Don't, like me, be too deceived by the song titles to Ali Bey's My Finest Hour. At first glance, I thought "Hmmm, a funk release. Cool.", but, hoo boy!, was I ever wrong. Bassist Ali Bey has no back-off whatsoever on loving jazz fusion and the briefest of listens lets you know he was influenced by Eleventh House, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, David Sancious, Ronnie Laws, and many of the units which emerged around the time he was just a kid. Born in 1970, Bey was working a 4-string axe by the age of 11. That's called 'precocious', y'all, and that's what makes artists stand out.
Bey's basic unit is a threesome, and the recording's such that there's no relegating his instrument to the traditional background it normally occupies most anywhere else. On every cut, he's strong and clear, and engineer Robert G. Andrews balanced off Larry Andrews' guitar and Timothy Omar Stroud's drums in exact balance. This means everyone's playing a lead instrument. Neither Bey nor Andrews cover over Stroud's basic rhythm matrix nor his extrapolations, and Stroud in return keeps everything in his kit emphatic and bouncy, never clustering up compeers. Andrews, though, cuts loose with fire in tracks like Slugger, then lays back into mellow chords. Then catch Stroud's work on the same cut, heaving like a monster, and that's after Bey's touched off chordal strums and poppin' percolating runs in the intro.
My Finest Hour is a chops-based effort more than anything else, and I wouldn't have been surprised to see cuts from it included in the old Guitar Recordings releases for connoisseurs of the more technical side of playing. When Bey gets hypersonic, those fingers practically fly off his hands, but, really, he's into the artisanry of the bass' role and much of this is like a fine steak dinner or maybe just some damn good gumbo: savory and with lots of meat to it. Expect, at times, early McLaughliny textures and notes from Andrews, Extrapolation period, as well as atmospherics that wouldn't have been out of place with Alphonse Mouzon or Larry Young. One very small criticism, though: Stroud needed more bass register recorded on his lines, the absence of it makes his work more thin than it should be and thus takes about 10% away from the CD's timbrals and atmosperics. Other than, tho', I'm happy as a mofo.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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