THE RETURN OF PROG ROCK? Pat Mastelotto/Tobias Ralph: Toparama, Helio Parallax: Helio Parallax

The last time jazz was REALLY  popular, and rock had some artistic vision, was when the two combine to form what was called either jazz fusion or progressive rock (depending from which side you approached it). Here are two albums that try to get back to where it once belonged.

Drummers Tobias Ralph and Pat Mastelotto come from hard hitting groups Belew Power Trio and King Crimson respectively. Together, they create a series of duets that is wonderfully macho and frenetic. Appearances by Tony Levin, Markus Reuter, Roy Powell and Lorenzo Felciati and some guitar, bass and  keyboards add extra depth and flavor to heavy head bangers like “Floor Over Heaven” and “Up Heavy.” If you want a battle of the drums, look no further than “Willie’s in the Backyard” or the kaleidoscopic “New O” while thunder from the mountain comes down on “BaBa Boom.” Get the sub woofer out for this one!

Helio Paralax is a trio consisting of Takuya Nakamura/tp-key-elec, Josh Werner/b-key-g-elec and Marihito Ayabe/programming. As you can tell by the instrumental selection, there is a LOT of synthesized sounds and rhythms flying around. The mix of the trumpet into the recipe makes pieces like “Nocturne For Secret Planets” and “Helio Parallax” combine acoustic and electric quite cohesively. An R&B feeling “Speed of Life “ includes some vocals by Jahdan Blakkamoore, while Doug Wiesleman’s sax on the bluesy “Frank’s Lament” is a highlight of sounds and mood. Moody  pieces such as After the Flood” and “Happy Helio” get a bit Enya-ish, but Middle Eastern musings are flavorful on “Another Broken Human” and “Kilgore Trout Dub.” The 80s return!

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