Saturday, November 24, 2012
Various Artists - The Atlantic Family Live at Montreux (1978)
This album is a real oddity, but that's part of what makes the session really interesting and worthwhile. Originally released as a double LP, this album was never rereleased, so consequently this is an album rip. Recorded at the 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival, this album is a session of all the artists at the festival that were signed to Atlantic Records at the time. It's essentially a funk jam session with the horn players playing backgrounds and contributing extended solos over classic and original charts. The album notes refer to this idea as "the universal rhythm section," an idea that ascribes the rhythm section as the foundation of the band in jazz and blues. The album opens with "Bahia (Na Baixa Do Sapateiro)" (credited on other albums as Baía), a tune penned by Brazilian composer Ary Barroso in the 1930s famous for other tunes like "Brazil." "Bahia" is a great showcase for the horns, which present a very rhythmic interpretation of the melody, and for the guitars, which interject soloistic lines at the ends of phrases. Randy and Michael Brecker currently signed to Atlantic with their funk outfit The Brecker Brother play extended solos over the heavily funky interpretation of a Brazilian classic. "Jadoo" is an original penned by German saxophonist Klaus Doldinger, who at the time was leader of Passport, a German fusion group. "Jadoo" relies on heavily accented unison lines in the woodwinds with the Doldinger showing off his command of the altissimo range of his horn. Herbie Mann delivers a memorable solo on flute as does guitarist Jim Mullen. My personal favorite on the album is "Everything Must Change," the only vocal track on the album. The track is a slow ballad with lead vocals being traded between Average White Band vocalist Hamish Stuart and Ben E. King. "Everything Must Change" is a great example of how suspensions and extended harmony can create the perfect balance of tension and release in a song. This track captures the conception of the album most of any track, as the rhythm section is really the driving rhythmic, harmonic force upon which everything is based exemplified by the rock solid bass line and the sweeping lines on the Fender Rhodes. "McEwan's Export" is a track written by Average White Band guitarist Alan Gorrie and recalls the aesthetic quality of their album Soul Searching released the previous year in 1976. This track is the kind of jam tune that made Average White Band famous. "One to One" is a very slimmed-down track with Average White Band only accompanied with a few soloists. The tune is a solo vehicle for tune author David Newman and fellow saxophonist Klaus Doldinger. "Pick Up the Pieces" closes the album and is probably the biggest highlight of the album showcasing not only the conception of the album, but also giving the horn players a great vehicle for some incredible solos. While the tune is well-known by most people, the arranged horn sections that are inserted between solos give the tune a new vitality and a sense of identity. "Pick Up the Pieces" has the most strictly "jazz" solos presented by Don Ellis, Herbie Mann, and the Breckers. This album is a testament to the stark contrast of records released in the late 70s to the current times. The environment of that time period ripe for jazz-funk crossovers and artists willing to take the leap create an interesting albeit odd product that should be rereleased in a digital format.