Electronic Brewing in the Ardennes

Ron Boots & Synth.nl - Refuge en verre
Ron Boots & Synth.nl

Refuge en Verre (Groove Unlimited, 2010)

Refuge en Verre is collaboration between two of the leading synthesists in The Netherlands: Michel van Osenbruggen (a.k.a. synth.nl) and Ron Boots. Refuge en Verre combines exquisite melodic and downtempo atmospheric electronic music with trance-like pulsating loops generated by sequencers.

This is the first album the two musicians made together. “We first met at a Synthesizer Meeting organized by the Dutch ‘Synth Forum’ in 2006 where we started talking about synthesizers and synthesizer music and found out that we shared the same fascinations,” says Ron Boots.

Michel van Osenbruggen and Ron Boots became good friends and so did their wives and children. Refuge en Verre was conceived in Belgium while on vacation. “In 2010 our wives decided to rent a house together in the Belgian Ardennes for a weekend,” says Boots. “We both brought a synthesizer and a laptop and tried to make music together for the first time and that went very well actually. We recorded quite some tracks there. After the weekend we decided that we should release this music on CD. So we started on finishing the music together when we got back in our own studios.”

The title of the album, Refuge en Verre, comes from the name of the house the two families rented in the French-speaking part of Belgium. “We got the inspiration for the music we played from the beautiful nature in the Belgian Ardennes and the nice time we had with our families over there,” adds Boots. “Most of the tracks were played live as improvisations in the temporary studio that we created in the rented house.”

Refuge en Verre is an inspiringly detailed electronic music work that showcases some of the best talent in the European space music scene.

CD

Digital version

Fusion for Tony Williams

Holdsworth, Pasqua, Haslip, Wackerman - Blues for Tony
Holdsworth, Pasqua, Haslip, Wackerman

Blues for Tony
(Moonjune Records MJR029, 2009)

This 2-CD set brings together four of fusion music’s heavy weights: guitarist Allan Holdsworth, keyboardist Alan Pasqua, bassist Jimmy Haslip, and drummer Chad Wackerman. Blues for Tony was recorded during a 2007 tour which celebrated the work of legendary 1970s fusion band the New Tony Williams Lifetime. Holdsworth, and Pasqua were members of the the New Tony Williams Lifetime in the 1970s. for this project they recruited Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip and reputable jazz and rock drummer Chad Wackerman.

Throughout the two discs, the four musicians exhibit their technical virtuosity and improvisational ability as they navigate the waters of electric jazz, rock, blues and funk.

Disc 1 contains ‘Blues for Tony’ which is led by Pasqua’s signature keyboard work. The second track is ‘The Fifth.’ This is the only piece composed by drummer Chad Wackerman and he adds swing to the mix. ‘It Must Be Jazz’ was co-written by the 4 musicians, who contribute multiple variations and unexpected turns. The rest of disc 1 contains pieces by Allan Holdsworth: his classic ‘Fred’ from the New Tony Williams Lifetime’s 1975 album Believe It, the guitar solo on ‘Guitar Intro’ and another classic titled ‘Pud Wud’ from the solo album Sand.

Disc 2 begins with more focus on the electric guitar by way of the Allan Holdsworth composition titled ‘Looking Glass’, from his 1985 album Atavachron. The next three pieces turn the attention to Pasqua’s outstanding keyboard work. He penned the solo piano piece ‘To Jaki, George and Thad’, the Mahavishnu-influenced ‘San Michele’ where Pasqua and Holdsworth provide fascinating interplay, and ‘Protocosmos.’ The album ends with ‘Red Alert,’ a funk fusion piece composed by Tony Williams Lifetime bassist Tony Newman which appeared in the 1975 album Believe It.

Drummer Tony Williams was one of the pioneers of jazz rock fusion. He played with Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, and many other great musicians. His bands The Tony Williams Lifetime and The New Tony Williams Lifetime were musical nurseries for many musicians who later became well respected soloists and sessions musicians.

Blues for Tony is an outstanding set of virtuosic live performances by Allan Holdsworth, Alan Pasqua, Jimmy Haslip, and Chad Wackerman, four of the finest fusion musicians in the current music scene.

Progressive Rock Musicians Who Left Us in 2011

Gary Moore
Obituaries of progressive rock, fusion and electronic music artists who left us in 2011.

Renowned British guitarist Gary Moore died Sunday, February 6th, 2011 while on vacation in Spain. He was 58. Gary Moore was a member of progressive fusion band Colosseum II, which was formed in 1975 by the former Colosseum drummer and leader, Jon Hiseman. With Colosseum II, Moore recorded the albums Strange New Flesh (1976), Electric Savage (1977), and War Dance (1977). He was also a member of Thin Lizzy and recorded a series of successful blues albums.

Welsh guitarist and singer Micky Jones died Wednesday, March 10th, 2011. He was 63. Jones was one of the founders of Welsh psychedelic and progressive rock band, Man. Man combined psychedelia, progressive rock, blues jams and country-rock.

Rita Guerrero
Mexican vocalist Rita Guerrero died March 11th, 2011 of breast cancer. She was 47. Rita Guerrero was the lead singer and one of the founders of iconic Mexican progressive band Santa Sabina. The group played music described as a mix of Gothic rock, jazz, progressive rock and experimental. Santa Sabina released 7 albums: Santa Sabina, produced by Adrian Belew (1992), Símbolos (1994), Concierto Acústico (1994), Babel (1995), MTV Unplugged (1997), Mar Adentro en la Sangre (2000), Espiral (2003), and XV Aniversario En Vivo (2005).

Argentine bass player Lalo de los Santos died March 25th, 2011. He was the bass player for Pablo el Enterrador, one of Argentina’s best known progressive rock bands. Lalo de los Santos played with Pablo el Enterrador from 1973 through 1980. The band recorded its debut album, Pablo el Enterrador, in 1979, but it was not released until 1983.

Italian keyboardist Alberto Bonomi died Sunday, June 26th, in an automobile accident. He was 48. Bonomi was the keyboardist for the well-known Italian progressive fusion band, D.F.A.( Duty Free Area). The group released Lavori in Corso (“Work in Progress”) (Scolopedra, 1997), Duty Free Area (Mellow Records, 1998), Kaleidoscope (Moonjune Records, 2000), Work in Progress – Live (Moonjune Records, 2001), 4th (MoonJune Records, 2008).

French composer and keyboardist Francois Cahen died July 13, 2011. He was a leading figure in French avant-garde music and was Magma’s first piano player. With Magma he recorded on Magma (1970) and 1001° Centigrades (1971). Cahen and former Magma saxophonist Yochko Seffer formed the legendary band Zao. With Zao he recorded Z=7L (1973), Osiris (1975), Shekina (1975), Kawana (1976), Live! (1976), Typhareth (1977), Akhenaton (1994). Cahen later worked with Ethnic Duo & Ethnic Trio.

Ron Van Eck
Dutch bass player Ron Van Eck died July 20th, 2011. He was one of the founders of legendary Dutch progressive fusion band Supersister. The group’s debut album, Present From Nancy, came out in 1970. Next came To the Highest Bidder (1971) Pudding en Gisteren (1972). The next album, Iskander (1973), was more jazz-rock oriented. It was a concept album based upon the life of Alexander the Great.

Paolo Raciti, masterful keyboardist of Italian symphonic-progressive rock band Eris Pluvia died August 3rd, 2011. He was 46. Eris Pluvia was one of the finest Italian progressive rock bands of the 1990s. The Genoa-based band released Rings of Earthly Light in 1991. The most recent album was Third Eye Light (2000).

German electronic music pioneer Conrad Schnitzler died August 4th, 2011. He was an experimentalist and was also a member of two seminal German electronic music bands: Kluster and Tangerine Dream. Schnitzler studied under Stockhausen and composed more than 90 albums of solo recordings. He completed his final work, “00/830,” just four days before his death.

Betty Thatcher died August 15, 2011. She was an English singer-songwriter, who wrote most of the lyrics for the UK progressive rock band Renaissance. Some of her most memorable pieces include “Prologue”, “A song for all seasons” and “Novella.”

David Bedford
Classical music composer and multi-instrumentalist David Vickerman Bedford died October 1st, 2011. David Bedford worked with Mike Oldfield during the 1970s. He orchestrated the symphonic version of Tubular Bells for the album titled The Orchestral Tubular Bells, released in 1975. He also composed various classical/progressive rock concept albums, including Star’s End (1975) with Mike Oldfield and Chris Cutler, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1975) with Mike Oldfield and The Odyssey (1976) with Mike Oldfield and Andy Summers.

American keyboardist Moogy Klingman died in New York City, November 15th, 2011.. Klingman was the original keyboardist for Todd Rundgren and his progressive rock band Utopia. He played on 10 Todd Rundgren albums, as well as several Utopia albums. Klingman was 61.

French Prog Band Eye 2 Eye Releases Concept Album The Wish

Eye 2 Eye - The Wish
One of the finest progressive rock acts in France, Eye 2 Eye, has a new album titled The Wish on the Musea label. The Wish is the group’s third title and their first concept-album, inspired by Oscar Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray”.

Eye 2 Eye was formed in 2003 by former ADN musicians, Philippe Benabes and Didier Pegues. Their first album was One In Every Crowd (2006) and After All… (2009). Their style was initially influenced by 1980s Neoprog and Pink Floyd.

The current line-up includes Djam Zaidi (Transperception), Amirouche Ali Benali on guitars, Philippe Benabes on keyboards, Elise Bruckert on violin, Aymeric Delteil on bass and Didier Pegues on drums & keyboards.

Chilled Out Erik Wøllo

Erik Wøllo - Silent Currents: Live at Star's End

Erik Wøllo

Silent Currents: Live at Star’s End (Projekt 262, 2011)

This 2 CD set presents the deep ambient facet of Norwegian guitarist and synthesist Erik Wøllo. His studio albums normally mix ambient sounds with engaging melodies and rhythms. However, on Silent Currents he performs two extensive pieces of superb space music with a bigger focus on drones.

The two pieces are extracted from two separate live radio broadcasts for the iconic Star’s End electronic music radio show in Philadelphia. Each of these performances, Silent Currents 1 from 2002 and Silent Currents 2 from 2007 are each a disc-long uninterrupted composition with several sections.
This alternate universe of Erik Wøllo’s music presents ambient music performed on guitars, guitar synthesizers and analog and digital synthesizers. The mesmerizing pieces flow seamlessly and morph into dreamlike episodes, evoking endless space, with downtempo atmospheres, soaring guitars, spatial explorations and bubbly sequences.

I have been kindly invited to perform at Star’s End multiple times,” says Wøllo. “To perform ‘on the air’ late at night in the radio studio contributed to these unique and inspired performances. In this setting, it felt very natural to do some downtempo and quiet, floating ambient music. Thus, this release is more abstract and chilled out than I usually present on my studio albums. Some elements of the music were improvised; I brought various sound excerpts, loops and atmospheres, and performed and composed these into long continuous zones, all done in real time.”

Silent Currents is Wøllo’s 15th album. In 2010 he released Gateway on the Projekt label and last June, Wøllo released The Road Eternal, which is a collaboration with deep space ambient electronic music master Steve Roach.

Star’s End is one of the longest-running radio shows of ambient music in the world. Since 1976, this program has provided the Philadelphia broadcast area with weekly midnight electronic music adventures.

Over the years Star’s End has hosted many live to air concerts, usually with artists fresh from The Gatherings Concert Series stage,” says Chuck Van Zyl, host of Star’s End. “The act of playing a second, more intimate concert after a public event provides a sense of summation to a powerful experience. But the unique radio venue also offers musicians a space for discovery, as they turn from focused music for The Gatherings community to atmospheres for an audience each in their own dream space. Erik Wøllo enthusiastically embraces this idea using his on-air concerts to explore moods and zones only found in the late hour and unconventional situation. There is an interesting energy arcing through Silent Currents: Erik descends into himself, realizing music completely in the moment. The resulting new works are wonderful expressions of ambience, texture and this artist’s potent sense of drama as Wøllo creates space, then fills it with ever-evolving sound.”

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic to Perform at ProgDay 2012

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic - Photo by Claire Folger
ProgDay has announced that American band Birdsongs of the Mesozoic will be performing at the 2012 edition of the festival. “Progday is very pleased to host a long-overdue performance by these masters of contemporary prog.” ProgDay 2012 will take place on Saturday, September 1st, and Sunday, September 2nd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Birdsongs is an instrumental quartet created in 1980 as a more classical/New Music, keyboard-oriented side project of Boston’s famed post-punk rock band, Mission of Burma. Desiring an outlet for his piano music, in 1980, Burma’s guitarist Roger Miller embarked on collaboration with keyboardist and studio producer Erik Lindgren, the former composer and keyboardist of Moving Parts, the Boston art-punk band that had spawned Burma.

To play a short, live set of Birdsongs’ music for the sampler’s 1981 record release party, Miller and Lindgren invited “tape-manipulator-turned–guitarist” Martin Swope, Miller’s co-member in Burma, and keyboardist Rick Scott to perform. Although originally assembled only for a one-shot performance, the quartet became Birdsong’s regular working lineup. The four skilled composer/musicians operated Birdsongs as a composers’ collective, with each member contributing pieces and having equal say in the group’s artistic direction.

Roger Miller left the Birdsongs in 1988 on very friendly terms. Since 1989, when Birdsongs of the Mesozoic signed to DC-based Cuneiform Records to release its 4th recording, Faultline the band has released over 10 albums and earned well-deserved, international recognition for its innovative, cross boundaries sound.

ProgDay is the longest running progressive rock festival in the world. For more information, and to hear music from this year’s bands, visit www.progday.net.

Progressive Rock Icons Chris Squire and Steve Hackett form Squackett

Steve Hackett
Two legendary progressive rock musicians, guitarist Steve Hackett and bassist Chris Squire have formed a new band and have recorded a new album. The Squackett album is scheduled for release on Esoteric Records (which is part of Cherry Red Records), around May 2012.

Chris Squire performed on Hackett’s solo albums Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth and Beyond the Shrouded Horizon. In turn, Hackett participated in Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir (2007). It is unclear if this new project will go in a progressive rock direction.

Steve Hackett was a member of Genesis during their progressive rock stage, from their album Nursery Cryme (1971) through Wind and Wuthering (1976). After leaving Genesis, Hackett recorded several progressive rock solo albums and later formed the Adult Oriented Rock (AOR) band GTR with Steve Howe (Yes). He has recorded blues and rock albums in recent years. His most recent work is the double Beyond the Shrouded Horizon. It contains a mix of beautiful acoustic pieces, blues, pop and progressive rock tracks.

Chris Squire has been part of Yes from the very beginning. He has released two solo albums, Fish Out of Water (1975) and Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir (2007). Chris Squire’s most recent recording is Fly From Here, with the new Bugglesfied version of Yes.

Acclaimed German Progressive Rock Album Reissued by Tempus Fugit

Ines - Hunting The Fox
Hunting The Fox (Tempus Fugit), a much-admired debut album by female keyboardist and composer Ines is now available as a digital download or CD on demand in some territories.

The album was originally released on CD in 1994. In 2010, Hunting The Fox was remastered and is now available worldwide for the first time.

In 1994 “Hunting The Fox” surprised the world of progressive rock with Ines Fuchs’ masterful keyboard work in the fine tradition of renowned keyboardists such as Martin Orford (IQ), Matthias Ulmer (Anyone’s Daughter) or Tony Banks (Genesis).

Aside from Ines on keyboards, the album features her husband Hansi Fuchs, Chris Bianchi d’Espinosa and Massimo “Max” Michieletto from Asgard on guitars, as well as a few studio musicians.

Hansi Fuchs sings a few of the songs. Other pieces were sung by Italian singer Kikko Grosso (Asgard), and four tracks were sung by Harald Bareth, the former lead singer of Swabian grand masters of progressive rock, Anyone’s Daughter.

Harald Bareth’s contribution was a real surprise to the progressive rock scene as he is one of the most popular singers in this genre, and since the 1984 Anyone’s Daughter live album he hasn’t sung anywhere else. Harald’s four songs on this album – “Water”, “Earth, Sun and Moon”, “Meet Me on the Mountain”, and “Innocent Girl” – are some special highlights on this throughout well done neo-progressive album. Those four songs quickly achieved iconic status among the many Anyone’s Daughter fans around the world.

Hunting The Fox is one of the leading German neo-prog albums from the mid-1990s. Ines also released Eastern Dawning (1996), The Flow (1999), and Slipping Into the Unknown (2002).

Digital version (North America)

CD or digital version (Europe)

It Was Only a Dream

Omni - Sólo fue un sueño
Omni

Sólo fue un sueño (self released, 2007)

If you like the music of British progressive rock band Camel, you’ll really enjoy this recording by Spanish band Omni. Based in southern Spain, in the Jerez and Puerto de Santa Maria area, Omni is heavily influenced by the Camel sound of the Mirage and Snow Goose era. Omni plays instrumental pieces, using guitars, keyboards and flute/saxophone that intertwine and create seductive melodies, combining fine symphonic rock with jazz excursions.

Sólo fue un sueño (it was only a dream) was released in 2007. Apparently, the band is still around, but this is the latest release so far. At the time, Omni was led by guitarist Michael Starry, who seems to have American background, but has been living in Spain for many years. The rest of the band includes bassist Jesús Cabral, keyboardist Alberto Márquez, Juan Rios on rhythm guitar, Pepe Torres on flute and sax and Ismael Colón on drums and percussion.

Although the Camel influence dominates the album, Omni also incorporates influences from Andalusian music. On the lengthy piece El tren de Rota, they add Andalusian melodies and beats and recall the sound of the legendary Iman, Califato Independiente.

Omni’s previous recordings include Tras el puente (1990) and El vals de los duendes (2001).

Sólo fue un sueño is a fine album of classic progressive rock by one of the finest bands in Spain.

Music Video: Bruce Arnold Plays Runway on Double Neck

Bruce Arnold
Guitarist Bruce Arnold provides a masterful demonstration of jazz rock fusion on his Music Man double neck and Asher slide guitar along with Kirk Driscoll on drums and Jerry DeVore on electric bass. The performance was part of the New York University (NYU) Summer Guitar Intensive.

Bruce Arnold was born in 1955 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA. He is an author, composer, educator and guitarist residing in New York City. He explores the applications of 20th century classical theory in contemporary forms, such as Rock and Jazz, creating a unique compositional and improvisational sound. As a guest artist Arnold has toured Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Japan, Mexico, Russia and the United States.

His performance and recording activities include work with a wide array of styles. He has played with such diverse musicians as Stuart Hamm, Peter Erskine, Joe Pass, Joe Lovano, Lennie Pickett, Randy Brecker, Stanley Clarke, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Absolute Ensemble under the baton of Kristjan Järvi.

Bruce Arnold’s recording credits include over twenty five CDs and DVDs (on Muse-eek Records, MelBay Recordings, Truefire and other labels), ranging from the standard jazz repertoire to free improvisation to the reinterpretations of classical music with the ensemble Spooky Actions. His compositions are published by Muse Eek Publishing, and MelBay Productions.

Bruce Arnold plays “Runway.” from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Arnold’s theoretical works have explored the use of Pitch Class Set Theory within a improvisational setting. He is also written more than 60 music instruction books covering Guitar Pedagogy, Ear Training and Time Studies. He is the director of guitar studies at New York University and Princeton University as well as the creator of the New York University Summer Guitar Intensive. He has taught at New England Conservatory of Music, Dartmouth College, Berklee College of Music, New School University, and City College of New York.

He is a totally dedicated guitarist who likes to practice for at least 3 hours a day. He also likes to work with the computer program SuperCollider to achieve his various effects.

His latest CD is Heavy Mental (Muse-eek Records, 2010)

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