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TRACK LIST: 1. The Bat 1:20 2. Hubbub 5:34 3. Frazzled 5:41 4. Sweet Sorrow 8:46 5. Zigzag 3:55 6. In April 6:31 7. Wait & See 6:04 8. New Bruncwick 4:33 LINEUP: John Irvine – guitar, guitar-synth; keyboards Alan Emslie – drums, percussion Doug Kemp – 5-string bass
Prolusion. Here is THE JOHN IRVINE BAND, hailing from Britain, and their most recent release “Wait and See”. It is unclear from the CD press kit whether it’s their first album or not, albeit there is a note that the band’s members are all experienced musicians in Classical, Rock in Jazz, nationally and internationally.
Analysis. There are eight tracks on this all-instrumental album. Joined by drummer Alan Emslie (quite a well-known musician, who has a few solo outings to his credit) and Doug Kemp on bass, band leader John Irvin plays guitars and keyboards here, from time to time also using guitar synth. Only logically, the music is in most cases more sonically saturated than one by ‘your’ typical guitar trio, especially since some guitar parts have been overdubbed. The prevalent style is classic (totally cohesive) Jazz-Fusion, and those well familiar with Allan Holdsworth’s work might find “Wait and See” to be similar in many ways to his 1993 “Hard Hat Area” release, although this one is somewhat less inward overall, even a sort of romantic at times, especially when the rhythm sections retreats to a groovy presence, such as on Frazzled and In April – throughout in the latter case. Marked by a specific rhythm as well as guitar soloing, this piece is a swing-based blues ballad, the sole mellow track on the record. As to the previously named one, albeit also basically slow-paced, featuring no tension or jaggedness, it is more complicated in arrangement, revealing some fast guitar as well as synthesizer leads, the latter quasi-symphonic in appearance. On Sweet Sorrow, the rhythm section is in places openly straight-forward too; overall however, this is quite a remarkable composition with many contrasting arrangements, and when the band goes heavy (which it does from time to time), John’s riffing is somewhat reminiscent of Allan’s-when-in-Soft Machine, i.e. on “Bundles”. However, it’s pieces like Hubbub, Zigzag and the title one that most of all remind me of Holdsworth’s work, both in composition and style, besides which each of them deploys a guitar-synthesizer that sounds much like Allan’s Syntaxe. In all cases, Irvine’s now fluid, now much less tempered guitar playing, juxtaposed with atmospheric synth backdrops, effectively interacts with drums and bass, the music shifting effortlessly as it goes – more often intense than laid-back, but always eclectic enough to please the ear. The ‘boundary’ tracks of the album, The Bat and New Bruncwick, are pieces of ambient Jazz-Fusion, with only guitar, synthesizer and cymbals in the arrangement, both fairly interesting in their own way. Finally, please note: I never used the term jazz-rock in the review, which in particular means that there are few standard jazz features on this album – I won’t list those, as I did it more than once already in my previous reviews, the one of “Hard Hat Area” included.
Conclusion. Although there is nothing groundbreaking on “Way & Sea”, this is a quality jazz-fusion release overall, performed by skilful musicians. Recommended to advocates of the style, particularly fans of you know whom.
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