Barry Cleveland: Spectrum Road in San Francisco Micro Review (with promo video)

| June 18, 2012

The Spectrum Road show at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco on June 16 was intense. Jack Bruce, Vernon Reid, John Medeski, and Cindy Blackman-Santana channeled something extraordinarily large, loud, dark, and beautiful—and even if Medeski hadn't been playing a Mellotron—which he was—it would still have been one of the heaviest progressive rock performances I've ever seen (the band's Tony Williams tribute origins notwithstanding).
Bruce's timing was extraordinary, with every note occurring at exactly the right moment, be it slightly before, slightly after, or precisely on the beat—and his parts were brilliantly economic yet powerful. Blackman-Santana is truly a force of nature, and her high-spirited and hyper-creative performance would certainly have brought a smile to T. Williams' lips had he been there. Medeski played his B3 in a Larry Young-approved fashion, with all of the taste and rhythmic complexity he is known for, but when he switched to Mellotron he attacked and manipulated it with such psychedelic abandon that it likely triggered flashbacks in many of the '60s-era audience members (which were plentiful). Reid brought a playful energy to his performance, though his parts were often dark and heavy, and his angular, high-velocity solos typically included more notes in a single phrase than most guitarists play in an entire evening.
The show was part of the SF Jazz Spring Season.
Here's video of Spectrum Road performing Tony Williams' "Vuelta Abajo" earlier this year:

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