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Crimson Jazz Trio - King Crimson Songbook, Volume One CD (album) cover


Crimson Jazz Trio


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.13 | 76 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This has to be the most unique and unexpected (and maybe the coolest) album yet released within the extended KING CRIMSON family. Erstwhile Crimson drummer Ian Wallace, from the unfairly maligned early '70s "Islands" line-up of the band, was the catalyst behind what must have seemed at first a crackpot idea: new interpretations (not merely covers, please take note) of eight classic Crim songs, played by an (almost) acoustic, traditional jazz trio.

Of course the earliest versions of King Crimson always had a heart of jazz. But this set takes some unlikely tracks from all over the greater Crim discography (up to and including the spiky post-Prog of 1984's "Three of a Perfect Pair"), and recalibrates them into entirely new and remarkably fresh compositions. Even the monster-metal signature riffs of "21st Century Schizoid Man" are given a radical face-lift, softened in this incarnation with (believe it or not) a retro-beatnik lounge-act vibe.

To their credit the trio don't even try to camouflage some of the rockier elements of their sources (during "Starless" and "Red", for example). But make no mistake: this doesn't pretend to be Jazz-Rock, or any other sort of Fusion. It's pure jazz, and vitally so, performed with all the spirit and energy of a live recording (I certainly can't hear anything resembling an overdub).

Wallace's drumming exhibits all the grace and freedom he was denied while actually a member of Crimson (at least during the perhaps too-carefully constructed studio sessions for the "Islands" album), and he's joined here by two players of equally high dynamic caliber: Jody Nardone on acoustic grand piano, and Tim Landers on fretless bass guitar. Together they show enough confidence to really have some fun with the material, from the upbeat swing of the otherwise raunchy "Ladies of the Road" (steering it not too far from Squirrel Nut Zippers territory) to the silky feline groove of "Cat Food" (with canine vocal accompaniment), and to a version of "I Talk to the Wind" even more gorgeous than the original.

The CD comes with a generous endorsement by Mr. Fripp himself, who couldn't have failed to notice how pleasant a contrast it makes to the often inorganic technological juggernaut that King Crimson has long since become. Think of the jazz trio as the civilized Jekyll to the sometimes demonic frenzy of Crimson's Hyde: a mirror-image alter- ego evolving in a much warmer parallel universe.

Now how long do we have to wait before hearing Volume II?

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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