Antti Kotikoski, J.K. Kleutgens Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Tavaglione

Cave Men

J2K Records, 2003-1 USA -CD

     Hardly cave men.  You have probably heard these licks in some form previously but you would be hard pressed to divine a place where they were so well rendered or utilized.

Fans of the late Frank Zappa will recall Vinny Colaiuta, since he occupied the Mothers of Invention's drum chair in the 1980's and later did similar chores in several of Allan Holdsworth's guitar trios.  He rounds out a very accomplished quartet including J.K. Kleutgens (bass, piccolo bass); Antti Kotikoski (guitars); and Steve Tavaglione (saxophones). 

Frankly, I prefer innovation to extrapolation, but this is a very fun, delightful recording that Holdsworth and Weather Report fans (where the latter is concerned, say around the time of NIGHT PASSAGE or PROCESSION) will go mad for.  Kotikoski has Holdsworth's fluid-drive vibrato-drenched sound down quite well, but his leads have a convincing 'sour' twist to them.  Not as in sour notes, but a certain melodic tang: "Make No Mistake" has a twisting, diving melodic line that you might enjoy humming if you could remember the whole darn thing.  You may just have to play that track again,  and again.  Colaiuta's drum sound is not a lot different from his Holdsworth days, but he has achieved an 'even-ing out' sense of his kit.  A cymbal is not necessarily always struck for accent, a snare not popped only to keep the beat. Some who don't listen too closely might compare his work here (especially on "Sanctuary") to the late lamented Tony Williams, but Williams had his own personal hierarchy of percussion instruments and he never told any of us what it was; one reason why I still listen to his recordings.  Not that I've figured it out yet, or ever will.  Colaiuta has achieved a sort of 'enlightenment' in comparison, and it's pretty amazing.  J.K. Kleutgens' bass and piccolo bass do nod regularly to the appropriate pulse but like Percy Jones he has far more in mind than mere root functions.  Turn your subwoofer way up!  You may want to wait until the folks downstairs have gone to church or whatever.  Kleutgens' tracks have a bravura sort of feel:  "Sanctuary" and "5 For Eddie" boast shorter melodies but more tonally wide-ranging ones that resolve themselves in a forward sort of 'swinging' fashion.  Hard to nail this man's writing technique down, and that makes it all the more intriguing.  Yeah, "5 For Eddie" has one of those unison flamenco moves for guitar and sax, but the band just tear into it wih a will, and it's a treat even if it's a compositional motif we fusion mavens have been comfortable with since the Mahavishnu Orchestra.     Steve Tavaglione's playing is more 'on the Jazz tip'but the open-architecture feel of this music allows him to fit right in: on the soprano or on the tenor he's strongly 'in' and has a searching, calmly explorative quality in his solos that I find a bit reminiscent of Shorter. Can't go wrong there, but he has some wild facets too: note the closing "The Word's Out" in which Tavaglione staps on an Akai EWI and works some diverting turns with a sax/vacuum cleaner/drum machine trio.  This is more my style - wigged out and different - and I'd like to hear Tavaglione given more rein to try his hand at further exploratioins in this direction.  But a real band's hard to come by, especially these days, and this group have such a strong field of possibilities from which to draw that I hope they'll continue swinging their not-so-primitive implements for some time to come.

by Kenneth Egbert