If Fareed Haque's involved, I'm interested. I don't care what it is, you've got my attention. And that untouchably clean and innovative guitarist is indeed featured amidst a quartet of very accomplished jazz cats here. He's not the lead voice but someone was exercising uncommon judgement in setting him down in the ensemble. Perhaps most surprising, though, is the fact that Fareed's become quite Gary Boyle-ish lately. The band, however, is named after saxophonist Rob Dixon and organist Melvin Rhyne. The former may well re-awaken my long-slumbering sax interests, earlier slain when David Sanborn was enshrined in the critical and popular mind, while Rhyne captures attention for his very Brian Auger-ish style.
However, let's not leave out drummer Kenny Phelps, as smooth and inventive a player as these hard-working gents deserve. Perhaps the best cut to yank in the listener is the third selection, Shadow and Light, where Phelps sets up a complexly grooving rhythm, and everyone goes nuts soloing, improving their brains out. The percussionist morphs his lines around to constantly re-indite patterns and interplay with the hi-energy brainwork of the rest of the band. Dixon carries his conversation to the audience until Haque slides in with a long Grant Green-ish interplay before Rhyne trots out a mini-moog (!), laying out notes in a fusion one mightn't expect of the older gentleman. That, then, is where the secret lies.
Regard for Rhyne's main axe per se, the Hammond B-3 organ, can be quite mixed. After all, when one listens to organ, one is looking for the same attributes found elsewhere—dynamics, a clear voice, etc.—and an organ can suffer greatly in that regard. In fairness, after hearing Jon Lord and Keith Emerson, can you opt for Dan Wall or even Jimmy McGriff? Sorry, that ain't happenin'. On the other hand, there's Auger, who represented the most perfect melting point between rock and jazz, and that's the ground Rhyne treads, blending perky bubbling jaunts with letter-perfect colorations. When he lays back, the chords cool out the background, and when he steps to the front, his vocabulary marries the traditions of the past with a more indiosyncratic rock-inflected voice while echoing all who came before.
Dixon neither freaks nor slacks, kind of a halfway point between Nino Tempo and Sanborn but with Grover Washington's melodic sense and a bit of Klaus Doldinger's leavening. The most important point, though, is how well the group meshes, cohering several disparate styles into the kind of fusion now mostly ignored but which once stood a decent chance of marking territory in such groups as Cassiopeia, Passport (check out Tomorrow Sierra), the Crusaders, and so on. Dixon-Rhyne, however, cuts a clearer path to CTI and Blue Note by way of Europe's jazz-rock 70s revolution. Jeremy Steig, Bjorn Jasun Lindh, and even Joachim Kuhn wish they could have done this. Flatly, then, if you find yourself in need of a boppy, funky, high flying mesh of old and new, this is the ticket.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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