BP Recommends

Stanley Clarke Band, Jeff Berlin, Ghost-Note, and More!
By BP Staff ,

STANLEY CLARKE BAND
THE MESSAGE [Mack Avenue]

Largely written in Paris during a tour delay due to terrorism in Tunisia, The Message finds Stanley Clarke and his quartet (keyboardists Cameron Graves and Beka Gochiashvili, as well as drummer Mike Mitchell) mining all corners of the musical spectrum to deliver positive messages with a powerful jazz-funk underpinning. Clarke remembers George Duke and other late friends on the opener “And Ya Know We’re Missing You,” a slapped bass and beatbox duet with Doug E. Fresh. “After the Cosmic Rain” (adapted from a piece Clarke wrote for Return To Forever) and “Combat Continuum” are full-on fusion epics that also mine Clarke’s soundtrack writing. Bass-wise, Clarke shows his grand mastery of both acoustic and electric with a passionate, bowed version of “Bach Cello Suite No. 1” and the solo bass guitar chordal gem “The Message.” Best of all are kitchen-sink tracks like “Lost in a World,” a vocal-duet love song wrapped around some serious band reaching; the sonically stretched, Spanish-tinged instrumental “Enzo’s Theme”; the sassy, Cameo-meets-Marcus Miller “To Be Alive,” with Fresh rapping about Stanley; and especially the angular, highly original “The Rugged Truth.” Some 45 years after his solo debut, is there a bassist with a wider perspective than Clarke? —CHRIS JISI

JEFF BERLIN
JOE FRAZIER—ROUND 3
[JBMG]

Regarded as one of the big three bass anthems alongside Stanley Clarke’s “School Days” and Jaco’s “Teen Town,” Jeff Berlin’s “Joe Frazier” first appeared on Bill Bruford’s 1980 album Gradually Going Tornado. Berlin did a funkified update, “Joe Frazier (Round 2),” on his 1986 album Pump It! Now, from Nashville, comes a 30th anniversary package centered around a new version that features Steve Vai and Tom Hemby on guitars, David Sancious on keys, and drummer Keith Carlock. Dialed back to about 98 bpm and riding Carlock’s kinetic sizzle, the track’s angular intro finds Berlin drawing themes from the melody. He then states the melody with fresh, hammered twists and restates it over Sancious’ reharmed piano changes. Following a brooding transition, Vai emerges for a shredding solo. A Zawinul-esque, keyboard-led section leads to Berlin’s probing, overdriven solo, navigating “Giant Steps”-inspired changes. Finally, the Sanciousled coda shifts to classical harmony terrain, with Berlin boogying to the finish line. Other package options include a remastered “Round 2,” a vinyl “Round 3,” an autographed score, and mixes minus drums, bass, or guitar. In all, Berlin manages to show both his strengths and his growth, as we await his Jack Bruce tribute album. —CHRIS JISI

GHOST-NOTE
SWAGISM [RSVP]

Led by drum and percussion masters Nate Werth and Robert “Sput” Searight of Snarky Puppy, Ghost-Note’s sophomore album features the bass prowess of Anthony “AJ” Brown and MonoNeon. The low-end duo dominates the record with heavy grooves and insanely funky riffs, stealing the spotlight from the large, talented cast around them. MonoNeon’s virtuosity on “Milkshake” and “Dry Rub” are enough to make you hit rewind to catch the fast, intricate licks buried within his pocket. These two drummers sure know how to pick bass players. —JON D’AURIA

GONG EXPRESSO
DECADENCE [gongexpresso.bandcamp.com]

Decadence continues the lineage of instrumental jazz-fusion first forged by Pierre Moerlen’s Gong in the 1970s. It features Hansford Rowe, a Gong alum, leading this new ensemble through a masterclass in spontaneity and subtlety, where downtempo explorations of progressive jazz reign supreme. Instigated by Rowe’s lyrical bass ostinatos, songs like “Zephyr,” the title track, and “The Importance of Common Things” are mellow and spacious—but the music’s deceptively simple nature is merely a guise for manipulating and developing deep, heavy musical concepts. —FREDDY VILLANO

ADI MEYERSON
WHERE WE STAND [adimeyersonmusic.com]

Listening to Sonny Rollins records as a teenager growing up in Israel may have inspired upright ace Adi Meyerson’s love affair with jazz, but her debut album proves that she’s come fully into her own. Meyerson’s compositions pay homage to her adopted hometown, New York, as she displays the knowledge she has gained from studying under greats like Reggie Workman and Ron Carter. “TNT” and “A D Train” especially highlight her equal-parts talent as a writer and a player. —JON D’AURIA

KAMELOT
THE SHADOW THEORY [Napalm]

On the European/American power-metal band’s latest, Sean Tibbetts once again delivers the perfect foil to Kamelot’s heavily orchestrated guitars, keys, and vocal melodies. His snarling, growling, pick-wielded tone locks in tightly with double-kick-driven songs and adds most of the grit to an otherwise melodious, symphonic sound. There’s even some djent to Tibbetts’ rhythmic patterns, giving the tunes a tenacious backbone. Check out tracks like “MindFall Remedy,” “Kevlar Skin,” and “Static” for a good dose of what Tibbetts can do with four strings and a pick. —FREDDY VILLANO

ARCTIC MONKEYS
TRANQUILITY BASE HOTEL & CASINO [Domino]

The Arctic Monkeys’ sixth studio album abandons the gritty guitar-driven sound that made them famous in favor of spaced-out, mellow lounge vibes. This ultimately frees up Nick O’Malley and frontman Alex Turner to put bass at the forefront of the piano-led songs, which is especially groovy on “One Point Perspective,” “American Sports,” and the album’s title track. O’Malley’s staccato, muted pick playing throughout adds a chic sexiness that completes the band’s new sonic identity. —JON D’AURIA

RAINBOW
MEMORIES IN ROCK II [Minstrel Hall Music]

Ritchie Blackmore decided to revisit his rock & roll roots a couple of years ago by way of reinventing Rainbow with a new cast of players. Memories in Rock II is a live set from Glasgow, Scotland, covering a staggering back-catalog of epic hits, neoclassical metal, and choice Deep Purple cuts. Bob Nouveau is clearly a musician’s musician, ably responding to Blackmore’s every improvisational move with subtle counterpoint, inventive rhythmic patterns, and nuanced note choices. His playing is lively and spontaneous, perhaps the ultimate spirit in which to pay homage to past iterations and performances. —FREDDY VILLANO

SUMO PRINCESS
SINGLES [UMG Recordings]

Abby Travis has built a long and successful career using her precision playing and massive tone to back powerhouses like the Go-Go’s, Cher, the Bengals, and Beck. Her new project, a drums–bass duo with Gene Trautman, now showcases her talents in the biggest and boldest way possible. On these four tracks, Travis dishes seriously filthy frequencies and interesting lines that use both her vast pedalboard and her eccentric playing, making us want much more from this exciting duo. —JON D’AURIA