It's been 23 years since Can't Look Away (Elektra Records, 1989), guitarist Trevor Rabin's previous solo album of original material, and 18 years since his departure from Yes. Rabin's relatively low profile since reflects his immersion in composing almost 40 film soundtracks. Jacaranda is a dazzling offering that showcases Rabin's virtuosity in numerous styles, drawing from bluegrass, metal, classical and the progressive rock/pop which effectively launched Yes' multi-platinum comeback in '83. There's much to marvel at and it begs the question as to why Rabin's been keeping such a recording in the bag for so long.
A blindfold test on "Spider Boogie" might throw up guitarists like Merle Haggard, Tommy Emmanuel or Scott Henderson in its dynamic 53 seconds, from the blues-sliding Dobro intro through tumbling, electric hillbilly rootsiness to the song's end. It's a fun tease. Rabin's affinity with classical music colors "Market Street," and the classical piano lines and guitar riff could be Yes circa-1973, a sense heightened by its Rick Wakeman-vintage keyboards. Rabin weaves dancing baroque lines on a veena-like acoustic and electric guitars, driven by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. An elegant piano and guitar exchange gives way to a slightly spacey passage which may have been inspired by Rabin's 1979 tour supporting guitarist Steve Hillage. The delightful baroque head returns briefly to close the circle.
Rabin's ability to glide from one mood to anotherpassing from classical through rock to jazzier soundscapesis the common thread on Jacaranda. On "Anerley Road," Rabin's highly melodic, classical tone is punctuated by rock drama and a telling improvisation from guest bassist Tal Wilkenfeld. "Through The Tunnel" matches delicate piano lines with crushing metal riffs and a touch of shredding, with Colaiuta and Rabin spurring each other thrillingly. The Bach-influenced counterpoint of "The Branch Office" offers light relief, though tinged with an upbeat Americana vibe.
Liz Constintine's ethereal vocals take center stage on the powerfully emotive "Rescue." Rabin's deft orchestrationrefusing to swamp a beautiful melody with too many other voicescontributes greatly to the song's charm, which fades out on the back of unaccompanied power chords. There's great refinement, too, in the swirling classical piano lines of "Kilarney 1&2," a poignant reminder of Rabin's multi-instrumental prowess. The miniature "Storks Bill Geranium Waltz" is a delightful baroque-influenced miniature, though at just over 60 seconds it serves as a simple palate-cleanser before the spectacular metal-meets-progressive rock of "Me and My Boy," featuring Rabin's son Ryan on drums.
"Freethought" follows a more contemporary jazz path whereas the very pretty, slow blues of "Zoo Lake" is still somehow classically hued. The dramatic though highly melodic "Gazania" is a fine marriage of orchestration and virtuosity, with Rabin layering contrasting guitar timbresslide, Dobro, banjo, acoustic and electricand piano in absorbing juxtaposition.
Jacaranda is an innovative, surprising recording, which merges contrasting musical styles quite seamlessly. Rabin's nuanced writing and enveloping arrangements are as notable as his sparkling playing which, whilst technically impressive, is primarily concerned with telling a story. Rabin is back with a genre-bending delight that should appeal to music loverswherever they hang their hats.
Spider Boogie: Market Street: Anerley Road; Through the Tunnel; The Branch Office; Rescue; Kilarney 1&2; Storks Bill Geranium Waltz; Me and My Boy; Freethought; Zoo Lake; Gazania.
Trevor Rabin: dobro (1, 3, 9, 11), Westone Rainbow (1-3, 9), Alembic bass (1, 4-5, 9), upright bass (2), Gibson Super 400 CES (2-3, 12), Moon acoustic (2, 4, 9, 12), gut string (2, 12), Young Chang Grand piano (2, 7), B3 organ (2), Alvarez signature (3, 5, 9, 11), Gibson Les Paul (3, 9), Stratocaster (3-5, 12), Gretsch (3), Barney Kessel (3, 8, 11), Tobias guitar (3), Ludwig banjo (9, 12), Bugbass upright bass (11), autoharp (12), Westone fretless bass (12), Alvarez acoustic (12); Vinnie Colaiuta, drums (2, 4); Tal Wilkenfeld: electric bass (3); Liz Constantine: vocals (6); Lou Molino: drums (3, 11); Ryan Rabin: drums (5, 11).
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