RAZL IS A SPANISH FUSIONISTA with keen chops and an equally keen sense of groove. Playing a Gibson ES-137 Custom through a Fender Blues Deville 4x10, and making good use of a Hughes & Kettner Rotosphere on several tracks, he kicks out the jazzy jams with passion and aplomb. There’s more than a smidgen of Scofield in Razl’s approach, but he’s no mere Sco Clone—and playing alongside guest guitarists Mike Keneally (“Glow Pig”) and Dean Brown (“Grungly”) he easily holds his own.
Tempos and rhythms vary, but all of the pieces on Rotonova save one are groove-based instrumentals (Razl sings on “Snail Underground”), nimbly nailed down by drummer Pepe Acebal and bassist Damian Erskine (nephew of legendary jazz drummer Peter Erskine), with Bryan Beller subbing the bottom end on two cuts. Additional musicians include saxophonist Hugo Astudillo, organist Lorenzo Mattelán, and percussionist Arturo Herrera.
Razl plays sans pick, giving him a somewhat different sound than most fusion guitarists. He still executes quick licks with the requisite clarity and precision when appropriate, but his attack and dynamics are atypically nuanced, and the ability to sound notes simultaneously lends a keyboard-like feel to much of his rhythm work. He also opts for relatively clean solo tones on most of the tunes, which further distinguishes him from the fusion pack.
This is the sort of “fusion” record that you can play at parties or while driving down the coast without it ever becoming overbearing. Great grooves, upbeat melodies, and tasteful solos—everything a smooth jazz album should be, without the smooth jazz! Martian Sheep
. —Barry Cleveland