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Glenn Astarita

Glenn Astarita

Planet Z poses an interesting contrast. For one, first-call session violinist and active concert performer Susan Aquila uses a Viper 6-string violin to diametrically oppose her classical roots, and performs material composed by symphonic conductor, guitarist, Dr. Robert Tomaro. Hence, the program is centered within the jazz-fusion realm and framed on attractive material that effectively bridges the high-impact schema with numerous off-kilter metrics.

This widely acclaimed band's sixth album furthers its plight of providing the listener with a gamut of compelling contrasts amid a unique stylization that offers additional credence to the pioneering efforts instituted by Cryptogramophone Records. Here, violinist Jeff Gauthier leads a prominent cast through jazz-fusion, bop, free improvisation and resonating harmonic output with an in-your-face type composure to offset an array of tender subtleties and classical inferences.

The band's third album offers a persuasive glimpse into how violinist Jason Kao Hwang fuses the East-West musical contingent into a cohesive pedigree of sound designs and cutting-edge applications that circumvent the norm, even by avant-garde paradigms. The album strikes a captivating balance between structure that is often complex but largely fluid, and free expressionism of numerable shapes and hues. Regardless, Hwang aligns himself with a super-tight ensemble. And they exude a synergistic group dynamic throughout the sum of the briskly moving parts.

The album artwork offers insight into the sound and scope of trumpeter extraordinaire Tim Hagans' 2011 jazz-fusion release. The program is brushed with dark hues and spacey architectures, translating into an impressionistic journey towards the nearest galaxy. But there's plenty of oxygen and life here.

Woodwind specialist Ken Vandermark is a prominent voice in modern jazz and improvisation, emanating from the Chicago scene, and currently a major force in the global community. Here, the artist aligns with fellow Chicagoan, drummer Chad Taylor and Scandinavian pianist Havard Wilk for a bass-less trio session, spawning tightly melodic structures within the progressive-jazz schema and the contrasting improvisational domain. Essentially, the trio seeds a distinct sense of well-being into the project to complement a few movements that project angst or turbulence. It's an engagement centered on equality, as Vandermark and Wilk alternate solos and unite for numerous theme-building episodes.

Indeed, Abstract Logix has developed into a prominent record label, including iconic guitarist John McLaughlin among its roster. The record label has also evolved into prime distributor of jazz-rock, jazz-fusion and progressive-rock audio and visual product. And following up the 2011 2-CD release of these live performances recorded in 2010 at the New Universe Music Festival, Raleigh, North Carolina., this 2-DVD extravaganza backed by the record label tenders a stunning series of performances by many of the more prolific electric jazz artists who have reshaped, and extended this musical genre into the modern age. This DVD also showcases Abstract Logix' roster of stars, culminating into a chops incorporated type panorama and highlighting the artists' compositional and improvisational expertise along the way.

Often cited as Egypt's Ambassador of Rhythm, all-universe percussionist Hossam Ramzy assembles a true, world-fusion gala, featuring virtuoso percussionists integrating Eastern and Western modalities into an all-inclusive celebration. Framed by alternating personnel on a per-track basis, Ramzy is the central force behind these sessions. Augmented by instrumentalists employing keys, guitars, bass, and electronics amid vocalists and strings performers, venerable drummers Manu Katche (France) and Billy Cobham (USA) lend their wares on select works.

John Daversa's arrangements and compositions incorporate a high degree of hip-ness. A superb trumpeter who maximizes his use of the Electric Valve Instrument (EVI) via rippling notes and compelling solo spots within the grand schema, he fuses hip-hop, funk, rock, and the jazz element into an uncannily coherent form-factor. Audacious, brassy, and energized are simply a few appropriate descriptors.

Besides his stature within New York City's enigmatic downtown scene, trumpeter Steven Bernstein's varied resume includes writing and performances with rock and pop legends. Therefore, he possesses an insider and outsider type view, also evidenced by his leadership with the band Sex Mob, known for nicely twisted, reconstructed, and off-kilter covers of famous rock and pop tunes. Here, Bernstein and a large ensemble, including re-mix master Bill Laswell, keyboardist Bernie Worrell and guitarist Vernon Reid loom as vital cogs in the wheel of success, extended across the music of pop-funk icon Sly Stone.

Consummate West Coast guitarist Tony MacAlpine embarks upon a harmonious and at times ferocious search and destroy mission on his 13th solo album. Assisted by bassist Philip Bynoe on one piece, and all-universe drummers Marco Minnemann and Virgil Donati sharing duties, the program offers a hearty track mix. Here, MacAlpine pays close attention to compositional structure unlike many other prog-metal guitar albums, leaning heavily on the technical gymnastics side amid mediocre song-forms. He also multitasks by overlaying keys, bass and handling the programming spectrum. MacAlpine shreds into the netherworld with a spirited modus operandi framed on scorching crunch chords, cleanly articulated legato phrasings, and rifling single note licks.