(Review by Steve T)
Another good album, another piano-less quartet, another guitar/ woodwind frontline, clarinet standing in for the various saxophones featured on the original versions of these five tracks taken from his previous albums, though the player remains the same.
At a little over forty minutes, it's also another short album, which plays well to us oldies, groomed on twelve inches of plastic or (what seemed like) twelve miles of tape. Restrictions imposed by the limitations of the format but, with so many CDs (not to mention double albums) seeming too long, maybe fortyish minutes is a reasonable length of time before putting on something else.
Clarinet is not normally an instrument I'm taken by but, with a little help from Lord Edis, Arun Ghosh and this, maybe it was always the context that was wrong for me. Wright 'has always had an affinity for the sound of clarinet and guitar together...predicts the relationship...is a lovely one', and it is.
The notes inform us the album is 'more laid back than its predecessors', but also that Yearning and Nonchalant (tracks 3 and 4) are its 'softer centre'. The remaining three tracks all build during their respective lengths, in the rhythm section, through increasingly propulsive drumming and 'a straightforward bass line which...ripples outward into universal resonances'. On top you get the guitar sneaking around under the clarinet before taking over and the clarinet then coming back in behind the guitar lead, using different sounds and textures to build to a rockier climax.
However, the difference between these and the 'softer' tracks is one of degree and, despite his influences being routed in rock as well as Jazz, it never quite explodes, a common quibble I have with guitarists.
The Jazz establishment still hasn't quite accepted Jazz-rock, and particularly John McLaughlin into the mainstream, as evidenced by Downbeat readers recently voting Pat Metheny and not McLaughlin (or for that matter Benson) as its fourth guitarist in their Hall of Fame, which must have confounded and embarrassed them both.
Having said all that, you really can't win. If an artist records an album with great variety, it's a mess lacking any direction or flow, and if you put out an album with the same flavour throughout, it's accused of being samey.
This album fits the latter, which is actually where most of the truly great albums are, and while it isn't that, it's a fine listen anyway.
Out now on HipSync Records.