Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fusion Week: Stark Reality

This week JazzWrap will take a look at some of the important (sometimes forgotten) groups that have helped shape and expand jazz fusion, prog and jazz rock over the last 40 years.

Stark Reality
Now (Stones Throw)
Monty Stark (vibes, vocals)
Phil Morrison (bass)
Vinne Johnson (drums)
John Abercrombie (guitar)

Carl Atkins (sax)
Stanton Davis (trumpet)
Alan Reed (bass)
E. Dwellingham (drums)

Recorded for use on a 1970 Public Television show for kids, Stark Reality's reinterpretation of old timer Hoagy Carmichael's '50s-era children songs must be heard to be believed. It's funky, it's free, it's psychedelic. It just might blow your mind.

Monty Stark, player of the most fuzz-distorted vibraphone you are likely to ever hear, led the charge, joined by wah-wah wicked guitarist John Abercrombie, groovy electric bass player Phil Morrison and funky drummer Vinnie Johnson (and sometimes horn player Carl Atkins). Together, they create an alchemical prog-jazz-funk blend unheard before or since. The performance is raw, often dissonant, and takes well to adventurous ears, but not so kindly to ears tuned to sweeter sounds.

Given that these are Hoagy Carmichael songs, the tracks tend to feature whimsical lyrics sung in an artless sing-songy manner typical of musicians who are primarily instrumentalists. However, the vocal bits tend to be relegated to the middle or latter sections of the tracks as the opening bits tend to lean heavily on acid-drenched jamming.

For years this album (Originally titled Stark Reality Discovers Hoagy Carmichael's Music Shop) was sort of (use that term loosely) a "holy grail" among funk and jazz fusion collectors. This CD reissue combines that album with a previously unreleased session (now titled as Stark Reality 1969) and a 7'' only release. All together is gives a strong, fun and absolutely wierd experience into a one-off jazz fusion experiement which has since turned into an underground classic (of sorts).



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