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TRACK LIST: 1. Nouveau Depart 5:40 2. Opinion 7:22 3. La Grand 4:28 4. Some Food 4:26 5. Maverick 5:57 6. Progression 3:01 7. Stay Put 5:27 8. Z 4:09 All music: by Martin. All arrangements: Upright. LINE-UP: Eric Martin - basses Annam Nguyen - guitars Bernard Barribeau - saxophones Marc-Etienne Savage - keyboards Jerome Chamberland - drums Produced by Martin. Engineered by M. Moreno.
Prolusion. "Opinion" is the second album by the Canadian band Upright, led by bassist and composer Eric Martin. According to him, the band split soon after their first album was released (seven years ago) because each of its members wanted to take a different musical direction. Now, Eric is the sole leader of the band, all of the other members of which are novices.
Synopsis. I haven't heard the debut Upright album, but on "Opinion" the band looks to be a completely jazzy formation. The album consists of eight instrumental compositions, and all of them are stylistically unified. The music is original and strong, the arrangements develop constantly, but everything here is based exclusively on improvisations, all of which are purely jazzy in character. All the band members actively participate in the creation of a musical picture, using unusual meters, syncopations, and complex joint stop-to-play movements. Nevertheless, the tandem of bass and saxophone is more often at the helm than the others, and the sax solos give an especially striking jazzy taste to the material. In short, this music is not Jazz-Fusion, which, in my conception, is a confluence of Jazz and at least one of the Progressive Rock genres or sub-genres (usually Art-Rock or Space Rock). In my honest opinion, all of this is more about a pure Jazz, performed by a traditional Rock-format outfit, than Jazz Rock as such, as the music is much jazzier than that by classic Jazz Rock heroes: Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever, If, etc, not to mention that by Jazz-Fusion bands, starting with >Brand X and >David Rose Group. The only piece that at least partly corresponds to my notion of Jazz-Fusion is Some Food (4) with a couple of synthesizer solos, which seem to be melodically adjusted. The last track: Z (8) is somewhat of a showcase piece for Martin, as there is an episode featuring a long and diverse bass solo done with marginal support of the other musicians. Surprisingly, there are many more changes of musical dimension and tempo on "Opinion" than we can usually meet in such kinds of music, but as for a mood, I don't perceive any moods while listening to it. Traditional jazz fans would categorically disagree with me on the matter, but anyway, being a 'classic' Prog-head, I just can't look at the thing through their eyes (or hear it through their ears). After all, I believe they won't deny the fact that African and European cultures, including music, are very different among themselves. The notorious 'cry of a soul' as the consequence of the joint musicianship of several 'swinging' people is beyond my comprehension, and I think I am not alone in that.
Conclusion. "Opinion" is an excellent album with a lot of real progressive features and a simply fantastic musicianship. Yes, this blend of jazz classicism and jazz tradition is definitely progressive, but it hardly suits a traditional conception of progressive music. So this CD can be highly recommended only to those into Weather Report and the like proponents of a swingy, pronouncedly jazzy Jazz Rock.
VM: April 8, 2004
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