Live-to-2-track affairs have atmospherics that can be obtained nowhere else, that's why they're favored by connoissieurs, and the Scott Healy / Glenn Alexander Quartet's Northern Light was caught in that fashion in an NYC studio in 1991…and then abandoned for two decades. Ouch! Keyboardist Healy was somewhat indifferent about the affair, but guitarist Alexander brought it in one day for his students at Sarah Lawrence College, and the tape went over very well, forcing a reconsideration of the music and then this much belated issuance. In many ways, what you hear in this Healy/Alexander confab is in line with Pat Metheny's transition from his Chataugua days along with some Richie Beriach and a faint echo of the Towner/Abercrombie sessions long ago on ECM, the Sargasso Sea/5 Years Later materials.
Critic Bill Milkowski says Northern is "decidedly not a fusion offering" but oh it very much is and quite so. Bill's a bit too fixated on Mahavishnu Orchestra as the milemarker, but McLaughlin 'n the boys were at the far end of the progfusion spectrum, so it's an inapposite confluence. Milkowski's a good crit, so his pronouncement's a trifle curious, but hold no worries, y'all: this is fusion, though I'll admit it's manners are a bit more trad and decorous than has often been the case in the realm. And should I be thought to gild the lily, one need only listen to the work John M. was wringing in the entirety of My Goal's Beyond just before Mahavishnu's official incarnation…and then slip up to the sparkling Royal Festival Hall CD of 1990. It's all right there, you just have to be open to it.
The disc's recording is airy and, for it's 4-man configuration, lush, that live 2-track thing playing beautifully into the landscape (trust me, for this kind of gig, you have to hear the work, as words cannot adequately describe the holistic timbre of such meetings). The musicians, including Kermit Driscoll on bass and Jeff Hirschfield on drums, are supple, abstractedly gentlemanly, and cybernetically attuned, the result as at home in, say, an open air Big Sur concert as in an intimate night at the Catalina Cafe in L.A. Completely instrumental, there are six lengthy tunes averaging 6-1/2 minutes each, so there's plenty of room for heady and intelligent but non-cataclysmic play. This ain't Magma or Eleventh House but it's definitely in the same class, and I have no doubt both Christian Vander and Larry Coryell, not to mention Keith Jarrett and Tomasz Stanko, will be very satisfied when they lay ears to it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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