All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

579

Jimmy Herring: Lifeboat

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
No matter how adept they are at finding the place where rock energy and jazz harmony meets, fusion guitarists almost invariably favor one side of the equation. As raw and visceral as John McLaughlin and John Scofield can be, jazz remains the core of who they are, just as Jeff Beck and Carlos Santana are rockers at heart, despite occasionally turning to more jazz-centric material. Which makes Jimmy Herring all the rarer— a guitarist sitting right in the middle, possessing all the unabashed power and edge of rock, but perfectly balanced with greater harmonic sophistication and rhythmic concepts. Well-known on the jamband scene for his work with The Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule and Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh, as well as his longstanding stint as lead guitarist for Widespread Panic, Lifeboat is Herring's long overdue debut as a leader, and was clearly worth the wait.



Kicking off with the up-tempo "Scapegoat Blues," Herring's knotty theme is reminiscent of Tribal Tech at its best, around the time of its eponymous 1991 release when the group best balanced strong soloing with equally potent writing. Herring's core trio—Allman Bros. alum/bassist Oteil Burbridge and drummer Jeff Sipe (heard recently on the superb Improvision (Abstract Logix, 2007), with guitar wunderkind Alex Machacek and bassist Matt Garrison)—provide chemistry and consistency throughout, not to mention stylistic flexibility that will surprise those unfamiliar with these outstanding players. The trio push and pull each other on tunes ranging from Herring's rock ballad "Lifeboat Serenade," a spotlight for slide guitarist Derek Trucks in one of two guest appearances, to a closer-to-the-center look at Wayne Shorter's "Lost," featuring pianist/flautist Kofi Burbridge and saxophonist Greg Osby (who appears on four other tracks), making Lifeboat richly rewarding record of great depth and versatility.



With Herring's largely overdriven tone—reminiscent of Allan Holdsworth, but with greater bite and finer balance between long legato lines and staggeringly fast-picked runs—there's no denying Lifeboat is a fusion record, but one that challenges its very definition. Virtuosic soloing on the deeply funky "One Strut" and brooding but equally backbeat-driven "New Moon" is sure to attract fusion fans. But the Blue Note references of "Lost," Herring's dark-hued and cleaner-toned "Gray Day" and the strong modal approach of both Herring and Kofi Burbridge on the pianist's bright, Latin-esque closer, "Splash," will also appeal to those for whom greater reverence for the jazz tradition is important.

Herring's ability to confidently mix things up while playing with a refreshing honesty and lack of posturing throughout makes Lifeboat as rare a fusion record as he is a fusion guitarist. An equally capable writer—and a fine arranger, with his rework of George Bruns' "Jungle Book Overture" to the 1967 Disney movie of the same name an astute capture of its essential themes, distilled into a small group (albeit heavily overdubbed) context—Lifeboat may have been nearly a lifetime in the making. With a result this good, hopefully Herring won't wait quite so long to make another.


Track Listing: Scapegoat Blues; Only When It's Light; New Moon; Lifeboat Serenade; One Strut; Jungle Book Overture; Lost; Transients; Gray Day; Splash.

Personnel: Jimmy Herring: guitars; Oteil Burbridge: bass; Jeff Sipe (1-3, 5-10): drums; Matt Slocum: keyboards (1), piano (3), electric piano (4), clavinet (5); Bobby Lee Rodgers: rhythm guitar (1), Leslie guitar (5); Kofi Burbridge: piano (2, 6-10), flute (2, 6, 7, 10); Scott Kinsey: organ (2); Derek Truck: slide guitar (3, 4); Tyler Greenwell: drums (4); Ike Stubblefield: organ (4); Greg Osby: soprano saxophone (6, 9), alto saxophone (7-10).

Title: Lifeboat | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Abstract Logix

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Return to the Future CD/LP/Track Review
Return to the Future
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Telepathy CD/LP/Track Review
Telepathy
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 17, 2018
Read The Whole Thing Is Just There CD/LP/Track Review
The Whole Thing Is Just There
by John Bricker
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Haydn: Symphony No. 39, Symphony No. 87, Mozart – Sinfonia Concertante CD/LP/Track Review
Haydn: Symphony No. 39, Symphony No. 87, Mozart –...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Rogue Star CD/LP/Track Review
Rogue Star
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Out in the Open CD/LP/Track Review
Out in the Open
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 16, 2018
Read "Vintage Christmas Trio" CD/LP/Track Review Vintage Christmas Trio
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 3, 2017
Read "Moku Maluhia - Peaceful Island" CD/LP/Track Review Moku Maluhia - Peaceful Island
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 18, 2018
Read "Alive" CD/LP/Track Review Alive
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 16, 2018
Read "Transition" CD/LP/Track Review Transition
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 30, 2018
Read "Threes" CD/LP/Track Review Threes
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 24, 2017
Read "First Impressions" CD/LP/Track Review First Impressions
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 25, 2018