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Embryo - Rocksession  CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.00 | 88 ratings

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4 stars Review Nš 622

Embryo is a German progressive rock band from Munich which has been active since 1969. It was one of the most important German progressive jazz/rock bands during the 70's and has also been described as one of the most original, innovative and eclectic of the all German scene. Embryo fused the traditional ethnic music with their own jazzy space rock style. Over their 30 year of existence, during which Christian Burchard has been the only consistent member, the group has travelled all over the world, playing with hundreds of different musicians and releasing over twenty albums.

Originally a jazzy space rock group, Embryo was formed in 1969 in Munich, Germany, by former R&B and jazz organist Christian Burchard (vibraphone, hammer dulcimer, percussion, marimba), Edgar Hofmann (saxophone), Luther Meid (bass), Jimmy Jackson (organ), Dieter Serfas (drums, percussion), Wolfgang Paap (drums), Ingo Schmidt (saxophone), and John Kelly (guitar). However, the line up of the band was already different by the time of the sessions for their debut studio album. The resulting album, "Opal" released in 1970, is considered the band's masterpiece of their early and more psychedelic sound. By the time of their second studio album "Embryo's Rache" released in 1971, the group was already adding ethnic touches to their music. In 1972, Embryo released their third studio album "Father, Son And Holy Ghosts" and was invited by the Goethe Institute to tour in Northern Africa and Portugal. In Morocco, the band was fascinated by the different tonal scales used by Moroccan musicians, profoundly shaping the group's music to come.

In 1973, Embryo released three more studio albums, "Steig Aus", aka, "This Is Embryo", "Rocksession" and "We Keep On". In the same year, the band was joined by saxophonist Charlie Mariano and guitarist Roman Bunka, who were both influential in moving Embryo towards their genre blending mixture of space rock with ethnic sounds. Both musicians participated on the last of these albums, "We Keep On". But, this is another story. This review is about "Rocksession".

"Rocksession" is kind of a strange name to be given to this album, how jazzy this album is. This is another fantastic studio album by Embryo, really. The music is clearly the result of improvised sessions and the playing is tight, grooving, and spacious, allowing all the instrumentalists to stretch out their chops. It's kind of strange in that for a jazz rock album, this doesn't tend to follow more the electric Miles Davis model and seems to be a grittier more jams in the kind of a European version. But, like a lot of the German music played at the time it was still cosmic and floating. So, this isn't so strange at all, indeed. Besides, "Rocksession" still fits quite well on the label of the jazz rock/fusion style.

So, "Rocksession" is the fifth studio album of Embryo and was released in 1973. The line up on the album is Siegfried Schwab (guitar), Jimmy Jackson (organ), Mal Waldron (electric piano), Edgar Hofmann (saxophone and violin), Jorg Evers (bass), Dave King (bass) and Christian Burcahrd (drums).

"Rocksession" has four tracks. The first track "A Place To Go" consists of two parts. The first part consists of dense drums and percussion parts, orientalising the sound of the violin, as well as muffled vocals. Apart from that fragment, the album is instrumental. In the second part there is a great input of the motor bass, which is a background for guitar solos, violins and keys. The second track "Entrances" is a perfect improvisation, full of rock energy, but also almost jazz refinement, not limited to the accompaniment of the rhythm section but complemented by rock solos of guitar and organ, as well as Waldron's jazzing performances on the electric piano and Hoffmann on the saxophone. The musicians are delighted with solo performances and interact in interesting ways. It's hard to beat such a captivating recording. The third track "Warm Canto" is distinguished by a more subtle mood, created mainly by the parts of the vibraphone, organs, and violins, but also slightly blues guitar sounds and again the jazzing game of Waldron. The fourth track "Dirge" also has a rather climatic character, but gradually gains momentum. The rhythm section fantastically builds up the tension, as on the foreground we can hear long solos on the violin and the electric piano. Nice ending to the album.

Conclusion: "Rocksession" is one of the most affordable Embryo's albums, for the usual rock listener, indeed. Thus, it's ideal for people who don't have to deal with the great creativity of the group. And at the same time it's one of the best publications in the rich discography of this great German band. This is a very consistent album. It has a delightful performance and a rich sound, which did not grow old with the passing of time. There are no special highlights here but there aren't here low points too. Embryo does seem to delight in their little detours, the music jams without sounding so, and they allow their jazz concepts move to their rock explorations. "Rocksession" is a keeper, an album you're probably not gonna discover on your own, being one that walks in under the arm of a friend, out of the blue, to broaden your horizons, like as happened to me. Embryo is really a band to explore and "Rocksession" is a good starting point.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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