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
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more