Three recordings which tell us that fusion is alive and well, taking inspiration from the past while also searching for new perspectives.
Soft Machine Floating World Live Moonjune Records
Recorded in 1975, Floating World Live is a jazz/rock blast from the past. Britain's popular Soft Machine have been captured on numerous live albums, but the added bonus here is the addition of legendary guitar stylist Allan Holdsworth. The music ridicules the idea of fusion being one dimensional by incorporating a variety of instruments and using very open compositions. Unlike so many rock concerts, where nostalgia rules and familiar songs dominate, this concert is from beginning to end a voyage in which each musician is required to listen up and play within the context of a collective performance.
The celestial vibrations of the opening piece, "The Floating World," with its tripped-out synthesizers and hypnotic rhythm, signal that this is not going to be your typical rock-umentary. Highlights include Holdsworth's lightning-fast, close on ten minutes solo on "The Floating World," Roy Babbington's heavy, fuzz-toned bass solo on "Ealing Comedy," and the nice groove of "The Man Who Waved At Trains " (which also features Holdsworth playing violin). Other memorable moments include the outrageous moog-like synth solo on "North Point," the ten-minute percussion/drum onslaught of "J.S.M.," and the thought-provoking closer, "Penny Hitch."
Sebastiaan Cornelissen and Frans Vollink
One Spirit is the brainchild of the European team of drummer Sebastiaan Cornelissen and bassist Frans Vollink, with a guest list that includes trumpeter Randy Brecker and guitarist Susan Weinert. The music follows a melodic path with highly listenable compositions distinguished by energetic and thoughtful arrangements.
At the core lies a rock-solid bass and drum team carrying along eleven compositions that, with their tight guitar/keyboard harmonies and meaty solos, are reminiscent of fusion recordings from the '70s and '80s. Vollink, who is clearly a student of the great bassist Jaco Pastorius, is a melodic performer who fills space with rapid runs and fretless-like magic (check "Face To Face ). Cornelissen is a lively if at times over-busy drummer, but his cymbal work on the wonderful title tune, as well as on "What's in Store, featuring Randy Brecker on trumpet, is commendable.
The music never ventures over the edge but does feature memorable rock guitar playing by Richard Hallebeek throughout. Cornelissen and Vollink have produced a recording that, like a flowering rose, has both beauty and thorns.
Dancing on the Water
The family team of guitarist Susan and bassist Martin Weinert continues to produce cutting edge music. Dancing On The Water is the "unplugged sibling of 2005's Running Out Of Time and finds the duo reunited with Francesco Cottone, who delivers his stylized, eclectic vocals over the Wienerts' contemporary acoustic music. Susan Weinert is a remarkable guitarist, whose nylon acoustic playing is as stellar as her electric fireworks.
Through the inventive use of pristine guitar textures, prose-filled lyrics and a modern context, the trio constructs a unique marriage of spontaneity and pre-composition. Instrumental lines and vocals are energetic and imaginative, as on "The World Inside, or feature life-based lyrics, like on "Flowers, where the sung lines are interspersed with heavy instrumental interaction and colorful, intriguing solos. One of the most beautiful pieces is the title songthe perfect balance of instrumental and vocal arranging.
Cottone's voice is deeply poetic, skilful in phrasing and spacing, and his performances encourage playful responses from bass and guitar, enhancing the lyrics. The remaining compositions take the listener to the Arctic romanticism of "Iceland, incorporating violin and other new instrumental textures, or lyric reflections on friendship, as on "Back to the Garden. Dancing On The Water traverses aural and mental landscapes.
Tracks and Personnel
Floating World Live
Tracks: The Floating World; Bundles; Land of the Bag Snake; Ealing Comedy; The Man Who Waved at Trains; Peff; North Point; Hazard Profile (Part One); J.S.M.; Riff III; Song of Aeolus; Endgame; Penny Hitch.
Personnel: Mike Ratledge: Lowrey organ, electric piano, synthesizers; Karl Jenkins: oboe, soprano saxophone, recorder, electric piano, acoustic piano; John Marshall: drums, percussion; Allan Holdsworth: electric guitar, violin; Roy Babbington: bass guitar.
Tracks: Me and Freddie; Straight; Official Noisemaker; Bramcote road; Face to face; What's in store; Wrong format; One Spirit; Dirty Gilly; Wise man from the east; Suse's song.
Personnel: Sebastiaan Cornelissen: drums;Frans Vollink: electric bass; Randy Brecker:trumpet (3,6);Susan Weinert:guitar,guitar synth (7); Rob vBavel: fender rhodes,pianet; Lale Larson:keyboards (5,10); Richard Hallebeek:guitar,guitar synth;Martin Verdonk:percussion; Gerard Presence: trumpet (10).
Dancing on the Water
Track Listing:The World Inside; Flowers; Dancing On The Water; E.V.P; Iceland; Miles & Stones; Journey To Inari; Back To The Garden; Blue Horizon; Colours.
Personnel: Susan Weinert: nylon stringed guitar,guitar synths,effects; Martin Weinert: acoustic bass; Francesco Cottone: vocals.