The first time I heard Main Gazane's CD entitled Hip Space, I knew beyond the shadow of any doubt that I had hit the mother load of smooth jazz compatibility. Although I have my concerns about the relevance of smooth jazz as an art form, sometimes the music can be entertaining when some degree of creativity can be attached. In my mind, that is exactly what Main Gazane has done on 13 successive tracks of beautifully crafted tunes.
Bordering on the contemporary style, Hip Space features one cover song coupled with 12 original compositions written by keyboardist Mark Minchello. Saxophonist John Coltrane wrote the first track entitled Naima. Main Gazane’s version has saxophonist Bob Magnuson taking the lead for Coltrane, which features a nicely-woven electro-modern groove incorporated into its presentation. The cut also features an underlayment of accenuated vocal reminders of John Coltrane built-in to Magnuson's saxophone melody. From then on, Minchello and Magnuson skip the smooth jazz fantastic with a multitude of highly evolved melodic transformations.
Both Minchello and Magnuson anchor Main Gazane as leaders; together, they incorporate varying fundamentals of funk, contemporary, pop, Latin, jazz, electro-house and acid jazz music into their compositions. Their music is crisp, flirtatious and original in approach without the copycat style often heard on many other smooth jazz recordings. Of the 13 tracks, Minchello and Magnuson do their creative best towards keeping the level of anticipation high on Hip Space. The interaction between all the members of Main Gazane keeps the flow from one track to the next fluid. An example of this can be found on the tune entitled Just Cool, written by Bob Magnuson. The melancholy impact exhibited on this song reveals a preponderance of reflection and introspective thought, which can be the basis for a chill-out moment of relaxation.
As mentioned previously, Bob Magnuson and Mark Minchello are the core leaders of Main Gazane. Between the two of them they have a wealth of experience to offer the group. Minchello has previously served as musical director for Regina Belle, Jazz Explosion tours featuring Boney James, Will Downing, Gerald Albright and Phil Perry. He has also worked with Peabo Bryson on the Café Soul All-Stars and toured with the late Luther Vandross. On the other end of creativity, Bob not only brings his compositional expertise to Hip Space, he provides a number of other attributes as well. He is an integral part of the New York studio scene and is featured on many different albums to include Whitney Houston and B.B. King. He has also toured with Three Mo’ Tenors and vocalist Jennifer Holiday. All combined, the two of them bring a wealth of experience to Main Gazane.
The essence of Main Gazane can be found in the band’s underlying premise, which has a meaning describing "my main man" or "my main thing." No matter how they are described, this group fuels one of the most creative and innovative smooth jazz ensembles I have heard to date. In all fairness to Bob Magnuson and Mark Minchello, I offer a caveat of sorts. They are not in totality anchored in smooth, but more in the vein of contemporary styled jazz. In either sense of comparative description, Main Gazane’s Hip Space is worth its weight in originality and purpose. A CD that any jazz connoisseur will find to be fresh and vibrant as well as a welcome addition to their jazz library.