Turning Point: Matador

Woodrow Wilkins By

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Turning Point: Matador Turning Point is a small group with a big sound. By throwing in a little funk, a little salsa, and lots of sizzle on Matador, this quartet, assisted by two guest musicians, blends a variety of cultures in creating its own brand of rock-jazz.

One of the nice things about a group like this is that its music can fit into a variety of genres—rock, R&B, smooth jazz, or fusion. Naturally, these players have opened for a diverse array of popular music acts, including Michael McDonald, Little Feat, Down to the Bone, and The Rippingtons. Turning Point has also shared the stage with Earth, Wind & Fire, the Commodores, Boney James, James Brown, Bobby Caldwell, Earl Klugh, Gato Barbieri, Spyro Gyra, Rick Braun, and Peter White, to name a few.

Jazz-funk, injected with a serious dose of fun, is evident on the opening track, "Lickety-Split. Keyboardist Steve Culp gives it a boost with a pumped-up organ solo. All but two of the eleven tracks were written by members of the group. The album's first single, "Quisiera Ser, is a cover of a Latin Grammy-winning song by South American superstar Alejandro Sanz. The other cover is a dazzling take on Chick Corea's "Spain. Culp is in the spotlight on this tune, performing with the speed and accuracy previously exhibited by artists like Biff Hannon, Alan Zavod, Larry Dunn, and Tom Schuman. Thano Sahnas' guitars complement Culp, with violinist Charlie Bisharat providing the melody. "Spain is a challenging tune, but when done by a more-than-competent act, it's always a great song to hear.

Saxophonist Dominic Amato appears on several tracks, taking point on the smooth jazz/funk ballad "Turn Down the Night. While Amato is clearly out front on this tune, brothers Thano (guitar) and Demitri Sahnas (bass) get their licks in, too. The title song begins like a traditional Spanish interlude, with acoustic guitar and trumpet synth setting the stage. But the song quickly transforms into a high-energy jam, fronted by the Sahnas brothers and the drums/percussion of John Herrera. At "Matador's climax, Herrera becomes frantic before the group sets up the closing note.

Closing with two tributes—the elegant "Soldier's Lullaby, about the war in Iraq, and "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, in memory of the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy in 2003—Matador is an hour-long journey that covers a lot of musical ground, traveling by various means. Most albums of this length have one or two clunkers, songs that may sound good the first time but have little or no repeat play value. However, these eleven tracks are good enough and diverse enough to ensure the entire album many spins.

Track Listing: Lickety Split; Spain; Gospel Brunch; Turn Down the Night; Quisiera Ser, Matador; Despues De Manana; Rhapsody for Priapus; Suburban Safari; Soldier

Personnel: Thano Sahnas: guitars; Demitri Sahnas: acoustic and fretless bass; Steve Culp: keyboards; John Herrera: drums and percussion; Dominic Amato: saxophone; Charlie Bisharat: violin (2).

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Native Language | Style: Contemporary/Smooth


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