A really nice CD with some manifestations of Passport-itis. You may recall how in the 1970s and 1980s we got to know the thinking person's hyperpop-Jazz German quartet Passport through their highly varied LPs on Atlantic Records. Seems the band never landed completely in any one style: Zappa-like 12-tone melodic extensions, pop fluff, high-octane workouts, a smidge of free playing, and some Coltrane-like ballads. And sometimes, all of the above simultaneously. Some critics huffed at the lack of cogency but I say if you're good at a lot of things, 'focus' is an overrated attribute. Witness Jaz-Mobi Project, a floating collective of 7 to 9 musicians (depending on what track you're listening to) largely under the aegis of guitarist Steve Thomas (good taste in instruments there; he's got anEpiphone hollow-body!), employing tabla-powered Easternmusk-fests with a Pat Metheny-like tune-around late in the melodic structure ("Breeze on a Bay," in long and radio-friendly versions), stamping blueses ("Kylies' I and II"), meditative acoustic run-throughs ("The Gift," "Ponder"), even an instrumental worthy in its soulful strut of Ray Parker and Raydio ("Looking Up"). Yeah, not the most innovative music you'll ever hear but comfortable with lots of pleasant surprises anyway.
Dan Abrue appends a chubby, good-natured tenor sax here and there, synth envelopes drift open and trail off to good use courtesy of Thomas, Joey P. and Dale Ramsey, and the entire enterprise comes to a near-close on a questing, almost flamenco-like multitracked tour de force called "The Journey." Frankly, the tracks after that (hard bop downshifting into blues, another serving of vindaloo, and one last 'breeze') are a bit anticlimactc after "The Journey" but the reprise of "Breeze on a Bay" does underline the delicious combination of South Asian percussive structures with a sunny Brazilian melody. Like I said, small pleasures but numerous, and proof that Passport-itis still isn't fatal.
by Kenneth Egbert
New Sounds - December 2003/January 2004 CD Reviews