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Monday, May 27, 2013

Jason Mears Electric Quintet - Book Of Changes, Part 1 (Prefecture Music, 2013) ****

By Stef  

What a delight of an album. The intro unison line of alto, electric piano, electric guitar, bass and drums immediately evolves in cool electric piano vibes with the drums double-timing in full energy. The contrast between cool and fast, composed and improvised, jazz and rock is immediate and powerful. Miles - Bitches Brew version - is here, somewhat in sound, yet more in spirit. This music, though structured and with thematic anchorpoints, is as open as can be. A danger zone for inexperienced travellers, yet not for this crew. We have Jason Mears on alto saxophone and clarinet, Jonathan Goldberger on electric guitar, Angelica Sanchez on Wurlitzer piano, Kevin Farrell on electric bass, and Harris Eisenstadt on drums. 

Credit to Mears for this album : the compositions are great, the band well selected, the space he gives them is amazing, as is the end result. Unlike many Miles-inspired music, this band captures the spirit quite well, without going for the technical pyrotechnics on the instruments. Next to the electric piano, Goldberger's electric guitar sounds like McLaughlin, including the signature lift and sustain to end the arpeggiated phrases, and even if he does show some speedy licks once in a while, the overall sound is restraint, as it is with the rest of the band. The music gets priority, a strange version of highly modern sounds grafted on the 70s' basis. 

Mears himself takes center stage on a long and raw solo on the second track, "The Creative", when all hell breaks loose after some quiet meandering. "Joyous Lake" is a beautiful composition, with a nice theme on clarinet and aldo, supported by beautiful harmonics on piano, slow and open, full of heart-rending sounds.

"Receptive" starts with electric bass and guitar, creating a menacing intro, full of tension and expectations, and again Goldberger sounds like McLaughlin at his best, emphasising, not showing off, then Mears joins with the piano to set a theme - after five minutes only - then Sanchez takes over and gradually the volume and power grow, without going into overdrive though. The strangest thing is the reduced role Mears gives himself on this piece.

... and Eisenstadt you may wonder? Well, he is just amazing, full of ideas, perfect timing and amazing interactions, knowing when to limit himself to some quiet rumbling or when to move the music to higher levels.

What a band! Not boundary-breaking, but high quality music and high quality playing : a real treat.

Download from Bandcamp.