One often has to wonder at an artist's musical choices, where they might have gone had they taken a different path. Fusion guitarist Scott Henderson, following his landmark record, Tribal Tech , turned his back on more complex composition, going instead for a more improvised concept where tunes evolved out of lengthy jams. Likewise, guitarist Allan Holdsworth, while as harmonically unique as always, has in recent years eschewed the more overtly lyrical compositions of albums including Wardencliffe Tower and Secrets , going instead for the more abstruse compositions and oblique solo style of Sixteen Men of Tain and the live recording All Night Wrong. Now Italian guitarist Alex Milella, with Light Shades , tries to shed light on where these two artists would be had they gone for more evolutionary development rather than revolutionary change.
While Milella's playing style is unapologetically rooted in the work of both Henderson and Holdsworth, with a smattering of Frank Gambale thrown in for good measure, he's still his own man. Although the opening track, "High Pressure," with its unison riff, synth pads and jazz harmonies, clearly shows what might have happened had Scott Henderson continued with the direction of Tribal Tech , Milella's approach is less orchestral, and less overtly influenced by Joe Zawinul's synthesizer textures. And while Milella clearly has chops to burn, he's less concerned with putting them on display, going instead for solos which tell compelling stories. Likewise, "Signal for Scott" is an unabashed homage to another Tribal Tech track, "Signal Path," but Milella's writing and playing is more controlled than Henderson's, which is sometimes the epitome of reckless abandon.
"Allan's Worth," with its chorused chordal theme and legato solo phrasing, demonstrates Milella's debt to Holdsworth. But, again, where Holdsworth sometimes leans to excessbut oh, what beautiful excess!Milella remains more in control. What is great to hear is the combination of legato lines with tasteful whammy bar bends, something Holdsworth hasn't done in years.
While Milella is unapologetic about his musical influences, there are signs of an emerging voice. "Orient Express" begins with a simple acoustic guitar, before developing into a nine-minute tour-de-force that has, in its simplicity and air, a certain Mediterranean flavour. Keyboardist Luca Cacucciolo, bassist Pierluigi Balducci and drummer Giuseppe Berlen provide just the right support, fervent at times, but never losing site of the groove.
Light Shades is, quite simply, a remarkable pedal-to-the-metal first release from Alex Milella, a fusion guitarist who may wear his influences on his sleeve today but, given time, will surely evolve into a personal player with his own distinct voice.
Light Shades is currently distributed by Sony Music in Europe, IRD in Italy, and Superstop in Japan, and can be purchased at Jazzos on the web.
High Pressure; Orient Express (Chinese Way); Inside You (prelude); Allan's Worth (to Allan Holdsworth); Signal for Scott (to Scott Henderson); Alti e Bassi; Before The...; ...Light Shades; Oversteppin'; Inside You
Alex Milella (guitar, synth programming), Pierluigi Balducci (bass), Giuseppe Berlen (drums), Luca Cacucciolo (rhodes, synth), Beppe Sequestro (bass on "Inside You"), Roberta Carrieri (vocal on "Inside You (prelude)"), Michele Careabba (saxophone on "Signal for Scott," "Oversteppin'"), Davide Santorsola (piano on "Allan's Worth")
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