Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Andy Summers’ New Jazz Band Takes Europe and China by Storm

Police guitarist Andy Summers has formed a new jazz group with English saxophonist and film composer John Altman. Known as Pearls of Wisdom, the combo is very popular in Europe and China, so much so that a massive tour is in the works.

There is no word yet on a possible studio or live album resulting from this endeavor.

For more information, visit Summers’ Facebook page and Twitter feed, both accessible at www.andysummers.com.

--Raj Manoharan


Sunday, March 22, 2015

New Andy Summers Album Due Early Summer 2015; Preview Track Available Now Online

Now that Circa Zero has gone from zero to zero, founding member and guitarist Andy Summers is back on the path only he can chart – that of an autonomous six-string shaman.

Summers' eleventh original solo album – his first in over a decade – is called Qualia! and is scheduled for release in early summer 2015.

A preview track from Qualia! is available now at www.andysummers.com. The ethereal, otherworldly sound of the tune recalls Summers' albums with King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, as well as Summers' early solo albums Mysterious Barricades and The Golden Wire.

At this time, it's not clear if the preview track is indicative of the overall style of the album. It also remains to be seen whether the album features Summers' original compositions from his score for his autobiographical documentary Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police – which was actually completed and first showcased three years ago – or consists of recently recorded new material.

Stay tuned to www.andysummers.com for further details.

--Raj Manoharan


Saturday, March 21, 2015

CD (Fan) Review – Spirits…Live – Live at the Buckhead Theatre, Atlanta, by Justin Hayward

When I saw Moody Blues lead singer/songwriter Justin Hayward’s new PBS special Spirits...Live, I immediately knew I had to get the accompanying CD. I’m very glad I did.

I've never been a fan of The Moody Blues, but I love their 1980s hit song "Your Wildest Dreams" and I love their early 1990s PBS special A Night at Red Rocks. And now I love Hayward's latest video and CD just as much. Both are excellent presentations of excellent music.

If you like the same singer/songwriters I'm into, such as John Denver, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Michael Nesmith, you'll most probably enjoy Justin Hayward as well. He operates in a similar country/folk/pop/rock vein, yet with his own inimitable, irresistible style.

On this outing, Hayward performs many of his old band and solo classics ("Nights in White Satin," "Tuesday Afternoon") and introduces new wonders ("The Western Sky"), but with a slightly stripped down sound. Foregoing a bassist and a drummer, Hayward sings and plays lead and rhythm on various acoustic guitars, with the amazing Mike Dawes providing outstanding electric and acoustic guitar accompaniment and keyboardists Alan Hewitt and Julie Ragins providing backing vocals and lush orchestrations and percussion.

Hayward has never sounded better, especially at 68 years of age. Like Nesmith, he just has the experience and wisdom of a man who's comfortable with where he is in his life now, rather than the sometimes off-putting and staged artistic moodiness of his youth. This comes through in his demeanor, which is relaxed and natural, and his voice, which is as heartfelt as ever.

As I said before, Hayward has a style that blends country, folk, pop, and rock. Interestingly, if you take away the lyrics and the vocals, many of the songs would be considered new age. That's not a knock on any of those genres, including new age. That's the just way it is. The same goes for new wave and new age. The new wave sound without lyrics and vocals is also a part of new age. And there's nothing wrong with any of that.

When I saw the listing for Justin Hayward: Spirits...Live, I knew I would be in for something special. In terms of both the televised concert and the companion CD, I wasn't wrong.

--Raj Manoharan


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Andy Summers in New York City (and on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon) This Weekend

Police guitarist Andy Summers will be in New York City this weekend to promote Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police, a documentary film co-produced by Nicolas Cage and based on Summers’ 2006 memoir One Train Later. Further information can be found at www.cantstandlosingyou.com.

Summers will also be appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on Friday, March 20, 2015.

To mark the occasion, I am listening to World Gone Strange, Summers’ only solo album not to be recorded in his adopted home state of California. The 1991 release was in fact recorded in New York City. Below is my review of the CD:

CD Retro (Fan) Review – World Gone Strange, by Andy Summers

Of all of Andy Summers’ albums, this one has really resonated with me over the years. In fact, as I get older, I find myself returning to it again and again. It's the most focused, consistent, and guitar-centric album of Summers’ entire solo discography.

There’s no flash or pizazz here – just classy, elegant electric guitar music, with hints of jazz, blues, and funk. There isn’t one lackluster tune on the CD. It is flawless from beginning to end.

Summers’ spot-on backing band includes Tony Levin on bass, Mitchell Forman on keyboards, and Chad Wackerman on drums, with guest performances by Eliane Elias on piano, Victor Bailey on bass, Nana Vasconcelos and Manola Badrena on percussion, producer Mike Mainieri on marimba, and Bendik on soprano saxophone.

Andy Summers has a varied body of work, all of which is enjoyable, some more than others. I consider this to be his most timeless and universal. It’s my favorite.

--Raj Manoharan


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Music, TV: Spirits... Live, by Justin Hayward

I've never been a fan of The Moody Blues, but I love their 1980s hit song “Your Wildest Dreams” and I love their early 1990s PBS special A Night at Red Rocks. And I love Moody Blues lead singer/songwriter Justin Hayward's new PBS special Spirits... Live just as much as Red Rocks, if not more. Both are excellent presentations of excellent music.

If you like the same singer/songwriters I'm into, such as John Denver, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Michael Nesmith, you'll most probably enjoy Justin Hayward as well. He operates in a similar country/folk/pop/rock vein, yet with his own inimitable, irresistible style.

On this outing, Hayward performs many of his old band and solo classics (“Nights in White Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon”) and introduces new wonders (“The Western Sky”), but with a slightly stripped down sound. Foregoing a bassist and a drummer, Hayward sings and plays lead and rhythm on various acoustic guitars, with another guitarist providing electric and acoustic accompaniment and two keyboardists providing backing vocals and lush orchestrations and percussion.

Hayward has never looked or sounded better, especially at 68 years of age. Like Nesmith, he just has the experience and wisdom of a man who's comfortable with where he is in his life now, rather than the sometimes off-putting and staged, artistic moodiness of his youth. This comes through in his stance, which is relaxed and natural, and his voice, which is as heartfelt as ever.

As I said before, Hayward has a style that blends country, folk, pop, and rock. Interestingly, if you take away the lyrics and the vocals, many of the songs would be considered new age. That's not a knock on any of those genres, including new age. That's the just way it is. The same goes for new wave and new age. The new wave sound without lyrics and vocals is also a part of new age. And there's nothing wrong with any of that.

Even though I'm not a die-hard or even casual fan, when I saw the listing for Justin Hayward: Spirits... Live, I knew I would be in for something special. I wasn't wrong.

--Raj Manoharan