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Chris Ho: Picasso Blue

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Pianist and electronic instrument wizard {$Chris Ho} has gathered his regular band, with one exception, into the studio for their 3rd release for Merrimack Records. The one exception is that regular drummer David Renick is spelled on several tracks by a bevy of different percussionists. Another outsider, Karen Briggs, has been added to the mix. The violinist makes an appearance on one track, the aptly named "Women in Art". All but one of the compositions on the album are by Ho and they pretty much cling to the contemporary jazz party line, although there is considerably more substance, innovation and rhythmic variety than one hears from this genre. To a certain extent the music follows the theme of the album, Pablo Picasso's blue period. Shortly after moving to Paris, Picasso began to produce works that were saturated with blue conveying a somber tone. The Blue Period work is quite sentimental probably due to the fact that Picasso was living away from home for the first time and in very poor conditions. There is a touch of this condition in the desperate "Primal Call" with Ho's moody synthesizer mixing it up with Renick's drum which gets more of a workout on this track than usually heard with smooth jazz. In not so sharp a contrast, "Afterthought" is a bit more buoyant helping to prevent the listener, and perhaps the musicians, from falling into a deep funk. This album verifies the incredible talent and musical intuition of saxophonist Wayne Wayne. He runs the table on highly charged melodic inventive ideas on both tenor and alto. It's instructive that he eschews one of the key instruments of smooth jazz, the soprano sax. One of the premier tracks is the title tune, a medium tempo, close to straight jazz presentation, again with Wayne laying down some nice lines and Ho showing his mastery at the regular piano. Perhaps Ho with this album is moving away from the contemporary style and getting closer to the music's roots. We'll see which direction his next album takes. In the meantime, take a fling with this one.


Track Listing: Bliss; Picasso Blue; Women in Art*; 28; Arirang; Afterthought; Nuance; Primal; Call; Glass Is Half Full Blues

Personnel: Chris Ho - Piano/Lead and String Synthesizer; Wayne Wayne - Alto & Tenor Sax/Flute; John Balbuena - Keys/Synth Vibes/Organ/Fender Rhodes; Matt Van Benschoten- Bass; David Renick, Gary Q. Wing, Dan Potruch, Ralph Penland, Tony Lewis - Drums; Karen Briggs - Violin*

Title: Picasso Blue | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Merrimack

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