I'm a little surprised the promo lit for this progressive trad/jazz CD didn't make mention of guitarist Peter Sprague's involvement with the very cool San Diego vocalist Tokeli (here), as his production work and accompaniment sparkle throughout her excellent CDs. This disc, however, takes matters quite a bit further than Tokeli's usual wont, heavily into classical, traditional, jazz, progressive, and slightly neoclassical terrain. The Consort is a seven piece outfit frequently recalling a Parisian hot jazz era taken back into the Academy. And when I say that Sprague took a good deal of inspiration from John McLaughlin and his formidable Shakti involvement, you'll know, then, whereof I speak when I assert there's quite an amplitude of breadth here.
Within that, expect plenty of time for melodic and thematic development, as the tunes extend for as much as 11-1/2 minutes. Decades ago, when a number of us music hounds were checking out Steven Halpern and Georgia Kelley, this is actually what we were looking for, finding it only somewhat in Daniel Kobalka's work, so I'll rush to comment that The Wild Blue is by no means New Age music, not by a long long shot. The bass run in Bomb Scare Blues is your first indication, then Sprague takes up with a great Grant Geissman-esque solo by way of Jim Hall after.
He penned most of the cuts here but treats the audience to takes on Corea, Bach, and Brubeck as well, not to mention the McLaughlin tribute and a further tip of the hat to The Beatles. The result is like a cross between chamber music, Mannheim Steamroller, The Hot Club of San Francisco, and Carnatic refrains—the ensemble's reworking of Bach's Prelude #9 is a cogent point in absorbing all of that. For the fullest expression of Sprague's central role in the group, though, lay an ear to Mahavishnu. It starts like a balladic raga, complete with tanpura and tablas, but picks up and flies almost like a Jean-Luc Ponty number. Very nice indeed, trad-mannered fusion, and the sort of genre boundary crosser we need to see more of.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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