Tag Archives: United States of America

Artist Profiles: Djam Karet

Djam Karet in 1985

Djam Karet was founded in 1984 by guitarists Gayle Ellett and Mike Henderson, bassist Henry J. Osborne, and drummer Chuck Oken, Jr. They chose as the band’s name an Indonesian word (pronounced ‘jam care-RAY) that translates loosely as “elastic time”.

Early Djam Karet was a sort of “jam band” whose live, totally improvised performances on the southern California/Los Angeles area college circuit featured a free-form mixture of guitar-dominated instrumental rock and textural Eastern drone music, as on their 1985 release No Commercial Potential.

Djam Karet’s mode of working and repertoire gradually expanded beyond improvisation to include compositional elements, field recordings, and studio work. In 1987 the band released The Ritual Continues. Two years later, they released Reflections From The Firepool.

In 1991, Djam Karet released two separate CDs at the same time: Burning The Hard City and Suspension & Displacement. Three years later in 1994, Djam Karet released the CD Collaborator, with guests musicians: Jeff Greinke, Kit Watkins, Marc Anderson, Steve Roach, Carl Weingarten, and many others.

As the 20th Century drew to a close, Djam Karet signed with Cuneiform Records, and entered a period of unprecedented creative productivity that only accelerated as the 21st century dawned. It began working on new releases for Cuneiform, initiated a program to repackage and reissue its back catalog on Cuneiform, and began playing live on the festival circuit. Live shows were performed at Day Zero for 1999’s ProgDay (San Francisco); at NEARfest 2001, progressive rock’s premier US showcase; ProgWest 2001 (Claremont) and at 2002’s ProgDay (North Carolina). Throughout the years they have also contributed music to 10 compilation releases, both in the United States and in Europe. Many of those pieces are available nowhere else.

Cuneiform’s first Djam Karet CD came out in 1997, titled The Devouring. In 1998, Djam Karet performed on the West and East Coasts, recordings a live album for Cuneiform titled Live At Orion, released in 1999.

The band began to do more work in the studio, resulting in the 2001 release of New Dark Age (Cuneiform) and also the Limited Edition CD release Ascension.

Around the same time as New Dark Age’s release, and complementary to its work with Cuneiform, Djam Karet launched a series of self-released CD-Rs, reissues and limited edition CDs for its fans. Within two years, the band had self-released numerous CD projects, including recordings made at New York City’s The Knitting Factory, an on-air performance recorded at KCRW-FM, and other archival performances. Out of this creative resurgence arose A Night For Baku, which featured new band member Aaron Kenyon on bass. The title derives from Japanese folklore: the Baku are mythical inhabitants of the dream world, valiant warriors who devour nightmares as the spoils of battle. The CD features Djam Karet using more keyboards and electronics, and collaborating on one track with electronic musician Steve Roach, who worked previously with the band on Collaborator.

This new line up as a quintet created Recollection Harvest, two albums on one CD, divided into two chapters. The first-half is filled with their most melodic and jazzy music released so far, with a strong focus on composition and tight arrangements, mellotrons and soulful guitar melodies. The second-half, titled Indian Summer, features a collection of compositions colored with beautiful acoustic guitars and analog synths, and showcases their more atmospheric side.

In 2009 the band was flown to the Bordeaux area of France to headline the annual Crescendo Festival. To achieve a fuller and more massive live sound, the group acquired new member Mike Murray on guitar, allowing Gayle Ellett to focus more exclusively on keyboards. When they returned to the United States they decided to record The Heavy Soul Sessions in 2010, to better document their current live sound. All of the music was performed live-in-studio without any overdubs and no compressors or limiters were used during the recording process.

In 2011 they formed a new record label called Firepool Records, which has released various albums; Herd Of Instinct (self-titled), Hillmen – The Whiskey Mountain Sessions, and Henderson/Oken – Dream Theory In The IE.

Discography:

Happy Cancer: McMusic for the McMasses (1982)
No Commercial Potential (1985)
The Ritual Continues (1987)
Kafka’s Breakfast (1988)
Reflections from the Firepool (1989)
Burning The Hard City (1991 )
Suspension & Displacement (1991)
Collaborator (1994)
The Devouring (1997)
Still no Commercial Potential (Limited Edition) (1998)
Live At Orion (1999)
New Dark Age (2001)
Ascension New Dark Age Vol. 2 (2001)
Afghan (Live At The Knitting Factory) (2002)
A Night for Baku (2003)
Live At NEARfest 2001 (2004)
…And Still Getting The Ladies (2004)
Recollection Harvest (2005)
25th Anniversary Beginner’s Guide (2009)
The Heavy Soul Sessions (2010)
Ukab Maerd: The Waiting Room (2010)
The Trip (HC Productions, 2013)
Regenerator 3017 (2014)
Swamp Of Dreams (HC Productions, 2015)
Sonic Celluloid (HC Productions, 2017)
The Crows Of Dust Fall At Night (HC Productions, 2019)
Beyond The Long Twilight (HC Productions, 2019)
A Sky Full Of Stars For A Roof (HC Productions, 2019)

Related articles: Interview with Gayle Ellett of Djam Karet


Artist Profiles: Joe Zawinul

Joe Zawinul

Few keyboardists in jazz history matched the creativity and eclecticism of Joe Zawinul. He was a true innovator in the world of jazz and one of the originators of today’s world fusion sounds.

Joe Zawinul was born on July 7, 1932, in Kirchbach, a small village near Vienna. His first instrument was the accordion. At the age of 12, he started to learn the piano, which became his main instrument. After World War II, Zawinul continued his musical education at the prestigious Vienna Conservatory. He moved to the United States in 1959 on a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

In the United States, he inevitably became involved in jazz, playing as a sideman to artists such as Slide Hampton, Dinah Washington, and Cannonball Adderley. He met and collaborated with Miles Davis while the latter was moving into his electric era and was essential in the outcome of Bitches Brew (1970), Davis’ first electric project.

After releasing his debut solo album on Atlantic in 1970, Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter put together one of the most important jazz groups of the 1970s, Weather Report. Drawing on the power and theatricality of rock and R&B, while maintaining allegiance to jazz and the pure spirit of improvisation, they were pioneers of the fusion movement of that decade while carving out their own unique niche.

Even though band members came and went, Weather Report’s spirit prevailed over the course of 17 albums, including the groundbreaking Black Market and the enormously popular Heavy Weather, which included Zawinul’s infectious song “Birdland.” That song, in versions by Weather Report, Manhattan Transfer and Quincy Jones, won separate Grammy awards in three successive decades. Weather Report itself won a Grammy for its live album, 8:30.

In 1985, after he and Shorter finally agreed to go in separate musical directions, Zawinul continued to create adventurous new grooves in the group known as Weather Update and then the Zawinul Syndicate, whose albums included My People in 1996 and the two-CD, World Tour in 1998.

Other special projects included an adventurous solo electronic album, Dialects (1986), and work as producer and arranger on Salif Keita’s landmark album, Amen (1991). Meanwhile, as another side project of his creative life, Zawinul also pursued classical composition, writing his ambitious Stories Of The Danube in 1993 and working with renowned classical pianist Friedrich Gulda. His special solo project “Mauthausen,” released in Europe in 2000, is a memorial for the victims of the Holocaust, and was performed on the site of the Austrian concentration camp after which it is named.

Zawinul had honorary doctorates from Berklee School of Music, and is the official Austrian goodwill ambassador to 17 African nations. In January 2002, Zawinul received the first International Jazz Award, co-presented by the International Jazz Festival Organization and the International Association of Jazz Educators. In 2002, he released the CD Faces & Places.

The live album Vienna Nights came out in 2005.

Zawinul was a pioneer in the use of electronic keyboards, ranging from synthesizers to samplers. He incorporated global sounds into his keyboards, developing cutting edge world fusion.

Joe Zawinul died in Vienna on 7 August 7, 2007.

Discography:

To You with Love (Strand, 1959)
Money in the Pocket (Atlantic, 1966)
Rise & Fall of Third Stream (Vortex, 1968)
Zawinul (Atlantic, 1971)
Dialects (Columbia, 1986)
The Immigrants (Columbia, 1988)
Black Water (Columbia, 1989)
Lost Tribes (Columbia, 1992)
My People (ESC, 1996)
Stories of the Danube (Polygram, 1996)
World Tour (ESC, 1997)
Mauthausen – Vom großen Sterben hören (ESC, 2000)
Faces & Places (ESC, 2002)
Joe Zawinul & The Zawinul Syndicate – Vienna Nights – Live at Joe Zawinul’s Birdland (Heads Up, 2005)
Brown Street (Heads Up, 2006)
75 (Heads Up, 2008)

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