Elixironmute, EndOfSky [Rawkstars, Inc]

Having already held his own with avant-garde guitarists David Fiuczynski and Vernon Reid, New York City’s Steve Jenkins doesn’t need to prove anything in terms of what he can handle.
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Having already held his own with avant-garde guitarists David Fiuczynski and Vernon Reid, New York City’s Steve Jenkins doesn’t need to prove anything in terms of what he can handle. That didn’t stop him from taking on 19-year-old guitarist/prodigy Jordan Ferreira’s latest project ElixirOnMute, whose hyperkinetic brand of progressive metal—with extended song forms and stopon- a-dime section changes aplenty—owes much to the Mars Volta. Volta alumnus Thomas Pridgen himself is on drums, and he made the right call in referring Jenkins, who employs a fuzzy/gritty overdrive to navigate the schizophrenic landscape with no shortage of chops or guts. Nasty riffs, wacked-out time signatures, and terrifying unison riffs abound (“Elixir” is the best example of all three simultaneously). Bottom line, Jenkins busts his butt on this crazy material and handles it like a pro. But we knew he could do that. Ironically, it’s the melodic content of Jenkins’s lines during the non-riff-driven passages in “Saints” and “Angel” that stand out the most amidst the chaos. There’s plenty more than just chops and math-rock proficiency at work here. (P.S. to the producer: Any bassist working this hard should get a little more love in the mix!)


Stefon Harris and Blackout

Stefon Harris and Blackout Urbanus [Concord Jazz, 2009] Washington, D.C. native Ben Williams first met vibraphonist/composer Stefon Harris when Williams was an 8th grader. Apparently it was just the head start he needed to get into this absolutely burning modern jazz outfit before even turning 25. This group is not screwing around; the heads, forms, syncopations, and grooves drawing on everything from swing, R&B, funk, pop and hip-hop are aggressive, challenging, and downright butt-shaking when they want to be. Williams has already won a bunch of jazz competition awards and played with Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, and Meshell Ndegeocello, but in case you need further convincing, moments in three consecutive tracks will blow your hair back: the funky unison ostinato in “Tankitifed,” the syncopations and bass breaks over the upswing blues form of “Shake It For Me,” and the frenetic hard swing groove in the jagged “Minor March.” The album’s bon

King Crimson's ''Red'' (40th Anniversary Series)

For progressive and classic rock bands releasing albums in 1974, the bar was set pretty high. In the wake of milestone releases from bands like Yes, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer came King Crimson’s seminal album Red, in which the power trio of guitarist Robert Fripp, drummer Bill Bruford, and bassist/vocalist John Wetton took the seemingly welldrawn boundary between ethereal progressive rock and early hard rock and smashed it to dark, dissonant pieces. The result was an album that influenced future musicians—and bassists—far beyond what was imaginable at the time.

Augury Fragmentary Evidence

Here’s a welcome development— as death metal turns ever more technical, the bass is becoming not just increasingly audible (there’s a start!), but more complex, counterpunctual, and essential to the actual song. That’s certainly the case with Montreal-based Augury’s second album Fragmentary Evidence, as bassist Dominic “Forest” LaPointe summons an unholy alliance of influences—Jaco Pastorius, Steve DiGiorgio, Adam Nitti?! — and throws down fierce, technique-driven lines all over the necks of his fretless, his 6- string, you name it. With a dark, warm, growling tone that somehow gets sweet up high, LaPointe opens “Sovereigns Unknown” with a furious tapping and fingerpicked riff, drives “Simian Cattle” with a neck-spanning, double- stop tri-tone lick, and performs a chordal/arpeggiated tour-de-force on “Jupiter To Ignite.” The deeper into the disc you go, the more you want to hear what he does next. So, metal bassists: come for the expected payoff of well-delive

David Pastorius & Local 518 Sense Of Urgency

Imagine if Michael Jordan’s nephew decided to be a basketball player. No pressure, right? Good thing, then, that bassist David Pastorius isn’t even trying to ape you-know-who. The delicious bass tone is a thick, meaty, both-pickupsfull- on, decidedly fretted jazz bass sound with a touch of edge on the high end. When he gets to slapping—and boy, does he ever on the blazing “Groundhog Day”—it’s as if Flea’s hand was landing on Marcus’s bass. His melodic tapping pays clear homage to Stu Hamm on the solo piece “Extra Ecclesam.” Meanwhile, his meat-and-potatoes fingerstyle grooving is superb throughout this widely varied collection of original rock/funk/jazz fusion compositions. As a composer and producer Pastorius is still growing into his ample talents, but ultimately it’s a treat to hear David groove, comp, and solo through these unapologetically sprawling tunes, regardless of his ancestry. That said, though the overall texture couldn’t be more different than, say, anything on Word Of

The Ed Palermo Big Band

The Ed Palermo Big Band Eddy Loves Frank [Cunieform, 2009] It’s been said there are eight million stories in the naked city, and one of them has got to be bassist Paul Adamy, a pro who’s done everything you can do in New York—major network TV (The Cosby Show) and movie sessions, Broadway shows, jazz festivals, A-list jingles, the New York Philharmonic, and a list of credits (starting with Carly Simon) that’ll make your eyes pop. For fun, Adamy’s been playing in the Ed Palermo Big Band, which exclusively does Frank Zappa material re-arranged by Palermo for his outfit. Eddy Loves Frank is a session pro’s dream gig to stretch on, taking on the Frank oeuvre and nailing rock, funk, swing, and all manner of involved form and arrangement. Adamy plays with the smooth grace and steady aplomb of a guy who’s been there, done that, and still having a blast. Zappa fans will love the swinging original arrangements (especially “Echidna’s Arf” and

Evan Marien: Between Worlds [Art of Life]

Youth will be served, the old saying goes, and 23- year-old Berklee graduate Evan Marien’s selfproduced solo debut Between Worlds serves notice that there’s a new bass monster in town. Armed with ridiculously fluid fingerstyle chops and a strong sense of groove, Marien applies a smooth, round, bridgepickup tone that owes plenty to Jaco Pastorius and Matt Garrison, but the dark, punchy goodness evokes Gary Willis and Jimmy Johnson just as strongly (especially on the fusion workouts “Fragment” and “Crossing Streets”). As the title suggests, his muso tendencies are mixed with a healthy dose of techno experimentation. “Lao’s Tao” and “Primal Virtue” are loaded with textured effects, far-eastern motifs, and meaty ring-modulator tones, and “Skitzo” features several keyboard-and-drum loops and a crazed, doubled bass melody, along with the requisite soaring improv. The solo piece “Eternals and Apathetics” is an unpredictable virtuoso delight. Compositi