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Human Element: Human Element

Ian Patterson By

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The supergroup sobriquet that label Abstract Logix has placed on Human Element is quite a billing to live up to, but keyboardist Scott Kinsey, bassist Matthew Garrison, percussionist/vocalist Arto Tuncboyacian and drummer Gary Novak pool their individual talents and rise spectacularly to the challenge. Years of collective experience in the bands of keyboardists Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and guitarists John McLaughlin and Allan Holdsworth have doubtless shaped the musical vision of these four virtuosos of modern fusion. The music they make together on this, their group debut, is a scintillating blend of fusion, funk and—courtesy of Tunçboyaciyan—Armenian folk.

That the vocabulary of Human Element borrows notably from the language of Weather Report and Zawinul shouldn't be a surprise, as Kinsey, Garrison and Tunçboyaciyan have all played in the bands of the highly influential keyboard maestro. Nevertheless, Human Element successfully emerges from Zawinul's long shadow, and the most striking aspect of this group effort is the degree to which the individual personalities color the music. Tunçboyaciyan's presence in particular, is strongly felt throughout; the Armenian contributes eight compositions, and his melodic, wordless vocalizing and effervescent percussion bring an ethereal, spiritual quality to the music.

Garrison's "Izzy," from his absorbing Shapeshifter Live 2010-Part 1 (Garrison Jazz Productions, 2011) is given an adrenalin shot by Novak and Tunçboyaciyan's propulsive rhythms, though is more a showcase for the endlessly inventive Kinsey. The compositions, "Essaquira," "Shake it" and the title track are tremendously grooving, and instantly recognizable as Kinsey tunes. The keyboardist makes ample use of his Vocoder, and his bubbling lines and impressionistic dabs exude a wonderfully playful quality. Garrison's bass is highly supportive yet remarkably independent, and this freedom within the collective framework is a defining element of the group as a whole.

Guest guitarist John McLaughlin lets rip with a spiraling, funk-edged solo on "Hi Lao," which is given an Indian twist through Tunçboyaciyan's vocals and percussion. Tunçboyaciyan's imprint on the music is significant, both rhythmically and melodically. His vocals bring a folksy orientalism to the driving "Speak with your Eye," a taste of Africa to the percussive miniature "Listen with your Mouth," and a hauntingly beautiful air to the anthemic "See With your Ear." Haunting too, are Tunçboyaciyan's vocals on the melancholy intro to "Think about It," which features Seto "T-Dot" Tunçboyaciyan's spoken word on a slower number, which remembers the Ottoman-inflicted Armenia Holocaust of a century ago, while urging unity amongst peoples. In addition, Tuncboyaciyan's world percussion underpins everything, and he forms a formidable percussive/rhythm team with Novak.

Because these musicians know each other so well, Human Element sounds more like the work of a group of many years standing. The good news is that this band intends to stick around, and if they can produce a few more recordings of such engaging, powerful music, then they could yet become the modern heirs to Weather Report, taking fusion into exciting new territory.

Track Listing: Introduction; Izzy; The Human Element; Speak With Your Eye; Onno; Hi Lao; Cut; Listen With Your Mouth; Essaouira; Crazy Girl; See With Your Ear; Shake It; Bottom of the Mirror; Think About It.

Personnel: Scott Kinsey: Nord keyboards, Roand V-Synth/Vocoder, piano, Rhodes MK7; Arto Tunçboyaciyan (Mr. Avant-Garde Folk): Artom drums, percussion, voices, dudk, bular; Matthew Garrison: Fodoera basses, Epifani amplification; Gary Novak: Yamaha PHX drums, Zildjian cymbals; John McLaughlin: guitar (6); Seto "T-Dot" Tunçboyaciyan: vocal (14); Vassiliki: voice (12).

Title: Human Element | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Abstract Logix

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