Oddly enough, the great star and shining light of the Joel Newton Situation is (you guessed it) guitarist Joel Newton. Not to imply that the other three members of this quartet fail to generate interest in their own right, but Newton's guitar wizardry and effects dominate One. The guitarist's technical prowess, attention to tone, and zig-zagging solos spark much of the action on this disc. With the guitar synth at his disposal, Newton reaches out to new sounds and textures.
The compositions on One, all originals, explore the common ground between jazz, funk, blues, and rock. Rather than comfortably settling into a groove and then milking it for all it's worth, they jump from style to style and forge connections in the least obvious places. Periods of introspective quietude lie interspersed between moments of explosive energy. Deliberate themes erupt into frenetic solos, offering irony and contrast aplenty. The interactions which pique the greatest interest include some refreshingly imaginative counterpoint with drummer Chris Michael and regular bump-and-grind funk with bassist Toshi Someya. While the clichés of fusion rear their familiar heads every now and then, most of this disc offers a new angle on jazz-rock. And at times one has the feel that three-quarters of the Situation simply exist to serve as a launching pad for the guitarist's intergalactic travels. But compositional leaps disrupt these head-nodding episodes without fail, and the band moves elsewhere. Coherently.