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The melting pot mentality of New Orleans is responsible, in some part, for the existence and evolution of jazz in the first place, so it should come as no shock that it still serves a central hub for creativity and experimentation through combinatorial musical means. Guitarist/vocalist/composer Cliff Hines is a product of this environment, but he's also a man of his own time. He mixes, merges and melds many a style into his musical cauldron but, most importantly, he captures the zeitgeist of 2013.
Wanderlust is a world-without-borders journey that finds Hines straddling fences and breaking down barriers. His electro-acoustic wanderings find him in all corners of the musical world, making aural commentary on the World War II bombing of Dresden, Germany ("Dresden"), nuclear and natural disasters in Japan ("Clouds"), and the "Arab Spring" in the Middle East ("Tehran"). He also visits in on the debauchery-filled world of Beat legend William S. Burroughs ("Interzone"), captures his hometown's musical glories ("Aetherea") and speaks generic messages of togetherness ("Brothers").
Hines' core outfit on this outing is a quintet, with drums, bass, guitar, piano, and Sasha Masakowski's entrancing vocals at the center of it all, but nobody would ever know it if they didn't look at the CD. Sixteen guests, who appear on one or more occasion each, cover everything from cello to drum programming to bass clarinet to shortwave radio, helping to broaden the scope of this project; most make their mark and seamlessly fit into the fabric of this music, but a few aren't used to their fullest potential. Famed percussionist Bill Summers, for example, appears on the title track, but his work merely serves as in-the-distance window dressing for Lloyd Dillon's spoken word poetry. Other guests get what they deserve and add volumes to Hines' work. Cellist Helen Gillet's playing on the wonderfully moody, classically-influenced "Dresden Intro" is masterful, engaging pianist Andrew McGowan in a breathtaking dance of darkness. Other standouts include trombonist Michael Watson, who captures the spirit and soul of New Orleans on "Aetherea," and multi-reed player Rex Gregory, who earns his keep on soprano saxophone and bass clarinet.
Hines himself deserves high praise for his playing, but it's his architectural instincts that really stand out here. His music has an otherworldly quality to it and much of it almost comes off more like sound collage than song, but structure is ever-present. He possesses the spirit of a twenty-first century Teo Macero, but he's probably not sitting around cutting and splicing someone else's tape. Hines makes the music on his own, and his ability to connect different ideas seems to come in the art of creation, not severe after-the-fact manipulation. His wanderlust keeps him searching and roaming the musical globe and his music reflects this desire to explore the farthest reaches of the aural world.