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TRACK LIST: 1. Electric Fields 3:29 2. Urban Experiments 3:58 3. Mad Bar 4:17 4. Homework 4:15 5. Corny 4:51 6. Gorilla Man 2000 3:28 7. Kill Swing 2:54 8. Space Cowboy 3:24 9. Reflection 3:28 10. Slide Tune 3:58 11. Plot in Motion 3:38 12. Afghanistan Blues 5:13 13. Spank Me 9:37 All tracks: by Hoekstra. LINE-UP: Joel Hoekstra - guitar Virgil Donati - drums Ric Fierabracci - bass With: Chris Grove - keyboards (on most tracks) Jay Cappo - keyboards (2, 3, 5, 7, 8, & 10) Doug Ackman - keyboards (5, 6, 9, & 10) Ken Partyka - saxophones (2 & 4) Steve Graeber - saxophone (2 & 3) John Rice - banjo & mandolin (8) Howard Levy - harmonica (13) Cathy Richardson - vocals (13) Produced by Hoekstra & T. J. Helmerich. Engineered mainly by T.J. Helmerich.
Prolusion. Guitarist and composer Joel Hoekstra has released two albums thus far - both under his own name: "Undefined" (2000) and "The Moon Is Falling" (2003). Apart from Joel himself, the core members of the line-up on both of them are drummer Virgil Donati of Planet X fame and bassist Ric Fierabracci known for his work with Andy Summers.
Synopsis. This 56-minute output features 13 tracks, two of which are with vocals. By the way, it was a wise decision to name it "Undefined", and I believe it has been done knowingly - after the album was already finished, and its pronounced stylistic inconsistency, which came out of Joel's touchingly naive desire to show how many different music styles he is able to cover, became obvious. Judge yourselves: the stylistic picture of the album is motley rather than diverse. Electric Fields, Corny, and Kill Swing (1, 5, & 7) represent a high-quality Jazz-Fusion with lots of bright solos of guitar and bass, syncopations, etc. Gorilla Man 2000 (6) is on the whole in the same vein, but there is in addition quite a large quantity of heavy elements in its structures. Although there are in places such ordinary techniques as solos done in fourth and fifth, the three pieces that feature session saxophonists: Urban Experiments, Mad Bar, and Homework (2, 3, & 4) are more complex and more improvisational in character than any of the four tracks I've described first and are notable for the alternation of solos of guitar and saxes at the helm of arrangements. Stylistically, all of them represent Modern Jazz with elements of Jazz-Fusion rather than vice versa. Reflection, Slide Tune, Plot in Motion, and Afghanistan Blues (9 to 12) are about a guitar Art-Rock with elements of Symphonic Art-Rock and only the bits of Jazz-Fusion and are the best tracks on the album - at least from the progressive standpoint. All of these are not only rich in varied progressive features, but also contain some magic, all of which makes them really outstanding compositions. Both of the songs on the album: Space Cowboy and Spank Me (8 & 13) are absolutely free of originality and diversity and are just corny jokes. The rollicking banjo and harmonica, the hissing of a gramophone record, the old-fashioned-like male and female vocals, and the same old-fashioned Rock & Roll - there is nothing that would be worthy of note. By the way, some tracks on the album look like the benefit performance of bass, the parts of which are the most diverse and inventive there. Furthermore, bass is the only instrument on the album that remains at the forefront of arrangements throughout it. Some tracks contain bright solos of organ and synthesizer, but for the most part, keyboards are used as a background for soloing 'battles' between guitar and bass.
Conclusion. Overall, "Undefined" is a very promising debut and was an important stage in the development of Joel's creative mastery, which becomes especially evident after listening to >"The Moon Is Falling". If the aforementioned songs were not included in the album, I would have rated it with five stars.
VM: October 16, 2003
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