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


Crimson Jazz Trio

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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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?

Report this review (#111935)
Posted Monday, February 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Incredible eyewatering smokin' burn down the house post-bop jazz interpretations of 8 King Crimson compositions encompassing periods of the band from 1969-84. This is not just the finest re-invention of King Crimson's music ever, but an immpecable jazz album that evokes shades of Dave Brubeck and even more so the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

The idea for this ambitious project was hatched by the late ex-King Crimson drummer Ian Wallace upon meeting jazz piano virtuoso Jody Nardone during a gig in Nashville, Tennesee in 2004. Upon relocating back to LA they hooked up with master bassist Tim Landers who has played with everyone from Tracey Chapman to Al DiMeola in addition to forming the fusion outfit Vital Information with ex-Journey drummer steve Smith in the early '80s. To put it in a nutshell they just nail every piece featured here from 21st Century Schizoid Man to Three Of A Perfect Pair with passion and precision. Some of the pieces here are cleverly disguised using the magic of the jazzman's craft while others ar more easily recognizable. What they all have in common though is a very bright, fresh and very together sound possessing a warmth which is not present in the more clinical original versions wth plenty of soloing which is a testament to the improvisational potential of the original pieces. With superb engineering there is a live feel here as I could detect no overdubs or studio trickery. In particular, the fat tone Tim Landers' 5 string electric bass adds a lot of depth and he makes it sound like an upright double bass most of the time.

A word of cauttion, however, must be issued here for those expecting cover tribute versions. These are jazz interpretations of King Crimson music of the highest order and as Bob Fripp himself indicates on the liner notes if one is not in tune with the passions and appreciation for more straight traditional jazz then they might wonder what is going on here. For those so inclined though, this is an exquisite treat and an opportunity to hear the King Crimson creature as it's never been heard before wonderfully contorted, twisted and reconstituted which will have jazz afficiados nodding their heads in approval and long time Crimheads experiencing The Crimson King's music in a much different vein. What else 5 stars.

Report this review (#184676)
Posted Saturday, October 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars King Crimson meets A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Well, OK the drummer, Ian Wallace was in the KC and the musical style certainly reminds me of what remains one my favorite soundtracks of all time. In fact, I tend to think that if you had introduced this album to the jazz loving public around that time (1965) it might just be regarded as a classic jazz album to this day. Even though the original King was known for embracing jazz elements on their earlier albums, these are tracks from the 1969-1984 era totally reworked as jazz pieces. Who knew that hiding inside King Crimson's songs were some cool jazz tracks trying to get out?

I think it is a testament both to the brilliance of Crimson's original compositions as well as the talent of the musician's involved in this project that it all works so well. A lot of the tracks you can kind of see reworked as pure jazz when you first read the list, but Three Of A Perfect Pair and Matte Kudasai work unexpectedly well. 21st Century Schizoid Man and Red were a bit of surprise, too. Cat, Food, Ladies Of The Road, and I Talk To The Wind, I could see. My favorite, last but not least, and not last really, Starless. Maybe that's the only one that might be out of place in parts back in the time before there was a King Crimson, but not by too much.

Fripp says on the liner notes "I have heard as if for the first time," these songs. I got the same feeling.

Report this review (#186627)
Posted Tuesday, October 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars

The first thing I am going to say about this album is WOW !!!!

Here we have a very very talented jazz trio reworking (not covering) King Crimson classics... and, yes, one of them is a Crimson alumni: Ian Wallace, drummer for the Islands lineup.

Everyone can notice from one single listen of any of Crimson's works the strong jazz/improvised music foundations of the music, as a result of that the band developed a very particular method of songwriting which consists on free improvising (many of the times live at concerts) until they find something interesting to start working with. This album brings this jazzy soul to its maximum exponent with just an "acoustic" trio (piano, drums and electric bass).

The style of the this album has nothing to do with rock is simply jazz in the style of Dave Brubeck and Ahmad Jamal with lots of improvisation (sort of a crossover between cool and free/avant jazz). The most obvious relationship with this style can be noticed during King Crimson's 1969-1974 era, therefore what you would expect are renditions of tracks such as 21st Century Schizoid Man, Catfood, Starless and Ladies Of The Road, which, of course, you'll get but things get more interesting with renditions of Red (more bluesy than jazzy) and I Talk To The Wind (with a more symphonic and ballady style in its original form) and the band gets even more daring while interpreting unexpected pieces such as Three of a Perfect Pair and Matte Kudasai from the 80s incarnation of King Crimson.

Although the songs are completely changed and reoriented in style they still are recognizable and keep their original essence and some rocky edges here and there. This is so well accomplished that you don't get to miss any of the original instruments: not even Fripp's guitar; the vocals on I Talk to the Wind, Starless or Catfood; or the magnificent mellotron (yes, even in Starless you don't need it).

It is magnificent how each song is revitalized and gets a new identity through this band's treatment. Nonetheless it is important to note that some songs did actually preserve much of their original nature, specially Catfood (since the original is actually based on a jazz piano melody), Starless (It is outstanding since the mellotron, electricity and Wetton's voice are all absent) and Red (again, amazing achievement without electricity).

If these were original compositions (which they somehow are.... and not just because Wallace played with Crimson) this could've been considered a jazz masterpiece and essential together with the great names of jazz. That is why I am going to give it the 5 star rating although this is not progressive rock in the strict sense of the term (it is progressive but not rock).

In conclusion: this is what you may expect if during a King Crimson concert an outage occurs...

Report this review (#266956)
Posted Thursday, February 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Ex-KC drummer Ian Wallace US-based jazz-trio plays greatest King Crimson compositions. Don't worry, it's not a Tribute album, and not just a covers. It's real competent jazz trio, emotionally connected with early KC music, plays jazz versions of what you perfectly know as heavy progressive classics.

May be it's hardly to believe, but the result is excellent! Possibly, Ian Wallace's participation saves material from irresponsible transformation, but all composition sound very tasteful, with big love to initial material.

Even if the music on this album is hardly fusion, but just more contemporary jazz, played by classic jazz trio, I believe this music can attract very wide listener (and really not only jazz lovers for sure). I think this album is the best release of KC material, played by non-original KC team.

Very recommended - and when you will enjoy this album just remember there is Vol.2, album of the same excellent musical level.

Report this review (#290968)
Posted Sunday, July 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Former King Crimson drummer Ian Wallace came up with the idea of forming Crimson Jazz Trio in 2004, while still a member of the cover band 21st Century Schizoid Band.The more improvised parts on the King Crimson's covers played by the later pushed him to think of a jazz interpretation of the most famous King Crimson material.In a gig in Nashville he met pianist Jody Nardone, a King Crimson fan as well, and while back in LA, he met bassist Tim Landers to complete the new trio's line-up.A year later ''King Crimson Songbook, Volume One'' would be published on market by Voiceprint.Landers was also responsible for the recording process, which took place at Mudzone Studios in California.

In this album the trio chooses eight famous King Crimson tracks and decides to offer them back in more loose and jazzy formats.The idea of this jazzy interpretation is definitely welcome and trully ambitious.But what about the execution?Well, personally I would have a hard time to recognize any of these tunes as King Crimson's original stuff and that is not necessarilly a bad thing.Wallace & Co. succeeded to deliver eight jazzy compositions with many colors and moods in a very personal style with the jazzy improvisation being the main factor, while the execution is very nice.Plenty of good solos throughout with some fantastic piano work by Nardone and Wallace offering a memorable, confident and powerful drumming.I am not that convinced by Landers' bass work, which remains mostly down the shadows of Wallace and Landers, but he certainly contributes on the overall rich and warm sound.Still, you have to be more of a Jazz than Progressive Rock fan to fully appreciate the album.

An interesting idea by an underrated member of early King Crimson.Recommened especially to Jazz/Fusion buffers but anyone into King Crimson's long career should simply try this ambitious musical project.

Report this review (#750341)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is just a really great peace of work. Not a progressive rock album, nor even rock, but just a jazz album. The musicians re-do eight of the best interesting King Crimson tracks. The resulting material is highly non-trivial good music. It is outstanding how good are the musicians, only three, but some times it seems that there are four or five. It is very worthy to listen many times, specially for a King Crimson fan, that for sure will like everything related with King Crimson, as I do. Five stars, of course, less, it is impossible to such a masterpeace like this.
Report this review (#1081616)
Posted Monday, November 25, 2013 | Review Permalink

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