Spectacular Prog Rock by iNFiNiEN

iNFiNiEN – Light at the Endless Tunnel (indie release, 2016)

“Light at the Endless Tunnel” is the third album by an extraordinary American band that delivers a superb style of forward-looking progressive rock that incorporates rock, jazz and world music elements.

Good vocalists are essential in progressive rock and Infinien has one of the best vocalists I’ve heard in a really long time. She uses jazz inflections similar to the work of Esperanza Spalding. In fact, many times throughout the album, it feels like Esperanza Spalding is singing with a progressive rock band.

Light at the Endless Tunnel takes the listener into a wide-range of directions, blending the familiar with unexpected Middle Eastern elements, Indian vocal percussion, soul and lots more.

The band features extremely talented musicians who showcase their talent with looped guitars, creative bass lines, imaginative drum patters, Ethiopian scales, spectacular guitar solos, exquisite keyboard ambience, epic intensity, and Canterbury-ish keyboards plus an orchestra with real strings and horns. In other words, state of the art progressive rock.

The lineup on Light at the Endless Tunnel includes Jordan Berger on electric and upright bass, background vocals, and additional percussion; Tom Cullen on drums and percussion; Matt Hollenberg on guitars, bulbul tarang, tabla, Moog Minitaur; and lyricist Chrissie Loftus on vocals, piano, keyboards, organ and additional percussion.

The iNFiNiEN Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Salmon features Mark Allen on flute, clarinet; Jordan Berger on double-bass; Mary Bryson on harp; Monique Canniere on violins; Maura Dwyer on violin, cello; Gloria Galante on harp; Christen Hooks on viola; Andriana Markano on viola, violin; Ben Mulholland on French horn; Bob Quaile on oboe; Rebecca Schlappich on violins; and Andrea Weber on cello.

Every year, there is at least one progressive music act that stands out from the rest and Infinien is undoubtedly one of the best. This is one of the progressive rock gems of the past few months. Highly recommended.

Buy Light at the Endless Tunnel at Amazon or Bandcamp: https://infinien.bandcamp.com/album/light-at-the-endless-tunnel

Rising Progressive Rock Band Cellar Noise releases Alight

One of the progressive rock sensations of 2017 is Italian band Cellar Noise. The young group plays symphonic rock inspired by 1970s classic acts loaded with mellotron, organ, and synths interweaved with guitar. Their debut album is titled Alight (Btf – AMS).

Multi-faceted Italian musician Fabio Zuffanti is the artistic director of the project.

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

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