Nucleus: Hemispheres (2006)
Any release by these British jazz-rock pioneers is a major event. Hemispheres is no exception, and the musical anthropologists at Hux Records have unearthed some genuine hidden treasures from the Palaeolithic Era of fusion. The recording comprises two different European Nucleus sessions, recorded barely a year apart. But from the very beginning, when the short-lived original lineup was playing live, they were unbeatable, as they were to prove both at the Montreux and Newport jazz festivals. There are four previously unreleased tracks, and the first, "Cosa Nostra," is a lively opener in which Ian Carr displays some nifty trumpet work. "Single Line" is a short but elegant Jeff Clyne bass solo. "Twisted Track" is a beautiful rendition of Spedding's tune, as is "1916," but without Carr's dramatic voice-over on this version.
The first set concludes with the tricky and fast "Persephone's Jive," first heard on Greek Variations, Carr's collaborative album with the late Neil Ardley, and the 1971 set kicks off (now in stereo) with the ever-reliable Nucleus anthem "Song for the Bearded Lady." This piece is what most people associate the band, though it was later revived by Karl Jenkins when he joined Soft Machine along with John Marshall. The third previously unreleased track here is "Tangent," a collective improvisation structed around a descending bass figure, which transmutes into a jam over two chords.
All the musicians playing with Nucleus at this time were highly talented and had already been doing great things in other contexts (with the Rendell Carr Quintet, Tubby Hayes and Graham Collier), but it was the youngest member of the group, guitarist Chris Spedding, who undoubtedly endowed the first incarnation of Nucleus with an extraordinary sound, even "live" in concert, and without the aid of recording studio effects, as this CD attests.
The tour de force of the two sessions is undoubtedly "Snakehips Dream," from the third Nucleus album, Solar Plexus, with typically inventive soloing, first by Carr and then by Smith, with hypnotic comping by Spedding and Jenkins. The album concludes with the slow, never-before-heard 4/4 piece "Hemisphere," which gives Karl Jenkins the chance to play some wonderfully labyrinthine oboe, pre-dating his trademark extended solos on later Soft Machine albums. This is simply an essential album for any Nucleus fan.
Track Listing: Cosa Nostra; Elastic Rock; Stonescape; Single Line; Twisted Track; 1916; Persephone's Jive (Live in Europe, March 1970); Song For The Bearded Lady; Tangent; We'll Talk About It Later; Snakehips Dream; Hemisphere (Live in Europe, February 1971).
Personnel: Ian Carr: trumpet; Jeff Clyne: bass; Karl Jenkins: piano,saxophone,oboe; John Marshall: drums; Brian Smith: tenor saxophone,flute; Chris Spedding: guitar.