It's a natural extension of New York guitarist Tom Chang's repertoire to combine heavy metal with jazz improvisation in "Spinal Tap/Goes to 11" the opening track of his release Tongue and Groove. Born in South Korea, he moved to Canada with formative teen years listening to rock icons like Joni Mitchell and Led Zeppelin. What comes as an added surprise in this noteworthy release is the fluency that Chang displays in blending not only a jazz-rock aesthetic but also a Johnny Winter meets Miles Davis blues vibe ("Bar Codes"); classical music elements with South Indian music ("Djangolongo") and free jazz ("Sleepwalker").
Chang's imposing skills are evident whether shredding notes or finessing intricate comps. His writing is elevated by some of New York City's finest jazz artists with the two horned frontline of tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby and alto Greg Ward's twisting lines and the compelling rhythmic center of bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Gerald Cleaver holding down multifaceted time signatures with their usual vigor.
Chang's tutelage in South Indian Carnatic music is showcased in the memorable title track with inspiring work from everyone and guest percussionist / vocalist T.H. Subash Chandran. It's reminiscent of works by saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and Pakistani-American guitarist Rez Abbasi and equally striking. To switch things up, the album closes with a rubato-flavored "Entangoed Heart" featuring Rigby's tenor explorations, Lightcap's sinewy bass and Cleaver's explosive kit as Chang expertly adds colorful touches. An impressive debut.
Spinal Tap / Goes to 11; Djangolongo; Variations for Piano Op. 27;
Sleepwalker; Tongue & Groove; Scatterbrain; Bar Codes; The Logos;
Entangoed Heart; Spinal Tap (Tk. 2).
Tom Chang: guitar; Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Jason Rigby: tenor
saxophone; Chris Lightcap: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums; Akshay
Anatapadmanabhan: kanjira, mrindigam; Subash Chandran: konnakol.