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The brotherhood of L.A. fusion’s finest, Volume Two. The first collection of live recordings by guitarist Jeff Richman and compadres, taped at the Baked Potato in Hollywood, was issued by Tone Center in March 2001 and reviewed here in June. This second compendium of hot jazz-rock jams is well up to par with the first batch, certainly more than mere studio floor-sweepings.
As with Volume 1, Richman is the sole constant here. He’s surrounded by different jazz buddies on each track, making for some intriguing combinations that usually work out quite well. There is more of a straight-ahead jazz vibe on this release than the prior fuse-fest. And while the first disc was filled with originals, this volume has some real surprises.
Perhaps the most unusual inclusion is Ferde Grofè’s “On The Trail”, which you old-time Disney fans may recognize as part of his “Grand Canyon Suite” and a staple of early Disney TV. Pianist Russell Ferrante takes the reins and transforms this quintessential cowboy anthem into a sweet, swingin’ cool jazz meditation. Richman, bassist Jimmy Earl and drummer Gregg Bissonette do their part in spades to change the whole face of the tune. Magical and totally captivating. The Gershwin Brothers’ “I Got Rhythm” is done in a pretty straight manner by the trio of Richman, Jimmy Haslip and Danny Gottlieb, all of whom exhibit fine taste in jazz interpretation. Jan Hammer’s “Star Cycle”, conversely, is hot, sweaty, and mired deep in a funk miasma. Richman’s wah-tone is reflective of electric Miles, Brandon Fields simply burns, and Jeff Babko pumps out mega-soul on the piano.
The three original works aren’t quite as consistently ear-catching, but all have their moments. Richman’s spacious “Kamaroon” features sinuous soprano from Steve Tavaglione and wire-taut basslines from Abe Laboriel. “Let This Be The One” begins with pretty strummed chords that melt into a tender, blue melody. Trumpeter Jeff Beal fronts his own “Leap Of Faith”, his resonant tone surging and ebbing like a strong tide over the rhythmic drive of Earl and drummer Tom Brechtlein. Beal and Richman really sell the Middle Eastern flavor that emerges a couple of minutes in. All in all, this disc offers up even more solid evidence that fusion is back with a vengeance. Highly recommended, along with Volume 1.
Kamaroon; On The Trail; Leap Of Faith; Let This Be The One; Star Cycle; I Got Rhythm.
[Collective:] Jeff Richman (all tracks), guitars; Steve Tavaglione (#1), soprano sax; Brandon Fields (#5), tenor sax; Jeff Beal (#3), trumpet; Abraham Laboriel (#1, 4), Jimmy Earl (#2, 3), Tom Kennedy (#5), Jimmy Haslip (#6), electric bass; Peter Wolf (#4), Jeff Babko (#5), keyboards; Russell Ferrante (#2), piano; Vinnie Colaiuta (#1), Gregg Bissonette (#2), Tom Brechtlein (#3), Dave Weckl (#4), Simon Phillips (#5), Danny Gottlieb (#6), drums.