Here you have a consortium of fabled session musicians/solo artists who seem to do everything just right. Yet unlike many projects of this ilk, these musicians inject a deeply personal slant into the grand scheme of things, abetted by ongoing affiliations and the 1994 advent of the Metro collective. In effect, they skirt and overcome that sometimes opaque delineation of contempo, radio-friendly jazz-fusion with enviable chops, flash and some razzle-dazzle. However, the tall order of the day equates to the group’s strong compositions, generally tinged with melodic hooks and multi-textural sound designs.
It’s a study in contrasts, where Mitch Forman employs electric keys and acoustic piano, to coincide with guitarist Chuck Loeb’s distortion-laced heroics and jazzy chord progressions. On pieces such as "Rio Frio and "Express," the artists work through windswept themes and soaring, in-your-face movements, largely spiced with engaging melody lines. Otherwise, they merge two distinct and perhaps uncommon elements into a stylish group-centric sound. So, staunch jazz-fusion advocates and those who cherish accessibility via songs composed on solid ground should find much to gain by checking out their latest effort.
Drummer Wolfgang Haffner pounds out a booming rock groove during "Up Above The Stars," while Loeb’s wailing licks segue into Forman’s ethereal synth swashes and multi-colored mosaics. And with other works featuring bump, grind and blitzing fusiony passages, they temper the flow on the moody ballad titled "The Standard." Nonetheless, this is a standout effort and marks a personal highlight for me during a very hearty 2007 music year. Simply stated, these folks have concocted a near perfect homogenization of jazz-influenced styles that warrants repeated spins.