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If I had to find patterns or echoes of another guitarist in Gambale’s chordal progressions, breakdowns, and eruptions into vitriolic riffs of ostinatos and legatos, all being sweep-picking showcases – I’d have to say I keep hearing Mahavishnu John McLaughlin’s style in his Mahavishnu Orchestra daze of fusion. Listen to opening cut, “Katahdin” for evidence. And next track, Gambale surprises me with signature Allan Holdsworth voicings; those dream-laden, chordal noodlings and odd maneuvers of scale. This gives Hamm room to stretch oh so mellow and expressively smooth. Gambale returns the bass solo an answer full of strength and passion, aflame with that picking style pioneered so long ago. To listen to Gambale hit high gear on a riff brings forth images of 12-fingered hands with an 18-inch fretboard span!
Hamm and Smith are both monsters on bass and drums adding a huge amount of soul and talent all around this disc. Track four, “The Throne Of Savitar” takes me back to the flavor of Inner Mounting Flame ’s “Dance of Maya” and early Stanley Clarke releases like School Days with the now, long-lost, Ray Gomez going crazy on guitar. Excellent cut! Lotsa classic 70s distortion too, thank-you. The mid-song break, trance-time, lets Steve Smith do some of the best skins work I have ever heard from him to date. Bravo Steve-o!
Next few trax offer solo bass, a mellow jazz, slow tune, then a drum solo. Track eight, “Lumpy’s Lament” gets back to the “meltin’-down-the-Kenny-G-stack-o-plastic” kind of fusion I like with heavy beat, mean drums, and overdriven crunch Gambale used so well on the 1998 Show Me What You Can Do release. Great song but way too short! (CDs will now hold more jams than LPs did guys.)
Remember those excellent Bill Connors’ acoustic, solo guitar releases way back when? Gambale next offers a similarly, superb acoustic guitar vignette. It is an “intro” to the final cut, “Fugitive Aspirations” with reverby, full sustain, ethereal, soul-angst guitar, bell-like introspective bass progression, and truly sexy brushes, high hats aglistening. Schweet boys, that nice. Gambale excels with all his effects, channel switching, feedbacks, loopings, back-o-the-bridge chimings/harmonics, wow, and alien invasion guitar that sang to my soul like no other song on this disk. Frank, my good mate, Stu, and Steve y’all done darn good by me on that performance! Please fill another CD up with killer jams like this again! The Light Beyond is another heads-above-the-rest fusion experience. It’s a high rollin’, hard-chargin’, visionary work – a musicianship tour de force ! “Wake up ya smooth-jazz, limp-wristed, split-reed, weenies and smell this espresso!” Gambale, Hamm, and Smith have done it again. Wham, bam, yes mam!
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.