Glazz - Let's Glazz
Amanecer (1:15), De La Playita a La Ciudad (4:19), Llegada a la urbe (2:36), Ciudad (2:38), Égloga del Bajo Maldito I (1:12), Post Funk (3:50), Fonkyman (2:51), 25 Por Cierto (3:14), Égloga del Bajo Maldito II (1:25), Don Ricardo (3:06), Égloga del Bajo Maldito III (2:19), Streséreo (4:43), Punklerías (3:13), Brokenbeat (3:21), Atasco (0:14)
To put this in context, my friend loved the progressive rock and youthful harmonies of Moon Safari, yet some years ago, he once walked out of a musically progressive Azimuth concert because he was unable to handle Norma Winstone's vocal improvisations. My offer for him to take up a spare ticket for the recent music of Lindsay Cooper event at Huddersfield, unfortunately also fell on deaf ears.
Glazz are a three-piece band from Cadiz. Their debut release Let's Glazz was released in 2008 and their latest release The Jamming Sessions Take 11 has been available since 2014. Their music is largely instrumental, and in these two albums, their approach firmly straddles a number of styles within the broad spectrum of progressive jazz rock fusion. Their rhythmic and frequently loose, jam-based approach is probably best summed up as a slightly challenging six-armed fusion.
Let's Glazz comprises of 16 pieces. The longest is just under five minutes and unfortunately the relatively short length of all the compositions does not enable the music to fully develop, or to have substantially diverse passages within individual tracks. Nevertheless, if the album is taken as a complete experience, rather than as a collection of individual pieces, there are times when pieces segue together or specific themes recur. These facets ensure some continuity of approach that rewards the persistent listener. There are also some moments of fine musicianship that are satisfyingly displayed across the album as a whole.
De La Playita A La Ciudad is a good indication of the band's collective talents. Blues and latin stylings compete, to create one of the most accessible and enjoyable pieces on the album. The music is skilfully augmented by the addition of brass instruments. The expressive trumpet parts provide a great counterpoint to the earthy and spiteful guitar tones employed by Jose Rechaca.
25 Por Cierto is another noteworthy composition. It features a rocky, stop-start riff, which combined with rich guitar effects, reminded me of the work of Plankton. The most interesting aspect occurs in its final stages. The instrumental passage is surprisingly punctuated by vocal parts that follow the rhythm of the track. In this respect, it has some similarities to aspects of Shakti's Get Down and Sruti from their Natural Elements release.
Some of the pieces are marred by spoken sound bites and other effects that do not add anything to the band's palette of musical colours. For example, the intensely dark atmosphere created by the walking bass line and fuzzed guitar in Llegada A La Urbe is intriguing, but the use of a NASA countdown in the middle section is superfluous.
I enjoyed the trilogy of tunes associated with Égloga Del Bajo Maldito. The tapping guitar style prevalent in Part 2 is melodically and harmonically refreshing. Unfortunately, Part 3 also includes numerous spoken parts and unrelated effects.
Streséreo and Punklerías are probably the two most accomplished compositions of the album. Streséreo is a rhythmic and quirky tune that has some delightful features. The slow-moving and gorgeous middle section is very impressive. The guitar is unexpectedly unleashed to flutter freely with burning vigour. The unshackled bass part which follows, succeeds in creating a really expressive, deep end groove. Punklerías, like 25 Por Cierto, uses chanted vocal parts to good effect in a rhythmic way.
Overall, I enjoyed the exemplary musicianship apparent throughout Let's Glazz. However, it is compositionally rather underwhelming. On the strength of Let's Glazz, Glazz will need to develop greater length and diversity within their compositions if they are to be placed alongside the top rostra of bands such as, The Aristocrats who ply their wares within this genre.
You were probably wondering how I responded to my friend who asked: "Where are the tunes, man?"
Well, I replied: "They are there if you seek them out, but you may not remember anything about the album."
He replied: "I don't want any of that progressive look-for-a-tune stuff. I want structure in my prog rock."
CD inserted. Music plays. Smiles all round, as vocals begin.
"Really don't mind if you sit this one out."
In unison, he shouts and I mime: "Now that's more like it!"
Both our heads simultaneously knock and rock, as the car witnesses the unfolding musical safari.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Glazz - Cirquelectric
Gran desfile (1:03), Pasen y vean (3:33), Montando la carpa (0:39), El lanzador de cuchillos (5:12), Hablemos de negocios (4:39), Nerón el tragafuegos (3:34), Saltimbanquis (5:07), Alehop (4:34), Cuando sea mayor (2:58), Patrick, el mago novato (2:02), Vértigo (4:52), Atardecer (4:59), Los payasos (1:56), El trapecista (3:33), Hipnotizador (1:36), La adivina Pastora (9:17), Los forzudos (3:36), Desde el lejano oriente (1:23), En la cuerda floja (3:13), El domador (3:32), Triple mortal (6:45)
In their debut release, Let's Glazz, the band played a form of instrumental rock that had many of the ingredients associated with fusion. The short compositions prevalent in that album, were enjoyable enough, but as a whole they did not enable the band the freedom to explore different styles, or to showcase their obvious skills.
The sonic territory of Cirquelectric is very different. It is a much more eclectic album and employs a greater range of instruments, and the sensitive use of dynamics. The use of strings in a number of tracks, such as El Lanzador De Cuchillos and Cuando Sea Mayor, gives this album a warm endearing quality that was arguably lacking in Let's Glazz. For example, the robust yet lyrical guitar solo that emerges at the end of the atmospherically-stringed and tortoise-paced En La Cuerda Floja, is beautifully executed.
An engaging atmosphere pervades the whole release. Vaudeville moments and oblique flamenco squalls play their part in establishing an altogether brighter and lighter touch. The compositions are more developed and there is some satisfying variation within the album. Overall though, the emphasis of the music is centred on melodic, instrumental progressive rock, with a sprinkling of other enjoyable ingredients.
In Cirquelectric, the band has moved away from the explicit and somewhat underdeveloped fusion of their earlier album. There are though some contrasting jazz-tinted passages and compositions. Amongst these, the superb El Lanzador De Cuchillos and La Adivina Pastora shine particularly brightly. The rhythmically explosive fusion of Vertigo, Los Forzudos and El Domador, offer hints of Glazz's previous release, but manage to positively exceed it in almost every respect.
Cirquelectric is for the most part more accessible than Let's Glazz. The shorter pieces on offer are often charming. I particularly appreciated the playful acoustic feel of Los Payasos and the reflective nature of Hipnotizador. The highlight of this meditative track is the delightfully absorbing fretless bass work of Daniel Escortell. The shorter pieces work well within the context of the album, and richly complement the other tracks.
Cirquelectric is a satisfying album. Its expansive, eclectic nature and richer instrumentation might ensure that it could possibly appeal to a more diverse audience than its predecessor.
The album simmers and steams with a plethora of sun warmed instrumental passages. It occasionally boils over with frantic sun drenched abandon, as in the formidable, burning instrumental heat of Los Forzudos. If any of the attributes of Cirquelectric sound appealing or interesting, then perhaps the music of Glazz might well be worth checking out.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Glazz - The Jamming Sessions Take 11
ACT I (29')Scene I: 1 "Neptune's Anger" (3:03), "Giant Dune" (8:10), Scene II: "Annexation" (4:14), Scene III: "Meet my Gods" (3:25) Scene IV: "Baco's Tabern" (2:24), Scene V: "Modern Life" (2:10), Scene VI: "Exile" (5:29) ACT II (12'01") "Mare Nostrum" (12:01), ACT III (38')Scene I: "The Legion" (11:10), Scene II: "Zama's Battle" (8:59), Scene III: "Desertion" (1:31), Scene IV: "The Oracle" (9:12), Scene V: "Idiosyncrasy" (7:09)
This disc was recorded live in Tarifa in July 2013, on a day when the temperature exceeded 40 degrees centigrade. It was released in 2014. The clip featured at the end of this review shows the stunning environment and sun-baked conditions in which the music evolved and was subsequently captured.
There is a wide repertoire of styles and genres represented in this release. It is resplendently adorned with psychedelic guitar washes and rhythmically-energised, head-swaying compositions. The quality of the performance and depth and diversity of the compositions, indicate that Glazz have developed and matured significantly since their debut release. The Jamming Sessions Take 11 comprehensively illustrates the wide ranging abilities of this trio. The jam-based compositions offer the performers opportunities to explore musical ideas and improvise in a way that was lacking in Let's Glazz and that was inappropriate for Cirquelectric.
The overall result is often interesting, sometimes inspired, largely entertaining and above all, highly satisfying.
Contained within the 78 minutes is a tumultuous and cacophonous journey, which highlights numerous improvisations, centred on the highly skilled fingerwork dexterity of guitarist Jose Recacha and bassist Daniel Escortell. The loose, spaced-out jams, and overall competency of the musicians, gives sections of the album an atmosphere and feel, reminiscent of German jam-based bands such as Dunst, German Oak and Guru Guru.
Sometimes, the music created is stately in its expansive beauty. Compositions such as the elegant Exile, build slowly and threaten to charm and mesmerise. Often though, what is on offer is a fiercely energised, tarmac-melting-feast of gold medal guitar-based rock fusion. This is epitomised by tracks such as the intoxicating and foot stomping The Legion.
The Jam session on the album is divided into three acts.
The first begins explosively, as Neptune's Anger bursts energetically upon the ears of the unprepared listener. It is a fitting portent for the no-holds-barred sonic assault that is to follow. In Giant Dune, funky bass lines and shooting sprays of synthesisers develop tension in preparation for the assault. This begins in earnest, as a shrill, piercing, triumphal guitar emerges from the blazing lattice of sounds. The guitar solo all too swiftly fades to grey, as a repetitive motif combining guitar bass and drums creates an insistent, incessant and captivating groove. This later becomes the focus for yet more rousing guitar pyrotechnics and stirring improvisation.
Meet My God's ignores all health and safety warnings and noise protection legislation to continue the assault. It successfully manages to raise excitement-levels up a few more notches. The guitar work is enthralling and this track has the potential to fill the listener with awe and wonder.
Baco's Tabern is a finely honed jazz- rock fusion piece that has quality cascading from every chord. This tasteful track shows just how far the band has positively progressed since 2008. Modern Life is even better. It is grounded in wholesome fusion and features a fantastic ensemble workout within its memorable duration.
Act 2 consists of a single piece, Mare Nostrum.After an ambient opening section, the piece calmly develops with a straight-ahead rock based rhythm. However, any elaboration of this theme is quickly captured, killed and speared by numerous sparse and imaginative guitar passages.
The quality of Recacha's slow and lyrical playing provides a trance-like quality that I imagine could be difficult for the listener to break free from. The howling and wailing of the guitar, which appeared unexpectedly at the seven-plus minute mark of Mare Nostrum was the musical equivalent of smelling salts. It was certainly the band's intention to dismantle any trance-induced listener stupefaction. In this respect, they fully succeeded.
Act 3 is probably the most accessible and successful portion of the release. This section is arguably more rock based than the previous acts, although there are still many interesting nuances and subtleties for the listener to appreciate.
The opening segment of Zamba's Battle features a beautifully fluid guitar tone that is reminiscent of the tone that Robert Fripp achieved in tracks such as Asbury Park. This is one of the standout tracks. Similarly, the stunning and almost ambient Oracle deploys a guitar tone that would not be amiss in Fripp and Eno's Evening Star release. The jazz guitar stylings of Idiosyncrasy creates a laid back and emotional atmosphere. The other players build upon this, and together the trio shows notable collective empathy, as the track rolls onwards towards its rock-influenced, fiery climax. The drum work of Javi Ruibal is particularly impressive in this piece and also in Act 1's Giant Dune. His work throughout the album creates a solid foundation for the other players to take centre stage.
The Jamming Sessions Take 11 is an album that I have grown to greatly appreciate. I have found it to be the most appealing of the trio of Glazz albums reviewed. I really enjoyed this session. It has numerous qualities and attributes, not least of which is the ability of the music to bewitch the listener with its enthusiastic ensemble approach, stunning improvisations and technically adept performance.
I suspect though, that many who hear this album might say in a very loud and indignant voice: 'Where are the tunes, man?'
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10