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10 Mar 2017

Heavy Joker “Heavy Joker” 1976 Denmark Prog Jazz Rock Fusion








Heavy Joker “Heavy Joker” 1976 Denmark Prog Jazz Rock Fusion
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Rare  1976 Polydor label 9-track LP from Weather Report influenced Danish fusion-jazz quartet.

Heavy Joker was a Danish short-lived Jazz/Fusion act, found in mid-70's by ex-Thors Hammer members Michael Bruun (guitars, keyboards) and Henrik Bødtcher (bass, also of Buki-Yamaz fame) along with keyboardist Max Leth Jun and drummer Jan Sivertsen.They debuted in 1976 with a self-titled album on Polydor.

The opening side of the LP contains five tracks, each credited to a different member and guest keyboardist Kasper Winding, with ''Canasta Funk'' featuring also sax player Anders Gardmand.The music is mostly excellent, keyboard-based Prog/Fusion with also some fiery guitar at moments and plenty of shifting moods, ranging from breezy Fusion with dominant synths to Canterbury-styled jazzy Prog with powerful keyboard work, electric piano and fast tempos.Still Heavy Joker's approach reveals a strong melodic content at moments as in ''Heavy Joke'' and ''Ambrosia'', characterized by light symphonic FOCUS-like melodious themes and great keyboard/piano treatments.The flipside contains the great long 20-min. instrumental opus ''Symphonia'', composed by Max Leth Jun and divided in four parts.It marks no significant changes to the style already presented, maybe the guitars of Michael Bruun and the keyboard overtones have a Latin-flavor at moments, but the overall approach is demanding still easy-listening Prog/Fusion with superb diversity and strong presence of percussion, sax, vibraphone and marimba.From keyboard-led interventions to jazzy sax solos and from ethnic tunes to virtuosic solos, ''Symphonia'' is a decent and tight instrumental journey, mixing the aesthetics of Jazz and Prog/Fusion in equal doses.

Very good, still pretty unknown debut by these Danish masters, with both technical and melodic parts.Strongly recommended, and even more if you are deep into jazzy Prog....apps79 .............

On this record you will notice that both the sides end in baroque patterns played by the remarkable pianist Max Leth jun. This was one helluvan expensive vinyl to get, and we often get the feeling Tom, with his accolades, provides a huge increase in cash flow to the record collectors or shops that have their hands on these big rarities. Does he get a cut from the take when he features a rarity on his cd reissue wishlist? Probably, and eventually I think he'll go to jail for it, or at least, be convicted for having too many rare records we don't have. I'd be willing to bet anything this particular one could've been had for less than 2 hundred prior to this posting, Dec. 2010:

"Heavy Joker - s/t. 1976 Polydor
Heavy Joker - Caesar's Palace. 1978 Mercury.

Earlier this year, I'd heard "Caesar's Palace" for the first time. I quickly dismissed it as an all too typical fusion album of the era, describing it as thus: "Warm and slick, this smooth jazz album is similar to the American group Spyro Gyra. Presumably the first album is considerably better, but I haven't heard it." Midwest Mike pointed out to me that the first album was indeed much better, and so he sent me a CD-R to see if I agreed with him. Wow - what a difference! Opening with a Canterbury like sequence, I knew instantly he was to be right. The next couple of tracks would foreshadow the direction they would follow on "Caesar's Palace", with some slick playing and somewhat trite melodic interplay. But they close side 1 similar to how it began in superb fashion. This leads to the excellent side long track broken up into 4 movements, that recalls some of the finest Kraut fusion bands (Missus Beastly, Frob, Kraan, etc..) while still maintaining the Soft Machine/Nucleus approach of quirky sophistication. Overall, a very pleasant surprise."


I've listened many times to this record, and there are a couple of throwaway (to me) funk tunes, but there is huge variety to the music. No doubt it's superior to the follow-up Caesar's Palace, I guess Max had the touch of genius in his hands. In particular his compositions really stand out, the last track Ambrosia on side 1, with its classical structures, and the side B long track called "Symphonia" (again the classical references) which starts with a really interesting riff on the piano over chords dropping down by a half-tone. Later still we get some really insane progressive grand piano soloing, before the fusion energy builds again to a climax, a storm washes into shore on Transylvanian Chase, synthesizers pound out a powerful pestersome beat, and at that point-- a danged scratch makes the record repeat a few times, oops sorry about that guys! Hopefully it sounds really clear in your lossless flac ! Anyways, I got to the scratch in time to push it through to the fugue-like conclusion of the record although the stomping of my feet on the hardwood floor as I scream at my two-year old and kick his R2D2 stuffed toy out of the way may distract a bit. I'm sure you'll be impressed with this, perhaps not so much with my rip and scratch, but the record is mint-condition otherwise.

One last comment, check out the back cover with the band members sitting on the grass. Classic hair and outfits! Should be in a museum....ProgNotFrog...............

Michael Bruun — guitar, strings
Henrik Bødtcher — bass
Max Leth Jun. — grand piano, organ, electric piano, vibraphone, marimba
Jan Sivertsen — drums, percussion

+Klaus Nordsø — congas & percussion (07)
Kasper Winding — keyboards (02)
Jesper Nehammer — tenor saxophone (08), soprano saxophone (09)
Palle Mikkelborg — strings (03)
Anders Gårdmand — tenor saxophone (04)

Tracklist
Ace Of Spades 3:10
That's It! 5:00
Heavy Joke 3:30
Canasta Funk 2:35
Ambrosia 5:50
"Symphonia" 19:55
Highway Habits
Leaving For Cala Bassa
Suburban Heaven
Transylvania Chase

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..

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