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Mike Pardew: Azul (2009)

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Mike Pardew: Azul How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Portland, Oregon area guitarist Mike Pardew executes the first several tracks of this trio date with sleek jazz grooves and meticulously designed phrasings. Then he occasionally undercuts some of the passages with ominous theme building maneuvers atop his rhythm section's deep and pulsating grooves. But on the later tracks, Pardew turns up the heat with distortion and sustain techniques, where he treads upon jazz-rock, jazz-fusion, and progressive-metal frameworks.

With bassist Damian Erskine's cleanly enacted, pumping electric bass lines, and drummer Micah Kassell's brusque backbeats, the guitarist is offered a fluid but sturdy improvisational base. And on pieces such as "Stairwell," Pardew zooms in for the kill via his edgy, soaring, and highly-electric licks to complement the rhythm section's spunky bottom-end. Pardew and Erskine also generate low heat with crunching unison lines. In light of that, the trio pursues a higher-octane and louder musical plane as the program moves forward.

On "Flathead Lake," Pardew puts his guitar into overdrive with some prog-metal overtones amid a freaky answering machine voice message dub, then sojourns into a weighty rock motif, evidenced during the explosive "Bigfork." Ultimately, the band cycles through a consortium of interesting developments, although most of these works are constructed with medium-tempo pulses.

No speed metal or superfluous fuzoid romps here. On the contrary, Pardew merges good taste and formidable chops with a game-plan that progresses into a vivacious feast for the neural network.

Track Listing: Shades; Azul; Welcome Home; Road Worn; Transgression; Hwy 93; Velonis; Ferrazzano; Stairwell; Flathead Lake; Bigfork; Alluvium.

Personnel: Mike Pardew: guitar; Damian Erskine: bass; Micah Kassell: drums.

Record Label: Afan Music

Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock


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