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AURORA

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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Aurora biography
This mid-70's Texas outfit was inspired by the music of Jean-Luc Ponty (the band was indeed named after Ponty's album "Aurora"). During their short existence (1976-80), they never actually released any official album. The two founders of AURORA are volinist Mark Menikos and guitarist Skip SoRelle. Menikos' mentors are Jean-Luc Ponty and Stéphane Grapelli, whereas SoRelle draws his influence from jazz legends John Coltrane, Chick Corea and Larry Coryell. Although playing in different bands, the two somehow met up - Menikos had invited SoRelle to play some ZAPPA and MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA material. They hit it off so instantly that they decided to embark on their own musical venture together. Bassist Roy Vogt, keyboardist John Sharp and drummer Martin McCall were eventually added to the roster.

Their eponymous cd, released in 1999, is a mixture of studio recordings and live gigs. A hunk of burning prog jazz-fusion, the album clearly shows the two founders' respective styles, where Menikos' violin-dominated pieces are easily distinguisable from SoRelle's fusion numbers. There are also a couple of relaxed pieces on the album, sort of Pat Metheny laid-back style, courtosy of keyboardist John Sharp. Finally, the album also features some live material taped during a 1977 radio broadcast in Dallas.

There's often a very a fine line between certain jazz elements and progressive rock. And if your brand of prog includes the likes of Jean-Luc Ponty and MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, or if you are fond of the Coltrane/Coryell/Corea family, you will definitely enjoy this material. It is packed with energy and performed with gusto by highly skilled musicians.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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AURORA discography


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

3.93 | 11 ratings
Aurora
1977

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

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AURORA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Aurora by AURORA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.93 | 11 ratings

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Aurora
Aurora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Continuing on my current "return to Jazz-rock" phase, with a bevy of albums to receive, listen and review, I was tempted to revisit some on my current, dust gathering jazz-rock discs , mostly of British persuasion to find some existing bliss. Aurora has been sitting there, lonely like a beauty queen (sly humor!) , they were 1977 Yanks and I had only given the album a cursory audition, surely distracted by gourmet cooking of some kind I was preparing, and knew that its day would come. I have read reviews that kindle a sense of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Curved Air, Jean-Luc Ponty and Nucleus and those prominent references were more than enough to catch my new found curiosity and attention.

This is truly astute music, a swift and talkative violin leading the orchestra into atmospheric zones of influence, fusing all the classic aromas such as jazz, jam, funk, world, latin and rock influences, while unafraid to solo away in improvisational mode. On the opener "Opus 8", the band sets the bar high for all to witness, intruding a sassy intro that morphs into a groove that provides the dais on which Mark Menikos' soaring violin, the guitar stylings of Skip Sorelle and jagged John Sharp keys can strut their stuff with complete artistic freedom. Clocking in near 12 minutes, this is a primo first salvo.

"Within" is a dreamy set of melodies that first seek to hypnotize before exploding into a more laid back groove with a sunny disposition (they were from Texas after all!) , Sorelle picking away in a very breezy style, imitated by a synth solo that parallels the axe work, a bold move on many levels. This is a slow cooking jazz gumbo that just breathes fresh air!

"Dancing on a Plain in Spain" winks at the classic movie My Fair Lady (a rage back then) and the mood is jazzier, creating a more JL Ponty feel, the violin carving a large part of the sweat cake, soloing but displaying a strong sense of interplay, as with bassist Roy Vogt's subtle interval performances, with a few slick guitar dashes that weaves cleverly through the subsonic drumming, as well as the oiliest synth solo this side of Manfred Mann (just faster!). From this point on, a sense of sameness seems to appear that will keep the bar level but nothing more. "Is There Any More?" is playful at best, a pedestrian opportunity to solo rather aimlessly. This is where the Curved Air scent is stronger even though there are no vocals of any kind. Good but dispensable.

"Off Blue" masons down a rapid rut and the violin slithers like a coiled snake, again very jazzy now, almost lounge bar style (just faster!), again fine but disposable.

"Eurthmia" is back to frantic playing, veering into maniacal speed zones, (these cats can play fast) and riffing like no tomorrow. There is even some crafty "country fiddlin' that is cute to boot.

"Savage Lust" is like the title implies, a searing little ditty that exudes coy sensuality and digital prowess (tsk, tsk) mainly from the bubbly bassist who likes to pop like vintage Larry Graham. Serious guitar noodlings also increase the tension while the chin-held cat-skin violin screeches amorously. The playing is technical yet emotive especially in the high note leaps. Formidable! "Polyfolk Dance" is quirky and electronically charged, with a superior guitar lunge and within its deep folds, a pastorally joyous feel to it. Definitely up-beat and canny (a little Beethoven hint) , this is again a successful track!

"Khartoum" is narratively introduced, spicy Middle eastern aromas , hissing percussives and swirling sonic mists making this a high appeal track, full of lush experimentation. The mood is slow and calm with a hint of potential fury, as is often the case in that mystifying part of the world as Menikos finds himself going all out on his instrument, dazzling and ethereal. The ensemble playing is also highly suggestive, earning high marks for artistic impression from all judges, straddling that pleasure zone between mind and body we all cherish as sacred. "Jubilee" scripts a more local statement, these boys are from Texas after all and what is more "suthn'" than barbeque, hoedown and jubilee. As such, this tune appeals to me mostly in a technical sense as these jazz guys tear up some standard instrumental country music by forging ahead with woozy synths while the violin guy plays the sheriff. This is again at the risk of repeating myself, a positive approach that should have benefited with a strong future. That was not the case.

All in all, a pleasant addition and a worthy second-tier quality one shot wonder, especially you violin fans out there. The artwork is ultra Dali-esque , which is fine by me! 4 Boreal Stars

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 Aurora by AURORA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.93 | 11 ratings

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Aurora
Aurora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Joćo Paulo

4 stars An American group of the seventies, only edited this album. A musical work in the context of Jazz Fusion, with guitar and violin electrified. We can hear moments of improvisation very beautiful, reminding Curved Air Wolf or Jean Luc Ponty, but with a more rude atmosphere. This is a good album that illustrates the virtuosity of the musicians and their high performance in studio. The guitar bass and drums are also very influential in the high quality of this album, accompanying and giving the fiber both times faster or slower to. It is an excellent purchase for those who like Jazz Fusion of the seventies I like this album and I give 4 stars but really 4,5

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 Aurora by AURORA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.93 | 11 ratings

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Aurora
Aurora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by barp

4 stars An excellent slice of vintage progressive jazz-rock - great compositons and very tasteful playing helped Aurora avoid any of the unfortunate excesses so many jazz-rock bands fell into. Thanks to Gregor for his review which convinced me to give this CD a try - definitely recommended to anyone who enjoys The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Eleventh House, Return To Forever, Isotope or Fred.

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 Aurora by AURORA album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.93 | 11 ratings

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Aurora
Aurora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Greger
Prog Reviewer

4 stars AURORA was formed in 1976, featuring former members of HANDS, HIGH TIME OCTET and SHIVAS headband. Their music could be described as experimental instrumental progressive jazz-fusion. They never released any albums through their career that lasted until 1980. Three of the tracks on this CD were recorded at January Sound Studios 5/27/1977, while the other seven tracks were recorded live at January Sound Studios in 1977 for broadcast on KZEW-FM in Dallas. - The musicians are very skilled which is showed in the many highlights on this CD such as the opening "Opus 8", "Polyfolk Dance" and "Khartouhm". Their influences are John Coltrane, Chick Corea, Larry Coryell, Stockhausen and FRANK ZAPPA, while their music is reminiscent to MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA and NUCLEUS. I'm sure that if you like progressive jazz-fusion and the above mentioned bands and artists, you'll surely like this as well. Highly recommended!

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