Maxophone Releases La fabbrica delle nuvole

Maxophone, one of Italy’s classic progressive rock bands is back with a new album after many years. The new recording is titled La fabbrica delle nuvole (the cloud factory) on AMS Records.

La fabbrica delle nuvole contains progressive symphonic elements as well as fusion. The lineup includes original members Sergio Lattuada on piano, keyboards and vocals; Alberto Ravasini on guitars, keyboards and lead vocals; along with Marco Croci on bass and vocals; Marco Tomasini on guitar and vocals; and Carlo Monti on drums, percussion and violin.

Maxophone is an essential name within the vast realm of Italian progressive rock. Like many other acts, they disbanded after only one self-titled LP, Maxophone that was released in 1975 and became a collector’s item.

Profound Epistrophobia

T – Epistrophobia (Progressive Promotion Records PPRCD044, 2016)

Epistrophobia is the new album by the enigmatic artist named T. The brains behind the project is multi-instrumentalist, producer and vocalist Thomas Thielen. He plays all the instruments. This includes keyboards, guitars, drums, bass, saxophone, sound effects and whatever else.

Stylistically, T borrows from the poetry of Van Der Graaf Generator, the intensity of neoprog bands like Pendragon and others, plus elements of post rock, hard rock and jazz.

Epistrophobia is an introspective album where T explores profoundly the depths and uncertainties of a modern-day individual in the midst of populism, neocapitalism, and digital secrecy.

There is slow paced nuance, sudden intensity, great progressions and epic conclusions in Epistrophobia demonstrating superb progressive rock craftsmanship. Certainly, one of the most interesting progressive music artists in Europe.

Buy Epistrophobia in the Americas

Buy Epistrophobia in Europe

John Scofield Winner of Best Jazz Instrumental Album Grammy Award

Country For Old Men (Impulse!) by guitarist John Scofield is the winner of Best Jazz Instrumental Album at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.

The other finalists were:

Book Of Intuition – Kenny Barron Trio (Impulse!)
Dr. Um – Peter Erskine (Fuzzy Music
Sunday Night At The Vanguard) – The Fred Hersch Trio (Palmetto Records)
Nearness – Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch)

Snarky Puppy Wins Best Contemporary Instrumental Album Grammy Award

Culcha Vulcha (Ground Up Music) by fusion band Snarky Puppy is the winner of the Best Contemporary Instrumental Album Grammy Award at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.

The album features a mix of jazz, rock, funk, soul, Brazilian music and blues.

The other finalists were:

Human Nature – Herb Alpert (Herb Alpert Presents)
When You Wish Upon A Star – Bill Frisell (Okeh Records)
Way Back Home: Live From Rochester, NY – Steve Gadd Band (BFM Jazz)
Unspoken – Chuck Loeb (Shanachie Entertainment)

Culcha Vulcha

Incomplete Rise of the Keyboards

The MiniMoog D

This week I watched a documentary titled Rock’N’Roll Inventions, Rise of Keyboards. I love keyboards so it sounded right up my alley. The first part of the documentary was pretty interesting. The producers gave a brief background of the history of the modular synthesizers, the mellotron and the Minimoog. Keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman appeared several times, providing insightful information.

The early 1970s went by very quickly, with brief references to Keith Emerson and Pink Floyd. This is where it was clear that this documentary was not really focused on keyboards and musicians. Totally ignored innovators like Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul and Herbie Hancock. And, even though Rick Wakeman was featured, the focus was on his work with David Bowie and his solo projects rather than Wakeman’s remarkable work for Yes.

It was also clear that this documentary was very Anglo-centric. While it’s true that German band Kraftwerk was featured, essential German artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, were ignored. Also left out were the highly influential Greek artist Vangelis (who brought electronic music to the masses through Blade Runner and other popular movies), the highly successful French artist Jean-Michel Jarre and Japanese musician Kitaro, who became a worldwide sensation thanks to his soundtrack for the Silk Road TV series.

For some reason producers opted to include punk rock, which has nothing to do with keyboards. And then the documentary became about British pop rather than keyboards. Most of the guests were British pop critics and producers. Very few musicians were interviewed and not all were keyboardists.

The techno era portrayed was all about British pop, ignoring highly influential American acts like Devo.

There were references to a well-known (innovative at the time) keyboard called the Fairlight, but they didn’t bother to show it or explain what it was. Instead, the reference was negative, totally unnecessary. Samplers were scarcely mentioned.

On the other hand, drum machines got a short feature, which is somewhat puzzling because a drum machine is not a keyboard.

Brian Eno was featured in the context of Roxy Music, a darling of pop critics, but his groundbreaking ambient work was overlooked. I heard an interview with Brian Eno on the BBC not that long ago and he’s a fantastic guest. And there was barely any information about Electronic Dance Music, chill out and other keyboard-based electronic styles.

This was a wasted opportunity. We clearly need more documentaries that portray a more inclusive and accurate history of modern keyboards.

Unpredictable Experimental Fusion by MJ12

MJ12 – MJ12

MJ12 – MJ12 (Gonzo Multimedia UK, 2016)

MJ12 is the new jazz-rock fusion project developed by renowned British bassist Percy Jones. Although parts of the pieces have a certain structure, with jazz, rock and funk elements, there is plenty of room for improvisation and sound experimentation.

For bass fans there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy some great bass work. However, the saxophone plays a very important role in this recording.

The name of the band was taken from Majestik 12, an alleged group of 12 scientists and engineers gathered in the late 1940s to investigate UFO’s.

Percy Jones on fretless bass; Dave Phelps on guitar; Stephen Moses on drums; and Chris Bacas on saxophone.

Buy MJ12

Attack of the Martians Expanded

Eccentric Orbit – Attack of the Martians (Eccentric Orbit, 2004/2014)

Although Attack of the Martians was released in 2004, this is a review of the 2014 reissue that includes a 10:12 bonus suite titled The Day the Earth Stood Still. Eccentric Orbit plays instrumental progressive symphonic rock inspired by Science Fiction.

What immediately stands out is that this band is keyboard-focused, featuring two keyboardists and no guitars. The sounds is characterized by abundant use of mellotron, vintage synthesizers and organs; wind-controlled synths; throbbing, heavy Magma-style distorted bass; and drums. There are references to early 1970s Emerson Lake and Palmer and King Crimson as well as traces of jazz and space music, especially on the hypnotic “Forbidden Planet”.

The lineup on Attack of the Martians includes Bill Noland on bass; Madeleine Noland on wind synthesizers, keyboards; the late Mark Cella on drums; and Derek Roebuck on keyboards.

The lineup on the bonus tracks varies a bit. It features Tom Benson on electric violin and guitar synth; Bill Noland on bass; Madeleine Noland on wind-controlled synthesizers; and Rick Landwehr on drums.

Attack of the Martians is an excellent progressive rock album made even better with the addition of a lengthy musical suite.

Buy Attack of the Martians

Lost in the Ghost Light

Tim Bowness – Lost in the Ghost Light (InsideOutMusic, 2017)

Tim Bowness is one of the most exciting artists in the British progressive music scene who incorporates a wide-range of influences to his music. ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ is an exquisite recording where Bowness’ mesmerizing vocals are joined by beautifully-crafted keyboard and acoustic orchestrations along with fabulous guitar, flute and keyboard solos.

Bowness treats the listener to a wonderful mix of atmospheric songs and superb symphonic progressive rock that will bring joy to fans of progressive rock-era Genesis and other 1970s classic acts. For fans of mellotron, this album is a true delight, with some of the finest mellotron work I’ve heard in recent years.

‘Lost in the Ghost Light’ was mixed and mastered by Bowness’ longtime collaborator, Steven Wilson.

The lineup includes Tim Bowness on vocals, backing vocals, synthesizers and rhythm programming; Stephen Bennett on keyboards and additional guitars; Bruce Soord on guitars and backing vocals; Hux Nettermalm on drums; Andrew Booker on drums; Colin Edwin on electric, fretless and acoustic bass guitars.

The impressive guest list includes Ian Anderson on flute; Kit Watkins on flute and waterphone; Steve Bingham on violin; Charlotte Dowding Violin Ensemble; Andrew Keeling provided the string arrangements, flute and acoustic guitars; David Rhodes on guitar; and The ‘unknown’ Pete Smith on Rickenbacker bass.

Buy Lost in the Ghost Light in the Americas

Buy Lost in the Ghost Light in Europe

Geoff Downes Statement About John Wetton

John Wetton in 2013

A statement by Geoff Downes:

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart, that I have to report we have lost my dearest friend, brother, bandmate and long term musical collaborator, John Wetton, who has passed away after a long and tenacious battle with cancer. He will be remembered as one of the world’s finest musical talents, and I for one of many was wholly blessed by his influence. It was a massive privilege for me to have worked with this genius so closely on our numerous projects together over the years. His bass playing was revolutionary. His voice was from the gods. His compositions – out of this world. His sense of melody and harmony – unreal. He was literally a ‘special one’.

But John was much more than a gigantic and unique musical talent. He was a supremely intelligent man, marked with his great observations and wisdom about life; all couched within his wicked sense of humor. The wit was dark and deep, only fully perceptible to those on his same wavelength. I was fortunate enough to be able to be on that wavelength, and discover that we had much in common. Many of his personal life experiences were reflected in his lyrical contributions to the songs. His heart was always in the music. That was John, through and through. It was always about – the music.

As a person, he was fiercely loyal, loving and generous, particularly to those he cared about. But he could be as stubborn as a mule or as gracious as a nobleman, depending on the mood that grabbed him on any particular day. There were some who couldn’t read his brilliant mind and complex personality. Some found him charming, others infuriating. But however you found John, there was no denying his rare talent as a musician and songwriter was second to none.

Both of us having been brought up with similar backgrounds in provincial England, we shared a love of many things – sport, and in particular – football, English church music, current affairs, comedy, literature, you name it….pretty much everything that 2 kids from the sticks were exposed to in our youth.

Our planets seemed to be immediately in alignment when we first met in early 1981. There was a laddish camaraderie that grew between us as we became as close as two non-related brothers could be. He was an avid reader and film enthusiast, something he pursued with great interest. This helped inspire him to some wonderful lyrics to the literally hundreds of songs we composed together. Back then, we immediately hit the ground running as we composed much of the debut ASIA album together and forged a formidable partnership which lasted right up until now. It was a wholly natural process for us, whereby we could knock out 2 or 3 songs in an afternoon. They were always greeted with our gentlemanly handshake and smiles once we had wrapped up another one in the bag.

Above all else though, his passion for life was to the fore. The battles he endured throughout were immense and well documented. Firstly with alcohol, which he so resolutely overcame, then open heart surgery and finally cancer, which sadly was to take his life in the end. He once observed to me that this disease is a “merciless assassin”. Just another example of his perception and the descriptive language that he was so richly blessed with. He took all of these battles on board with great bravery and almost a ‘laissez-faire’ attitude, tinged with his inimitable wry wit.

To say I will miss my him greatly is beyond understatement. He was such an inspiration to me. We were planning another album, but sadly he was not well enough to complete it. I feel heartbroken about this, as I knew John thought it was to be one of our finest albums to date. I remain as proud as ever of our Wetton/Downes writing partnership. I am hoping one day that I will be able to finish it, and that it will be appreciated by all those who loved his and our music, and most importantly, a legacy he would have been proud of.

Life will not be the same without him. And words are not really enough to describe the loss I feel right now, and the many friends and fans all over the World will also be feeling. It is the end of an era for all of us. But we will soldier on – the music of John Wetton needs to be heard loud and clear from the rooftops.

Dearest John, may you rest in peace brother.

X

Geoffrey

Please join me in sending our sincerest thoughts and prayers to Lisa, Dylan and the entire Wetton family at this difficult time.

Progressive Rock Icon John Wetton Dies at 67

Acclaimed rock musician John Wetton passed away this morning, Tuesday, January 31st, 2017, after a long battle against colon cancer.

John Wetton was born on June 12, 1949 in Willington, Derbyshire. He became famous as vocalist and bassist of pioneering progressive rock band King Crimson in the early 1970s. John wetton rec orded three albums with King Crimson: Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (1973), Starless and Bible Black (1974), and Red (1974)]

At the end of the 1970s, Wetton formed progressive rock supergroup UK together with Eddie Jobson (Curved Air, Roxy Music and Frank Zappa), Allan Holdsworth (Tempest, Soft Machine, The New Tony Williams Lifetime and Gong) and Bill Bruford (Yes and King Crimson). UK released two now classic progressive rock albums, UK (1978) and Danger Money (1979).

In the early 1980s, John Wetton was one of the founders of the highly successful FM-radio oriented rock group Asia. The group released the hit song ‘Heat of the Moment’ in 1982.

John Wetton also enjoyed a fruitful solo career, including the album Battle Lines, and formed iCon with Asia bandmate Geoff Downes. In 2006 the original line-up of Asia got together again and toured the world several times to promote four new studio albums.

John Wetton had been planning to tour with Asia for the band’s upcoming US arena tour with rock band Journey and, after the success of his solo Studio Recordings Anthology, continue working on the ongoing re-issue program of his solo albums through his own Primary Purpose label.

Drumer Carl Palmer released the following statement: “With the passing of my good friend and musical collaborator, John Wetton, the world loses yet another musical giant.

John was a gentle person who created some of the most lasting melodies and lyrics in modern popular music. As a musician, he was both brave and innovative, with a voice that took the music of ASIA to the top of the charts around the world. His ability to triumph over alcohol abuse made him an inspiration to many who have also fought that battle.

For those of us who knew him and worked with him, his valiant struggle against cancer was a further inspiration. I will miss his talent, his sense of humor and his infectious smile.

May you ride easy, my old friend.”

John is survived by his recently wed wife Lisa and 18 year old son Dylan, brother Robert and mother Peggy.

The very last studio song of John Wetton’s career was the closing track on the Asia album “Gravitas” and included the lyrics “Think the best of me, till we meet again.”

headline photo: John Wetton – photo by Mike Inns

Progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion, ambient electronic music and beyond