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TRACK LIST: 1. At the Eve of Time 1:50 2. Triumphal Return 10:51 3. Only a Wish 8:04 4. Latin Rhythm 6:18 5. Private Eyes 9:33 6. Jazz It 10:13 7. Eternal Ride 9:00 All tracks: by Itoh, except 4, 6, & 7: Tamura. All arrangements: Side Steps. LINE-UP: Hiroaki Itoh - keyboards Atsunobu Tamura - guitar Koichi Iwai - bass Ichiro Fukawa - drums Produced by Side Steps. Engineered by T. Nakamura at "Park Side", Japan.
Prolusion. It is only known that "Steps on the Edge", first released in 1994 in Japan only, is the fourth of six albums that Side Steps has in its discography. I could not find information on the Internet that could shed more light on the band's creation.
Synopsis. All seven of the tracks on the album were created within the framework of a completely unified stylistics representing a highly complex, diverse and unique Jazz Rock, which was performed by dints of Jazz Classical Music and is beyond any possible comparisons. The short keyboard-based At the Eve of Time (1) is the only piece here, which is quiet in its entirety. The alternation of dense, relatively mild, and soft textures is the twist of Triumphal Return and, to a lesser degree, Only a Wish (3 & 4). The other compositions consist predominantly of highly intensive and ever changing, yet, always structured arrangements created by almost exclusively high-speed and improvised, yet, always melodically logical solos of all of the instruments involved: synthesizer and piano, guitar, bass, and drums. Especially hard-edged are Latin Rhythm and Jazz It (4 & 6). However, I didn't find more or less distinct traces of the so-called Latin music on that track, though it would probably be more precise to say that I didn't find them on the album at all. As mentioned above, the style is monolithic and, apart from those typical for such music in general, does not contain any characteristics that would arouse some associations with the other genres, not to mention the other Jazz Rock and Jazz-Fusion bands and performers. The keyboardist and one of the two masterminds behind the band, Hiroaki Itoh, is certainly a big lover of the sounds of the pan-flute, as it often uses the corresponding registers of synthesizer. Atsunobu Tamura switches "Distortion" and "Overdrive" pedals not that often, so many of the electric guitar solos sound almost like those of acoustic guitar. Koichi Iwai is an incredibly inventive and virtuosi bass player, and I doubt that his very active participation in the band's arrangements is much less significant than compositional talent of the said musicians. As for drummer Ichiro Fukawa, I wouldn't be lying if I said that he plays his instruments as masterfully as all of his band mates play theirs.
Conclusion. The album, reviewed here, is definitely a masterpiece and is probably the best product of a pure Jazz Rock released in the '90s. In short, this is not >Jazz-Fusion, at least in my comprehension of the genre. So I think "Steps on Edge" can be highly recommended only to those who loves jazz, which 'rocks', but simultaneously, can accept the absence of genuine symphonic textures in their favorite music.
VM: March 10, 2004
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