ACROBAT [ANA Music]
This lofty latest effort from Athens, Greece-based composer, fretted and fretless bassist, and musical integrator Yiorgos Fakanas—best known Stateside for his 2010 collaboration with Anthony Jackson, Interspirit—features drummer Dennis Chambers, guitarist Mike Stern, and the late trumpeter Lew Soloff. The title-track fuze burner and a steamrolling, double-time cover of “Chameleon” set the pace, with Fakanas’ nimble nonet on full display. Down below, Yiorgos wows with the sick, sextuplet slap groove of “The World of Fun,” the multi-bass soundscapes “Breath I and II,” and “No Princess: Part 3.”
BACK TO THE FUNKTURE [Alissia]
On her debut, Geneva-born, Berklee-trained Alissia Benveniste delivers exactly what the title promises by taking us back to the golden days of funk. Kicking off with the P-Funk-inspired title track, Alissia explodes with basscentric energy that still manages to put tastefulness first. Whether she’s displaying slap chops on “On the Go” and “Take Off” or flaunting buttery finesse on “Holdin’ On,” Alissia shows us a glimpse of the funk’s future by honoring its past.
This is the slab of electro-stoner metal genius that Black Mountain has been waiting to make—especially since the band joined forces with bassist and riffmeister Arjan Miranda, whose tenure with the psych-mongering Family Band, among others, dovetails perfectly with the ethos. Quite at home amidst the dark ambient vibes of “Mothers of the Sun” or the flat-out boogie-rock groove of “Constellations,” Miranda lends a sure hand to a wildly diverse album that reveals new twists with each listen.
RA RA RIOT
NEED YOUR LIGHT [Barsuk]
Ra Ra Riot’s fourth album is packed full of feel-good anthems that never cease to charm with their musical wit and indie-dance panache. Mathieu Santos produces big lines between the driving riffs of “Foreign Lovers” and the tightly plucked “Bad Times.” He grooves just as hard using bass synths on “Water” and “Bouncy Castle,” where his pulsating low end gives a small nod to the keybass of the ’80s while still maintaining the album’s hip-in- 2016 vibe.
Spark may be only the fourth album since piano savant Hiromi banded exclusively with Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips in 2011, but the dynamic nine-track disc bears the fruit of thousands of gigs and miles spent together in that span. Songs like “Spark,” “In a Trance,” and “Wonderland” remind us that this unit has been expanding the boundaries of the piano trio, especially in the grooves—Jackson and Phillips helped write the rich rhythmic structures, which also provide them with meaty departure points for their heady improvisational support behind Hiromi’s solos. Additionally, Jackson steps out with the melody on “Take Me Away” and “Dilemma” (displaying the distinct upper-range voice of his Fodera semi-hollow contrabass), and issues a pocket-minded solo on “All’s Well.”
LAST IN LINE
HEAVY CROWN [Frontiers]
If critics used the term “virtuoso” in reference to tone as much as they do for technique, the late Jimmy Bain (Rainbow, Dio) would certainly top the list. On Last In Line’s debut CD, Heavy Crown, he continues his legacy of pile-driving bass with one of the gnarliest tones in rock. But what’s also extremely evident is Bain’s musical intuition: His counterpoint to the guitar on “Starmaker,” for example, is simply brilliant in its simplicity, and his preference for whole-notes, quarter-notes, and roots illuminates the subtle nuances and passing tones in his playing, making those choices so much more musical and integral. Everything about his playing on Heavy Crown demonstrates that his greatest gift was providing the kind of backbone to a song that elevates everyone else’s performances.