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Gary Willis: Bent

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Gary Willis presents nine jazzy and funkified pieces all his own and two he co-wrote with bandmates. The personnel here are Tribal Tech's bassist Willis, Scott Kinsey on keys, and Kirk Covington drumming on two tracks. Dennis Chambers provides sweet drums on eight tracks. Reeds are Steve Tavaglione wailing on EWI, (electronic wind instrument), tenor and soprano sax and clarinet. Bob Berg also guests playing one mean tenor sax on three tracks.

Imagine Tribal Tech with no Scott Henderson pyrotechnics but Willis stretching out more so on the bass with great reed work heating things up — and you have Bent. It was this album that helped me realize this — much of the great stuff of Tribal Tech's was written or co-written by Willis. He's an amazing bassist as well as composer extraordinaire.

This is a laidback release in many places without any helter skelter race to follow lightning axe chops. Things can and do get Miles Davis be-boppin' wild as on "Hipmotize" and Weather Report-hot as on "Armageddon Blues". Kinsey and Berg break bad doin' hot runs in sync as well as breakin' off to stretch. "Big Time" ain't no sleeper either with Kinsey nearing that Chick Corea grand piano-voiced frenetic finesse. Berg wastes no breath freefalling into a Steve Coleman/ Courtney Pine/ David Binney abandon. Jazz is not dead. Willis is simply awesome in his powerhouse locomotion driving it all to the edge.

Willis can groove phat-fast or slip into the smooth and even echoes that Manring quirkiness when he feels the urge. "Before Your Eyes" lulls you into dreams as Kinsey and Tavaglione seem to call on a Zawinul/ Shorter muse that suddenly flies away into silence. Willis intros with an amazingly complex bass piece to open "Emancipation" where steel drum keys and harmonica EWI hail back to an upbeat Weather Report, porch swing daze that fade away into . . . ahhh. Nice job, Gary and crew. Recommended.


Title: Bent | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Alchemy Records


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