FAME Review: Kevin Cline - Make Up Your Mind
Kevin Cline - Make Up Your Mind

Make Up Your Mind

Kevin Cline

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

In heavy metal, there's a term 'NWOBHM', coined by Geoff Barton over in London. It means 'New Wave of British Heavy Metal' and refers to a reaction to the 60s/70s initial metallization of rock. NWOBHM was itself an intercessor, a mixture of very good (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc.) and very mediocore (Tygers of Pan Tang, Mama's Boys, etc.) groups in a milieu that would soon usher in arena rock (Night Ranger, Whitesnake, etc.). I'm not really sure why the phrase was posited but it serves a good identification purpose, and I've always thought that jazz fusion has been very much in need of such a terminology in order to differentiate what Miles created in the 60s from what happened soon after. Perhaps 'NWOJF' (New Wave of Jazz Fusion) would suffice? If so, put Kevin Cline in as a prime figure in the continuation of its waves of succession.

Jazz itself was almost immediately to extend into that post-Miles side avenue of creativity, as we saw with the great Jazz Crusaders, later Passport, and other groups. Then there were entire labels devoted to the rising idiosyncrasy, CTI perhaps the foremost (Freddie Hubbard, Gabor Szabo, etc.). Before you knew it, Cassiopeia, Mezzoforte, and the more rock and dance oriented combos were joining in. Near the far end of the cycle, Bob James, Don Grusin, and Spyrogyra entered the fray. To my mind, that era, like NWOBHM, generated a third fusion wave (please note that, to the side, much fiercer progressive fusion was being laid out in the persons of Soft Machine, mid-period Gong, Alan Holdsworth, and others) which absorbed everything that had come before and polished it up even further. Again, count pianist/trombonist/composer Kevin Cline in that permutation.

In Make Up Your Mind, his intake of a very wide palette of top-notch work is more than evident. Not only are the charts superlative, the rhythms engaging, the instrumentation intelligent while harmonic and largely centered upon melodics, but the entire affair is deliciously engineered, creating a milieu that doubles up the music's powers and charm. You can hear all the NWOJF cats quite clearly, now dragged forward in time…but there's a difference: Cline exhibits a goodly streak of respect for the 50s, bending his work backward to those excellences without losing a moment of modernity.

Part of that latterday ilk appears in the form of the vocalists as well. The choice of Paul Zimmerman was the kind of great selection Alan Parsons would've made for one of his Project discs, Zimmerman kind of like a Lenny Zakatek, and the appearance of Isha Maria Lewis on My Funny Valentine isn't the balladry one might expect but rather a matter of Ms. Lewis taking the Rodgers & Hart composition around the corner for a good talking-to and then coming back to sing the living bejeezus out of it, powerful and lusty, what you might call a cross between Randy Crawford and Shirley Bassey. Cline plays a cool-ass piano and inspires the horns to give their all, himself included, but the real standouts are his compositions, all but one here his own and each a shot of vim, vigor, vitality, and vivacity. This guy REALLY knows how to write in genre, he's heart and soul INTO it, bringing a luster that gets me all hipped to jump right back headfirst into my NWOJF collection…as soon as I'm finished with the second go-through of Make Up Your Mind.

Track List:

  • After the Rain
  • Umbrella, Sunglasses & Gloves
  • Beware the Snake
  • A Shot of J & V
  • Shirley Not Forgotten
  • April in June
  • Happy-Go-Lucky
  • Mistletoe, Me & You
  • My Funny Valentine
  • Santorini by Motorbike
  • Neighborhood Trolley
  • Song for Bobby
  • You Tend To
  • Make Up Your Mind
  • 'Til Next Time
All songs written by Kevin Cline except My Funny Valentine (Rodgers / Hart).

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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