian, Swedish, and Spanish being spoken. The band has international appeal. Another couple sitting with us at our table came all the way from Cleveland, Ohio. Chick and the guys played a number of songs from their various releases. My personal favorite was “Blue Miles”, an in-your-face funk tune off the band’s Paint the World release. In addition, there were duets with Chick and Eric, and Chick and Frank (on acoustic guitar). Dave Weckl provided incredible drum work, and Jimmy Earl’s contribution on bass was astounding. There was plenty of opportunity for soloing by all of the members, and each member took full advantage to show off their chops. After the show, I had the pleasure of taking a couple of pictures with Chick. I asked him if a new Elektric Band release was planned. Chick was a bit evasive, but my guess is that if the boys are met with the response at the other venues they will be appearing at, is the same as at The Blue Note last Saturday, get ready for some more “elektricity” from this super-band.”

Chick Corea live Chick Corea live Chick Corea live Chick Corea live Chick Corea live

Sunny Skies Ahead

Weather Report Live and UnreleasedLooked outside the window lately? The forecast for Weather Report fans has been sunny this month. On October 1, the two-CD set Live and Unreleased hit stores. Performances from 1975 to 1983 are captured in the collection and you’ll find all of the group’s signature songs. The release was produced with the full cooperation of Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, making this the first official Weather Report album in over 15 years.

Joe’s new solo release, Faces and Places made its U.S. debut in mid-September. The CD is the perfect blending of world music and jazz. You won’t believe that Joe is 70 years of age when you hear how this music moves. Joe’s plugged-in sound, combined with the world influences, makes for one of the best jazz listening experiences this year.

Victor BaileyFaces and Places is out on ESC Records, which is also releasing Victor Bailey’s new solo effort in the U.S. this week. Victor was Weather Report’s bassist when the group dissolved in the mid-80s but continued his relationship with Joe in the Zawinul Syndicate and beyond. That’s Right has a top-notch band – Omar Hakim, Bill Evans, Jim Beard, Dean Brown, Lenny White, and Bennie Maupin. I haven’t heard the CD, but I’ve very interested in one of the tracks that ESC’s web site describes. On “Black on the Bach,” Bailey overdubs four tracks of interlocking bass parts – arpeggios, solos, counterpoint, call-and-response -to merge J.S. Bach and the blues. That, in addition to Bailey’s established playing ability and the calibre of other musicians on this CD, will make me consider buying this CD without even a sample listen.