Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fusion Week: OM

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.

OM (group; 1972 - disbanded 1982)
A Retrospective (ECM Records)

Urs Leimgruber (sax, flutes, percussion)
Christy Doran (guitars, synthesizer)
Bobby Burri (bass)
Fredy Studer (drums)

OM were a quartet from Sweden who gained wide recognition after a blistering performance at the 1974 Montreaux Jazz Festival. They were quickly signed to ECM Records and recorded a four fantastic albums for the labels Japanese imprint JAPO. They freely admit that they started as a rock band trying to get jazz. While they did this with what looks like great ease.

Inspired and influenced by the string of electric jazz of time (Headhunters, Bitches Brew, Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra), OM set out to combine their jazz inspirations with their desire the capture the essence of what Hendrix had left in his wake of musicians--a sense of structure within a whirlwind of ideas. This combination of jazz and rock was also fueled by the one more large and legendary figure--John Coltrane, and the album for which the band derived its name, OM (Impulse Records; 1965). OM was one of Coltrane's more spiritual and deeply textured pieces. It's no wonder that this album would have a profound importance on the groups development.

They were a band that even in the beginning with their first album, Kirikuki (ECM/JAPO; 1976) were exploring both rock idioms with sparse rhythmic/ambient patterns that would later evolve on their final album Cerberus.

OM's four albums are extremely hard to find. And if memory serves these are not on CD either (someone please feel free to correct me on that one). But we are lucky that just a few years ago, ECM Records released Retrospective, a stellar collection spanning material from all four of their Japanese only albums. Retrospective features some great tracks like the rugged and raucous "Rautionaha", the delightfully introspective "Dreaming Of People." the funky almost Abercrombie-esque "Earworm" and the Bitches Brew-Headhunter filled free-jazz-funk-out of "Holly" and "Lips" These tracks as well as the rest of the album make for the premier on one of the truly under discussed bands of the '70s fusion era.

Retrospective isn't available to purchase physically in the US but you can get on iTunes (globally too) for download. OM were not a hard hitting force like some many of their American counterparts but they left a brief time capsule that everyone should definitely experience. Rich and highly involved stuff.

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