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3 stars 3 and a a half stars really! I can't beleive that i am the first to rate this classic of 70's prog rock / jazz-rock fusion from france. This is the best of all the Zao releases and by far their most famous . The music is great jazz rock fusion with prog overtones. Some of the musicianship is excellent and most of it is very good. Comparisons could be Fermata but that's the only band that more or less resembles their style. Get it if you like tight heads and good solos and like your fusion mixed with prog.
Report this review (#35880)
Posted Thursday, June 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The fourth work of announcement released in 1976 "Kawana". As for this work, an improvisation that technicians , for example, Dedier Lockwood unfolded to which the spark scattered and magnificent solo became the jazz-rock of the feature. As technical jazz-rock, it is a masterpiece. It is a work that unites powerful jazz with classics. It is neither usual jazz-rock nor fusion. I think that it is not rock. Well, the saxophone of Yochk'o Seffer and the violin of Dedier Lockwood are very wonderful in those who perform. The keyboard play of Francois Cahen is also variegated.

"Natura" is a great track that keep thrilling and have both race and grace. "Tserouf" is a present for all jazz-rock fan.

Report this review (#81857)
Posted Saturday, June 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars "Kawana" released in 1976 would be ZAO's most popular album thanks in part to how accessible it was, and also to the addition of MAGMA violinist Didier Lockwood. If you want to see Lockwood at perhaps his finest check out MAGMA's "Live / Hhai" record from 1975. Unfortunately when things seemed to be going so well for the band Seffer decided to leave and go solo, so he could do his own compositions and have complete control. Lockwood and Truong would then leave to form a band called SURYA. I have to tell you there is some amazing music on this album. I don't think it's their best, but two songs on here are right up there with their best compositions. Namely "Natura" and "Free Folk". I can't put into words how great the five members of this band are individually. "Kawana" is Hebrew for "pure intention".

"Natura" opens with piano and cymbals / drums before bass and then sax arrives. Violin joins 1 1/2 minutes in.There is a darkness to this song until before 3 minutes in when it changes and the tension disappears. It is so uplifting because the burden seems to be gone and everything is now lighter. The sax after 4 minutes is prominant, but the bass is relentless with the drums.The intensity comes back 6 1/2 minutes in,and it's cool to hear the nod to Zeuhl (MAGMA?) to end it. "Tserouf" is filled with intricate and beautiful sounds. A great rhythm of drums and bass is danced on by the violin and sax. A change after 2 minutes as the tempo picks up. So much going on but everything is in it's right place even at this fast pace. The violin and sax trade solos as Cahen has some fun on the piano. The drumming is outstanding in this fantastic passage.

"F.F.F.(Fleurs For Faton)" or "Flowers for Cahen" features dark sounding piano melodies that are joined by the violin that only adds to that feeling. "Kabal" is led by the sax and drums as the keys are sprinkled in. It turns into a collage of beautiful sounds. "Sadie" is mellow and slower paced with smooth sax melodies and light drums. Violin is tasteful as well. "Free Folk" opens with vocal melodies that remind me a lot of Zeuhl. Liquid sounding keys, drums, sax and bass(it's all over this track) lead the way. A great sound 2 minutes in. The bass and drums briefly become heavy. Check out the violin after 4 minutes. Lockwood shines ! The drumming is incredible ! The bonus track is called "Salut Robert !" and it's a live song at almost 13 minutes in length. A different lineup for this one though as Lockwood,Truong and Prevost aren't on this one. This doesn't disappoint at all, the percussion, sax, bass, piano and drums(o.k. I should have said the whole band) are absolutely killer on this live song.

Another winner from ZAO. 4.5 stars is my rating. It's just sad to think that this lineup would break up after this record.

Report this review (#152473)
Posted Saturday, November 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 4th release by Zao, a greatly talented ensemble from France whose inception involved a couple of former Magma members. Having started as a jazz-inflicted Zeuhl outfit, from album no. 3 onward, Zao solidificated as a prog-fusion act and "Kawana" is a reinforcement of this specific musical evolution. I tend to notice strong traces of Canterbury (Soft Machine and Gong-like, mostly) as well as influences from pre-Pastorius Weather Report in this repertoire: it is also fair to note down that some RIO-inspired academic developments help to build a stylish sophistication into the melodic ideas. On the other hand, the potential of improvisation is worked on in a moderate fashion, since the instrumental self-indulgencies never get too far, keeping a consrained level of technical pyrotechnics - of course, all musicians are proficient and sensible, and it shows, but it clearly seems to be the case that the ensemble gives primordial preference to the preservation of the main themes during their respective developments. The opener 'Natura' pretty much epitomizes the overal description noted above: the exquisite interplaying between all individual items manages to convey a catchy frenzy, in no smal degree sustained over the shoulders of Seffer and Lockwood's soloing on sax and violin. Meanwhile, Prevost doubles his bass input as a rhythm complement and a melodic enhancement. A great opener it is, indeed. 'Tserouf' has a funky feel to it, with one feet on warm moods and the other on subtle avant-garde resources: the synth solo is particularly awesome, bearing an intensisty that consistently rivals that portrayed by the soprano sax and the violin. After the moment of deconstructive mystery brough on by 'F.F.F.' (a piano- violin duet where Seffer plays the former item), the ensamble brings back its best intensity with 'Kabal', channelling a more straightforward hook than the opener. On the other hand, 'Sadie' is very serene, candid and pleasant as a calm sea in an early summer afternoon. The official reperoire's closure, 'Free Folk', states a dynamic mixture of light- hearted fusion and Weather Report-esque density, in this way, generating a subtle dose of tension. The track starts with a weird, ethereal choral set. Later on, the violin solo is especially flashy, full of incendiary tension. The track's coda is a spectacular crescendo that makes the album reach a definitive climax. But this is not the end of the CD - 'Salut Robert!' is a bonus live track performed by a lightly altered line-up, full of exotic flavors in a jazz-fusion amalgam. The Latin percussions are peculiarly enhanced here. That's all, folks, Zao's 4th album is a pure gem of progressive rock.
Report this review (#236578)
Posted Wednesday, September 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars On Kawana, Zao recapture the dark Zeuhl spirit which eluded them on Osiris (the only earlier album of theirs I have heard). Opening with the mesmerising Natura, on which Fran'ois Cahen essentially uses his piano as a rhythm instrument to lend extra weight and urgency to the already powerful rhythm section of bassist G'rard Pr'vost and drummer Jean-My Truong, the album proceeds to offer a brooding, volcanic form of fusion-leaning Zeuhl, reminiscent of parent band Magma's earlier (pre-Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh) works. Particular praise has to be given to Didier Lockwood, whose violin contributions help to set Zao's sound apart from Magma's work. Zao's exploration of the fusion-Zeuhl route Magma opted against taking is an important contribution to the genre, and Kawana is one of the band's greatest achievements.
Report this review (#551663)
Posted Monday, October 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars With a line-up of musicians such as this you really shouldn't go wrong:

- François Cahen / Yamaha acoustic piano, Fender electric piano, Korg synthesizer - Didier Lockwood / acoustic & electric violin, artianal bass violin - Gérard Prévost / Fender bass, hors phase bass, acoustic bass - Yochk'o Seffer / Soprano & Sopranino saxes, vocals, piano on F.F.F. - Jean-My Truong / orange double drums

1. "Natura" (7:03) sounds so much like a modern Pat Metheny Group epic--but it pre-dates all that! Piano, chunky and jazzy bass, and nasal soprano (sopranino?) sax all sound good together. Jean-My is a little quiet. (9/10)

2. "Tserouf" (8:59) a very tight funky jazz fusion song that could have come off of any of the American masters of the era--Miles, Chick, Stanley, Zawinal, even JLPonty, Area or Bob James! Great song. Very melodic. (9.5/10)

3. "F.F.F. (Fleurs for Faton)" (2:34) very nice little musical étude performed by piano, acoustic violin and bowed double bass--like a gift from Débussy or Fauré. (9.5/10)

4. "Kabal" (4:14) very tightly performed, fast-paced opening before stepping down to a slower tempo at 0:50 for some synth work--but then things ramp up again with EVERYBODY getting into the act MAHAVISHNU style. The bass and drum work remain super tight and focused at the bottom throughout this display of virtuosity. (8.5/10)

5. "Sadie" (3:43) opens rather loosely, as if walking by a Jean-Luc Ponty-like street musician. The sopranino sax, bass, and electric violin melodies and harmonic support throughout this oft-shifting tempoed song are gorgeous. At 2:40 we are even treated to an overdubbed solo track for the violin. Nice. Creative, inventive song. (10/10)

6. "Free Folk" (10:44) there's a very relaxed vibe throughout this song--like a WEATHER REPORT song. As a matter of fact, there's very little here--or on this album--that harkens to Zeuhl music. Feels and sounds like the Zao crew has shaken loose from the Vander clutches and moved fully into the jazz fusion fold. Nicely done. Probably the weakest song on the album--almost anti-climactic fill--but still good. (8.5/10)

The question is: why is Jean-My Truong so sedate and/or mixed so low in the soundscape?

Report this review (#1711537)
Posted Monday, April 17, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Replacing a string quartet from the previous album with solo violinist Didier Lockwood and seemingly losing nothing shows just how good he was. This is a great album from Zao, all the more gutting that Seffer decided to go it alone afterwards. Not a huge amount of Zeuhl content to speak of though

The opener Natura is my favourite Zao track - tightly constructed jazz rock with dark undertones and a slight nod to Zeuhl, great interplay between Seffer and Lockwood. That interplay increases tenfold on the next track Tserouf, which is at a faster pace, starting with a funk theme but breaking into quick and tight jazz improvisation.

F.F.F. is a drum-free break, sounding a little extra-terrestrial to begin with thanks to Cahen's dark piano chords, added to by violin. A really nice change of pace after the previous two tracks but we then return to the tight jazz fusion theme, but definitely without getting 'samey'; Kabal including some good synth work backed up by the usual sax & violin.

Sadie is a looser, slower track built to showcase the saxophone - potentially a sign of Seffer's desire to go solo.

Free Folk opens up with a strange choir chorus that's almost Zeuhl but not quite. Its a fairly relaxed track for the first half before a gradual pick up of pace almost to chaotic levels with heavy bass and drumming before returning to the choral vocals. Lockwood's violin half way through is excellent, and this is also the first time we really hear the tight drumming of Truong who has been surprisingly 'background noise' up to this point.

Just squeezes into 4 stars for me - one of a few Zao albums where I'd listen repeatedly all the way through, but marks off for not showcasing Truong's drumming better, and sometimes the jarring saxophone gets a bit much

Report this review (#2538671)
Posted Thursday, April 29, 2021 | Review Permalink

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