New York City guitarist and composer John Bruschini, a long time sideman in Cecil Taylor's touring groups, offers nine original instrumental tracks of varying jazz and soft fusion styles played in a small band setting on his debut CD as a band leader, As You Were, including nylon string classical guitar and light electric jazz.
The morose, nylon string guitar title track opens the record with a sluggish feel, despite lightning quick classical guitar passages in the vein of McLaughlin or Di Meola, that go by too fast to present much melodic content. The song shifts into a bright 7/8 time groove after the first few minutes, adding a rhythmic spark underneath more super fast guitar runs. As the only classical guitar track on the album, however, this song feels odd as the opening track. With the second song "B4," the record goes electric with organ keyboards, electric guitar, and a viola. "B4" grooves in a subtle 11/8 time riff, and "Way Down" crawls in a slow blues shuffle, under long guitar and bass solos. The snapping groove of "Bloodroot" refreshingly picks up the pace and ends crisply, but then the ballad "Glory" drags through repeated recapitulations of a drab melody and more excessively long guitar and bass solos. The peppy "April" bounces along to a concise ending, but the starched groove of "Funkyard" has no snap as it repeats under guitar and organ solos.
Bruschini's arrangements for half of the jams on As You Were clock in well over 7 minutes, straining the listener's attention span with repeated melodic heads and lengthy solos in songs that rarely break away from repeated riffs or head/turnaround patterns. The title track moves into the 7/8 outro, refreshingly taking the song in a new direction. "Ancestral Seeds" stands above the rest of the record, moving in this manner from a slow but more engaging ballad than "Glory" into a crisp, mid-tempo electric jazz tune. Like much instrumental jazz and fusion, the long arrangements on this studio CD would probably work better in a live setting, where the listener could see the musicians interact and the music breathe.
Bruschini plays proficiently on nylon string guitar, traditional jazz electric, and a thicker fusion style electric, and the organ keyboard work adds traditional sounding and appropriately understated secondary sonic elements. The viola sits very well in the sonic array of the electric instruments, adding a clever original timbre to the light electric fusion sound. The rhythm section backs Bruschini competently, but never seems to shine beyond their roles.
Bruschini's languid "As You Were" effectively paints a somber picture, but it rarely captures or engages, partly due to extended song arrangements. The inside CD cover features a dedication to Bruschini's brother, presumably deceased, which may explain the somber mood, but the music rarely reaches out of this prolonged and melancholy feel to grab the listener with exciting writing or playing.
As You Were;
John Bruschini, guitars; Robert Aries, keyboards; Kip Reed, electric bass; Jim Nolet, viola; Jeff Hirshfeld, drums.
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