McGill/ Manring/ Stevens: +/- Addition by Subtraction
I have known of Scott McGill’s amazing guitar wizardry since 1998, finally got to see him live, (front row), then enjoyed an impromptu lunch with him. I have tortured him with sending him demo cassettes of my whacked fusion and guitar tunes, and discussed certain nuances of the fine art of guitar. Besides being a great guy, with nary a trace of that “look-at-me/worship-my-skill” ego, he is open-minded and kind. I hear him gaining ground in this new release and pushing boundaries, (sample the surreal, 9:27 “Purging Mendel’s Beasts”). For this growth, I am pleased for him. He deserves a wider recognition of his daring hang-tuff, fusion art.
McGill crafts a playing and compositional beast that most fusion fans will quickly say, “Ah, yeah he’s a Holdsworth man”, and I see their reactions clearly. But McGill approaches that Holdsworthian arena with more meat, more crunch, heavier chops, in a near prog-metal/jazz rock vein at times. McGill’s jazz can be very clean, very pristine, and even ethereal in its bridges and intros but expect the fusion bombs to fall all around you when you least expect it. McGill enjoys densely-voiced fusion with a solid punch vs. tickles of legato. McGill is a high-class fusion monster that does bite and your ears will fear his chain might snap in the midst of maddening howls of riff-storms. (Sample the CD’s first seven songs.)
Strangely enough, on “Vicodin Shuffle” and “Purging Mendel’s Beasts”, (I sent McGill a song of mine by that name long ago but this McGill “V.S.” version bears no resemblance), we will finally hear McGill, Manning, and Stevens get very free and weird. McGill reminds me in his axe voicings of Scott Henderson’s insane antics on Rocket Science but this avant-garde free jazz fusion will serve to challenge many listeners.
If you want to quickly sample McGill’s impressive chops of an intense and a most complex nature just skip to “Conflict Resolution” and also hear Jordan Rudess on keys, (as he jams as a guest on this release). Hear McGill on acoustic axe on “Euzkadi” and “The Execution of Veit” evoking an early Coryellian presence. And for those of you buying this for Michael Manring, you will love his E-bow bass work on “Four Fields”! A dream-fugue ECM/Windham Hill brand of new age, jazz fusion track happens here with Stevens going world percussives and McGill waxing Ackerman-ish. I did say McGill was expanding his horizons, right?
My fav cut, “KVB Liar”, reminds me very much of some of my own open-chorded rolls and whole-tonal solos I practiced over the mirky madness of ageless days with Maya looming across my dimly-lit past musicks. When I heard this cut I first thought, “Wow, that is exactly the kind of stuff I would be recording if I had a studio and the time . . .” I did send McGill and other axe-man my own crazy tunes and told each of them to please borrow, be inspired, or re-work anything. Maybe it worked? Hmm . . . Well, this song’s dark saunter is like Fripp meets McLaughlin meets Holdsworth and Zappa in the catacombs of ancient fusion’s forgotten song sheets . . . Be assured, I am in no way saying that any of this CD’s songs are from my own compositionally-challenged head and fingers. I just love it, however, when I hear perfect echoes of the tunes I have carried in my soul for decades it is a sweet deja vu of sorts.
Folks, this CD is a keeper and a must-have for those wanting to see the future of fusion. One day the heroes will pass into the valley of mists and those such as McGill will be the new Highlander with a mighty axe of legend. It will be a good century for fusion. Thank you, Scott for putting flesh on dreams of the olde one. Hail the green hills and rocky highlands of our ancestors my Caledonia brother!
Track Listing: Zimparty, We Are Not Amused, KVB Liar, The Execution of Veit, The Voyage of St. Brendan - Abbot of Confert, Sile, +/-, Vicodin Shuffle, Euzkadi, Conflict Resolution, Purging Mendel
Personnel: Scott McGill - all axes, Michael Manning - fretless bass and E-Bow, Vic Stevens - drums and percs, Neil Kernon - loop tech