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Wright, Rik: Zen Tornado

"I have not come to praise Caesar but to bury Caesar, for Caesar was ambitious." Okay, forgive me if my Shakespeare isn't what it should be, but when reading the liner notes for Rik Wright's new CD Zen Tornado I couldn't help but think of that quote.

Mr. Wright's stated goal is "… to play new music in a way that couldn't be played ten or twelve years ago but also couldn't be considered anything but jazz." The seven songs on Zen Tornado accomplish the later but I am not so sure about the former. I just expected more after reading such a bold statement, but there really isn't anything unique about the CD.

So let's put the hype behind us and deal with the CD for what it is, a great combination of improvisation and instrumentation while sticking to fairly solid song composition. Rik Wright is the composer and guitar player, but the standout on this CD is Alicia Alley on violin. Any song where she plays a major part is the highlight of the CD. James Dejoie plays pretty good leads on both flute and sax, but I was not really awed by his soloing. The way too long "Blue Streak" does not contain the consistent themes necessary to carry on for 10 minutes. I believe this was meant to be the classic that would propel this CD into the analogs of new jazz, but it fails. It just meanders without purpose. This is a shame since most of the other songs all have a feeling that there is a reason for the paths that the improvisation takes.

There are enough highlights to make this a CD that would get much play by anyone into combination jazz; music that challenges but is still based on great song writing. It just doesn't quite live up to the ambition. "E tu Brute? Then fall Caesar."

Track Listing
1) Hummingbirds Don't Sing (5:24)
2) Blue Streak (10:21 )
3) Sunrise Pixels (4:27)
4) Boogie for Buddha (6:42)
5) Paradiggum (5:43)
6) Scratch Ticket (4:58)
7) Clickstream (4:44)

Added: January 15th 2005
Reviewer: Steve Ambrosius
Score:
Related Link: Rik Wright's Website
Hits: 1283
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Wright, Rik: Zen Tornado
Posted by Yves Dubé, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-01-15 09:12:14
My Score:

" Zen Tornado's sonic voyages are built on a foundation of classic jazz, but the compliment of violin, saxophone, double bass, and drums flowing with Rik's guitar, allows the band to blend traditional rock and folk instrumentation with modern jazz. "

In the opening "Hummingbirds Don't Sing", Zen Tornado establishes an approach which is an exercise in compositional jazz, but where the instruments are given free range to roam in the middle section of the song. "Blue Streak" pushes the envelope a little further and bursts out of the gate in full improvisational mode, filled with a maelstrom of notes and squonks. A coherent thread slowly appears halfway in the track to veer it into a new, unexpected direction. "Sunrise Pixels" takes the band along a new avenue. It's a beautiful, melancholic number which showcases violinist Alicia Allen and saxophonist James Dejoie; and is much more firmly rooted in the fertile soil of traditional jazz. "Boogie For Buddha" has the band in full bop mode, in Monk fashion, with the saxophone of Dejoie spearheading the charge before Mr Wright steps forward with some nifty plucking. Alicia Allen's violin is also given a brief spot in the limelight before the track ends on a high note. The band then shifts into avant mode on " Paradiggum" , which becomes a sonic exploration for sax and violin over a complex beat.
"Scratch Ticket" employs a minimalistic approach as the beautiful flute playing of Dejoie coalesces with Allen's violin in a lovely ballad. The disc closes with " Clickstream" , an uptempo swinging number. Drummer Simon Grant is given room to demonstrate his ample chops in the middle section of what is otherwise a very uneventful track.

This record grew on me with repeated spins. There's enough creativity and sonic diversity on display here to please a wide range of jazz enthusiasts.



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