Available for the first time in the U.S. as a non-import, Front Page
offers some hot playing from three stellar jazz-fusion icons. Recorded in 2000, the group of the same name features God’s fusion drummer of choice Dennis Chambers, child prodigy turned prodigious guitar God Biréli Lagrène and enigmatic bassist Dominique DiPiazza
, who literally turned his life over to God seven years previous to this recording and had been absent from the music scene since.
The first thing that pops out at you from this recording is what a fine jazz guitarist Lagrène has become. Child prodigies don’t always turn out so well. But Lagrène has become so much more than his gypsy roots and even his later fusion efforts would have made you think. A lot of his playing here is tasteful jazz with a bluesy touch. If that was all he did, the album would be a disappointment. But these interludes offer a necessary counterbalance to many of the CD’s busier moments.
Legrène’s stringed contributions are matched in kind by the brilliant playing of DiPiazza. DiPiazza is a believer in using his electric bass in every possible way. There is no grandstanding—but there is plenty use of harmonics and microtones for shading and driving bass lines for control. The hope in this corner is that DiPiazza gets busier and starts putting out more material. He is perhaps the most under-known, if I can make up a word, of all of today’s outstanding jazz musicians.
What more can really be said about Dennis Chambers? His talent is a curse because he only stands out these days when he under-performs. Since he never seems to do that, superlatives are wasted. Chambers is most rightly the most important cog in any band in which he plays.
The music from Front Page is from the Pat Metheny-Mark Egan School of Seamless Fusion with a little after school Larry Coryell, Lenny Breau, Jaco and, of course, Dennis Chambers, thrown in. It is not smooth enough to turn you off and not rough enough to chase you away. The perfect balance of lovely ballads, “The Eyes of Jesus Christ,” and up-tempo fusion pieces, “Marie Tcha Tcha,” make for a full curriculum. And what would a good fusion album be without a final tune featuring guest star John McLaughlin that sends everyone to detention?
Personnel: Dennis Chambers- Drums; Bireli LaGrene- Guitar; Dominique Di Piazza- Bass Guitar; Guest John McLaughlin-guitar