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Tracklist: 1. Trade Wind 7:14 2. A Froggy Day 4:45 3. Oriental Wind 8:25 4. Zephir 4:15 5. Spirit of the Wind 5:30 6. Whirlwind 5:28 7. Chapel of the Wind 5:10 Line-up: Francois "Faton" Cahen - piano (ex-Zao) Miroslav Vitous - contrabass (of Weather Report) Michel Seguin - percussion (ex-Zao) With: Jack Dejohnette - drums (on 2 & 7) All compositions written by Cahen, except track 2: by Cahen, Vitous, & Seguin. Arranged by Cahen, Vitous, & Seguin. Produced by Francois Cahen. Recorded & mixed by William Davis at "RPM Sound" studios, New York, USA.
Prologue. Francois "Faton" Cahen was one of the founding members of the excellent French band Zao. Under his own name, Cahen released several albums, though "Great Winds" is a special one. Created with the help of a few other Jazz-Fusion legends, this album had become one of the true hallmarks of the genre. However, an opportunity to release it on CD is offered only in 2000, when another new division of Musea Records was named with the title of this legendary album.
The Album. To be honest, Weather Report is the only Jazz-Rock Legend, the music of which I don't like. It is because, unlike Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever, and Oregon (not to mention Brand X, which is my favourite Jazz-Fusion band), Weather Report's music is, on the whole, based on the structures of swingy jazz, and not on the Jazz-Rock-y ones. So, I am very much impressed with the performance of Miroslav Vitous on the "Great Winds" album -- the musical structures of which are far from most of the known forms of Jazz-Fusion and especially those in Weather Report. While not being consistently unified, the stylistics of this album is more than unique and can't be compared either to Cahen's old band Zao, nor to anything ever created under the banner of Music's Muse. The first five compositions on the album I consider uncommon pearls of Progressive. What's especially interesting is that different soloing instruments play a prominent role on each of these compositions. Trade Wind (track 1) is benefited by the piano. A Froggy Day (track 2) is the only composition on the album in which the powerful and very diverse parts of the real drums are on the forefront of the arrangements. Oriental Wind (track 3) is in all senses the hour of triumph of Miroslav Vitous, who, by the way, plays the contrabass with the bow throughout the album. Spirit of the Wind (track 5) is a festival of percussion instruments, while the parts of piano and contrabass sound like they are being performed in the distance. While there are no percussion instruments, with the exception of cymbals, on Zephir (track 4), they, in my view, play a very significant role. Well, it's time to tell you about the musical and stylistic characteristics of these and both of the remaining tracks on the album. First off, it should be clear to anyone that the Great Winds never blow randomly. All their capfuls, blasts, and even hurricanes can only seem to be created impromptu and, thus, the real improvisations aren't their cup of tea. The same characteristics have all the musical incarnations of the Great Winds that are featured on this album. While the overall stylistics of it can be defined as a unique blend of Classic Symphonic Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion, most tracks on the album, being examined separately, turn out to be rather different amongst themselves. Both the jazzy improvisation-like solos feature three of them, - Trade Wind, A Froggy Day, and Chapel of the Wind, - and symphonic passages of the piano and contrabass, which, as you already know, sounds like a violin here. While all four of the remaining tracks still contain some elements of Jazz-Fusion, for the most part they consist of symphonic structures. As I've already mentioned above, the first five compositions on the album are masterpieces. All of them are filled with diverse and intensive arrangements consisting of highly virtuosi and intriguing interplay between the piano and contrabass, which for the most part sounds like a magical three-voice violin (tenor, baritone, and bass). Especially impressive, though, is Oriental Wind (track 3), which is just filled with a wide variety of wonderful Eastern colours. Here, Vitous plays his contrabass with such diversity and virtuosity as Subramaniam plays his real violin. Undoubtedly, (at least for this reviewer), "Great Winds" was Vituos's hour of triumph. IMHO, he has never played as incredibly impressive as here. Unfortunately, both the last tracks on the album are in many aspects inferior to all the previous ones. In its entirety, Whirlwind (track 6) consists of only the violin-like solos and passages of contrabass, all of which are masterful yet, musically, rather abstract. Mostly mellow and melodious, Chapel of the Wind (track 7) is on the whole a good piece, though it is more accessible than any previous tracks on the album. Also, while a guest drummer, the famous jazz musician Jack Dejohnette, is credited on this piece, in fact, I hear only Michel Sequin's percussion instruments.
Summary. Despite the fact that the last two tracks on "Great Winds" aren't as impressive as all of the preceding compositions, I must admit that on the whole, this is one of the most unique Jazz-Fusion albums I have ever heard. Furthermore, it is amazing to know that it was just an acoustic trio who created such a musical palette that is rich in everything related to a quality and full-fledged Progressive Rock. Highly recommended to the experienced lovers of both the Classic Jazz-Fusion and Art-Rock genres.
VM. February 19, 2002
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