All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.
Spontageous is the project of Philadelphia fusion guitarist/composer Audric Jankauskas. Along with bassist Rob Lewcun, drummer Tom Cottone, and keyboardist Lin Fred, this quartet in the Tribal Tech mold moves through nine tunes of mellow electric fusion on their self-titled recording.
The playing on Spontageous has the smooth, assured feel of professional musicianship. Jankauskas moves through articulate runs on electric guitar and snappy finger-picking on acoustic. Lewcun's fretless six-string bass growls the foundation, or purrs the melody, in bass leads like on "Kindred Spirits." The production of this CD sounds immaculate, especially in the Hammond organ textures and the different electric and acoustic guitar tones.
The songwriting covers most of the same ground as the Tribal Tech style, including mid-tempo snappy fusion like "It's About Time," ballads like "Kindred Spirits," airy half-time songs like "Uplander," and blues numbers like "Rooster's Blues." The one song style that's missing is a fast, catchy fusion groove to raise all these mid-tempo and slow tunes to a ripping conclusion. Guitarist Jankauskas writes or co-writes all the songs on the CD, sharing all but one of the co-writer credits with bassist Lewcun.
The music on Spontageous feels like players playing their parts rather than musicians interacting, especially in the stiff blues of "Rooster's Blues" and the clunky rock riff of "Eenie Meanie." The individual execution is very good, but there's little spark in the music. Jankauskas's guitar leads often repeat the exact same scalar pattern shifted one fret up or down, through four or even eight bars. This happens three times in the opener "It's About Time," again in "Quantum," in the acoustic guitar break that opens "Rooster's Blues," and in the closing number "Dag Nab It." This predictability in the guitar solos leaves them feeling mechanical rather than expressive. The drumming seldom shifts beyond standard time-keeping with any interesting syncopations or cymbal work. Rare exceptions include the quarter-note beat played over the 11/8 bar line in the outro of "Quantum" and the hit-hat work in the breakdown in "Leapin Lizards." The keyboards and the bass groove unobtrusively, but they fail to distinguish themselves with any exciting moments.
Without any snap in the playing or in the interaction between musicians, the extended song arrangements on Spontageous become too long. The nine tunes average over seven and a half minutes each, with numerous repetitions of head and turnaround sections. The guitar solos are kept to tasteful lengths, except for the overly long breakdown in "Leapin Lizards." This leaves large chunks of time filled by repetitions of riffs and sections. The ascending chordal run over the 11/8 bass line in "Quantum" is reprised with no discernable change several times, as is the head of "Leapin Lizards."
Despite crisp execution and pro-quality production, Spontageous can't escape repetitive songwriting and a mechanical feel in the playing. It feels neither spontaneous nor contagious. Perhaps a live recording might better capture this quartet's talents.
Track Listing: It's About Time; Quantum; Rooster's Blues; Leapin Lizards; Kindred Spirits; Uplander; Eenie Meanie; Razz Ma Tazz; Dag Nab It
Personnel: Audric Jankauskas (guitar); Rob Lewcun (fretless bass); Tom Cottone (drums); Lin Fred (keyboards)
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.