Arnaud Quevedo & Friends – Double Album Review

Arnaud Quevedo & Friends - Electric TalesArnaud Quevedo & Friends, Electric Tales, 2020
Tracks: 
Electric Overture (1:32), The Dark Jester (7:24), The Electric Princess Part 1 (9:06), The Electric Princess Part 2 (9:02), Entering… (Impro) (4:11) Mushi’s Forest (6:21), Flower Fields (Impro) (3:26), The Hypothetical Knight (6:24), Hope (5:07), Electric Dreamer (3:49)

Arnaud Quevedo & Friends - RoanArnaud Quevedo & Friends, Roan, Bad Dog Promotions, 2021
Tracks: Aube (1:33), Prologue (4:33) Découverte (8:48), Curiosité (2:26), Féerie (3:22), Dépassement (3:17), Nostalgie (1:56), Ryoko (12:33), Fardeau (1:51), Chrysalide (4:41), Métamorphose (5:50), Épilogue (3:30)

For the second in my series of reviews of French artists (see number 1 here), we have Arnaud Quevedo & Friends, a guitar-centered jazz fusion outfit based in La Rochelle, France. The group centers around Arnaud Quevedo, a guitarist and music teacher at Conservatoire La Rochelle. Bassist Noé Russeil joins Quevedo on both records, as does double bassist Éva Tribolles. Both also provide vocals. Lucille Mille plays flute and sings on Electric Tales, Julien Gomila plays saxophone on that record. There is a much larger cast on Roan, composed of more stringed and blown instruments. While Quevedo plays drums on Electric Tales, that duty is expertly handled by Anthony Raynal on Roan

One of the primary differences between the two records is the lyrics on Electric Tales are in English while they are in French on Roan. I prefer the French vocals because they sound more natural to both the music and for the singers. Some of the English lyrics, like on “The Dark Jester,” are really difficult to understand. 

Jazz is the name of the game here, but it remains tied to the rock world throughout. Electric Tales periodically reminded me of The Tangent, another band that heavily leans on jazz. “The Electric Princess” Parts 1 and 2 are almost entirely instrumental, with some more easily understandable lyrics near the end of part 2. The guitar and flute are prominent throughout, balancing the jazz with a rock feel. Continue reading “Arnaud Quevedo & Friends – Double Album Review”

Sunday Jazz – Benjamin Croft’s “Far and Distant Things”

Benjamin Croft Far and Distant ThingsBenjamin Croft, Far and Distant Things, Ubuntu Music, 2021
Tracks: Overture (1:13), Far and Distant Things (6:13), Brock (4:47), S.A.D. (Spatial Awareness Disease) (6:21). Tudor Job Agency (6:25), S&R Video (5:07), The War Against Loudness (6:17), How Not To Win The Nobel Peace Prize (6:17), Than You, That’s What I Wanted To Know… (5:35), St Gandalf’s (1:55), The Cashectomy (6:25)

I don’t listen to as much jazz as I should, probably because it is such a diverse genre that I barely know where to begin. I’ve always enjoyed jazz music in live settings. I think the genre excels when played live because it is a highly experimental genre, allowing room for improvisation. When I was in college I loved attending the concerts put on by the faculty jazz band. They were always so much fun. I think I enjoy jazz for some of the same reasons I enjoy progressive rock, which obviously is heavily influenced by jazz. At its most basic, the technical musicality in jazz keeps me interested. 

UK musician Benjamin Croft’s Far and Distant Things has been such an enjoyable CD to listen to over the past month and a half. Croft wrote and arranged all the tracks on the album, and he also played all of the keyboards. In addition to Steinway and Yamaha grand pianos, Croft plays a whole list of various synthesizers and keyboards, thus bringing in a bit of a prog texture to his jazz record. Perhaps those elements are why he sent us his CD for review, but regardless of why, this is an excellent album. At any rate, the artwork is certainly prog, featuring cover art (and other artwork on the CD and in the packaging) by Hugh Syme. 

Beyond Croft on keyboards, the songs have a revolving cast of characters, with Tristan Mailliot or Laurie Lowe playing drums on most of the tracks, except for “St. Gandalf’s,” which features Chad Wackerman. Flo Moore and Henry Thomas share bass guitar duties on the record. Guitars and on the album are played by a few guests, as are the wind instruments. Garthe Lockrane’s flutes on “Overture” and “Brock” are really quite something. It brings in that element of classic progressive rock as well as a fresh classical texture.

As is typical in jazz, there’s a lot of soloing on each track – keyboards, guitar, bass, trumpets, flute. Not each one of those on every track, but you get my meaning. The playing is smooth and easy to absorb. Some jazz can be overpowering, but Far and Distant Things sets you right at ease. The drumming and bass create a smooth yet complex rhythm throughout the entire album. The interplay between piano, keyboards, and the various wind instruments is quite pleasant. 

“How Not To Win The Nobel Peace Prize” is an interesting piece in the way it shifts over the course of the track. It starts off as a more typical jazz song before speeding up and morphing at the end of the song into more experimental territory before fading out. It’s a shame it fades out, because I wanted to hear where they were going. The title of the track, along with others on the album, hints at a bit of sarcasm, which I can always appreciate. 

Benjamin Croft – Far and Distant Things Music Video – YouTube

There are some rock moments on the record. “Far and Distant Things,” featuring Frank Gambale on electric guitar, is perhaps more rock than it is jazz, especially when you take the synths into account. “Tudor Job Agency” has its jazz moments, but the guitar, played by Barry Finnerty, has a Clapton-esque vibe to it. There is also a passage of some incredibly fast drum beats that add a rock element to the song.

Give Benjamin Croft’s Far and Distant Things a listen for a laid back Sunday afternoon or evening. Or for any day of the week. The music is exceptionally well-written and equally well-performed. It brings me back to simpler times when I could enjoy a live jazz show without worrying about… well all the things we seem to worry about these days. This instrumental album will take you a world away, if only for an hour. 

https://www.benjamincroftmusic.com
Spotify

Friday Night Progressive – 10th Anniversary Show

The Friday Night Progressive online radio show is celebrating its tenth anniversary tomorrow night (June 25, 2021) starting at 9PM EST. The show is hosted by Ron Marquiss, and it celebrates the best in independent progressive rock, instrumental, and fusion. The free show focuses on the more complex and technical side of the genre rather than the poppier stuff. You can find links to all the places you can listen to the show live over at their website: https://fridaynightprogressive.com.

Drive In Movie Band Cover (1)In addition to the tenth anniversary show, Ron is releasing a short album called Lines & Circles under the band name, Drive In Movie Band. The group features musicians from all around the world. This just under a half-hour album is all instrumental, highlighting the complex and jazz side of the genre. The first track even has a bit of an early King Crimson vibe. 

Lines & Circles has the following lineup: 

  • Ron Marquiss – Composition, Keys, Guitar, Bass
  • Jordan Marquiss – Drums
  • Joe Compagna – Bass
  • Nathan Ames – Guitar
  • Adrianne Simioni – Violin
  • Astraea Antal – Flute
  • Bret Harold Hart – Guitar and other instruments
  • Brent McDonald – Guitar and Keys
  • David Leiter – ELP sound FX

The albums are a way for Marquiss to cover the costs of running the free Friday Night Progressive radio show. You can check them out at the following links:

Melodic Revolution Records: https://mrrmusic.com/project/drive-in-movie-band/
https://driveinmovieband.bandcamp.com

Review: Drummond – In Sand

In Sand

Bedroom composing and producing has been on the rise in recent years. Drummond, a young songwriter from NewYork, has just launched his second EP “In Sand” in June.

There’s a real sense of movement in each of the three tracks here. “Submerge” feeds the ear a lovely set of liquid guitar chords, tasty synths and irregular rhythms, while “Root” laces its main melody and harmonies with bustling, positive energy.

The closing title track features extensive lead guitar that complement a busy drum kit and the tracks build confidently rather than hurtling towards their crescendos.

It’s tough to ignore the incredible versatility, technical prowess and emotion in the lead guitar’s phrasings. Talented musicians often overload their music with impressive, yet characterless fretboard acrobatics. Thankfully, Drum does not subject his audience to the same ordeal. The solos are wholesome yet light, devastating yet controlled. His sound is smooth, well-rounded, and, at its core, brimming with delightful energy. The record puts listeners into motion—they can soar and eventually reach a celestial landscape, sweating from the trip and anticipating the next step in this young guitarist’s growth.

For more info about Drummond visit his website.

Review: Emanuele Bodo – Unsafe Places

Emanuele Bodo (band)

Progressive-rock and jazz-rock often share a common bond, yet many artists either tilt the scale towards technical gymnastics or focus on strong song-form and fine-tune the balance of justice with judicious soloing spots. “Unsafe Places” marks the first album by Italian guitarist and songwriter Emanuele Bodo, who gathered a line-up of highly skilled musicians to help him with his musical vision.

Emanuele Bodo - Unsafe Places

The musicians uphold a well-defined, group-centric line of attack, consisting of foot-stomping fuzoid rockers, often tempered by Bodo’s sonorous phrasings. His zinging crunch chords and soaring single note leads are contrasted by keyboardist Davide Cristofoli’s fluidly streaming lines. Moreover, the band integrates catchy themes into these impacting works. Thankfully, the group attains an equilibrium, where dynamics are acutely employed among the swirling interludes and off-kilter time signatures that instill a sense of adventure into the grand mix.

A portion of their sound is designed with brief nods to the days of progressive-rock yore, with a manifesto that transmits a hip group-centric disposition, tinged with modernist tendencies. Overall, the material reigns supreme, and it’s easy to discern that this is not an album that was recklessly slapped together. Emanuele Bodo’s self-titled recording debut is a persuasive one, indeed. Get if from here.

Review: Distant Horizon – Laniakea

Distant Horizon - Laniakea

Distant Horizon is a new band coming from Lapua, Finland who released their debut EP “Laniakea” in June 2017. This fully instrumental progressive metal project is led comprised of Joona Lehto on guitar, Jere Lehto on bass, Jesse Lehto on drums, and Matias Kalli on keyboards and guitar.

As is the case with most instrumental albums, “Laniakea” requires careful listening in order to be fully appreciated. It is definitely not the kind of stuff you can put on as a soundtrack for other activities — complex music, full of twists and turns, yet not unnecessarily complicated, or weird for weirdness’ sake. In fact, the music has a beautiful, natural flow, a clarity and melodic quality. Even though guitars make up a prominent part of the sound, they never get to the point of overwhelming the other instruments. As in most experimental music, however, the foundation of Distant Horizon’s sound lies in the rhythm section, especially in the jaw-dropping drumming patterns provided by Jesse Lehto.

Head-spinningly complex without being cold and sterile as other efforts in a similar vein, “Laniakea” can easily be (re)listed as one of the top releases of 2017. In fact, the sterling musicianship, coupled with an admirable sense of restraint, focuses on creating cohesive, highly listenable tracks rather than pointless displays of technical skill. However, it is also a release that will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea. Strongly recommended to practising musicians and fans of intricate, challenging music, it may come across as daunting to those fans who prefer a higher measure of melody and accessibility, as well as a more conservative approach to progressive rock and jazz fusion.

The album is available from Bandcamp here.

Review: Jay Matharu – These Clouds are So Undisciplined!

Jay Matharu

The Uppsala, Sweden-based song-writer, performer, guitarist and composer, Jay Matharu, is set out to explore a wide variety of genres and unleash his full creativity on his debut album “These Clouds are So Undisciplined!,” clearly stating that he is not into music to make it big, but more importantly, for his passion for creating music.

One of the most striking features of his music is definitely Jay’s ability to cross different genres and platforms, incorporating elements of music from different styles: from metal to jazz fusion and even some subtle hints of hard rock and djent in the form of really memorable arrangements.

On this material, Matharu is showing an incredible amount of versatility, as a composer, performer and musician, casting a beautifully diverse collection of songs. Fans of good instrumental guitar-oriented rock with jazz fusion and metal excursions are certainly in for a treat.

Get the album from Bandcamp here.

These Clouds Are So Undisciplined