Friday, November 30, 2012

Captain Beefheart – Translucent Fresnel

   Captain Beefheart is one of greatest personalities in psychedelic and early progressive rock movement. His best years in late sixties and early seventies passed under the sign of the series of great progressive recordings with Trout Mask Replica. He was also famous as stage personality and his European concert tours were legendary. In this very moment shows John Peel, a famous BBC Radio 1 disc jockey. He was a private collector of live recordings of public concerts of his favorite artists. He did a lot for Beefheart’s public recognition as well as for many other musicians. From his tapes and bail was made bootleg album of Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band Translucent Fresnel. The title of this bootleg is a reference to the Clear Spot album. Fresnel lantern producing soft-edge, translucent beam of light is a good metaphor for the content of double LP 180 gram black vinyl pressing which is subtittled as volume one of The Nan True’s Hole Tapes. The double LP album was published in gatefold sleeve and translucent plastic jacket by Dandelion Records and Ozit Records in 2011. It was released about a month after that as Captain Beefheart died. 
   Whole program is composed of materials recorded during different shows in Manchester April 1st, 1972, Leicester University May 1st, 1973 and Stevenage Locarno May 22nd, 1973. And the lineup is a stable The Magic Band with Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) singing and playing harmonica. The core of the band was pretty much the same as in Clear Spot studio recordings Zoot Horn Rollo (Bill Harkleroad) playing guitar and slide guitar, Rockette Morton (Mark Boston) on bass guitar and guitar and Ed Marimba (Art Tripp) playing drums and percussion instruments. There were also two old Beefheart friends and members of The Magic Band, playing a slide guitar Alex St Clair (Alex Snouffer) – in fact he was the one who founded The Magic Band in 1965 – and Orejon (Roy Estrada) playing bass guitar.

Captain Beefheart – Translucent Fresnel (2011)

   Poor technical quality of this material is a fact but it has nothing to do with musical and documentarian value of this edition. Recordings include mainly musical material of Clear Spot promotional tour, but also some songs from earlier albums Safe as Milk (Electricity), Trout Mask Replica (Sugar’n’Spikes), Lick My Decals Off, Baby (Peon), Mirror Man (Mirrorman) and The Spotlight Kid (great trance version of I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby). There is also one instrumental piece published later in 1978 on Shiny Beast (Suction Prints). These songs, so well known from studio recordings are quite different when played during public performances. And there’s a big gap between Beefheart’s studio recordings and live gigs. While in studio musicians were precise like Swiss watch mechanism, what they did on stage was closer to happenings than typical concert event. 
   Does it mean they weren’t playing with precision? Of course not! They rather did it more jazzy way, with extra power and expressive means. This special attitude was mutual characteristic for many bands in late 60’s and early 70’s with the closest Beefheart’s friend Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention. Beefheart was always more radical even if he endeavor to the commercial success. Raw blues with some surrealistic sense of humor, expanded jamming with harmonica riffs make these recordings closer to trance. Some more orderly played songs Good example is opening Side Three fragment of Leicaster University show – first the song Low Yo Yo Stuff and then following jam in Mirrorman and Peon 2. Captain is howling, growling and improvising at the end of Mirrorman and this is completely magic moment with The Magic Band.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fritz Reiner, Risë Stevens and Jan Peerce Carmen by Bizet

   Fritz Reiner is one of these great conductors who became legendary performers before the era of long playing phonographic recordings. He was born in Budapest in 1988, a year before Emile Berliner started marketing of disc records, which can be considered as the date of phonographic record has born. He was studied in his native city in Ferenc Liszt Academy, where during last years he was student of Béla Bartók. He was working with Richard Strauss in Dresden Semper Opera and with Opera House in Budapest. In 1922 he immigrated to United States where he took post of principal conductor of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
   In 1928 he became naturalized citizen what gave him chance to work as a teacher in Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One of his students was Leonard Bernstein. In 1938 he became conductor of Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra, recording with this orchestra some early records. His career as recording artist started to grow after 1948 when he became conductor in Metropolitan Opera. In this period he recorded two renditions of Carmen, in 1951 with RCA Victor Orchestra for RCA Victor Red Seal label and in 1952 with Metropolitan Opera for Columbia Company. Both castings share the voice of Risë Stevens singing the role of Carmen. Although Columbia recording has in collective memory the position of legendary masterpiece, one year earlier RCA edition is still worthy of discovery.

Georges Bizet - Carmen - Fritz Reiner (1951, ed. 1974)

   This monophonic recording has unbelievably good space. It was republished in 1974 in original mono version and this pressing shows full master range of 1951 performance and recording mastery. Orchestra sound is clear, perfect in articulation, tempos are the best one can dream on. No effort at the uniqueness or pretending towards the originality – this performance is as clear in intentions as attractive in sound. Silence between the notes just can be heard what makes the energy of the orchestra just tangible. RCA Orchestra and The Robert Show Chorale merge into a spectacular narrative. Perfect articulation gives crowd scenes tremendous power. The sound of choral scenes is huge and in top of dynamic range sounds distorted but this may be my copy failure. Balanced solo voices in ensembles and perfectly directed solo arias drawing reliable pictures of different characters.
   Every Carmen performance demands at least four soloists to be stars. And in this recording all four are brightly shining. Risë Stevens as Carmen is great. Nothing new – she sung Carmen in years 1945-1961 with many conductors and singers. And her Carmen was one of most acclaimed in the history of Bizet’s masterpiece renditions. Her mezzo-soprano is deep and powerful, firmly positioned, warm and rich in sound and free of mannerisms what gives listener esthetic pleasure and full emotional satisfaction. This Carmen is warm blooded woman and strong believer. It’s one of best Carmen ever and really hard to stop listening.

   In RCA recording partners of Risë Stevens are Jan Peerce as Don José and Robert Merrill in the role of toreador Escamillo. Both are daring and brave. Jan Peerce sings with great culture, his tenor sounds little bit darker than average and dramatic skills give the character more depth than usual. Of course Don José character is a way more complicated than Escamillo. Toreador is in fact second plan role although his famous narration is one of iconic triumphal opera scenes. Robert Merrill in 50’s and early 60’s he was number one for baritone dramatic roles what can be perfectly clear considering this recording. Singing and playing the role of Micaela is important in the production. Licia Albanese, owes great fame her lyric soprano especially roles in Puccini operas as Cio-Cio San, Mimì, Liù and Manon Lescaut. Nice, smooth voice sounds as much different from Risë Stevens as Micaela differs of Carmen. Fritz Reiner’s 1951 rendition of Carmen despite the past 60 years is still engaging and worth to remember.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

That's the Way I Feel Now: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk

   Between masters of jazz, exact as it is in any other creative discipline, there are two opposite positions – first is occupied by master teachers and second by inspired visionaries. Teachers show the way to mastery, visionaries points the possible directions of development. Many artists are between these extremes, trying to find necessary balance. Some are unable to find this point, which is usually leading to the fiasco – frustrating lack of passion or excessive creativity leading even to autodestruction. But in the case of geniuses these dangerous attitudes are somehow connected not as balancing factors but in more complex way. One of such artists is Thelonious Monk, who was one of most unorthodox musicians in so rebellious generation. No surprise he is second most recorded  jazz composer after Ellington.
   The 80’s were hard times for jazz, the era of punk and rap melted in disco products, the AIDS epidemic, the Reagan Star Wars and rough economic policy reshape the perspectives of American culture. Jazz musicians tried to connect different genres and styles into one current of complex and creative music. Probably the best series of multistyle albums of the 80’s was Hal Willner’s productions of tribute albums. First was Amarcord Nino Rota (1981), then That’s the Way I Feel Now: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk (1984), Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill (1985) and series of consecutive albums with music from Vintage Disney Films, Charles Mingus, once again Kurt Weill, Harold Arlen, Leonard Cohen, Sea Songs, Chanteys and American Folk Music. Second album with Monk’s themes and inspirations was real hit. Thank to carefully selected and diverse lineups all of included productions are unbelievably creative. This is what makes the undertaking the best chance for contemporary exposure of Monk’s ideas. Double LP comprises 23 pieces in renditions of avant-garde and most creative musicians available in 1984.

That's the Way I Feel Now: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk (1984)

   In various lineups Willner collected great company of most creative artists from modern jazz veterans to new radicals, from avant-garde to rock and pop artists. Exploding Thelonious for overdubbing trombones by Bruce Fowler and Phil Teele with bassist Tom Fowler and unbelievably driving drummer Chester Thompson is probably shortest, most dense performance of Monk’s tune ever. But this is only the beginning of surprising events. Donald Fagen belongs to the few super professional musicians from pop side of the scene. He is playing synthesizers in Reflections with Steve Khan on guitars. Others are Peter Frampton solo in Work and Todd Rundgren in Four in One. Bounds with tradition are clear foundations to Dr. John’s solo piano Blue Monk performance which is so naturally enchanting and so close to blues or even zydeco. 
   Old jazz school is presented by duo of Monk’s comrades, Steve Lacy and Charlie Rouse performing Ask Me Now on unaccompanied saxophones and Sharon Freeman version of Monk’s Mood for 5 French horns with section – the first side of this album shows it is full of surprises. Steve Lacy is featured artist. In duo with Elvin Jones in Evidence they show pure understanding for the Monk tradition. Elvin Jones is playing with such power even 30 years after it gives goose-flesh. And again Steve Lacy solo Gallop’s Gallop and in closing piece Bemsha Swing with Gil Evans – both owe Monk a lot. The perfect tenor solo played in Misterioso as a special guest Johnny Griffin. There are some nice pieces of poetic tranquility and meditation, like in nostalgic tack piano rendition of Pannonica by Barry Harris or in Functional played by Randy Weston. 
   There is beautiful Joe Jackson’s chamber arrangement of ‘Round Midnight played under direction of Sharon Freeman and perfect Misterioso in The Carla Bley Band performance.  Vocal jazz presented in Friday the Thirteenth by duo with great sense of humor Bobby McFerrin and Bob Dorough with Dave Samuels on vibes, marimba and percussions. Phenomenal avant-garde musicians with saxophonist John Zorn, guitarist Arte Lindsay, pianist Wayne Horvitz and drummer M. E. Miller testing our flexibility in Shuffle Boil. Interesting esthetical work has been done in 3-guitars Brilliant Corners with Steve Swallow and Joey Barron and then the Jackie-Ing with additional horns section. Various renditions show how versatile and carrying are Monk’s ideas. They are present in every smaller or bigger band productions and this is the victory of all musicians engaged in this project and especially Thelonious Monk creating alternative world of modern music.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cabaret – Original Broadway Cast Recording

   Telling the story about romance between young writer and Sally Bowles, an American girl in Berlin in the beginning of nazi-regime has quite a long staging tradition. First was Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 short novel Goodbye to Berlin. The first stage production in 1951 was a play by John Van Druten I am a Camera in 1951. It was written on the basis of Christopher Isherwood’s story. Then in 1955 it was captured for the cinema after the script by John Collier and directed by Henry Cornelius. The plot was more complicated than in Van Druten’s play but still following The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood. Author of the stories was also one of main movie characters. Movie was received by critics rather coldly but many saw it as inspiring.
   The story by Joe Masteroff, with lyrics by Fred Ebb and music by John Kinder created musical called Cabaret. In 1966 it become the instant hit on Broadway reaching in next years the total number of 1165 performances. This cast won eight Tony Awards of 11 nominations in 1967. Two years later it was transferred to West End, where it runs to 336 performances. In 1972 musical Cabaret went to cinemas in movie version directed by Bob Fosse with Lisa Minelli, Michael York and Joel Grey. Fosse, Minelli and Grey won Academy Awards – the three of total ten nominees and eight Oscars won by the movie. Joel Grey has Tony for Broadway performance and Oscar for movie role of Master of Ceremonies. Success of the movie made possible the triumphant march of the musical through the world scenes.

Cabaret – Original Broadway Cast Recording (1966)

   An important role in promotion of the musical played the album with original cast recording published by Columbia Masterworks in mono (KOL 6640) and in stereo (KOS 3040). Original Broadway production gave twenty years-old Jill Haworth immediate position of a star. She played the role of Sally Bowles with great ease and imitating skills giving great acting opportunities for her partner Bert Canvoy who is playing an Englishman in Berlin. Most famous actress in this cast was Lotte Lenya, wife of legendary Kurt Weill, singer known for many songs defining the musical associations with pre-war Berlin. She played the role of Fräulein Schneider. But real revelation was Joel Grey, who connected professional acting with great personality perfectly fitting to the role of Master of Ceremonies, the host making the cabaret works.
   Great job made composer John Kander and arranger Dan Walker who made this orchestrations fitting to musical sensitivity of the 60’s and still mimic cabaret small orchestra with a little bit of jazzy taste. The Money Song is in its prior shape, with refrain sounding like diction exercise. Despite Joel Grey is great, this song was recomposed for movie version and in new shape became great hit. Imitating possibilities helped to create song Tomorrow Belongs to Me which is so close to German folk tunes, it’s hard to believe it was composed in 60’s. In movie this fragment was given the additional task, joint singing attracts new singers and develops into manifestation. From today some parts look like having too much orchestral power, but this is specific problem with strings in time this musical was created. When Jill Haworth sings title song Cabaret, the great hit of these years, it’s hard to believe how complete her identification with the 30’s style is.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Otto Klemperer – Gustav Mahler – Das Lied von der Erde, Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”

   Otto Klemperer was a brilliant artist, the multitalented conductor and composer. He was one of most acclaimed conductors in 20th century. The fame of his phenomenal interpretations and conducting skills was as great so his compositions are almost completely forgotten. He was born in Breslau (now Wrocław in Poland). In 1905, shortly after his debut in Berlin, twenty years old conductor met Gustav Mahler. He was conducting the off-stage brass section in Symphony No. 2 performance led by Mahler. Then Klemperer visited Mahler in Vienna where he impressed composer playing by memory the Scherzo. As composer’s assistant, Klemperer made piano reduction of whole Resurrection Symphony. In 1910 he assisted Mahler in preparing premiere of Symphony of a Thousand. Later Symphony No. 2 C Minor “Resurrection” has become Klemperer’s highlight and one of the most important positions in his repertoire. He worked with many orchestras in Germany and gained the fame of the artist performing a new music. In fact he was paving the way for successes of Hindemith, Schoenberg, Stravinsky along many others.
   In 1933, when nazi-regime came to power in Germany, he fled to USA, but he has many troubles with a domestication in a new realm. Situation of an exile and various devastating experiences entailed setbacks in the professional life and the personal health. Klemperer had an operation of removing the brain tumor and suffered depression. His misfortune across the pond led him back to Europe after the war. The third stage of conductor's career came with recordings. First time he was recorded took place in 1924, but the technology of long playing records gave him a new chance for exposing interpretations of the greatest symphonic works. Since fifties his position gradually improved. He started series of recordings with Philharmonia Orchestra where he became first principal conductor in 1959. In this period Klemperer worked also at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. In 1971 artist retired and he was living in Zurich where he died in 1973.

Klemperer – Mahler – Das Lied von der Erde, Symphony No. 2 (1960)

   The conductor’s discography comprises long list of Mahler’s symphonic works recorded with various orchestras. Only in 1951 Otto Klemperer has recorded Symphony No. 2 twice with Vienna Symphony and with Concertgebouw Orchestra. To the famous Klemperer’s recordings of this work belongs also the one made with Philharmonia Orchestra in 1968. In 1951 Vox Records released two albums including Otto Klemperer’s interpretations of Gustav Mahler’s great works. Both were recorded in Vienna and later reproduced in many license editions. In 1960 Vox republished these legendary recordings as one three-disc album (VBX 115) in monophonic sound reproduction system but in the Ultra High Fidelity system. Despite the advanced pressing technology, the quality of these recordings is not always corresponding to the contemporary standards.
   Both recordings were played by Vienna Symphony Orchestra. These years the chief conductor for this orchestra was Herbert von Karajan, who later was admirer of older conductor’s artistry. And the main directions of their esthetical ideas were always close, so we can assume the orchestra met the needs. The recordings are also a valuable documentary capturing an image of the 1951 Vienna Symphony Orchestra’s sound. The historic sound of Vienna Symphony came with strong tutti, massive strings with pronounced slow vibrato, then the balanced wind and brass sections and contrasted dynamics. The orchestra sounds better in performance of Das Lied von der Erde than Symphony No. 2 where tone is unstable and sometimes annoying. Probably the most of floating sounds came out of the recording technology.
   There are some mannerisms typical for the pre-phonographic era and the orchestral sound sometimes is just not modern. Some mannerisms one can find in Elsa Cavelti (mezzo-soprano) performance in Das Lied von der Erde. Her partner was Anton Dermota (tenor) singing with nice lyric voice and natural ease. Symphony No. 2 has been recorded with joint choirs Akademie Kammerchor and Singverein der Musikfreunde and singers were Ilona Steingruber (soprano) and Hilde Rössl-Majdan (alto). Also parts of this recording show how even the beautiful voices can be spoiled with mannerisms and lack of technical excellence.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Herbert von Karajan – Beethoven – Symphony No. 4 B-flat major op. 60

   Symphonic oeuvres by Ludwig van Beethoven provoke listeners to an interesting alternation of meaning. While odd symphonies are considered to be rather revolutionary and unique, even are seen as predominantly more conservative and stable. Among four even symphonies only Pastoral Symphony is clearly a rebellious in idea and construction. But three others, 2nd, 4th and 8th are seen as more balanced and in fact less meaningful. Of course this deeply unfair assumption comes more likely from the way these symphonies are interpreted, than from their actual contents. For example many renditions of Symphony no. 4 are basing the presumption there are no tragic fragments in this work. In this context any different rendition can be seen as revealing, but when reinterpretation is made by Herbert von Karajan, it is insightful by definition.
   Two years after Eroica and two years before famous Fifth in the summer 1806 Beethoven composed Symphony No. 4 B-flat major op. 60. It was premiered in March 1807 at a private prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz’s home concert. The same evening premieres were Coriolan Overture op.62 and Piano Concerto G major op. 58. The form of this symphony is almost perfect medium of mature classical style. First and last parts are in sonata form and in the key of B-flat major. Dialogues between instruments in the development section of first movement Allegro vivace are indicating the real aim of this symphony could be a kind of discourse on relations between form and meaning. This is confirmed by resonating violins theme augmented with great symphonic setting in second movement Adagio in E-flat major key. Last movement  Allegro ma non troppo with its erupting enthusiasm confirms discursive idea of Fourth Symphony.

Herbert von Karajan – Beethoven – Symphony No. 4 (1977)

   Herbert von Karajan recording in 70’s his second complete set of Beethoven’s symphonies made interpretation of every one like it was separate attainment. This approach is justified because this symphony is separated by two-year gaps from previous and next symphony – the Third was written in 1804 and the Fifth was finished in 1808. These years were the time of political and health troubles, developing deafness and emotional complications in his personal life. And one more time Karajan has proven how great interpreter of Beethoven he was. Trying to grasp the meaning of symphony being for many conductors just consolation between tragic symphonies of this period, Karajan strengthened fragments of dramatic tension giving them a kind of sinister feeling and foreboding of active evil. Even in scherzo Allegro vivace he found characteristic traces of an obsessive anxiety.
   As it was mentioned, comparing to other symphonies, especially dramatically determined 3rd and 5th, Symphony B-flat major op. 60 is usually read as more sustainable, gentle and subtle. Not this time – the inner energy of this rendition is hard to believe. Berliner Philharmoniker working with Karajan as principal conductor from 1954 to 1989 was consistently one of the best symphonic orchestras worldwide. In 1970’s, and later on, its characteristic quality was beautiful sound in every moment of extremely wide dynamic range. This gave conductor possibility for creating interpretation virtually without limitations. And in Beethoven’s symphonys as well as in many other of his recordings Herbert von Karajan make great use of this features. Having at his disposal the orchestra of phenomenally beautiful sound, Karajan strengthened dynamic contrasts and with perfect articulation augmented dramatic qualities of symphonic narration. This vision of Symphony B-flat is as much dramatic as classically balanced. Finale Allegro ma non troppo and especially turbulent transformations in central part makes it the key movement carrying out the idea of this performance. Here is also the place and time for more dramatic effects than might have been expected.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Steve Howe – Beginnings

   Steve Howe is one of legendary rock guitar masters, very famous in seventies, then taking his place in losing its popularity rock scene. His high position he established in seventies when he was one of highly respected guitarists and one of the most influencing artists of progressive rock, and one of leading personalities involved in the development of progrock subgenres like art rock and symphonic rock. Playing with Yes group since The Yes Album, he made a significant contribution to the bands characteristic sound. Also his later career with such bands as Asia and Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe can be seen as natural consequence of his possibilities and realization of his earlier plans.
   In 1975, when Yes and many other groups were in stagnation, progressive rock fans were ready to buy any album connected to the current. This moment Atlantic label has published Yes’ compilation album Yesterdays and became publishing the series of solo albums by each member of the band. Steve Howe’s first solo album has been called Beginnings. It was the part of promotional strategy, the same label and the same style of Roger Dean’s cover design gave this edition characteristics of being the part of the Yes’ albums series. And this was kind of message the fans and records collectors never missed.
   It’s not easy to explain why this record became a failure. Maybe there were too much ambitions or not enough time, nor self-criticism, the result could be disappointing even for the most loyal fans. To be quite fair, the instrumental parts are perfectly played and mastered into the one complementary whole. Guitar solos and riffs are original, creative, in many parts are just catching. Vocal parts make listener feel uncomfortable. He sings with weak, humdrum voice with lack of vocal technique giving tiring impression Howe fights with higher notes and tightens the throat. This was aggravated by the fact, he was trying to sing like Jon Anderson, in too high register. Vocal performances are better in the low register choirs, the best example one can find in Lost Symphony, where low register vocals are corresponding with saxophones by Bud Beadle and Mick Eve.

Steve Howe – Beginnings (1975)

   The program of this album has been set as if the main idea was to demonstrate the originality and versatility of the artist. After many recordings with various bands in sixties, after hit records with Yes, Beginnings was Steve Howe’s debut under his own name. No wonder young artist was trying to build possibly complex vision of his music. If he had given up singing, this album would be much better. The interesting feature of this album is almost absolute lack of jamming, composed solos were connected with arrangements joining with them.
   Two of three instrumental pieces are better realization of art rock idea. Symphonic rock style was basis for idea of eponymous composition opening B-Side. Eight members of Philomusica (string quintet, flutes, oboe and bassoon) gave basic orchestral sound for three Yes’ musicians, Steve Howe on guitars, Patrick Moraz playing harpsichord, piano and moog, who was also author of this arrangement. In final part of Beginnings, the band is augmented by drummer Alan White, who played in most songs of this album. There were also David Oberle playing drums in Australia and Bill Bruford playing in last two songs. Third composition Ram is quite interesting sound sample, but showing only technical precision, it says nothing new about music.
   On a side note, it is worth considering what elements are creating the group’s achievements where every musician is different personality and final effect is much higher than result of adding its elements. Sometimes these influences are really hard to trace. Recorded after the greatest Yes’ albums of early 70’s Steve Howe’s Beginnings tells a lot about professional achievements and artistic possibilities of Yes’ guitarist. It also shows some lacks of his vocal technique. If not the weak voice and orchestral arrangements remaining in some fragments cartoon soundtracks, this album could get more power for Howe’s career. But it still gives some satisfaction for fans of Yes’ guitarist.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lenny White – Venusian Summer

   Many drummers are playing strong patterns with broken rhythms while others look for more melodic way of using percussion sounds. Some are trying to find balance between these options and one of them is Lenny White who made a great opening in legendary Bitches Brew album. He is one of most versatile artists and one of best drummers of fusion music. He became legendary drummer of second Return to Forever lineup, recording four albums in 1970’s and the reunion live album Returns in 2009. He played also with fusion band Azteca and as sideman with jazz giants Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola, Larry Coryell, Jaco Pastorius, Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller and Don Cherry. 
   Lenny White is also the leader of his own bands and projects. Since 1975 to 1983 he recorded 10 albums under his own name. After seven years of silence, he comes back with The Manhattan Project in 1990 and with Michel Petrucciani, Marcus Miller, Biréli Lagrène and Kenny Garrett in 1994. Recording next albums he took part in many artistic undertakings like Vertú with Stanley Clarke, Karen Briggs, Rachel Z and Richie Kotzen from 1999. He played with Michal Urbaniak’s Urbanator and in numerous projects featuring various funky jazz artists. During decades after his debut recording has been published, his position on jazz scene became as solid as influential but Venusian Summer released by Nemperor Records (NE 435) still remains his creative and well established achievement.

Lenny White – Venusian Summer (1975)

   Program of this album comprises six compositions in various arrangements. It was recorded in June and August 1975 in famous Electric Lady Studios in New York. The group of accompanying musicians is carefully selected band of artists. Main counterweight is mainly electronic keyboard instruments, organs, electric pianos and synthesizers with three masters of Hammond’s organ Jimmy Smith, Larry Young. Others were David Sancious, Weldon Irvine, and Onaje Allan Gumbs. Some electronics were in 1975 state of the art equipment. In eponymous suite Patrick Gleeson was playing various synthesizers like Oberheim Digital Sequencer and others. Lenny White in this suite played also non percussive instruments, Minimoog, Eμ synthesizer, ARP 2600 and acoustic piano and snap bass. Important part of the group were guitarists Larry Coryell, Al DiMeola, Doug Rodrigues and Raymond Gomez. Fixed part of the band was bass player Doug Rauch. There are only two parts with wind and brass – flutist Hubert Laws is playing in 2nd part of Venusian Summer and Tom Harrel playing flugelhorn took part in Prince of the Sea.
   Most of the material was composed and arranged by the leader. The style of this music is a variant of fusion esthetics with some electronic reinforcements. Sound is rich but still lucid with clear tendency to funky articulations and thick dancing sound. It looks like own Lenny White’s vision of jazz and rock fusion. He is very convincing as a creator of musical constructions and forms, drawing moods and building landscapes out of the ambient sound. The vision of Venusian Summer has been catched in the cover illustration by Larry Kresek, recognized painter and illustrator. Very good record, four stars for perfect realization and pure musical instinct.