FAME readers will probably first have chanced across bassist Aaron German when I reviewed Beata Pater's Red (here) because he stood out there, and he stands out, of course, a good deal more here. Moreover, the guy chose top-notch VietNamese guitarist Nguyen Le, barely known here in the U.S. but very much favored over in Europe, as one of four extremely well integrated cohorts (with Frank Martin on keyboards and Deson X. Claiborne on drums) intimately creating a close-knit often Soft Machine-esque (Holdsworthian Bundles era) and Gong-olian (Holdsworthian Expresso era) vibe and sound.
Germain showed a strong, confident, creative presence with Pater and carries it forward in Chance, which presents a much more expansive palette for his work. I've made no secret that my all-time favorite bass player is Percy Jones (Brand X, yet another classic fusion unit) and Germain operates on that level but with a different vocabulary, funkier rather than jazzier. In the same manner, Le strongly cleaves to Holdsworth, but by way of Gary Boyle, Janne Schaeffer (old solo LPs), and, well, I hear old Harvey Mandel in his influences. Both gents get plenty of solos but never to excess, paving the way for Martin to well up…but not so much Claiborne, which is kind of a pity since the guy mans impressive traps, calling back to Phil Collins' work for the aforementioned Brand X.
Every cut here stands out, and the CD would be perfectly at home on the prog/jazz/fusion/avant-garde MoonJune label, not to mention a more progressive version of Blue Note or similarly enlightened unit (if EG were still hip, it'd fit there too, perhaps [the label never was all that much into fusion], but it halted its sincerities long ago). Nhung Bac Thang waxes Weather Reporty before slipping into Brubeck/Evans territory briefly, then Le enters in his flying saucer, and things get Frippian, buzzing and circumnavigatory, next Holdsworthian with speedy runs, and finally Carlton-ish, when that particular worthy sprints to burn (which, lord knows, he can do when he wants to), before mellowing out, going back into the main theme. The presence of Van-Anh Ho and her dan t'rung (bamboo xylophone) introduces a Tunnels tang to the song, which ends up winding down into the follower, Already Not Yet and Germain's peripatetic bass taking over.
Chops? Plenty of'em. Surreality? Well, of course! Change-ups and constant shifts of perspective? Naturally. But, in the end, just like the later Gong and all Soft Machine incarnations, everything forwards the song each time out, and Germain wrote them specifically to play to guitarist Le's many strengths, everyone else falling in right beside him.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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