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Musica Urbana biography

Jazz-rock, spanish traditional music, contemporary classical music, symphonic, big band music, film music. all of this and more was fused by the spanish Musica Urbana in their unique approach to progressive music. From the city of Barcelona, they belonged to the catalan school of prog-rock called also "Rock Laieta" together with bands like ICEBERG, FUSIOON, COMPANYIA ELECTRICA DHARMA or GOTIC, which was characterized by leaning more towards jazz-rock, in contrast to the other main spanish school from Andalucia which leaned more towards flamenco with bands like TRIANA, IMAN CALIFATO INDEPENDIENTE, CAI or ALAMEDA.

The band was formed in 1976 by composer and multi-instrumentalist Joan Albert AMARGOS, who teamed with bassist Carles BENAVENT who had played in Maquina! and who would later on gain international fame as bassist for spanish guitar master Paco De Lucia and also for playing with Chick COREA. Actually nearly all the ex-members from the '71 lineup of MAQUINA! were recruited for MUSICA URBANA but two of them keyboardist Enric HERRERA and guitarist Emili BALERIOLA quit after some rehearsals, the remaining members being BENAVENT, guitarist Lluis CABANACH and drummer Salvador FONT. The place of second keyboardist was filled in the first album by Lucky GURI from BARCELONA TRACTION but in the form of collaboration, not listed as a real band member.

MUSICA URBANA released 2 magical instrumental albums, both of them masterpieces in my opinion. The self-titled debut from 1976 is already very special with its mix of jazz-rock and spanish traditional music, with dense multi-intrumentation including wind instruments and castanets, the folklorical hand-percusion instrument played by flamenco female dansers.

The second album Iberia from 1978 is even more unique, with a lot of contemporary classical music, some big band music elements and again a very varied multi-instrumentation, making it an amazing listening experience even if one may wonder if this can be called prog-"rock" after all, maybe "prog-classical-fusion" would be a better term since there is not much rock in it. In this album guitarist Lluis CABANACH was replaced by Jordi BONELL and two new members Matthew SIMON and Jaume CORTADELLAS joined on wind instruments.

Serious stuff, really worth checking out, this band will delight those proggers who appreciate a highly eclectic approach to fusion with strong classical music influe...
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MUSICA URBANA discography

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4.49 | 18 ratings
Musica Urbana
4.50 | 21 ratings

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Iberia by MUSICA URBANA album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.50 | 21 ratings

Musica Urbana Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Gerinski
Prog Reviewer

5 stars 2 years after their eponimous debut Musica Urbana released their 2nd and last album Iberia. The musical concept remained the same: fusing Jazz-Rock with Classical and Traditional Spanish music, and this album deepens in that direction but with a bit less Rock and more Contemporary Classical music in the mix. I wrote about this outstanding band's history in the bio and in my review of their debut album so I am not going to repeat here.

By the time of this 2nd album guitarist 'Luigi' Cabanach had left the band and was replaced by Jordi Bonell, and they got re-inforced by Jaume Cortadellas playing assorted flutes and Matthew Simon playing trumpets, flugelhorn and onoboe.

All the compositions are again by band leader Joan Albert Amargós with one track co- written with bassist Carles Benavent.

The opening 'En Buenas Manos' (In Good Hands) is the track co-written with Benavent (and curiously dedicated to Benavent himself) and features monster fretless bass showing why Benavent was sometimes called 'the Spanish Pastorius' and multi-layered winds contributing to the melodies. It is the most purely electric Jazz-Rock track in the album.

'Invitation au 'xiulet'' (dedicated to German contemporary composer Paul Hindemith) starts as Jazz-Rock but soon reveals the Contemporary Classical music elements and the middle section makes us feel like we are in a broadway musical with complex and deep arrangements.

''Pasacalle' de Nit' (Pasacalle is a lively style of traditional Spanish music which was also explored by foreign composers such as Salieri, Brahms or Stravinski) is dedicated to Stravinski and is the shortest track at 3m09s, featuring mandolin by Benavent, as from here the music becomes more obviously Classical and less Jazz-Rock.

'Pasodoble Balear' (dedicated to Spanish Classical composer Manuel De Falla) is again rooted in Traditional Spanish music (Pasodoble being another traditional Spanish music style) but arranged in a Prog-Jazz-Rock fashion. The abundant brass gives sometimes a big-band feel, we have also a pure Jazz section, but there are so many twists and turns in the style that any attempt to classify this music becomes doomed. Simply brilliant is the only thing I can say.

'Vacances Perdudes' (Lost Vacation) is the longest track at 12m09s and is again an amazing amalgam of styles, Contemporary Classical music and film music elements abound, but in the middle and final sections we get again energetic Jazz-Rock stuff with amazing bass work by Benavent, the track is full of constant changes and yet it manages to maintain a sense of coherent unity. Music composition and performance at its best, these guys were really one of a kind.

Those wanting their Prog to have a clear link to Rock may have trouble with this band and this album in particular, but if you are a Fusion lover or an open-minded progger able to appreciate Classically oriented composition, you have to listen to this band (both their albums), they are trully outstanding.

Another 5 stars without hesitation.

 Musica Urbana by MUSICA URBANA album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.49 | 18 ratings

Musica Urbana
Musica Urbana Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Gerinski
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Super-Classical-Fusion by this short-lived but highly influential spanish band.

Band leader Joan Albert Amargós was a classically trained musician and after the Musica Urbana prog adventure in the mid 70's his career has been dedicated to contemporary classical music, mainly as composer and as arranger for many artists. His "Northern Concerto for Recorder and Orchestra" was nominated for the 2007 Grammy in the category of Best Composer of Contemporary Music.

But in 1975 he was 25 years old and the music world around his generation was Prog and he wanted to have his own take at it, so he set to assemble a supergroup (within the limited scope of the local spanish scene, that is) to play the ultimate Fusion, a real blend of Jazz, Rock and Classical music. He recruited 5 ex-members of Maquina!, one of the most acclaimed Catalan bands in the early 70's, but keyboardist Enric Herrera and guitarist Emili Baleriola quitted after a few rehearsals, while bassist Carles Benavent (who would later play with Chick Corea and extensively with Paco De Lucia), guitarist Lluis "Luigi" Cabanach and drummer Salvador Font stayed for the project. Amargós was a multi-instrumentalist and a very fine keyboardist himself but in order to get everything right he also recruited the great pianist Lucky Guri from Barcelona Traction as guest for their debut album and live tours.

Musica Urbana fused Jazz-Rock with traditional Spanish music and Classical music and quickly became regarded as the most serious and professional catalan band of the time. The album cover already gave some hints with excerpts from the scores of several operas and zarzuelas, but there is also a lot of genuine electric Jazz-Rock in here as well. The instrumentation is dense, with assorted keyboards, winds, strings, clavinet and the distinctive castanets, the hand percussion instrument played by flamenco female dancers, played here by Amargós sister Aurora which enhance the spanish feel. The result is a highly eclectic type of Jazz-Rock with strong Classical music influences, played with outstanding skill. Their virtuosism is not shown via ultra-fast scales or solos but by the precision and deep musicality they constantly display and the thoroughness of the arrangements.

All the compositions are by Amargós except one track "Font" by bassist Carles Benavent, and all of them are amazing, with similar spirit although each one has its personality, full of tempo changes, fills and breaks, shifting from energetic electric Jazz-Rock to gentle Classical atmospheres to mediterranean popular music.

This is a Fusion masterpiece and I have no doubts in giving it the top rating.

Their 2nd and last album Iberia is even more eclectic with an even stronger contemporary Classical music component, some big-band music and what we could call film-music, another masterpiece in my opinion even if still more detached from conventional prog-rock.

Thanks to evolver for the artist addition.

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