Directed by Brad Anderson, 2004
“It’s as if a screenplay by Franz Kafka had been filmed by Alfred Hitchcock.” This is how one review summed up The Machinist and I wholeheartedly agree. Christian Bale stars as an emaciated industrial worker who is becoming totally detached from reality. We slowly see the many elements of his nightmare existence exposed with devastating results. The film features an appropriately eerie music score by Roque Banos that perfectly evokes the spirit of Bernard Herman, Hitchcock’s favorite composer. This film is highly recommended for fans of the unusual and for me is one of the best of recent years.
After the Riot at Newport
By The Nashville Allstars
The year 1960 was not a transitional time for jazz. Be-bop and its successor hard-bop were still the order of the stylistic day and the free approach of Ornette Coleman had yet to take hold. The Newport Rhode Island Festival was an annual gathering of the jazz clan. And it was in July 1960 that a group of Nashville’s finest players made the journey to Newport for a much-anticipated performance.
Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph, Hank Garland were the best of Nashville session musicians, playing on many country and pop recordings day in and day out. They were all jazz music fans and very proficient jazz players too, jamming at every opportunity in local Nashville clubs. They would often be joined by 17 year old vibes prodigy, Gary Burton.
So this all-star band headed to Newport, Rhode Island for what I’m sure would have been a tremendous show. Unfortunately, festival organizers had trouble managing an unruly crowd and most of the schedule was scrapped, including the appearance of the Nashville All-stars.
But the guys were determined to document their music anyway and recorded what is today a milestone album yet widely overlooked jazz classic – After the Riot at Newport. Germany’s Bear Family label reissued the long out of print LP a few years back and Nashville Public Library was fortunate enough to obtain a copy for the jazz collection. Especially noteworthy is the fabulous playing of Gary Burton and Hank Garland. To me these two have never played better. In fact, the whole project stands as proof that there is so much more to the Nashville music scene than meets the eye. It is highly recommended.
By Planet X, 2002
For me, jazz/rock fusion was always as much about rock as jazz. In the earliest days of the genre, it was Larry Coryell’s rock guitar on Gary Burton’s “duster” or Tony Williams’ funky backbeat on Miles Davis’ “Stuff” that attracted me as much as the jazzy writing and chops galore. I’ve loved electric instrumental music as far back as Duane Eddy in the late ‘50s so I was naturally drawn to this musical hybrid that began in the late ‘60s. After the golden age of fusion in the early to mid ‘70s, I found myself more attracted to the rock oriented fusion that that of the jazz giants like Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock who seemed to switch back often to straight ahead jazz. By this time it was Jeff Beck, The Dixie Dregs, and Bill Bruford who were making the most exciting contributions. The last few years have seen classic fusion all but die out, kept alive only by a few innovators such as Scott Henderson’s tribal tech and Bunny Brunel’s cab. Both these excellent players recorded and toured with Corea’s fusion bands way back when. Corea continued to play in both styles and headed up one of the greatest groups, the electric band, periodically. It was from Bunny Brunel’s Cab Band that I discovered two outstanding players, guitarist Tony MacAlpine and drummer Virgil Donati. Which brings me to Planet X…
While not strictly speaking a fusion band, the music of Planet X defies easy categorization. Initial listening would tend to link this band to progressive or even metal rock but to me the compositions are much more advanced than any prog rock I’ve ever heard. There always was a link between classic fusion and prog rock especially Corea’s Return to Forever. Perhaps the best description of Planet X I’ve seen was when progressive magazine coined the phrase “black hole fusion.” Intricate time shifts and tradeoff are among the hallmarks of Planet X music. This is due primarily to the contributions of sophistication of this music reflects the influence of MacAlpine who was a classical child prodigy. Rounding out the band is keyboardist Derek Sherinian who also composes and provides the foundation and textures for the songs. 2002’s “Moonbabies” was my introduction to Planet X. At first I was unsure what I thought about what they were doing but the music really grew on me. I heard their live disc from the previous year that represents the dynamics of their in-person show. I am eagerly awaiting the release of their next project sometime next year which will mark the debut of super fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth as MacAlpine’s replacement. Music for me has always been about discovering new styles and plotting how they evolved from what came before. As a fusion lover I am gratified by how the last great jazz instrumental trend has evolved thanks to musicians of the caliber of the players in Planet X.