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Jan Akkerman

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars Jan seems to have an ability to communicate rock music on guitar with an interesting relaxed jazz sound. His early rock origins have diminished and a more contemporary relaxed presentation is dominating."Crackers" displays a winning joyful sound. That is followed by "Angel Watch", a pleasant mix of guitar presentations with an orchestral string section sound on the horizon. Interestingly you can either follow with "Streetwalker", an uplifting sound, or "Floatin" a jazzy keyboard accompaniement. Finally the latin sound which would appear in his later works is presented in "Gate to Europe". This performer has excellant guitar capabilities and skills and his works are interesting.
Report this review (#62669)
Posted Sunday, January 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars After his sudden departure from Focus in 1976 on the eve of a sellout tour Jan Akkerman played as a sideman with a variety of Dutch artists as well as on a couple of albums by jazz tenor saxophonist Tony Scott. In 1977 he recorded his fourth solo album which was simply entitled "Jan Akkerman" which sounded nothing like Focus`neo-classical stylings.This album was much more sophisticated and refined than his previous work. A hollow body electric replacing his Gibson Les Paul Special gave his playing a definite cleaner sound becoming much more melodic, incorporating lush chords and crisp guitar lines.

The tracks fluctuate between upbeat soft fusion and straight jazz sometimes with a funky approach featuring techno-like percussion, a good example being the track Crackers which was a piece originally written for Focus. A string section provides a moody background to most of the tracks and gives the album somewhat of an etheral feeling to it as heard on the delicate Pavane. Modal keyboard phrasings by Joachim Kuhn also give the album further depth. The final composition on the album, the brooding acoustic Gate To Europe, is the only track which echoes his years with Focus sounding similar to the haunting Le Clochard from 1972`s Moving Waves.

Comfortable in any guitar format and a self taught lute player ( the lute is very different from the guitar ) this 1977 musical departure with a more jazzy style shows why Jan Akkerman is one of the most versatile of guitar players on the planet. It was also a foreshadow of the many more experiments were to occur in this guitar god`s esoteric career both as a composer and player.

Report this review (#116489)
Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Along with talented keyboard man Joachim Kuhn, former Focus guitarist Akkerman offered up something new to fusion with this fifth though self-titled album...class. Jan's wide open guitar sound is as crisp and clean as it is soulful and catchy on this realease. He leaves previous solo effort's niavity and muddiness in the past. The diaphanous and sometimes ellusive sound travels on a mystic sea of strings to the listeners ears.

From a "Prog" point of view I would simply point to the lofty heights of Gate To Europe, surely a song for all time and something completely different. There is also a funkiness to this album's mix of tunes, so there is something for everyone. I think you could play this one for varied crowds at gatherings and it would entertain & charm all present. This is instrumental Jazz Rock at its most sophisticated.

Even today this album sounds clean, fresh and contemporary. The wonderful track Streetwalker alone is worth the price of admission.

Report this review (#125948)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This CD is maybe the most representative of Akkerman's guitar playing of the 70'. You know: after have played blues on Talent for Sale, classic guitar on Profile, rennaisance lute music on Tabernakel... Akkerman never had the "chance" of playing his most pure style IMO: jazz-rock. Yes. This album is jazz-fusion. A little smooth and dull in comparison to the succesful fusion bands (as Mahavishnu, Weather Report, etc.), but worthly enough.

This time, Akkerman's guitar is not that protagonist as on any previous album (except on the wonderful acoustic Gate to Europe). Here, on the other hand, there's an excellent bass, piano and drumming stuff too, much better than on Tabernakel or Profile. In these seven songs you can get into the jazzy style of this awesome and versatile dutch guitar player.

Also, this is one of the best places to start with JA's discography. This CD is quite easy-listening in comparison to previous works. Although there are no bad tracks here, there are no songs as excellent as Kemps Jig or as beautiful as Andante Sostenuto (both from Profile), but the fourth star of my rating (while Profile is just a 3-stars and a half to me) is due simply to the effort made here, where the tracks range from average to good. I'd say this Akkerman's self-titled album is a very nice follow-up to such a masterpiece like Tabernakel. Four stars.

NOTE: Do enjoy the extended version of Focus' "Crackers" from Ship of Memories, here released as the opening track. It's quite outstanding!

Report this review (#130260)
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I have recently been getting back into Prog, and this week, relistening to my considerable Jan Akkerman collection. This eponymous LP is simply blowing me away. I remember when I received it as a radio promo copy in 1977 how much I loved it, especially Side 1 with Crackers, Angel Watch, and Pavane. But now, Side 2-the whole thing is just boggling my mind. The musicianship is extraordinary, even the Michael Gibbs orchestrations add such a lush, collegial atmosphere to Jan's unparalleled virtuosity. Since listening to all of my Focus discs, Eli, Tabernakel, and now this, I am prepared to dethrone John McLaughlin and proclaim Jan Akkerman as my favorite/the best guitarist ever! Akkerman can play! He can do it all: acoustic, lute, sitar, rhythm, jazz, New Age, blues, and, of course, Rock and Roll! And this album is so well recorded! Kudos to Richard DeBois and Jan Schuurman. Were it not for the dated disco-ish rhythms and now-outdated keyboards, this would be a classic for the ages! Still, I can think of no other set of recordings that better displays Akkerman's virtuosity as a guitar player. Great emotion, amazing versatility in his stylistic approaches, literally unbelievable ease and fluidity of fingering and timing (stops, pauses and transitions). The variety of ways he can express himself within the framework of one song is astounding, mind boggling.

Let's start with Side 2:

"Streetwalker" [10/10] has got to be one the ten greatest electric guitar songs ever recorded. Subtle accompaniment (though listen to those drums!) allow Jan to display his rhythm virtuosity before, between and while (!) diving into several extraordinarily diverse lead techniques in his solos. The timing and emotion are extraordinary-even that of the orchestra! What a composition!

The rhythm/strumming work in "Skydancer" [7/10] is mesmerizing, though the song lacks a hook to really bring the listener into the song.

"Floatin'" [6/10] notes a reunion with Pierre van der Linden, friend and drummer extraordinaire from Brainbox and Focus days. (Jazz-Fusion drummer Bruno Castelucci performs batterie on all other songs.) The song only makes one one realize A) how much beyond the Focus era Jan already has traveled, B) just how good Bruno Castelucci is, C) just how Rock and Roll-oriented Pierre is, and D) just how much a better fit Bruno Castelucci is for this period of Jan's career. The opening melody lines are interesting for their StanleyClarke/"piccolo bass" sounds. Nice keyboard work from Joachim Kühn.

The album's last song, "Gate to Europe" [ 6/10] is a minor-keyed work on the acoustic guitar with orchestral accompaniment somewhat prescient of the Claus Ogerman sessions (which are beautiful in their own right, though they display Jan on his electric guitar).

Now to Side 1:

"Crackers" [7/10] is a very catchy disco-sounding song with more subtle, almost background lead guitar work. Good keyboard passages.

"Angel watch" [9/10] is a lushly orchestrated ten minute song in which the drums compete with, yet embellish and accent Jan's extraordinary work in first section (about three minutes). The second disco-fied section allows the bass some ascendancy while Jan's treated guitar spits and stutters just before a section of muffled Wes-Montgomery-like chord playing. The disco heats up as Joachim Kühn sounds Don Pullen-like on an acoustic-yes, acoustic-piano solo-which only gets Jan riled up as he takes over: flaming the jazz artists to cinders with a flashy (though strangely soul-less) foray into speed for speed's sake. Song fades. Wow. What a strange ensemble piece.

Side 1 ends with the gorgeous, etheric (not unlike some of Jean-Luc Ponty's work around this time) "Pavane" [10/10] The swirling keys accompanying Jan's chorus statement are too cool! Treated guitar effects not unfamiliar to the later Focus days, strumming not unlike the amazing Eli work, Jan is all over the fretboard and time-space continuum with this one.

The album rates a 7.86 out of 10 =a solid 4.0, which means: excellent though not essential. But hearing it may be essential for any prog fan.

Report this review (#205003)
Posted Tuesday, March 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Jan Akkerman - st (1977)

It took me some time to appreciate this album, but it turned out to be one of his major efforts. Side one of Profile and side two of Tabernakel both had something progressive like you would expect from ex-Focus guitar Jan Akkerman, but on his fourth offering Jan Akkerman changed his sound completely. First of all, Akkerman doesn't use any form of distortion! He plays solo guitar throughout the album with a clean electric guitar sound. At first I didn't like this, but turns out to be a great move by the Dutch guitar master. His guitar solo's became very stylish!

Another problem I had with this record was the fact that the complete record has a smooth jazz basis with disco influences. Among the influences are fusion, funk and symphonic music. The string sections are just amazing on this album! I have no record that has such warm, intense and inventive string arrangements. The bass-lines are between fusion and disco and so are the drums, this doesn't sound very interesting, but it leaves enough space for the fusion guitar chord progression, the guitar solo's and the string section. The result is an bombastic professional smooth-jazz album with a stylish and romantic feel and with the finest of clean guitar solo's.

Some tracks are a bit different from the other the tracks. Pavane is a down-tempo romantic piece with an emotional impact. On side two the up-tempo Floatin' with Pierre van der Linden (ex-Focus, ex-Brainbox) on drums gives away some of his amazing techniques.

Conclusion. Amazing fusion album interesting for both fans of the genre and people who would like to have an entrance for it. This is a good starting point. It has both very interesting jazz moment and a lot of technical achievements and a nice warm soothing romantic feel. Furthermore I would like to point out this might be of interest to audiophiles, the recording is amazing (oowh those strings are great!). Four stars.

Report this review (#260819)
Posted Thursday, January 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars One of most popular ex-Focus guitarist's Jan Akkerman solo album. Very light and relaxed, this album for long time was a problem for me - I just tried to understand it. Yes, not to feel, because European jazz-fusion, recorded there, isn't too much music, you can feel. Cool, technically competent, with strong classical music roots, it always sounded as "self closed thing" for me.

Then, after many listenings, I just decided, that it is simply not my cup of tea. I like some unusual guitar techniques and sound, but can't name full composition I could like in full. Strong influence of Dutch cool jazz, technically strong ( but never too much experimental), but very emotionless, and some old-fashion orchestration (ok, it sounds old-fashioned now, so for album ,released in 1977, let name it "dated").

It is not easy listening ( but very accessible music, not far from it), it isn't a real jazz-rock ( much more saloon jazz or chamber-influenced music), but still have many rock traces on it. The best name possibly is " chamber jazz in fusion clothes" , but again, it doesn't say too much.

Atmosphere is close to ECM recordings, but differently from many Nordic artists, music there sounds more conservative. And even if I can hear many attractive moments, the album in whole doesn't stick with me.

Possibly, it was played and recorded for different listener. In all cases, very competent music. Just try - may be it is album for you?

Report this review (#278801)
Posted Wednesday, April 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars From 3 to 4 stars (according to the "mood" of the album) I should say - talking about its evaluation- that's the right score, cause the output is a little bit uneven, even though the best guitar style by this former Focus member is often able to emerge...well first of all it stands out alone as a unique "Akkerman's trademark", regarding of the maturity reached here, but it represents also a personal music style of his own!!

In particular the track "Streetwalker" and "Crackers" are the best example, but also the other tunes contain some good features, in spite of the light and too much relaxed mood, in comparison to the strong "fusion" experimentations at the guitar of the period...think of the powerful style concerning some other similar guitarists in the seventies (for example Jeff Beck for instance, or G. Moore in the Colosseum II experience).

Talking about the defects inside, I don't like the Akkerman music approach, being a little bit "cold" and characterized by a few emotions; nevertheless- despite the dated orchestrations- it's an interesting product, with its typical strengths and weaknesses (as within the best Dutch progressive/fusion albums) and something else, according to the artistic direction I've often seen in the works by Gong (note: such a strange and hybrid music-genre, in the middle between the Canterburian style and a kind of Chamber music, according to the early After Crying, but in an easier version).

Anyway this is probably the best album by J. Akkerman and it could be enough to evaluate the present work sometimes as good as the best fusion/Canterburian works outside Holland (especially in the UK) make your personal choice!!

Report this review (#438834)
Posted Monday, April 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Jan Akkerman is one of the most apreciate and well known guitarist from old school of prog and jazz fusion. Gained fame with Focus in the early '70's he manage to have aswell in parallel with Focus, a solo career until late 1976 when he departure from the band in their most succesful period. He rlease so far many album , very much apreciated by both jazz fusion lovers and progressive aswell. Selftitled album issued in 1977 is one of my fav from him and one of his best works for sure from solo side. Very crafted album, smooth with brilliant songwritting, shown a mature Akkerman in every way here. Even is kinda light in places is very well performed and quite complicated after repeted lisnings, is for sure a grower, at least in my case. . Crackers or Pavane are good ex of what ment in that period Akkerman in jazz fusion world, similar maybe in places with Solution also from Holland, or in places with Colosseum but less guitar oriented and more fusion then rock. Anyway for me a very solid album, prog arrangements are aswell present and some symphonic elements added, some good keybords interplays makes from this album a winner for sure, great cover art aswell. 4 stars easy.
Report this review (#455615)
Posted Wednesday, June 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The eponymous album by Jan Akkerman might have meant that there is a new step in his musical career after leaving Focus and/or a shift in the music. Regardless of any of this assumptions are correct, this output has a special and esteemed position in Jan's catalogue. His guitar playing is sometimes ornate, sometimes subtle and less aggressive than in the past but tasty at all times - jazz-rock and even fusion soundscapes have taken the lead here. Fans of progressive rock but also jazz-oriented listeners will find a plenty to discover.

The first track "Crackers" has amazed me with its swinging bass and guitar lines; its rhythm line is very interesting. The second, lenghty track "Angel Watch" is the first real treat for fusion supporters, fluid licks and breath-taking guitar runs are on display. In terms of melody and progression, it is a less interesting track but full of laid-back sunshine. Let's not forget the tasty but short piano solo.

"Pavane" could be the track most reminiscent of Focus on this album as it is less jazzy and more reflective.

Perhaps the biggest soloing highlight is "Streetwalker" -rhythmically fully rooted in the mid 70's funky groove but instrumentally showing jaw-dropping Jan's pyrotechnics. Close your eyes and focus on this guitar...

"Skydancer" features an interesting melody and melancholy - it is more about atmosphere then progression and soloing. If you can, listen to the breathtaking live fusion version on the 1978's Live in Montreux.

"Floatin'" will raise you from your seat, the dazzling fender rhodes solo is incredible and unusual for a progressive rock album. Jan lets his companions shine through on this track. The only acoustic and symphonic track is a well fitting last track to this 4-star album.

Report this review (#2118930)
Posted Thursday, January 17, 2019 | Review Permalink

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