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February 2004

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Windham Hill Chill 2

Various Artists

Windham Hill

This 2-CD package is divided into ambient and acoustic settings featuring the second installment and compilation of the New Age label's roster of stars, including tracks by four new artists. You'll hear the late acoustic guitar virtuoso Michael Hedges, synth ace Patrick O' Hearn, Yanni and many others throughout 28 tracks. At times, meditative or for some, therapeutic—this production pretty much symbolizes the record label's characterization. Nonetheless, we can't argue with the label's inferences to the predominant chill factor inherent throughout the entire mix.


Those Times

Michael Musillami

Playscape Recordings

Guitarist Michael Musillami treads mainstream waters here on his latest effort. Then again, the artist cannot be pigeonholed, thanks to a slew of adventurous releases to his credit. Featuring pianist Ted Rosenthal, drummer George Schuller and bassist Dave Shapiro, the overall game plan resides within a nicely integrated blend. The guitarist contributes one original while modifying Horace Silver's "Peace" and Bill Evans' "Comrade Conrad" into a personalized approach. The band swings hard as a recognizable luster graces the musicians' straight-up methodology. Another fine showing by this superb artisan!


Lamentations - Live at Shepard's Bush Empire 2003

OPETH (DVD)

OPETH Website

The Swedish prog-metal band divides this set into two disparate segments: Music from its fine and softly melodic 2003 release, Damnation and familiar tunes culled from previous "metal" based recordings. Guitarist/vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt is the front man here, as he gently prods the audience while displaying a humble tone during his banter in between songs. And while many ensembles of this ilk engage in nonsensical antics, this lot displays a touch of class, topped off by strong musicianship and a tightly focused agenda. Selfishly speaking, this writer is a bit partial to the whispery themes showcased during the first half of the program, featuring the entire Damnation CD. The quartet displays an earnest sense of direction, sans any grandiose implications.


Five Suns

GUAPO

Cuneiform Records

The press announcement pronounces similarities to prog-rock icons such as Magma, King Crimson, and minimalist composer Terry Riley. A good analogy at that! Therefore, this British keys-bass-drums trio lays it all down with swarming sheets of sound. Keyboardist Daniel O' Sullivan uses a Fender Rhodes, mellotron and analogue synths to good effect here. A good portion of the band's call to arms is rooted within elements of top-heavy expressionism. At the end of the day, the group transmits a protocol rooted within the '70s progressive rock scene.


Apparitions

Tony Malaby

Songlines Saxophonist Tony Malaby's second release as a leader features drummers Michael Sarin and Tom Rainey performing side by side, along with bassist Drew Gress. This New York City based crew, led by the excellent saxophonist embarks upon a rip-roaring modern jazz program. Nevertheless, it's the dual drumming attack that provides the mark of authenticity to this soul-stirring set. Rainey and Sarin perform masterfully here! At times, the drumming is akin to a domino effect as they extend rhythms without losing the flow. Malaby leads the charge with his meaty tenor and soprano sax lines. His adroit expressionism and forcefully shaped lyricism provides the axis for the drummers' zestfully articulated polyrhythms.



Radio Fractal/Beat Music - Donaueschingen 2002

Wolfgang Mitterer

hatOLOGY

Maybe it's those rich, and sugary Viennese desserts that help propel the Austrian avant-garde scene into hyper-momentum situations? Commissioned by German radio for the Donaueschingen festival of new music, electronics maverick Wolfgang Mitterer leads this septet thru a wildly engaging journey. Call it avant-garde, electro-space music, melded with jazz improv or simply let the music stand upon its own classification, which is a dubious task. Veteran jazz saxophonist Max Nagle, turntablist deb 13 and others weave their magic throughout this most interesting program. The band abides by a credo founded upon abstracts, funkified beats, and shock therapy type motivations. Yet the kicker is.. the music is vastly entertaining! At times, it might ring like a science project, although where others may fail miserably, these gents pull it off in a majestic way.



Take It From The Top

Bob James Trio


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