Any Jazz musician will tell you that playing Fusion is risky business, as blending styles and sounds together can create just as much cacophony as harmony. The trick is to bend the rules enough to sound new and interesting, but not so much as to estrange the listener and leave the audience wondering if your last note was a mistake or not. It’s obvious that vocalist Akiko Pavolka and her band have learned this lesson well. From this CD’s first note to its last, the players’ artistic intent is whole, uncompromised, and lovingly communicated.
Composed entirely by Akiko and Matt Pavolka, and combining elements of Funk, Rock, Latin Jazz, Free Jazz, New Age, as well as Japanese Enka Music, House of Illusion creates a world of haunting beauty that also allows you to get down. Fat basslines push the groove, Fender Rhodes piano lines are sprinkled in just the right places, and Pavolka’s vocals are clean and strong without being overbearing or overdone (however cheesy you might find the lyrics). The instrumentalists’ technical gifts are a perfect match for Pavolka’s compositional ones, and it’s clear that all members are steeped in the "go-nuts-groovily" traditions of Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay
, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters
, and just about anything by Mahavishnu Orchestra.
They can blow like pros too! On Mel’s Island, the sixth track, Hess and Rende take gorgeous, vibrant solos that grow with intensity and show their champion Jazz chops. Matt Pavolka’s bass is chunky, deep, and filled with emotion, and it’s never too busy or too sparse. Finally, Lindberg lends a special texture and depth, filling in the spaces while effortlessly setting the pace. Bridge
is aptly named for its ability to link musical elements from disparate styles and cultures without clashing, which makes this release a notable achievement.