Monday, March 13, 2006

Egil Straume Jazz Combo



E. STRAUME; Clarinet, alto & soprano saxes
G. ROSENBERGS; Trumpet, Accordion, Flute
P. MIERLEJS; Trombone
I. BIRKANS; Flute, Piccolo, Baritone Sax
K. RUTENTALS; Keyboards
M. KIOPS; Bass
M. BRIEZHKALNS; Drums, Percussion

Music sometimes does this to you - throws up something totally out of the left-field (or left-wing - more on that later) that's so good it leaves you breathless for more, but with the knowledge that you'll never hear it's likes again. It's a bittersweet feeling that happens all too frequently to an avid collector of odd jazz compilations like myself. This particular track was given a release on the excellent Cosmic Sounds record label as part of 'Red Square Groove: rare jazz/fusion from the Russian vaults'. The album collects 1970s/80s Russian jazz and fusion. Given the Russian predeliction for prog rock and heavy metal, it's hardly surprising that many of these Communist-era tracks are jazz-rock of the type initiated by Miles Davis' seminal 'Bitches Brew'.

This track is an exception to the jazz-rock theme of the album - six minutes of fast, frantic jazz-funk, played with a passion and verve so often lacking in that genre. After a slow, cycling brass introduction and some plain percussion, the track erupts into it's main theme - big, bold and brassy horns playing so fast they can hardly keep up with themselves. The whole piece from hereon in is taken at a furious tempo, and consists of multiple solos from pretty much the whole band. The award for best solo has to go to I. Birkans' flute masterpiece, melodic, inventive and totally at one with the supremely funky rhythm section. Solos are accompanied in all cases by some funky comping from both organ and guitar as well as washes of sound from the horns. Despite the six minute plus length, the track is over sooner than you would like, although the final minute is among the most exciting of the piece, the band throwing the theme around amongst each other and never going anywhere near dropping the ball. This is one tight group.

How they got away with this sort of thing in communist Russia is anyone's guess, but i'm glad they did, and I'm equally glad that Cosmic Sounds are making it available.

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