Sunday, September 27, 2020

Key We: Mike Nock 80

I was going to finish out September tomorrow -- and I still plan on it -- but we are interjecting this one because this is just too great and rare a record and too accomplished a musician, and on too big of a birthday to let pass unheralded.

Today's underappreciated legend is, perhaps, the greatest Jazz musician and maybe even the greatest musician, period, ever to hail from the country of New Zealand.

He's also acknowledged to be one of the first cats ever to achieve a molecular -- and not just a vestigial -- synthesis between Jazz and Rock, beginning way back in the late 1960s when such things were only just becoming horizonally visible.

I first came across the music of Mike Nock as part of that group, the Fusion pioneers The Fourth Way he formed in 1969 in the Bay Area, and which famously caused Miles Davis -- for whom they were opening at the Fillmore West -- to loudly proclaim that he would never go on second again.

Obviously MDIII did a whole lot to point the way into Fusion, but no one did more than The Fourth Way when they were hitting, and straddling the atomic line between Jazz improv chops and Rock muscle.

After those guys broke up, Mike Nock has carried on a long and fruitful five decade solo career, some of it in a Rockier-leaning bag but mostly in an acoustic, more traditionally compositional/improvisational vein.

He's made a million incredible records, but my all time favorite thing of his outside of The Fourth Way is this impossibly rare LP from 1977, with reedmelter Charlie Mariano blowing his brains clean out of his cranium in a sublime acoustic-Fusion-with-synths session that may never, as far as I know, be properly reissued.

I first heard this LP in the late 1980s, when some friends and I were driving from NYC to Virginia to do a record fair. It was hard to get a hold of then, and it hasn't got any easier since that morning on the I-95, grooving to its charms.

Mike Nock
Magic Mansions

01 Magic Mansions
02 Twister
03 Enchanted Garden
04 Hybris
05 Blackout
06 Everglad
07 Mambucaba

Total time: 44:30

Mike Nock - keyboards and synthesizers
Charlie Mariano - reeds
Ron McClure - bass
Al Foster - drums
Nacho Mena - percussion
Lyn Williamson - vocals

lossless rip of the 1977 LP on the Laurie label, never reissued in the digital era
denoised and cleaned up by EN, September 2020

I worked for 11 straight hours on this record, trying to dial back the bacon-n-eggs fryfest that was the surface noise situation to a more reasonable,  less clicky and poppy listening experience.

I'd like to think I did alright, but there's still some light static. This might be the best we'll ever get, unless #3 on my Dream Reissues Of Ever list here finally gets popped from the masters.
That is, if the tapes from 1970s private press labels like Laurie even still exist.

Anyway the point is that Mike Nock is 80 today, is still alive and kicking it somewhere in Australia, and I was just not gonna let his big day go by without marking the occasion. I could have posted a concert, but this album is just too special and too tough to get lossless not to break my usual pattern.

I shall be back tomorrow with the last September post, but let's give thanks and praises for this unsung Kiwi keyboard deity, and what better way than with a Soul Jazz tour de force
trip through the Magic Mansions? And remember to always Nock, OK?--J.

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