The Canterbury Scene (and sound) stems from bands who emerged from England's Canterbury region in the late 60s/early 70s to create a wholly new fusion of rock and jazz, forming what would eventually evolve into the progressive music scene.
The following releases represent recordings from the early days of that emergent scene...
SOFT MACHINE: Live in Paris (double CD on Cuneiform Records)
This CD from 2004 features 105 minutes of primo progrock recorded live on May 2, 1972.
The band for this concert consisted of: Elton Dean on saxello, saxophone and electric piano, Hugh Hopper on bass, John Marshall on drums, and Mike Ratledge on electric piano and organ.
Elaborate percussives generate a driving patter that cocoons the listener, isolating them for the imminent concert. Forceful foundations are embellished by clever variations in the rhythms, establishing a lively unpredictability for the tuneage.
Sprightly horns cavort and spill out notes that pepper the undercurrent melody with resolute riffs, adding nimble attributes to the swinging euphonies. A jubilant edge enters the music.
The basslines are never satisfied to remain as a fundamental substructure. They emerge frequently from their support role to drench the stage with their subterranean motif. Rumbling notes hang in the air, vibrating with visceral demeanor and buzzing like bus-sized insects.
Twinkling keyboard chords define a pastoral air that grows increasingly into a fanciful network of engaging quality. There's a particular sound that permeates progrock keyboards, usually codified by their sweet resonance, a tender flowing of notes that is found nowhere else. Combining with the saxophone threads, these keyboards rise to a superb pinnacle of emotional expression that triggers glee deep in the audience's collective gut.
The unification of all the instruments heightens this comfortable ease, producing a harmonic flux that relaxes as it energizes. The concert milieu augments this effect, taking spontaneity and making it an integral aspect of the performance. Unexpected diversions are embraced and pursued with fervor, giving rise to fresh inspiration that enters the creative process and generates further enthusiasm.
Although Soft Machine's studio albums stand as milestone monuments in the evolution of modern jazz, it is in their live performances that the band's potency and promise comes to full fruition.
UNIVERSITY OF ERRORS: Jet Propelled Photographs (CD on Cuneiform Records)
This CD from 2004 features 50 minutes of modern psychedelica.
University of Errors is: Daevid Allen on vocals, Josh Pollock on guitars, vocals, xylophone, piano, and percussion, Michael Clare on bass, and Warren Huegel on drums.
Here we have a temporal blurring, for this CD is a rerecording of the classic album of the same name from the early days of Soft Machine. Although rooted in Daevid Allen's desire to improve on his original guitar licks of olden (for Allen was once a member of the Softs), what resulted was a thorough escalation of the basic template. Lyrical alterations ensued (for, as Allen reminds us in the liner notes, the original lyricist Robert Wyatt "changed the words every time he sang these songs."), lending a modern touch to the historical music.
Allen's vocals are rich, crooning out psychedelic sentiments of yearning and eventual accomplishment. His voice has a unique softness even when entering screech mode. Periodically, Pollock injects vocal strains fed through a megaphone, achieving the disposition of stern announcements whose crucial nature cannot be ignored.
The guitars exemplify the modernization of this music, transforming primal riffs into searing pyrotechnics that blaze with a nostalgic edge. Chords are molded and mutated by controlled feedback. Strummed passages explode with emphatic passion. Chaos appears, only to flow into stunning riffs with effortless ease. Dreaminess is accomplished by numerous glissando passages.
The drums achieve a thrilling bridge between yesterday's simplicity and today's mandatory complexity. Producing more than a durable tempo, the percussives explore frenzies that are gripping and impressive.
The bass lurks like a cunning serpent, entwining around the other chords and cementing discord into fluidity with their honey-like rumble.
The notion of modernizing music from the Sixties is not new, but this album strives to maintain the blurry-headed sentiments of the original while flavoring the sound with a crisp fury that is frequently reminiscent of the grunge movement.
GARY WINDO: Anglo American (CD on Cuneiform Records)
This CD from 2004 features 76 minutes of classic progressive jazz chosen from performances from 1971 through 1981 (with emphasis on the late Seventies), representing a tasty cross-section of material from the career of the lamentably departed Windo.
This music is culled from saxophonist Windo's profuse performances and studio sessions. Featured among these tracks are a diverse selection of impressive musicians, including: Nick Evans, Mongezi Feza, Steve Florence, Roy Babington, Robert Wyatt, Ron Mathewson, Dave MacCrae, Dudu Pakwana, Marc Charig, Frank Roberts, Jane Robinson, Harry Miller, Louis Moholo, Steve Swallow, Ian Bennett, Charlie Brocco, Ed Fitzgerald, Chris Grassi, Al Anderson, Terry Adams, Joey Spampinato, Tom Ardolino, Richard Brunton, Hugh Hopper, and Laurie Allen.
Passion runs high in this music. The melodies are energetic and the performances equally exciting. Controlled chaos is integral as Windo introduces blazing notes into various harmonies, transforming each track into a fervent outburst of freeform exploding from a template of conventionality. Music that is rooted in both the Canterbury and the New York scenes metamorphoses into sonic entities that display loyalty to neither, seeking new territory with a grinning determination.
Windo's contributions to progrock and modern jazz were vital, and this selection of sonic glimpses is a rewarding chronicle of those endowments.
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