One must wonder what chance a group of relatively unknown Canadian jazz musicians playing complicated original tunes has for any sort of recognition or commercial success in the US. If musical quality was the sole determinant, Peripheral Vision, the relatively unknown Canadian band in question, would be celebrities, set for life. They've unleashed a corker of an album in Sheer Tyranny of Will
, their third. Sheer Tyranny of Will
combines the small "f" fusion approach of the so-called "Canterbury-style" of jazz-rock (think National Health
) with purely contemporary stylistic elements that would be perfectly at home in Brooklyn's hippest venues.
While there's something somewhat like 70s prog-fusion going on in the tuneful, multi-sectioned compositions (written by bassist Michael Herring
and guitarist Don Scott
), these guys have also been influenced somewhat by contemporary "post- rock" bands such as Tortoise
. To make the mix all the more enticing, the melodies here possess a jazz- derived, Thelonious Monk
-like angularity. For instance, "Wiretap" opens with Hogg soloing at length over gracefully bounding 6/8 drums and bass. The thematic content, riddled with unexpected stops and starts, juxtaposes bursts of harsh skronking saxophone and distorted guitar in 5/4 with a dreamy melody draped over a lush chord sequence.
Improvisation is a central component of Peripheral Vision's music. Scott is an excellent guitarist with a percussive attack whose judicious use of effects is quite refreshing. Eschewing the obvious contemporary influences (e.g., Pat Metheny
, Bill Frisell
, Allan Holdsworth
, John Scofield
), Scott's sound seems to be derived from a completely different set of guitar slingers; guys like John Abercrombie
, Larry Coryell
, Jim Hall
, and Grant Green
. Saxophonist Trevor Hogg
occasionally augments his horn with electronic effects as well, but he's a dyed-in-the-wool jazzman whose work in the horn's lower registers brings Michael Brecker
to mind. Bassist Herring sticks mainly to the acoustic instrument, giving the music an unexpectedly open, airy quality. His nimble soloing on "Charleston Heston" is one of the album's standout moments. On drums, Nick Fraser
also maintains a light, jazz-oriented approach and plays all sorts of odd time and syncopated patterns with graceful ease.
While most of the tunes clock in between three and eight minutes, two longer tracksboth exceeding 10 minutes in length constitute Sheer Tyranny of Will
's most definitive statements. Both are, of course, multi-sectioned rambles through a variety of wittily-related timbral, harmonic, and rhythmic environments. The title track is perhaps the album's mellowest and most relaxed piece, though it's far from a ballad. Bookended by spacy, almost rubato sections dominated by Scott's processed guitar, the piece interweaves lengthy solos by Herring and Hogg (perhaps his finest performance on the album) with diverse, yet clearly interrelated, thematic statements. "Patina" is similarly expansive, opening with a long tenor solo that gives way to a lovely guitar riff. This builds very quickly into something more menacing only to break down for Scott's lyrical, jazzy guitar improv. It's all very organic and effortless sounding; and that's what sets Peripheral Vision apart from the rest.