This musical collaboration comes together quite nicely, producing a jazzier and looser feeling without sacrificing the blend of rock and classical that has always set these Dutch masters apart in the world of progressive rock…
Focus 8.5 / Beyond The Horizon
Focus and Friends – Featuring Marvio Ciribelli
In and Out of Focus Records
7 tracks / 46:27
There are a couple of clues telling you why this is not the Focus album you might have been expecting. For one thing, the last Focus album titled with a consecutive number (as is their habit lately) was Focus 10 – but the real clue is the phrase ‘Focus and Friends featuring Marvio Ciribelli.’ So who, you might well ask, is Marvio Ciribelli, and what is he doing collaborating with Focus? It turns out that Ciribelli is a pianist, arranger, composer and producer and happens to fit quite nicely into the musical world of Thijs van Leer and Focus – and he didn’t come to the playground alone. Along with Marvio we get Brazilian composer and world-class bass player Arthur Maia, Brazilian sax and flute player Mario Seve, super drummer Marcio Bahia, and a few other guests contributing vocal melodies (there are no lyrics) and even brief touches of woodwinds and brass. As unusual a mix as that sounds for a Focus album, this musical collaboration comes together quite nicely, producing a jazzier and looser feeling without sacrificing the blend of rock and classical that has always set these Dutch masters apart in the world of progressive rock…
So where does this music really stand, in terms of Focus’s musical timeline? The obvious answer is the correct one – right between Focus 8 and Focus 9! Following the band’s reunion and world tour in 2005 the band recorded the tracks for this album between South American gigs. The energy and creativity that resulted in working with Ciribelli and friends is all over the recording, sometimes with Focus in the forefront and sometimes with members of Focus in supporting roles. All of the songs are original compositions by members of Focus or Ciribelli, and the end result sounds like the influence was mutually beneficial to all. Instead of sounding schizophrenic there’s a natural flow from track to track.
True to the spirit of legendary band, the first track is another ‘Focus’ song – this time, cleverly titled “Focus Zero,” in line with the trend of producing ‘zero issues’ into the continuity of an ongoing existing series. This first track on the album incorporates several themes familiar to Focus fans in a more free-form jazz environment. Starting at a furious pace with drums kicking things off, soon joined by piano and flute, the song slows down, threatens to fall apart, teases with some funky bass and percussion, then continues on until it ends in a steamy blues. It’s beautifully loose but authentically Focus – a real treat.
Thijs van Leer’s “Hola Como Estas?” is Focus gone Brazilian, with wonderful percussion and vocals – and, yes – Thijs whistles! It's South American jazz with a uniquely Focus flavor.
“Rock 5” is a Ciribelli composition that takes full advantage of the Focus sound even though the only member of Focus that appears on this track is Bobby Jacobs. The massive seven minute-plus track goes through a multitude of changes and has plenty of flute (Marcelo Martins) and piano a la Focus with the added bonus of some interesting trombone textures.
Focus’ own Jan Dumée wrote “Millennium,” another epic track at seven and a-half minutes. The dreamy Latin sound of the piece is accented by an extended drum solo and fades with the guitarist riffing tastefully.
“Inalta,” the second Ciribelli composition, features Thijs on flute carrying the melody, accompanied by a full band including trombones, bass, percussion, guitar, vocal effects and Ciribelli on Hammond organ. It’s a bright, positive sounding tune that sounds like it could have been the theme of an 80s TV series.
Pierre van der Linden and Marcio Bahai trade drum parts, then vocal drum impressions on “Talking Rhythms.” “Surrexit Christus,” credited to Thijs van Leer and sixteenth century composer Clemens Non Papa, closes the album in fine Focus style with a haunting flute melody leading into some funky bass and drums, bridging the old and the new, the sacred and secular, and creating fine, jazzy, eclectic rock music.
8 ½ worked for Fellini and has proved to be a winning number for Focus. Now, onto Focus 11, Thijs…