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Solar Wind: Grand Tour Alignment

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The cover is grandiose: the title refers to a rare occurrence, when all planets are in the same corner of sky. You expect something cosmic; for the first minute (all synths and passing comets) that’s what you get. And then it comes down to earth: twirling guitars, airy keys, and the occasional horn (Eric Marienthal, whooping it loud.) It’s an expected approach, but done with flair; smooth, but not sleepy. And the title fits: they do have everything all lined up!

At the center is strong interplay – two instruments, one voice. Sean Mason twangs a meaty bass line; Eric Robson adds jangly strings, filling the gaps left by Mason. They’re breezy on "Paradise", full of sweet flutters – Marienthal charges in, a saucy swagger by the ocean. Same mood on "Pacific", only Sean does the strutting. He lays a deep funk, then solos above it, thanks to dubbing. The basses rumble strong, topped with Frank Gambale’s greasy blues. It’s a busy sidewalk, teeming with nightlife; it makes you move, and the dancing is sweet. So is the romance: strings twinkle on "Summer Day", a sound like a harpsichord. A soprano drifts by; Mason’s part has a pretty simplicity. Bells start to ring, Marienthal sings like a flute, and everything’s soft, like the hand on your shoulder. This is welcome, summertime or any time.

"Sun Coast" is totally Mason’s, another slab of buttery funk. At first, anyway: the synths wash over, chiming like vibes. You think Marienthal is back, but no – that’s Robson, with a surprising growl. "Tropical Wave" floats graceful, with guitars standing tall in the thick keyboards. Maybe it’s too thick; near the end it crowds Robson, who is light but effective. "Gliding" opens on a mandolin trill, and moves with wiry figures – a delicate power. All else is dressing, from the electric drone to the wisps of piano. And don’t forget the echo chamber: for one moment Mason is an orchestra. Nest stop, the future: the opening whoosh on "Light Speed" is spacey as anything we’ve heard. From here the bass stomps, a brassy synth gives the theme, and in comes Robson, zooming like a rock star. He buries the theme, racing with tight filigrees – this is a jolt, and gives the tune spice. And, if you like your jazz smooth, this should be your taste.

Record Label: ChartMaker Records

Style: Contemporary/Smooth


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