While it's true that, in the rock world, there are relatively few female guitarists, especially those leaning towards the heavier and more progressive side of the equation, that doesn't mean that those intrepid enough to enter what has traditionally been a man's world should be assessed on anything but their own merits. Good guitarists are good guitarists, regardless of gender; great guitarist, too, are great guitarists, irrespective of their hormonal dispositions. Guitar Player Magazine
may have rightfully deemed Jane Getter to be "the fieriest frettboarding female to ever strap on a Stratocaster," but the truth is that Getter needs no such gender differentiation; she is, quite simply, a great guitarist...full stop. A fiercely committed player, Getter's career has continued to evolve and expand significantly since Jane
(Alex Merck, 1997), her first album as a leader, along with attention garnered playing with artists including Brother Jack McDuff
, Lenny White
and Michal Urbaniak
, as well as through her time spent as the Saturday Night Live
Band's guitarist,1995-96. Jane
and her 2005 Alternity Records follow-up, See Jane Run
, possessed all the ingredients to facilitate Getter's evolution into what she's ultimately become, first on Three
(Alternity, 2012) but even more so with ON
, which features the debut of her Premonition band. A broad scope of guitar colors from gritty electric to crisp acoustic, and the ability to shred when necessary and wax melodic when the material calls for it, it would nevertheless have been impossible to predict the electric funkster and occasionally soulful singer of Jane
getting as down, dirty and downright progressive
as she does with ON
, her Madfish/Snapper debut.
That husband/keyboardist/co-producer Adam Holzman
the only constant across all four of Getter's albumshas spent much of the past four years recording and touring with the constantly ascending star of Steven Wilson
would, it seems, have something to do with the direction Getter has taken with ON
an album of progressive or, perhaps, more rightly post
-progressive rock that could not have been conceived and performed by a group that didn't possess the jazz vernacular buried somewhere deep within its collective DNA. Add bassist Bryan Beller
, Steve Vai
, The Aristocrats) and drummer Chad Wackerman
, Allan Holdsworth
, Steven Wilson) and Getter's Premonition becomes a quartet of musicians capable of playing pretty much anything. ON
is no retro-prog, however; still, Holzman continues to focus on plenty of wonderful analog sounds, including the occasional mellotron alongside plenty of Hammond organ and some guitaristic synthesizer playing that would make Jan Hammer
proud. But as a player who cut his teeth with jazzers including the late Miles Davis
and Michel Petrucciani
, as well as with Davis protégé Wallace Roney
, before being recommended to Wilson and developing into an essential constant companion for the singer/guitarist/songwriter. Beginning with the live Get What You Deserve
(Kscope, 2012) and continuing with the highly successful studio albums The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories
(Kscope, 2013) and Hand. Cannot. Erase.
(Kscope, 2015), Holzman has garnered even greater cachet. Now appealing to a broader community that includes folks in the jazz, progressive and even straight pop world, his own The Deform Variations
(Burning Shed, 2015) was a wonderful solo piano collage of 27 interpolations and extrapolations on Holzman's a cappella
introductions to Wilson's "Deform to Form a Star," drawn from tour recordings made on the 2013 Raven
tourfurther evidence that Holzman's reach is just about limitless.
While every one of Getter's four albums features some vocal tracks, with ON
she makes the transition to songsmith complete, though that's not to suggest her writing is anywhere close to simplistic. With the opening "Surprise," a song that, like the rest of ON
, is lyrically direct and concisein this case, concerning the darker turns of the world we live inGetter layers soaring lines over the gritty arpeggios that underpin the tune and shares vocals duties with Living Colour
's Corey Glover, whose broad range and impassioned voice is the perfect contrast to Getter's more direct, unadorned and unaffected approach. Still, it's the completely unexpected multi-layered vocal harmoniesleading, as they do, into a mellotron vocal-drenched section that sets up a fiery, high bar-raising, whammy bar-driven guitar solothat suggest something very different is taking place with ON
Glover also appears on the similarly terse "Train Man," which addresses the subject of homelessness and poverty through words Getter got, almost verbatim, from a homeless man sitting across from her on a New York subway. A combination of Getter's clean-toned arpeggiations and some crunching guitar chords from guest Alex Skolnick
are driven by Wackerman's powerful kit work and Beller's fluid bass lines before a mid-section solo from the ex-Testament guitarist provides some of ON
's most exhilarating, ear-shattering moments, as Getter first responds with some equally searing and lightning speed playing of her own, ultimately leading to a trade-off between the two guitarists that ratchets things up even further.
Skolnick may have first established himself as the force behind Testament, but in the new millennium he has, in addition to reviving his relationship with the '90s heavy metal group, reshaped his career towards his first love, jazzsomething which, on the basis of albums like 2004's Transformation
(Magnitude), he's managed surprisingly well. With ON
, however, Skolnick demonstrates that, while lessons learned in the past decade are far from forgotten, he can still shred with the best of them...in this case, with Getter.
Guest appearances aside, what makes ON
work so well is Getter's intrinsic understanding of dynamics. "Train Man" may climax with a high volume, high velocity mid-section trade-off, but it's balanced against gentler sections where Glover's harmonized voices are supported by just two clean-toned guitars, making the song's transition to near-metal crunch all the more potent. "Logan (Would've Sounded Great On This)" is the most fusion-centric track on the record, featuring Getter and Holzman sharing solos of nuclear-powered guitar and the keyboardist's own juxtaposition of heavily affected electric piano and thickly textured Hammond organ, all bolstered by Beller and Wackerman's unerring support and perfectly aligned fills.
Getter's ability to create broader dynamic shifts within her music is also experienced in the overall arc of an album best taken in as a whole...and best played loud
. Getter playfully contrasts dynamics on "Diversion," one of ON
's three instrumentals that realign the balance between vocal and non-vocal tunes from all of Getter's previous albums. Moving seamlessly from an acoustic guitar and piano-driven intro to a main melody layered with her overdriven Stratocaster, Getter suddenly turns the volume up to eleven, delivering one of her most impassioned solos of the set as Wackerman, too, gets a relatively rare but positively mind-boggling feature, contributing a show-stopping, ostinato-driven solo that may be amongst his finest moments on record. Things soften even further with "Falling," where Getter's acoustic guitar and clear, direct vocals are augmented by some lush flute work from Theo Travis
, another Steven Wilson alum who also contributes some superb soprano saxophone work on "Transparent," where Getter and Glover harmonize, hand-in-glove.
Still, as calm as it is initially, "Transparent" nevertheless moves from near-balladry to a grungy closing segment that, with Skolnick back in tow, brings everyonePremonition and guestsinto the pool. A climactic closing solo from Getter builds relentlessly, as Glover adds his own extrapolations between harmonized singing of the song's title with Getter, before the instruments suddenly stop...and Getter and Glover sing "Transparent" just one more time before ON
fades to black.
It's an album that may come as something of a surprise to those who've followed Getter from the beginning, but equally there's a certain inevitability when taken in context with the gradual evolution of her discography. Considering that the best progressive music has always been predicated on musicians schooled in other disciplines, who bring that knowledge to more rock-centric contexts, ON
is an album that simply could not have come from a group of musicians living solely in the rock world.
A powerful, potent record of even greater promise, ON
posits Getter and Premonition as something on which to keep watch. Between its collection of top-drawer musicians with chops to burnas well as the instinctive knowledge of when to use them...and when to pull back and wax more sparely and melodicallyand Getter's increasingly focused, directionally shifted writing, Premonition is a band that will hopefully be around well into the future...with ON
a stellar record that will, just as hopefully, turn out to be the first of many more to come.
Surprised; Where Somewhere; Pressure Point; Train Man; Diversion; Falling; Logan (Would've Sounded Great On This); Transparent.
Jane Getter: guitar, vocals; Adam Holzman: keyboards; Bryan Beller: bass; Chad Wackerman: drums; Alex Skolnick: second guitar (2, 4, 8); Corey Glover: vocals (1, 4, 8); Theo Travis: flute (6), soprano saxophone (8).