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Aurora - Aurora CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.84 | 23 ratings

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4 stars Continuing on my current "return to Jazz-rock" phase, with a bevy of albums to receive, listen and review, I was tempted to revisit some on my current, dust gathering jazz-rock discs , mostly of British persuasion to find some existing bliss. Aurora has been sitting there, lonely like a beauty queen (sly humor!) , they were 1977 Yanks and I had only given the album a cursory audition, surely distracted by gourmet cooking of some kind I was preparing, and knew that its day would come. I have read reviews that kindle a sense of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Curved Air, Jean-Luc Ponty and Nucleus and those prominent references were more than enough to catch my new found curiosity and attention.

This is truly astute music, a swift and talkative violin leading the orchestra into atmospheric zones of influence, fusing all the classic aromas such as jazz, jam, funk, world, latin and rock influences, while unafraid to solo away in improvisational mode. On the opener "Opus 8", the band sets the bar high for all to witness, intruding a sassy intro that morphs into a groove that provides the dais on which Mark Menikos' soaring violin, the guitar stylings of Skip Sorelle and jagged John Sharp keys can strut their stuff with complete artistic freedom. Clocking in near 12 minutes, this is a primo first salvo.

"Within" is a dreamy set of melodies that first seek to hypnotize before exploding into a more laid back groove with a sunny disposition (they were from Texas after all!) , Sorelle picking away in a very breezy style, imitated by a synth solo that parallels the axe work, a bold move on many levels. This is a slow cooking jazz gumbo that just breathes fresh air!

"Dancing on a Plain in Spain" winks at the classic movie My Fair Lady (a rage back then) and the mood is jazzier, creating a more JL Ponty feel, the violin carving a large part of the sweat cake, soloing but displaying a strong sense of interplay, as with bassist Roy Vogt's subtle interval performances, with a few slick guitar dashes that weaves cleverly through the subsonic drumming, as well as the oiliest synth solo this side of Manfred Mann (just faster!). From this point on, a sense of sameness seems to appear that will keep the bar level but nothing more. "Is There Any More?" is playful at best, a pedestrian opportunity to solo rather aimlessly. This is where the Curved Air scent is stronger even though there are no vocals of any kind. Good but dispensable.

"Off Blue" masons down a rapid rut and the violin slithers like a coiled snake, again very jazzy now, almost lounge bar style (just faster!), again fine but disposable.

"Eurthmia" is back to frantic playing, veering into maniacal speed zones, (these cats can play fast) and riffing like no tomorrow. There is even some crafty "country fiddlin' that is cute to boot.

"Savage Lust" is like the title implies, a searing little ditty that exudes coy sensuality and digital prowess (tsk, tsk) mainly from the bubbly bassist who likes to pop like vintage Larry Graham. Serious guitar noodlings also increase the tension while the chin-held cat-skin violin screeches amorously. The playing is technical yet emotive especially in the high note leaps. Formidable! "Polyfolk Dance" is quirky and electronically charged, with a superior guitar lunge and within its deep folds, a pastorally joyous feel to it. Definitely up-beat and canny (a little Beethoven hint) , this is again a successful track!

"Khartoum" is narratively introduced, spicy Middle eastern aromas , hissing percussives and swirling sonic mists making this a high appeal track, full of lush experimentation. The mood is slow and calm with a hint of potential fury, as is often the case in that mystifying part of the world as Menikos finds himself going all out on his instrument, dazzling and ethereal. The ensemble playing is also highly suggestive, earning high marks for artistic impression from all judges, straddling that pleasure zone between mind and body we all cherish as sacred. "Jubilee" scripts a more local statement, these boys are from Texas after all and what is more "suthn'" than barbeque, hoedown and jubilee. As such, this tune appeals to me mostly in a technical sense as these jazz guys tear up some standard instrumental country music by forging ahead with woozy synths while the violin guy plays the sheriff. This is again at the risk of repeating myself, a positive approach that should have benefited with a strong future. That was not the case.

All in all, a pleasant addition and a worthy second-tier quality one shot wonder, especially you violin fans out there. The artwork is ultra Dali-esque , which is fine by me! 4 Boreal Stars

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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