Various Artists: The New Universe Music Festival 2010 - Abstract Logix Live!
The New Universe Music Festival 2010: Abstract Logix Live!
On November 20-21 2010, Raleigh, North Carolina became the destination for fans of cutting edge fusion/improvised music, drawn from all over the world by the embarrassment of riches that the New Universe Music festival offered in tribute to guitar icon John McLaughlin. For two days Raleigh was The Center of the New Musical Universe as envisioned by independent label Abstract Logix and its founder, Souvik Dutta. The concept was simple enough; gather the stars from the label's roster, set them loose on stage and get it all in the cana sort of one-stop JATP for the 21st century. The resulting 2-CD setwith a 2-DVD release to followcaptures uniformly engrossing performances from a host of outstanding musicians.
Guitarist Alex Machacek's trio opens CD1 with two tracks which serve as a potent reminder of why the Austrian-born musician's star has been in the ascendency for over a decade. "Strafe" exhibits complex time signatures and high speed unison lines which show up drummer Jeff Sipe and bassist Neal Fountain's chops and intuitive interplay as much as it does the acrobatics and bursts of fireworks from Machacek. More than a highly skilled technician, Machacek's virtuosity is matched by his compositional acumen, whether on short forms such as those on sic (Abstract Logix, 2006) or on more ambitious, through-composed extended works exemplified by the stunning 24 Tales (Abstract Logix, 2010). However, Machacek also has a nose for a very pretty tune, and the lyricism that's never far away from his playing, even at its most adventurous, infuses the lovely "Very Sad," with rock solid support from Sipe and Fountain.
In the guitar-centric 2-CD set, polyrhythmic drummer Ranjit Barot brings contrast and southern Asian spice to "Vignesh Kirtanam," a hypnotic vehicle for Barot's constantly engaging drumming and the lyricism of Bala Bhaskar's violin. Subtle support from keyboardist Scott Kinsey, bassist Matthew Garrison and percussionist Arto Tuncboyaciyan provides a launching pad from which Barot and Baskahr spread their wings; Barot's bustle and invention contrasts nicely with the violinist's singing lines. Guitarist Wayne Krantz joins the quintet on the celebratory "Origin," reprising the role he played on Barot's excellent debut, Bada Boom (Abstract Logix, 2010). Krantz's dynamic, biting attack just about steals the honors on a stirring group effort, though Bhaksar's violin solo is noteworthy for its sheer energy.
The personalities of Kinsey, Garrison and Tunçboyacian grow as three quarters of Human Element, with Barot deputizing superbly for the unavailable drummer Gary Novak. "Essaouira" from its outstanding debut recording Human Element (Abstract Logix, 2011) is a perfect illustration of the tight but loose chemistry at the heart of this fusion super group-in-the-making. The urgent "Sometimes I..." features a typically expansive solo from Kinsey, with Tunçboyacian and Barot stoking the fires. Garrison's de-tuning pyrotechnics brings a Jimi Hendrix-like unorthodoxy to an absorbing performance.
It took guitarist Jimmy Herring several decades to record a solo album, but Lifeboat (Abstract Logix, 2008) was one of the year's finest releases. Three tracks from the Jimmy Herring Band find the guitarist in irresistible form, soaring to heady heights on "Rainbow" and "Within You, Without You" and plying his haunting melancholy to the impressionistic "Gray Day." Fountain, Sipe and keyboardist Matt Slocum lend close support, and, as a unit, provides a highlight of this release.
The second CD tears out of the blocks with a Wayne Krantz-led trio boasting bassist Anthony Jackson and long-standing drummer Cliff Almond. The nine-minute funk overdrive of "Why" points up the individualism of Krantz approach, seemingly balancing on a knife edge between tearing loose and jamming on a chord. It's highly charged stuff, and Jackson and Almond prove themselves equal to the task, laying down thunderous, but ever-shifting grooves.
The twin guitars of Herring and Tom Guarna illuminate drummer Lenny White's blues, "Door #3." The Return to Forever drummer keeps it simple but swings the quartet hard. Bassist Richie Goods and keyboardist Vince Evans sound the opening riff of saxophonist Joe Henderson's classic, "Gazelle," which features impassioned soloing and tight unison playing.
Although the party was in honor of guitarist John McLaughlin, leading his 4th Dimension Band, the first of two tracks culled from its set highlights the extraordinary talents of Cameroonian bassist Etienne Mbappe. The 20-minute "Mother Tongues" grooves hard for five minutes before McLaughlin and surprise special guest, tablaist Zakir Hussain renew the almost telepathic dialog that they have enjoyed for close to forty years, in an exhilarating passage of exchanges. Drummers Gary Husband and Mark Mondesir engage in an equally thrilling contest with Hussain, setting the seal on an energized, spirited performance.
This wonderful live double CD is as good a calling card for Abstract Logix as they could have ever dreamed up. If the editions of The New Universe Music Festival that follow can maintain the same absurdly high level of music, whilst keeping the programming fresh, then it looks destined to become an essential event on the festival calendar.
Tracks: CD1: Strafe; Very Sad; Vignesh; Origin; Essaouira; Sometimes I...; Rainbow; Gray Day; Within You, Without You. CD2: Why; Door#3; Gazelle; Recovery; Mother Tongues.
Personnel: Alex Machacek: guitar (CD1#1-2); Neal Fountain: bass (CD1#1-2, CD1#7-9); Jeff Sipe: drums (CD1#1-2, CD1#7-9); Ranjit Barot: drums (CD1#3-7), voice (CD1#3-4); Bala Bhaskar: violin (CD1#3-4); Scott Kinsey: keyboards (CD1#3-7); Matthew Garrison: bass (CD1#3-7); Arto Tunçboyacian: percussion and voice (CD1#3-7); Wayne Krantz: guitar (CD1#3-4, CD2#1); Jimmy Herring: guitar (CD1#7-9, CD2#-2-3); Matt Slocum: keyboards (CD1#7-9); Anthony Jackson: bass (CD2#1); Cliff Almond: drums (CD2#1); Lenny White: drums (CD2#2-3); Tom Guarna: guitar (CD2#2-3); Richie Goods: bass (CD2#2-3); Vince Evans: keyboards (CD2#2-3); John McLaughlin: guitar (CD2#4-5); Etienne M'Bappe: bass (CD2#4-5); Gary Husband: keyboards and drums (CD2#4-5); Mark Mondesir: drums (CD2#4-5); Zakir Hussain: table ((CD2#5).
All Photos: John Kelman