Rik Wright

Zen Tornado

HipSync Records, HSG04-001

Fusion rears its head again this month (see my review on Susanna Lindebog's Mwendo Dawa for further meanderings on this subject), but of a different kind here. Rik Wright, recent author of two other fine CDs recently (ISOMORPHISM and POLYMORPHISM, both reviewed in past JAZZ NOWs), has a new quintet (Alicia Allen, violin; Wright, guitars; James DeJoie, reeds, flute; James Whiton, bass; Simon Grant, drums) which assembles musics of various kinds (R&B, funk, wintry Eastern European melodics, odd structures, rock sound manipulation, et al) into a dancing, whirligigging (if that's a word) brew that will give us such looniness as a filthy funk bass riff in wobbling key and time signatures ("Blue Streak"), a heady pairing of DeJoie's baritone sax and (again) Whiton's bass while Wright and Allen airover with long icy tones ("Paradiggum"), and even a couple of nice ballads (or as close as this band gets to them), "Sunrise Pixels" and "Scratch Ticket," Allen well displayed in the former in a delightful recitative somewhere between Anton Bruckner and King Crimson's "Trio." The 'rock' signifiers come mostly from Wright's harder amp settings and from Grant, who lingers on his toms and snares more than most Jazz drummers do. Though there's little he's not capable of (Elvin Jones shimmers, Joe Chambers cymbal rides, you name it). Wright possesses as many effects pedals as anybody who ever played for the Decoding Society, but he is a superb colorist who won't take over the song because he forgot to play his favorite chord change back when it would have made sense to.

Elsewhere the band invert a bouncy 'rhythm and blues' head ("Boogie for Buddha") for DeJoie to surf on, and close out with "Clickstream," an old bop ploy which consists of a quick-stated, fleet theme and then everybody gets out of the way to (as James Brown used to say) 'give the drummer some.' Grant, slippery and in command, does not disappoint.

I was saying in another review this issue that there was a longstanding controversy about whether the guitar or the saxophone should be the lead voice; Wright, making sure he has one of each, sidesteps even that pratfall. Three good'uns in a row for this guitarist, and if you haven't checked out his work yet, you have some catch-up ball to play.

by Kenneth Egbert