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Curved Air is reborn

Known for its extraordinary musicianship, the legendary 1970s progressive-rock band is back.

That sensuous, seductive, drop-dead gorgeous voice — not to mention her way with words — is what got Sonja Kristina hired as singer for Curved Air in 1968.

Just to make sure she had everyone’s attention, though, she wore an outfit that bowled everyone over.

“I thought Curved Air’s music was powerfully moody, and, as individuals, the band were intense and charismatic,” says Kristina. “I auditioned in green corduroy flowing robes and green shades and played them a couple of my songs, including ‘Melinda More or Less.’ We got on well, and yes, I felt honored to have been chosen to sing with these very gifted young musicians. Also, I was happy to be able to contribute lyrics for them, since many of their tunes had no words.”

Words often fail to adequately describe Curved Air’s potent progressive-rock wizardry — a transfixing, supernatural mix of acoustic folk, classical influences, jazz fusion, electronics and rock elements that fluctuates from dramatic and stormy to quietly intellectual and reflective. Blessed with a cast of virtuoso musicians, Curved Air’s origins can be traced back to 1968 and the Royal Academy of Music in London, England. There, friends Florian Pilkington-Miksa, a drummer, and Rob Martin, a bassist, met guitarist and keyboardist extraordinaire Francis Monkman, and commenced jamming. Not long after, Monkman met Royal College of Music student Darryl Way in a London music shop, and Way would introduce the group to pianist Nick Simon.

Together, they formed the band Sisyphus, but Simon would depart, leaving Monkman to man keyboards and guitar. The defection also brought a name change, which referenced Terry Riley’s composition “A Rainbow in Curved Air.”

One of the group’s early gigs involved serving as the pit band for the play “Who the Murderer Was.” Meanwhile, singer Sonja Kristina was performing in the London production of “Hair.” Looking for new challenges, Kristina was persuaded by her manager, the folk music impresario Roy Guest, to try out for Curved Air.

All these years later, Kristina and a couple of her Curved Air cohorts — Pilkington-Miksa and violinist Way — have reunited, recorded a new album, Reborn, and will be touring as well.

“I believe this project will remind audiences of the influences of the fertile, mystical ’60s as they enjoy watching Curved Air sharing the stage once more,” says Kristina.

Reborn comes 40 years after the formation of Curved Air, a band that transcended most of what passed for progressive-rock back then.

“Curved Air was a superb and extraordinary band unlike any other progressive-rock band before or since,” says Kristina. “Darryl Way was one of the first musicians to play electric violin in a rock band. A flamboyant showman, he exploited the limits of the instrument by utilizing cutting-edge technology. Francis Monkman’s guitar playing is wild and expressive, and his lifelong fascination and skill with manipulating frequencies and creating eerie sonic worlds and atmospheres has always given Curved Air’s music an edge that is unique.”

It’s Kristina’s feeling that Reborn won’t tarnish that legacy one bit.

“Darryl and Francis’ classical training and hunger for fresh and extraordinary sounds and off-beat musical forms brought about the creation of truly classic masterpieces,” says Kristina. “Our hope is that our music will be as refreshing to today’s generation as it was when first composed. Any new pieces conceived out of this time will reflect the quality and dynamic tension that can produce important new work.”

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