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JAZZ ROCK/FUSION

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Jazz Rock/Fusion definition


  1. Jazz Fusion is jazz that is strongly influenced by other styles of music. Jazz fusion is an ambiguous term that provides the first level sub-set down from Jazz. Jazz rock is a sub-sub set from jazz via jazz fusion. The ambiguity comes from an American tendency through the 90's and until now, to freely interchange jazz rock and jazz fusion, when in fact the latter term covers most hybrids of jazz fused with other forms of music. The roots of jazz rock can be traced back to RnB influenced soul-jazz artists such as Les McCann, Grant Green and Jimmy Smith, and young British jazzers such as Graham Bond, Ginger Baker, John McLaughlin, Jack Bruce, Georgie Fame, who were forced to use electronic instruments because the local club's acoustic instruments were reserved for the older established jazz musicians. Probably the first jazz artists that released recordings that mixed modern rock (circa 60s) with jazz were Larry Coryell, Jeremy Steig, Charles Lloyd, The Soft Machine, and The (Jazz) Crusaders. Meanwhile rock artists such as Cream, Grateful Dead and The Jimi Hendrix Experience were getting a lot of publicity and fame with their lengthy improvisations based on blues, rock, psychedelia and some jazz. These rock artists had an impact on Miles Davis who generated a lot of media attention to this new jazz-rock genre with his Bitches Brew album. From there the genre grew and exploded into numerous different directions. One of these directions was brass rock as exemplified by bands like Dreams, Chicago, BS&T and If. These bands combined elements of jazz, rock and classical music with arrangements for brass and woodwinds.

  2. Many other styles of music have been combined with jazz to create fusion including traditional music from around the world, R'n'B, rock, electronic music and pop music and jazz from Africa, Latin America, India and other places. One of the earliest examples of the use of the term fusion comes from the Indo-jazz fusion of Joe Harriott and John Mayer. Some of the more popular early practitioners of fusion included Weather Report and Herbie Hancock's Sextant. A few years later Shakti appears on the scene and expands the boundaries of fusion further, foreshadowing the World Fusion movement of the 90's.

  3. In part Nu.jazz grew out of the British acid jazz scene of the late 80s and early 90s, whilst modern leaders of nu.fusion cite Miles Davis and Jon Hassell as the godfathers of the genre. As the genre began to develop it took on other influences such as world beat/jazz fusion, psychedelic trip-hop, post-rock and mixtures of ambience with modern jazz. The jazz with electronia experiments that Jon Hassell was conducting in the late 80's, with the likes of Eno, were to be a major influence especially on the dance side of nu.jazz, sometimes known as nu.fusion. Three main elements make nu.jazz different from the more traditional jazz (rock) fusion. First of all there is less of an emphasis on instrumental virtuosity in nu.jazz (especially nu.fusion). Second, more use of electronics (especially skilled turntablism) and studio trickery that emphasizes sound textures. Third, nu.jazz tends to use more modern rhythms such as drum'n'bass, hip-hop, post-rock, and various mixtures of world beat rhythms. Progressive nu.jazz artists such as Bugge Wesseltoft, Nils Petter Molvaer and the Esbjörn Svensson Trio (E.S.T.), combine complicated compositions with modern rhythms to create new unheard of soundscapes - while the former two are leaders of nu.fusion, and with more emphasis on jazz playing, EST have been the leaders in straighter nu.jazz. Nu.jazz is loosely connected to other newer jazz fusion genres, particularly the more progressive live, jazz jam bands such as Medeski Martin & Wood or Garaj Mahal. It may seem that the only difference between the two genres is the country the artist is from or what scene they came up through.li>

Only the most progressive of nu jazz, jazz-rock and fusion artists are listed on Progarchives, although accceptability or not here may vary from person to person. All artists have elements of progressive rock in their music (e.g. Jean Luc Ponty, Bill Bruford or David Sancious) or they represent the most forward-looking and progressive element in their genre (e.g. Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock or Weather Report). It should be noted that those many Canterbury jazz rock fusion bands, e.g. Soft Machine, Soft Works, Soft Heap, Soft Machine Legacy, Gilgamesh etc. are to be found under the CANTERBURY heading in Prog Archives.

Dick Heath
John 'Easy Money'
Martin 'Alucard' Horst
(Edition 3.2. Nov 2009)

Current Team Members as at 12/24/14

Evolver (Scott)
Man With Hat (Phil)
Darkshade (Mike)
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Jazz Rock/Fusion Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Jazz Rock/Fusion | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.36 | 885 ratings
KIND OF BLUE
Davis, Miles
4.33 | 1125 ratings
BIRDS OF FIRE
Mahavishnu Orchestra
4.32 | 616 ratings
IN A SILENT WAY
Davis, Miles
4.28 | 499 ratings
SPECTRUM
Cobham, Billy
4.43 | 73 ratings
THE COLOURS OF CHLOË
Weber, Eberhard
4.31 | 227 ratings
WE'LL TALK ABOUT IT LATER
Nucleus
4.26 | 846 ratings
THE INNER MOUNTING FLAME
Mahavishnu Orchestra
4.29 | 244 ratings
HIROMI'S SONICBLOOM: TIME CONTROL
Uehara, Hiromi
4.26 | 573 ratings
ROMANTIC WARRIOR
Return To Forever
4.24 | 594 ratings
BITCHES BREW
Davis, Miles
4.24 | 706 ratings
ELEGANT GYPSY
Di Meola, Al
4.24 | 490 ratings
ABRAXAS
Santana
4.23 | 619 ratings
CARAVANSERAI
Santana
4.30 | 134 ratings
A BENEFIT OF RADIM HLADÍK [AKA: MODRÝ EFEKT & RADIM HLADÍK]
Blue Effect (Modrý Efekt; M. Efekt)
4.27 | 220 ratings
LES PORCHES
Maneige
4.30 | 130 ratings
STADACONÉ
Sloche
4.30 | 136 ratings
MILESTONES
Davis, Miles
4.31 | 113 ratings
SVěT HLEDAčů
Blue Effect (Modrý Efekt; M. Efekt)
4.26 | 176 ratings
MAIDEN VOYAGE
Hancock, Herbie
4.23 | 280 ratings
ENIGMATIC OCEAN
Ponty, Jean-Luc

Jazz Rock/Fusion overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Jazz Rock/Fusion experts team

DESCENDRE
Rypdal, Terje
NAWYKI PRZYRODY
Robotobibok
A STORY OF MYSTERIOUS FOREST
Ain Soph
SEPTOBER ENERGY
Centipede

Latest Jazz Rock/Fusion Music Reviews


 The Blue Effect & The Jazz Q Prague: Coniunctio by BLUE EFFECT (MODRÝ EFEKT; M. EFEKT) album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.64 | 63 ratings

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The Blue Effect & The Jazz Q Prague: Coniunctio
Blue Effect (Modrý Efekt; M. Efekt) Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

5 stars There were two great early prog rock bands that emerged in the former Czechoslavakia in the city of Prague, capital of the current Czech Republic. MODRY EFEKT (or Blue Effect) began merely as a blues rock band but displayed meagre progressive touches on their debut "Meditace (Kingdom Of Life)" whereas JAZZ Q PRAHA formed all the way back in the early 60s were predominantly inspired by the late 50s avant-garde jazz greats such as Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and the great Sun Ra. While MODRY EFEKT managed to release their debut album the same year, this collaborative effort between the two groups would be JAZZ Q PRAHA's debut appearance and the album had such an impact on both bands that it would forever steer their cross-pollination efforts into entirely unforeseen musical arenas. This album is unusual in many ways.

First of all only the first and last tracks are the only collaborative efforts that feature both bands playing together. The second track is a MODRY EFEKT only affair and the same goes for JAZZ Q performing the third. Secondly, this album came out all the way back in 1970 behind the Iron Curtain where almost every aspect of an artist's creative process was controlled by the state. It is an astounding miracle that these two bands could have created something this utterly wild and complex at this early stage of progressive rock's history when many of these tracks remind the listener of contemporary and future acts. Most likely this is because the album is entirely instrumental with no lyrics so censorship was unneeded since there are no references to politics. This music is insanely advanced and is one of those crazy complex prog albums that will require many jazz, prog and classical appreciation classes to master any intelligible understanding on much of the album's run.

The album is only 39 minutes and 45 seconds in length but the beginning track "Coniunctio I" swallows up 19 minutes and 15 seconds of its real estate. This is by far the most demanding track on the entire album as it begins with screeching saxes and erupting organs swirling around in a cacophonous din before it finally cools down into a bass driven groove with a 60s psychedelic rock vibe complete with echo effects and ghostly guitar licks. After a couple minutes or so it turns into a heavy rock sequence that offers a taste of heavy blues rock with a sizzling sax that spirals out of control into free jazz territory along with some kind of whistling noises and frenetic organ counterpoints. Wow! There's nothing i can think of from this period of prog history that matches the intensity of this track and were only about five minutes in which enters i swear a louder version of Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" which ironically came out the same year only half a globe away (before the internet or even legal access to American music) as a bass groove chugs along and keyboards dance Voodoo rituals around the bass driven campfire. After seven minutes it erupts into a bluesy guitar rock frenzy as Radim Hladík delivers one of the most demanding guitar solos of the era. Even Jimmy Page or Hendrix didn't get this heavy. After eight minutes it changes abruptly to a pastoral symphonically embellished flute solo that slowly ratchets up the tension into a jazzified melody with an oscillating keyboard effect and some kind of bells. The mood remains placid and subdued for a while as a jazz bass line finally enters and eventually sounds more like hard bop but then a Thelonious Monk style piano run casually strolls into the picture and then goes plain nuts but finally at the 14 minute mark an ostinato bass line hypnotically entrances while a fluttery flute line plays over it but after a couple minutes it ventures into a segment that reminds me of that frenetic part of Pink Floyd's "Saucerful Of Secrets" before the organ solo part begins. This track is phenomenal! At this early stage it has everything prog all rolled up into one. It has symphonic aspects, psychedelia, dissonance, heaviness, pastoral segments, blues, jazz, classical. Wow! A masterpiece of the ages.

"Náv?těva u tety Markéty, vypití ?álku čaje" is performed only by MODRY EFEKT and along with the next track by JAZZ Q PRAHA provides a centrifuge effect that allows the listener to distinguish which elements of the first track were provided by each band. It also allows a break in the freneticism and over-the-top complexity with a significantly more light-hearted bluesy rocker in a psychedelic rock framework that utilizes a beautiful flute to weave a melody like a fluttering butterfly through the track's shorter six minute time run. If you are familiar with MODRY EFEKT's debut then you will realize that the blues rock, the melodies and the psychedelic parts of CONIUNCTIO are in their camp and this second track provides all of those musical elements and creates a beautiful flute dominated psychedelic rock track that also becomes heavy with guitar and soloing. In fact, it sounds a lot to me like many of those Focus tracks such as "Eruption" on their second album only with more erratic rocking parts.

"Asi půjdem se psem ven" is solely performed by JAZZ Q PRAHA and like the MODRY EFEKT track gives an insight into which aspects of CONIUNCTIO belong to the band's signature sound. This track is straight out of the jazz playbook which starts off somewhat straight forward but soon spirals out into avant-garde jazz heaven and reminds me a lot of some of the space jazz that Sun Ra & his Space Arkestra were pumping out in the mid to late 60s. The time signatures of each instrument all exist in their own musical world and the combo thereof results in a cacophonous din that apexes in a frenetic John Zorn type of saxophone frenzy a good decade or so before he was assaulting eardrums with his own similar style.

"Coniunctio II" continues the collaboration of the first track but is completely different. It begins with a sumptuous flute melody but is backed up by a jarring dissonant guitar counterpoint and quickly picks up and becomes a rather Hendrix-esque guitar jam type sound with a Tullish flute accompaniment and at this point is the most normal sounding track of the album. It remains jammy sounding but ratchets up the tempo, dynamics and finds more instruments joining in until it reaches a cacophonous crescendo but at the heart of it remains a bluesy rock jam despite all the horns whizzing away at light speed.

CONIUNCTO is one of my favorite albums ever to have emerged from the old Soviet dominated Eastern European block and it doesn't get any proggier or complex than this one. This album titillates not only in a musical sense as it simultaneously pleases and assaults the senses but is fascinating to experience such a great work from the "forbidden" part of the world where the likelihood of a prog masterpiece emerging was virtually nil and only mere months after King Crimson, East Of Eden, High Tide, Marsupilami and other British prog bands were getting started. This album also shows the strong promise of collaborative efforts. Often these sorts of projects end up becoming watered down but the two bands found the right dynamic synergy to push each other further, the results of which steered MODRY EFEKT's path more towards jazz and likewise JAZZ Q added more rock elements when they would finally release their debut three years later. This one is an absolute under the radar masterpiece. Be warned though that this is nearly a 10 on the progometer as it is dense, complex and often impenetrable especially when the JAZZ Q elements are on full steam. This album has all the elements of early prog rolled into one package. It's heavy at times, it's pastoral and symphonic at times, it's psychedelic, it's jazzy, it's bluesy. It can be highly melodic with happiness inducing hooks or it can be dismally frightening with dissonant avant-garde jazz outbursts. One of my faves.

 Out Of The Blue by MACKENZIE THEORY album cover Live, 1973
3.31 | 17 ratings

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Out Of The Blue
MacKenzie Theory Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars MACKENZIE THEORY was the project of one Rob MacKenzie, guitarist extraordinaire. They were an Australian band and they released two albums back in the day. This record "Out Of The Blue" was released in 1973 and recorded live in studio before a small audience. We get a smattering of applause after each song. It's an all instrumental affair with the guitar and electric viola dominating the sound. The viola is played by classically trained Cleis Pearce and man she can shred. They sound like a cross between MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA and the DIXIE DREGS. The guitar is complex and often sounds like an acoustic guitar to my ears. With that sound of viola and guitar usually taking turns leading the way this comes across as kind of one dimensional to my ears. I was hoping after many, many spins I would feel different but I don't.

"Extra Terrestrial Boogie" opens with guitar, bass and drums and there's almost a reggae vibe at first but it's brief. Viola comes in over the top and here we go. It settles before 5 minutes then it kicks back in hard quickly with a faster tempo. "O" has some outbursts with viola helping out before it calms right down with some strummed guitar. Viola to the fore after 3 minutes as it builds.The guitar starts to solo after 5 minutes but it will trade off with the viola.

"Opening Number" has some interesting guitar work, complex is the word as the drums and bass help out. Viola's turn before 3 minutes and check out the fast paced and fluid sound of the viola 6 minutes in. "New Song" is my favourite although the bonus track of this song done live tops it. Some viola expressions only to start then guitar and a full sound after 1 1/2 minutes. The viola is back after 2 minutes as the rest of the band continue. Some outbursts around 3 1/2 minutes followed by a calm with picked and strummed guitar. I like the viola 7 minutes in, my favourite section including the bass and drum work. The guitar and depth of sound impresses before 9 minutes.

"Out Of The Blue" has this faint sounding guitar intro that is blown away a minute in by a full sound and a faster tempo. Contrasts continue. Some ripping viola and guitar on this one. "World's The Way" is brighter sounding as we get this uptempo and catchy sound. A calm a minute in with picked and strummed guitar. Nice. The tempo shifts often as the guitar and viola take turns leading the way. A great way to end the album.

Despite many spins this just doesn't click with me. Yes it's an impressive performance by all involved but I'm just not warming up to it. I don't find this very jazzy either, just my opinion. Check it out though if you like hear some top notch playing.

 Sum Of Parts by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 5 ratings

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Sum Of Parts
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by aapatsos
Special Collaborator Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams

4 stars ''What's the difference between a Rocker and a Jazzman? A Rocker plays 3 chords in front of 3000 people. A Jazzman plays 3000 chords in front of 3 people.''

The story for Dean Watson is probably somewhere in the middle as he manages to balance his virtuoso skills (Jazzman) with solid structures and catchy riffs (Rocker) and the combination seems to work. This is the fourth release after a number of highly ranked albums; listening to this album one can see why. This is no mere 'bedroom artist' with good ideas, rather an accomplished composer with a clear direction, skill and appreciation of structure; it is not just mastery of the instruments but also character, which is abundantly evident especially in the guitar solos.

There is delightful variation throughout the whole album and constant excitement, always something new, multiple layers of keyboards, clean and distorted guitars and measured soloing. Younger fans of the Rudess/Petrucci collaborations, Neal Morse enthusiasts and veterans of the Allan Holdsworth and Colosseum legacies will find a lot to enjoy.

As for me, I particularly enjoyed the way that Dean changes moods from blues rock ('D Day'), to light jazz ('The Climb') and heavy fusion ('Song for a Day'). 'Afterthought' brings some Focus guitar magic among the more intense beats and darker riffs. It is easy in instrumental albums to fall into a trap of prolonged jamming or repetition, a feature not found here. On the contrary, tracks grow and evolve ' see e.g. the up-tempo closing of 'The Climb' or the shift in 'Capture 1A' from a heavy fusion start to a Alan Parsons-infused mid-pacer.

Despite the efforts to create a solid rhythm section, the use of a drum machine is evident (particularly in tracks where it's ''upfront'' such as in 'Click Clack') and the album loses points on the enjoyment angle as it sounds weak on that front. It would be interesting to see how this album would sound like with a full band and performed live. Other than this limitation, there is very little to stop you from enjoying this excellent piece of work.

4 (-) stars ' recommended

 Sum Of Parts by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 5 ratings

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Sum Of Parts
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars

One day I was reading though some of the threads on ProgArchives and came across where someone called Dean Watson was asking if anyone would be prepared to review his new album? So, I popped over to his artist page on the site and was intrigued to see that here was a multi-instrumentalist I hadn't heard of, and that this was his fourth album. The others had received good reviews, so I thought I'd give it a try and got in touch. A short while later I was playing the album and was again trying to comprehend how an artist with this amount of talent had passed me by, and why on earth were people with no musical ability superstars when artists such as Dean had received virtually no recognition?

Anyway, Dean provided all the instruments on the album, and moves between providing the lead on keyboards and guitar, whatever is right for the moment. Some of the keyboard sounds give this a late Seventies feel, and I am sure that Allan Holdsworth has been an inspiration in the guitar stakes, with some wonderful fusion and glistening runs. That he is adept with different instruments is never in doubt, and this allows him to bounce ideas as he moves through different sounds and styles, with jazz fusion and progressive rock coming together in a beautiful whole. This is a light and uplifting album that I enjoyed immensely, so guess that means I have some research to do on his back catalogue. I look forward to it.

 Maneige by MANEIGE album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.12 | 116 ratings

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Maneige
Maneige Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

5 stars MANEIGE were one of the numerous progressive bands from Quebec province of Canada in the 70s but rose above the pack by having one of the longest runs and providing an astonishing consistency in quality from album to album. The band was formed in 1972 by keyboardist Jérôme Langlois and flautist / sax player Alain Bergeron after the dissolution of another band called Lasting Weep and started as a duo who immediately began working on the first track on this album called "Le Rafiot" which is a 21 minute 22 second prog behemoth with a ridiculous amount of developing styles and genre fusions. As experiment after experiment ensued the band grew to the six members that appear on their eponymous debut release, the first of the year 1975 with no less than two percussionists who dish out everything from the expected rock drum rolls to xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel, bongos and even Mike Oldfield's favorites, tubular bells! Like all their albums the debut is also entirely an instrumental experience.

The first you hear on the first MANEIGE album is something you wouldn't expect. No jazz-fusion at all, in fact "Le Rafiot" is the French word for a fishing vessel and this long lasting track is divided up into suites which depict in sonic form the tribulations of this small ship on the ocean. Overall the similarities is much like Camel's "Snowgoose" in not only classically inspired developments but in symphonic leanings which predominate over the jazzy touches at this point. As the track begins it sounds more like a bizarre impressionists world more akin to Stockhausen and lasts for a frightening four minutes before a classical piano breaks through the brume and adds a melodic path into a more recognizable form of symphonic prog that twists and turns through the many themes and dishing out some of the most pleasant flute led melodies accompanied by an army of instrumental accompaniments.

Throughout the album of four tracks which is really like an album of eight or more tracks due to the fact the first track is more akin to several tracks separately composed and stitched together, the moods shift dramatically from bleak and scary to ecstatically happy with bouncy keyboards and the ubiquitous Jethro Tull folk inspired flutes dominating the soundscapes. Some of the other claimed influences range from Zappa's "Hot Rats" era, The Nice, early Soft Machine and early Gentle Giant but more than any of those the classical composers rule the influence roost especially in the melodic piano department while the other instruments while not entire subordinate fall under the gravitational forces of the keyboards with flutes adding an extra force that tugs them back and forth between them.

MANEIGE managed to score a recording contract merely by the strength of their live performances of playing extremely strong and intricately complex symphonic prog with jazz and classical elements at every turn. Like most of the progressive releases from 70s Quebec this one as well as the rest of the MANEIGE canon have been remastered and released on CD by ProgQuebec with bonus tracks two of which are found tagged onto the end and are live tracks from their days before releasing albums. The track "Tčdetčdetčdet" is a catchy bouncy little number not found on any studio release and the name simulates the rhythm of the flute which is extra fiery on this particular track. MANEIGE would gradually simplify their music into more digestible chunks but personally i find their debut to the be most satisfying experience of their stamp on symphonic prog / jazz / classical fusion. A perfect album in every way.

 Meditace [Aka: Kingdom Of Life] by BLUE EFFECT (MODRÝ EFEKT; M. EFEKT) album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.29 | 63 ratings

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Meditace [Aka: Kingdom Of Life]
Blue Effect (Modrý Efekt; M. Efekt) Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

3 stars Formed in the late 60s in what was the former Czechoslavakia which was very much behind the Iron Curtain and musically speaking a million miles away, yet certain bands not only kept up with the times with underground bootleg albums but also managed to weather the political storms and emerge as one of the most successful bands of the era from Eastern European nations. MODRY EFEKT (in the Czech language) or BLUE EFFECT (but have also gone by M. EFEKT, MODRý EFEKT and THE SPECIAL BLUE EFFECT) formed in Prague (now the Czech Republic) in 1968 and led by vocalist and guitarist Radim Hladík who would remain the constant member in the band's initial two decade plus run. While soon becoming one of Czechoslavakia's major jazz-fusion and progressive rock bands of the ages.

MEDITACE is a fine mix of Czech language 60s type sounding music primarily based in blues rock not unlike early Led Zeppelin but even at this stage they were showing traces of progressive rock as they were recording this in 1969 with many track including the opener "Paměť lásky" showing less influence from blues and rock and more Western classical elements dominating whether it include choral vocal arrangements, symphonic atmospheres or instrumentation. MODRY EFEKT were masters at creating strong catchy pop rock hooks even at this early stage in their development and although there is no progressive touches of the jazz-fusion type, tracks like "Blue Efect Street" show extremely strong ear worms with bluesy guitar workouts and clever arrangements including the use of a sitar. Most of all MODRY EFEKT demonstrate how beautiful rock music can sound in their native Slavic language tongue although side two was recorded in English which proves that the band had their sites on cracking into the international market from the beginning.

While MEDITACE is laced with excellent rock and pop tracks for their time and place, what's really lacking at this point is a sense of cohesiveness for an album style as the tracks flounder back and forth from blues rock to classically symphonic and then to folky with almost Motown type walls of sound and then back to more Western generic sounding blues rock. Overall not a bad debut at all especially for being in a region of the world that controlled every aspect of artistic integrity however it would take the soon to be released second album with their country's other progressive rock giants Jazz Q to steer the band into the more familiar jazz oriented progressive rock that they would stick with for the rest of their days. While i wouldn't call this debut essential by any means, it certainly shouldn't be skipped over either. It is quite the pleasant listen if not polished into perfection.

3.5 rounded down

 Arena by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.95 | 2 ratings

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Arena
Arena Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars Arena were a fusion group of session players led by saxophonist Ted White, a musician working in the British big band jazz scene until moving to Australia in the 1960's to work in the television industry. Becoming involved in testing the facilities of a new recording studio at the Crystal Clear studios in Melbourne, he gathered musicians together which led to the creation of this collection, a work that would see a very limited distribution on its initial release. 1975's self-titled `Arena' is an instrumental set that calls to mind the music of Herbie Hancock, the Soft Machine and other Canterbury-related acts, Weather Report, fellow Australian fusioners Crossfire and even moments of the classic early King Crimson albums and a touch of Italian fusion band Perigeo.

Grumbling bass and chilled shimmering spacey guitars weave through `Journey In Threes' sax- dominated themes and energetic soloing, and Canterbury sound/Soft Machine fans will love the wilder `Scope's frantic sax and fuzzy electric piano improvisations, slithering bass and runaway skittering drumming. `Duke' is a lusty and dreamy chill-out of low-key trickles of glistening electric piano and drowsy wafts of sauntering sax, and some of the cascading electric piano runs, reaching electric guitar lines and intertwining sax themes remind of Italian fusioners Perigeo throughout the lightly funky and breezily playful `Scrichell Cat'.

The strangled sustained electric guitar notes, meandering bass spasms and dirty sax wailing of the opening minutes of the flip-side's `Keith's Mood' create a noisy ambience that will please fans of the early King Crimson albums, before it settles into a funky sprint of nimble jazzy licks, fiery drum rumbles and sparkling electric piano tendrils. `The Long One' is mellow and effortlessly cool, and the brisk and infectious `Turkish Defunked' marries strong reprising sax themes with endless electric piano tiptoe soloing and strolling bass strutting (with just a touch of King Crimson-like serrated electric guitar bite and busy drum soloing in the final minutes!) making it a nice come- down to close the album on.

A complete rarity of Australian jazz-fusion, funk and progressive-related music, `Arena' has now been given a sublime sounding LP reissue on The Roundtable label in 2016, meaning no more fruitless searching for long-vanished original copies! The album is ideal for jazz-minded prog fans who enjoy the music of the above-mentioned acts that are looking to discover some obscure and mostly unknown discs from the vintage Seventies era, and `Arena' is one that holds up just as strongly as many of the more well-known and highly-regarded fusion works from the same time.

Four stars.

 A Story Of Mysterious Forest by AIN SOPH album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.99 | 83 ratings

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A Story Of Mysterious Forest
Ain Soph Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Ain Soph's debut album features an instrumental mashup of progressive rock and jazz. At points, the Japanese group turn out material reminiscent of the Canterbury style - logically enough, since much Canterbury material was characterised by a particular approach to prog-inclined jazz-rock - and in these moments the group joins the ranks of the likes of Supersister or Picchio dal Pozzo in terms of groups who, despite not even hailing from the UK, still produce something that feels like it's got that distinctive Canterbury style to it. At the same time, Ain Soph's sound is a bit more wider ranging, with more purely symphonic touches here and harder-edged moments of fusion there ensuring that things stay unpredictable.
 Sum Of Parts by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 5 ratings

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Sum Of Parts
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Kepler62

4 stars If I'm very much mistaken Dean Watson's fourth mad scientist music menagerie is the aggregate of a myriad of musical concepts and ideas amassed in his conspiring mind over roughly a two-year period between 2015-2017. Hence the empirical title : Sum Of Parts. For those not familiar with Dean Watson, he is a consequence of the glorious seventies and some of the innovative music that that decade spawned. Sum Of Parts emits a raw in-your-face effusion of that era with visages of Genesis, Keith Emerson, Alan Holdsworth, David Sancious and others. So if you are entwined with that wondrously inspired epoch you will revel in Watson's latest edeavour. This could have come out in 1975 but I am overjoyed that fresh sounding albums like this that are still being conceived by stalwarts such as Mr. Watson. The seventies were rampant with a restless flow of ideas that abruptly ran aground when there was really nowhere else to go creatively. It seemed every plateau had been crossed. Personally I am not a big on these newer takes on progressive rock. All this neo- prog and prog-metal seems to be trying too hard at flogging a concept that belonged to an era. What we have here is a revival of that instrumental flavour and spirit of 70s prog rock and jazz-rock fusion. Don't expect any ground breaking musical revelations or technological advances here ; It's all about the music and Watson's unrelenting predilection for a seventies groove.

Artists who are audacious enough to go it alone take in all the risk factor, and are faced with full culpability if something doesn't turn out quite right. Watson is first and foremost a highly accomplished keyboardist, formidable guitar player and eclectic composer. These exceptional qualities form the foundation of 8 singular instrumental compositions that comprise Sum Of Parts that can be free-and- easy to precise and angular. However I can see the album coming under fire for comparatively weaker rhythm parts, but by no stretch sounding as generic as some solo artists who have a "go nuts Jimi" rhythm section playing alongside them. This is the only nit picky criticism I can offer and I actually enjoyed this album as much or more as I did Dean's first album "Unsettled" which I discovered back in 2010 perhaps because I knew what to expect: Sheer creative abandon and execution of colourful ideas. Those familiar with Dean's previous instrumental albums will notice a brighter tone on this one almost devoid some of his darker themes. The cover art even suggests this departure.

Each phenomenal track opens with a unique theme and then branches off, forming it's own morphology with contrast and variation. Despite the various influences heard on each piece there is unification that is a hallmark of Watson's compositional prowess. Although the album is solid throughout there are several tracks that I keep returning to. Song for A Day typifies Watson's blending of styles, Progrock meets Jazz-rock. Although a formally trained pianist he seems deliberate in avoiding classical motifs which makes his music all the more expeditious. D Day, with it's ominous intro showcases some great guitar work that for some reason reminds me a bit of some of Alex Lifeson's playing over the years.There might also be a nod to to Jan Akkerman's Hocus Pocus riff in there too! Definitely my fave on the the whole album. Watson's sharp edged style is outwardly his own which defines each piece and is demonstrated to great effect on Sense of Urgency. The finale, Afterthought, is a majestic mini-epic that recalls the heady days of progressive rock. Back in the day it could have been expanded to occupy the full side of a vinyl LP!

Dean Watson's Sum OF Parts is a neo-anachronism that encapsulates the vigor of a division of popular music that ruled for a few years, A must listen for seventies die hards yearning for something contemporary in a classic vintage tradition.

 Stadaconé by SLOCHE album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.30 | 130 ratings

BUY
Stadaconé
Sloche Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Walkscore

3 stars Sloche continued in a similar mode as their first album for this, their second and unfortunately, last, album. This one is slightly more complex and polished than the first, showing they had fine-tuned their chops, but otherwise represents little change in style. The first track starts off the album in clear jazz-fusion mode, with some good solos, but it also contains a few sections with silly singing (at one point they are singing something like "diggy-diggy dog dop"!). The second track "Le Cosmophile" also contains vocals, which appear close to the start of the song, before the sax solo kicks in. There are also some choir-vocals ('ahh ahh') on the fifth track. So, note that while other reviewers have characterized this album as completely instrumental, with vocals on three of the tunes this is not correct. But the vocals are, like on the first album, only appearing for short spurts, so I can see why someone might not remember them after only one listen. I am not as keen on "Le Cosmophile", nor the silly singing on the first track. But the remaining tracks are better. "Ill Faut Sauver Barbara" shifts between slow moody Rhodes piano themes, and Zappa-inspired complexities. "Ad Hoc" combines 70s minor funk with some nice guitar lines. The fifth track ("La "Baloune" de Vernkurtel Aug Zythogala") comes closest to the weather-report-like jazz fusion, but has a few interesting twists. The last track, "Isacaaron", at over 11 minutes is the longest track on the album, and indeed the longest in the band's discography. While the shifting between many themes on this last track fragments the composition, many of these themes are, like much of the rest of the album, still quite musical. After years of putting this on, I rarely want to listen to it all the way through, mainly due to the issues with the first two tracks, and the fifth track is not quite as musical. But the highlights here are quite good. I give this album 7.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.
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BUGGE WESSELTOFT Norway
WHERE'S THE NINE Canada
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BENOIT WIDEMANN France
WIGWAM Finland
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MARK WINGFIELD & KEVIN KASTNING Multi-National
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