Friday, September 11, 2015

Bruce & Vlady's entrancing prog-jazz gem rescued from obscurity by VampiSoul

The deep digging VampiSoul crew are recirculating Bruce Powell and Wladyslaw Jagiello's Reality LP from 1970.

When you come across a sleeve like this – hypnotic artwork, enigmatic title, unusual Hammond and drums set-up – it's a reasonably safe bet that the record is gonna be dope. However, The Reality album credited to Bruce and Vlady didn't sell well when it originally came out in Sweden on the tiny Svensk American label back in 1970 and has since become a sought-after item for collectors of European out-jazz, funk and small press curios who can't get enough of Hansson & Karlsson. VampiSoul's welcome reissue reveals the previously undocumented back story of this crazy rare prog jazz masterwork for first time thanks to its co-creator, keyboardist Bruce Powell.

"I had returned from an eight month engagement in Tokyo and decided to go back to Las Vegas, Nevada," explains Powell. "While there, I was introduced to trumpeter Ernie Englund. He told me he needed an organist who could read music and had his own instrument. I said yes and he hired me to play with his big band at the Grande Hotel in Stockholm. That was December 1969.

"My Hammond B-3 was somehow damaged on the trip over and Ernie decided to send me back to the United States. My wife, however, had arrived two days after I got there, so I decided to stay in Stockholm and make a go of it on my own. I found someone called Bengt who repaired my Hammond organ.

"I met Vlady (respected Polish jazz drummer Wladyslaw Jagiello) one night at a rock club. He and I both were sitting in with another band. He liked the way I played and I liked him. We talked about doing something together and Bengt told us about the jazz venue, Klub Ernst, so Vlady and I approached the owner. We got hired for several engagements there.

"A friend of Svensk American Records boss Rune Wallebom heard us one night and told him about our music. One day Vlady and I had a concert to do in downtown Stockholm and Rune came to hear us and loved it. After the show he offered me a recording contract. The deal was that I would record all my original music. He also said that if the album sold 20,000 copies in Sweden, it would then be promoted in England (under EMI/Columbia Records) and would also get us a booking at Ronnie Scott's in London.

"I don't remember the name of the studio but I do remember that we did four takes. After reviewing them all, we decided upon the ones that appear on the album. There are two more takes out there somewhere. I had the tapes from the sessions but they got lost over time…

"Vlady and I performed the album in Stockholm at the Gyllene Cirkeln. I had heard about this place and that such greats as Jack McDuff, Ornette Coleman and Eddie Harris had performed there. When I approached the owner, he said he had been booking groups for a two-night engagement. However, he liked our music so much that he signed us for 16 nights! It was a great success.

"Not long after, Rune came to me with a sad face and told me his wife was divorcing him. She was co-owner of Svensk American Records and was dissolving the company. This happened just after the album was released; therefore it went no further. The promotion and distribution ceased. I never received any monies or royalties for my work… When my grandmother passed, I decided to return to the United States (September 1970). I lost track of Vlady and never was able to contact Rune about what happened to the album."

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