BEFOUR
Brian Auger and the Trinity
RCA Victor LSP-4372, 1969
Reissued (CD with bonus tracks) as Disconforme 1906/7/8CD, 2000

You mention "jazz-rock" these days, and people will nod and mention about Chicago® and Blood, Sweat and Tears and maybe the Flock, all acts which (1) recorded for Columbia and (2) were marginally jazzy at best. It doesn't take horns; what it takes is improvisation, and early on, the man who had what it takes was Brian Auger.

US cover artThe original Brian Auger Trinity, back in 1964, was a five-piece straight-ahead jazz band, an expansion of Auger's first Trio two years earlier. A pianist by training, Auger took up the organ in 1965, and the Trinity subsequently evolved into a blues band called Steampacket, which boasted at various times of vocals by Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry and Julie Driscoll. After about two years of this, Auger and Driscoll departed, to set up a new Trinity which would fuse jazz styles and semi-hard rock. This new version of the Trinity cut three albums, Open, Definitely What! and the double-LP Streetnoise, and scored a Top Five single in Britain (a meager #106 in the US) with a cover of "This Wheel's On Fire" from Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes. In 1969, Driscoll went solo, and Auger dissolved the Trinity — but not before releasing one last blast of gorgeous fusion music.

The seven tracks represent both a high level of musicianship and an incredible level of diversity. On Side One, Sly's "I Wanna [sic] Take You Higher" sets up the groove; Gabriel Fauré's Pavane rocks out and Auger gets in some great organ licks; "No Time to Live", a Traffic tune, is muted, subtle, and stirring. To finish the side, Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" is given a respectful but high-energy reading. By comparison, Side Two suffers, but only a little. An experiment on Eddie Harris' "Listen Here", with four drummers pounding for nine minutes in a single take, goes on a hair too long, and Auger quipped that their version of Albinoni's "Adagio per archi e organo" taught them "why orchestras have