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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The JCA Orchestra

Live at the BPC

Review by Gary Hill

"JCA" stands for "Jazz Composers Alliance." That fact should tell you that this live performance will include plenty of jazz. It definitely does, but it crosses into fusion zones and territory that runs toward Rock In Opposition. There is a real "art music" element to this, as well. That all makes the argument for this landing where I put it, under progressive rock. This is mostly, but not completely, instrumental. It's all intriguing.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Romanople
Percussive elements bring this into being, and then the violin joins after a time. Eventually other instruments are added to the mix as the arrangement fills out. There are some real world music elements in the composition of this number. The tune covers quite a bit of territory. This gets pretty intense before it's over. It drops for some more violin showcasing later, too.
The Latest
There is a slow moving sense of majesty as this comes in and gradually grows outward. It grows to some killer melodic fusion zones with a hint of Latin music in the percussion arrangement. There are some non-lyrical vocals on this number, and the tune really rocks. There is some real rock guitar in the mix further down the musical road.
The Sixth Snake
There is a real melodic jazz bent to this piece, but it's also exploratory and covers quite a bit of space. There is a cool piano solo movement in the first half of the number. They take it out into a killer fusion jam as it grows back out from there. This works through so many shifts and changes, covering so much territory along the road. Of course, at more than 15-and-a-half minutes long, there is plenty of landscape for them to paint with their instruments.
Orange, Yellow, Blue
There are horns that seem to flit about like insects at the start of this. The cut begins to rise up and coalesce from there into arrangement that's part jazz and part trippy weirdness. There are some particularly classy shifts and changes built into this run. This has some of the most dramatic and powerful passages of the whole disc. In fact, this might be my favorite tune here.
A Wallflower in the Amazon

At nearly 19-minutes long, this is the epic of the set. Violin starts the number. Horn is added to the mix as they begin to explore the whitespace of the room. There are vocals of the unusual and artsy variety on this tune. The cut has a real Rock In Opposition vibe in a lot of ways. There is some killer fusion jamming later on this musical journey, with violin and other strings getting to show off for quite a while. This really gets into some screaming hot jazz jamming later. There is a climax as it approaches the 12-and-a-half-minute mark. That gives us a false ending. Vocals enter by themselves. Instruments rejoin fairly quickly, and the music exploratory and RIO-based, as are those vocals. This gets into some rather unsettling and chaotic territory as it works outward. After some building and jamming, there is another drop to nearly acapella vocals. Strangeness rises up gradually to join. This works to crazed musical zones. It hits another peak and then the track seems to end. More melodic instrumentation begins to move the number forward from there. The vocals return over the top of that.

Super Eyes-Private Heroes
The opening flourish on this calls to mind an old-school action movie soundtrack. The number works out from there to an up-tempo jazz groove.
 
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