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Mike Valeras Group: The Mike Valeras Group

Todd S. Jenkins By

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This collective of Berklee grads harkens back to the heyday of fusion, offering an update of Eleventh House, Weather Report, the Headhunters and other such groundbreakers. Valeras and company illustrate the real promise for the future of jazz-rock on this debut disc.

Valeras' guitar tone is appropriately acidic and overdriven much of the time, recalling McLaughlin and Coryell. He positively burns on "Lo Phat", which also features the fleet-fingered bass of Jonathan Stoyanoff and a wild, flatulent keyboard solo from Tomas Heggdal that draws from 80s funk (i.e., the Gap Band). "Angry Lil' Greek Boy" begins with a majestic Mediterranean flavor underscored by a sonorous drone, before Valeras switches to acoustic guitar for the exotic melody. On other selections he reflects Pat Metheny's single-line lyricism ("Mr. Wonderful") and the progressive fire of Steve Morse (on the aptly titled barnburner "Morse Code", the disc's main highlight).

We are certain to hear more great things from all these young tigers in the near future, and Mike Valeras seems especially headed toward a stellar career in fusion. Outstanding.

(E-mail: mvaleras@earthlink.net; phone: (978) 459-3690)

Track Listing: Lo Phat; Angry Lil' Greek Boy; Mr. Wonderful; On The Dogs; Reunion Song; Morse Code.

Personnel: (Collective:) Mike Valeras, guitars; Jonathan Stoyanoff, Mike Goodspeed, bass; John Medeiros Jr., Ron Stewart, drums; Tomas Heggdal, Jim Zaroulis, keyboards; Ralph Funaro, piano; Steve Giannaros, saxophones; John Donahoe, violin.+

| Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock


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