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Bruford Levin Upper Extremities - Blue Nights CD (album) cover

BLUE NIGHTS

Bruford Levin Upper Extremities

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.57 | 26 ratings

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Shakespeare
3 stars Bruford Levin Upper Extremities was a short-lived, but extremely influential jazz/fusion avant-garde group, founded by two legends. The extremely Crimson-esque instrumental tunes on this exceptional live album were not only from their single studio album, but also from previous works by some of the members. The ironically titled Three Minutes of Pure Entertainment was originally from guitarist David Torn's Cloud About Mercury album (on which Bruford and Levin also played and contributed to compositions). The best way to describe this bizarre mix of ambient, industrial, jazz and prog is by asking you all to imagine if Moonchild was slightly more structured, but still free-form and improvised, with an extremely jazzy feel and sinister, lucid atmospheres drenching every moment of the music. Although, that wouldn't quite sum it up, because they use a mass of modern electric effects, similar to those that appear on Crimso's most recent album, The Power to Believe. It is also comparable to Porcupine Tree's Metanoia album.

Blue Nights is BLUE's only live output, and makes up half of the band's entire discography. The main focus of the album is freedom from constricting rules of modern music (it would seem). There is so much experimenting - with abstract sounds, but also with rhythm, and rhythmic illusions, usually from Bruford. He will very often change the tempo of his playing, or the time signature, which strongly counters what the other musicians are playing, and then returns to the original groove. It's rarely smooth, but always effective and powerful. Portnoy does this sometimes, but when he does it, the bass (or another instrument) usually changes with him. But when Bruford, or Gavin Harrison do it, it always seems spontaneous (whether it is, or not).

The album begins with Bruford walking out onto the stage alone, and launching the concert only using the bass drum and mallets on one or two cymbals. Levin steps up soon after, and the other two musicians in turn. There are massive amounts of improvisation (it seems) but the musicianship is always top-notch. Some of the softer songs are actually very approachable. Chris Botti's exceptional trumpet playing complements perfectly the very soft rhythm to form a perfect marriage of experimental jazz, and tranquil ambient. For a veteran experimental fan, this will be love at first sight, but to those more accustomed to structured, tight compositional music, this will take several listens to fully appreciate.

Shakespeare | 3/5 |

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