Acclaimed jazz guitarist John Abercrombie died on August 22, 2017 after a long illness.
John Laird Abercrombie was born on December 16, 1944 in Port Chester, New York. In a press release, ECM Records’ Tina Pelikan wrote: “He will be much missed, for his sensitive musicality, his good companionship, and his dry humor which enhanced many a session. He leaves behind an extensive discography which will be studied as long as people continue to play jazz guitar.
John made his first recording for ECM, the appropriately-titled “Timeless”, in the summer of 1974, with his lifelong friend Jack DeJohnette on the drums, and Jan Hammer on organ. Over the next four decades, he was active as leader, co-leader and sideman on dozens of ECM projects. A creative writer of jazz tunes, John also loved to play freely as much as he loved to play standards. Many of his albums combine all of these resources, unified by his fluid, silvery tone and improvisational eloquence. In conversation he would speak of his enduring fondness for Jim Hall and Wes Montgomery, primary influences, and also of the liberating examples of Ornette Coleman and Jimi Hendrix; Bill Evans’s sense of lyricism was also of crucial importance to him.
John Abercrombie led a number of very fine bands, and he was particularly proud of his last quartet with Marc Copland on piano, Drew Gress on double bass, and Joey Baron on drums. This quartet released two albums, “39 Steps” and “Up and Coming”, the latter just released in January 2017.
Highlights in his recording career were many and include the Gateway trio albums with Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette, the duo albums with Ralph Towner, the Special Editions albums (with DeJohnette, Lester Bowie and Eddie Gomez), Jan Garbarek’s “Eventyr”, Charles Lloyd’s “The Water Is Wide”, Collin Walcott’s “Grazing Dreams” (where John and Don Cherry play together), Enrico Rava’s “The Pilgrim and the Stars”, Kenny Wheeler’s “Deer Wan” … the list goes on.
John died peacefully at Hudson Valley Hospital outside of Peekskill, NY, in the presence of his family.”
Belgian progressive rock outfit Machine Mass transforms classic songs by the rock music trailblazer Jimi Hendrix into scorching, high intensity jazz-rock fusion pieces. Although all the track were recorded in a studio, the musicians essentially played live, with no overdubs and very little editing.
Machine Mass is led by guitarist Michel Delville and drummer Anthony Bianco. They are joined by a young talented keyboardist named Antoine Guenet.
The album lineup includes Michel Delville on guitar, Roland GR09, loops, stylophone, electronics, samples; Tony Bianco on drums, percussion; and Antoine Guenet on keyboards, synthesizer, acoustic piano.
TriCoolOre – World Without Words (Garden Of Dreams Records, 2017)
TriCoolOre is a great fusion band from Nicosia, Cyprus. The foundation of TriCoolOre is a trio of virtuoso musicians on electric bass, keyboards and drums. On World Without Words they are beefed up with a guest trumpet player.
On World Without Words you’ll find a tasty mix of Eastern Mediterranean and Greek influences combined with progressive jazz fusion and even some Latin American elements on the rhythmic side.
While the first pieces have significant world music influences, the final three tracks lean much closer to jazz-rock fusion and funk jazz.
Throughout the album, TriCoolOre treats the listener to superb bass work, supported by the keyboards and drums. The lineup includes Nikos Doukas on electric bass & loops; Angelos Doukas on keyboards; and Vasilis Vasiliou on drums & percussion.
Guests: Pantelis Stoikos on trumpet; Takis Barberis on guitar; and Dimitris Lappas on fretless guitar.
TriCoolOre delivers a set of finely crafted fusion pieces with a world music edge.
Berklee President Roger H. Brown presented an honorary doctor of music degree to groundbreaking guitarist, composer, and band leader John McLaughlin on July 10, during the commencement ceremony for the graduate programs at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain. McLaughlin also performed as a special guest at the commencement concert at the Palacio de las Artes Reina Sofia.
McLaughlin is a jazz fusion maestro whose extensive work as bandleader is complemented by his work with fellow stars such as Miles Davis, Chick Corea, and Paco de Lucia. He was at the vanguard of the cross-cultural jazz surge of the 1970s, drawing on Indian music influences with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Shakti.
“The role of music is today what it has always been in the past,” he said in his acceptance remarks. “It is the universal language of love, both human and divine. Music is our highest form of collective unity, since in any given concert there will be Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and atheists, all under one roof, enjoying music.”
He added, “Whatever we give to music with love and dedication is repaid a thousand times in ways that defy categorization. To be a musician is one of the greatest privileges.”
At the commencement ceremony, 137 graduates from 30 nations received master of music degrees in music production, technology, and innovation; scoring for film, television, and video games; and contemporary performance with a concentration in production; or Master of Arts degrees in global entertainment and music business.
The ceremony also celebrated the Valencia campus’ fifth year, during which time the campus has hosted more than 1,500 students from 71 nations and granted $4 million in scholarships to graduate students.
In a career that has spanned over 4 years John McLaughlin has been part of or led some of the most important movements in jazz and music. His compositions are now being treated with the reverence of classical music pieces and being interpreted the world over musicians of many varied genres.
John McLaughlin was born January 4 1942 in Doncaster, Yorkshire in England. The guitarist is well known for his eclectic taste in music. McLaughlin was a child when he first fell in love with jazz and the blues and he was just 11 years old when he began studying and playing the guitar.
The 1960s found him playing jazz rock and blues in his native England where he worked with Alexis Korner and Ginger Baker among others before moving to New York at the end of the decade.
McLaughlin had a busy year in 1969. He recorded his debut album Extrapolation and started working with two seminal voices in early fusion: Tony Williams (who employed McLaughlin and organist Larry Young in his trailblazing group Lifetime) and Miles Davis. Never afraid to forge ahead Davis had done a lot to popularize cool jazz and modal post-bop in the past and he continued to break new ground when he introduced fusion on his 1969 sessions In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew both of which feature McLaughlin’s playing. The guitarist was also featured on 1970’s A Tribute to Jack Johnson another Davis gem of the time.
Like bebop in the 1940s and modal jazz in the early 1960s fusion was controversial. Jazz purists felt that rock and funk rhythms had no place in jazz but thankfully McLaughlin disagreed and let his musical instincts guide him.
After participating in Davis’ and Williams’ groundbreaking fusion combos McLaughlin founded an influential group of his own in 1971: The Mahavishnu Orchestra fusion’s first super group. The Mahavishnu Orchestra created music that still has a unique influence today. The band included some of the finest contemporary jazz instrumentalists of the time: violinist Jerry Goodman (later Jean-Luc Ponty), keyboardist Jan Hammer (later Gayle Moran and Stu Goldberg), bassist Rick Laird (later Ralphe Armstrong) and drummer Billy Cobham (later Narada Michael Walden). The Mahavishnu Orchestra combined electric jazz and rock with Indian influences.
By the time Mahavishnu broke up in 1975 it had recorded several classic albums for Columbia (including Birds of Fire, Between Nothingness and Eternity, The Inner Mounting Flame, Apocalypse and Visions of the Emerald Beyond) and gone down in history as one of the 1970’s most influential fusion ensembles.
In 1973 collaborated with Carlos Santana on the album Love Devotion Surrender dedicated to their guru at the time Sri Chinmoy. They covered John Coltrane pieces including the classic “A Love Supreme” (with chanting) and several Mahavishnu compositions.
In 1975 McLaughlin did the unexpected by founding Shakti an acoustic group that employed traditional Indian musicians including tabla player Zakir Hussain violinist L. Shankar (Ravi Shankar’s nephew), T.H. Vikku Vinayakram (ghatam) and earlier Ramnad Raghavan (mridangam). The group released Shakti with John McLaughlin and A Handful of Beauty.
Shakti underscored the guitarist’s interest in India’s music culture and religion. Shakti reminded listeners that McLaughlin was as appealing on the acoustic guitar as he was on its electric counterpart and proved that he wasn’t about to confine himself to playing any one style of music exclusively.
Indeed McLaughlin was heard in a variety of musical settings in the 1980s everything from a brief Mahavishnu Orchestra reunion in 1984 to an acoustic guitar summit with Al DiMeola and Flamenco legend Paco de Lucia in 1982 (The Guitar Trio) to a classical album with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1988. At the same time McLaughlin was also at the forefront of technology using the first guitar synthesizers.
McLaughlin was no less eclectic in the 1990s when his Verve projects ranged from 1993’s acoustic Time Remembered: John McLaughlin Plays Bill Evans (a tribute to the late pianist) to sessions featuring organist Joey DeFrancesco (1993’s Tokyo Live) and an acoustic McLaughlin/DiMeola/de Lucia reunion in 1996.
It was in 1997 that McLaughlin reunited with Zakir Hussain and a reconfigured version of Shakti for several U.K. concerts that were documented on Verve’s two-CD set Remember Shakti. In the subsequent years John has releasedAfter the Rain with Elvin Jones and a career retrospective titled The Promise as well as the live The Heart of Things and most recently Industrial Zen.
In 2005 he created a revolutionary guitar instructional DVD This is the Way I Do It that has met with universal praise. Today he continues on his musical journey by once again delving into yet another musical form that combines all of his past experience with as of yet unlearned knowledge.
‘I’m a guitar player that’s what I am primarily that’s what I’ll always be‘ McLaughlin has been quoted as saying. ‘(And) I’m an eternal learner. I don’t want to stop learning because I feel that no matter what I’ve done; I’m really just beginning again. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning.’
In 2010 he received the reputable German jazzahead! Award. The award honors the activities of artists in the vibrant and distinct musical language of jazz.
In 2015 McLaughlin released Black Light featuring 8 original McLaughlin compositions including a tribute to his departed colleague collaborator and friend Paco De Lucia, with whom McLaughlin had intended to compose an album’s worth of new material just before De Lucia’s untimely passing. McLaughlin returned to acoustic guitar for a tribute to his friend titled “El Hombre Que Sabia”.
The rest of Black Light is electric showcasing McLaughlin’s band the 4th Dimension, “my three favorite musicians,” said McLaughlin. The 4th Dimension is composed of multi-instrumentalist Gary Husband on keyboards and drums, Etienne Mbappe on electric bass and drummer Ranjit Barot.
Seven Secrets brought together the seminal 11th House fusion band, one of the finest jazz-rock bands in the 1970s. Unfortunately, Larry Coryell died in February 2017 so it’s probably the last album Coryell made as band leader. Equally sad is the passing of Alphonse Mouzon, who died two months earlier, in December 2016.
The lineup is impressive, featuring the original 11th House musicians plus Larry’s son, guitarist Julian Coryell.
Fusion sounds great with guitars and keyboards. If you add a brass instrument, the trumpet works the best and this is what you get here. Along with superb solo and rhythm guitar, the album features masterful trumpet virtuosity. And the rhythm section is equally impressive, featuring creative drumming and bass lines.
The material ranges from cutting edge jazz-rock fusion to irresistible funk jazz pieces showcasing the talent of all the musicians.
The lineup on Seven Secrets includes Larry Coryell on electric and acoustic guitars; Julian Coryell on electric guitar; Randy Brecker on trumpet; John Lee on bass; Alphonse Mouzon on drums and keyboards. The only guest is Dennis Haklar on acoustic guitar on one piece.
Seven Secrets is an exceptionally good fusion album by two generations of remarkable musicians.
Italian progressive music band Deelay has announced the release of its self-titled debut album on AMS Records. The Rome-based trio includes Dario Esposito (Il Balletto di Bronzo ) on drums, Federico Procopio on guitar and Roberto Lo Monaco on bass. The three artists are seasoned session musicians.
The band’s style is a mix of progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion, post rock and ambient textures.
Rahul Mukerji – Ma De Re Sha (Rahul Mukerji, 2017)
Ma De Re Sha is a great electric guitar album by Rahul Mukerji, an Indian musician living in the Washington D.C. area. Mukerji combines powerful rock guitar hero licks with jazz-rock fusion, Middle Eastern beats and Indian music influences. He also uses a note bending technique that gives it a South Asian flavor and sets him apart from western guitar players.
The lineup includes Rahul Mukerji on guitars, guitar synth, e-bow, sampling, tabla and drum programming; Bruce Ng on additional drum and percussion programming on all tracks; Ruben Rubio on bass.
Norwegian progressive rock band Needlepoint released a superb, masterfully recorded album titled Aimless Mary in 2015. We talked to guitarist, vocalist, composer and lyricist Bjørn Klakegg about his band.
How and when was Needlepoint formed?
I had a meeting with Thomas Strønen that resulted in a DAT-tape with a lot of improvisation on it. Some years later I asked him if we should start a band, and then he suggested Nikolai Eilertsen as the bass player. Our first recording was as a trio; some of the tunes based on Thomas and me improvising.
Next album David Wallumrød joined us, and then, on our third and last album, Aimless Mary, Olaf Olsen is playing drums.
What does the band name Needlepoint mean?
In the end, Needlepoint is just a name! But there is a story about how I ended up with that name. A little desperate, after a long search, I turned to my own last name to try to find something within it. “Klakegg” means “the frozen peak of a mountain”, and it led me towards the word “point”. This has to do with focus, and to me, in music, honesty towards who you really want to be as a musician is maybe the most important focus you can have….but I have to repeat…it’s only a name…..When I later found out that Needlepoint also meant embroidery, I had to laugh a little bit, before I thought: That’s cool! Embroidery is art too!
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
Maybe melodies? I always just improvise them…as my way of composing…singing strange English words on the go…just trying to let the song go astray without me guiding it! I never give myself a goal in those moments of improvising songs…sometimes, I mean, very often they are very boring…and when they work out, I almost always use the whole improvised melody…
Who can you cite as your main musical influences?
In the old days, before jazz took me away from it: ELP was my favorite band!! Then I started to listen to Keith Jarrett a lot…loved the album he made with Gary Burton. And I loved, of course, Wes Montgomery, Mahavishnu, then Pat Metheny. And I always loved Joni Mitchell….Paul Simon. Nowadays, as I have started to sing myself, I listen mostly to vocal music. Townes van Zandt, Ry Cooder and many more…
The band has been around since 2010. Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.
Our first record is an instrumental. “The Woods Are Not What They Seem” is an album with a lot of improvisation in it, and me having dug up all my fuzz-boxes from the past! I never thought of prog rock when we made it. I guess that record maybe is more likely to be called “jazz rock.”
In the second album, “Outside The Screen”, David Wallumrød joined us in the end of the recording process. My “career” as a singer also started at the end of this process! The album was meant to be another instrumental, but since I almost only listened to vocal music, it was sort of strange not to have vocal elements in my music at all. So I started to sing! For me to start singing was a huge step, and Nikolai was a part of this process. Then I started to make space for vocal melodies into our recorded music, I wrote my first lyrics, not a very common way of making an album, but it worked out.
When we started to record Aimless Mary, this time, all the melodies were ready. The lyrics too. We went to my place in Sweden, on the countryside, stayed there and recorded a week. Wonderful days!
Your sound has elements of psychedelia, especially the organ. What musical instruments do you use?
Me personally? Only guitar, but I have invented a lot of things to go with the guitar: A fishing reel mounted on the guitar, fingerrests for each finger as a slide, a vibe arm pickup picking up one string at a time. Difficult to explain…but all the things I’ve made are meant to make my music better…not meant for fun, even though it may look strange!! I also built a cello-guitar, but I don’t use it so much any longer.
And what effects do you use?
My regular effects, that never leaves my pedalboard are: A klon, a Moog Drive, a Tube Zipper (Electro Harmonix) an old shin-ei fuzz…from now on a Fairfield drive and a Fairfield Echo. And the beautiful quite new cassette-tape delay made by T-Rex….
How’s the current progressive music scene in Norway?
I don’t know so much about it. But I know there are young bands influenced by. I really didn’t know that progressive music was what I was playing until the response of Aimless Mary. I kind of left the back door of the jazz scene and suddenly some of my old influence seeped into my music…starting to sing had something to do with it…the cooperation with Nikolai also was turning our music towards progressive rock… and I had to smile when at last I found myself in magazines with a lot of tattooed guys with big muscles!!
If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?
To be honest; the musicians I play with are such great, musical musicians, so I wouldn’t change them with anyone! But Ry Cooder could join us….but then I would sit down and listen to him!
Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?
Yes! I’m working with a new Needlepoint-album. I have many new songs, but still some work to do before recording it.
I also have another group with three young guys. We are rehearsing new songs, a little more quiet than Needlepoint…more towards pop! No, not really. Just more quiet. Maybe this band would be more suitable for Ry Cooder to sit in with. We’ll try to make an album in the end of this year I hope…the same with Needlepoint.
Jazz, rock and fusion guitar sensation Nicolas Meier will be touring the United States for the first time in June 2017. The band line-up includes Swiss-born, London-based Nicolas Meier on acoustic guitar and glissentar, Pat Bettison on bass and harmonica, and Demi Garcia on percussion.
Nicolas Meier toured extensively in the past with the formative Jeff Beck Group. Meier’s latest solo album “Infinity” is an outstanding recording that crosses rock, jazz and world music boundaries. It was released in October 2016 on Steve Vai’s Favored Nations’ label. The album includes bassist Jimmy Haslip on bass and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta.
June 15 – New York, NY (The Iridium)
June 16 – Pittsburgh, OH (PGH Winery)
June 17 – Cleveland, OH (Nighttown)
June 18 – Chicago, IL (Martyr’s)
June 25 – Denver, CO (Swallow Hill)
June 26 – Denver, CO (Swallow Hill – workshop)
June 28 – San Francisco, CA (Savanna Jazz)
Progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion, ambient electronic music and beyond