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Jazz Rock/Fusion • Italy

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Agora biography
One of the few professional bands from the Marche, on the Adriatic side of central Italy, AgorÓ were formed in 1974 near Ancona, and played a jazz-rock very influenced by the likes of Weather Report or the italian group Perigeo, with a very limited use of progressive sounds. Some of the band members had previously been in a rock band called Oz Master Magnus Ltd.

Despite not being so popular they were contacted to play the famous Montreux international jazz festival in Switzerland that gave them a deal with Atlantic.
Their first LP was a live album, recorded during that festival. Mostly instrumental and just 30 minutes long, the LP has its moments, with just four long cuts (one of which is curiously split between the two sides of the LP), that often resemble some english jazzy-prog bands of the early 70's.

The second album, in 1976, is much more jazz-rock oriented than the first.
The band also played in the 1976 Parco Lambro festival and is featured on the live album released at the time with Cavalcata solare, from their second album and also released on single.

Band decided to split in 1978. For a short time that year Pepe Maina played percussion with them, he's also featured in a concert filmed at Montreux but never officially released.
Ovidio Urbani is still now an appreciated player in the jazz field.

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Immaginifica 2014
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Live in Montreux by Agora (2008-05-09)Live in Montreux by Agora (2008-05-09)
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AGORA discography

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

3.92 | 58 ratings
AgorÓ 2
3.49 | 15 ratings

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

3.60 | 35 ratings
Live in Montreux

AGORA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

AGORA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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AGORA Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Live in Montreux by AGORA album cover Live, 1975
3.60 | 35 ratings

Live in Montreux
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by sturoc

3 stars I stumbled across Agora 'Live In Montreux' during my many forays thru You Tube Channels in search of old distant unknowns of Progressive Rock . Yes they are more Jazz Rock the Progressive but Agora gives us a fine album and live to boot. What was most striking and something I cant believe was not mentioned in other reviews is the strong resemblance to Soft Machine. The track details and history I'll not repeat as it has been covered by others . Give them a listen and if you like, and I mean really like Soft Machine and the early 70s Jazz Rock era you will appreciate this release I gave it 3 stars only because they are is not really Progressive Rock .
 AgorÓ 2 by AGORA album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.92 | 58 ratings

AgorÓ 2
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Agora' 2 is the second album by Agora' and their first studio work. It was released in 1976 with a renewed line up featuring Roberto Bacchiocchi (keyboards), Ovidio Urbani (sax), Renato Gasparini (guitar), Mauro Mencaroni (drums), Nino Russo (sax, percussion) and Lucio Cesari (bass, percussion) and marks a step forward for the band that here is clearly focused on refining their jazz-rock sound showcasing a strong leaning for experimentalism and great musicianship. The wonderful artwork by Mario Convertino in some way captures this attitude with a nice black and white drawing...

The dreamy opener 'Punto Rosso' (Red Point) is a nice, accessible track with a great interaction between all the instruments that every now and again could recall The Mahavishnu Orchestra. The following 'Piramide di domani' (Pyramid of Tomorrow) starts calmly by hypnotic bass lines and a good acoustic guitar work, then the other instruments come in building a mysterious atmosphere sprinkled with exotic flavours.

The long, melancholic 'Tall El Zaatar' ends the first side of the original vinyl. Here the title refers to the tragic siege of Tel al-Zaatar, a fortified, UNRWA-administered refugee camp housing Palestinian refugees in north-eastern Beirut that was carried out by Phalangist forces in August 1976. It's a kind of committed jazz elegy in memory of the victims...

The second side of the album opens with 'La bottega di Duilio' (Duilio's workshop) that, according to an interview with Ovidio Urbani, was inspired by a man who owned a workshop near the rehearsal room of the band in Serra San Quirico, a very special character in the life of that little town. The piece starts by a percussive pattern that introduces you in his strange laboratory and ironmonger's shop...

'Simbiosi (Vasi comunicanti)' (Symbiosis ' Communicating vessels) was built up starting from a piano improvisations in the studio by Roberto Bacchiocchi and then elaborated with contribute of the other members of the band in a perfect symbiosis. In fact, the subtitle of this track refers to the name given to a set of containers containing a homogeneous fluid: when the liquid settles, it balances out to the same level in all of the containers regardless of the shape and volume of the containers. If additional liquid is added to one vessel, the liquid will again find a new equal level in all the connected vessels. Here this principle is applied to the music...

The long closer 'Cavalcata solare' (Solar ride) is a kind of psychedelic jazz ride through the space. It starts slowly, then the rhythm rises for a long journey into unknown territories and forgotten dreamlands. This track was also released as a single and ends an album that is really worth listening to.

Unfortunately, despite the good quality of their music, Agora' disbanded in 1978 on account of the difficulties to make a living in the troubled, asphyxial Italian music business of the years of lead'

 Live in Montreux by AGORA album cover Live, 1975
3.60 | 35 ratings

Live in Montreux
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Agor' came to life in 1974 in the province of Ancona, from the ashes of a band called Oz Master Magnus Ltd. The name of the band refers to a central public space in ancient Greek city-states and the literal meaning of the word is gathering place or assembly. The first line up featured Roberto Bacchiocchi (keyboards, vocals), Ovidio Urbani (sax), Renato Gasparini (guitar, vocals), Paolo Colafrancesco (bass, vocals) and Mauro Mencaroni (drums, vocals), all in love with jazz rock and influenced by bands such as Weather Report and Perigeo. Thanks to a good live activity and to a manager who spotted them, in 1975 they had the chance to play live at the Montreux Jazz Festival and signed a deal with Atlantic Records. Their performance in Switzerland took place on July 7, 1975: a set of about thirty minutes that was entirely recorded and later released on their debut album entitled Live In Montreux. The quality of the recording is good enough to allow you to enjoy the talent of a young, promising band playing a jazz rock sprinkled with many Mediterranean flavours.

The opener 'Penetrazione' (Penetration) starts softly by a guitar arpeggio. The atmosphere is dreamy, soaring vocals used as an instrument and a pulsing rhythm section take you away on a journey through the Mediterranean Sea where you can find a place to cry your blues under the moon' Well, all in all, everyone has a blues to cry!

Then comes the long, complex 'Serra San Quirico'. This piece was divided into two parts on account of the vinyl space available in those days and unfortunately the division persists also on the CD reissue where there's no need to switch from side A to side B. The title of this piece refers to the village of Serra San Quirico, in the province of Ancona where in the seventies the band had their rehearsal room, in the sacristy of a disused church, by kind permission of the local priest. It's the place where Agor's music was born from endless jam sessions and then shaped, refined and chiselled until the right balance to convey and stir emotions was reached. There are many changes in mood and atmosphere: to the nervous first part follow a calmer middle section and a finale in crescendo and there is many room for inspired solos...

Next comes 'Acqua celeste' (Blue water), a calm piece but with many currents whirling under the surface and a subtle melancholic vein. It leads to the tasty closer 'L'orto di Ovidio' (Ovidio's garden): according to an interview with Ovidio Urbani, the title refers to the fact that the inspiration for this track came almost out of the blue after a pause where the musicians went out to pick up and eat some cherries from a tree in a nearby garden'

On the whole, a very good work that captures the energy and freshness of the band on stage. Moreover, the album was enhanced by the particular art cover by Italian artist Cesare Monti portraying a tree on the crossroad between via Tortona and via Savona in Milan: on the original version of the LP the tree can be raised and has a small stand on the back making of this album a very rare collector's item.

 AgorÓ 2 by AGORA album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.92 | 58 ratings

AgorÓ 2
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Upon returning from the performance in Montreux back to Italy, Agora would have a first line-up change with bassist Paolo Colafrancesco replaced by Lucio Cesari (who would also play some percussion), while Nino Russo was added as a second saxophonist.It was time for the band's studio debut, simply titled ''2'', captured at the CAP Studios in Milan during a two-week session in September 76' and released later in the year on Atlantic.

Agora always played on the more free side of Jazz Rock and electric Fusion and ''2'' marks another confident set of performances by the Italian group, including hot keyboard solos, reckless guitar moves and endless sax passages, some lovely and melodic solos to go along with more improvised parts can be found in the album, which contained only brand new compositions.Agora's music was based on soft rhythmic patterns surrounded by occasional solos by the instrumentalists, never escaping from the principles of RETURN TO FOREVER and the likes, so originality is not a matter of discussion here, even the acoustic moments are close to the sound of Chick Corea and his company.But the music is fairly interesting with great bass and drum work, naughty electric piano and full-blown saxes, as the guitars play a secondary role, too pitty, because Gasparini's are pretty excellent but very limited.They even execute some acquainted methods on tropical and sunny Fusion, filled with ethereal sax blows and dreamy piano, often complemented by dramatic breaks and more powerful executions.Music, that displays same rare dynamics in its own path through mellow and balanced Jazz Rock.

Another cool attempt by Agora on the Return to Forever stylings.Solid Jazz Fusion with a free spirit but also a certain sense of melodic sensibilty.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

 Ichinen by AGORA album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.49 | 15 ratings

Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars This is an album I liked immediately and continue to find eminently enjoyable. Almost every song offers me reminders of some of the greatest jazz fusion artists ever: JEAN-LUC PONTY, DARYL STUERMER, RETURN TO FOREVER, AL DI MEOLA, CHICK COREA, PAUL WINTER, CODONA, RALPH TOWNER, DOMINA CATRINA LEE, JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, WEATHER REPORT. Plus there are songs with vocal touches that make AgorÓ unique unto themselves ("Ichinen," "Sensei," "Star Strings," "Tre Maggio," "Oceano") There are many styles of jazz represented here, including traditional jazz ("Oceano"), Paul Winter Consort-like jazz ("Piramide di Domani"), Windham Hill jazz ("Wood of Guitar"), World Music jazz ("Ichinen," "Sensei"), New Age jazz ("Star Strings"), Jean-Luc Ponty jazz ("Serra San Quirico"), Hawaiian jazz ("Star Strings"); and funky Weather Report-like electric jazz fusion ("Costa dell'Est" and "Progressive Suite"). Almost all of it is beautiful, soul-soothing, and virtuosically performed.

5 Star songs: "Serra San Quirico," "Ichinen," "Sensei," "Star Strings," "Oceano," "Wood of Guitar," "Progressive Suite," and "Piramide di Domani/Cavalcata Solare."

A 4.5 star album, rated down for over-familiarity.

 Ichinen by AGORA album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.49 | 15 ratings

Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'Ichinen' - Agora (61/100)

I've really been getting into Agora lately. if asked a week ago, I probably would have dismissed them as just another one of the countless obscure prog and fusion bands I probably would never have the time to listen ton. In any case, it was a great thing I did stumble across them; even though they only released a Live in Montreux performance recording and one studio album 2, the chemistry and compelling atmosphere on those albums made Agora a rare find for me, one I've since been introducing to friends and fans of fusion with enthusiasm. While an 'unreleased materials' album made available nearly four decades after a band's last activity wouldn't normally strike my interest save for the most hyped cases, my existing Agora kick had me excited to check out Ichinen. Though not a 'real' full-length by any means, this collection of recordings would hopefully provide 2 with some shade of the in-studio follow-up it deserved. More than that, I read that it would give some indication as to the band's current incarnation. While it's clear that their chemistry and musicianship hasn't faltered over the years, I'm finding myself fairly disappointed by the compilation. While there is a sampling of the lively 'Agora sound' I loved in their classic '70's output, Agora seem to have distanced themselves from progressive fusion. Instead, their newer recordings veer towards sleepy background smooth jazz, the sort of innocuous wallpaper jazz that would sooner put me to sleep than inspire me as a listener. As capably as they perform it, it doesn't do much for me.

Ichinen is the Japanese word for 'persistence' (Yes, I looked it up!) and in the case of a compilation of recordings mustered over the course of decades, it seems a fitting title. I was really wondering listening to the fantastic chemistry of their first two albums why Agora would have ever seen fit to break up. It turns out they were just working undercover, albeit intermittently. True to expectation, Ichinen is terribly inconsistent, both in style and direction. Generally speaking however, the offerings included on Ichinen can be separated into two categories. The first (and most prevalent) is this unplugged smooth jazz approach. Agora have never been strangers to the use of acoustic guitars, melody or reservation in their music, but those elements were balanced out with complex interplay and variety. Although Agora's acoustic smooth jazz is perfectly listenable, it feels like a big part of the reasons I loved the band (or jazz in general) have been emancipated. Rather then the directed explorations of Live in Montreux and 2, Agora have written songs built around middle-of-the-road melodies and the apparent aim of fostering easy listening. There is enjoyment to be had with this newer incarnation of Agora ("Sensei" is great for melody, "Oceano" is a great piano piece) and I don't think there are any clearcut weaknesses, but it may only be because Agora have played it incredibly safe with this acoustic guitar stuff. There's probably a market out there for this sort of tasteful jazz, but it's clearly not for me. All I can think of when I'm hearing it is the Mall Tycoon soundtrack.

It takes over half the album to get there, but once Agora get to their other, 'proggy' side, things start to really heat up. For what it lacks in creative naming, "Progressive Suite" is a total highlight, and sounds like what the Agora follow-up I was hoping for should have sounded like. Prog was always an undercurrent running behind Agora's jazz and rock blend, but the latter half of Ichinen makes a concerted effort to bring that side out front and centre. There's time signature [%*!#]ery, Zeuhl-ish female vocalizations and echoes of Zappa in the guitar work; best of all, I can hear the band chemistry more clearly than with the innocuous acoustic material. Possibly in some gesture of compromise, the compilation's final track "Piramide Di Domani, Cavalcata Solare" mixes elements of the prog with the laid-back acoustic guitar, reimagining a pair of classic period tracks as a single would-be finale. Surprisingly, it turns out to be just as satisfying a listen as "Progressive Suite". Gianni Perri's cello is a great touch to this closing piece, and it probably doesn't hurt that "Piraide Di Domani" was one of my favourite cuts from 2 either!

I feel mixed about this one. It seems like Agora are at a tentative crossroads, and regardless of what years these tracks were recorded in, Ichinen is a reflection of that. It's difficult to say I'm really optimistic about a new Agora album, if chances are high it's going to sound like the first half of this one. Hopefully (just hopefully!) Agora will look at the latter 'proggy' side of this compilation not as a historical note, but as a foundation with which to build amazing things in the future. Whatever the future holds for Agora, I will eagerly anticipate the release of another album.

 Live in Montreux by AGORA album cover Live, 1975
3.60 | 35 ratings

Live in Montreux
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Live in Montreux' - Agora (78/100)

When a band releases an album called Live in Montreux, there's an implication that the band has had a long and prosperous career leading up to the occasion. Jethro Tull and Yes both released their own Live in Montreux albums in 2003, over forty years since either had first taken to the stage. Deep Purple notably released three live recordings from the Montreux jazz festival, and even then, the earliest was in 1986, after they had already etched their name in the rock music canon for eternity. The Italian progressive fusioneers Agora on the other hand had no such legacy of success when they were invited to play the Swiss festival. In fact, they didn't even have an album, much less a following to attest to their greatness. From what I can tell, their invitation to the Swiss festival was largely a matter of impressing the right sets of ears. Thus, their debut Live in Montreux was conceived, and from the half our performance captured, it's easy to see why they would be getting people excited. While I prefer the meticulous design and darker atmosphere of their in-studio follow-up 2 to this, Agora's so-called debut is a strong fusion record, with plenty of chemistry apparent in the way they play together. The only disappointment here is that Agora would dissipate before they ever capitalized on their strength as a band.

Agora's style usually finds itself somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between jazz and rock; whether someone wants to call them 'jazz fusion' or 'jazz rock' is up for debate, although their tendency towards rock beats has me leaning towards the latter. Although Agora has a guitarist, Renato Gasparini's playing tends to take a back seat outside of his McLaughlin-esque solos. While I would have expected for a band this close-sounding to the Mahavishnu Orchestra to thrust the guitars into the spotlight, there's a clear emphasis on the saxophone of Ovidio Urbani, although listening to the brilliant way he sneaks melody into their group explorations, I don't think I'd prefer them any other way. There is a thick layer of Rhodes piano often plying just beneath the saxophone; although Roberto Bacchiocchi never takes the forefront, his textures demand a lot of attention and give the music a dreamlike atmosphere I haven't often heard in jazz. Even moreso than 2, Live in Montreux showcases the proggy third axis of their sound, along with the jazz and rock elements. "Serra S. Quirico" has moments that seem to draw on the playful twang of Yes. Closer still are Agora's light vocal offerings with the harmonies typical of their compatriots in the Italian progressive rock scene; Premiata Forneria Marconi comes first to mind. It's not surprising given the band was just getting started at this point, but it should be noted that the quality of recording on Live in Montreux isn't the greatest. All of the instruments are audible and clear enough, but the production doesn't capture the sense of immediacy and immersion I'd look for in a live album. Still, considering it's the only potential weakness I can discern from their performance, I'd say Agora are doing just fine.

Part of the reason I'll go to lengths to check out little-known 'gems' or generally overlooked music is that I'm confident that I'll come across bands that will leap out at me, artists I wouldn't otherwise find due to a friend's recommendation. It's been a long time since a jazz fusion band leapt out at me like Agora does, and that's why the brevity of their career feels like such a disappointment. Even without the context of its improved in-studio successor, Live in Montreux suggests plenty of potential and creativity. The last few minutes of this record are about as smooth as jazz fusion gets; I'm really left to wonder how far they might have gone if Agora had stuck together longer. However, the 'unreleased materials' compilation Ichinen came out only recently, and apparently offers some insight into the band's current sound and incarnation. Perhaps that means there's hope we might hear something new and fresh from Agora before too long.

 AgorÓ 2 by AGORA album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.92 | 58 ratings

AgorÓ 2
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars '2' - Agora (81/100)

Although Agora's 2 might imply a predecessor, this was actually their first studio output. Agora's first album was Live at Montreux; even if they hadn't released anything yet, Agora had earned respect enough to have played the prestigious jazz festival. That should hopefully say something about the band's quality as performers. Try to imagine what the Mahavishnu Orchestra may have sounded like if John McLaughlin had favoured the keys over the electric guitar, and you should have a pretty good idea what these Italian fusioneers sound like. Barring a compilation called Ichinen they released earlier this year, 2 is to date the only 'true' full-length Agora have ever put out. It's a real shame too, because this is one of the strongest 'surprise finds' I've found in fusion for quite some time.

Jazz fusion (and prog fusion in particular) has the tendency to go one of two ways. It's either stark and challenging in its intent or smooth and relaxing; artists that can find a strong balance between the two (IE: Miles Davis circa "In a Silent Way" or Mahavishnu Orchestra) tend to have the greatest effect on me as a listener. Agora never seems to stray needlessly, but the music often feels driven more by exploration than composition. The saxophone and Rhodes piano are given the most range here, with the thoughtfully melodic leads of the former generally paving the way on most of the songs here. Somewhat surprisingly, the band I may be most reminded of listening to Agora is Van der Graaf Generator; even if Van der Graaf Generator only ever flirted with the jazz world, there are plenty of similarities in the way Agora have given their music a dark tone in spite of the typically 'bright' instruments that have been used to portray it.

Even during the album's most laid-back passages, Agora offer plenty to keep the attentive listener occupied. The approach to composition has clearly been designed with the intent of giving the instrumentation room to breathe and explore, but the way the music will always fall back on thick, band-oriented harmonies keeps the album feeling focused. Other reviews of 2 I've read tend to state that Agora have written something ambient or 'background-ish' here. In a way, most jazz music has a potential to be considered that way. As is the case with many creatively successful bands of their type, there's both atmosphere and detail on 2 to satisfy the ambient and attentive listeners alike. Although I suppose the point's invalidated with Ichinen to some extent, I'm really disappointed Agora never put out more records. It's not often a 'new' jazz band impresses me like this; if you're any bit into the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the jazzier end of Van der Graaf Generator or the classic sound of prog-fusion in general, check out this album and see what you think of it.

 Live in Montreux by AGORA album cover Live, 1975
3.60 | 35 ratings

Live in Montreux
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I'm a little surprised at the low ratings for this one, but then again i'm a big fan of this style of music and AGORA do it the way I like. Lots of electric piano as well as guitar and sax, also the rhythm section is prominant and well done. I like that they can be atmospheric and also powerful, in other words they don't play it safe. This by the way was released the year before their only studio album was released and in my mind both are essential for J / R Fusion fans.

I should mention that this is a live album from Montreaux. "Penetrazione" gets us started as the guitar sounds build and bass and drums join in. The guitar starts to solo 2 minutes in. How good is this ! The guitar settles back but not for long. Sax 4 minutes in. Applause fills the air when it's over.

"Serra S Querico" opens with electric piano, bass and drums. Great sound ! The guitar starts to solo over top. A calm before 2 1/2 minutes then we get some relaxed sax as the bass continues. It starts to build slowly. Vocal melodies after 5 1/2 minutes then it kicks back in after 6 1/2 minutes with the sax blasting. Guitar a minute later. It blends into "Serra Querico II" where we get more vocal melodies and it turns fuller quickly with bass, drums and electric piano. Sax 2 minutes in. Great sound. The guitar joins in before 4 1/2 minutes. We get a big applause before 6 minutes but the song isn't over (haha). The band continues and when they stop the crowd cheers again.

"Acqua Celeste" opens with electric piano as bass, sax and drums join in. Drums only after 2 1/2 minutes as the electric piano comes and goes then kicks back in. The drumming is fantastic. The sax is back after 5 minutes and this blends into "Lorto Di Ovidio". It's mellow early on then the sax is leading the way as electric piano, bass and drums come in to help out.

A solid 4 stars for this one.

 Live in Montreux by AGORA album cover Live, 1975
3.60 | 35 ratings

Live in Montreux
Agora Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by toroddfuglesteg

4 stars Soft Machine fans; beware !

If you have purchased all the good Soft Machine albums + a big chunk of their live albums; you need to move on. Preferable to somewhere. I have a good idea where you should move next. To the two albums by this Italian band. This is their live album, which the album title may indicate.

The music here is long and lingering jazz/fusion compositions. They are not that overly technical. Melody and passion is the main theme here. Their sound is very Soft Machine like. They are not copycats by any means. For a start, there is no Elton Dean or even an Elton Dean clone here. But the rest is pretty similar.

The result is an album full of beauty and style. The woodwinds floats on the top of the bass and drums. There are some guitars here too. The jazz here is perhaps too simple and melodic for pure jazz fans. But for a beginner like myself; this album is a very good reason to get more into jazz.

In short; I love this live album. Yes, it is not perfect. But it is good enough for me.

4 stars

Thanks to Tony R for the artist addition.

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