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Gergo Borlai: The Missing Song

Jim Worsley By

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Gergo Borlai: The Missing Song
The Missing Song has been heralded as a tribute to Gergo Borlai's nine most influential drummers still alive and performing today. This is much more than just listing them and perhaps covering one of their songs. Borlai composed eight of the nine new songs on this album. He plays them all in the manner, or mindset, of each drummer. The thought process, and level of preparation was meticulous for every drummer and every song. The drum kit, cymbals, sticks, pedals, everything was anew at the beginning of each piece. The exponentials and individual nuances of these iconic drummers were joyously examined. They were nested in the past, where perhaps, if you search for it, a proper placement for a missing song might be found.

Opening a record with a two minute drum solo is the kind of ballsy thing that Billy Cobham would do. Borlai did it with the same kind of precision, speed, and flair you would expect on a song called "Billy." The Jan Hammer type of sound produced by Matt Rohde , in alliance with the soothing yet vibrant offering from flautist Katisse Buckingham, then provides a vigorous frame for Borlai to further expand Cobham's double bass exploration. The understated but funky bass of Jimmy Haslip leads into guitarist Dean Brown's penetrating eruption, as Borlai relentlessly forges ahead and ignites a full-fueled assault.

Gary Novak is relentless behind the kit. Here, Borlai powers open up a passage to an Allan Holdsworth type guitar excursion engagingly procured by Alex Machacek. Laced with tension and fluidity, Borlai stretches boundaries while expertly staying within them. So vivid is "Gary," that hearing the propulsion is akin to seeing it in your mind's eye.

A slow funk intro, built with the keys of Scott Kinsey and the guitar of Brown, is entangled into one push, then cemented by Dennis Chambers like super glue. Borlai finds his inner "Dennis" in a song that is erratic, both by nature and intent. Borlai brings it all together with a punch in that masterful Chambers take charge course of action.

A strange personal mood and an odd metered count are a piece of cake for Keith Carlock. He lives for that. Here, it's Borlai that maneuvers a steep winding road, alongside bassist Jimmy Earl, up a mountainside with Mike Gotthard's rock laced heavy riffs as his support system in "Keith." Borlai boldly pursues and climbs Everest with a larger chunk of heavy metal thunder thrust against a thoroughbred of fusion.

Risky, tricky, and clever are thoughts that come to mind when choosing to honor Steve Gadd with a kind of song intensity, not generally associated with Gadd. Then again, there isn't much the most recorded drummer in history hasn't played. Borlai pulls it off by keeping Gadd's ever-unique and always pocket-perfect rhythmic edge tightly embedded through an arsenal of Ravi Shankar inspired lines and other mystic guitar meanderings by Nguyen Le. Borlai's pocket patience in highlighting "Steve" is perhaps most impressive of all.

Although a very versatile fusion drummer, Kirk Covington, is mostly associated with blistering guitarists. That's what happens when you play with Scott Henderson, Holdsworth, and Robben Ford. This song has Peta Lukacs on the axe. Seeing no reason to go rogue, Borlai wrote "Kirk" with full throttle, yet variant mindsets. Other artists come to mind, but it's a bit of Weather Report meets Dream Theater, with Kinsey making the introductions, and then all having a cup of coffee with Frank Zappa. It's innovative, for sure, and played with a lot of veracity by Borlai and bassist Gary Willis.

Illustrative of Peter Erskine's gift of steering anything, anywhere, at any time, we have the keys of Kinsey and bass of Hadrien Feraud up front...or are they? Tapping into Erskine's keen musical sensibilities, Borlai keeps us guessing to the point where the heavenly transfixion of the song ultimately outweighs it all, making further ponderance irrelevant. Borlai rode an Erskine-like kit knowingly. In true "Peter" fashion, Borlai's early, light, getting a feel approach is morphed into more of a wow; he's got a lot going on there! It sneaks up on you and you're not sure quite when. Hence the beauty and genius of it.

Pitting polar opposites side by side is possibly a statement on learning and being influenced by a myriad of styles. The roller coaster that is Terry Bozzio is ridden next by Borlai. The nifty vibe of keys soar right into the rapier guitar blaze of Machacek, before a moment of calm is erased by the downhill momentum and barrage of Borlai. Borlai was, of course, on board from the beginning, maneuvering like a bobsled driver before heading into the final curve. A wicked Borlai "Terry" tinged ride includes an array of stops and starts, brakes and pedal to the metal accelerations navigated with tenacity by bassist Anthony Crawford.

A journey of whispers from the past, reliving memories of 1979, leads in to "Vinnie." Joe's Garage(Rykodisc, 1979) is open for business one last time in a Frank Zappa dream sequence. "Vinnie was just a pup of twenty-two," is heard in the whisper, as well as references to his vintage yellow Gretsch, and much more fun. Colaiuta is portrayed by Borlai in this production of the missing song from Joe's Garage. Mike Keneally blasts onto the scene with guitar riffs that might frighten young children but are sentimentally empowering to those of a certain age. By the midway point, it seemed he would fry the motherboard with his inventions. By its conclusion, Keneally was still rocketing into orbit. It's all together possible, perhaps likely, that he is still shredding somewhere beyond the clouds. But what about Vinnie? (Borlai) Where is he through this vintage guitar rampage? From the outset he is a support system, fueling the tanks. As the rage mounts, so does the need for stronger and more variant support. It's easy to be overwhelmed by Keneally's Zappa inferno, but Borlai builds-brick-by-brick, layer-by-layer. Nearer to the conclusion it becomes apparent that Borlai, too, is sonically engaged in the madness and is, in fact, rhythmically driving the getaway car. This is a train wreck of genius. Zappa is looking down, or in some direction, and smiling from the garage.

Not to be ignored are Borlai's compositional skills. They are very much at the core of this record's viability as cutting-edge rock tinged fusion.That, and yes, some monster drumming. It isn't presented as a clinic or drum workshop. That said, it can equally be devoured by drummers immersing themselves in the various techniques. The learning curve is exposed and open for discussion. It's a record that succeeds in three ways. It balances both a drum clinic and a listening for pleasure mode. Thirdly, it is a genuine and generous recognition and thank you to nine of the greatest drummers of our time.

Track Listing

Billy; Gary; Dennis; Keith; Steve; Kirk; Peter; Terry; Vinnie.

Personnel

Gergo Borlai: drums; Scott Kinsey: keyboards; Jimmy Haslip: bass, electric; Matt Rohde : keyboards; Dean Brown: guitar, electric; Mike Keneally: guitar, electric; Anton Davidyants: bass; Stuart Hamm: bass; Jimmy Earl: bass; Gary Willis: bass; Pete Griffin: bass; Anthony Crawford: bass; Hadrien Feraud: bass; Alex Machacek: guitar, electric; Pete Lukas: guitar, electric; Nguyen Le: guitar, electric; Mike Gotthard: guitar, electric; Katisse Buckingham: flute; Jos Carlos Suarez: percussion; Roman Labaye: bass.

Album information

Title: The Missing Song | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Blue Canoe Records

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