World-class guitarist Pete McCann (Spin Cycle, Mahavishnu Project, Curtis Stigers) composed 10 pieces with his band members specifically in mind. His all-star quintet exhibits near flawless execution with tuneful hooks, stirring improvisational passages, and a strong mix of material that covers a lot of bases. And when the leader uses his pedals and EFX mechanisms, tinged with a bit of studio reverb, the jazz and jazz fusion soundscapes go off the charts. He seemingly inflicts pain on his electric guitar via dark-toned fleet-fingered solo spots and super speed licks, complete with expressive intonations, explosive after-affects and scorching dynamics. Ultimately, the quintet transmits an exalted level of fellowship that becomes noticeable early on.
Keyboardist Henry Hey and alto saxophonist John O'Gallagher are superb foils for McCann. From a holistic view, the band projects a radiant musical environment amid swiftly enacted and precise unison time signatures, up-tempo soloing and a rhythm section to die for. Following the blitzing post-bop title track, "Pay for It on the Other Side," the quintet dishes out a brash and snaky New Orleans-tinted second line groove on "Mud Flap," emphasized with Hey's bluesy and accelerating Hammond B-3 voicings, leading to McCann and O'Gallagher's stinging solos and pungent unison runs. Yet the plot thickens on "Nikhil," which is an in-your-face jazz fusion piece with presumed nods to the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
"Yonder" is modern jazz with a country twang, while "Is April Okay?" is a fast-paced bop burner, where McCann integrates Wes Montgomery style chord solos into his phrasings, as the musicians execute a vicious outbreak with linear upsurges and simmering accents. However, they lower the temperature on the soothing ballad "Indemnity," marked by the saxophonist's emotive lines and Matt Clohesy's nimble and heartfelt bass solo above drummer Mark Ferber's delicately sweeping brush work.
The diverse program continues with an upbeat jazz waltz, "Floor Three," featuring the frontline's complex melody-making and McCann's spirited, hard-edged jazz rock riffs and soulful inflections. Moreover, Hey's crusty electric piano articulations inject a rough-hewn edge into the mix. No doubt about it, McCann and associates were at the top of their game throughout this extraordinary production, yielding high replay value and energized sequences akin to a dazzling cinematic action thriller.
Pay for It on the Other Side, Mud Flap, Nikhil, Yonder, Is April Okay?, Polygons, Indemnity, Cookout, Floor Three, Conventional Wisdom.
Pete McCann, electric and acoustic guitar; John O'Gallagher, alto saxophone; Henry Hey, keyboards, accordion; Matt Clohesy, bass; Mark Ferber, drums.