Category Archives: Music

First Half 2017

Some pictures from the first part of 2017.

Highlights

New drums! Jake loves the Kayak! Renovation phase one complete for Valhalla! And the best fucking sunrises and sunsets on the face of the planet!

Steven Wilson

Plaza Live – Orlando – November 2016

Al Di Meola’s Elegant Gypsy & More ~ Final Return to Electric Guitar Tour 2015

I am grateful to be able to see one of my all-time favorite guitarists Al Di Meola play at the Plaza Live theater in Orlando. I first saw him play 39 years ago with Chick Corea’s Return to Forever in Santa Barbara, California. Since I have seen him play with The Rites of Strings (Al, Stanley Clarke & Jean-Luc Ponty), the Return to Forever ‘Returns’ concert in 2008 and in 2010 with his own band.

After suffering from tinnitus from exposure to loud music (which we have in common), Al shifted away from the electric guitar to acoustic in the 1980s. He now enjoys playing electric music again but takes care to protect his hearing using ear plugs and sound barriers that you can in the photos above. Certainly the fastest guitar player I have ever seen – he has a unique sound and style that is all his own. He also seems to be a really great guy and had a blast playing – engaging the audience and expressing his gratitude for his fans that have stayed loyal over the past 40+ years.

Dark Star – 42 Years Later

My childhood friend Robin and I had a band in high school with our friend Marc Baldini. We were known by several names (mostly to us) but the one that stuck was Dark Star. In our senior year the three of us also formed the rhythm section of the high school stage band.

Eddie & Robin - Rhythm Section of our high school band Dark star and the 1972-1973 high school jazz band - 42 years later!
Eddie & Robin – Rhythm Section of our high school band Dark star and the 1972-1973 high school jazz band – 42 years later!

Fast forward 42 years later! When I moved back to Florida last summer Robin and I started practicing again with our eye to reform the band. We have been having fun playing songs by Yes, Allman Brothers, Steven Wilson, Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath!

Cruise to the Edge

I made reservations with my good friends Robin and Laura to ‘Cruise to the Edge‘ this November. We will leave out of Miami on a four night cruise listening to old and new progressive rock bands featuring my all-time favorite Yes.

I last saw them just last summer with Robin in Orlando. It’s a shame that lead singer Jon Anderson has left the band but the singer that they replaced him with Jon Davidson does a a great job as well as having the same first name!

 

New Music

Over the years I’ve found that my musical interests change and evolve over the years. This year I find myself less interested in Modern Jazz and more back to my original roots in Progressive Rock. For those of you unfamiliar with this genre think bands like Yes, King Crimson & Rush.

Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)KSCOPE241

In last months issue of Prog Magazine ran the top 100 Progressive Rock Albums of the year (or there abouts). I had heard of Steven Wilson as the leader of Porcupine Tree but really didn’t know anything about his music. They listed his 2013 release The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories) at #7.

Remarkable is one word for this album. Compelling is another! The musicality displayed here is nothing short of genius. From odd meters & Mellotrons to CSN-like vocals this guy and his band mates are nothing short of phenomenal in my book.

Check him out here.

Musicality

I was talking to a friend recently about music. I made the statement that modern music is largely devoid of musicality and sounds very synthesized and repetitive. That got me thinking about the artists I loe and the ‘musicality’ of their playing.

Several of my long term favorite artists have over the years recorded their compositions with a large orchestra. The results have always been breath-taking to me.

OrkestPat Metheny and the Metropol Orkest

The Metropol Orkest is a jazz and pop orchestra based in the Netherlands, and is the largest full-time ensemble of its kind in the world. A hybrid orchestra, it is a combination of jazz big band and symphony orchestra. In the early 2000s, Pat played several of his best known compositions including First Circle, Are You Going with Me..? and others. While not available on an recording (that I know of), the videos are on YouTube.

Peter Gabriel: New Blood - Live in London [Blu-ray] (2011)Peter Gabriel New Blood

This gem was released several years ago but I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time. With Peter now ion his Front to Back tour, I decided to give it at watch / listen on BluRay. Un-fucking-believable! This orchestra is amazing. I especially love San Jacinto and The Rhythm Of The Heat – both of which brought me to tears. Peter is getting so plump now he reminded me of a monk of some kind!

Jaco Pastorius Big Band
Jaco Pastorius Big Band – Word of Mouth Revisited

Jaco Pastorius Big Band

I just picked this up the other day after listen to a cut of ‘Havona’ on Pandora. It blew me away as does the album. Each song features a well known bassist like Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, Jimmy Haslip and Christian McBride (in addition to Jaco himself). My favorite tracks are the ones he recorded with Weather Report including Havona, Teen Town, Punk Jazz… the list goes on!

51gfBVlUQzLBrown Street – Joe Zawinul and the WDR Big Band

This came out in 2005 and is one of my favorites. Basically the music of Weather Report done big band style. Like the Jaco Pastorius Big Band recording, it’s breath taking to hear the well known passages done with a big band flavor. Joe was always big on the “World Music” scene so the result is sort of a Weather Report meets Big Band meets World Music sort of thing. Also especially meaningful since Joe’s passing several years ago.

Vanilla Fudge

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I was reading the the April issue of Prog magazine and came across an article about the Vanilla Fudge. I hadn’t thought of them for many years.

I remember in the mid sixties when I first heard their rendition of Ticket to Ride. I was fascinated by their cover. I went on to buy a couple of their albums including the misunderstood The Beat Goes On.

cover_Vanilla_Fudge68_1

It had perhaps their best know song – the cover of Donovan’s Season of the Witch.

In the article Jon Anderson of Yes describes how the album influenced their band to do covers including Simon and Garfunkel’s Looking for America. I listened to the album after reading the article and was shocked at how similar parts of it were to what Yes went on and did. I guess they truly were a Prog band and I didn’t know it.

Finally, one of the Albums that I always linked to Vanilla Fudge was Beck, Bogart and Appice. What I remember most was their cover of Stevie Wonder’s Superstitious. Carmine Appice’s drumming on that song in particular really did it for me. Next up on my list.

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Pat Metheny Unity Group Live

I went to see the Pat Metheny Unity Group play at the Ferst Center on the Georgia Tech campus. What a great show! Along with 3 encores the band played nearly 3 hours – for a mere $59. Seems like one of the best deals I’ve had recently.

Pat Metheny with the Pikasso guitar
Pat Metheny with the Pikasso guitar

Pat opened the show solo on the Pikasso guitar. As he started a new song he was joined by Ben Williams (bass), Chris Potter (woodwinds) and my man Antonio Sanchez (drums). They played several songs off of the Unity Band release including Roof Dogs – one of my favorites off that effort. They also did a rendition of James – this was the first time I think I heard Pat do this live. Pat then talked about the transition from the Unity Band to the Unity Group, introduced Giulio Carmassi (on piano and vocals), and launched into the new release Kin(←→). Up to this point the robots had been asleep. Pat now woke them up and they accompanied every song through the end of the show at this point. They played several songs. It seems like a custom now with Pat to play a song with each member of the band individually. Finally, they ended the concert with Have You Heard. Three encores ensued: on the first they played ‘Are You Going With Me’ with Chris Potter on his alto flute, the second song which I can’t remember now and finally solo Baritone guitar from Pat playing a melody including ‘This is not America’.

Antonio Sanchez
Antonio Sanchez

Pat’s playing was his customary brilliance as was Antonio. Antonio has added a new sound to his set – sounded almost like my old ribbon crasher. He has also given up the left foot cow bell for a tambourine – which I have to say is a better mix with the music. I spent about half the time on the binoculars watching (and perhaps wishing I could be) him.

Chris Potter
Chris Potter

The two players that I have much more respect now are Chris and Ben. Chris’s reed work – on tenor and soprano saxes, flutes, bass clarinet and even guitar on Rise Up – is simply exceptional. Ben Williams playing seemed to stand out much more than when I saw him a couple of years ago. It’s so funny watching him – he looks like an overgrown teenager.

Ben Williams
Ben Williams

He did a couple of solos that had me weeping. Giulio’s piano and vocals added a welcome familiar touch to the music but I thought it was interesting he was way back on the stage – sort of like a guest. We’ll see if he continues on with Pat – I certainly like what he’s done for the group – especially the variety of instruments he plays on the recording.

And then there is the Orchestrion. For this incarnation Pat brought along the bottles (my favorite), several bells / xylophone, a large marimba (with the back end lifted up so you could watch it play), assorted percussion and other noise makers.

Pat Metheny with part of his Orchestrion
Pat Metheny with part of his Orchestrion
It really adds a lot of complexity, generally pretty subtle, and a ‘lush’ quality to the tracks. I dig that he’s continued to use it since the Orchestrion album came out in 2010.

I love the sound this new band has – similar in some ways to the old PMG (it was nice to hear Piano again) – but in other ways very different. One thing for sure is that the incorporation of the Orchestrion and Chris Potters woodwinds adds many new textures. In some ways it was more like The Way Up than older PMG efforts. Some of the new compositions have a very new feel to them. That’s what I love about Pat’s music over the years – always evolving but with that immediately recognizable ‘Pat’ sound.

Chris Potter, Giulio Carmassi, Ben Williams, Antonio Sanchez, Pat Metheny
Chris Potter, Giulio Carmassi, Ben Williams, Antonio Sanchez, Pat Metheny

Pat Metheny Unity Group – KIN (←→)

Safe to say die-hard Metheny fans (which I count myself one) have been eagerly awaiting this new release. The last incarnation ― Pat Metheny Unity Band ― was OK but not at the top of my play list (with the exception of Signals (Orchestrion Sketch) which I really dig). This new effort adds music genius Giulio Carmassi to the group. Here’s what he plays on this effort: Piano, trumpet, trombone, french horn, cello, vibraphone, clarinet, flute, recorder, alto saxophone, wurlitzer, whistling, and vocals. If you haven’t seen his amazing cover of First Circle on YouTube check it out: http://youtu.be/RixsSF4Xat0.

Kin (←→)
Kin (←→)

So is this the new PMG? The music certainly brings back some of the feel of vintage PMG but goes way beyond it on some of the tracks. There is a certain lush quality to many of the tracks with high production quality, beautiful melodies and harmonies. I have never heard quite the sound that Antonio Sanchez gets with his cymbals but the sound is truly unique and adds another sound to his amazing repertoire. Chris Potter’s sax playing is fantastic – and I finally get why so many people think he’s one of the best sax players out there right now. While a typical medium for Pat’s playing – in some respects he plays as much as an accompanying role. His strumming – especially on Rise Up – is one of his trademark sounds that I never get tired of.

pat-metheny-unity-group-instruments-2013-jimmy-katzMy favorite track right now is afore mentioned Rise Up. Long (around 12 minutes) it has so many hooks, changes and the incredible full sound that was of the things I liked the best about PMG. While Giulio is no Lyle – he’s damn good and his versatility (together with the Orchestrion) really adds the sublime complexity I so love about PMG too. Sign of the Season is another favorite – especially Ben Williams’ bass solo two thirds of the way through. Simply beautiful.

At a couple of points during the recording I heard distinct references to The Way Up. I found myself wondering is this really the follow up effort to that effort – with a completely new group of musicians (with the exception of Antonio).

I am pretty sure this will be on my player for weeks to come!

Update 3/1

After three weeks of listening to this new release I can say that this is truly a milestone release (aren’t they all?). In many ways it is reminiscent of Letters From Home and especially The Way Up. Standout tracks are Rise Up, Kin and We Go On followed by On Day One and Sign of the Season. Highlights are Antonio’s solo at the end of Kin, Chris and Ben’s duet on Kin, and the melodies of Rise Up and Born.