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TRACK LIST: 1. Hipster Spinster 6:06 2. March to Orion 5:11 3. Mystic Jam 7:27 4. Market Square 8:12 5. Hide & Seek 3:58 6. Jazzmin 5:07 7. Say What 3:38 8. The Timekeeper 2:52 9. 28 Degrees 4:33 10. Neon Noodle 4:16 11. Z'hadum 10:25 12. Phantom Lair 4:41 13. Break a Leg 4:02 14. Christine's Theme 2:40 LINEUP: Vic Samalot Ц guitars Bobbi Holt Ц keyboards Jeffrey Scott Ц basses Ivan George Ц drums With: Vince Broncaccio Ц drums (8, 10) Phil Quidort Ц trumpet (4)
Prolusion. The US band RARE BLEND was formed back in 1993, initially as a duo consisting of Samalot and Holt, but later expanding its line-up to become a quartet. In the 18 years this outfit has existed in one form or another it has released five full-length productions, of which "Sessions" is the most recent.
Analysis. "Sessions" is a rather unique production in the history of this band, apparently. While their first four albums were dominated by material written and subsequently recorded, this most recent effort documents another aspect of this band's repertoire, namely improvised music. I understand that Rare Blend is well known for their endeavors in this field, but that this is the first time they have chosen to dedicate a full-length album to it. The disc as such is divided into three sections. The initial four tracks are live-in-concert performances; the following six pieces represent live studio improvisations, while the final quartet are one-offs performed as soundtracks for the silent movies Metropolis and The Phantom of the Opera, respectively. And whilst this division isn't important in itself, the fact that the band explores subtly different types of material in each of these surroundings does make it a fact worth mentioning. Progressive Jam Fusion is the description put forth by this quartet when describing their music, and for the material at hand here УInstrumentalФ can be added to that list. And while there are nuances at play, and there is a variety to the material explored, it is strictly within the realms of jazz rock and fusion. That is the stronghold of this four-piece, and while some numbers may not be certifiable full-blooded examples, all of them have the roots and foundations there, the latter most often represented by the rhythm section and the bass guitar in particular. Free-flowing, circulating bass motifs are something of a red thread throughout, and only rarely in a manner which won't be instantly familiar to anyone with an affection for jazz in general and jazz-rock in particular. The drums aren't quite as genre-bound, but more often than not they emphasize rather than contrast with this aspect of the material. Guitars and keyboards cater for the most dominant improvisational aspects throughout. Whilst the rhythm section in places may actually have the leading creative role, the guitars and keyboards are most often given the most prominent and most easily-heard roles as such. And these two instruments also provide most of the variety at hand, adding additional flavors to the proceedings. For the quartet of tracks opening and ending the disc, the guitars add in some neat psychedelic touches on select occasions, with gentle, reverberating melodic licks as the expressional detail of choice. And the tangents spice up the arrangements by way of supplying symphonic and cinematic textures, the latter of which are limited to the final efforts on this CD where they might be described as having a natural home. The studio one-offs are less adventurous in stylistic scope, but highlight the main characteristics of this quartet well: melodic, free-flowing jazz rock where technical aspects are downplayed rather than emphasized, with a subtle and careful use of dissonances to craft sophisticated moods and melodies.
Conclusion. Rare Blend is a nice band and "Sessions" represents a fine example of improvised material in the jazz rock vein. And while not remarkable enough to make a grand impression as such, those who generally tend to enjoy instrumental excursions of this kind should find their tastes addressed quite well, in particular those who have a soft spot for material with an emphasis on melody and good flow.
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