"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."
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)