When you start proclaiming that your music is ready made for those who "appreciate the music in the tradition of Weather Report, Return to Forever, The Dixie Dregs, Mahavishnu Orchestra, or Medeski, Martin, and Wood", well, you'd sure as hell better deliver the goods. The new release from instrumental fusion outfit Zed is called You Are Here, and contains nine tracks filled with plenty of groove, solo spots, and progressive arrangements. Problem is, I think by even mentioning some of those classic bands, the bar was perhaps set a little too high. Rarely does any of the interplay here come close to what we would expect from RTF, the Dregs, or Mahavishnu. Sure, there is some fiery, complex arrangements on "Schwartzenheimer", especially between Scott Cleland's guitar and the snaking sax lines from Alan Mallery, but for the most part what you get here falls somewhere between vintage Weather Report and Mike Stern, with long atmospheric passages highlighted by smooth, spirited soloing from all the players. The rhythm team of drummer Ian Keldin and bassist Jeff Smith are locked in throughout, but rarely do they really get to bust it loose much. Though Mallery also plays some keys, it's his smooth sax melodies that permeate this CD-check out his endearing lines on "Daddy's Wallet", or his stabbing squonks on the funky "WTF", where he also rips into some organ riffs that support a Holdsworthian solo from Cleland. I'm again reminded of Stern's classic material, or even Steps Ahead or John Scofield, on the bop-flavored "Off Bass", and "Stepping Stone" is another uptempo fusion piece with a fair share of post be-bop elements with some really tasty leads from Cleland.
Again, there's absolutely nothing that you can really say bad about You Are Here. Zed have created a solid jazz-fusion platter, littered with strong playing, catchy melodies, and a professional attitude. Vintage 70's styled fusion though it really isn't. While you can tell that the band have been influenced by the greats, this is a very modern sounding fusion release that should be marketed as such, and it's a very good one at that.
1 Flying Potato
3 Daddy's Wallet
5 Bar Code
6 3 Times Better Than Real Fruit
7 Stepping Stone
9 Off Bass