MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE
[Mood Swing Productions]
Veteran New York bassist Mike Visceglia (Suzanne Vega, Broadway’s Kinky Boots) attempts to mine the best ingredients of fusion’s first wave with his instrumental quartet featuring guitarist Ben Butler, keyboardist Casimir Liberski, and drummer Jared Schonig—and he succeeds. The title-track opener oozes both Return To Forever and Tony Williams Lifetime, but it quickly becomes apparent that this tight-knit unit favors fuze with a groove. “Monkey Bars” and “Quiet City” summon the ’70s works of Jeff Beck, Larry Carlton, and Robben Ford. Viscegia’s badass boogaloo bass on “7th Avenue Stomp” and his incessant 16ths on “Helio” recall the era’s Billy Cobham and Brecker Brothers discs. Pocket-play aside, perhaps most enduring musically are the ballads “On a Tuesday” and “Farewell Boston.”
Filling an album with just unaccompanied acoustic bass sounds like an extremely ambitious proposition—that is, unless you’re Dmitry Lisenko. The Latvia native has such an unusual percussive and melodic style that by adding any other accompanying instrumentation, his sound would likely get convoluted. With his freakish finger speed, and by using his bass as a drum, Lisenko weaves entrancing rhythms that range from hand clapping to peacefully dreamy. “Prometheus” demonstrates both of these properties in one track.
AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR
THE ENDLESS SHIMMERING
Hunkered down at the exceedingly rarified crossroads of post-rock, experimental art-pop, and straight-up jazz fusion, Belfast’s ASIWYFA isn’t even close to a household name in the U.S., but the band’s fifth album is a pugnacious, dynamic slab that’s well worth a listen. Johnathan Adger shows he can switch from sensitive plucks to hard stabs with ease on “A Slow Unfolding of Wings,” and he sounds downright toothy and Squire-like (circa Fragile) on the lively “All I Need Is Space.” Meanwhile, his mind-meld with drummer Chris Wee, especially on the stop-start, math-rocking “Terrors of Pleasure,” lends an added gear to this already high-octane set.
BRYANT, FABIAN, MARSALIS
DO FOR YOU?
A robust debut by this New York City trio, boasting the tenor sax and vocals of Lance Bryant, the wide-rooted drumming of Jason Marsalis, and the agile upright of Christian Fabian. The unit’s strong individual voices and acute sense of interplay makes the lack of a chordal instrument irrelevant, as they navigate hard-swinging numbers like “Five Minute Blues,” “Never Again,” and “The Cat Hatter,” switching to the funky side for “Weather Forecast” and “Moxie Inside.” Down low, Fabian displays his deft touch and chocolatey tone opening the title track and “Resolvance of the Old” with earthy cadenzas.
[Independent Music Group]
Offir Benjaminov sets the tone for his band’s sophomore album with a spaced-out bass movement that crescendos alongside a frantic drumbeat and wild guitar riff on the aptly titled “The Climb.” After that, though, this avant-garde Tel Aviv trio doesn’t stay too far out, as Benjaminov delivers serious pocket work, as highlighted on “No Sides” and “Eyes.” From start to finish, this album is a moody treat, for bass players and fans of chill-out music alike.
WIZARD BLOODY WIZARD
All references to Black Sabbath notwithstanding, U.K. cult metallurgists Electric Wizard go ultra-heavy and psychedelic on Wizard Bloody Wizard, and it’s no exaggeration to say they capture the primal abandon of their forebears—Blue Cheer and pre-Schenker UFO, in particular—with the utmost aplomb and panache. Leadoff single “See You in Hell” pretty much says it all, with Clayton Burgess hinting at Geezer Butler’s flair for filigrees, only to tear it all down to basics on the bludgeoning “Hear the Sirens Scream.” Further on, the 11-minute epic “Mourning of the Magicians” gives him wide swaths of space to stretch out melodically, and Burgess takes full (we daresay even indulgent) advantage.
GRETA VAN FLEET
BLACK SMOKE RISING
At age 18, Sam Kishzka is showing the poise of a veteran roadman and the ambitious drive of a young garage rocker. Thanks to Kishzka’s bluesy grooves and the track’s overall Zeppelin-like sound, “Highway Tune”—the first single off Greta Van Fleet’s debut EP—is already turning heads. If that’s what you’re going for, you’d better do it well, and this young player is already properly laying it down like JPJ.
IF ALL I WAS WAS BLACK
Reunited with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy at the controls, Mavis Staples reconnects with her politically conscious voice on this stunning album—a bit of a throwback to her Stax classics with the Staple Singers, but with soul revivalism now such an over-arching trend in pop music, it’s refreshing to hear it done with depth and conviction. Tweedy himself takes up the bass on several tracks, while Jeff Turmes brings his late-’60s Fender Telecaster Bass and one-finger James Jamerson style to the fore, especially on the Sly Stone-funky “Who Told You That?” and the keep-on-pushing anthem “Try Harder.”
BROWN SUGAR (Deluxe Edition)
Twenty-two years after its initial release, Brown Sugar gets the deluxe treatment that features 21 groove-filled bonus tracks. Packed with remixes and deep cuts that feature the original bass work of Will Lee, Larry Grenadier, Raphael Saadiq, and D’Angelo himself, the reissue of this classic is a must-have for any soul music fan. Highlights include “Brown Sugar (Dollar Bag Mix),” “Lady (2B3 Mix),” and “Cruisin’ (Wet Remix).”
Melbourne’s Tripataka is a jazz group that infuses original compositions with unconventional twists and turns, and the trio’s debut album features no shortage of inspired talent. Jonathan Diamond often leads the charge with rhythmic and lyrical lines driven by his distinct Warwick 6-string tone. He shines on tracks like “Alt-Ctrl-X,” “Paco,” “Partition,” and “Mod Times,” where his balance between holding down the low and delivering impressive solos takes center stage.