He's performed with a seemingly countless array of artistsfrom Roberta Flack and Steely Dan to Chick Corea, John Scofield, and Steve Khanbut electric contrabassist Anthony Jackson, now approaching 60, is that rare consummate sideman who has never released an album as a leader/co-leader. Until now. Interspirit teams the inveterate bassist with Greek bassist Yiorgos Fakanas for an ambitious album of high power fusion and funk that may be bass heavy, but never loses sight of the larger musical perspective.
With Fakanas the composer of all but one of Interspirit's nine tracks an expansive rework of Wayne Shorter's enduring "Footprints" is the sole exceptionit's safe to assume that one thing stopping Jackson from leading dates in the past is that he's simply not a writer. He may not contribute compositionally to Interspirit, but his lithe dexterity is all over it; Jackson's acumen as a melodist and unfailing groove-meister has never been in question, but never has it been so consistently in the spotlightthough here, he seamlessly exchanges roles with Fakanas, no slouch of a bassist himself.
Fakanas has recruited a large cast, with a core group that also includes keyboardist Mitchel Forman (John McLaughlin, John Scofield, Gary Burton), drummer Dave Weckl (Corea, Khan, Mike Stern} and, on five tracks, fusion powerhouse guitarist Frank Gambale. So it will come as no surprise that the majority of Interspirit is filled with raucous energy and muscular soloing. But with a seven-piece horn section, five strings, and percussion, Fakanas has plenty of color on his palette, allowing him to deliver the fiery Latin pulse of "Caldera," with its vibrant horns, as easily as the more majestic "Cuore Vibes Part 1," which begins with a string quintet, leading into the funkier "Part 2," where Forman takes a piano solo that combines pure lyricism with unmistakable technique.
Taken at a frighteningly fast tempo, the knotty themes, shifting meters, and contrapuntal dervishes of the opening "Inner Power" set the bar high, along with high velocity solos from Gambale and Forman (on synth)the latter supported by Jackson's visceral, in-the-gut long tones and unerring sense of placement. Rather than always playing together and cluttering the field, Jackson and Fakana alternate supporting the soloists, and after a couple of tracks, it becomes easy to differentiate the two, even without the benefit of liner notes that detail who is doing what, and when.
Jackson is credited with "bass melodies" throughout, though it's Fakanas who takes the lion's share of the solos. Fakanas' strength as a writer is finding ways to bring two virtuosic bassists together without ever getting in each other's wayand without falling into the unfortunate "look at me" of Marcus Miller's recent solo work. As much as it is about the playing, the exhilarating Interspirit is about the writing; bold and sweeping, it's fusion in the realm of Corea's The Leprechaun (Polydor, 1975), and is exhilaratingly recommended for fusion fans looking for some orchestration with their high octane soloing.
Inner Power; Footprints; Cuore Vibes Part 1; Cuore Vibes Part 2; Interspirit; Seviglia; Caldera; Ionio II; Parhelia.
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