Clocks and Clouds is the superb solo album by Finnish multi-instrumentalist Jukka Iisakkila. Although he is best known as an acclaimed classical music orchestra conductor, he has deep passion for progressive rock and jazz-rock fusion as evidenced by Clocks and Clouds.
This remarkable set of instrumental pieces highlights Iisakkila skill as a guitarist, keyboardist and masterful arranger. His influences include Frank Zappa, Pekka Pohjola and various guitar heroes, such as Steve Vai.
Jukka Iisakkila plays practically all instruments except the drums, performed by Ilkka Saarikoski.
Clocks and Clouds is an outstanding electric fusion album with a Finnish twist by a versatile and talented instrumentalist and composer.
Manu Katché – The Scope (Anteprima Productions, 2019)
French drummer, singer, songwriter and composer explores various genres on his ninth album, The Scope. The biggest innovation on The Scope is the addition of various forms of electronica.
The highlights include the superb opening instrumental piece, “Keep Connexion,” where jazz fusion meets funk and West African kora; “Glow,” a track where soulful male and female vocals combine funk jazz with chamber strings; “Overlooking,” a piece where jazz fusion meets chilled electronica and Latin jazz; the exquisite and mesmerizing trip hop meets funk jazz song “Please Do”; the song “Don’t U Worry” where rock, edgy electronica and neosoul are intertwined; and the bluesy “Goodbye For Now.”
On the downside, the prerequisite, annoying hip hop song and a cheesy electropop bonus track.
The lineup includes Jerome Regard on bass; Manu Katché on
drums and vocals; Patrick Manouguian on guitar; and Jim Henderson on keyboards
Guests include Jim Grandcamp on guitar; Kandia Kouyaté on
kora; Faada Freddy on vocals; Jazzy Bazz on vocals; Jonatha Brooke on vocals; Frédéric
Kret on cello; Michael Nguyen on viola; Hugues Borsarello on violin; Kayla
Galland on vocals; and Alexandre Tassel on flugelhorn.
Czech drummer Dali Mraz has released a spectacular new album titled Level 25. Mraz delivers a set of masterful creative drumming performances accompanied by world class collaborators from various European countries and the USA.
Level 25 is a beautifully-packaged wonderland of jazz-rock fusion, progressive rock and classical influences. The masterfully-crafted instrumentation is classic fusion: drums, electric bass, keyboards and guitars, along with some outstanding vocals. Thankfully, there is no smooth jazz saxophone anywhere to be seen.
Musical influences range from Return to Forever, Joe Zawinul and Alan Holdsworth to funk and cinematic symphonic rock.
The list of musicians onLevel 25 is truly impressive: Scott Kinsey (Tribal Tech) on keyboards; Marius Pop on guitar; Anton Davidyants (Virgil Donati) on bass; Martin Miller on guitar; Federico Malaman on bass; Romain Labaye (Scott Henderson) on bass; Junior Braguinha (Virgil Donati) on bass; Lawrence Lina (Sideburn) on guitar; Mike Gotthard (Electric Shock) on guitar; Kolta Gergely (European Mantra) on bass; Veronika Stalder on vocals; Gyöngyösi Gábor on keyboards; Maria Nagyova (Ludove Mladistva) on vocals; Diana Minarovicova (Ludove Mladistva) on vocals; Terezia Jarosová (Ludove Mladistva) on vocals; ato Ivan on bass; Dano Soltis on vibraphone; Elis on vocals; Gergo Borlai on bass; and Valeriy Stepanov on keyboards.
What are your fondest musical memories?
I like to remember any creative process that I had. The moment, when you turn into a child and let your fantasies go. I experience every each creative process like these differently and that’s what is beautiful about the whole thing. Besides, all of this is written down in the music as a memory. When I listen to various moments from the recording process, I remember moods and even fragrances.
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
My music comes a lot from classical pieces. I choose elements, that I like and try to put them together in all ways. The most of the parts that I write are composed behind the piano. It is a royal instrument for me and that’s why the composed parts project into all instruments, even the drums.
How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years from your debut album to your new recording?
In my case, there were two different worlds walking besides each its own line. The drums as an amusement and unlimited toy store, where I could play as many notes as I wanted and where I wanted. And a classical and film music, where I had to capture very subtle emotions and a basic line, almost inaudible. When I was 23 I started to fuse those worlds and finally put them together on Level 25.
You used a crowd funding tool to fund Level 25. How was the experience and how did you attract people to fund it?
I tried it because I was in need to finish the album to its end. I was putting a lot of finances to it and I had to ask people for help when I was short on resources. Thanks to those that had helped me I could finish the album. I was surprised with their interest and with the fact, that we had gained more than 100% of the needed money. It was an honor to me, that DRUMEO had supported me with another amount of money, which had helped a lot.
Of course I asked for lesser amount of money on Indiegogo, than I really needed, to produce the album, because I was worrying that I couldn’t reach it. But it happened and different people from different countries supported me. We have sent the album to more than 40 countries on all continents after releasing.
The album contains high-energy fusion featuring electric guitar and keyboards (which are ones we prefer). Are these the solo instruments you like the most?
As I mentioned before I spend a lot of times behind the piano/keyboard because of the possibilities which are almost endless.
Your album features quite a few excellent musicians from central Europe. Tell us a little about the guests and their background.
I knew some of them as we played together, some of them as friends and some of them became my friends on the internet before we met in person. I tried to put the list of guests together so the result is a really colorful fusion of cultures and to follow a specific concept of the album. We were tuning the details of the album for the whole three years and the number of letters and messages, that we have sent to each other is huge. I would like to record the next album in the studio.
How’s the fusion and progressive rock scene in the Czech Republic and nearby countries?
I guess it’s growing. Fusion doesn’t have tradition here and will take some time till people will start going to such concerts. However, the fact that my music comes out of classical stuff, which has tradition here, could make it easier for me.
Drum kits vary a lot. What drum set do you normally play and what’s your favorite configuration?
I like to use 22″ bassdrum + 2 rack toms + 2 floor toms + 1 gong drum + snare drum of course. If I play my own music, it is better to have a bigger set, to be able to express all the colors and orchestrations. Of course you can play it on a small kit too, but bigger kit means more colorful, in this case.
What is your advice to improve the hands technique?
Hands are a hard time. I tell everyone who asks me to set a workout exercise ideally for an hour and practice every day, just on a snare drum with a towel or a shirt on it.
What is your advice to improve the feet’s technique?
A lot of patience and a similar approach as with hands. I work with these problems a lot and I prepare a new app, which will have various workouts for drummers. It should be released at the end on June.
What is your advice to improve more speed on the drum kit?
If the player realizes that some of the exercises on the kit are almost identical with sports training, it is a key to mastering it. It is good to look for the inspiration out of music business in certain disciplines of the drums.
Who are your 10 favorite drummers and why?
Ronald Brunner – He can always surprise me. Buddy Rich – He managed to fascinate the crowds and he made the drum set dominant in the big band. Todd Sucherman – His precise play and the insight of all the notes, that he uses to play with bands, is incredible. Thomas Pridgen – His directness. Keith Carlock – His sound and flow. Steve Gadd- His life journey and willingful playing. Billy Cobham – His story and approach. Gene Krupa – His ideas and motives. Bernard “Pretty” Purdie – You gotta love him. Virgil Donati – He was a big influence to me with his perception of music and approach to the instrument.
Mainstream media normally ignores progressive music. How do you promote your music?
The whole team and musicians who contribute on the music promotes it on our websites and the music slowly spreads into more fusion and mainly prog communities and that really makes us happy. We do what we love and we are gracious for every feedback. It’s not a mainstream thing, but it’s our happiness. That’s why we put so much energy to it.
If you could gather any additional musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?
There’s a whole bunch of musicians, that I would like to connect with and continue in collaborations. Currently we are working on a video with MohiniDey and I prepare two more projects, so I think that the guests will be a surprise.
Aside from the new album, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?
Yes. I prepare three projects. Two musical and one educational. They will have premiere soon and we want to start to work with vocalists a push our music further again. We look forward to that a lot.
Turkish Cypriot bass virtuoso invited some of the finest musicians in the current jazz and fusion scene to perform on Fusiolicious. Jazz, rock and funk ingermingle with total ease.
The most captivating moments on the album are Ersan’s bass performances, the spectacular electronic keyboard solos by Gary Husband, Karen Briggs inspirational violin and the outstanding guitar work by Bret Garsed, Dean Brown and Mike Miller.
Personnel: Oytun Ersan on bass and guitar; Drums – Dave Weckl on drums; Brett Garsed, Dean Brown and Mike Miller; Gary Husband on keyboards; Gerry Etkins on keyboards; Eric Marienthal on saxophone; Gökay Gökşen on trombone; Utku Akyol on trumpet; Karen Briggs on violin; and Aytunç Akdoğu and Simge Akdoğu on vocals.
Three of the
finest musicians in the northern European fusion scene collaborate with
American guitarist Mike Stern on Jan Gunnar Hoff Group Featuring Mike Stern.
Half of the album are laid back tracks that highlight Stern’s guitar and Jan Gunnar Hoff’s piano. The other half are thrilling, high energy, electric jazz-rock fusion pieces with admirable guitar work and fantastic synth solos and electric piano by Jan Gunnar Hoff.
The synthesizer work is so good that leaves wanting more. His synth style is influenced by two of the greatest fusion keyboardists o all time: Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul.
includes Jan Gunnar Hoff on piano and keyboards; Mike Stern on guitar and
vocals; Per Mathisen on electric and acoustic bass; and Audun Kleive on drums.
John Irvine is an excellent Scottish guitarist and composer inspired
by some of the leading jazz-rock and rock hero guitarists. His music is on the
progressive side of jazz-rock, incorporating influences from maestros such as
Pat Metheny, Joe Satriani, John McLaughlin and Alan Holdsworth as well as classic
progressive rock harmonies.
The guitar sounds are multifaceted, and highly satisfying. John Irvine also plays the bass and keyboards. Guests include Rob Ironside on saxophone; Gwen Kelso on flute; and Rich Kass on drums.
Favorite tracks include “Hymn To The Winter Sun”, full of seductive grooves and memorable guitar work; the captivating “Me And My Idiophone,” where John Irvine uses an impressive arsenal of guitars supported by formidable creative drumming; and the progressive desert blues of “Sahara Yadouin.”
Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana continues to demonstrate why he’s one of the finest guitarists in the jazz and rock scenes. He’s a prolific artist who has recorded and collaborated with some of the biggest names in the progressive jazz and rock fields.
Dewa Budjana has explored various musical genres in past albums. On Mahandini, he incorporates harder edged music. He rocks out throughout the album with a dazzling mix of progressive rock, jazz fusion, Indian vocal percussion (konnakol), transfixing Balinese traditional music and some hard rock.
His colleagues this time are multi-faceted keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani), and extraordinary Indian bassist and rising talent Mohini Dey.
The guests include the unmistakable vocals of rock star John Frusciante (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) on two tracks, fusion guitar virtuoso Mike Stern (Miles Davis, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham, Jaco Pastorius) and the enchanting vocals of Indonesian singer Soimah.
Dewa Budjana’s wide range of guitar sounds and techniques is truly impressive with masterfully-crafted melodies and solos, spectacular shredding and exquisite slide guitar.
Per Mathisen, Jan Gunnar Hoff and Horacio “El Negro” Hernández – Barxeta II (Losen Records, 2018)
The Barxeta series revolves around two exceptional instrumentalists and composers, bassist Per Mathisen and keyboardist Jan Gunnar Hoff. This is state of the art jazz fusion featuring outstanding instrumental performances inspired by some of the finest acts: Return to Forever, Weather Report, Pat Metheny, and others.
On Barxeta, rhythm is also essential. On volume II, Hoff and Mathisen invited Cuban maestro Horacio “El Negro” Hernández, one of the most reputable drummers in the jazz and Cuban music scene. Horacio’s drums are a perfect fit.
Throughout the album, the listener is treated to masterful bass work, captivating piano and superb synthesizer work by Jan Gunnar Hoff, and the creative drumming of Horacio “El Negro” Hernández.
Barxeta is a recording studio in eastern Spain and a great place to realize the ideas of this talented group of musicians. Per Mathisen promises more Barxeta releases in the next years.
Vasil Hadzimanov Band is one of the most fascinating progressive jazz fusion acts in the current international scene. Led by versatile Serbian keyboardist Vasil Hadzimanov, this superb fusion band incorporates jazz-rock fusion, world music elements, funk, and electronica.
Highlights include the opening title track “Lines In Sand,” where absorbing wordless vocals and trance-like drums intertwine with electric piano and cutting edge electric guitar; “San Snova,” a jazz-leaning piece where Vasil Hadzimanov showcases his talent on the acoustic piano; the exquisitely gorgeous female vocals and dreamy string synths on “Lost,” featuring the lovely singing by Marta Hadzimanov that transitions into remarkable guitar work by Branko Trijic; the forward-thinking trip hop set “Kazi” and “Kazi Gradiska;” and the Middle Eastern-inspired fusion track “Freedom From the Past.”
The band includes Vasil Hadzimanov on keyboards; Branko Trijic on guitar; Miroslav Tovirac on bass guitar; Bojan Ivkovic on percussion, vocals; and Pedja Milutinovic on drums
Special guests: Rastko Obradovic on saxophone; Marta Hadzimanov on lead vocals (track 4); and Dean Bowman on lead vocal (track 8).
Roland Bühlmann – Bailenas (Roland Bühlmann, 2017)
Bailenas is an excellent instrumental album by Swiss multi-instrumentalist Roland Bühlmann. He delivers an engaing combination of progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion, electronics and post rock.
The sounds revolves around various electric guitar sounds although Roland Bühlmann also plays hanottere (a Swiss cittern), bass, stones, and shofar (Hebrew horn) along with loops, drums and percussion generated with Beta Monkey Music samples.
Bailenas is a beautifully-crafted album highlight the versatility of the electric guitar.