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

BLUE NIGHTS

Bruford Levin Upper Extremities

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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agusp_jo@yaho
4 stars Excellent performance of the gang. Real impressive composition of talented members, seriously impressive. Good job to them. This CD has to be collected by everybody loves progrock. Even the jazz tunes appearing sometimes, but I thought this may make the total composition more sweet. That's describe that the two major of Brufford & Levin colors are georgious to be combined. I really enjoy this album.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#48131)
Posted Friday, September 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars One of the more nagging worries among fans of KING CRIMSON is whether or not the band could (or should) continue without the guiding influence of its loyal but reluctant lead guitarist, Robert Fripp. Unthinkable, you say? Maybe, but not if you subscribe to the typically Frippian assertion that Crimson is more a guiding aesthetic principle than a group of particular musicians. In which case the unthinkable has perhaps already happened.

A likely heir to the throne of the Crimson King was the BRUFORD LEVIN UPPER EXTREMITIES quartet, an unofficial fractal (or was it a fraKctal?) of the double trio KC line-up, led by the ace rhythm team of drummer Bill Bruford and bassist Tony Levin, the backbone of more than one classic King Crimson incarnation. In its all-too brief life span the splinter group released only one studio album, followed by this essential two-CD live set of eclectic post-modern instrumental music, combining the power of rock and the freedom of jazz with the boundless creative spirit of four world-class musicians unwilling to play by the rules.

Joining the rhythm buddies were guitarist David Torn and trumpeter Chris Botti: a formidable combination of mismatched but complementary talents. Torn was the musical wild card of the group, worlds away from the more structured mayhem of Fripp at full steam, with a guitar technique described by Levin in the enclosed road diaries as sounding not unlike "seagulls on acid". And throwing a trumpet into the mix was like adding extra icing to an already rich cake recipe. The lean, clean lines of Chris Botti's horn keep the music firmly grounded when it threatens to fly too far into uncharted territory, and also give the band its cool jazz flavor (but in the more non-traditional electric jazz mode of later Miles Davis).

Altogether they offered a welcome, more organic contrast to the uncompromising juggernaut Fripp and company were then developing (see "The ConstruKction of Light"). Keep in mind that King Crimson itself was a much jazzier outfit when it first attracted Bill Bruford's attention, back in 1972.although that warmer side of their collective psyche didn't last very long, did it? And Levin will happily play just about anything that strikes his fancy (and just about everything does).

I can't compare these concert versions to their studio alter egos, but musicians of this caliber are typically at their best in a live setting, taking bigger risks than in the safer environment of a recording studio. At any rate the range and variety of moods here makes it sound like a compilation of a half dozen different groups. You only have to sample the first few tracks of Disc One to hear the rarified strata these guys were operating in.

The show opens with the dense, formless improvisation of "Piercing Glances", using Levin's brooding e-bowed bass to dramatically set up the nervous funk-finger rhythms of "Etude Revisited", a musical rush of pure adrenalin. Next are two compositions authored by Bruford, beginning with "A Palace of Pearls": a slow, almost ambient piece gradually building layers of tension over Bruford's tuned percussion, until the entire band reaches an ecstatic, simultaneous climax. The more playful "Original Sin" (later re-arranged by the drummer for his acoustic jazz quartet: see EARTHWORKS, "Footloose and Fancy Free") has Botti's muted Miles Davis trumpet trading space with Torn's wild echo-chamber wah-wah guitar effects.

Little of which prepares the listener for the electro-shock psycho-drama soundtrack of the oddly titled "Dentures of the Gods", or the absolutely gorgeous late-night vibe of "Deeper Blue", easily the coolest cut on either CD, driven by Botti's romantic horn work and a slow, sensuous bass pattern by Levin. Which in turn leads into "Cobalt Canyons", a full-throttle rocker with a curious Middle- Eastern introduction courtesy of David Torn, actually a vocal sample of a Moslem call to prayer strummed (who knows how) directly into the pickups of his guitar.

And that's just the first CD. Expect more of the same (only totally different) on Disc Two, including an 11-minute encore introduced by an erudite Bruford as "seven minutes of some of the most abstruse music you're ever likely to hear", and titled "3 Minutes of Pure Entertainment".plus an intergalactic techno remix by Torn (working under the pseudonym Splatter Cell) of the melancholy "Deeper Blue", here aptly re-named "Outer Blue".

It's too bad other commitments kept the band from becoming anything more than a strictly provisional enterprise, but the best musicians are always the busiest, aren't they? BLUE may have been a mere flash in the pan, but they burned incandescent for a while, and it's reassuring to know there's someone waiting to take the crown should the Crimson King ever abdicate his throne.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#68314)
Posted Saturday, February 04, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars This album is mostly inconsistent: The tracks range from fairly good to fairly bad, the trumpet play ranges from perfect placement within the track to "Guy, why is your mouth on that thing right now?" and the tracks range from somewhat upbeat (such as Cracking The Midnight Glass, which really makes me think of Led Zeppelin - Kashmir) to complete, boring droning. Make me wonder why this is in the fusion section, really.

However, the one consistent thing is that Levin has a great workout on his two instruments and is great the whole way through. Bruford's play might've joined him if he hadn't seemingly set out with the intention of being as bizarre on the drum kit as he could be (such as on the final track).

In the end, if you're a Levin fan, you should probably give this a try. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother. It's not overly entertaining. Thus, "Fans Only" and 2/5.

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Send comments to dagrush (BETA) | Report this review (#81946)
Posted Sunday, June 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This fantastic album encourages you to imagine the unimaginable: a superb King Crimson- like instrumental band with Bill Bruford and Tony Levin in it, but without Robert Fripp. Please don't worry, BLUE's lead guitarist (David Torn) is weird enough. He's already recorded one of the dreamiest jazz-prog albums ever, for the ECM label: CLOUD ABOUT MERCURY - also featuring Bill and Tony. One of the best tunes from CLOUD ("Three minutes of Pure Entertainment") also appears in this live collection, which features a great deal of the controlled mayhem people used to associate with Crimso, especially around the time of their notorious "drive to 1984", and in the David Cross / John Wetton days.

For all Bill Bruford and Tony Levin fans, and indeed for all admirers of post-1971 King Crimson, this album will be essential listening. Oh, and don't worry about Chris Botti's trumpet. Botti wasn't allowed to spoil the fun.

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Send comments to fuxi (BETA) | Report this review (#125341)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to Shakespeare (BETA) | Report this review (#128613)
Posted Sunday, July 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This double live album from BRUFORD LEVIN UPPER EXTREMITIES was released the year after their only studio record in 2000. The same lineup of course with Bruford, Levin, Torn and Botti bringing us more of that atmospheric, experimental, and at times heavy brand of music that certainly contains the spirit of KING CRIMSON. Torn on guitar is so impressive with his guitar expressions that create atmosphere and noise. He's always interesting anyway and having Botti's trumpet as part of this adds a unique flavour. Levin and Bruford are well...Levin and Bruford. All of the songs from their studio album are here except for one.

Disc one opens with "Piercing Glances" which opens with drums only and the crowd applauds Bruford 2 minutes in as he continues to play. A change 3 minutes in as deep experimental sounds come in and it starts to build a minute later. It settles back then the trumpet joins in at 6 minutes as sounds continue to come and go. It blends into "Etude Revisited" where the tempo picks up right away. Intricate sounds and atmosphere standout here. Great sound 2 1/2 minutes in when it becomes fuller. The guitar is ripping it up before 4 minutes and the trumpet starts to blast. "A Palace Of Pearls" is atmosphere and reserved trumpet as the percussion joins in. This is laid back. It turns fuller after 3 1/2 minutes. "Original Sin" builds slowly with bass and drums while experimental guitar sounds helps out. Trumpet after 4 minutes as it settles back. The trumpet turns passionate and when Botti finishes the crowd applauds.

"Dentures Of The Gods" is impressive with those heavy guitar expressions. Powerful stuff as bass, drums and trumpet continue. It's insane after 4 1/2 minutes then it settles back. "Deeper Blue" is laid back with trumpet and atmosphere. The trumpet becomes more aggressive but then settles back again. "Cobalt Blue" opens with some nice bass then the drums join in. The guitar starts to make lots of noise then the trumpet comes in after 1 1/2 minutes. It settles with trumpet then picks up again later. Great sound 6 1/2 minutes in.

Disc two begins with "Fin De Siecle". Bass and guitar to start then it kicks in with trumpet and drums. Check out the guitar before 2 minutes ! "Picnic On Vesuvius" opens with atmosphere and melancholic trumpet. It's very laid back here. Bass and drums after 2 1/2 minutes then the guitar replaces the trumpet making some noise. The trumpet is back then it kicks in heavily before 6 1/2 minutes. Dissonant trumpet too. It turns spacey after 8 minutes. "Cerulean Blue" opens with atmosphere then the bass joins in and drums after 1 1/2 minutes. It's heavy with guitar 2 1/2 minutes in. Love the guitar throughout this track, it's dangerous. "Bent Taqasim" is an experimental piece that blends into "Tom Drumbass". It continues to be dark and experimental. Acoustic guitar then a beat a minute in. Trumpet before 2 minutes and it's still laid back.

"Cracking The Midnight Glass" is dark with bowed bass then it kicks in heavily before 2 minutes. This is KING CRIMSON-like. Nasty ! "Presidents Day" features trumpet and a catchy beat. A nice heavy sound before 3 minutes with trumpet. Avant sounds 5 minutes in to end it. Now when this song ends Bruford speaks to the crowd saying that about this time in the concert they like to do a track off of "Cloud About Mercury" from David Torn's solo album that both Bruford and Levin played on. Anyway I didn't know Bruford was so funny as he says : "You did mix the drums didn't you David on that one ? Or did you just not get around to it ? I see the rhythm section was a tad quiet bit I understand it was a time restraint...nothing personal then ?" David shouts "It wasn't me !" Hilarious stuff. This song is a definite highlight and it's called "3 Minutes Of Pure Entertainment". Just a great sound to start with the bass, drums and guitar then the trumpet joins in. This is restrained power and I love it. It does kick in after 5 minutes and doesn't settle back until before 8 1/2 minutes as the crowd cheers. "Outer Blue" ends it with interesting sounds with those deep pulses along with the trumpet and experimental sounds.

A great recording to be sure but I actually prefer the studio album. Still it's easily 4 stars and well worth tracking down.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#799864)
Posted Friday, August 03, 2012 | Review Permalink

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