Jade Warrior — Distant Echoes
(CDR 106, 1993, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1994-02-01
For the uninitiated, Jade Warrior's recorded history began around 1970 as a three-piece, integrating east Asian themes, introspective jazz-rock ideas, some elements of folk, and a lot more into a unique new sound based on flute, guitar, and ethnic percussion. Through the years, the band's sound evolved to encompass far more: after three albums they became a duo and esentially did away with vocals, and released another string of four albums for the Island label that are monuments of inventiveness, although seldom fully appreciated by those who cut their teeth on the first three. The 80s saw only two releases, the less than spectacular Horizen and the low key and highly introspective At Peace, released after the passing of guitarist Tony Duhig, leaving Jade Warrior as a one-man band. Flautist Jon Field then recruited two new band members, and started out all over again. With their 1991 release Breathing the Storm, they began to recapture the spirit of the Island period, albeit with a more laid-back approach, par for the post new-age era. Now comes Distant Echoes, perhaps their best release since 1974's stunning Floating World — or perhaps their best album to date. They have assembled all of their best inclinations here, given them new life, and embarked on a new forward looking journey. Unlike its moody predecessor, Distant Echoes rings with liveliness, forcefully encompassing all emotions. Once again, the lineup includes Colin Henson on guitars and Dave Sturt on fretless bass, plus a long list of session musicians on violins, saxes, bass clarinet, flugelhorn, drums, and choirs. The album opener, "Evocation," recals the gritty guitars and dissonance employed on their album Released, and then moves on to "Into the Sunlight," an eight minute piece recalling the Airto Moreira Brazilian percussive sound overlaid with the trademark wall of flutes and guitars; Henson does an admirable job at keeping Tony Duhig's guitar sound alive. The album continues to alternate low key and uptempo pieces: "Night of the Shamen" delves into an eerie melodic cycle on violin (vaguely reminiscent of the sound achieved by the Beatles on "Within You Without You") supported by guitar and pecussion, topped off with spicy guitar leads and scatting flutes. "Snake Goddess" uses choirs, piano, and saxes to cover some new ground, while "Timeless Journey" and the album closer "Spirits of the Water" recall the pastoral symphonics of Kites. All taken, this is a rejuvenated Jade Warrior fully realized, fresh with spirited ideas. For anyone not yet familiar with the JW sound, this is as good a place as any to tune in.
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more