After hearing part of this on YouTube I just had to own this album. It comes in the series that ECM reissued for a low price. Packaged in a mini gatefold sleeve, Gnu High is too beautiful for words. Here is this gathering of brilliant musicians under the umbrella of Kenny Wheeler. Wheeler a stylist first, playing for the form, well articulated.

At the same time he restrains his high carat companions in a positive way it seems, earning the respect he deserves. Jarrett is here to accompany, still keen to interact but stretching out only when it's his turn to solo. Holland is a roadworthy companion, we know, and DeJohnnette's sometimes to pushy trademark playing is a little bit further away in the mix this time. Which is fine for this setting.

Some things take time: writing a new post for example, or learning to fully appreciate a record. I bought Rush latest studio offering in combination with the Moving Pictures live vinyl back in 2012 or 2013. Don't remember exactly. I have to admit while always being a keen supporter of the band since mid-eighties, the last studio efforts since Test for Echo couldn't really caught much of my attention for a longer period of time. The band's strong live reputation remained through the years but I felt a lack of new inspiration. Vapor Trails was a turn for the best and back to guitar driven riffs. Trying to reinvent themselves again after decades seemed hard even for these outstanding craftsmen.

I listened to Clockwork Angels once in a while, heard new freshness and potential and now the last few weeks it caught me. In combination with the live performances I saw on the internet I really dove into it. At sixty-something they revived. There it is: the right balance between vocals, keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. A melting pot of sound with only equal parts and the occasional Peart penned one liner that seems to jump out once in a while and sticks in the head for the rest of the day.

Not looking to the past they obviously found new resources of inspiration, enough to raise the bar once more. They even do allow companions on the new and winding road. Strings are added and thankfully they are agressive, fully supporting and responsible for a whole new palette of sound. Now watch out you hipster young bands, before you know these gentlemen will kick your ass when they are well into their seventies.



Won't be able to see Abdullah Ibrahim's Mukashi trio perform live at the Ghent Jazz festival. So instead pulled out the Ekaya recording from 1984. A record showing the true soul of Abdullah. Always at ease behind the piano it seems, clever composing goes hand in hand with improvisation. Combined with the feet shuffling rhythmics of South-Africa, his voice is an unique one. Fled from apartheid in the sixties he is longing for Ekaya (Home) and finds some very capable companions on his musical road back.

The playing is at times harmonical tight and driving, lovely and laidback at other moments. Alto sax player Carlos Ward stands out with his fierce virtuoso soloing. Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder.

Recorded at Van Gelder studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 17th November 1983

A side:

  1. Ekaya
  2. Sotho Blue
  3. Ntyilo, Ntyilo

B side:

  1. Bra Timing from Phomolong
  2. Ek sê ou Windhoek toe nou
  3. Cape Town


Abdullah Ibrahim Ekaya

When I made the switch from vinyl to cd's in the late eighties, one of the first albums I bought was the Metheny-Coleman collaboration "Song X". However I returned my copy after just one listening session. Not that bringing records back to the shop was a habit of mine. It only happened a couple of times.

This story outlines what an impression Coleman could leave on the unexperienced listener. I was shocked and obviously didn't get the harmolodics. Nowadays Ornette Coleman is not a frequent run on my turntable or cd player either but I learned to appreciate his involvement in modern music. He took chances, he was a creator and did not fear or compromise. Like many of the true innovators he dedicated his life to his art.

It was through the Jorn Zorn's Naked City version of Lonely Woman that I learned to appreciate Coleman's music and it's potential beauty. The man still remains a mystery to many of us and people will rediscover his music for generations to come.

Photo by Andy Newcombe.

Ornette Coleman by Andy Newcombe

Michael J. Smith was (and stays) a fairly unknown piano player to me, to say the least. I picked up this copy years ago from the sales section (notice the hole in the bottom left corner meaning the record was selected for fast and cheap selling) and was pleasantly surprised. Yes I bought the record because of Jonas Hellborg who I knew from a Mahavishnu incarnation.

Third man in the party is Santana sticks man Michael Shrieve (remember Woodstock). I read an interview with Shrieve once looking back at that recording session. Smith picking up Shrieve at the airport accompanied by a timide young man who turned out to be the bass player for the recording. Little did Shrieve know what a bass player Hellborg would turn out to be.

Side A is a melodic fusion explosion with a fierce take no prisoners approach, side B starts of with a drum evocation by Shrieve, followed by a more free, improvised kind of playing.

Relativity Records, TR 8101
Recorded in Stockholm, May, 1983

A side:

  1. So let it spring
  2. The seventh way
  3. All our steps...
  4. Jonas

B side:

  1. Neap tide
  2. Sense
  3. The virgin bride
Michael J. Smith 'All our steps'

Drummer Peter Erskine is an important part of the music scene since the early seventies. The list of recordings he contributed to is impressive not to say overwhelming. Not only it's a long one, no it's a list of sometimes landmark music of that same period. Talking about lists. That of musicians and bands he collaborated with is of similar length and importance.

I am not going to dive deeper into this. Read for yourself. Those who believed this to be a framed story of Erskine's time with Weather Report (1978-1982) don't get what they expected. But personnaly I'm even more satisfied with the outcome. He shares stories and events, often not even chronologic. A must read for everyone serious about drumming, music and life. Yes life, I've you think that success is just around the corner for someone that talented then think again.

This book will go up on my bookshelf next to Bill Milkowski's "Jaco". I think mr. Erskine would approve.

Peter Erskine No Beethoven book