Mellow is as mellow does, and Tritone Asylum (an interesting name for an updated "fusion" band) certainly opens that way, with a pleasantly relaxed feeling on "Grasshopper." But do not get too comfortable. Do you remember the first time you heard "Chameleon" with Harvey Mason
wailing away? Your reaction may have been puzzled; many were, because the recording "broke the mold." That did not sound familiar, as if Herbie Hancock
had started channeling Sly and the Family Stone
. "Schizophrenic," composed and arranged by trumpeter and EVI exponent Philip Topping
, may catch you the same way. Unexpectedly. But tenor saxophonist Ian Vo
soloing will reassure the listener. This is jazz, as surely as Hancock's Head Hunters
(Columbia, 1973) was. And very hip, with Mitch Forman
on piano and Dave Johnstone
on a very orthodox back-beat. It is not all out there, collective improvisation or no. The average listener has surely come a long way, but Tritone Asylum will not lose folks raised on the Brecker Brothers
or Pat Metheny.
On the other hand, "The 54 Blues" may well evoke one of those hazy nights when certain issues loomed large in the mind, especially the war in Vietnam. Ironically, there is bassist Peter Sepsis
's tune, "The Road To Hue," which is born of a trip thereone trip that many at the time were not disposed to take, when the Tet Offensive suddenly woke up Americans, not the mention the Vietnamese, that the war in 1968 had suddenly become very real. The tune is as peaceful as the battle there was violent. A lot of young soldiers and even more innocent civilians died there, for which this is a kind of mournful elegy. And the war still had a long way to go.
"Malawi," in which both Sepsis and Topping had a hand, is a little more world-music kind of thing, with vocals by Baba Sissoko
, although Ian Vo once again anchors everything solidly in the tradition with a nice solo, joined by Andy Waddell
on guitar. "Ballad for Nonga" brings back the relaxed mood, but with evident sincerity. With "Simple," you are back to the pulse of Head Hunter
, ready or not, heavy on the bass notes. Who was in the audience applauding? "First Days of Summer" is as advertised. School is out, maybe forever.
This recording may or may not be your cup of tea, but will keep you listening hard, maybe for an elusive tritone. Whatever the case, the production is rocking and the rhythm section is especially locked in. Lots of fun.
Grasshopper; Schizophrenic; The 54 Blues; The Road To Hue; Malawi; Ballad For Nongna; Simple
(Live); First Days Of Summer.
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