High Bias is the follow up to last year's explosive debut on Chick Corea's Stretch record label. As the press release suggests: Niacin is a tighter and slightly more cohesive unit. The driving force is keyboard guru John Novello. Novello is a well know West Coast session musician, educator and Hammond B-3 enthusiast. Bassist Billy Sheehan and all-world drummer Dennis Chambers round out the core of Niacin while Alex Acuna, Pat Torpey, Kenwood Dennard and Rayford Griffin each contribute percussion/drums to several tracks. Chick Corea's provides ample Fender Rhodes support on the last track "Hang Me Upside Down"
The results here are most satisfying. The unit is much tighter and slightly more exploratory than witnessed on their debut release. The first track "High Bias" sets the pace featuring some clever over the top bass work from Sheehan while Novello works the B-3 into submission with some melodic yet muscular phrasings. Drummer Dennis Chambers is a tour de force on the kit. His years with John Scofield, Parliament/Funkadelic and numerous recording sessions lend some valuable experience to this band, most notably his ability to maintain the back beat while alternately toying with the rhythmic structures at hand. Weather Report's "Birdland" is the second track and is given some nice treatment by the band, mainly accenting the familiar melody line while lifting the groove a few notches. We then proceed to "Slapped Silly" which is a highly charged jazz/fusion romp. "Montuno" slows the pace down a bit offering an inventive "samba" beat with some intelligent bass work from Sheehan. Sheehan's ability to collaborate"harmonically" with Novello's organ work deserves special mention here. Sheehan's bass prowess is well documented; however, his over-the-top style is quite evident on this release and blends wonderfully with Novello's frequent melodic statements. Revenge is the 5th track and offers a nice hook and melody. Track 6 is "Cool To The Touch" which has the semblances of a 60's Motown tune stripped down and re-worked by this power trio. This is another Novello original composition and fares quite well in the mix. Cool To The Touch finds Novello playing with a gospel tinge yet interleaving a pleasant melody and dexterous phrasing. Track seven "Darkside" is a B-3 burner out of the traditional school. Track 8 "It's The Little Things" adheres to the Gospel approach, again bassist Sheehan provides wonderful support. Track nine "Soul Diversion" is a gutsy rollicking affair and features Rayford Griffin behind the kit. Track ten "Who Cares If Its Raining" is a straight-ahead no nonsense fusion rocker and the heads up drumming this time is provided by veteran Pat Torpey. The final cut "Hang Me Upside Down" was penned by Chick Corea who sits in behind the Fender Rhodes. Corea comps and supports Novello's blistering B-3 runs. Jazz great Kenwood Dennard is the drummer on this track.
"High Bias" is a fine follow up to their debut. Fans of the B-3, fusion and overall extroadinary musicianship should take interest. Niacin are a conglomerate of seasoned veterans that enjoy their mission. The path is simple: Hard driving, exciting and at times mesmerizing. It is quite obvious that these chaps are having fun. It has been stated that their live shows are magnificent. Recommended.
Tracks:High Bias;Birdland;Slapped Silly; Montuno; Revenge; Cool To The Touch; Darkside; The Littl Things; Soul Diversion; Who Cares If Its Raining; Hang Me Upside Down.
Personnel: John Novello: keyboards; Billy Sheehan: bass; Dennis Chambers: drums; Alex Acune: perc; Pat Torpey: drums; Rayford Griffin: drums; Kenwood Dennard: drums; Chick Corea: keyboards.