England circa 1970 was a hotbed of jazz-rock crossover activity. On one hand, progressive rock was in its first flowering, and jazz flavors and players were beginning to find the way to the rock world open to them for the first time. On the other, the breakthroughs of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, et al., were inspiring a new generation of British jazz musicians to push the envelope. The former found adventurous bands like Colosseum and Mogul Thrash jazzing up their rock, while the latter found the likes of Ian Carr's Nucleus and Keith Tippett's Centipede bringing a fresh, rock-informed attitude to progressive U.K. jazz. Not only can sax/flute king Bob Downes' early albums such as 1970's Electric City be stylistically located in the midst of all this cross-pollination, but some of the best of both camps, including trumpeter Carr and guitarist Chris Spedding, were in on the sessions. Electric City is quite a mixed bag; a batch of vocal tunes sports the album's most overtly rock-oriented, groove-based arrangements, and vocals by Downes himself. To say that Downes' vocal gifts are not on par with his head-turning instrumental talents would be putting it kindly, but there are plenty of other sides to this outing. Such tunes as "Crush Hour" and "Dawn Until Dawn" bear heads that show the influence of '60s post-bop jazz, interwoven with modal improv sections bordering on free-blowing freakouts. It's here that the sax and flute skills of Downes really shine, as he turns in solos that are alternately blistering and searchingly poignant. Then there are odd detours like "West II," a Caribbean-flavored tune that echoes Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas," and the melodic (mostly) balladic "In Your Eyes," which sounds like it could have come off King Crimson's contemporaneous Lizard album. There's an appealingly rough-around-the-edges quality to it all that gives the feeling of barriers being broken down and new worlds discovered. ~ J. Allen
22995GBob Downes - Electric City (CD)http://oldies.scdn5.secure.raxcdn.com/i/boxart/large/97/5013929728820.jpg?v=530.83USDDiscontinuedEsotericCDJazzBob-Downes2010-04-05
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