Needlepoint is yet another superb progressive music band from Norway. The Oslo-based group plays a mix of progressive psychedelic rock and jazz-rock with Canterbury influences.
Some of the songs have a well-structured form, featuring charming folk-rock-style lead and harmony vocals, memorable electric organ work and remarkable bluesy/psychedelic guitar solos. Other times, the band goes into jazz-rock territory with exquisite Canterbury leanings and some jam moments.
The lineup on Aimless Mary includes Bjørn Klakegg on guitar, vocals and additional bass; David Wallumrød on clavinet, organ, Prophet 5, percussion and background vocals; Nikolai Hoengsle Eilertsen on bass, additional guitars, background vocals and percussion; and Olaf Olsen on drums.
Needlepoint was formed in 2010 as a trio. Earlier albums include The Woods Are Not What They Seem (BJK Music, 2010) and Outside The Screen (BJK Music, 2012).
Four of today’s finest progressive music artists got together to record an improvised album titled The Stone House. Although the music was not written or rehearsed, it’s not free jazz. Instead, Wingfield, Reuter, Stavi, and Sirkis treat the listener to remarkable electric musical explorations where the four musicians engage in an ongoing creative dialog.
The four instrumentalists constantly cross musical boundaries, injecting ambient electronics, prog rock machinations, psychedelia, jazz-rock and beyond.
The collaboration features British guitarist Mark Wingfield, multifaceted German musician Markus Reuter on Touch Guitars’ AU8 model; bassist Yaron Stavi; drummer Asaf Sirkis.
The Stone House demonstrates the fascinating results of unconstrained musical exploration.
Acclaimed progressive rock guitarist and composer Steve Hackett has a new album titled ‘Summer Storms & Rocking Rivers’ (Esoteric Antenna EANTCD21065) recorded with Hungarian band Djabe. It’s set for release in March 2017.
The two disc set includes a DVD featuring a concert in Bratislava in July 2011. It also contains a bonus documentary, the piece Jacuzzi / Overnight Sleeper (recorded in November 2013) with the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra and the promotional video of the song Tears for Peace.
“Summer Storms and Rocking Rivers” includes Steve Hackett solo material such as The Steppes and Ace of Wands, together with progressive rock-era Genesis material such as Firth of Fifth, Blood on the Rooftops, In That Quiet Earth and Los Endos.
Two of Europe’s finest eclectic jazz guitarists continue their series of collaborations with a double album titled The Colours of Time. The set is divided into two separate formats. The first album is a series of solo original works composed by either Pete Oxley or Nicolas Meier.
The material on disc 1 showcases the virtuosity of the two musicians along with their talent as composers, delivering a set of exquisite guitar duets. The two guitarists use a wide range of guitars and guitar-playing techniques. In addition to the usual solo and rhythm guitar styles, there is an ongoing guitar interchange throughout the album as well as beautiful moments where the guitarists use a beautiful plucking method that makes the guitar sound like a mesmerizing harp.
Although jazz is the foundation on disc 1, Oxley and Meier inject many other influences such as Gypsy jazz on “Waltz for Dilek”, Turkish influences on “Princes’ Island”, Pat Metheny-style guitar synth on “In Restless Repose”, North African/Middle Eastern sounds on “Sahara” and more Pat Metheny influences on “First Day of Spring,” although this time with Oxley on electric guitar.
On Disc 2, the original compositions become more rhythmic and electric with the addition of bassist Raph Mizraki and drummer Paul Cavaciuti. Pat Metheny’s influence continues on the opening track, “The Followers.” There is also a delicious ballad that perfectly crosses over into smooth jazz territory.
Some of the best tracks on this disc are the ones with a Middle Eastern flavor, such as “Riversides” and “Fethiye Crossroad.” Lastly, I need to mention a fabulous piece titled “Tales” that has instant classic appeal, with memorable bluesy solos.
The lineup on The Colours of Time includes Pete Oxley on nylon string, steel, electric, synth, jazz, and electric 12 string guitars; Nicolas Meier on nylon string, steel, acoustic 12-string, fretless nylon, glissentar, and jazz guitars; Paul Cavaciuti on drums; and Raph Mizraki on acoustic and electric basses.
The Colours of Time introduces the listener to a remarkable guitar dialog between two extraordinary guitarists.
Larry Coryell, one of the finest jazz fusion guitarists in the United States passed away on February 19, 2017 of natural causes.
He was born in Galveston, Texas on April 2, 1943 although he grew up in the Seattle, Washington area. His mother introduced him to the piano at the age of 4. Coryell later switched to guitar and played rock music while in his teens.
By 1965 he had moved to New York City and started taking classical guitar lessons. He was inspired by 1950s rock and roll, jazz guitarists and 1960s rock bands.
In the late 1960s he started fusing jazz with rock and psychedelic music. In late 1969 he recorded “Spaces”, the album for which he was most well-known. It was a spectacular guitar celebration that also included fellow guitarist John McLaughlin who was also exploring the territory between rock and jazz at the time. The album featured Miroslav Vitous on acoustic bass and Billy Cobham on drums.
In 1973, Coryell formed seminal jazz-rock band Eleventh House. The group released Introducing Eleventh House with Larry Coryell (1974), Level One (1975), Aspects (1976) and Larry Coryell and the Eleventh House at Montreux (1978).
Throughout the next decades, Coryell worked with some of the best jazz and rock musicians, releasing numerous recordings.
Coryell’s most recent albums were Night Of Jazz Guitars (In & Out Records, 2010), Montgomery (Patuxent Records, 2010), Duality (Random Act Records, 2011), The Lift (Wide Hive Records, 2013), Heavy Feel (Wide Hive Records, 2015)
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.
Nathan East – Reverence (Yamaha Entertainment Group, 2017)
Nathan East is one of the finest American bass players. Reverence is his second album and he showcases his talent by delivering an outstanding set of pieces covering a wide-range of styles.
The album opens with Earth Wind and Fire’s classic song “Love’s Holiday.” The track features Philip Bailey on vocals. Bailey was one of the original singers of Earth Wind and Fire. He provides wordless and background vocals, while the lead melody is carried forward by the bass.
The next track is “Lifecycle,” which is an excellent up-tempo piece that mixes bass-fueled funk jazz with Earth Wind and Fire-style brass, wah wah, strings and Latin jazz vocals.
“Elevenate” is a laid back piece with East’s colleague Chuck Loeb (Steps Ahead and Fourplay) delivering exquisite guitar interplay with Nathan East’s bass.
The Earth Wind and Fire theme continues on track 4, with “Serpentine Fire,” another classic song by the famed funk band. This cover was recorded with East’s brother Marcel in 1991 along with Eric Clapton on guitar and Phil Collins on drums. It was digitally remastered and three Earth, Wind & Fire members added parts: Philip Bailey on vocals, Verdine White on additional bass, and Ralph Johnson on percussion.
Track 5 is a gospel song titled “Feels like Home” featuring vocals by Yolanda Adams.
Stevie Wonder gets the next tribute with a cover of his hit “Higher Ground,” turned into an instrumental song with Nathan East’s fabulous bass replacing the vocals.
From funk to traditional jazz swing on “The Mood I’m In” with Nikki Yanofsky on vocals.
Track 8 is Nathan East’s version of one of the most recorded songs, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Here, Nathan’s 16-year-old son Noah takes the lead on piano.
One of the highlights of the album is the fantastic fusion track titled “Shadow”, featuring the great maestro Chick Corea on keyboards, including his signature synth solos. Even though this track is longer than the rest, it gets faded away and leaves you wanting much more.
Track 10, titled “Pasan” heads towards smooth jazz, with a mix of bass, backing vocals and woodwinds.
Another favorite is the decidedly enjoyable, feel good funk jazz song “Why Not This Sunday” featuring Ruben Studdard on lead vocals, interacting with East’s bass.
The album ends with a short and beautiful solo bass piece.
Nathan East is an experienced and highly reputable bass player who has recorded with well-known rock, R&B, pop and jazz acts. As a solo artist, his career started in 2014 with the self-titled recording Nathan East (Yamaha Entertainment Group), followed by a remarkable collaboration with Bob James titled The New Cool (Yamaha Entertainment Group, 2015).
He is a founding member of acclaimed contemporary jazz quartet Fourplay and has more than 2,000 album credits to his name and several GRAMMY-winning songs including “Get Lucky,” “Footloose” and “Change the World.”
Renowned French violin maestro and jazz-rock fusion pioneer Jean Luc Ponty and his band will touring the United states in 2017. The ensemble will present the “Atlantic Years” tour starting in late May .
“We’re calling it ‘The Atlantic Years’ tour since I am touring with my band from the late 70’s – 80’s with whom I recorded several albums for Atlantic Records,” says Jean Luc Ponty.
The Jean Luc Ponty Band includes Jean Luc Ponty on violin; Wally Minko on keyboards; Jamie Glaser on guitars; Rayford Griffin on drums; and Baron Browne on bass.
2017 US tour dates:
May 30 – Portland, OR – Aladdin Theater
May 31 – Seattle, WA – The Neptune
June 01 – Eugene, OR – John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts
June 02 – Los Angeles, CA – The Saban Theater Beverly Hills
June 04 – San Francisco, CA – Regency Ballroom
June 05 – Santa Cruz, CA – Rio Theatre
June 07 – San Juan Capistrano, CA – The Coach House
June 08 – Agoura Hills, CA – The Canyon
June 09 – Scottsdale, AZ – Center For the Arts
June 10 – Las Vegas, NV – Allante Casino
June 14 – Boulder, CO – Boulder Theater
June 16 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater
June 17 – Austin, TX – One World Theatre
June 20 – Chicago, IL – City Winery
June 21 – Detroit, MI – Chene Park
June 23 – Niagara Falls, NY – Seneca Niagara Casino
June 24 – Saratoga Springs, NY – Performing Arts Center
June 25 – NYC – B.B. King
British composer and multi-instrumentalist Steve Hughes delivers Part Two of his progressive rock epic titled Once We Were. Steve Hughes was the drummer of two well-known British progressive rock bands, Big Big Train and The Enid.
As in Volume One, Steve Hughes plays a wide-range of musical instruments. Although he’s known as a drummer, he also plays various keyboards, bass, guitars, and provides most of the lead vocals.
Stylistically, Steve Hughes composes pieces where some of the vocals parts lean towards pop, while the instrumental sections are state of the art symphonic progressive rock with new elements that make the music sound more modern, especially with his use of electronics.
Steve Hughes’ lyrics on Once We Were – Part Two shows his concern about misguided politicians, propaganda and other socio-economic issues.
The opening track is essentially a well-crafted pop ballad. Progressive rock arrives with the powerful ‘Life’s a Glitch’, where the vocals are more spirited, drums are muscular and there’s a rich mix of keyboards and guitars, including notable keyboard and guitar solos.
‘Propaganda: Part Two’ is a short instrumental passage, with some East Asian influence in the form of melodies and gongs.
‘They Promise Everything’ builds up very nicely, incorporating an impressive array of keyboards, guitars and percussion in grand symphonic fashion. The unrelenting waves of keyboards and guitars is spectacular. Hughes is a masterful arranger and easily moves through various tempos and atmospheres.
One of standout pieces on the album is track 5, ‘There’s Still Hope’. Here, the vocals are truly fascinating, a nicely-shaped spoken word call and response exercise between male and female vocals. In another section, Hughes uses vocoders brilliantly. There are also exquisite electronic ambiances, vibrant percussive segments, and some of the best guest female vocals.
Track 6, ‘She’s’, begins as a melancholic poppy song with a Beatles flavor and nostalgic harmonica. It quickly progresses into full blown epic progressive rock with outstanding guitar and keyboard work that furiously mixes symphonic rock and jazz-rock.
‘Spider on the Ceiling’ is a short transitional ballad. It leads into the other magnificent epic titled ‘Clouds’. This profoundly satisfying (mostly instrumental) composition mixes classic 1970s-style progressive rock with Alan Holdsworth-style fusion guitar, soaring violin, and cutting edge electronics. Here, Steve Hughes demonstrates he’s one of the most talented acts in the British progressive rock scene.
The album concludes with ‘One Sweet Word’, a laid back folk-rock song with great overdubbed vocal work and ambient sounds.
Steve Hughes plays most of the instruments, including drums, percussion, keyboards, bass, guitars, and vocals. Guests featured: Angie Hughes and Katja Piel on vocals; Maciej Zolnowski on violin; Keith Winter and Dec Burke on guitars; and Richie Phillips on saxophone.
Guitar virtuoso and innovator Al Di Meola is set to perform on February 7, 2017 at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, North Carolina. Al Di Meola talks about his upcoming concert:
You’ll be starting the Elegant Gypsy Tour 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. What’s the repertoire you’ll present there?
As this is the 40th anniversary of Elegant Gypsy we revisit the hay day of fusion with songs from Elegant Gypsy (obviously), Casino but also some Return to Forever pieces and newer compositions.
Which musicians will accompany you on this tour?
Philippe Saisse who was in my first solo band will be back on keyboards, I have my friend over 30 years Gumbi Ortiz on percussion, Luis Alecia on drums, Elias Tona on bass and violin prodigy Evan Garr on violin
What guitars will you be playing?
I change between Gibson and PRS. For the acoustic set in between, I play a Conde Hermanos cutaway.
You collaborated with Paco de Lucia in the past. Is there any chance you’ll collaborate with the new generation of Spanish flamenco players?
Yes, I do and I often include Flamenco players in my shows in Spain. But so far I never found the magic again that Paco and I shared when we were playing.
In addition to your new album Elysium, what other projects are you working on?
I’m working on new music, I’m writing in my studio in Miami and will be recording later in the year.