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(70 min, Great Winds)
TRACK LIST: 1. Thanx 3:13 2. Food Prince 4:07 3. An Elephant 3:53 4. Medication 3:20 5. Sweet Link 5:57 6. Bifidus Aktif 4:17 7. Pa By Ma 5:06 8. At the Milk 3:45 9. Quizzland 3:38 10. Froggy Style 4:15 11. Couleur Blue 3:07 12. Fanfare & Slap 4:29 13. Fripatronik 4:26 14. Jusko File 3:40 15. Hola Dis Mais Hola 3:34 16. Zolifan 5:01 17. Muse Et Ame 4:56 All tracks: by Schneider. Produced by Schneider. SOLO PILOT: Fred Schneider - basses; guitars; keyboards; drums; programming With: Six more musicians on electric guitar & drums
Prolusion. Fred SCHNEIDER is a jazz trained musician from France, who is known to some fans of the genre above all for being a bass player in the cult French band Toxicomoon. "Kess Kiss Bass?" is his second solo effort, following "Fred & Co" (1996).
Analysis. In spite of what Fred's principal type as a musician and the album's title suggest, this music is not a kind of schoolbook for the novice bassists, but is a full-fledged Jazz-Fusion, showing the seriousness of its creator's intentions, as a composer and as a multi-instrumentalist. Yes, Fred is equally masterful in playing each of the instruments credited (bass, electric and acoustic guitars, electric piano, organ, synthesizers and drums), never giving preference to some of them to the detriment of the others. So the sonic palette appears to be both cohesive and saturated nearly everywhere on the material. Of course, the participation of a few guest musicians in the project is also of help in this respect. The music varies by complexity and structural peculiarities, but the energy level, melodic lines, harmonic characteristics and propensity for improvisation place most of these 17 instrumentals (15, to be precise) squarely at the cutting edge of what is traditionally regarded as "fusion". Well, the term is quite indistinct. In this very case, the primary style is nothing else but classic Jazz-Fusion with certain 'contemporary' tendencies, particularly those concerned the wide use of possibilities of modern synthesizers (here: to reproduce mainly the sounds of brass and string instruments). The distant echoes of solo creation of John Patituci and Dave Weckl can be heard on some of the tracks; some others might bring to mind the names of Chick Corea, Steve Hunt and Allan Holdworth, although I understand that the exceptional originality of most of the stuff should have prevented me from using direct points of comparison. What's most important in this category of progressive music is that Fred Schneider never loses a sense of proportion while doing improvisations. The distinct emotional component is kept on each of the tracks, and each of them, without exception, is nearly as colorful as the works of theatric Art-Rock, creating vivid metaphorical pictures in the mind of the listener being on an equal footing with symphonic and improvisational harmonies. It would be unjust to continue singing the praises of the album nonstop. Two pieces, Thanx and Couleur Blue, are poor in tempo changes, although the latter is a very inflammatory composition, with a driving Rock sound. But that's not a big deal in this case, because the others are wonderful in all senses, the two still unnamed included. Food Prince and Medication each has a pronounced chamber feel to it, being filled with sounds of violins, oboe and other woodwind and string instruments, weaving beautiful patterns around the parts of bass and acoustic guitar. Both manifest another of Fred's passions - for Classical Academic music, as well as his strong command of that genre's laws, too.
Conclusion. I am almost certain that "Kess Kiss Bass?" will be reissued in the Jazz Masters series one day, though not in the near future, considering the current situation about progressive music. This album is very close to the status of masterpiece and can be highly recommended to anyone whose horizon isn't confined within the cage of Neo Prog / Metal. Those still thinking that jazz and symphonic music aren't soul mates have an excellent chance to change their opinion. Top-20-2005
VM: September 16, 2005
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