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The Avengers: The Avengers: On A Mission

Dave Wayne By

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If there's such as thing as good old basic, meat-and-potatoes straight ahead jazz, then The Avengers' new album On A Mission could fairly be characterized as good old basic meat-and-potatoes jazz-rock fusion. Largely—but not completely—devoid of avant-garde, metal, or prog-rock stylings, On A Mission is a straight-ahead fusion album somewhat along the lines of recent offerings by artists such as Mike Stern, Allan Holdsworth, and John McLaughlin's Fourth Dimension. The band is led by guitarist Beledo, a native of Uruguay who's been in New York for several years working with a diverse cross section of jazz and fusion artists such as Randy Brecker and Stefon Harris. Renowned in his home country, Beledo- -who also plays keyboards—started out in the late 1970s with the jazz-rock band Maytreya, and then formed his own fusion band— Siddhartha—which toured extensively throughout South America. During the 1980s, he briefly joined Rueben Rada, Hugo Fattoruso, and Osvaldo 'George' Fattoruso in Opa; previously the backing band for Airto Moreira and Flora Purim during the 70s. Beledo eventually moved to Los Angeles, where he studied film music composition while making inroads into the LA jazz scene with a new US-based band called Hemispheres.

For On A Mission, Beledo has assembled an impressive cast of fusion musicians; each with an innate understanding of the jazz-rock fusion genre. Listening to this album, one can easily imagine that this music came together quickly and effortlessly. Keyboardist Adam Holzman, who's been highly visible of late due to his work with Porcupine Tree singer / guitarist Steven Wilson, is the other primary soloist here. Wielding a highly modified Rhodes piano as his primary solo voice, he relies on digital keyboards to provide orchestral sounds to flesh out melodies and to back up Beledo's guitar solos. Bassist Lincoln Goines and drummer Kim Plainfield, both known for their work with guitarist Bill Connors, are quintessential professionals. Their playing, while never overly flashy or pushy, is always well above the minimum required to merely put the tunes across. In other words, they're putting some elbow grease into it, having fun with this music, and their enthusiasm easily carries over into the listening experience.

On A Mission is a fine record. Though it's not groundbreaking or startling in any way, the music is well-constructed and beautifully played by the leader and his consummately professional band. Beledo's sound on guitar is most closely allied to that of Holdsworth and Connors. The Uruguayan possesses a similar propensity for seamless legato phrasing, unpredictable intervallic leaps, and fluid, horn-like lines. Beledo's compositions are also substantial and distinctive without being overly complex. Most of the tunes are up-tempo, and all leave room for extended, muscular solos by the leader and Holzman, which is a good thing since both have plenty to say. "Exactly," "No Big Deal," and the title track exemplify this straight-ahead fusion approach, while tunes such as "Siddhartha's Return" and "Rauleando" touch on various aspects of progressive rock and Latin jazz without delving too deeply into either genre. "After All," a pretty waltz with a massively hooky melody, and "Jimmy O'Donnell's Air" are the album's mellower, more measured offerings but are no less interesting for that. Holzman's solo on the latter tune is particularly effective. The lone cover, Marcus Miller's "Portia" is given a sly, funky treatment with Beledo's slick guitar well out in front.

Track Listing: On a Mission; After All; Exactly; Portia; Siddhartha's Return; Rauleando; No Big Deal; Jimmy O'Donnell's Air.

Personnel: Beledo: guitar; Adam Holzman: Fender Rhodes, keyboards; Lincoln Goines: bass; Kim Plainfield: drums.

Title: The Avengers: On A Mission | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Gudari Records

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