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Left End has definitely got attitude. Combining the rock aesthetic with jazz improvisation, guitarist Rick Peckham has a background in jazz academics (he taught a Thelonious Monk class for ten years at Berklee) and with rock influences (ZZ Top and Neil Young). Jazz and rock music have had an interesting, if somewhat uneasy, relationship over the years. Early examples included Jimi Hendrix's merging free style playing with classic rock elements, as did Jeff Beck, Scott Henderson, and countless other guitarists whom have explored the duality of styles.
But let's get one thing straight from the start; Peckham's trio is not your typical "fusion" groupa category which has sometimes been an overly abused classification for modern jazz combined with over-amplification and distorted guitars. Call it what you will, Left End clearly rocks hard while still processing the ability to be expressive and spontaneous. The trio is hot and the music is performed with intensity and an in your face vibe that resonates realness.
From the title composition things are clearly bent toward the edgier side of the spectrum with its power guitar riffs and booming rhythm section. With influences from Monk to Led Zeppelin, Peckham has opted to not just combine two styles but to more so articulate a passion for the music. His guitar playing is quite accomplished as he uses and abuses his axe with fiery skill, utilizing sounds such as distortion, delay, and phase effects without the use of overdubbing.
On the energized "353-1001" things shift from a funky riff to more complex and open patterns as the trio plays with abandon. Drummer Jim Black is a dynamic musician who expands the compositions with an assortment of power rhythms, subtle designs and contours on the improv themed "Free 2." Bassist Tony Scherr adds a firm foundation to the music and also delivers some interesting work with skillful hands on the quiet yet surreal piece "Soporific."
The trio is not confined to just head-banging but also deliver some introspective and most interesting work on the soulful composition "Shakey" and the serene "Hawthorn," demonstrating these players' range. Other highlights include the ZZ Top-inspired "Gibbons" and the eclectic antics of "Free 1." With a nod to jazz purists, the CD concludes with a unique take on Monk's ever classic "Evidence." Whether a hidden message is intended, the real deal is clearly whether the music can connect to the listenerbe it jazz or rockand this clearly sets Left End in the right direction.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.