Following a 2003 release, Live at Yoshi’s
, which leaned a little more towards the jazz side of the jazz-rock fence, Jing Chi returns with 3D
, a pounding affair that places itself more firmly in the rock camp, influenced strongly by power groups from the late ‘60s and ‘70s including Cream, Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies, Led Zeppelin and even shades of the more guitar-centric period of mid-‘70s King Crimson.
That’s not to say that Jing Chi—guitarist Robben Ford, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta—forgets about jazz altogether. “Hidden Treasure,” featuring guest organist Larry Goldings, has some precedent in the Tony Williams Lifetime, although the sound is much cleaner, assertive without being as aggressive. But tunes like “Colonel Panic,” “Mezzanine Blues,” “Time Is A Magazine” and, in particular, “Tangled Up,” with its almost anthemic power chords and head-banging riff, clearly come more from Jimmy Page than Jim Hall.
Still, as vengeful as Jing Chi gets on 3D , there are some constants that carry over from the earlier records, in particular a virtuoso style of playing that still manages to avoid excess, remaining wholly musical. Ford is too tasteful a guitarist to become caught up in too much bombast; even when he kicks it with abandon on “Tangled Up,” screaming with his wah-wah pedal and overdriven tones, strong melodies abound and a certain singing quality is never too far away. And on the extended jam version of the Blind Willie Johnson tune, “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” Ford confidently exchanges blues licks with guest guitarist/vocalist Robert Cray.
While the overall tone is heavy, there is some respite. “Chi Town” is a relaxed shuffle that brings to mind some of Jeff Beck’s fusion work. “Move On,” with its clean, sweet guitar and insistent, driving rhythm section, brings to mind some of the great guitar bands of the early ‘60s, including Hank Marvin and The Shadows. That Ford should choose to evoke The Shadows demonstrates just how broad his knowledge is, given that Marvin was hugely influential on Page, Beck and a host of other British guitar gods to come.
The only real misstep on the record is Haslip’s use of textural interludes that act as segues between tracks. Apparently inspired by Brian Eno’s ambient works, they don’t succeed in tying together the different tunes, and provide no sense of context or warm-up for what is to come. Still, fans of Jing Chi’s previous records will find much to appreciate with 3D , and those who like their fusion more closely affiliated with rock will be pleasantly surprised by Jing Chi’s move in that direction.
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Personnel: Vinnie Colaiuta (drums, cymbals, logic and reason programming), Robben Ford (guitar), Jimmy Haslip (bass, programming, synths, tambourine)
With Special Guests: Judd Miller (sound design, EVI), Steve Tavaglione (sound design, EWI), Robert Cray (guitar, vocals on