Sebastiaan Cornelissen: U-Turn (2009)
If there's one weakness in recent fusion releases, it's that they are sometimes too formulaic, with overcooked tempos and melodies that have hardly deviated since the sounds of groundbreaking progenitors such as Mahavishnu Orchestra and Allan Holdsworth. Where's the creativity and new identity? Well one place it can be heard is in Dutch drummer and composer Sebastiaan Cornelissen's U-Turn.
With duties as a musician and teacher dividing his time between the UK and native Holland, Cornelissen has been involved in numerous projects, debuted his solo album Aggressive Attack on Munich Records in 2002, and has performed with various groups such as Isotope (with pianist Rob Van Bavel) and One Spirit co-led with bassist Frans Vollink.
Calling upon a large all-star roster including keyboardists Gary Husband and Scott Kinsey, as well as guitarist Susan Weinert, Cornelissen shows not only his proficiency as a musician but also as an insightful thinker whose compositions are as engrossing and melodic as they are hard-hitting. While there's nothing groundbreaking here, it's Cornelissen's ingenuityextracting the best out of shining artists, and a meticulous attention to detail (via technical wizardry and playing additional instruments)that elevates this release.
The opening "Can Do" is confirmation, with Gerard Presencer's celestial flugelhorn intro and mellowed lyricism suffused by ethereal keyboards and driven by Cornelissen's consummate drumming. His traps are elaborate, whether improvising in parallel with Frans Vollink's muscular and elastic bass on "Fruits and Fibre" or dishing out tricky cadences on the title track, as Gary Husband provides oblique synth work. The musicians are uninhibited within these multi-formed compositions, as on the space explorations of "Stello" or the oh-so-cool "Stevenage," with Leonardo Amuedo's guitar pouring out some liquid funk.
And yes there's progressive jazz rock. But it's intricate to Cornelissen's incisive production and not just a means to an end of some guitar-based fusion. On "Up There," Steve Hunt's keyboards are just as cutting as Richard Hallebeek's ripped guitar. Weinert's tripped out solo dances in harmony with Presencer's lucid flugelhorn, as does each player's contribution to the closing "Last One." Everything fits together like intricate pieces to an elaborate puzzle, even the sampled sound of water sprinklers in the majestic "England Green" and the jazzed "All So Familiar."
Well thought-out and executed to a sharp point. U-Turn is a step above and beyond.
Track Listing: Can Do; Fruits and Fibre; U-Turn; Caspar; Hands; Stello; England Green; All so Familiar; Stevenage; Up There; Bread Maker; Squash; Snox; Last One.
Personnel: Sebastiaan Cornelissen: drums, guitar, programming, additional keys; Alex Machacek: guitar (14); Susan Weinert: guitar (13); Mike Outram:guitar (5); Richard Hallebeek: guitar (10, 12); Leonardo Amuedo: guitar (9); Gary Husband: keys (2, 3, 7); Scott Kinsey: keys (8); Steve Hunt: keys (10, 11); Hadrien Feraud: bass (5, 13); Frans Vollink: bass (1-4, 7, 8, 10); Jimmy Earl: bass (12); Tom Kennedy: bass (14); Johnny Copland: bass (12); Gary Willis: bass loops (8); Ruud Cornelissen: bowed acoustic bass (4); Gerard Presencer: flugelhorn (1, 6, 13).