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The eclectic US guitarist Willie Oteri, who played with or supported artists like Bob Seger, Neil Young, Doobie Brothers, Chaka Khan and Passenger and has been a member of Jazz Gunn, has the chance to cooperate with producer Ronan Chris Murphy (who has worked with King Crimson amongst others) for this Spiral Out that he records with such artists as the rhythm section of King Crimson (Tony Levin on bass and Pat Mastelotto on drums), Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa) on keyboards and Ephraim Owen on trumpet. But this “Spiral Out” is not rich only because the band supporting Oteri is a real all-stars parade. In each musical piece every musician can show his indubitable abilities, but in the meantime each artist cooperates in a humble and at the same time original way to create a basis on which the other musicians’ solos can freely rely.
The nine pieces on Spiral Out all start from a jazzy basis on which each of the musicians build the most different structures. Particularly worth noting the long (23 minutes) "First Light," actually the recording of the very first studio meeting between Oteri and the two King Crimson members. As often happens, as soon as the instruments were in tune a jam session started. This time the session has been recorded and has proved so good to be worthy being included in the record. Anyway, in each piece it is clear that the most part of what we can hear comes from improvisation, maybe not complete like in "First Light" but probably based on a creative idea that has formed the pillar on which the musicians could create what they liked.
Surely Spiral Out is not an "easy" record, and the virtuosities of the band members, even if they fit into each other harmonically, are many and can bore an ear that's not used to soloists' works—or better, to works recorded by an ensemble of soloists like this one. But it stays a work of incredible quality anyway, that anyone who likes even only a bit this genre can’t help appreciating. Some critics go to the point of declaring that Oteri could bring a clear improvement in King Crimson, were he chosen to replace Adrian Belew; even if I do not dare to make such a claim, I affirm that the guitarist’s craft is worth the most celebrated masters of the instrument, both present and of the recent past.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.