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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Crimson Jazz Trio

King Crimson Songbook Volume 2

Review by Gary Hill

OK, so musically this is basically pure jazz, but since it’s reworkings of King Crimson music I’ve put it in the progressive rock section of Music Street Journal. When you add in that one time King Crimson drummer Ian Wallace is the mastermind and sticksman on this disc, the connection is even more acute. It is also important to note that since recording this, Wallace has passed away, making this his final recording. Wallace’s cohorts here are Jody Nardone on piano and Tim Landers on bass and fellow King Crimsonite Mel Collins guests.  The music here should please jazz fans, but also King Crimson fanatics. It brings some interesting variants and interpretations to the table.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Court of the Crimson King
This comes in fast paced and energized. When it drops back to the jazzy telling of the verse (complete with piano taking the vocal line) it’s the first point where I can actually hear the source material.  This is beautiful and powerful and makes for an intriguing interpretation and variation. This is quite a dynamic piece and parts resemble the original a lot, while others seem to have little connection to the King Crimson source material.
Pictures of a City
Careening here and there this is definitely quite firmly tied to both the original source material and the killer jazz trio stylings. It wanders mid-track away from the more definite King Crimson territory. That King Crimson music is a section of “21st Century Schizoid Man.”
One Time
This is a track from Thrak. The arrangement here is quite pretty and flowing with one of the most purely jazz oriented sounds. This is a nice cut, but I really can’t say that I remember the original all that well. There are some killer musical passages on this as it carries on.
Frame by Frame
Another more modern King Crimson track, this gets a jazz rendition in a means that bears little resemblance to the original. I’ve always liked that Crimson tune, but I can make out only little bits here and there. Still, this is a great piece of music. 
Inner Garden
Here we get more Thrak music. This one has vocals, making this perhaps closer to the original. Still, this jazz rendering brings it closer into the vein of early KC. I like this one a lot and including a track with vocals helps to keep it fresh and lively. 
Heartbeat
Coming from the 1980’s version of the band, this is another that I’ve always been fond of.  At over nine minutes in length this is one of the three longest tracks here. Like with “Frame By Frame,” I really don’t hear that much of the original here. Instead we get another killer jazz treatment that explores all kinds of great sonic territory. This is quite a dynamic musical adventure. It includes an extended drum solo.
Island Suite
This grouping contains two tracks from King Crimson’s Islands album with solos from each member of the trio included as tracks within the suite. 
Press Gang
This is a dramatic and quite effective drum solo.
Zero Dark Thirty
Here we have a keyboard solo number.
Formentera Lady
They bring us in with a full group treatment and some powerful jazz stylings. There are some incredibly tasty melodies and explorations on this cut – part of the Islands album when released by Crimson. It was actually one of the jazzier of KC’s releases – making this a great choice.  The track is quite dynamic and moves into some rather dissonant territory here and there. It segues straight into the next cut.
Sailor's Tale
They bring it down here, yet this does feel very much like a continuation of the previous track.
The Plank
Here we have the final solo of the album, the bass solo. It’s tasty and quite cool.
Lament
This powerful and evocative cut from Starless and Bible Black has always been a favorite of mine. It works very well in this jazz treatment. While I enjoy what they’ve done with the balladic segment the faster pieced movement seems to work even better here. They definitely saved the best for last with this killer number as the closer. They include a cool false ending with a reprise on this, too.
 
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