Hugh Hopper: Numero D'Vol (2007)
On the opening title track, Hayward lays down the heartbeat with his bass drum, while keyboardist Steve Franklin's synth swashes prime the stage for a somewhat ominous motif, expanded upon by Picard's mood-evoking tenor sax choruses. Listening to this pristinely recorded endeavor yields numerous rewards, evidenced by Hayward's use of timber via his delicate cymbals accents that complement Franklin's swirling keys, providing spatial parameters that add to the album's aura. In various regions of the disc, the quartet surges through haunting dreamscapes, featuring Picard's howling cries and the leader's booming and limber lines. Yet a good portion of this set is framed within variable rock pulses and a few free-form meltdowns.
The musicians generate quirky, off-kilter passages amid Hopper's thumping bass patterns that frequently underline or, perhaps, spawn an expansive musical vista. On "Bootz, the band sports a loose-groove funk gait, driven home by Picard's darting choruses and counterbalanced by Franklin's counterbalancing piano phrasings. The quartet is apt to go for the proverbial jugular with punishing licks, but one of the many highlights pertains to Franklin's mock-Jerry Lee Lewis rock and roll chord pattern on the uncanny but endearing "Shovelfeet.
Like the dawn of day, the album instills a sense of newness and hope for the tried and true stylizations of the jazz-rock idiom. Then again, rigid categorizations are unnecessary and would simply be an exercise in futility, although we've come to expect this higher realm of artistry and innovation from Hopper.
Track Listing: Numero D'Vol; On the Spot; Earwigs Enter; Free Bee; Get That Tap; Bootz; Shovelfeet; Bees Knees Man; Straight Away; Twilight; Some Other Time.
Personnel: Hugh Hopper: bass; Simon Picard: sax; Steve Franklin: keyboards; Charles Hayward: drums.
Record Label: Moonjune Records
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock