Dutch guitarist Chris Beckers straddles the line between smooth jazz and jazz-rock fusion with comparative ease, creating comfortable textures that keep the listener from dozing or running away. His label CrisCrazz has handled Dutch fusion artists for over twenty years, including the great recent debut by Sietse Huisman’s Art Attack, and this is Beckers’ tenth release under his own name. In the company of several modern fusion stars, he’s crafted a real winner here.
Beckers’ tone is usually pacifying and familiar, the prototypical contemporary jazz sound, and his technique draws deeply from the traditions of jazz, rock and other musics. His compositions are well-built, uplifting and memorable. Tenor man Ernie Watts, who has been performing with Beckers off and on since 1987, appears on three tracks: the dark-hued “Roadmovie”, where his sound recalls Wayne Shorter with Weather Report; “Sands”; and “Truth”, where he wails in an emotive Coltrane mode and carries the day. Peter Erskine drums on six tracks, his signature drive adding to the Weather Report vibe of it all. Dutch percussionist Nippy Noya, well-known for several fusion/prog projects in the 80s, joins Liber Torriente in building angular foundations for the music. Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip also helps out on several tracks, occasionally acting as more of a co-lead voice than a rhythmist.
For all his swagger and dexterity on the up-tempo tunes, Beckers really exposes his heart on the short, sweet “Salute”, which segues into the enriching, Methenyish “A Grand Day Out”. Perhaps the most unusual track is “Catwalk”, which was written for a fashion show and features odd narrations, sexual moans, manic violin from Luluk Purwanto, and a thoroughly funked-up beat. It’s a strange way to close out the album, but it flaunts yet another side of the guitarist’s manifold talents. His uncompromising ear for production and performance quality have paid off once more.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.