VERTU is Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Rachel Z, Karen Briggs & Richie Kotzen, the new music collective conceived by former Return To Forever alumni, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White. Their debut release on LegacySony 550 Music titled, VERTU, is ten tracks full of just what the fusion doctors ordered for those that have been starving for this music. The jazz-rock fusion going down on this CD is AWESOME. The die-hard fusion world has known for many years that Clarke and White are two of the best musicians that ever walked planet Earth, but now that they have united with the modern day guitar rocker Richie Kotzen, formerly of Poison, the infamous violinist Karen Briggs and the ever so talented keyboard artist, Rachel Z, the jazz-rock fusion world will never be the same. From the moment the set opens with “V-Wave,” to Clarke’s closer, “Toys,” you know that the golden age of jazz rock fusion is back complete with its unison lines, radical tempo shifts, the odd-time signatures and fast and furious trading.
Stanley Clarke sets the entire tone of the CD, with bass chops so exact, you can set your life-rhythms to them. On his composition called, “On Top of the Rain,” Richie Kotzen stars his notorious lighting guitar licks as Lenny White works out the skins and holds down the rhythm logic. A dazzling solo by the great Karen Briggs will floor you!! Rachel Z underscores it all with her electric piano and some mighty furious chord changes. “Anoche,” written by Karen Briggs, explains another side of her genetic code and showcases her superior composing ability. Rachel Z is all-knowing on grand piano and Stanley is jamming home a lyrical bass. You only have to listen to “The Call,” to know why Lenny White is considered the fusion genius he is. Continuing the pyrotechnics of former RTF guitarist, Al Di Meola, Kotzen trades licks with Briggs in a remarkably display of string virtuoisity written by White. He exchanges, pulls back to compliment, heightens and then literally lifts you out of your complacency on this funk-driven jam that stays with you long after the track is over. “Danse of the Harlequin,” a more acoustic offering with some drop dead changes by Stanley Clarke, is very introspective with Rachel Z on grand piano and Karen talking to each other in harmony and then building to a dramatic finish. Absolutely amazing. The ensemble intros a potent open on the showcase for Kotzen’s bluesy vocals, “Start It Again.” The R&B vibe set on the track finds Clarke walking all over it and is just the right chaser for the 10-song set. “Toys,” concludes the blazing hot set with Lenny White stretching the art of drumming to another dimension - literally inventing another musical genre. Clarke, Kotzen, Briggs and Z all trade powerful eights on the track you don’t want to end.
Vertu’s self-titled debut on Legacy/Sony 550 Music, should inspire many instrumentalists on the fusion path with the new musical course they are blazing toward the next millennium. VERTU is a magnificent announcement of the “fusion protocol” for the next century and a Return to Virtuosity for the genre of jazz rock fusion.