To grab a simple title from the lead track here, "Uh-huh." That says it all. Guitarist BD Lenz’s fifth album Straight Up is an energetic display of fusion, with heavy funk as the steering wheel. Lenz’s guitar has a really nice vibe, at times light and airy, at other times funky and aggressive (as much so as jazz fusion guitars go, anyway). He is often compared to Mike Stern (with whom he studied years ago) and Pat Metheny. Great company to hold!
There are many tunes here to like. The opening track is an appropriate tone-setter followed by the telling guitar work on the title track. As the bio states, "The song is a groove-based tune written around the bass line, yet it’s melodic enough for the band to open up and achieve an edgy jam." Well said and very accurate. It doesn’t stop there, however, as track three, "I Take Refuge in U," rolls in as a bass-leading mellow piece with interchanging mood swings amplified by electric fits and starts that provide a cool bite. The melody is most notable. In fact, the entire song is simply very well-written and phrased. The melodic sweetness and demure, lazy air of the acoustic "Love, As A Flower Blossoms" is tailor-made for that moment in the spa or on the beach as you close your eyes and let the world just be. A bluesy "3+5 = Blue" follows as a catchy foot-tapper that never loses the fat bass or assertive piano in the shadows. Another melodic treat. Then there’s the reflective, provocative piece "Quiet Desperation" and another demonstration of attractive mood swings in "Here and Now," which goes from funky to slower-paced mellow to funk/rock, complete with blistering guitar riffs. There’s even a really well-arranged cover of Pink Floyd’s old cerebral rock classic "Us and Them." Great, bluesy sax work.
This album has shape and character. All of its elements are quite visible and totally brave. It provides enough to keep you in a very good place most of the time. Lenz has every reason to believe that this one will do well among audiences of most modern and fusion jazz tastes.