All posts by Angel Romero

Angel Romero has been writing about progressive music and world music for many years. Publications include Eurock (USA), Marquee (Japan), and Nuevas Músicas (Spain). He founded the websites progressiverockcentral.com and worldmusiccentral.org. Angel also produced Musica NA, a music show for TVE (Spain) featuring fusion, avant-garde, world music, new age and electronic artists.

Interview with Diego Fopiani Macias

Diego Fopiani Macias
A few months ago, a new musical group was formed in southern Spain. The band includes members from two of the best known acts in Andalusian progressive rock history, Cai and Iman. The musicians adopted a name that signifies the fusion of their ideas, Caemán. Progressive Rock Central had the opportunity to interview drummer Diego Fopiani Macias, one of the founders of Cai and co-founder of Caemán.

¿When and how did Caemán come to fruition?

It was an idea of our friend Paco Barroso, the person who conceived the return of Iman and Cai to the stage. Both bands played at various concerts in the area, including Festival MUA in Jerez, Festival del Lago Borno, Teatro J. Maria Peman in Cadiz.

Has the band made its live debut yet?

We’ll be performing on October 5 at a club called sala Paul in Jerez de la Frontera (Cadiz).

¿Are you planning any recordings?

We have several pieces in the Works, but we’d like to make sure all ideas coverage into a similar sound, ethnic jazz. That means music from here’ (he laughs).

How would you describe this union of musicians from two of the most important and creative bands in Andalusian rock?

In reality we are four musicians with a great deal of experience, and we don’t pretend to invent anything. Why musicians from Cai and Imán?, simply because of personal and musical chemistry.

Which are the main influences or sources of inspiration for Caeman?

Well, after 30 years, each one of us has followed a different social and musical path, but we all coincide in following a musical direction focused on jazz and ethnic music. When I say ethnic, I mean a little from here in southern Andalusia (not Andalusian rock or flamenco). I don’t like using music categories, but we’ll see what comes out.

How do you compose the pieces?

Iñaki_Egaña
Each one of us composes separately. We write the songs and pass them around via email on MP3, and later we give it shape during rehearsals.

Are you still in touch with former Cai keyboardist Chano Domínguez?

I’m still in touch with him. We see each other a couple of times a year. He lives in Barcelona and I live in Cadiz.

Is there any chance that Chano will return for reunion?

I don’t think so, maybe if Cai got a very appealing economic offer.

Spain’s economy is not doing very well lately. How’s the music scene now in the Cadiz area?

Very, very bad. High profile groups or artists are reducing their size to trios, duos or solo projects so that they can fit into smaller venues. Very poorly paid.

What was the first big lesson you learned about the music business?

If we talk about business, it’s always been a bad business for musicians. But I did learn that as in other professions, you have to withstand the bad moments and reinvent yourself and go with the times.

If someone were to go to Cadiz province for the first time, what places would you recommend?

As you know, the province of Cadiz has some wonderful places. First, I would recommend a trip early in the morning through the hill country (sierra). The second thing would be to have lunch at a venta [restaurant] and eat tapas or traditional courses. I would try local embutidos (cured meats) and stews. The third thing would be to take a walk along the [Cadiz] Bay and watch its beautiful sunset. I’d like to remind you that Cadiz is over 3000 years old. Its monuments are ancient and the area has a lot of history. A lot of civilizations came through this area.

What venues, flamenco social clubs or theaters would you recommend to listen to music?

Well, I can tell you about Cadiz city which is the place I know the best. If you like jazz, we have “Cambalache Jazz” which is 25 years old. Every Thursday, musicians from Cadiz and other parts of Spain have a jam session.

If you want to listen to flamenco, go to La Peña La Perla de Cai.

What restaurants would you recommend?

In Cadiz there are a lot. If you like to eat seafood, you should go to Romerijo at Puerto de Santa Maria. You can get traditional local food at any restaurant in Cadiz.

Editor’s note: Paco Barroso later confirmed that the October 5th concert will be recorded in audio and video formats.

Shifting Psychedelic Themes and Sounds

Mahogany Frog – Senna
Mahogany Frog

Senna (Moonjune Records MJR048, 2012)

Fans of psychedelic progressive rock are in for a treat with
Senna , the sixth album by Canadian space rockers Mahogany Frog. The all-instrumental effort adds a jam or improvisational elements to the mix, with the use of electric guitars, vintage synthesizers, sequencers and a solid rhythm section.

Some of the pieces have a sound that recall early Pink Floyd. However, there is much more. The vintage organs give some of the cuts a jazzy Canterbury flavor. The last four tracks on the album have a more modern feel with ambient space explorations and rockish jams that are closer to current space rock. The last piece on the album is the most exploratory with abundant sound experimentation.

Band members include Graham Epp on electric guitars, MicroMoog, Farfisa organ, Farf Muff, ARP String Ensemble, Korg MS2000, electric & acoustic pianos; Jesse Warkentin: electric guitars, MicroMoog, Farfisa organ, Farf Muff, ARP String Ensemble, Korg MS2000, electric & acoustic pianos; Scott Ellenberger: electric & acoustic bass, Briscoe organ, percussion; and Andy Rudolph: drums, percussion & electronics. Eric lussier appears as guest musician on ‘Aqua Love,’ playing the harpsichord.

Senna presents a superb mix of turbo charged space rock, dreamy psychedelia and shifting sound experimentation.

Buy Senna in North America

Buy Senna in North America

Prog Rock Band Glass Hammer Announces the Release of New Concept Album Perilous

Glass Hammer – Perilous
Glass Hammer’s Steve Babb, Fred Schendel, Kamran Alan Shikoh and Jon Davison return with the much anticipated Perilous, the follow up to 2010’s If and 2011’s Cor Cordium. Glass Hammer is one of the leading progressive rock bands in the United States. In addition to the band, Perilous will feature a choir, The Adonia String Trio and even a new female vocalist.

We have never done a concept album like Perilous,” says Glass Hammer co-founder Steve Babb. “It is essentially one unified vision; one musical idea in thirteen parts or movements. The emotions and ideas expressed in the lyrics ebb and flow with the music; but they have a definite story to tell with a beginning, middle and climactic end.”

Glass Hammer has been in the international spotlight thanks to the addition of its vocalist Jon Davison to legendary progressive rock group Yes. Thanks to Yes, Glass Hammer’s music was introduced to new music fans.

There is no denying the ‘Yes factor’ has increased interest in Glass Hammer world-wide. And that’s fine with us,” said Babb. “But our big news for 2012 will still be Perilous. We set out to make something epic and something that is distinctly Glass Hammer; never afraid to show our influences, but steadfastly maintaining our independence while developing a sound that is undeniably ours alone. Of course, the fans will be the ultimate judge of whether or not we succeeded. I think our long-time fans will really love this album, and hopefully the new fans that have come on board in 2012 will be equally enthusiastic. Perilous is a very ambitious album for Glass Hammer, and here at the end of the production process all of the band members are very excited about the work we’ve done!

Perilous features audiophile mastering by Bob Katz of Digital Domain and a twelve-page full-color insert with art by R. T. Adolfo. Perilous will be available on October 23rd, 2012.

Jakabar’s Buddha Chill

Jakabar – Buddha Chill Vol. 2
Jakabar

Buddha Chill Vol. 2 (Seamless Recordings, 2012)

Buddha Chill Vol. 2 is a collection of chillout electronic music tracks by Italian duo Jakabar. Berny Gardin and Silvano Penzo are the musicians behind Jakabar and are also known artistically as Jakare and Berny.

The album features a mix of dreamy electronic instruments, evocative piano and other acoustic instruments, including natural sounds and voices. Electronic styles include chillout, ambient, minimalist and melodic.

Buddha Chill Vol. 2 was released last July, a great time to relax or meditate while on vacation, listening to mesmerizing and delightful atmospheric music.

Buy Buddha Chill Vol. 2 in North America

Buy Buddha Chill Vol. 2 in Europe

The Alternate Yes Live

Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe – Live at the NEC Oct 24th 1989
Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe

Live at the NEC Oct 24th 1989 (Gonzo Multimedia HST006CD, 2012)

In the late 1980s, progressive rock band Yes had been reduced to an AOR stadium band and broke up into two bands. Bassist Chris Squire kept the Yes name and the other four essential Yes musicians formed Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. Live at the NEC Oct 24th 1989 is a triple disc that contains two CDs of live music that originally came out in 1994 and a 26-minute DVD with behind the scenes footage.

I was never a fan of the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe studio album. Although the Yes luminaries were there, the album was a collection of radio oriented pop and AOR songs. Thankfully, Live at the NEC Oct 24th 1989 contains a mix of the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe songs and quite a few of the best material from early Yes. And just because of this and the video, it’s worth acquiring.

Disc 1 begins with a medley that contains the classic ‘Time and a Word’, my least favorite Yes song ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ and ‘Teakbois.’ This is followed by a series of solo pieces by Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and the always fabulous ‘Long Distance Runaround’ that segues into a vibrant Bill Bruford solo. The original ‘Long Distance Runaround’ featured chris Squires excellent bass. In this occasion, the bass is played by Tony Levin (King Crimson and Peter Gabriel), who does an outstanding job.

Track 6 is ‘Birthright,’ a weaker cut from Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. The rest of the disc features three more exquisite early Yes compositions, ‘And You and I’, ‘All Good People’ and the enthralling masterpiece ‘Close to the Edge.’

Disc 2 opens with the poppy ‘Themes’. It’s an extended version with a great final instrumental part featuring a Bruford-Levin duet. The next two pieces are also pretty weak, from the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album. The magic of Yes returns on track 5 with the popular progressive rock classic ‘Heart of the Sunrise,’ where Levin shows his skill as a bassist. This is followed by the early Yes hit ‘Roundabout’ and the classic ‘Starship Trooper.’ The album ends with the AOR song ‘Order of the Universe.’

In addition to Tony Levin, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe were supported by keyboardist Julian Colbeck and guitarist Milton McDonald.

The DVD contains interesting black and white scenes of the musicians backstage and rehearsing. The video was shot by keyboardist Julian Colbeck.

The booklet includes fascinating collection of photographs, biographies, liner notes and various Roger Dean designs.

Live at the NEC Oct 24th 1989 is a great opportunity to listen to live versions of Yes classics performed in the late 1980s by an unconventional line-up.

Available from http://www.gonzomultimedia.com.

The Heavy Soul Sessions

Djam Karet – The Heavy Soul Sessions
Djam Karet

The Heavy Soul Sessions (Djam Karet HC 015, 2010)

The Heavy Soul Sessions is the most recent album by legendary American progressive rock band Djam Karet. The album reflects the most recent material and current lineup of the band.

Even though the album was recorded in a studio, it is envisioned as a Live-In-Studio recording, without overdubs. Djam Karet has been around for over 25 years and their music is hard to categorize. At times they venture into energetic twin guitar interactions and excellent keyboards (including the beloved mellotron) with a powerful rhythm section. At other times, they sound like classic symphonic rock, and then they also venture into outer space, exploring ambient and space rock. You’ll find all of this in The Heavy Soul Sessions.

The line-up during the recording featured Gayle Ellett on organ, analog synth, mellotron, digital synths; Mike Henderson on electric guitars, ebow and effects; Aaron Kenyon on electric 5-string bass and effects; Mike Murray on electric guitars, ebow and effects; and Chuck Oken, jr. on drums, altered voices.

The Heavy Soul Sessions is an excellent introduction to the music of one of the most interesting and eclectic American progressive rock bands. Djam Karet treats the listener to prog jams, impressive crescendos, skilled musicianship and peaceful meditative ambient music as well.

Buy The Heavy Soul Sessions

Instrumental Virtuosity on Day 1 at Progday 2012

Karcius
Photo by Angel Romero
On September 1st, in the afternoon, I headed to Storybook Farm for the 2012 edition of Progday, the longest running progressive rock festival in the United States. This year Progday has a focus on the jazzier and avant-garde side of progressive rock.

Judging by the license plates I saw, there were quite a few festivalgoers from Maryland, Massachusetts and other states in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Unfortunately, I missed the first act, Ephemeral Sun, from the United States, who performed in the morning.

I was looking forward to listening to Canadian band Karcius, from Montreal, and they didn’t disappointment me. Karcius played a mix of instrumental and vocal tracks.

Simon L’Esperance (Karcius)
Photo by Angel Romero
The group features four great instrumentalists, Simon L’Esperance on guitars, Thomas Brodeur on drums, Mingan Sauriol on Keyboards and Sylvain Auclair on bass and vocals. Simon L’Esperance treated the audience to several outstanding guitar solos using various techniques. The least interesting moments to me were the occasional outbursts of tired heavy rock. Meanwhile, Sylvain Auclair engaged the audience in English and demonstrated his talent as a vocalist.

Karcius was formed in 2001 by Simon L’Esperance, Thomas Brodeur and Mingan Sauriol. Sylvain Auclair joined the band in 2009. Although Karcius’ foundation is progressive rock and jazz fusion, they incorporate pop, world music, classical and electronic music to their sound. Their discography includes Sphere (Unicorn Digital, 2004), Kaleidoscope (Unicorn Digital, 2006), Episodes (Unicorn Digital, 2008) and The First Day (Unicorn Digital, 2012).

While waiting for the next act, I had a chance to check out some of the vendors. Peter Renfro, the original founder of Progday has released some excellent compilations of live performances made at Progday throughout the years, under his label called Proglodite Records. The most appealing is a mammoth 7-disc boxed set titled Progday Encore? These collections are an excellent opportunity to sample live performances by some of the finest progressive rock bands in the past two decades. You can still get the following collections: Progday Encore?, ProgDay ’98, ProgDay 1995, ProgDay 2001.

Accordo dei Contrari
Photo by Angel Romero
The next performance was by Accordo dei Contrari from Italy. This instrumental quartet is currently one of the finest exponents of Canterbury-style progressive rock. Accordo dei Contrari features four outstanding musicians. Keyboardist Giovanni Parmeggiani fascinated the audience with his dazzling solos. The rest of the band includes Cristian Franchi on drums, Daniele Piccinini on bass and Marco Marzo on guitar.

Accordo dei Contrari was founded in 2001 in Bologna, Italy. The idea was to develop original instrumental music. The group operated as a trio with Cristian Franchi on drums, Giovanni Parmeggiani on keyboards and Alessandro Pedrini on guitar. In 2003 Daniele Piccinini joined the band on bass, but soon Alessandro Pedrini left.

Giovanni Parmeggiani (Accordo dei Contrari)
Photo by Angel Romero
The band became a quintet in January 2004 with Cristian Franchi on drums, Giovanni Parmeggiani on keyboards, Daniele Piccinini on bass, Marco Marzo on guitar and Vladimiro Cantaluppi on violin.

The violin experiment only lasted two years. In 2006 Vladimiro Cantaluppi left Accordo dei Contrari. The group recorded Kinesis (AltrOck 2007) as a quartet. Kinesis won the Progaward for the best Italian album of progressive rock in 2007.

Accordo dei Contrari collaborated with Richard Sinclair (former Caravan, Hatfield and the North, Camel). They recorded their second album titled Kublai in July 2010.

I was not able to stay for the last band of the day, legendary Boston avant-garde progressive rock band Birdsongs of the Mesozoic.

Later that night, Memphis band Mind was scheduled to perform at the Local 506 rock club in Chapel Hill. I was not able to go the concert, but I checked out their debut CD Structure (2012). It’s a wonderful recording of progressive rock with symphonic, psychedelic, blues and fusion elements. We’ll be reviewing the album with more detail in the future.

Ambient Imagery

Loren Nerell – Slow Dream
Loren Nerell

Slow Dream (Projekt, 2012)

Slow Dream is the seventh solo album by Los Angeles-based synthesist Loren Nerell. Slow Dream takes the listener into a deep ambient electronic music expedition. As the title suggests, the continuously flowing atmospheres lead you to different places or worlds. As a fan of science fiction, I envisioned a spaceship cruising as an interstellar beacon guides it through space. Or you could imagine deep sea exploration.

For fans of deep space music, Nerell’s music has it all: the rich drones, ethereal soundscapes and layers of electronic atmospheres. The four lengthy tracks (the first cut clocks 28:40) are based on extremely processed location recordings made during Nerell’s trips to mythical Bali.

Loren Nerell is a composer on Balinese gamelan and ambient electronic music. He has six albums prior to Slow Dream: Point Of Arrival (LAN, 1986), Lilin Dewa (Side Effects, 1996), Indonesian Soundscapes (Soleilmoon Recordings, 1999), Taksu (Soleilmoon Recordings, 2003), Terraform, with Steve Roach (Soleilmoon Recordings, 2006), Intangible, with A Produce (Hypnos, 2011).

In addition to his solo releases, Nerell has over 30 years of ethno music studies and performing and recording with gamelan ensembles. Nerell has collaborated with pioneers in the electronic, ambient and new music fields including Steve Roach, A Produce, Kronos Quartet and Paul Haslinger. He has also written music for film, theater, dance, and interactive multi-media.

Slow Dream is a beautiful and mesmerizing album of deep ambient electronic music.

Buy Slow Dream

Thinking About Music in Visionary Ways

Dennis Haklar – Lizard’s Tale
Dennis Haklar

Lizard’s Tale (Floating White Lotus, 2012)

Guitarist Dennis Haklar has put together one of the most beautiful progressive music albums of the year. Lizard’s Tale incorporates the best of creative jazz fusion and progressive rock.

Lizard’s Tale features fiery electric guitar wizardry as well as delightful acoustic guitar work with the addition of outstanding guest vocalists in some tracks and a substantial rhythm foundation.

The album opens with the title track, ‘Lizard’s Tale,’ which is state of the art fusion featuring dazzling electric and acoustic guitar interactions between Haklar and his mentor, guitar legend Larry Coryell. Both guitarists showcase their amazing skills, accompanied by an outstanding rhythm base formed by bassist Mark Egan and drummer Thierry Arpino.

from left to right: Thierry Arpino, Mark Egan, Larry Coryell and Dennis Haklar
‘Low-Lee-Tah’ centers on the mesmerizing mix of acoustic guitars backing a soaring improvisatory electric guitar and Indian-style vocals. This piece includes Haklar and Coryell on guitars, K.S.Resmi on vocals.

The evocative ‘Leap of Faith’ takes a turn towards symphonic progressive rock with Haklar on guitars and synths and former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson on vocals. Anderson and Haklar make pure magic. Haklar plays some of the finest guitar work I’ve heard in recent months.

‘Prelude to Dawn’ features Jon Anderson again using lovely vocals. Larry Coryell returns with more superb guitar interactions and Stefanie Haklar provides backing vocals. Mark Egan joins the interaction with fretless bass backed by the skilled drumming of Arpino.

‘Dawn of an Era’ is a little jazzier presents the same lineup as ‘Prelude to Dawn.’ Mark Egan is given an opportunity to showcase his talent as a solo bass player throughout the piece.

‘A Message’ is a delightful melodic guitar piece by Haklar using overdubbed guitars.

‘Swift Messenger’ is a laid back composition with synth layers providing the background for Haklar and Coryell’s guitars.

‘Angels in Bahia’ goes in a world music direction with acoustic guitar actions by Larry Coryell and Dennis Haklar, accompanied by global percussion performed by N.Scott Robinson.

‘Crossing Over’ brings back Jon Anderson and Stefanie Haklar on wordless vocals, as well as Larry Coryell and Mark Egan’s fretless bass work.

Jaywalkin’ is a magnificent bluesy guitar duo composition with Haklar and Coryell on various types of guitars.

The album ends with ‘Naima,’ another fine jazz oriented piece, featuring the guitar communication between Coryell and Haklar.

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Dennis Haklar has studied electronic, jazz and avant-garde music. At Rutgers university he joined the Improvising Structures Ensemble which was an avante-garde group that performed the music of John Cage, Terry Riley, as well as original compositions. He took a master class with Pierre Boulez at Carnegie Hall. After that, Haklar became a studio session musician and became the chief engineer at Pyramid Rec Studio in New Jersey and eventually began teaching others.

Every once in a while jazz cats would come through,” says Haklar. “After hours we would jam till dawn. I would often organize sessions with fusion players like Chuck Burgi (drums) of Brand X, or Pat Tamminen (drums) and John Thompson (bass).”

Later, he started to work with Jon Anderson, the legendary Yes vocalist. “A few years ago I began collaborating with Jon Anderson over the internet,” adds Haklar. “It has been such a great experience to be able to share ideas and music with someone who I have admired as far back as I can remember. I grew up listening to Yes and Jon.”

Haklar also studied guitar with Larry Coryell. “I always loved jazz as well as prog rock,” says Haklar. “I studied guitar with jazz maestro Larry Coryell over the past few years. He opened my mind to thinking about music in visionary ways.”

Remember the name, Dennis Haklar, and get the album, Lizard’s Tale. It’s a first-rate recording that will appeal to fusion and progressive rock fans.

Listen to samples, buy the CD or MP3s: Lizard’s Tale

Dreamtime Celestina

17 Pygmies – Celestina
17 Pygmies

Celestina” (Trakwerx, 2008)

Celestina is the first volume in a three part concept album series by 17 Pygmies about an ill-fated space flight by a group of astronauts getting high on pure oxygen while exploring a giant gas nebula in the constellation Cassiopeia. Thematically, Celestina is roughly based upon the classic 15th century Spanish tragicomedy novel La Celestina by Fernando Rojas, an enduring tale of love and betrayal

Jackson Del Rey is the musician behind the 17 Pygmies project. He uses Celestina as a musical tribute to all of the classic 1950-60’s era science fiction movies that he enjoys so much. It also reflects Jackson Del Rey’s obsession with late night reruns of the cult science fiction series Twilight Zone.

The music of Celestina is a cinematic mix of dreamy electronic music, symphonic progressive rock and the ethereal sound popularized by the 4AD label with artists such as Dead Can Dance. It’s a mesmerizing world of instrumental and vocal musical beauty and mystery with a sci-fi edge.

The lineup on this recording features Jackson Del Rey (Philip Drucker) on guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals; Meg Maryatt on / vocals, guitars, keyboards; Dirk Doucette on drums, percussion, keyboards; and Jeff Brenneman on guitars, keyboards.

Buy Celestina