Innovative? Atypical? Illuminating? Yes, to all of these terms when describing Steven Messenger’s Edge of the Wall. Messenger takes a bold step into the large, diverse universe of music and immediately, without reservation, plunges into introducing his confident brand of crossover jazz or, more accuarately in my opinion, new age. A multi-instrumentalist who is playing every instrument on this album, Messenger's quest to take music across defined boundaries and into uncharted waters is not an uncommon one among those who think a bit outside the box. Still, his style is his own and it's clear as he endeavors to place his eclectic spin on new age.
As strange as this may sound, this is not an album that I can envision Messenger performing live. Rather, it’s such an amazing experiment in probing sound manipulation in a controlled setting that I would imagine it difficult to transfer to the raw live setting. I could be wrong and I’d happily welcome him proving it.
There are many tunes to note here, but his version of southern rocker Gregg Allman’s "Midnight Rider" is perhaps my favorite piece. Simply put, it’s something that one has to hear and personally experience. "Unique" is a real understatement.
The only negative would be that Messenger’s use of the rather shrill Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI) on "Sequious" is a bit excessive for me and the melody is a bit monotonous. By contrast, "On the Wings of Angels," with its ethereal phrasing and resonant guitar work, worked beautifully for me. "Jo’s Song" would have also worked for me as a most flavorful cut were it not for the EWI again (okay, so this may not be one of my favorite instruments). Nonetheless, the funk is evident and there is melody, though sometimes lost in the sound experimentation.
Overall, aside from the EWI (which, for me, actually stole a little something from the artistry of this work), Edge of the Wall "works" as a noteworthy new age project.