Jakko M. Jaszyk has one hell of a little black book, able to call on Robert Fripp, Dave Stewart (the Canterbury prog keyboardist, not the former Eurythmic), legendary British bassist Danny Thompson, Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree and various former members of King Crimson, Simple Minds and Level 42 (of which he was once a member). He’s also done time in prog-oriented combos the Tangent, Dizrhythmia, the Lodge and the 21st Century Schizoid Band, so his musicianship certainly isn’t in doubt. He puts his résumé and famous friends to good use on The Bruised Romantic Glee Club.
A double-CD set, the record spotlights Jakszyk’s compositions on one disk and a set of covers on the other. The first CD (side one?) walks a narrow line between melodic singer/songwriter pop and prog, blending philosophical musings and knotty melodies with romantic yearning and lush textures. He sometimes struggles to avert sentimentality, but he mostly hits a gently complex but surprisingly accessible sweet spot with tunes like “Doxy, Dali and Duchamp,” “Highgate Hill” and the title track. He intersperses a series of plangent instrumentals as well, in tribute to his original conception for the record. Tasteful and mature, not unlike David Sylvian‘s work, this first disk takes a few spins to appreciate, but it’s worth the effort.
The second disk borrows mainly from the catalogs of Crimson and avant-prog legend Henry Cow, with a quick bite from the Canterbury scene. Eschewing the more well-known cuts, Jakszyk instead puts his personal stamp on Crimson’s “Picture of An Indian City” (backed by what’s essentially a Dizrhythmia reunion) and the lovely “Islands.” From Cow he moves through the challenging composition “Nirvana For Mice” and the witty (and more accessible) “The Citizen King.” Jakszyk also interpolates his own “That Still and Perfect Summer” with the early Soft Machine nugget “As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still” and a new piece from Stewart (joined by Egg bandmate Clive Brooks). He ends the disk with a lovely original instrumental, composed and recorded when he was 15.
Given that Jakszyk’s work is neither straightforward pop nor full-on prog, he’s doomed to a cult following smaller than either career would net him alone. But that also gives him the luxury of not living up to expectations, allowing him to follow his musical whims wherever they lead, which in this case is through the gilded doorway of The Bruised Romantic Glee Club.