801 is an innovative, progressive rock, jazz fusion band that formed in England in the 1970s. Founded by Soft Machine drummer and former Roxy Music member, Phil Manzanera, 801 was established as a musical vehicle for Manzanera, under the tribute to his creative message and influence. The groupâ€™s line up consists of Manzanera as the lead guitarist, bassist, and vocalist, Brian Eno, as well as reed instrument player, Francis Monkman and former Atomic Rooster drummer, Paul Thompson.
The band had initially formed as a one-off studio project to record the album 801 at Island Recordsâ€™ studio Trident Studios in February 1976. Panned by some critics at the time, 801â€™s debut album quickly became an industry classic, with Manazaneraâ€™s ambitious blend of jazz-rock, classical and emerging synthesizer technology bringing the record to the attention of a young group of fans. This young audience embraced the psychedelic, off-beat feel of the album, propelling sales far higher than anyone, including Manazanera, had expected.
During the following year, Manzanera and Eno took 801 out on the road, performing concerts around the world and recording 2 archival live albums during the tour. Soon after the tour, the members decided to take 801 in a new direction musically, spinning off from the jazz-rock experimentation of their debut to a pure jazz-fusion affair.
For the next two studio albums (Listen Now and Sirens if you please), 801 explored the distinctive sound of jazz/fusion via a mix of softer, bluesy edges and frenetic, sometimes humorous lyrics. This successive offering from 801 was generally well-received, despite being criticized by some jazz purists for its lack of innovation and overly-simplistic approach.
In 1980, 801 released their last official album, Quiet Life, which was created in Island Recordsâ€™ small Basing Street studios in Tokyoko. Many critics consider Quiet Life to be the bandâ€™s best work, with a robust mix of jazz, world-beat and synthesizer programming that coalesced around Manzaneraâ€™s intricately conceived arrangements. The album was later reissued with extra tracks, allowing 801â€™s comprehensive exploration of the jazz-fusion genre to be appreciated by contemporary listeners.
Periodic reunions have since been undertaken by the band, stretching as far as 2010; however, future collaborations between 801â€™s diagonal players remain uncertain. Despite the relatively short nature of 801â€™s history as a band, the actâ€™s innovative, absorbing and often hilarious and joyous works have undoubtedly left a lasting impression on the international prog-rock, jazz fusion and experimental music scenes, proving why 801 remain so influential and respected in these genres.