L'Image (Mainieri/Bernhardt/Spinozza/Levin/Gadd): 2.0 (2010)
's Chapman Stick gets a workout beyond the confines of the progressive rock arena in which he's been more often than not found since hooking up with King Crimson and Peter Gabriel in the late 1970s. 2.0 is, in fact, a rare opportunity to hear Levin return to jazz, his deep arco creating a robust foundation for Mainieri's "Reunion," an otherwise atmospheric track where David Spinozza's nylon-string guitar and Mainieri's vibes gracefully combine. Levin proves that just because an artist doesn't, it needn't mean they can't.
Not that 2.0 is retro; the group sounds thoroughly in the new millennium, even as it revisits a couple of 1970s Mainieri compositions, in particular the eminently singable title track to Love Play (Arista, 1977), here combined with Mainieri's knotty but Latin-esque "Coming Home." Mainieri's tunes, which comprise half of 2.0's eight tracks, straddle the fence between easy-flowing accessibility and beneath-the-covers depth, in particular the tone row-driven "All in a Row," where Tony Levin
, whose jazz cred is amply proven on seminal albums by Chick Corea, Larry Carlton, and Joe Farrell, despite a career largely spent as a session and touring musician with pop/rock artists like Eric Clapton, Paul Simon and James Taylor Quartet. Gadd's Stuff was a soulful and unassuming alternative to powerhouse fusion back in the day, and that same relaxed but unerring groove is all over 2.0, especially on keyboardist Warren Bernhardt's opening "Praise," a lengthy, gospel-tinged tune featuring lively solos from Mainieri and Spinozza. And if Gadd's sense of swing was ever in doubt, there's Mainieri's "Gadd-Ddagit!," which features Bernhardt's strongest piano solo of the set, and Spinozza in flat-out Wes Montgomery mode.
The same can be said for drummer Steve Gadd
Spinozza and Bernhardt may well be 2.0's biggest treats, if only because they're so under-represented compared to the more visible careers of Levin, Gadd, and Mainieri. Spinozza, in particular, demonstrates a compositional acumen as strong as his playing on three tunes, notably the ambling but deceptively change-heavy "Doesn't She Know By Now?" and spare yet visceral blues, "Hidden Drive."
The best players check their egos at the door, and with L'Image completing a fall 2009 run at New York's Iridium and a live CD/DVD in the works, 2.0 is the long overdue introduction to a group with nothing to prove and everything to say.
Track Listing: Praise; Reunion; Gadd-Ddagit!; Doesn't She Know By Now?; The Brat; All in a Row; Hidden Drive; Love Play/Coming Home.
Personnel: Mike Mainieri: vibraphone; Warren Bernhardt: keyboards; David Spinozza: guitars; Tony Levin: basses, Chapman Stick; Steve Gadd: drums.
Record Label: NYC Records
Style: Modern Jazz