A few seconds of spacy echo loops and you know where this album is coming from – the early jazz/rock era, the Age of Aquarius and all that. Yet this crazy amalgam of jazz, rock, electronics, and spoken astrological advice by the popular Los Angeles DJ Rick Holmes actually works, for the music behind the soulfully intoned words is very inventive and Holmes plays effectively off its rhythms.
In the course of an astonishing long life, Leo Ornstein (1893 - 2002) had many shifts of fortune. Recognized as a child prodigy on the piano, Ornstein's family fled the Russian pogroms and moved to New York City in 1906. Ornstein studied piano and composition and graduated from what would become the Juilliard School of Music. From 1915 through the mid 1920's, Ornstein was famous as a concert pianist and notorious as a composer of highly dissonant, futurist works of avant-garde music. Coming from a poor Russian Jewish family, Ornstein married a wealthy heiress, Pauline Mallet-Provost. In the 1920s, Ornstein abruptly retired from the concert stage and founded a music school in Philadelphia.
If you know anything about the long-running Irish band, the Saw Doctors, you know they're mostly a rousing, Celtic-flavored rock 'n' roll band, not shy about fist-pumping anthemic songs. The quintet, formed in Tuam, County Galway, has had a home-away-from-home in clubs around New England and it has provided a rollicking good time in concert since hitting our shores in 1991. The Saw Doctors' main man, singer-guitarist Leo Moran, is on a different path right now. And he has an American role model for what he's doing on the road: Jonathan Richman, the former Bostonian who's long been performing in a duo setting, expertly mixing richly detailed, acoustic-based songs with witty repartee.
Singer and keyboard player Gianni Leone tried a solo career with the new name of Leo Nero after the demise of his band Il Balletto di Bronzo, and the result was a very good album, Vero, released by Harvest in 1977 and recorded a year before in New York. The album is totally played and sung by Leo himself, and despite some commercial pop songs, it has some good moments reminding of his old band's sound, like in "La Discesa Nel Cervello", "Il Castello" and the intense closing track "Una Gabbia Per Me". Obviously the sound is mainly keyboard based, but Leone played drums, minimoog bass lines and even guitar on some tracks.