Drummer Michael Shrieve was the rhythmic force behind the classic Santana band (1969-74) and the one Carlos Santana credits with introducing the guitarist to the music of Miles Davis and John Coltranequite something, since the guitarist has paid homage to both jazz legends many times since. Shrieve went onto to many other gigs that mixed the propulsive fury of rock with the challenging musicianship of jazz, including stints with Stomu Yamashta, the Rolling Stones, Klaus Schulze and others.
Ever the busy session player, Shrieve's name isn't as well known as it ought to be, despite his infrequent solo recordings (the last being some decade-and-a-half ago). That should all change with Michael Shrieve's Spellbinder, an elegant jam band of the first order that mixes rock with jazz in equal and exciting measure. This beautifully conceived quintet takes its name from guitarist Gabor Szabo's tune, which is best known from its brief appearance at the end of Santana's hit, "Black Magic Woman." Shrieve's unit contains trumpeter John Fricke, offering a taste of 70s-era Miles, organist Joe Doria, guitarist Danny Godinez and bassist Farko Dosumovall fellow Seattle residents. The band has a standing Monday night gig at the Seattle club Tost, where this exceptionally fine performance was recorded during February 2008.
Shrieve offers up some familiarity by reacquainting his audience with his own excellent "Every Step of the Way" and Gene Ammons' "Jungle Strut." While both retain their classic Santana groove, Shrieve gets to show off his young band's intriguing personality by revealing some genuinely exciting playing. Shrieve also revisits his own "Moon Over You" and the unusual "Gole Sangem," a tune he first explored in 1994. Two out-of-the-blue but convincingly appropriate selections surface from bassist Marc Johnson's Right Brain Patrol
(JMT, 1993)"Inside Four Walls" and "They Love Me Fifteen Feet Away."
This disc's highlight, though, is undoubtedly Godinez's beautiful "Flamingo," whose open-ended structure recalls Szabo's Latinesque melodic jam themes (e.g., "A Thousand Times"). Godinez sounds positively inspired and inspiring here and beautifully works in appropriate kudos to George Benson's "Affirmation" as well.
Both Doria and Godinez get the lion's share of solos, which is fine, given their exceptional talent. Organist Doria is an ideal accompanist, crossing the spacey near-free otherworldliness of Larry Young with the strong rock-ish foundation of Gregg Rollie. Guitarist Godinez has quite the career ahead of him, if this disc is any indication. He is a thoughtful and engaging player that pays props to the past (Santana, Larry Coryell, Szabo, Benson, Pat Metheny) while making it clear that he's got something of his own to say. Few organ/guitar/drum groups have been this stimulating since John Abercrombie's association with Dan Wall and Adam Nussbaum.
While Live at Tost
is an excellentif sadly too briefintroduction to this band, it only scratches the surface of what is hoped will be the start of something beautiful (their version of "Spellbinder," which is not heard here, is indeed spellbinding)a long and well-recorded career for Michael Shrieve's Spellbinder.