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AGORA

Jazz Rock/Fusion • Italy


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Agora biography
One of the few professional bands from the Marche, on the Adriatic side of central Italy, Agorā were formed in 1974 near Ancona, and played a jazz-rock very influenced by the likes of Weather Report or the italian group Perigeo, with a very limited use of progressive sounds. Some of the band members had previously been in a rock band called Oz Master Magnus Ltd.

Despite not being so popular they were contacted to play the famous Montreux international jazz festival in Switzerland that gave them a deal with Atlantic.
Their first LP was a live album, recorded during that festival. Mostly instrumental and just 30 minutes long, the LP has its moments, with just four long cuts (one of which is curiously split between the two sides of the LP), that often resemble some english jazzy-prog bands of the early 70's.

The second album, in 1976, is much more jazz-rock oriented than the first.
The band also played in the 1976 Parco Lambro festival and is featured on the live album released at the time with Cavalcata solare, from their second album and also released on single.

Band decided to split in 1978. For a short time that year Pepe Maina played percussion with them, he's also featured in a concert filmed at Montreux but never officially released.
Ovidio Urbani is still now an appreciated player in the jazz field.

Bio courtesy of http://www.italianprog.com/a_agora.htm

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Agora 2Agora 2
Import
Btf 2008
Audio CD$16.26
$18.08 (used)
Live in MontreuxLive in Montreux
Import
Btf 2008
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Music Man
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Import
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AGORA discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

AGORA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.07 | 42 ratings
Agorā 2
1976
3.25 | 4 ratings
Ichinen
2014

AGORA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.55 | 21 ratings
Live in Montreux
1975

AGORA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

AGORA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

AGORA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

AGORA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ichinen by AGORA album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.25 | 4 ratings

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Ichinen
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by BrufordFreak

4 stars This is an album I liked immediately and continue to find eminently enjoyable. Almost every song offers me reminders of some of the greatest jazz fusion artists ever: JEAN-LUC PONTY, DARYL STUERMER, RETURN TO FOREVER, AL DI MEOLA, CHICK COREA, PAUL WINTER, CODONA, RALPH TOWNER, DOMINA CATRINA LEE, JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, WEATHER REPORT. Plus there are songs with vocal touches that make Agorā unique unto themselves ("Ichinen," "Sensei," "Star Strings," "Tre Maggio," "Oceano") There are many styles of jazz represented here, including traditional jazz ("Oceano"), Paul Winter Consort-like jazz ("Piramide di Domani"), Windham Hill jazz ("Wood of Guitar"), World Music jazz ("Ichinen," "Sensei"), New Age jazz ("Star Strings"), Jean-Luc Ponty jazz ("Serra San Quirico"), Hawaiian jazz ("Star Strings"); and funky Weather Report-like electric jazz fusion ("Costa dell'Est" and "Progressive Suite"). Almost all of it is beautiful, soul-soothing, and virtuosically performed.

5 Star songs: "Serra San Quirico," "Ichinen," "Sensei," "Star Strings," "Oceano," "Wood of Guitar," "Progressive Suite," and "Piramide di Domani/Cavalcata Solare."

A 4.5 star album, rated down for over-familiarity.

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 Ichinen by AGORA album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.25 | 4 ratings

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Ichinen
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'Ichinen' - Agora (61/100)

I've really been getting into Agora lately. if asked a week ago, I probably would have dismissed them as just another one of the countless obscure prog and fusion bands I probably would never have the time to listen ton. In any case, it was a great thing I did stumble across them; even though they only released a Live in Montreux performance recording and one studio album 2, the chemistry and compelling atmosphere on those albums made Agora a rare find for me, one I've since been introducing to friends and fans of fusion with enthusiasm. While an 'unreleased materials' album made available nearly four decades after a band's last activity wouldn't normally strike my interest save for the most hyped cases, my existing Agora kick had me excited to check out Ichinen. Though not a 'real' full-length by any means, this collection of recordings would hopefully provide 2 with some shade of the in-studio follow-up it deserved. More than that, I read that it would give some indication as to the band's current incarnation. While it's clear that their chemistry and musicianship hasn't faltered over the years, I'm finding myself fairly disappointed by the compilation. While there is a sampling of the lively 'Agora sound' I loved in their classic '70's output, Agora seem to have distanced themselves from progressive fusion. Instead, their newer recordings veer towards sleepy background smooth jazz, the sort of innocuous wallpaper jazz that would sooner put me to sleep than inspire me as a listener. As capably as they perform it, it doesn't do much for me.

Ichinen is the Japanese word for 'persistence' (Yes, I looked it up!) and in the case of a compilation of recordings mustered over the course of decades, it seems a fitting title. I was really wondering listening to the fantastic chemistry of their first two albums why Agora would have ever seen fit to break up. It turns out they were just working undercover, albeit intermittently. True to expectation, Ichinen is terribly inconsistent, both in style and direction. Generally speaking however, the offerings included on Ichinen can be separated into two categories. The first (and most prevalent) is this unplugged smooth jazz approach. Agora have never been strangers to the use of acoustic guitars, melody or reservation in their music, but those elements were balanced out with complex interplay and variety. Although Agora's acoustic smooth jazz is perfectly listenable, it feels like a big part of the reasons I loved the band (or jazz in general) have been emancipated. Rather then the directed explorations of Live in Montreux and 2, Agora have written songs built around middle-of-the-road melodies and the apparent aim of fostering easy listening. There is enjoyment to be had with this newer incarnation of Agora ("Sensei" is great for melody, "Oceano" is a great piano piece) and I don't think there are any clearcut weaknesses, but it may only be because Agora have played it incredibly safe with this acoustic guitar stuff. There's probably a market out there for this sort of tasteful jazz, but it's clearly not for me. All I can think of when I'm hearing it is the Mall Tycoon soundtrack.

It takes over half the album to get there, but once Agora get to their other, 'proggy' side, things start to really heat up. For what it lacks in creative naming, "Progressive Suite" is a total highlight, and sounds like what the Agora follow-up I was hoping for should have sounded like. Prog was always an undercurrent running behind Agora's jazz and rock blend, but the latter half of Ichinen makes a concerted effort to bring that side out front and centre. There's time signature [%*!#]ery, Zeuhl-ish female vocalizations and echoes of Zappa in the guitar work; best of all, I can hear the band chemistry more clearly than with the innocuous acoustic material. Possibly in some gesture of compromise, the compilation's final track "Piramide Di Domani, Cavalcata Solare" mixes elements of the prog with the laid-back acoustic guitar, reimagining a pair of classic period tracks as a single would-be finale. Surprisingly, it turns out to be just as satisfying a listen as "Progressive Suite". Gianni Perri's cello is a great touch to this closing piece, and it probably doesn't hurt that "Piraide Di Domani" was one of my favourite cuts from 2 either!

I feel mixed about this one. It seems like Agora are at a tentative crossroads, and regardless of what years these tracks were recorded in, Ichinen is a reflection of that. It's difficult to say I'm really optimistic about a new Agora album, if chances are high it's going to sound like the first half of this one. Hopefully (just hopefully!) Agora will look at the latter 'proggy' side of this compilation not as a historical note, but as a foundation with which to build amazing things in the future. Whatever the future holds for Agora, I will eagerly anticipate the release of another album.

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 Live in Montreux by AGORA album cover Live, 1975
3.55 | 21 ratings

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Live in Montreux
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Live in Montreux' - Agora (78/100)

When a band releases an album called Live in Montreux, there's an implication that the band has had a long and prosperous career leading up to the occasion. Jethro Tull and Yes both released their own Live in Montreux albums in 2003, over forty years since either had first taken to the stage. Deep Purple notably released three live recordings from the Montreux jazz festival, and even then, the earliest was in 1986, after they had already etched their name in the rock music canon for eternity. The Italian progressive fusioneers Agora on the other hand had no such legacy of success when they were invited to play the Swiss festival. In fact, they didn't even have an album, much less a following to attest to their greatness. From what I can tell, their invitation to the Swiss festival was largely a matter of impressing the right sets of ears. Thus, their debut Live in Montreux was conceived, and from the half our performance captured, it's easy to see why they would be getting people excited. While I prefer the meticulous design and darker atmosphere of their in-studio follow-up 2 to this, Agora's so-called debut is a strong fusion record, with plenty of chemistry apparent in the way they play together. The only disappointment here is that Agora would dissipate before they ever capitalized on their strength as a band.

Agora's style usually finds itself somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between jazz and rock; whether someone wants to call them 'jazz fusion' or 'jazz rock' is up for debate, although their tendency towards rock beats has me leaning towards the latter. Although Agora has a guitarist, Renato Gasparini's playing tends to take a back seat outside of his McLaughlin-esque solos. While I would have expected for a band this close-sounding to the Mahavishnu Orchestra to thrust the guitars into the spotlight, there's a clear emphasis on the saxophone of Ovidio Urbani, although listening to the brilliant way he sneaks melody into their group explorations, I don't think I'd prefer them any other way. There is a thick layer of Rhodes piano often plying just beneath the saxophone; although Roberto Bacchiocchi never takes the forefront, his textures demand a lot of attention and give the music a dreamlike atmosphere I haven't often heard in jazz. Even moreso than 2, Live in Montreux showcases the proggy third axis of their sound, along with the jazz and rock elements. "Serra S. Quirico" has moments that seem to draw on the playful twang of Yes. Closer still are Agora's light vocal offerings with the harmonies typical of their compatriots in the Italian progressive rock scene; Premiata Forneria Marconi comes first to mind. It's not surprising given the band was just getting started at this point, but it should be noted that the quality of recording on Live in Montreux isn't the greatest. All of the instruments are audible and clear enough, but the production doesn't capture the sense of immediacy and immersion I'd look for in a live album. Still, considering it's the only potential weakness I can discern from their performance, I'd say Agora are doing just fine.

Part of the reason I'll go to lengths to check out little-known 'gems' or generally overlooked music is that I'm confident that I'll come across bands that will leap out at me, artists I wouldn't otherwise find due to a friend's recommendation. It's been a long time since a jazz fusion band leapt out at me like Agora does, and that's why the brevity of their career feels like such a disappointment. Even without the context of its improved in-studio successor, Live in Montreux suggests plenty of potential and creativity. The last few minutes of this record are about as smooth as jazz fusion gets; I'm really left to wonder how far they might have gone if Agora had stuck together longer. However, the 'unreleased materials' compilation Ichinen came out only recently, and apparently offers some insight into the band's current sound and incarnation. Perhaps that means there's hope we might hear something new and fresh from Agora before too long.

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 Agorā 2 by AGORA album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.07 | 42 ratings

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Agorā 2
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars '2' - Agora (81/100)

Although Agora's 2 might imply a predecessor, this was actually their first studio output. Agora's first album was Live at Montreux; even if they hadn't released anything yet, Agora had earned respect enough to have played the prestigious jazz festival. That should hopefully say something about the band's quality as performers. Try to imagine what the Mahavishnu Orchestra may have sounded like if John McLaughlin had favoured the keys over the electric guitar, and you should have a pretty good idea what these Italian fusioneers sound like. Barring a compilation called Ichinen they released earlier this year, 2 is to date the only 'true' full-length Agora have ever put out. It's a real shame too, because this is one of the strongest 'surprise finds' I've found in fusion for quite some time.

Jazz fusion (and prog fusion in particular) has the tendency to go one of two ways. It's either stark and challenging in its intent or smooth and relaxing; artists that can find a strong balance between the two (IE: Miles Davis circa "In a Silent Way" or Mahavishnu Orchestra) tend to have the greatest effect on me as a listener. Agora never seems to stray needlessly, but the music often feels driven more by exploration than composition. The saxophone and Rhodes piano are given the most range here, with the thoughtfully melodic leads of the former generally paving the way on most of the songs here. Somewhat surprisingly, the band I may be most reminded of listening to Agora is Van der Graaf Generator; even if Van der Graaf Generator only ever flirted with the jazz world, there are plenty of similarities in the way Agora have given their music a dark tone in spite of the typically 'bright' instruments that have been used to portray it.

Even during the album's most laid-back passages, Agora offer plenty to keep the attentive listener occupied. The approach to composition has clearly been designed with the intent of giving the instrumentation room to breathe and explore, but the way the music will always fall back on thick, band-oriented harmonies keeps the album feeling focused. Other reviews of 2 I've read tend to state that Agora have written something ambient or 'background-ish' here. In a way, most jazz music has a potential to be considered that way. As is the case with many creatively successful bands of their type, there's both atmosphere and detail on 2 to satisfy the ambient and attentive listeners alike. Although I suppose the point's invalidated with Ichinen to some extent, I'm really disappointed Agora never put out more records. It's not often a 'new' jazz band impresses me like this; if you're any bit into the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the jazzier end of Van der Graaf Generator or the classic sound of prog-fusion in general, check out this album and see what you think of it.

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 Live in Montreux by AGORA album cover Live, 1975
3.55 | 21 ratings

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Live in Montreux
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I'm a little surprised at the low ratings for this one, but then again i'm a big fan of this style of music and AGORA do it the way I like. Lots of electric piano as well as guitar and sax, also the rhythm section is prominant and well done. I like that they can be atmospheric and also powerful, in other words they don't play it safe. This by the way was released the year before their only studio album was released and in my mind both are essential for J / R Fusion fans.

I should mention that this is a live album from Montreaux. "Penetrazione" gets us started as the guitar sounds build and bass and drums join in. The guitar starts to solo 2 minutes in. How good is this ! The guitar settles back but not for long. Sax 4 minutes in. Applause fills the air when it's over.

"Serra S Querico" opens with electric piano, bass and drums. Great sound ! The guitar starts to solo over top. A calm before 2 1/2 minutes then we get some relaxed sax as the bass continues. It starts to build slowly. Vocal melodies after 5 1/2 minutes then it kicks back in after 6 1/2 minutes with the sax blasting. Guitar a minute later. It blends into "Serra Querico II" where we get more vocal melodies and it turns fuller quickly with bass, drums and electric piano. Sax 2 minutes in. Great sound. The guitar joins in before 4 1/2 minutes. We get a big applause before 6 minutes but the song isn't over (haha). The band continues and when they stop the crowd cheers again.

"Acqua Celeste" opens with electric piano as bass, sax and drums join in. Drums only after 2 1/2 minutes as the electric piano comes and goes then kicks back in. The drumming is fantastic. The sax is back after 5 minutes and this blends into "Lorto Di Ovidio". It's mellow early on then the sax is leading the way as electric piano, bass and drums come in to help out.

A solid 4 stars for this one.

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 Live in Montreux by AGORA album cover Live, 1975
3.55 | 21 ratings

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Live in Montreux
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by toroddfuglesteg

4 stars Soft Machine fans; beware !

If you have purchased all the good Soft Machine albums + a big chunk of their live albums; you need to move on. Preferable to somewhere. I have a good idea where you should move next. To the two albums by this Italian band. This is their live album, which the album title may indicate.

The music here is long and lingering jazz/fusion compositions. They are not that overly technical. Melody and passion is the main theme here. Their sound is very Soft Machine like. They are not copycats by any means. For a start, there is no Elton Dean or even an Elton Dean clone here. But the rest is pretty similar.

The result is an album full of beauty and style. The woodwinds floats on the top of the bass and drums. There are some guitars here too. The jazz here is perhaps too simple and melodic for pure jazz fans. But for a beginner like myself; this album is a very good reason to get more into jazz.

In short; I love this live album. Yes, it is not perfect. But it is good enough for me.

4 stars

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 Agorā 2 by AGORA album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.07 | 42 ratings

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Agorā 2
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by toroddfuglesteg

4 stars I am still a novice in the jazz genre and is desperate fighting my urges to become an out and out jazz fan.

There is something in jazz that appeals to me. In particular when it is done by Soft Machine and the Canterbury bands. Those bands who mixes jazz and British prog rock. Agora from Italy on the other hand is mixing jazz with RPI. The result is not many miles away from my reference point in this genre; the almighty Soft Machine.

Agora's bass is the bass, drums and the organs. On this platform, the saxophones can weave their magic melodies. The saxophones is not as straight in your face and intense as I am used to from other jazz bands. But they are there and they really makes this album. But the organs is also great and I really love this interactions between saxophone and organs on this album. Just listen to the second song Pyramid di Domani and you will get my point.

The quality of the material on this album is great from the beginning to the end. I had no clue who this band was when I bought this album on the basis of it being listed here. But this album has given me a lot of joy during the last days. Agora is another great Italian band and high in my estimations.

4 stars

PS: When will I come out of the closet as a jazz fan ? Well, read into this review whatever you want.

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 Live in Montreux by AGORA album cover Live, 1975
3.55 | 21 ratings

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Live in Montreux
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars A short-lived Italian Jazz Rock band,AGORA were formed in 1974 in Ancona as a quintet featuring bass,guitars,drums,keys and saxes.They had a good live activity and they even performed at the famous jazz festival of Montreux in Switzerland in 1975.Surprisingly for a new band this short performance was meant to be the band's first official release.

AGORA were a pure Jazz-Rock band with high skills and great individual performances.It is easy to detect the strong WEATHER REPORT/RETURN TO FOREVER influences,while from the Italian scene their sound is close to that of PERIGEO or even NAPOLI CENTRALE.The five tracks of the album is great groovy but very intense Jazz-Rock with magnificent melodic saxes and smooth electric piano parts added next to the pounding bass lines,the solid drumming and the nice guitar solos.''Live in Montreux'' can also be very smooth at times with the slow- tempo rhythm section accompanying the crying guitars of Renato Gasparini,the background atmospheric multi-vocalization and the hypnotic sax of Ovidio Urbani.Light and professional interplays are all over the place and will please any fan of the style.

Speaking for myself,it is rather hard to find my music heaven next to a 100% Jazz-Rock album...but this one is really good with a some trully solid performances and comes easily recommended for both fans of Jazz-Rock and progressive music...3.5 stars.

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 Agorā 2 by AGORA album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.07 | 42 ratings

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Agorā 2
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars If the post-74 years were not exactly kind to progressive rock, jazz-rock still thrived. Every country seemed to sprout multiple bands daring their hand at it, and while not reaching the ground-breaking levels of creativity and originality of the early 70's pioneers, many amazing albums continued to be released. Also this one from the Italian band Agora.

Agora only released two albums, this studio album and a short live document that preceded it. In every possible way, Agora 2 is a perfection of the potential they had shown on the preceding live album. Weather Report and Perigeo (another Italian fusion band) are the main sources for inspiration on this sax and keyboard dominated fusion album. There is a guitar player as well but his presence remains more subtle then the rock-out dominance of a John McLaughnin or Al DiMeola.

The album has a rich atmosphere, relaxed, melancholic and mysterious, just as on Weather Report's first two albums. The music is very harmonious, not as free-styled as Weather Report but not too melodic neither. To sum it up, it found a nice balance between musicianship, ambience, gracefully drifting compositions and accessibility. The interplay between the musicians is amazing, constantly changing lead sections as if in dialogue with one another.

Agora is hardly the most original band out there, but they sure crafted a brilliant and moving jazz-rock album. A recommended entry point into the more atmospheric realm of fusion.

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 Live in Montreux by AGORA album cover Live, 1975
3.55 | 21 ratings

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Live in Montreux
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars The Italian fusion band Agora debuted with this recording from their gig at the Montreux jazz festival from 1974.

The sound of the recording isn't impeccable but it's good enough to show a band with a very confident and fluent interplay between the musicians. The music is very jazzy with some melodious elements. Very soothing, relaxing and skilfully played. The setlist is quite varied. Penetrazione has a bass line that reminds me of Coltrane's Love Supreme, Serra S Querico I is more upbeat and slightly funky. Part II of that track and Aqua Deleste are somewhat busier, varying guitar and saxophone solos. L'Orto Di Ovidio is gentle and atmospheric like the opener. None of the pieces are really outstanding but everything will sure be appreciated by jazz-rock enthusiasts.

If anything, the live album shows a talented band that needed a bit more time to grow into something really outstanding. Good album for fans.

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