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Guitarist Khabu Doug Young's first outing as a leader is whimsical, musical, and deceptively deep. It seems he's been saving up his vast musical awareness to simply cut loose with this double album tour-de-force. The music is well-executed, well-conceived, and covers a dizzyingly broad tableau of styles and influences.
For example, the album opens with a multiple horn tone poem that leans heavily towards contrapuntal chamber music, while the next piece harkens more to the spirited duets that Oliver Lake and Michael Gregory Jackson created together in the '70s. This sort of juxtaposition remains consistent throughout the entire project... one minute Mahavishnu, the next silly circus music! Try to imagine Carla Bley as a guitar god and you'll start to get an idea of the concepts on this effort.
There is a distinct narrative feel to the overall compositional arc. Young leads us through careening landscapes – some beautiful and serene, some thought-provoking, some silly, some difficult, and some downright slapstick funny. He has assembled a crew of longtime collaborators to help him along with his story. They understand each other's voices well and use that knowledge to great advantage throughout each piece. Piano great Art Lande foregoes the ivories on this recording to follow his second muse, the drums, which he handles with an odd combination of authority and abandon.
Young has developed a clear and articulate voice on his instrument. Fans of Scofield, Stern, or Bullock should find plenty to enjoy in his guitar style. He is a full-fledged citizen of the jazz-rock school in some ways, but his compositional sense tends to be much more fun and adventurous than most players hailing from similar roots. His utilization of saxophones and Ani DiFranco sideman Shane Endlesey's trumpet in conjunction with electric guitar is forceful and well-integrated into the whole – rarely is the guitar used as a solo instrument – but rather as another timbre in the ensemble.
On the second disc, Young explores guitar sonorities reminiscent of the most subtle of Jimi Hendrix's work on Electric Ladyland, or a delicate Sonny Sharrock approach, along with McLaughlinesque chops.
From an overall compositional point of view, fans of Carla Bley, Frank Zappa, or John Zorn could find niches in this silly/serious brew of styles. Young is definitely someone to be aware of in the world of modern music, and if his freshman effort is any indication of what lies ahead for him, we're all in for treats ahead.
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.