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Nucleus: Live in Bremen

Anxious to get in on the new possibilities in rock-jazz fusion and electronic instrumentation, trumpeter/flugelhornist Ian Carr founded the British jazz-rock band Nucleus at the very beginning of the fusion era, the vintage year of 1969. As Carr claims, Nucleus came together before Columbia pressed Bitches Brew, and the band does differentiate itself from Stateside fusionists of the time. Where Miles Davis looked to Jimi Hendrix and Sly & the Family Stone, Nucleus finds source material in rockers like Eric Clapton and Jethro Tull (though Carr’s own playing here suggests that, at least by the time the band rolled into Bremen in ’71, he had more than a passing acquaintance with Miles’ music). The band’s sometimes forceful, sometimes sludgy music mixes folkish blues-rock with soul jazz, collective free improv, menacing bass lines, long solos and some dated, ill advised-touches (Karl Jenkins’ inept oboe solo in the first set is ahead in the voting thus far).

Not long after forming, Nucleus put out three albums in a relatively short period and began to tour Europe. A few years later, the band’s lineup changed significantly. The double CD Live in Bremen catches the band in between-on tour and in transition with a few new players in the fold. Roy Babbington replaces the original bass player, though the recruit who deserves the most attention is guitarist Ray Russell, who sat in just for the tour. Russell handles the sensitive strumming bits just fine, but also throws in a few of his massive, proto-metal solos. They’re a little tame in comparison with Russell’s Live at the ICA, but still worth hearing. Consider the show stolen.

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