TEN FROM 77 – 4 / FUSION FIVE

10  Steve Khan — Tightrope

I first encountered Steve Khan’s name in the credits for other artists… Steely Dan, Michael Franks, The Brecker Brothers… this was clearly an in-demand guitarist of great talent. So when I found the first album under his own name, it was not at all difficult to take a punt. Opening with the bouncy, smile-making ‘Some Punk Funk’ (listen here), Tightrope is a hugely enjoyable entrée into the world of jazz-rock fusion. This and the next two albums—all boasting fabulous covers by Folon—are some of my favourite LPs in this genre, and if the second and third are just a bit more confident than this debut, that shouldn’t dissuade anyone from walking Tightrope to a safe home in their collection.

9  Brand X — Moroccan Roll

Jazz-rock in the UK is a different beast to the US variety. Here, Brand X explore moods and structures as well as chops and grooves. Titles and cover notes display a peculiarly British humour—the album title is supposed to suggest their second album is ‘more rock and roll’—but it’s not really, despite the brilliant rhythm section of Percy Jones and Phil Collins. There are Indian touches, some gently funky bits, exploratory soundscapes of a progressive hue… and great playing throughout. Consider ‘Disco suicide’ here. Entertaining and engrossing.

8  Pekka — The Mathematician’s Air Display

In probably the first appearance by a Finnish musician in these pages, please welcome Mr Jussi Pekka Pohjola. Part of the progressive band Wigwam, Pekka was also bass player for Mike Oldfield for a period in the 70s (he’s on Oldfield’s excellent live album, Exposed) and produced his own brand of jazz-influenced progressive music with enchanting melodic touches and a sensibility quite different from the familiar UK-US axis. Mike Oldfield plays (very nicely) on this album—which, incidentally, was re-issued under his more famous name at one point—as does Gong percussionist Pierre Moerlen. Mike’s sister Sally contributes wordless vocals to a couple of pieces, making the whole thing rather a Virgin affair. Lots of musical variety in this friendly record. Check out the equations here.

7  Bill Bruford — Feels Good To Me

He entered at the ground floor of Yes, then after 4 ½ years, suddenly moved house to King Crimson at the invitation of Robert Fripp. After Fripp put KC on ice, he was far from idle. During 1975 and ’76, he played (in various capacities) with Genesis, National Health, Gong, Roy Harper and Rick Wakeman. So Bill Bruford’s first solo album was no stop-gap vanity project, but a major step in his development as the drummer’s drummer. The compositions (some Bill’s, some co-written with Canterbury keyboard legend Dave Stewart) are strong, inventive and very entertaining. It goes without saying that the playing is stellar. Allan Holdsworth provides sparkling guitar (as he did for Gong, UK, and others), Jeff Berlin’s bass is limber and sympathetic, occasional vocals by Annette Peacock add interest and variety, as does Kenny Wheeler’s flugelhorn. All in all, an outstanding jazz-rock album. Tackle the diabolical rhythms of ‘Beelzebub’ here.

6  Jean-Luc Ponty — Enigmatic Ocean

It’s an extensive catalogue, that of French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. This album is from his jazz-rock peak; great tunes, exciting playing. The cast is stellar: Allan Holdsworth (again) delivers incendiary guitar, backed up by Genesis touring band member Daryl Stuermer, Aussie born Allan Zavod (ex-Zappa) is on keyboards and of course there is plenty of the electrified fiddle from the leader. The mid-paced ‘Mirage’ is a good sample, including a Ponty solo and a slinky synth section from Zavod. A particularly satisfying progressive jazz fusion LP, Enigmatic Ocean deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Return to Forever’s classic Romantic Warrior. It also provides another verse in a eulogy for the wonderful and extraordinarily versatile Allan Holdsworth (6 August 1946 – 15 April 2017).

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Feature image: ‘No to the forced work’ by Jean Michel Folon. Print available from Passion Estampes on-line gallery.

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Still a couple of ’77 posts to come…

21 comments

  1. Again, some very interesting choices here and not one I am familiar with (not a negative; the opposite, in fact).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As 1537 illustrates below, jazz-rock is not everyone’s cup of fusion, but if anyone had an inclination to test the virtuosic waters, any of these would be a reasonable place to start. (Especially the Ponty and the Bruford).

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely words and pics Bruce. Now to paraphrase you, please don’t make me listen to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your doom will be to be manacled to a heavy metal chair, stoned our of your gourd, and subjected to fifteen hours of Jean-Luc Ponty! Mwah ha ha!!!!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Prefer the Brand X brand(sic) to Steve Khan. Goodsall’s playing just did it for me, especially on Livestock
    Tightrope,while a well-crafted album ( I have it on cassette – I confess!) had too many repetitive riffs that seemed more suited to the hotel lobby.

    Never bought anything by Ponty, even when I was heavily into the whole RTF, Zappa, Cobham kick. Couldn’t quite get into the violin at that stage.
    But on saying that, Enigmatic Oceans is still a good album

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Who knows if you might enjoy Jean-Luc more these days? Goodsall is an outstanding guitarist, that’s for sure. Though I’m not sure I’ve ever disliked an album with Allan Holdsworth on it and his work with Ponty is brilliant.

      Still, I imagine you’d agree that it was a pretty good year for jazz-rock in 1977!

      Like

      1. Indeed it was. And the following year I got to see Stanley Clarke at Eric’s in Liverpool on his first solo tour promoting School Days.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. By my calculations, I think the 1001 has but one Finnish artist (Hanoi Rocks).
    Though I was quite pleased to read today that there is another Finnish artist whose work involves calculations/mathematics!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I purchased a copy of Tightrope on a whim (probably because of the cover art) a few weeks ago. That title track is a fun one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice one! And isn’t Folon wonderful. ‘Arrows’ and ‘The Blue Man’, Khan’s next albums, have his art too.

      Like

  6. And here all I thought Bruford ever did on his own was U.K. Again I learn something! – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to be of service, Marty! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Holy mackerel I want all of these in my house.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fusion Rocks! (And Jazzes)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    My eccentric hair stylist Donnie is friends/business partner with Fripp and has eluded to getting drunk with Bruford. That’s as close as I’ve come to Bill’s solo material. Or Bill, I guess, apart from Roy Harper/Yes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love it when Donnie appears in your kaleidoscopic saga. Bill Bruford’s autobiography is dense, but very enjoyable. He and Mr Fripp are not, er, close.

      This first solo album is very good indeed.

      Like

  9. Just listened to the Brand X a while ago and forgot how much they and Return to Forever sounded. Actually have a few of these on vinyl (surprise). No Khan but know his side work from many albums. Pekka? New one on me. I’m never to far from this stuff. Been doing the Bruford thing a lot lately. All good Bruce. I can’t even come up with a smart ass comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Appreciation of the music trumps any clever remarks, CB! Cheers.

      Like

  10. […] comfortable shapes. The rhythm section of Phil Collins and Percy Jones (see Brand X in the previous post) demands attention through much of side one, particularly on opener ‘No one receiving’, while […]

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  11. Five top-notch albums, including two of my all-time favourites (Brand X and Bruford). Now that’s what I call music!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Knew I was in shared territory, Phil. Fab Fusion!!

      Like

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