It's fair to say that albums featuring the marimba as a lead instrument are fairly uncommon. As such, as unfair as it may be, Water And Fire comes with a certain novelty value. My primary exposure to the marimba comes whenever I hear "Under My Thumb, and so this marimba-centric disc is a real embarrassment of riches.
My first impression of the record was the marimba is a really neat sounding instrument. Don Skoog, who composed the music within, is able to coax such a wide range of cascading sound from his instrument that it almost becomes hypnotic. His work seems so fluid and precise that it is like the aural equivalent of a world champion plate spinner. Bassist Steven Hashimoto and drummer Sam Koentopp provide solid support, but one senses that their primary objective is to lay low and let Skoog do his thing. That said, Hashimoto does contribute an intricate solo to "Mozambique.
The compositions are pretty tightly constructed and do not allow for a whole lot of spontaneous musical interplay. However, they are melodically intriguing, seeming to touch upon classical or Latin musical themes whenever the whim strikes. The strutting drums on "Fantasy For L 5 even add a touch of funk to the proceedings.
Water And Fire is a refreshingly different effort. Listeners who are looking for something unique to spice up their typical musical choices are advised to seek it out.