The Big 2019 Fall Prog (Plus) Preview!

What new music, live albums, reissues (regular, deluxe or super-deluxe) and tours are heading our way between now and All Hallows Eve?  Check out the exhaustive (and potentially exhausting) sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with other personal priorities — below.  Click on the titles for pre-order links — whenever possible, you’ll wind up at the online store that gets as much money as possible directly to the musicians.

 

 

  • August:
    • Dave Kerzner, Static Live Extended Edition: recorded at the 2017 Progstock festival.  Kerzner’s complete Static album in concert, plus selected live highlights & new studio tracks.  Pre-orders ship in late August.
  • August 30:
    • Sons of Apollo, Live with the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony: recorded at Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s Roman amphitheatre (the site of previous live efforts from Anathema and Devin Townsend).  Available in Blu-Ray, 3 CD + Blu-Ray, and 3 CD + DVD + Blu Ray versions.
    • Tool, Fear Inoculum: Tool’s first album in 13 years.  Available via digital download, as well as “a deluxe, limited-edition CD version (which) features a 4” HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, charging cable, 2 watt speaker, a 36-page booklet and a digital download card.”  Really. 

Continue reading “The Big 2019 Fall Prog (Plus) Preview!”

Rick’s Reissue Roundup: Attack of the Spring Box Sets!

Shed a tear for the hardcore prog collector — actually, don’t.  This week has been absolutely crammed with articulate announcements looking to part fans from their hard-earned cash or pull them deeper into debt.  And no, I’m not talking about the upcoming Derek Smalls solo album.  Check out what’s coming our way as winter (hopefully) gives way to the spring of 2018:

Continue reading “Rick’s Reissue Roundup: Attack of the Spring Box Sets!”

soundstreamsunday: “Spanish Key” by Miles Davis

bitchesbrew_frontIt’s unavoidable.  It is impossible to speak of modern music, regardless of genre, and not take note of the critical importance of Miles Davis.  Call him what you will or what he called himself — a genius of composition, a dazzling trumpeter/performer and band leader/manipulator, an agent provocateur, a counter-racist, coke fiend, pimp, misogynist — Miles Davis was to musical art what Pablo Picasso was to visual art in the 20th century.  It’s so true it’s not even up for debate, and there’s about a kazillion hours of recorded, generous, lovely, dark, funky, bopping proof.  By natural extension Davis was the incarnation of what Ravel’s Bolero was all about — schooled freedom, the connection of craft and wild will, the fearlessness to create shit one second and be the divine and golden voice of the Spirit the next.  By the time Miles Davis released Bitches Brew in 1970, he’d been creating killer jazz for over 20 years, had broken from the pack a decade earlier with the “modal” music of Kind of Blue (1959), and had crafted blueprints for psychedelic and progressive rock in the music he created between Sketches of Spain (1960) and In A Silent Way (1969).  He was a complete musician who, difficult as he was, found sympathetic producers, promoters, and partners who fed and nurtured his bright flame.  As we find him on “Spanish Key,” Davis’s work is still melodic, free and open, but deconstruction is increasingly what he’s about — he’s using the studio as an instrument, playing less, knitting together jams, finding the overlap of blues and jazz and funk, Waters and Ellington and Brown. He was 44 years old, electric with creativity and swaggering with confidence, inspiring and inspired by rock’s reach towards jazz through Hendrix and Santana the Family Stone.  But for all the trappings of the rock band that he took with him to the stage, he never yielded, in the sheer sonic amplified power, any of jazz’s mysteries and his own mastery.  He delighted in pointing out that he could go to rock, but rock could not come to him.  It’s certainly true, to the extent that Miles Davis had a transcending vision and the untameable talent to back it up.  There is not another record in jazz or rock like Bitches Brew, and there never again will be.  It is a difficult, beautiful ride.

soundstreamsunday playlist and archive

Progarchy Radio Episode 8

prog radio.001
Episode 8.

Welcome to our eighth podcast, recorded June 14, 2016.  This 2+ hour podcast features music from Cosmograf, Frost*, District 97, Steve Hackett, Gandalf’s Fist, Eric Gillette, Talk Talk, Traffic, Ordinary Psycho, Miles Davis, and Tears for Fears.

Elephant Talk: An Interview With Tony Levin

Levin-Brothers

Interview conducted via e-mail and reproduced below.

1. First of all, we at Progarchy would like to thank you for this opportunity. Many of us are big fans of King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, etc. We know you have a busy schedule, so I’ll keep the questions to a minimum. The 1950s was obviously a huge decade for jazz, featuring the talents of Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, and others of the cool jazz movement. What first attracted you to the jazz scene and do you have a preferred “style”?

It’s an interesting combination, me and Pete, because I’m primarily a rock player, who also plays jazz – while he’s a jazz player, who has played a lot of rock. So, Pete’s played in lots of jazz styles, on tons of records and tours. For me, I’m usually called in to a jazz album when they want it to be more like rock(!) But this time it’s us calling the shots, and we wanted to go back to the style we loved when we were kids just starting to play… the ‘cool jazz’ then may or may not have been ‘cool’, but it had melodic songs, and the solos weren’t as long winded as some other styles. In general it seemed less designed for the players, and more about having good writing, played well. So that’s what we aimed at with this album, hopefully giving the listener songs that’ll keep running thru their heads, and hopefully it’s music that has a classic element, and will sound as good 10 years from now as it does today.

2. What was the music scene like growing up in the 1950s Boston area and how much of an influence did it have on the you and your brother’s playing style?

When I was living in Boston I was only into Classical. There were great opportunities, and the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra took me to Carnegie Hall and the White House. But it was after I left to go to school in Rochester that I started playing jazz and rock — so I wasn’t much influenced by what was going on at home.

3. This is your first time releasing an album with your brother Pete, an accomplished musician in his own right. Why so long a wait? What was the experience like?

We did release a single track way back years ago, and it was a comedy piece! Otherwise, we’ve played on each others albums and projects many times, but really this is the first time we sat down and said, let’s make this album together. Surprising it took us that many years to do it. (And hopefully it’s worth the wait!)

4. Listening to the audio sample on Youtube, I was impressed by the quality musicianship, but it was certainly unlike anything most of your fans have heard before. Most listeners are familiar with your work with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. What can they expect from the Levin Brothers album?

Oh this is different for sure. What it’s about is; nice jazz songs, played well, with unusual instrumentation (a lot of my cello playing the lead, as well as Pete’s piano and organ, and Erik’s sax). The solos are short and each guy does his best playing, then moves on for somebody else.
Oh, there is one King Crimson song, Matte Kudasai, that we included so that folks might have one song they already know.

5. I also noticed from the Levin Brothers site that Steve Gadd, one of the world’s most renowned drummers, is featured as a guest on two songs. However, a few other musicians, perhaps not as well known, appear on the album. Could you briefly discuss the talents of Jeff Siegel, David Spinozza, and Erik Lawrence?

Jeff and Erik are great players that Pete has gigged with a lot though the years. Guitarist David Spinozza has been in a jazz band with me, called L’Image, for … well, ever since I can remember — we don’t do much touring or recording, but there’s a good musical comraderie, so he seemed the right guy to bring in. You’re right about Steve Gadd being renowned, and it was important to me to have him on the track “Bassics”, because he was instrumental in making me a jazz player, back in the 60’s when we were in music school together. So it just seemed right to have him on that piece, which is mostly bass playing the lead, with drums sharing the spotlight.

6. This album is a dramatic shift from your typical role in a progressive rock band. As you continue to play for prog rockers such as King Crimson and Peter Gabriel, do you see yourself continuing to work on more jazz related projects in the future?

I never have much idea what the future will bring, but my plan is to continue with Crimson and Gabriel, but Pete and I will not only continue to do the local gigging we’ve always done – we will certainly take the band from the album out on tour sometime in the next year.

7. How did the songwriting process go? I noticed all but one song (Matte Kudasai) is an original composition. Whose specific influence (if any) can we hear on this album?

Pete and I both wrote songs for it – once the style was set (and I was very focussed on the albums of Julius Watkins and Oscar Pettiford) it was fun coming up with songs. We wrote more than we needed for the album, but also we kept the tracks short, on both the CD and LP, so we could fit many more songs on than is usual.
Incidentally, it was a longtime wish of mine to release a real vinyl album, and this was surely the right time for it – so we’re loving having the big artwork and vintage back cover on the vinyl version. Of course, as is standard nowadays, it comes with a download card for digital versions of all the songs.

8. Finally, do you plan on doing any touring once the album is released. I understand King Crimson is about to go on tour again, but will fans be treated to any live performances by the Levin Brothers in the near future?

Yes, as I mentioned before, I’ve got some Crimson and Gabriel tours to do this Fall, but next year we’ll also do some Levin Brothers jazz club dates for sure.

Best of luck on this album Tony and Pete. And one more question, if you don’t mind. A few of my fellow Progarchists (myself included) were wondering: where and when did you pick up the Chapman Stick? tony-levin-chapman-stick

Thanks, Connor. The Chapman Stick appealed to me as soon as I heard it, as a way to play my bass parts in a different way than normal. In prog music, I’m usually looking for those subtle things that move my playing forward. I never imagined, in my first years with the instrument, that I’d eventually play the guitar strings on it too, and form a group (“Stick Men”) that I now tour with more than any other group. It’s been a really rewarding experience for me.

For more information regarding the album:

http://thelevinbrothers.com

The Roots of Prog: Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way

My introduction to jazz was through Weather Report in the late ‘70s, and I couldn’t have made a more fortunate choice. Led by Josef Zawinul on keyboards and Wayne Shorter on saxophone, my love for that group’s music opened the door for me to the mother lode of jazz: Miles Davis.

Miles’ 1969 album, In a Silent Way, is a cornerstone of progressive music. Consider this – it contains just three songs: “Shhh/Peaceful” (18:16), “In a Silent Way” (4:11), and “It’s About That Time” (11:27). These songs don’t follow any typical structure; they are mostly jams, albeit within a strictly controlled atmosphere. Hearing the album gives the listener a sense of time being suspended, while gifted musicians at the top of their game improvise with each other. Also, as with many prog classics, the studio was an integral part of the finished result.

In 1969, Miles’ group was in transition. Pianist Herbie Hancock was itching to go solo, drummer Tony Williams was starting up his fusion band Lifetime, and bassist Ron Carter was tired of touring. Miles recruited British bassist Dave Holland for the sessions, guitarist John McLaughlin, and electric pianist Chick Corea. At the last minute, he invited keyboardist Josef Zawinul to join them. So the sessions began with a unique lineup never before seen in jazz: three keyboards (Hancock, Corea, and Zawinul), bass (Holland), electric guitar (McLaughlin), soprano sax (Shorter), drums (Williams), and trumpet (Davis). Teo Macero, Miles’ long-time producer, was again at the controls.

Apparently there was very little actual composition written out beforehand. However, that doesn’t mean the songs are aimless noodling. Tony Williams is a master of restraint, playing a steady pulse on his cymbals almost the entire album. Here is how Ian Carr, in his biography of Miles Davis, describes the music:

There is great delicacy and finesse in the solos, great subtlety in the keyboards (everybody is listening to everyone else), and the music is pervaded by Miles Davis’ unique atmosphere of buoyant though melancholy reflection. Perhaps paradoxically, the total impression is powerful and seductive because the steady time with its occasional pauses (as if the music were actually breathing) creates the non-western climate of timelessness – and in a sense, it is music which should be inhabited rather than merely listened to.

Some of Miles’ greatest solos are in these sessions, as well as Wayne Shorter’s. By this time, they had played together so long they seemed to be one mind with their improvised interplay. When the sessions were over, they had about two hours of material. Teo Macero had learned to just let the tapes roll as soon as Miles began, and not stop until everyone quit.

Macero used editing to cut and paste together the final album, and he deserves most of the credit for making it such a satisfying listen. In “Shhh/Peaceful”, he includes a trumpet solo at 1:35 that states the theme, then he lets everyone trade solos for the next twelve minutes. At 13:31, he brings back the same solo to close out the piece.

“In A Silent Way”, which opens side two, begins with John McLaughlin alone on guitar. Miles famously suggested to McLaughlin that he “Play it like you don’t know how to play guitar”, and the result is a beautiful and simple tune that is charming yet challenging to listen to. It then segues immediately into “It’s About That Time”. Again, Tony Williams sets up a steady pulse over which the others can vamp and solo. Holland plays a repeated riff on bass that slowly builds tension while McLaughlin, Shorter, Corea, and Davis take turns soloing. The keyboards and guitar join Holland playing the bass riff until finally, at 9:00, Tony cuts loose and flails away on the drums while Miles solos. Then the exact same take of “In A Silent Way” that began the side brings the listener back to earth. No one had used tape editing in such a radical fashion before, but Macero makes it work.

It would be hard to overstate the influence In A Silent Way has had on music. Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Brian Eno, Joni Mitchell – all display hints of this music. Talk Talk’s Spirit Of Eden is heavily indebted to it, as well as a lot of Steven Wilson’s latest work (Grace For Drowning and Storm Corrosion). Practically anything that has “space” in it can trace its roots to this album.

Once again, Miles proved himself to be a visionary artist, building the bridge between traditional jazz and the newborn genre that would soon be known as progressive rock.

Listen to a stream of Side Two: