For Crimsophiles and other proghedz who noted the title to this latest, Red, and thought "Oooooooo…King Crimson!", well, no, it isn't that Red, nor a cover of the title cut but instead excellent modern jazz a la old Euro 70s fusaloidian ensembles, carrying five long songs by a quartet tightly interlocked every step of the way. The CD's color reference is a matter of it's being the middle release in a triptych of hues: Blue released last year (here), Red this year and…a third shade 365 days from now…give or take 24 hours. Guitar player Rik Wright occupies a place that fuses John Abercrombie with Steve Kahn with Pat Metheny, but, in the choice of James DeJoie on reeds and flute, we find the perfect counter-weight to his voice, one that plays off him as a kind of sparring partner, not in call-and-response modes but instead as rival artists much in sympatico and inspiring one another.
The opening track shows this in exactitude, DeJoie taking the spotlight with devastating lines, as though ripped from Bill Bruford's Earthworks band, after which Wright jumps in, offsetting while surrounding the sax to paint in the ground below and the sky above. All the while, drummer Greg Campbell keeps time while splashing in no end of sidebar riffs, bassist Geoff Harper the rhythmic mainstay, invoking repeating patterns to hold everything together. DeJoie slides back in, emulating Harper, and everyone else then falls in behind the two. DeJoie lays out keening ennui in the follower, Yearning, bandmates dialing things back to wipe sweat from brow and reflect on the sun dipping below the horizon, fog rolling in, a soporific ambience tranquilizing the gig to philosophical pensée just the slighest bit boozy as the song wends on.
Like the best of progressive musics, Fundamental Forces is a group that has to be listened to as an aggregate of four gregarious philosophers gathered together to trade ruminations and riffs, holding forth on matters abstract and concrete but always with a fine point marrying aesthetics to the far edge of art's more obtuse contemplations, pragmatic while almost sidereal, never settling for the easy answer but forever engaging, Subtle Energy a master class in that as it builds and expands, DeJoie taking his place among the instrument's narrative cognoscenti, Wright urging him on, into the clouds. Then Rik's turn comes, and he's never brash, preferring a highly decorative mode nonetheless restrained, academic while breaking the rules.
But pay attention. Every player here is crucial to the success of the disc. Without Harper's patient dogged firmament, there'd be no baseline. Minus Campbell's ingenious doubling up of rhythm and lead with his kit, a huge swath of atmosphere would be irretrievably lost, and thus Wright and DeJoie are afforded a rich environment from which to put the frosting on the jazzcake…not from the refectory but rather the brainery's collegiate recesses, an enclave of sonic epicures grinning while knitting brows. Am I stretching the metaphor? Perhaps, but you'll understand perfectly once you lay an ear to this disc. Oh, and tell your goofy relatives not to call for an hour or so, supply the wife with some shopping cash, and amble the kids over to have a ball with the neighbors' progeny, 'cause Red is the kind of disc that's for you and you alone. Trust me on that.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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