Tom Coster: Ivory Expeditions

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Back in the early '80s, when I was a beer-swilling, poverty-stricken, disco-hating, post-college naif, my favorite kind of music was jazz-fusion. My early-80s self was particularly smitten by Tom Coster's first two solo records. I regretted having to sell those albums to an Indian graduate student prior to one of my many cross-town moves. When I learned this summer that Fantasy was reissuing both albums on a single CD, I thought it might be fun to see if the music still moved me.

The verdict? I still enjoy most of the tunes, but more than a few sound dated.

Tom Coster is a talented guy who, like most fusion keyboard players in the early '80s, experimented extensively with synthesizers. Unfortunately, the keyboard sounds of that era do not hold up particularly well here in the late '90s. Thus about 50% of this recording sounds dated. It helps that Coster teamed with some ace players, particularly drummer Steve Smith and guitarist Joaquin Lievano, on T.C. (1981) and Ivory Expedition (1983), the two releases that are combined here.

Some of these cuts sound like they should accompany an old basketball highlight film or a wind-surfing documentary. The tracks that stand up best are those that feature Coster on acoustic piano. They include: "I Give My Heart To You," which features a hot solo by Lievano; "Can't You Stand It!," a catchy track on which Coster's intense playing brings to mind Chick Corea; and "Till We Meet Again" and "I Give You My Love," two beautiful keyboard ballads. Other highlights include "Zulu Queen" and "Caught In The Act," percussive tracks that might have been written for Coster's old band Santana.

Though Ivory Expeditions is not nearly as strong as Coster's 1993 CD Let's Set The Record Straight or his recent work with Vital Information, hardcore fusion fans will find a good number of gems among these 18 tracks. If you're a long-time fusion fan like me, they might even conjure up some memories.

Record Label: Fantasy Jazz

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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