Let's Do It!: Recordings by Mark Egan, Carl Fischer and Terje Lie

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The great Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
did it. Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
did it with different groups. Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
1949 - 2007
sax, tenor
did it with family. Even the educated John Scofield
John Scofield
John Scofield
b.1951
guitar
did it. Not to mention Mike Stern
Mike Stern
Mike Stern
b.1953
guitar
. They all did it and we lauded them for it. Most college big bands in America reserve some time in their sets to do it. Even the electrifying Chris Potter
Chris Potter
Chris Potter
b.1971
reeds
regularly lets loose and does it.

Nothing more natural than getting busy on a steady, thrusting groove and letting it all hang out. You see, the secret is all in the build-up towards a climax. A few heartfelt licks here, a few syncopated hits there, and the crowd will cheer every time.

Indeed, the idea of fusing funk beats with jazz-informed improvisations has much appeal for players for whom mainstream jazz's stylistic puritanism prove too rigid or just plain unsatisfying. Call it what you will—contemporary jazz, jazz-rock or funk-jazz—but the Dave Weckl
Dave Weckl
Dave Weckl
b.1960
drums
s, Tribal Techs and Weather Report
Weather Report
Weather Report

band/orchestra
all got the goods to tickle anybody's fancy. That said, though the majority of the recordings produced since the genre's halcyon days in the '80s come as attractive as anyone could ask, most contemporary releases remain predictable and somewhat prosy. Unfortunately, heady demonstrations of technical prowess and rehashed formulas are not rare. As if the genre's performative and compositional practices have somehow been stilled in a handful of formal conventions and templates inside which players merely add their own colours. In short, since MBASE leader Steve Coleman
Steve Coleman
Steve Coleman
b.1956
saxophone
daring hybridizations, no notable musicological developments have shaken the genre's contentions. That said, the genre remains interesting nevertheless.

Though the three albums below all but shine for their originality or innovative factory, each deserve a worthy listen.



Mark Egan

Mark Egan
Mark Egan
b.1951
bass

Truth Be Told
Wavetone Records
2010



Reputed in jazz circles as the Pat Metheny

Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
b.1954
guitar
original bassist, Mark Egan hails from the Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius
1951 - 1987
bass, electric
school of burly, fretless bass romping. A veteran groovster, producer, composer, and since 1992, recording studio and label owner, Egan claims a strong foothold in the jazz fusion arena, and as such may very well be one of the late bassist's most devoted and successful follower with Gary Willis
Gary Willis
Gary Willis
b.1957
bass, electric
, Jimmy Haslip
Jimmy Haslip
Jimmy Haslip
b.1951
bass, electric
and Richard Bona
Richard Bona
Richard Bona
b.1967
bass, electric
. His work with smooth jazz titan David Sanborn
David Sanborn
David Sanborn
b.1945
saxophone
, Brazilian guitar ace Toninho Horta
Toninho Horta
Toninho Horta

guitar
, fusion unit Elements (which he co-founded), songstress Marianne Faithfull and pop icon Sting evidence his value as a versatile and capable accompanist. But it is through self-produced projects such as Truth be Told that fans truly discover the industrious bassist's beaming talents.

From "Frog Legs," the cushy opener, to "After Thought," the sitar-buzzing, cloudy vignette that closes the record, amateurs of powerhouse fusion a la Weckl, Corea and Steps Ahead shall find in Egan's menu a filling order. Take for example the rock-tinged, backbeat-driven romp that is "Pepe" and its frantic, irregular meters, the similarly engaging "Gargoyle," or the swaying yet hulking moves of the title tune, and you find yourself tabled in front of a silver plate of the finest fusion treats. Moreover, a deserving mention goes to master drummer Vinnie Colaiuta
Vinnie Colaiuta
Vinnie Colaiuta
b.1956
drums
and reedman Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
for their authoritative playing throughout the album.

Carl Fischer
Adverse Times
FischMusic Records
2010

Also an experienced sideman turned leader, trumpeter Carl Fischer and his Organic Groove Ensemble pack as much punch as the former Metheny alum's outing, but with a less fusion-y sound and a stylistically more varied program. In "Wienhiem Blues" for example, the rhythm section's repetitive stomping behind Fischer's swung theme reminds of John Scofield's B3-fueled, crossover jaunts. On "Kirican Afternoon / Sonho Medley" things take a radical turn into the easy-listening territory before venturing into the straight-up funk route with "Open Up." And, the rolling, percussion-driven 6/8 feel that steamrolls "Adverse Times" also provide a rather sharp change of scenery. Throughout both "Open Up" as well as "Wienhiem Blues," Jay Azzolina's Mike Stern-reminiscent wailing kicks things up a notch, something his colleagues do not quite achieve in their solos.

A happy surprise comes when the eerie, Harmon-muted theme of "TuTu" peeks through its haunting, synth-washed backdrop. Penned by bassist-producer Marcus Miller

Marcus Miller
Marcus Miller
b.1959
bass, electric
for his former employer Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, the minimalistic ditty is a most welcome addition in this somewhat artistically unfocused project. Notwithstanding the lack of focus and continuity on the conceptual level, Fischer and company pull through rather well on the performance level, even in the questionable spoken commentaries ("Adverse Times") and cringingly ear-grabbing R&B songs ("Movin' Out and On" and "Freeport to Fire Island.")

Terje Lie

Terje Lie
Terje Lie

saxophone

Urban Vacation
TCat Records
2010

Conversely to Fischer's soporific ear-candies, it is a gruff, cartoon-esque chant that greets listeners to Terje Lie's Urban Vacation. The voice, that of Yellowjackets
Yellowjackets
Yellowjackets

band/orchestra
bassist Jimmy Haslip
Jimmy Haslip
Jimmy Haslip
b.1951
bass, electric
, scats gleefully as the drums toll a steady, loose hi-hat beat. Then enters some pristine-sounding guitars and synths, which are soon caught up by a drenched-in-delay flute and sterile saxophone who both plant the melody—a pentatonic, riff-like theme, of course—in the highly compressed aural spectrum. An artificial-sounding horn section interjects repetitive rhythmic figures during the melody's rests, as if cued by an invisible conductor. The slapped bass holds the groove, locked in the thumping bass drum and constant snare jabs. The groove sure feels good, but a feeling of deja vu quickly surfaces...The following tracks feel as good, but the feeling rears its ugly head yet again...

Lie's Urban Vacation is in fact his producers' record. Nothing wrong with that. Happens all the time in the pop and country world. After all, who could blame an artist for wanting the creme de la creme to come in and help with the effort? Moreover, with cream comes smoothness, in terms of both the sound and the operation. In the "contemporary jazz" world—where smoothness is de rigueur—few come more recommended than Jimmy Haslip
Jimmy Haslip
Jimmy Haslip
b.1951
bass, electric
and Jeff Lorber
Jeff Lorber
Jeff Lorber
b.1952
keyboard
comes times to compose, produce and perform in the studio. Put them together on the same session and you assuredly get a good-sounding product (to Lie's credit, he co-wrote three of the ten songs and wholly composed one.) But, unfortunately for Lie, slick productions and composer credits fails to hide some of the album's performative flaws.

Challenged technically, the Norwegian saxophonist has a tendency to stiffen up, which causes him to approximate the execution of his phrases rather than effortlessly spelling them atop the pulse. On the other hand, his intonation is, for the most part, accurate. But, the aforementioned imprecise, nuance-less quality of his execution shadows the otherwise amicable nature of his playing. As expected, the rhythm section unfailingly plays in the pocket (most notably on Roy Ayers' "Red Black and Green"), and guest guitarist Michael Landau contributes some intense shredding. As matter of fact, both the latter's presence and the rhythm section's sure groove makes the listen worthwhile, that is, if you can tolerate the smooth jazz conundrum.

So, do it! Abandon yourself in some guilt-free fusion music. As Notorious B.I.G. rapped, "It's all good!"


Tracks and Personnel

Truth Be Told

Tracks: Frog Legs; Gargoyle; Truth Be Told; Sea Saw; Cafe Risque; Shadow Play; Blue Lunch; Rhyme Or Reason; Blue Rain; Pepe; After Thought.

Personnel: Mark Egan: bass; Bill Evans: saxophones; Mitch Forman: keyboards; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums; Roger Squitero: percussion.

Adverse Times

Tracks: Wienhiem Blues; Adverse Times; Movin' Out and On; Kirican Afternoon/Sonho Medley; Downeaster Alexa; Open Up; TuTu; Freeport to Fire Island; Flo n Mayn Spirit; Elegy for the Fisherman.

Personnel: Carl Fischer: trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone; Ron Oswanski: Hammond B3 organ, synth, Fender Rhodes, accordion; Brian Wolfe: drums and percussion; John Scarpulla: tenor sax, soprano sax andspoken word; Jay Azzolina: guitar; Brent Carter: vocals (4, 10); Ozzie Melendez: trombone; Emiliano Valerio: tabla and percussion (2, 3, 5).

Tracks and Personnel

Urban Vacation

Tracks: Bail Out; Crazy Groove; Dance On the Water; Blue Funk; Sedona; Red Black and Green; So Retro; Coral Dream; Parlophone; Tonight.

Personnel: Terje Lie: soprano, alto and tenor saxophones; Jeff Lorber: keyboards and guitar; Jimmy Haslip: bass and scat vocals; Tony Moore: drums; Michael Landau: guitar; Sharon Perry: vocals; Ernest Tibbs: bass (1, 4); Jeff Olson: drums (4); Dwight Sills: guitar (6); Gary Meek: saxophone; Ron King: trumpet.


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