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Arena - Arena CD (album) cover

ARENA

Arena

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.95 | 2 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Arena were a fusion group of session players led by saxophonist Ted White, a musician working in the British big band jazz scene until moving to Australia in the 1960's to work in the television industry. Becoming involved in testing the facilities of a new recording studio at the Crystal Clear studios in Melbourne, he gathered musicians together which led to the creation of this collection, a work that would see a very limited distribution on its initial release. 1975's self-titled `Arena' is an instrumental set that calls to mind the music of Herbie Hancock, the Soft Machine and other Canterbury-related acts, Weather Report, fellow Australian fusioners Crossfire and even moments of the classic early King Crimson albums and a touch of Italian fusion band Perigeo.

Grumbling bass and chilled shimmering spacey guitars weave through `Journey In Threes' sax- dominated themes and energetic soloing, and Canterbury sound/Soft Machine fans will love the wilder `Scope's frantic sax and fuzzy electric piano improvisations, slithering bass and runaway skittering drumming. `Duke' is a lusty and dreamy chill-out of low-key trickles of glistening electric piano and drowsy wafts of sauntering sax, and some of the cascading electric piano runs, reaching electric guitar lines and intertwining sax themes remind of Italian fusioners Perigeo throughout the lightly funky and breezily playful `Scrichell Cat'.

The strangled sustained electric guitar notes, meandering bass spasms and dirty sax wailing of the opening minutes of the flip-side's `Keith's Mood' create a noisy ambience that will please fans of the early King Crimson albums, before it settles into a funky sprint of nimble jazzy licks, fiery drum rumbles and sparkling electric piano tendrils. `The Long One' is mellow and effortlessly cool, and the brisk and infectious `Turkish Defunked' marries strong reprising sax themes with endless electric piano tiptoe soloing and strolling bass strutting (with just a touch of King Crimson-like serrated electric guitar bite and busy drum soloing in the final minutes!) making it a nice come- down to close the album on.

A complete rarity of Australian jazz-fusion, funk and progressive-related music, `Arena' has now been given a sublime sounding LP reissue on The Roundtable label in 2016, meaning no more fruitless searching for long-vanished original copies! The album is ideal for jazz-minded prog fans who enjoy the music of the above-mentioned acts that are looking to discover some obscure and mostly unknown discs from the vintage Seventies era, and `Arena' is one that holds up just as strongly as many of the more well-known and highly-regarded fusion works from the same time.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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