Sebastiaan Cornelissen: U-Turn (2009)
It's a minute and forty seconds before Sebastiaan Cornelissen's drums ease into the frame on U-Turn. Although he has a lot to say he's clearly not in a rush; this second solo effort has been seven years coming and has taken four years to put together. The fourteen pieces, which could almost be seen as a continuous suite given their stylistic uniformity, are less about his playing and more about his writing. With the aid of no fewer that seventeen heavyweight fusion musicians, Cornelissen's has set out his stall not so much to dazzle, despite some fine playing all round, but rather to seduce, subtly and gradually.
Keyboards play a major role in shaping the tunes and defining atmosphere; to this end much of the music has the feel of '80s John McLaughlin albums, when keyboard sounds dominated the proceedings, providing chordal progressions and a kind of pale melancholy.
Cornelissen employs three keyboard players. Gary Husband's playing exhibits lovely contrasts, from flowing electric piano on the faster paced "Fruits and Fibre" and swirling synth on the title track, to a more lyrical approach on his own "England Green" and fine piano on "Caspar." Scott Kinsey lends a veritable cornucopia of keyboard sounds to "All So Familiar"-; dreamy synth, softly probing piano, vibe and vocorder effects on a tune which fades after a short three minutes, just when it's about to go somewhere really interesting. Steve Hunt has two sinewy keyboard solos, one on "Up There" and a more expansive one on "Bread Maker." Keys elsewhere are handled by Cornelissen.
There is space in these compositions too, and every note feels carefully weighted and strategically placedperhaps not surprising in a work so long in the making. Harmonic depth and melodic composition are at the heart of this music, and given that there are some great solos from guitarists such as Mike Outram, Leonardo Amuedo, Richard Hallebeek, Susan Weinert and Alex Machacek, the overall effect of the music is strangely soothing.
Gerard Presencer's flugelhorn brings the pensive minimalism of latter-day Miles Davis, particularly at the beginning of "Can Do" and on the ninety second mood-piece "Stello," where he is accompanied sympathetically by Cornelissen and a sprinkling of spacey programming.
No fewer than seven bass players are used, but Frans Vollink is Cornelissen's main partner, appearing on half of the tunes. In truth, though the bass playing throughout is top drawer, it's a challenge to tell the players apart. Cornelissen's drumming, whoever the bassist may be, is impressiveanimating the compositions with energy and taste in equal measure. He succeeds in commanding attention without seeking the spotlight in a way similar to Asaf Sirkis.
Cerebral yet melodically appealing, technically impressive yet with plenty of breathing space, Cornelissen has, with U-Turn, joined the front ranks of new fusion artists who are redefining the genre.
Track Listing: Can Do; Fruits and Fibre; UTurn; 4 Hands; Caspar; Stello; England Green; All So Familiar; Stevenage; Up There; Bread Maker; Squash; Snow!; Last One.
Personnel: Gary Husband: keys (2, 3, 4, 7); Jimmy Earl: bass (12); Steve Hunt: keys (10,11); Gary Willis: bass loop (8); Scott Kinsey: keys (8); Ruud Cornelissen: bowed acoustic bass (4); Gerard Presencer: flugel horn (1, 6, 13); Richard Hallebeek: guitar solo (10, 12); Alex Machacek: guitar solo (14); Susan Weinert: guitar solo (13); Leonardo Amuedo: guitar solo (9); Mike Outram: guitar solo (5); Tom Kennedy: bass (14); Frans Vollink: bass (1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10); Hadrien Feraud: bass (5, 13); Johnny Copland: bass (12); Sebastiaan Cornelissen: drums, guitar, programming, additional keys.