Mike Clark/Paul Jackson/Marc Wagnon: Conjunction
As jazz/rock fusions go, Conjunction is something special: it completely refuses to fit into either category. The arrangements are too tight and the improvisation is too sophisticated to label this disc as rock, but the grooves are so backbeat-driven that one could never call it jazz. (Make a special exception for "The Unknown Shuffle," which is quite clearly exactly what it says it is: a blues shuffle.)
Drummer Mike Clark plays a dominant role defining the group sound on Conjunction. His simmering rhythms propel improvisers forward, maintain interest through arranged sections, and occasionally burst into full flower in scattered drum solos. Since Conjunction is so grounded in rhythm, Clark's role is especially important. Of course, the rest of the band includes all-stars from all different walks of life. Particularly bright orbs include guitarist Dave Fiuczynski and saxophonist Chris Speed. Fiuczynski generally plays a respectful supporting role, but when he unleases his axe (as on "Gus") he propels the group into otherworldly space. Speed, who has a lot of experience playing avant jazz, also brings a welcome sense of forward-looking melodicism to the group. The compositions on Conjunction, mostly originals, cover the ground from dreamy melancholy ("Horta-Culture") to edgy funk ("East West") and restless energy ("Faster than Light"). The arrangements offer a balance between notated themes interspersed with individual improvisation. The only drawback to Conjunction is the relative restraint shown by soloists, who don't get a lot of time to stretch out. But perhaps that's not the point: this is a group record, and a tight one at that.
Track Listing: Faster Than Light; Metamorphic; East West; Conjunction; Long Shot; Draconian Devonian; Gus; Horta-Culture; Light Step; The Unknown Shuffle.
Personnel: Mike Clark: drums; Paul Jackson: bass; Marc Wagnon: vibraphone and MIDI vibes; Dave Fiuczynski: guitar; Jed Levy: tenor saxophone; Josh Roseman: trombone; Chris Speed: tenor saxophone and clarinet.