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.
DVD-1 launches with Austrian guitarist Alex Machacek, bassist Neal Fountain and drummer Jeff Sipe whirling through odd-metered unison lines, and pummeling, groove-based workouts on "Strafe". Machacek's brusque legato lines help galvanize the trio's intensity, yet they temper the pitch in spots on the following piece "Very Sad," where tricky time signatures augment Fountain's cyclical, subtle and tuneful bass parts. The excitement continues with drummer Ranjit Barot, keyboardist Scott Kinsey and others working through two peppery, polyrhythmic Indo-fusion compositions, amid a mind-altering duo spot between the drummer and electric violinist Bala Bhaskar on the opener, "Vignesh Kirtanam. Barot's extremely quick left hand comes to fruition and as he punches out the complex beats with unrelenting force and precision. Guitarist Wayne Krantz joins the band for the second workout, and fronts his trio with bass great Anthony Jackson, and highly energized drummer Cliff Almond on "Why."
Extreme fusion often underscored with a worldly pulse imprints an alternating current throughout the festival, evidenced by Kinsey's Human Element band, which is patterned from a Joe Zawinul, Weather Report-ish stylization. Then Sipe returns to the drum chair with legendary guitarist Jimmy Herring, Fountain and keyboardist Matt Slocum for two compositions. They tackle George Harrison's "Within You, Without You," which is engineered on the melodious primary theme, then lofted into the red zone due to the guitarist's super-speed single note licks, treated with his artful use of the tremolo bar and cleanly-articulated improvisational processes. Herring is a source of amazement here.
Entrancing performances by drummer Lenny White's band, spanning revved up funk, jazz-rock and his signature style rhythmic mechanics, generate a pumping foundation for Herring and guitarist Tom Guarna who trade complementary fours and nasty riffs. Otherwise, McLaughlin's unit finalizes the gala with two works. Appearing dapper with a sport jacket, the guitarist exudes awe and the utmost respect from his peers and advocates, witnessed by his trickling hyper-notes executed at the speed-of-light. However, remembrances of his pioneering East Indian band Shakti reappear on the mesmeric duet with former band-mate and premier tabla performer Zakir Hussain on "Mother Tongues."
The second DVD comprises a tribute to McLaughlin, rendered by Machacek, Krantz and others with visual fadeouts, morphing into additional band footage. And the camera crew lets the tape roll, showing candid discussions by Herring, Sipe, Machacek and Krantz. They're captured behind the scenes, casually iterating about Abstract Logix' significance wtihin the current state of electric jazz, and other loosely based topics. Although Krantz offers a bit of humorous imagery as he reflects upon his youth in Oregon, seeing the Mahavishnu Orchestra at a concert hall after attending a concert by pop-rock guitarist Steve Miller the prior week. Comparisons, of course, may be in the eye of the beholder, yet this thought summons a few chuckles via the disparity of musicianship and contrasting fascination factor.
This is a comprehensive audio-visual statement that should endure for many years to come. The Abstract Logix label is imprinting a paradigm that assists with sparking a nouveau outlook for a musical form that was frequently maligned throughout the 1980s and beyond. This situation was partly exacerbated when quality gave way to post-fusion wannabes, who seemed more focused on soloing atop forgettable compositions, inducing a bastardized version of the genre. Thankfully, the mid to late 80s fusion scene witnessed a rebirth, accelerated by the advent of Vital Information, Tribal Tech and other ensembles that heralded a more cohesive sound design and approach. For now, Abstract Logix blows it out of the water with this must-see flick.
Running Time: 193 minutes.