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Hectic Watermelon biography
Initiated by a violent car door slam that nearly severed a human thumb from its master, the 'Post-Zappa, Commando-Fusion' band, HECTIC WATERMELON, was borne precisely at 10:33 pm in an underground parking garage at San Diego State University on a cold and foggy Winter's night. John Czajkowski's blood curdling screams were not so much caused by his crushed thumb, but by a clear and present fear he had failed an entire section of his Winter semester final examination in a notoriously rigorous graduate music theory seminar. While listening to FRANK ZAPPA'S "All The Stuff You Can't Do on Stage Anymore" on the way to get ice at a fast food drive through, Czajkowski's plot began to crystallize. He would call on the reputed San Diego fusion drummer, and gun collector, Darren DeBree, to record a an armoury of grooves to compose over while the thumb healed.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, John Czajkowski cites the following guitarists and composers as his chief influences and inspirations: FRANK ZAPPA, STEVE MORSE, ERIC MORSE, ALLAN HOLDSWORTH, SCOTT HENDERSON, ADRAIN BELEW, VERNON REID, PAT MARTINO, JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, PAT METHENY, DUSAN BOGDONOVIC, EGBERTO GISMONTE, ORNETTE COLEMAN , the ASSAD BROTHERS and the ROMEROS. He has been influenced by many major 20th century classical figures, but he is most inspired by the free-spirited and rebellious attitude of American maverick composers such as John Cage, Harry Partch, George Crumb and Scott Johnson. Lastly, there is a distant influence of 70's cartoon music. John holds a Masters of Music degree in contemporary composition from San Diego State University. Prior to his MM, John studied classical guitar extensively with ROMERO disciple, Robert Wetzel.

Although Czajkowski and DeBree had only worked together for session work, a common focus immediately became clear between them. There was new music that had to be written and recorded that bridged the gap between the esoteric worlds of the avant-garde and the mainstream worlds. Czajkowski would write it. The band would record it. Jazz bassists, Kevin Freeby and Harley Magsino would join in on the mission, with Harley ultimately joining the band as a full-time member. DIXIE DREGS, Joe SATRIANI, and Petrucci bassist, Dave LaRue, referred DREGS and MAHVISHNU ORCHESTRA alumnus, Jerry Goodman, to HECTIC WATERMELON. JERRY GOODMAN'S unmistakable voice and technical vitality, rounded out the final elements that would help forge the sound of HECTIC WATE...
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4.27 | 8 ratings
The Great American Road Trip

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Great American Road Trip by HECTIC WATERMELON album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.27 | 8 ratings

The Great American Road Trip
Hectic Watermelon Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by AEProgman

4 stars Shocked! Not at the rating, but at so few reviews.

I heard about this album when seeing John McLaughlin and the 4 the Deminsion back in 2007. The program guide had ads in it for various Jazz music and this was one of them. After reading that Jerry Goodman was in it and some of the info on the others (which I really did not know), I downloaded the album and was very pleased with what I heard.

Being a newbie to the site and a layman's approach, I am sure I will not do justice to describing this as well as the "3" previous reviews and this LP is not easily defined. Just imagine a Frank Zappa's instrumental approach/thinking, Mahavishnu Orchestra's aggressiveness, a Dixie Dregs/Steve Morse sound, and a bit of funk, then shake it all up and you get Hectic Watermelon. Here is my quick take on the tracks.

Sacred Watershed - A sort of slow spacey and jazzy mix with slices of mild shredding done tastefully.

The Third Deriviative of James Brown - Sort of a heavier Mahavishnu/Zappa sound with a sprinkle of funk and even some guitar that sounds like the Police.

Bionic Hillbilly - Funk-a-Billy, do I hear a telecaster? This is my favorite of the album. This is Mahavishnu/Dixie Dregs type of mix that changes gears in mid stream to a spy come country funk sound that is quite fun.

F Street Fulano - A calmer track that has some nice Jerry Goodman violin work with a Dregs sound.

Dreams of Concrete Jungles - This abstract track reminds me of King Crimson in a way and is an intro into the next song.

Subterranean Rapid Transit - A Zappa/Steve Morse sound with heavy rythem with lots of violin and guitar noodling in between. Very nice.

Layover in Hamemet - Some abstract violin picking. Little bit of a filler with cars passing by.

Stary Dogs Messaging Project - Oriental Jazzy feel with guitar and violin bantering. Excellent.

Steve's Stunt Double - Another fabulous in sync guitar, violin dual in the vein of Mahavishnu and Dregs with funky bass work at times.

21rst Century Visigoth - The only vocal type track of the album. Very heavy funky driving rythem. Some lyrics and then the use of the voice as an instrument which reminds me of Focus. A very Zappa like tune.

Bullets, Dice, and 30 Megabytes - Mix'em all up for a hard, jazz fusion, funk, rock blend as the ride comes to and end!

If you like Zappa, Mahvishnu Orchestra, Dixie Dregs or Steve Morse solo efforts, you will want this. Its an outstanding 4+ album which rounds down to 4. Great!

Edit: It bothered me I did not spell violin correctly multiple times (violen). Jazz/Rock lovers still should check Hectic Watermelon out!


 The Great American Road Trip by HECTIC WATERMELON album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.27 | 8 ratings

The Great American Road Trip
Hectic Watermelon Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Wicket
Prog Reviewer

5 stars I finally found this album.

After nearly 2 years of searching this album after I heard previews of the album through a good friend of mine, I finally found a copy of this disc for myself.

Never before have I been obsessed about an album. Until now.

Many people, including prog faithful, don't like a record where every track sounds different. It makes it very difficult to latch onto the style of the record, and the band, especially when it's a debut album. However, I applaud John Czajkowski's work on this album. Every track is different, which is good, because otherwise every track would sound the same and that would be boooooooooooring.

There's really no correct way to review an album like this other than to convince the reader to buy the album and listen to it for themselves. Czajkowski's amazing technical playing has been present on nearly every album he produces, and "The Great American Road Trip" is no exception. What sets this apart from most others, however, in my mind, is the humor and experimentation present here. Indeed, it's not everyday you get to hear a "post-Zappa commando-fusion" band come out of San Diego, California and have any relation to the names James Brown, Frank Zappa and Jerry Goodman.

It's a fun album. There's actually no other way to describe it. If you listen to this album, any song at all on it, and you don't have a smile on your face at track's end, then you're not a human being. That, therefore, only means that your body must be purged from this world.

Apparently, this album must be played in the car stereo while driving. While I love to listen to music while driving (I actually think every single song ever recorded sounds better in the car with the windows open and stereo blasting), I have yet to do so.

It's a shame this isn't a complete review to the likes of previous ones I have written in the past, but I have to listen to this album again. This album is more important than this review.

Buy it already. Or I will find you. (Actually, I probably won't. I'll still probably be listening to this album)

 The Great American Road Trip by HECTIC WATERMELON album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.27 | 8 ratings

The Great American Road Trip
Hectic Watermelon Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Angelo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars Ten years down the road, one Czajkowski album

The debut album of Hectic Watermelon makes me hope for many more to come. I just hope it doesn't take band leader John Czajkowski another 10 years to get out a second album. The oldest track on this 2006 album was written already in 1996, and it doesn't sound dated at all. Nor can it, the mix of different genres that this band borrows from makes the music timeless in every sense. A different take on this, and indicative of the crazy amount of time signatures this band goes through, is this note from a music score published on the band's web site: "Drum solo (sense of time and barlines disintegrate further)". That score and a few others proof that band contiously cruises through time signatures like 4/4, 6/4, 10/4, 8/8, 6/8, 12/4 and 3/4 in various orders. Stop counting, just believe it or you'll go crazy.

The album is about travel, and the music is a journey through different stuyles in itself. From the opener Sacred Watershed, which is a pretty relaxed jazz rock tune right down to closing track Bullets, Dice and 30 Megabytes.

The opening tune is part of a movement of four tracks, consisting of the hectic (no other word seems to fit) Third Derivative of James Brown. A great track, full of bits and pieces of various styles. There's hip hop yells in there, funky bass, but also a riff that sounds very much like the one in Black Sabbath's Sweet Leaf. The title is probably related to the jazz rock math metal commando style the band claims to have invented.

Bionic Hillbilly is, relative to other tracks on this album, the 'happy tune'. It starts like quite relaxed, but quickly explodes into something that jumps in all directions, and somehow swings like crazy. I never thought I'd use the word swing in a prog review, but it definitely applies here. F Street Fulano closes the first movement, and it has all the sounds of a busy street, but without a single synthisized sound or sample. Guest musician Jerry Goodman (guest is relative, he plays on 9 tracks) is having a very good time with his electric violin here.

A second movement of four tracks is opened by Dreams of Concrete Jungles. It doesn't contain any guitars, which I only realised after reading it in another review. It does however contain an Elephantophone, and John Czajkowski explained in the forums on how he made it himself with Home Depot materials. Go search for it if your curious.

Subterranean Rapid Transit is one of my favourite tracks on te album. I really like tracks like this, that remind you of exactly what they're supposed to represent without having to read liner notes first. It's about trains, and it sounds like trains (rolling, engine sounds and whisles), but like F Street Fulano, this is all due done with real instruments. Another fitting description might be a battle between violin and guitar, but that's form, not function. After getting of the train, we can relax - close our eyes and lay down in on the floor of a hut in Hamemet (Tunesia). Too bad the hut is next to a busy road and cars drive by every 3 seconds (samples this time). A relaxing intermezzo, before the Asian influenced Stray Dogs Messaging Project. According to Czajkowski, a mix influenced by between visiting an Asian exhibition in San Fransisco and travel experiences in Asia. The intro of Passage to Bangkok is childs play compared to this...

The final movement contains two tributes. One is Steve's Stunt Double, a guitar oriented track dedicated to Steve Morse. This one is followed by 21st Century Visigoth, which has no relation to King Crimson, but contains some really well done vocals. It's almost like having a voice solo rather than a guitar solo. Closing track Bullets, Dice and 30 Megabytes is a majestic, full sounding rock/fusion track that is dedicated to the band's drummer. It's inspired by a remark once made by Czajkowski - "if I ever need to rob banks to get money for new band equipment, you will be my partner". Oh well... the track may be a lot better than the story, if you weren't part of it.

This is one of the Jazz Rock/Fusion albums that really got me hooked on the jazz and fusion related subgenres listed on A sonic journey through a mix of many different musical styles, yet with a feeling for atmosphere in each track. As Czajkowski probably intended with this travel inspired album, if I close my eyes, I can travel to a different place in the world with each track, from the bands home town of San Fransisco to Tunesia, or way down to Asia. If this album won't stand the test of time, I will have to revisit this review, but for now, after over 20 listens - it's simply a solid 5 stars.

 The Great American Road Trip by HECTIC WATERMELON album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.27 | 8 ratings

The Great American Road Trip
Hectic Watermelon Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by progismylife

4 stars Warning: may contain an Elephantaphone

The liner notes say the album is about travel, so the best atmosphere (theoretically) is to listen to this while travelling! And that is exactly what I did. I went to Wales for a week and had ample time to appreciate this album while travelling around the country. The album is split into three sections, I: The Great American Road Trip (tracks 1-4), II: Subterranean Suite (tracks 5-8), and III: Homeward Travelers (tracks 9-11).

The first track starts off mellow (compared to the rest of the album) and has a nice guitar melody to it. This gives the listener a false sense that the rest of the album is going to be like this. But it is not. The second song hits you with Jerry Goodman's spectacular violin and John Czajkowski's guitar. It is extremely different to the first tack as it gets heavy at times and almost metal-like (almost, not exactly). The guitar and violin are opposites. The guitar is heavy (some of the time) while the violin is quite pleasant and light (most of the time). The other tracks are spectacular and sometimes strange (as seen by Layover in Hamemet which is quite peculiar as it is sounds of cars driving by as if you are by a road with plucking of what I assume is a violin string). The drumming and bass playing is quite good and adds a great back beat to Jerry Goodman's violin and John Czajkowski's guitar playing.

This album does indeed reflect the thought of travel as the songs smoothly transition from one to the next to make this feel like one song. This idea of travel is so well reflected in the music that I even forgot I was listening and had to open my eyes more than once to reassure myself that I was not going anywhere but stationary in a comfortable chair enjoying music.

All in all this is a great album and is highly enjoyable if you enjoy jazz rock fusion with a touch of heaviness at times. I enjoyed it fully and it is a great addition to my album collection. But it is not a masterpiece. It lacks a certain something that makes a masterpiece. Maybe it is Layover in Hamemet. and its unusual sound that is strikingly different from the rest of the album. 4/5 stars.

Oh you may be wondering what an elephantaphone is. Well I did some research and found this direct from John himself (from a post in The Real Allan Holdsworth Fan Forum).

"It is technically in the family of instruments called vibrating reed membranaphones like the squeaky little Quica from South America. Mine is from Home Depot and you take about a 5 foot long 4" PVC pipe and sand one end really smooth. You then take a heavy-duty party balloon and cut off the top so that it can be stretched over the PVC opening with the nozzle tugged over to the edge. You want to find a small cylindrical device like a marine bilge pump filter or similar attachment to make a mouthpiece. Stuff the object into the nozzle of the balloon to keep it open when you blow on it. The last step is to take a heavy-duty rubber band and stretch it around the rim of the balloon that is now stretched around the PVC pipe to keep it from coming off. When you blow on the nozzle, you will be delighted by a very loud, low and nefarious tone!".

Enjoy this great jazz rock/fusion album from Hectic Watermelon. It certainly can be hectic at times!

Thanks to Dick Heath for the artist addition.

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