When people bellyache about there being “no good music out there anymore,” I have to wonder how much effort they are putting into seeking it out. I receive nearly 100 CDs a month, and quite a few of them are excellent. Here are three that I particularly liked, along with sample tracks generously provided by the artists.
Bassist Tony Grey has played with some of the most significant artists in jazz, including Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter—and on his sophomore album, he is joined by some top-drawer musicians himself, including his uncle John (McLaughlin, who smokes on ”Chick’s Chums,” a composition he wrote for Chick Corea), and guitarists Mike Stern, Reb Beach, Hotei Tomoyasu, Dave Fiuczynski, Fabrizio Sotti, and Nir Felder. This is fusion in the best sense, chockablock with cool changes, sweet melodies, engaging rhythms, stellar improvisation—and, of course, great guitar work (Fiuczynski’s fretless playing on “Floating River Yangtze” and Sotti’s wonderfully melodic soloing on “Someday My Prince Will Come” are just two of many highlights). Grey’s bass playing is smart, ultra-tasteful, tuneful, and understated, as are the pieces he penned for this disc, which also includes his takes on tunes by Miles Davis, Eddie Harris, and others. Abstract Logix.
Featured Track: “Chick’s Chums”
Austrian guitarist Gerald Gradwohl may have played in Tangerine Dream for several years in the ’90s, but on his latest release, he brings some seriously funky high-octane jazz-rock in the company of powerhouse drummer Kirk Covington, bassist Harald Weinkum, and sax man Thomas Kugi. Gradwohl’s Strat tone’s are big and meaty, and he continuously morphs between different styles and approaches—even when running down a blues or flirting with anthemic rock. Despite his eclectic stylistic sensibilities, however, Gradwohl’s has managed to forge a recognizable musical identity, and guitarists will find plenty to like—and likely to learn from—on this excellent disc. G-Tone.
Featured Track: “As It Is”
Herd of Instinct
Although this music is firmly rooted in classic progressive rock—for example, much of the guitar soloing pays homage to Robert Fripp—it is far from derivative. Keyboardist Gayle Ellett (Djam Karet) plays prog staples such as Moog, Mellotron, Rhodes piano, and Hammond organ—but re-contextualizes them in refreshing ways, and the band augments those sounds with programmed beats, serpentine Warr Guitar bass lines, dramatic sound design, and other more contemporary elements. Mike Davison’s tasteful acoustic and electric guitar arrangements also feature prominently, and contributions from Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin, flautist Bob Fisher, trumpeter Joel Adair, and other instrumentalists conjure additional colors and textures. This is intelligent and well-crafted modern progressive rock music from artists fully conversant with their muse. Firepool.
Featured Track: “The Secret of Fire”