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TRACK LIST: 1. What Now 4:08 2. 90 Miles 6:40 3. Plan B 4:20 4. Opus Nocturne 3:39 5. Colors 4:56 6. Blue December 5:05 7. Beetlejuice 3:56 8. Hot & Sweet 7:45 9. Jiggle the Handle 5:02 10. Java Drive 4:43 11. Acid Reflux 3:56 12. Arhythmia 5:42 13. Connected 6:43 LINEUP: Doug Millaway – keyboards, organ; programming Rob Denton – el. & ac. guitars Bob Johnson – saxophones Filippo Bertacche – drums Paul Wheeler – bass
Prolusion. THIRD LEVEL PROJECT (TLP hereinafter) is an international ensemble consisting of citizens of the States, Canada, Australia and Italy. “Connected” is a successor to their debut output “Blue Ginger” from 2002. To learn all this however, I had to visit the band’s website, as the CD arrived without a press-release.
Analysis. Unlike the outfit’s website, the booklet of “Connected” presents TLP as a trio of musicians who are listed first in the lineup above, all living in North America, and by the way the bass guitar as well as acoustic drum kit indeed only occasionally appear on this recording, most of the corresponding parts being provided by keyboardist Doug Millaway (who actively uses bass pedals) and machinery, respectively. In any case, the sound is fairly lush and saturated throughout the disc, especially since Doug’s usually not afraid :-) of handling two instruments simultaneously: more often organ and piano than synthesizers. Overall, it would be safe to view the entire recording as being solidly based in traditional American jazz-rock values, though of the thirteen instrumental tracks here only the first and the last one, What Now and Connected, fully suit the requirements of the said school, each finding its makers freely improvising on a few themes composed beforehand. These are mostly up-tempo, intense compositions, well developed, with joint unison moves only used as bridges between different sections. The two pieces preceding the title track, Acid Reflux and Arhythmia, are both in many ways similar to it, but are more modern-sounding tunes, additionally revealing some quasi symphonic tendencies. While the highlights of the recording have already been covered, there are three more pieces that, well, aren’t instantly accessible and so are to my liking as well. Like the two compositions described first, 90 Miles, Hot & Sweet and Java Drive are all jazzy pieces also (save for the fact that the first of these often relies on Latin rhythms), again dominated by vintage keyboards. Each contains some refined interplay between organ, piano, guitar and saxophone, as well as a few interesting transitions in theme, but since much of the music is slow-paced, the chord progressions are usually predictable. Otherwise TLP appear to be somewhat less faithful to their foundations, displaying also some English influences, almost all of which belong to the pop Art style, whose brightest representatives, The Alan Parsons Project and Genesis (in the ‘80s of course), both can serve as relative reference points regarding most of the disc’s core tracks, namely Opus Nocturne, Hot & Sweet, Jiggle the Handle and Blue December, along with Yellow Jackets and Bob James, the last of the cuts being in places literally danceable, combining DJs-like stuff with recitatives. Nevertheless, each possesses some salt and therefore is a pretty listenable piece, especially if used as a background for your five-o’clock and so on. The remaining track Colors is even better, expressing a marriage of mellow quasi Jazz-Fusion to light Classical music, with some fine acoustic guitar patterns and fairly convincingly sounding ‘harp’ pizzicatos.
Conclusion. Third Level Project’s “Connected” depicts its creators as true professionals in their chosen field of music and is a fairly pleasing recording in general. However (regardless of all the cited examples etc), I’m not sure that this CD will satisfy fans of classic Jazz-Fusion and, hence, progressive rock lovers in general. It is destined mainly to those preferring traditional Jazz in all its variety of manifestations, mainstream Jazz Rock included.
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