David Sancious is a very difficult musician to categorize. The highly versatile keyboardist/guitarist/composer genuinely appreciates everything from classical to rock, jazz, blues, and funk, and while that may intimidate some marketing people -- who like musicians to fit neatly into one category -- it has earned Sancious the respect of everyone from Sting to Bryan Ferry. Born in Long Branch, NJ, on November 30, 1953, Sancious was only in his late teens when, in the early '70s, he was hired as the keyboardist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. After appearing on Springsteen's first three albums (Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, and Born to Run), Sancious left the E Street Band in 1975 and signed with Epic as a solo artist. A radical departure from the type of earthy, Bob Dylan-influenced roots rock he had played with the Boss, Sancious' own albums found him exploring progressive rock and instrumental jazz fusion. Sancious' first solo album, Forest of Feelings, came in 1975, followed by Transformation and Tone in 1976. The following year, he left Epic for Arista, recording Dance of the Age of Enlightenment in 1977, True Stories in 1978, and Just As I Thought in 1979. After 1982's The Bridge on Elektra Musician, he waited 18 years before recording as a leader again. Not until 2000's unaccompanied Nine Piano Improvisations -- which Sancious released on his own Not By Sight label and sold over the Internet -- did he provide another album. But he was hardly idle in the 1980s or 1990s; between The Bridge and Nine Piano Improvisations, Sancious kept busy backing everyone from Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Bryan Ferry to African pop artist Youssou N'Dour. Most of Sancious' 1970s recordings are out of print, although One Way was scheduled to reissue True Stories and Just As I Thought on CD in early 2001.
© Alex Henderson /TiVo
© Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 22, 1976 | Epic
Most music fans know of multi-instrumentalist and composer David Sancious as an early keyboardist/arranger for Bruce Springsteen, or his work as a sideman with Sting, Peter Gabriel, Bryan Ferry, Jack Bruce, Erykah Badu, Michael Franks, Santana, Youssou N'Dour, Hall & Oates, Aretha Franklin, Zucchero, and many others. Transformation (The Speed of Love) is Sancious' second album for Epic. It follows the ambitious Forest of Feelings, produced by Billy Cobham. As fine as that album was, effortlessly combining emotionally open approaches to jazz, rock, funk, and classical music, Transformation (The Speed of Love) is almost exponentially better in terms of composition, arrangement, and execution. Using the same band under the Tone moniker -- drummer Ernest Carter and bassist Gerald Carboy -- this Bruce Botnick-produced set builds on the strengths of its predecessor. The tracks are longer, ranging from six and a half to over 18 minutes -- and there are only four. Sancious plays no fewer keyboards here (Rhodes and acoustic piano, clavinet, synth, organ, etc.), but Transformation (The Speed of Love) is also a showcase for his quite literally astonishing guitar playing -- both electric and acoustic -- and his deep love for soul and blues as they integrate with progressive rock, funk, and jazz fusion. Opener "Piktor's Metamorphosis," with its soaring lead guitar lines, backing vocals, and elegant -- if tightly timed -- bass vamps and breakbeats, is spiritually uplifting even as it careens from one end of the tone spectrum to the other. "Sky Church Hymn #9," a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, uses acoustic 12-bar blues played with a slide atop a tom-tom, before becoming a wild ride from funky shuffle boogie to psych, caroming jazz-funk, and back again. It's executed with drama and a dynamic passion that equates with the phenomenal technique on display. "The Play and Display of the Heart" is a lengthy acoustic ballad where Sancious duets with himself on piano and guitar. Its folk, classical, and Indian modal sounds create a welcome respite after the intensity of the previous two numbers. The title track -- with backing vocals from Gayle Moran -- takes up the entire second half. Beginning as a nearly martial prog rock anthem, it strikes out for parts unknown with multiple chord and mode progressions weaving to and fro as the rhythm section moves in double time before underscoring labyrinthine, even soaring electric guitar lyricism and funky organ vamps. Carboy's elastic bassline offers a worthy harmonic foil, with Carter punching in dramatic fashion to wind this jam toward the margins. The trio explores different chromatic elements aggressively but melodically inside each new set of changes, never losing focus. Eventually, the jam discovers inner spaces and undergoes metamorphosis before finding a transcendent way forward in order to close. As an album, Transformation (The Speed of Love) is awe-inspiring, a work of progged-out jazz-rock that's as iconic as Birds of Fire, Blow by Blow, or Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, yet stands alone for its artful ambition and emotional commitment. © Thom Jurek /TiVo