Jazz fusion drummer Bob Holz and longtime friend, bassist extraordinaire Stanley Clarke (Return to Forever) record together for the first time, namely on two tracks, also featuring bassist Ralphe Armstrong (Mahavishnu Orchestra) and a stellar cast of East and West Coast musicians. Nonetheless, Holz doesn't reinvent the wheel here, but conveys a cheerful vibe via his solid compositions and buoyant arrangements that equate to a contemporary slant on jazz fusion. With that notion in mind, Holz and associates have not relegated their craft to easy listening smooth jazz. Essentially, the artists' muscular and spiraling solo spots backed by the leader's in-the-pocket grooves help elevate matters into gutsy and brash musical statements, periodically streamlined by memorable hooks and alternating currents.
The opening track "Split Decision," tenders a congenial theme with tasteful melodic passages offset by blaring horns and Billy Steinway's sweeping Hammond B-3 organ clusters. However, Clarke and Armstrong muster a dual bass attack on "Next in Line" and "Jammin Man," where the former's signature style comes to the forefront as he executes flickering notes across his fretboard along with fluid chord progressions and soulful single note runs. Moreover, Armstrong appears on most of these works and lays down a pliant undercurrent throughout. At times the ensemble enlivens a 1970s fusion vista with sonorous horn arrangements, snappy pulses and forceful soloing by trumpet great Randy Brecker (tracks 3 & 4) and other passages where the frontline trades fours, often leading to climactic opuses.
Holz and Armstrong provide strong foundations for the soloists with punchy cadences along with guitar heroics by Austrian guitar whiz Alex Machacek on "Light and Dark." But "Espresso Addiction," surfaces as a soulful, yet nondescript and perhaps obligatory vocal track sung by Dave Porter that lacks a significant primary theme. Otherwise, Frank Stepanek's Spanish acoustic guitar work on the aptly titled "Spanish Plains," rides above a medium- tempo rhythmic pattern and features his fancy fretwork along with some Wes Montgomery style jazz phrasings. Therefore, Holz's third album as a leader transfers his personal vision into a broadly entertaining sojourn, underscored with congenial qualities and a distinct game-plan.
Split Decision; Espresso Addiction; Next In Line; Jammin’ Man; Richie’s Trip; Pink Fur; West Coast Blues;
Light & Dark; Spanish Plains; Flat Out.
Bob Holz: drums; Stanley Clarke: bass (3, 4); Ralphe Armstrong: bass (3, 4, 6, 7, 10); Randy Brecker: trumpet
(3, 4); Billy Steinway: keyboards; Alex Machacek: guitar (1, 8); Chet Catallo: guitar (10); Frank Stepanek:
guitar, bass, keyboards; Dave Porter: vocals (2); Andrew Ford: bass (1, 2, 5, 7); Ada Rovatti: reeds (1, 2, 5, 6,
7, 8, 10); David Goldberg: reeds (1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10); Andrew Lippman: trombone: (1, 5, 6, 7); Louis Ludovic:
trumpet (1, 5, 6, 7); Jeff Jarvis: trumpet (7, 10).