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(44:46, The Laser's Edge Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Controversy 4:16 2. Splinter 3:20 3. Fisher's Gambit 5:15 4. Hand Full of Earth 6:17 5. Sinfonia 2:48 6. Giant Steps 2:54 7. At Taliesin 4:06 8. Big Sky Wanting 5:58 9. The Big Idea 6:13 10. Unquity Road 3:40 LINEUP: Sean Malone – bass, Stick; programming Sean Reinert – drums Bob Bunin – guitar With: Trey Gunn – Warr guitar (8) Mixed choir (9)
Prolusion. The recording under review is the reissue of “Cortlandt”, first solo album by renowned American bassist and songwriter Sean MALONE, the founder and the primary mastermind behind Cynic and Gordian Knot. Not counting the appearance of the extra track, Unquity Road, this edition has only a few minor changes compared to its original version, one of which lies in the fact that it has been newly remastered.
Analysis. On “Cortlandt” Sean investigates the many sides of the Jazz-Fusion genre as well as some other styles, and therefore moves quite beyond what he’s done on either of the discs that precede and follow this one, Cynic’s “Focus” and the self-titled Gordian Knot debut respectively. The connection is only evident on Splinter, the sole of the ten instrumentals here that can be defined as progressive Jazz Metal, opening the line of the disc’s highlights, which (at least as regards complexity) also include Controversy, Giant Steps and Unquity Road. While being classic jazz-fusion creations, these three and the aforesaid piece are similar in their overall development, all revealing some new textural or melodic details with each successive listen and generally portraying the compositional, improvisational, jazz, rock and, proper, progressive possibilities of this trio in the most favorable light. The music is fairly original, but in terms of style it can be compared to John Patitucci as well as the Pat Metheny Group, Unquity Road being a rendering of Metheny’s composition. There are three more tunes that consist of intense arrangements also, Hand Full of Earth, The Big Idea and At Taliesin, but since these are rhythmically pronounced, all should probably be classified as fusion rather than jazz-fusion pieces, though the guitar technique on At Taliesin is not too dissimilar to the one Robert Fripp pioneered on his milestone solo album “Exposure”. What we also get on this disc is a floating space fusion landscape with some hints of Pink Floyd (Fisher's Gambit), a reading of Bach by the duo of Stick and guitar (Sinfonia), pure World Music (Big Sky Wanting) and, well, some jovial wordless choir singing in the finale of The Big Idea, though I see this tune has been already mentioned. Unlike the groovy pieces however, there is a great sense of melody in each of those three tracks-in-brackets, all seeming to be touched by the wing of magic, so these can sustain a lot of replaying, believe you me. Finally two more observations concerning the recording as a whole: The sound is generally more saturated than the one we normally expect from a trio. The interplay between bass, guitar and drums is often augmented by piano, synthesizer or even brass-like patterns, so I believe Malone deploys either midi-Stick or some MIDI devices. Only a couple of tracks contain sections for Sean’s bass or Stick histrionics, so besides his skills as composer and arranger, I really appreciate the fact that he rarely overshadows his partners, guitarist Bob Bunin and drummer Sean Reinert, and so that this recording, even though billed as a solo project, sounds like a genuinely group effort almost throughout.
Conclusion. While not on a par with any of the aforementioned albums by him and coming across in a way as a time-out between those two fairly extreme jazz-metal affairs, Sean Malone’s “Cortlandt” is nonetheless a very good recording, whether you take it as a solo effort or as the output of a trio. Omnivorous fans of Jazz-Fusion and related styles shouldn’t miss it at any rate.
VM: April 18, 2008
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