Ignore the creepy album cover, this live performance is perhaps one of the finest moments in jazz-fusion history, and is also one of the greatest unknowns. It’s an unknown because it hasn’t had much exposure among casual listeners, and so only real enthusiasts would ever manage to dig it up. The concert and the band was a one time thing; they recorded this one album and then went their separate ways. What your ears are about to witness is a tour de force that sees four of the greatest musicians in the jazz-rock world playing it cool and staying in the pocket; yes it’s oozing with funk! The whole concert is available on YouTube (link at the bottom of the review) but below is a clip from the concert showcasing the song ‘Red Baron’ to show you just how amazing this is.
Let’s talk about the musicians involved in this one-off gem of a live recording. We’ll start with John Scofield; you’ve probably heard of the guy, if not then you have been under a rock too long. Scofield is one of the jazz-fusion guitar greats, burned into the ranks with John Mclaughlin, Allan Holdsworth and Pat Metheny to name a few. This live recording is possibly the earliest example of his playing; he plays with much more fire and gusto than he does in his later work (just check out his hilarious guitar faces throughout his solos!) If you want to hear an example of how to construct a legendary and somewhat unpredictable guitar solo, just check out Scofield’s bag of tricks at 1:46 – 4:07 where he manages to hold the groove amidst three black musicians with rhythm coursing through their veins! Also note the tone he is squeezing out of his Les Paul Junior!
Next we have Billy Cobham, arguably one of the greatest jazz-fusion drummers to have ever lived. Known for his work with the Mahavishnu Orcherstra, he has carved a reputation for having a hugely influential style that incorporates explosive rock drumming with precise jazz technique and sometimes crazy time signatures. This guy never loses the beat and always brings the absolute best out of any musicians he works with.
George Duke is most known for playing with Frank Zappa and is an extremely talented keyboardist with a huge capacity to play funky lines. He uses his synth to create almost guitar like sounds and also has a good sense of humour! To witness both these feats check out the track ‘Space Lady!’
Last, but definitely not least, is the bassist. Yes, that bad ass black dude who looks so deep in the pocket that he’s probably lost in there next to some spare change. The man has a name and it’s Alphonso Johnson, he’s known for his playing with the jazz-fusion band Weather Report from 1974-1976 and for altering the band’s direction from dark free form jazz-fusion to funk jazz-fusion. This bassist has amazing skills, he is one of my favourites.
* * * * * 5 stars
- Hip Pockets [7:03]
- Ivory Tattoo [4:28]
- Spacy Lady [4:43]
- Almustafa The Beloved [6:52]
- Do What Cha Wanna [4:34]
- Frankenstein Goes To The Disco [7:32]
- Sweet Wine [3:52]
- Juicy [7:16]