Title: East Village Sessions
Genre: Rock/Art, Progressive, Jazz, Fusion
Label: Lolo Records
I have heard several Gongzilla albums and have been very impressed with them all. East Village Sessions is easily the most artistic and creative work that they have recorded to date. It was not hard to surmise that this was a superlative effort right from the start. This is also the strongest jazz oriented album I have heard from this band, and that is due to the influence Benoit Moerlen had on their overall sound with his vibes.
The best way to describe this fine session is to say it is jazz that rocks, however it is slightly more complicated than that. How is one able to explain in a few short words the combination of instruments used on this CD? I find it impossible. David Fuiczynski (the guy is on his own planet) and Bon Lozaga man the guitars, Benoit Moerlen is on vibes and marimba, Phil Kester adds his tasteful percussive tones to the mix, and the rhythm section combination of Hansford Rowe (bass) and Gary Husband (drums) hold down the bottom line very well.
Everyone takes advantage of the strength surging from the powerful rhythm section and then the music takes shape based on those timely complex rhythms. It is apparent that this band has reached a creative pinnacle while recording jazz-rock fusion. This type of music leaves the door open for improvisation and something new to happen on a continual basis so I stand ready for something new and exciting to come my way on the next album.
Six of eight tracks clock in at over four minutes long. Only "My Doctor Told Me So" and "No Pennies Please" fit into the ‘unusual’ category for run times for what this band typically plays. Then again, this is not your typical album. I have no doubt whatsoever why I am attracted to fusion and progressive rock, the musicianship is unmatched and always an adventure to absorb. Now there is a key word, absorb. That is how any music lover wants to feel while listening to music, totally absorbed in the sound. Music can be romantic, poetic, powerful and mystical; all of those rudiments are key factors in mesmerizing an audience. Great music makes all that happen and bands like Gongzilla cast that spell upon you every time you put their CDs into your stereo. Fusion, progressive and jazz audiences will find a lot of pleasure taking this all in. It sure meets all of my listening requirements. I listened several times, and each time I enjoyed it more.
©"Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
June 27, 2003
1. Haniface – 4:13
2. Aquila – 8:20
3. Lilly – 7:30
4. Ging Gong – 4:46
5. Thrive – 4:02
6. My Doctor Told Me So – 2:09
7. The News – 7:16
8. No Pennies Please – 3:19
Rating- 5 stars
Hansford Rowe: basses
Bon Lozaga: guitar, loops, e-bow
Benoit Moerlen: vibes, marimba
Gary Husband: drums
Phil Kester: percussion
Special Guest: David "Fuze" Fiuczynski: guitar
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Gongzilla Live (2001, Lolo Records) Americans Bon Lozaga (guitar) and Hansford Rowe (bass) and Frenchman Benoit Moerlen (vibes, xylophone) formed the nucleus of the fusion band Gongzilla in the mid 1990s, and recorded the studio CDs Suffer and Thrive with guest guitarists Allan Holdsworth and David Torn. The 2001 Gongzilla release Live was recorded direct to 2-track at a festival in Quebec City, Canada, on June 27, 1998, with drummer Vic Stevens, who played on the Gongzilla debut CD Suffer. In the Gongzilla tradition of innovative guest guitarists, this show also featured NYC guitarist and composer David Fiuczynski, who previously played with Stevens on a record by his band Mistaken Identity. Live contains seven instrumental tracks, each written by one of the three core Gongzilla members. The languid fusion grooves move through gradual developments and solos by guitar and vibes/xylo, but with little melodic content like the repeated head of "Bad Habits." The opening track, "Mr. Sinister Minister," builds effectively through a sparse, clean groove into a solo section, "Hip-Hopnosis" moves from a bouncy verse to a smooth chorus, and "Image" builds a light funk groove through the only long development on the record. All of these songs are solidly played, but none of them ring truly memorable in the writing or playing. The heavy, rock guitar riffing in "Gongzilla's Dilemma" and "Gongzilla" feels out of place for a fusion band, especially with Lozaga's dripping wet fusion guitar sound and the vibe/xylo sounds of Moerlen. Gongzilla's attempts at metal-fusion crossover sound like jazz cats trying to rock, rather than like an authentic blend of heavy rock and fusion by musicians who can truly feel both styles. Over unobtrusive drumming and bass, Lozaga drags down the first three tracks and the last two with gratuitous guitar soloing that detracts from the sparse melodic content of the arrangements. Lozaga's leads have little original sound or spark to distinguish his thick toned, tremolo bar laced work from scores of other post-Holdsworth fusion guitarists. In contrast, Fiuczynski's trademark atonal, sliding fretless guitar solos in "Gongzilla" and "Soli" ring with his unique and inventive sound and feel. The two guitarists often play the same melody lines in unison, like the opening to "Gongzilla," which gives these guitar melodies a pleasantly dissonant but massively fat sound. But just as Fuze starts to improvise a groove on the rhythm in "Gongzilla" after his solo, Live commits the cardinal sin of any live album - the song fades out while the band is still jamming, after less than four and a half minutes of the song. Live is only 43 minutes long, so CD length can't have been the problem. Hopefully some catastrophe struck, like the tape breaking, or the sound system exploding, or someone being abducted by a flying saucer, because there really isn't any other excuse for fading out a track on a record of live fusion, a genre where live playing should be prized. Although full of talented fusion musicians, the music and playing on Gongzilla Live never fully engages or excites, coming closest in the building grooves of "Mr. Sinister Minister" and "Image," and when David Fiuczynski starts to wail. Reviewed by Scott Andrews [email@example.com] More Info: http://www.lolorecords.com/bands/gongzilla/gongzilla.html Listen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
Gongzilla: Suffer (CD, 52:38); Lolo Records, LOLO 003-2, 1995 (re-released 2001) Yeah, I now, this release is a bit on the older side of things but great fusion is ageless and a joyful listen no matter when it is discovered. The group Gong has mutated itself gladly through an endless morph of musicians. From deep in the way-back machine’s files we find You with Steve Hillage on axe to its days with fusion legend Allan Holdsworth on Expresso and with Bon Lozaga riffing it up on Time is the Key the spectrum is spanned. Out of Gong’s forehead doth sprout Gongzilla -- a delightful little fusion-critter of curious seeds. This release, Suffer features Bon Lozaga and Allan Holdsworth on awesome guitars. Most compositions are very Gong-ish in the Expresso period and vibes/marimba by Gong-cornerstone bandmate, Benoit Moerlen, firmly places the sound in Gongfusionland. Ex- Gonger, Hansford Rowe handles the basslines deftly. Bobby Thomas is primary percussion with Lionel Cordew, Vic Stevens, and Ben Perowsky, (Lost Tribe), on drums. Samuel Rowe does a 10-second long outro of French vox -- a Gong-weirdism. Eleven songs carry you through heavy-hitting fusion blow-outs, “Gongzilla”, to mellow jazz gems, “Sing”,, and even dreamy drifts, “Allan Qui?”, through introspective soundscapes. When you are about to pass out in somnambulistic bliss of Bon Lozaga’s guitar wizardry, Holdsworth explodes into his typical volcanic caldera of molten jazz rock. Excellent cut this “Allan Qui?” turns out to be! I cease praising this release. Go find out for yourself fusion fan. You won’t be disappointed. This has been . . . ~ John W. Patterson
Bon:To The Bone Label: LoLo Records, PO Box 122, Riverton, NJ 08077. © 1996.
Ah!!! The mighty Bon Lozaga and his sterling cohorts, Hansford Rowe and Vic Stevens, return with another fusion stew. From the opening notes of "Undertow" -- a complex and moody tune spiked with energetic potent Holdsworthian tonality, almost Crimson-ish crunch and delicate ambient dreaminess -- to the acoustic gossamer delicacy of the closing number "I Dance Alone" -- the band serves notice that it will take on all challengers in the fusion wars...and leave them lying by the roadside in the dust. Besides the larger than life guitar work of Lozaga, the other major factor in separating his trios from many a wannabe, is the agile rhythm section he has supporting him. Long-time associate Rowe delivers thick meaty bass lines that always compliment the guitar work, yet never get in the way of the axe-meister. This support, coupled with super drumming by Stevens, allows Bon to present a powerful electric trio that will pleasantly remind listeners of Espresso era Gong, though somewhat more muscular and rock-oriented than that version of Gong. Into the mix are thrust a group of supporting musicians: guitarist Geno White, violinist Caryn Lin and guitarist/sample-guru David Torn. Engineer Bob Kimmel adds some tambourine to track 5. While I find Torn and White's contributions to be interesting, the major addition on tracks 1, 3 and 4 has to be violinist Lin. With her in the lineup interesting parallels can be drawn with bands like Ozone Quartet and Boud Deun. Too bad she isn't on more cuts, since she adds enormous sonic depth and vitality to the pieces on which she guests. For me, the high-point of this exhilarating album is track number three -- a slow 11 minute burner entitled "Kronos" that could be likened to a prog-fusion "Kashmir", replete with middle eastern motifs and dark mournfulness. As the piece builds to its grand conclusion the quartet play like their lives depend on it, with Lozaga unleashing a solo of majestic power and extraordinary vitality. After that I thought "where do they go from here?". On "Still A Dreamer" Lozaga trots out his acoustic, and Ms. Lin once again augments the trio, taking the piece into a space that mid 70s King Crimson might have occupied, had they been jazzier, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra might have occupied had they been more tranquil. Beautiful and refreshing, this composition is like taking a walk outside in the fresh air just after it has rained. More outstanding fusion follows, with the band moving through spacey electronics and a Holdsworth-like workout on the funk-flexing "Of Sound Mind". This isn't yer Motown funk or even yer Bootsy Collins funk. No, it is slab-thick and punchy heavy jazz-funk, with Rowe and Stevens at times suggesting what Wetton and Bruford might have sounded like in a fusion context...or how Berlin and Bruford often did sound playing together. "French Movies" finds the band traversing angular aggressive fusion territory, with Lozaga's electric guitar honking and snorting like an irate bull elephant. Here we find why the electric trio format is so beloved by guitarists of all genres. With all three musicians pushing the envelope, the tune lifts off into outer space before free-falling back into the atmosphere to dissolve on a wave of feedback. On "Now We Are Speaking" Bon once again delves into the Crimson / Mahavishnu Orchestra eerie and spacey bag of tricks. Out of this sonically disturbing opening the band struts into another heavy funk groove, with Rowe popping and punching his bass over a John-Bonham-plays-jazz foundation provided by Stevens. Lozaga delivers several wicked leads, much of the time operating in the classic Holdsworth fusion-guitar range of tones, his fingers threatening to set his fretboard on fire. Just when it seems that the tune has to end or blow up, Lozaga dips his hands in ice water, cooling the sound to a relaxed a gentle whisper: a mood the band holds for just long enough to make the listener think this is how the tune will end. Then they shrug their shoulders and piledrive back into the main heavy theme again for a powerful close. The CD closes out with the dreamy romanticism of the acoustic guitar piece "I Dance Alone". I could sit and listen to this on a looped setting for hours. Here Lozaga shows that he isn't just a guitarist of enormous technical ability and flashy showmanship, offering up a soulful lyricism and a delicate, almost classical, touch. And all too soon, the piece ends, and the room returns to silence. Who would like this? Any lover of monster guitar chops will find this disc to be like a cool tall frosty one on a hot summer day. Any fan of fusion guitar trios who doesn't own this is missing out, since there's enormous depth to every one of these compositions, most of which burn with fierce intensity. Who would hate it? On To The Bone Bob Lozaga uses a lot of the same tones that have made Allan Holdsworth famous (if not wealthy). If you aren't grabbed by them, you'll probably find his over-reliance on them to be annoying, or at the least a disappointment. The best tracks: All of these tunes are outstanding, but "Undertow", "Kronos", and "I Dance Alone" get my vote, with "Kronos" getting special mention as a major tour-de-force. The tracks that best represents Bon's style: "Undertow", "French Movies". Star rating: 4 out of 5. Another monster meal of tasty fusion to feed the hungry hordes. Put this into heavy rotation...now! I'd have given it 4 1/2 stars had Lozaga not sounded so much like a dead ringer for Holdsworth on this outing. But, once you're past that, the tunes are strong, and the playing exemplary. The Band: Bon Lozaga -- guitars. Hansford Rowe -- bass. Vic Stevens -- drums. With: David Torn -- loop (track 1); guitar (track 3 intro). Caryn Lin -- violin (tracks 1, 3 and 4). Geno White -- guitar (track 5). Bob Kimmel -- tambourine (track 5). Produced by Bon Lozaga. Arranged by Hanny, Vic and Bon. Engineered by Bob Kimmel. Recorded at Giant Steps Recording, Absecon, NJ. Mastered at The LoopPool, Bearsville, NY by David Torn. The Tunes: 1. Undertow [6:35] 2. On The Spot [3:39] 3. Kronos [11:04] 4. Still A Dreamer [7:49] 5. Of Sound Mind [6:12] 6. French Movies [4:27] 7. Now We Are Speaking [8:07] 8. I Dance Alone [4:50]
Gongzilla: Thrive Label: Lolo Records, P.O. Box 122, Riverton, NJ 08077. © Lolo Records, 1996. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web-site: www.lolorecords.coom/gongzilla/gongzilla.html "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them" said Winston Churchill. I wonder what he would have made of someone like Bon Lozaga, who labours in comparative obscurity, when he should be reaping the rewards of greatness? To this day I cannot fathom why Lozaga is not a household name, lionized in the jazz press, accorded the respect of axemen like John Scofield and Al Di Meola, since he possesses all the dexterity and talent of these known guitarists, and frequently writes more interesting and creative music than them. Still, despite everything, the man continues to pursue a unique artistic vision, and lay down some of the most molten jazz-rock guitar licks ever committed to tape. I've not heard the first Gongzilla album ("Suffer") but I had a pretty good idea what to expect from hearing Lozaga's work with Pierre Moerlen's Gong and Bon. On this record there's a convergence of all things powerful and explosive, as one of the best fusion lineups ever put together found a common voice, and roared like the legendary sci-fi monster. Here Lozaga has teamed-up once again with his old compadre from Gong, the top-notch American bassist Hansford Rowe, and monster *play-any-style-you-like* English drummer Gary Husband. Rounding out the lineup on some of the tracks are another ex-Gong member, Benoit Moerlen, on vibes and marimba -- giving the proceedings a very cool jazzy feel -- and legendary oddball, killer guitarist and samplehead-hero David Torn. This is not entirely an instrumental album, since Rowe sings on several tracks, and Torn cleverly adds sampled voices and crowd sounds to other cuts. I'm not a big fan of Rowe's voice, since it sounds rather thin to my ears. Still, it works well within the context of the arrangements, since he's not required to deliver any vocal gymnastics, and he's no worse a singer than many other *vocalists* for prog bands! Anyway, since Rowe had a large hand in the writing of the compositions on "Thrive" he should have the right to push Gongzilla into exploring new territory with some singing. Seven of the tracks are officially instrumentals (some have Torn's samples in them), while two are Rowe's songs (which also contain some sampled effects). Like all of Lozaga's efforts, with the exception of his ambient excursions, this one treads a fine line between cutting edge jazz stylings and heavy guitar riffing music. Fortunately Lozaga never falls into the Vai, Satriani and Johnson trap of walking the gratuitously flashy speed-merchant hard- rock road. I'm sure that this is in no small measure a tribute to his agile cohorts who push the concept of the jazz-rock power-trio to new heights, while delving into the shimmering waters of late-night moody jazz meets Allan Holdsworth "Sand"-style dreamscapes. It is hard for me to imagine a more perfectly balanced fusion trio than the core three members of Gongzilla. I have found this album to be a wonderful gem to pop into the CD player when writing programs, especially late in the evening. It has the sharp angular face of heavy fusion, to keep me alert, and the subtle intricacies of the best jazz, coupled with the *zone* inducing clear-headed effect of superior ambient music. All done without ever sliding off the mountain side in any one of those three directions, and without once resorting to jazz-lite trivialities or happy-face noodlings. Who might like it? Anyone who has a taste for any kind of modern guitar-led jazz-rock fusion should grab this and put in into immediate rotation. If you liked Jeff Beck's seminal fusion work in the mid-70s, run don't walk to place an order for "Thrive". Who might dislike it? Fusion fans who don't like vocals intruding into the sound. Fusion fans who are mighty suspicious of sampling of any kind. The best tracks: "Suffer", "Shaman" and "Console Warmer", narrowly beat out the rest of these fine tunes. The track that best represents Gongzilla's: "Suffer" (also the name of the first album by Gongzilla). Star rating: 4 out of 5. Simply one of the finest fusion albums I've heard in ages. I can't believe it sat for months on the shelf before I was bright enough to give it a spin. Personnel: Bon Lozaga -- Guitar, E-bow. Hansford Rowe -- bass, Just Intonation bass, vocals. Gary Husband -- drums. Benoit Moerlen -- vibes, marimba. with David Torn -- guitar, sample loops. Produced by Bonford Raga. Recorded at TMP Studio, Berlin, NJ (August 1996). Engineered and mixed by Chris Muth. Overdubs and sample loops engineered by J. Hatch. Mastered at Absolute Audio by Chris Muth and Brad Johnson. The Tunes: 1. Suffer [8:08] 2. Say It Loud [7:15] 3. Island [5:51] 4. Image [0:55] 5. Shaman [6:25] 6. Les Vosges [4:36] 7. Listen To The Wind [6:56] 8. Image (Reprise) [4:40] 9. Console Warmer [2:44]
Bon: Full Circle Label: Lolo Records. P.O. Box 122, Riverton, NJ 08077. © Bon, 1993. To say that Bon Lozaga is a great guitarist is a dramatic understatement. The man can flat out play, ripping up and down the fusion fret-board like nobody's business. And yet he languishes in commercial obscurity greater even than that of Allan Holdsworth. Go figger. Bon is one of various jazz-rock fusion power-trios led by Lozaga over the last fifteen years. This one finds him ably supported by monster drummer Vic Stevens (think Hand Farm) and ex-Pierre Moerlin's Gong bassist Hansford Rowe, who's also no slouch either. On Full Circle Bon move through a wide range of jazz styles, covering ground that could almost be Windham Hill new-age jazz (a la Shadowfax) all the way through to harder-edged (yet non-metallic) fusion, filtered through an almost 70s symphonic instrumental prog feel (sans Mellotron, of course). Along the way I'm reminded of Jeff Beck's classic trio of fusion records from the mid 70s, with pieces like Talk To Me evoking the emotional feel of 'Cause We've Ended As Lovers, albeit with Holdsworth at the helm rather than Beck. The band slides into very interesting territory on the seventh track, Indian Sunset, exploring a funky jazz-world fusion overlaid with opening and closing shamanistic Native American spoken word passages. Too bad that they didn't go for real wood flute instead the synthesized variety. It would have made it more authentic. By the time of the last few tracks the overall sameness of the sound and tone of the material - with not many dissonant aggressive passages in sight -- was beginning to make me look at the clock. I kept expecting and hoping that the band would throw the volume to "11" and move into crunchy rock-jazz fusion territory, but alas it was not to be. With the exception of some tight riffing on track eight Distant Waters and superb note-bending solo on track nine Lunar Lunacy the pyrotechnics stayed in the closet. Just when I was ready to punch out of the last track, Bon opened up their play-book to close on a vigourous note with the superb Blue Skies, Chinese Eyes. Once I'd adjusted to the fact that this was something of an introspective Bon album instead of the all-out fusion chops-fest I wanted it to be, I was able to appreciate the tasty blending of jazz, new-age and world music presented by the band. By my fourth play-through of this impeccably recorded album I was hooked, delighting in the space given each other by the members of the trio, leaving me with only two real complaints - I wish they'd used more aggressively honking sax instead of the 94.7 "The Wave" smooth jazz sax, and I wish they'd used less silky-smooth synthetic keyboards. To my way of thinking a little roughness (like some Rhodes or a dash of Hammond) in lieu of the sugary synth tones would have brought a more muscular quality to some of the less strenuous tunes. Of course, had they done that, I might be writing that they suggested mid-70s Beck way too much! Who might like it? Fans of the quieter side of Holdsworth, Beck and Scott McGill's Hand Farm will find plenty to feast on here. Who might dislike it? Proggers who like their jazz-rock to be more like early Mahavishnu Orchestra or symphonic like RTF around "Romantic Warrior" . Haters of smooth-jazz sax playing. The best tracks: "Full Circle (Coming Home)", "San", "Going, Going, Gong" and "Blue Skies, Chinese Eyes". The track that best represents Bon's style: "Into The Sun". Star rating: 3 out of 5. This is a highly enjoyable late evening, but not sleepy-time, jazz-rock effort. A bit more grit and this could easily have warranted 4 stars. A killer bargain-bin find. Personnel: Bon Lozaga - guitars, synthesizer. Hansford Rowe - bass. Vic Stevens -- drums. With: Bob Quaille - sax (on tracks 1,6). Geza Mika - piano (on track 2). Jim Loretangeli - keyboards (on tracks 3,6,7,9). Greg Pordon - keyboards (on track 5). Produced by Bon. Engineered by Ed DiBona, Greg Pordon & Vic Stevens. The Tunes: 1. So Far Away [5:19] 2. Full Circle (Coming Home) [4:26] 3. Talk To Me [5:23] 4. Into the Sun [4:41] 5. San [5:43] 6. Going, Going, Gong [5:54] 7. Indian Sunset [6:04] 8. Distant Waters [5:19] 9. Lunar Lunacy [6:53] 10. Blue Skies, Chinese Eyes [4:41]
Steven Davies-Morris (SDM) -- A 21st Century Schizoid Man email@example.com
Album: Sonic Abandon Artist: Bon Lozaga & Tilman Reitzle Label: Lolo Records. © 1995 Go For It Music / ASCAP firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.lolorecords.com This is a live recording of a performance at The Hall in Hoboken, New Jersey on May 5, 1995. There were no overdubs or additional processing done. Just two guitars and some on stage processing. Sounds boring? Not at all. Those of you familiar with Robert Fripp’s use of one guitar and tape loops will be in for a similar sounding treat. This is essentially ambient guitar soundscapes with some killer guitar noodling thrown in. The fact that all of this is created live before your very ears without a crew of twenty is what marks this album as fascinating. The fact that the music holds it’s own against the concept is a nod to the compositional skills of the participants. (English translation: You don’t get bored!) Track by Track Analysis Track 1 starts out with a percussive string effect on one guitar (usually done by banging on the strings with the right hand instead of picking or plucking). The second guitar, processed with echo and delay enters a few bars later and the soundscape begins to take form. The listener can guess where a riff is handed to a looping processor, but don’t bet money on where unless you were there. This piece begins to layer upon itself by the third minute, as new sounds (riffs? Note patterns? Thematic Ideas?) are added into the mix. The principal thematic material shifts after ten minutes and a new soundscape is begun. In other words, the tracks themselves are merely markers to break up the CD. Track 2 starts with a melodic pattern, which disguises its source. The listener never really knows who is playing what part, so to your ear the guitarists have become one player as a result. Track 3 returns to the percussive sound from one guitar, with a sustained chord pattern from the other. This is looped and again a slow collection of layers are added. Track 4 (by far the shortest track at 1:42 in length) is essentially a coda on the concert. Once again we have two melodic patterns in a kind of ‘space riff’ which just fades out. This track is actually disappointing. Since no applause has been left on the disk I don’t know if there was more to the final track that would have been more interesting. There certainly was room on the disk for three or four more minutes of sound. With the exception of the final track, this is a fine album. I won’t hesitate to buy other works from these artists, just to see what else they are up to. Who would like this? Any fan of Fripp's soundscapes, or other similar ambient soundscape projects. Who would hate it? Those who find soundscapes in general send them to sleep. Star rating: 3.5 out of 5. Strike a half star for leaving me with an unsatisfying ending. But this is nevertheless a highly imaginative and creative piece of work by two superb musicians. Get it. Personnel: Bon Lozaga – Guitar Tilman Reitzle – Guitar Produced by Bon Lozaga, David Plakke, Tilman Reitzle. The Tunes: 1. Part 1 [31:23] 2. Part 2 [15:57] 3. Part 3 [8:13] 4. Part 4 [1:42]
Editor's Note: I want to thank Greg for "bridging the gap" and helping his "partner-in-crime" Steven Davies-Morris make this review a reality. Good job!
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