Jarka — Ortodòxia
(Edigsa UM 2011, 1971, LP)
Jarka — Morgue o Berenice
(Edigsa UM 2013, 1972, LP)
Jarka — Ortodòxia / Morgue o Berenice
(PDI 80.2670, 1972/1992, CD)
by Rob Walker, Published 1994-10-01
This release combines two early seventies albums from the obscure Spanish band Jarka, led by the excellent pianist Jordi Sabates. Playing with a strong jazz sensibility, Jarka also differed from their Spanish contemporaries in the noticeable lack of any influence from Spanish culture or folk music. The music on Ortodoxia is predominantly in a jazz-fusion style reminiscent perhaps of Soft Machine or other early 70s European jazz-rock groups. Sabates' definitely carries the group with his deft playing, laying down some tasty jazz licks on the piano as well as occasionally turning to the organ or electric piano for more of a fusion approach. The primarily acoustic bass playing of Alfonso de Lucas is also quite impressive, showing a strong familiarity and versatility with the jazz idiom. With these two players coming from an obviously solid jazz background, the drumming, although quite tasteful and inventive, seems a little out of place with its more rock influenced stylings, perhaps reminiscent of Robert Wyatt. The album overall is rather average; there is some good playing and some nice moments, but nothing that really stands out as spectacular.
The second album, on the other hand, is a real treat. Whereas Ortodoxia contained elements of rock and jazz-rock styles, coming across as two jazz musicians trying to play a bit outside of their element, Morgue o Bernice sticks to their forte, and serves up some prime late-60s/early-70s freestyle jazz in the vein of Miles Davis' ensembles of that period. Expanded to a four-piece, with the addition of a guitarist as well as a new drummer, the album is a significant improvement over their first. Sabates' playing really shines here, and it is obvious that he could have held his own in any of Miles' lineups. His style is probably most reminiscent of Herbie Hancock; somewhat impressionistic with a keen sense of chordal colors. His chops work best on the piano, but he also knows how to make his Fender Rhodes growl and bite, and there is some fine playing featuring that classic jazz electric piano sound as well. The guitar, present on maybe half the tunes, is also excellent, and may remind some of a slightly less aggressive John McLaughlin in his Miles Davis days. The new drummer is better than their first, and in any other context would probably be considered excellent, but he is clearly not a jazz drummer, and given the quality of the rest of the players, he is the weak link, albeit a small one. Basically, he's no Tony Williams, but then again, very few drummers are. Just to keep everyone off balance, after six solid tracks of excellent jazz, Morgue o Bernice finishes up with a short Woody Guthrie bluegrass tune, complete with banjo and mandolin! If you are a fan of 60s/70s jazz, this CD is probably worth getting for the latter half of it. For someone who already has all of the Miles Davis and related releases, this may be somewhat redundant; there's nothing really new or different here. Still, the quality of Sabates' playing as well as that of his supporting musicians makes this a worthwhile and more than respectable package.
Related artist(s): Jarka
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
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