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Zao - Kawana CD (album) cover





4.12 | 56 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
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.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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