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(53 min, Progrock)
TRACK LIST: 1. Liberty 8:04 2. Sleight of Hand & Foot 7:57 3. A Note to Jordan 7:09 4. Hasta Manana 7:13 5. Waiting for Bela 6:27 6. The Nightcap 7:17 7. A Dog & His Boy 4:49 8. The Good Life 4:46 LINEUP: Frank Lucas - keyboards Chuck White - drums Steve Edsey - bass With Edger Gabriel - violin
Prolusion. Keyboardist Frank LUCAS, drummer Chuck WHITE and bassist Steve EDSEY present their first joint effort whose title, made up of the capital letters of the participants' last names, inevitably arouses associations with ELP. The trio hails from the American state of Illinois, Lucas and White having previously played together in the Michael Angelo group. The project's founder and principal songwriter, Lucas is an apprentice of Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, The Rudess Morgenstein Project), with whom he has studied over the last 12 years. He also has two solo albums to his credit: "A Little Secret" (1997) and "Let's Play" (2000).
Analysis. Among his benefactors, Frank Lucas lists Jordan Rudess, Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Chick Corea, T Lavitz and Bela Fleck, but only the names of the former three occasionally come to my mind when I listen to "LWE". While the album's sonic palette isn't poor in, say, vintage colors (those referring to electric piano, organ and string synthesizer in particular), their influence upon the overall sound is too little to imbue it with the spirit of the '70s. So I think I am correct in perceiving "LWE" as a modern take on what the concept of a classic keyboard trio might mean. Besides, I believe it was one of the group's main purposes to avoid resemblance with the matter's most orthodox manifestations, and they have succeeded in that. The eight instrumental compositions, while touching different, at times opposite directions, are all brimming with the musicians' enthusiasm for what they do, though it's certainly Frank Lucas who is the main moving force in this action, shining with mastery and inventiveness everywhere he plays first fiddle in the field of soloing, which to be sure, he does almost everywhere on the recording. To clarify the meaning of "almost", I should note that Liberty, Hasta Manana and Waiting for Bela each features a magnificent piano-laden Classical interlude, in which Lucas shares the lead with the guest violin player Edger Gabriel. Steve Edsey's bass episodically comes to the fore on most of the jazz-inflected pieces (which are also notable for syncopated movements by the entire trio), and two of these, Sleight of Hand & Foot and The Nightcap, have moments that find him improvising exclusively to Chuck White's drumming. The most impressive thing the group displays in the department of their joint performance is their ability to subtly slacken and accelerate their pace, which is brightly evinced on the opening composition Liberty for instance, though their respectful attitude towards odd meters shouldn't be overlooked either. The stylistic picture of the CD is as follows. Liberty and A Note to Jordan both refer directly to classically influenced Symphonic Progressive (by means of a keyboard trio), the former being abundant in string arrangements and having an amusing military-like tune in the finale, with the synthetic whistle joyously trilling to the marching drums. Well, the latter is free of any 'strings', but its essence doesn't change because of that fact. Waiting for Bela and Hasta Manana possess all the qualities typical of Liberty, but reveal digressions from the style as well. To be more precise, no less than one third of the former piece is true Jazz-Fusion, while the latter features only one section (right before its finale) that distinctly smacks of jazz. Neither strings nor symphonic patterns in general can be found on the last three tracks, The Nightcap, A Dog & His Boy and The Good Life, which however shouldn't scare away traditional Prog lovers, since most improvisations are composed and, thus, the music remains intelligible even for those strangers to Jazz-Fusion. What's curious is that all symphonic works are affirmative in character, unlike some of those from the other category (above all The Nightcap), while normally we have a totally opposite picture in similar situations. Another bonus to the group's piggy bank of virtues.
Conclusion. "LWE" is a very impressive debut release, deserving to be noticed in both the symphonic and fusion camps. As it's clear that Lucas is able to handle two keyboards simultaneously, I believe the recording features little overdubs. In any event, it retains a quite vivid 'live' feeling almost throughout, so the trio should have no problems while presenting their material on the scene.
VM: Agst 17, 2006
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