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Crimson Jazz Trio - King Crimson Songbook, Volume 2 CD (album) cover


Crimson Jazz Trio


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.02 | 58 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars In a market congested with tribute albums and cover bands, the Crimson Jazz Trio offered something totally refreshing: new translations of classic KING CRIMSON music, in an entirely different idiom.

The second and (tragically) last chapter of their re-imagined KC catalogue stretched out even more than Volume One: interpolating original material, adding vocals, and reuniting drummer Ian Wallace with his erstwhile Crimson bandmate Mel Collins. Both had appeared in the 21st Century Schizoid Band, but that was strictly a nostalgia act. Inviting the sax player as a guest to these sessions not only gave the project more legitimacy, but added instrumental color to the piano-led trio, and a certain poignancy as well.

Both CJ3 albums, but this one in particular, offered a glimpse of what Wallace might have contributed to the court of the Crimson King back in 1971, given half a chance. Older fans could argue that the band lost something of its original warmth in the harsher climate of the Wetton-Buford improvisations, and beyond. But the Jazz Trio succeeded in resuscitating the human pulse hidden deep inside the avant-metal heart of later Crimson line-ups.

It might sound like straightforward jazz, but because the source material is so eclectic (ranging from the 1969 debut album to the double-trio Thrakking of the mid-1990s) the new music becomes likewise harder to pigeonhole. Even if the titles are familiar (and they should be, to any self-respecting Crimhead), the experience is like hearing the songs for the first time.

"Lament", for example, is more or less faithful to the original melody, with Jody Nardone's piano substituting for John Wetton's vocals. But the updated "Heartbeat" is a significant departure from its "Beat" album forefather, and truer to the spirit of Kerouac and Ginsberg, enough to make me want to trim my goatee and pull on a black turtleneck sweater.

The richer arrangement of "Hidden Garden" transforms it into a genuine song, instead of the incidental filler on the 1995 "THRAK" album (Nardone does the singing, and with the same sensitivity as his ivory tickling). And the ambitious 18-minute "Islands Suite" presents a mostly (I'm guessing) improvised, often free-form interpretation of the opening cuts off that 1971 LP, almost unrecognizable in this context.

The pleasant surprise of the earlier Songbook is missing, of course: this one is merely (and undeniably) pleasant. But it's hard to hear it without a lump in the throat. The album represents the final studio recording of the late Ian Wallace, who succumbed to esophageal cancer shortly after laying down these tracks. The instrumental version of "Lament", deliberately placed at the end of the album, makes a fitting valedictory. And the closing fade-out was a nice gesture too, suggesting that the one-time Crimson percussionist never stopped swinging his drumsticks.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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