East of Eden were, originally, an early British jazz-rock
band, founded in Bristol
by Dave Arbus (trumpet, saxophones, flute), Ron Caines (alto saxophone), and Geoff Nicholson (guitar). As it turned out, Arbus' main and best instrument was violin
, and once he tried amplifying it (inspired by seeing a young Jean-Luc Ponty
), it would become an important part of the group's sound, experimental
pop/rock that incorporated elements of jazz, blues, Middle-Eastern music, and a touch of Bartok
(or so said the sleeve notes
on their debut disque), and punched little holes in the song form, leaving plenty of room for improvisation
and sudden twists and turns of style and mood.
Their first LP, on Decca's "underground" label Deram was Mercator Projected (1969), which probably got more attention for its cover star, Alf Naked (with, IIRC, a map of the world projected on her back), than for the very good music within, innovative (for its day) early progressive rock. A lost semi-classic of late British Psychedelia, neither as epic as the debut of their contemporaries King Crimson, nor as magical or clever, respectively, as those of (The) Pink Floyd or (The) Soft Machine.
They gigged and gigged in the UK and on the continent, and released an equally-wonderful second LP, Snafu (1970), to slightly greater notice. But then, a strange thing happened -- they became pop stars, if only for a moment; "Ramadhan" from that album became a top ten hit in France, while the album lumbered into the lower reaches of the UK top thirty.
Then, a year later, "Jig-A-Jig", a fiddle-driven Celtic number they'd play live as an encore, and recorded, presumably, to fill out Snafu, hit the UK top ten. Arbus also gained some ubiquity around that time for his tour-de-force on The Who's "Baba O'Riley", for which he's probably most remembered today, even if you don't recognize his name. By this point, the original East of Eden was no more; Decca put out a "greatest hits" LP, to try to cash in, while Arbus, now signed to Harvest (EMI's "underground" label, though in 1971 there wasn't really such an underground) formed a new, dull, just-plain-rock East of Eden, perhaps a cash-in attempt of his own. It didn't work -- A New Leaf makes a fine black-vinyl frisbee.
The original founders reunited a few years back, and have put out a couple of CDs, but nothing to rival what they did in their early years.