Unless you frequent Los Angeles clubs like The Baked Potato and La Ve Lee, chances are you haven't heard of keyboardist David Garfield. But you've heard him. Appearing on over a hundred albums, Garfield has worked with artists like trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and guitarist Larry Carlton. He's a co-founder of Los Lobotomys and Karizma, two fusion-based jam bands that have included drummers like Vinnie Colaiuta and Simon Phillips, as well as guitarists Steve Lukather and the perennially-underrated Michael Landau.
No recording dates are listed on The State of Things, but Garfield's clearly been working on it for years, given that a third of the tracks feature Carlos Vegaa versatile drummer who appeared on literally hundreds of albums before passing away tragically in 1998.
This fusion-centric effort features many of LA's best session players, but in many ways it's as much Landau's disc as it is Garfield's. He pays tribute to Jimi Hendrix on a version of "If Six Was Nine thatas blasphemous as this may soundmight actually be an improvement on the original. While his tone says rock, his lines say jazz as he demonstrates complete facility navigating changes on the swinging version of Miles Davis' "Milestones and a more delicate mainstream take on John Coltrane's "Naima. He exhibits his more textural side on "Me and kicks things into extreme high gear on the greasy funk of "Five Storks and the more overtly rocking "Black Cadillac.
Landau's so all over The State of Things that it's easy to overlook the strengths coming from every other corner. Garfield chooses the right drummer every time. John Guerin, another studio veteran who passed away in 2004 who may be best-remembered for his '70s work with Tom Scott's LA Express and Joni Mitchell, is featured here on three jazz standardsthe aforementioned "Milestones and "Naima, as well as an all-acoustic version of Miles' "Nardis. Vinnie Colaiuta comes in for more powerhouse fusion tracks like "Tsunami, which also features a guest spot by iconic guitarist Allan Holdsworth, while Vega straddles the territory between the two and Phillips is the perfect choice for the Hendrix cover. And while Landau's voice is hard to ignore, Garfield's no slouch either, delivering a fleet-fingered solo on the ambling funk of "Aliens.
The energy level is high and the album is definitely about soloing, but Garfield is also a fine writer of ten pieces, collaborating with others including bassist Jimmy Johnson, EWI player Steve Tavaglione and Landau.
All too often fusion albumsespecially session-based ones with no consistent core bandcome across as nothing more than an opportunity for soloists to ply their wares, most times with minimal regard for the essence of the material. The State of Things is a welcome exception where the only thing as impressive as the many players' virtuosic yet meaningful facility is their respect for the writing and, despite their sometimes raw power, an avoidance of self-indulgence and excess. This is fusion as it should be.
Me; Five Storks; Miles (Milestones); Black Cadillac; Forrest for the Trees; If Six Was Nine; Aliens; Naima; Toast for Eli; Nardis; Chimo; Tsunami.
David Garfield: piano, keyboards, synthesizers, spoken word (6); Martin Landau: guitar (all
tracks except 10), vocals (6); Larry Klimas: saxophone on (2,3,5,7-9,11); Steve Tavaglione:
Akai EWI (2,4,5,9,11,12); Brandon Fields: saxophone (10); Walt Fowler: flugelhorn (2,8,10);
Eddie Van Halen: guitar (intro right side and high part on chorus on 6); Terry Trotter:
piano (10); Allan Holdsworth: solo guitar, synthaxe and guitar pads (12); Abraham Laboriel
(3,8); John Pe
Ambient / New Age Beyond Jazz Big Band Blues Brazilian Classical Electronica Free Improv / Avant-Garde Fringes of Jazz Funk / Groove Fusion / Progressive Rock Jam Band Modern Jazz R&B / Soul Reggae / Ska Straight-ahead (Bop, Hard bop, Cool)