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Laboratorium: Old School Fusion Live (DVD)

Poland's Laboratorium might just be the most unknown classic jazz-fusion band out there. Hell, I've been a fusion nut for most of my life, and I've never heard of them until this little DVD set Old School Fusion Live showed up in my mailbox from Metal Mind Productions. These guys have been around since the early 70's, and have a slew of album releases over the years (most having been reissued by Metal Mind in recent times), which obviously didn't cross our radar here in the US. That's a real shame, as the music of Laboratorium easily would have pleased fans of such classic acts as Weather Report, Return to Forever, Kraan, Lifetime, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dixie Dregs, and Brand X, and the like. Most instrumental, but featuring some vocalizations at times by sax player Marek Stryszowski, their music has plenty of complex moments, always melodic and well thought out, leaving lots of room for solo spots. Along with Stryszowski, keyboard player Janusz Grzywacz is the other mainstay from the early years, his tasty Fender Rhodes and vintage synths always at the forefront of the music of Laboratorium.

This DVD contains three performances, each roughly 35-45 minutes long, from three different eras in the band's history. The first was filmed in 1978 at the Jazz Jamboree festival in Poland in front of a large audience, and is a great set, the band performing four lengthy tunes of classic 70's fusion. Though you can see that they had many member changes over the years, the line-up for this show is really in fine form, guitarist Pawet Scieranski, bassist Krzysztof Scieranski, and drummer Mieczyslaw all contributing some very impressive solos as well as tight ensemble playing with the sax and keyboards. The band has a sense of groove & melody that most reminds me of Weather Report and Kraan, so this is fusion music you can tap your feet to as well as be impressed from a chops perspective. The next segment takes you a few years later to 1982, a filmed set for the recording of the band's Blue Light live album. Again, solid stuff here, with a new line-up featuring different musicians on guitar, bass, and drums. Though the quality of this video is not as strong as the 1978 set, it's still quite good. Next up is the band's 25th Anniversary show, filmed in 1996, and here they've managed to bring back most of the former members for one special event. and it's an inspired set of four tunes showing that they still could deliver the goods. The songs here feature more of the vocals of sax man Stryszowski, whose not really singing per se, more using his voice as another instrument, sort of like 'scatting' in Polish, as his ramblings lock in with the rest of the band before he takes off with some soaring sax flights.

Also included is a video of the song "Late Coming", a really fine tune from the early part of their career, a bio, and discography. If you are a fusion fan, and like me had never heard of this band, seek out this DVD and enjoy what we've all been missing all these years. Then you'll probably be getting ready to order up some of the band's back catalog that have been reissued by Metal Mind...I think I need to get started on that myself.

Track Listing
Jazz Jamboree (1978)
1. Prevet Blues
2. Śniegowa Panienka
3. Zdrowie na budowie
4. Taki ładny i przyjemny
"Blue Light Pilot" Concert (1982)
1. Straight No Chaser
2. Virgin from Nowa Huta
3. Blue Light Pilot
4. What's New in the Forrest
The 25th Anniversary of Laboratorium (1996)
1. Polish Calypso
2. Anatomy Lesson
3. Lady on the Goat
4. Polish Calypso (Reprise)
Bonus video: "Late-coming"
Also includes: Biography, Discography, Photo gallery

Added: November 15th 2008
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Metal Mind Productions
Hits: 2992
Language: english

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