Drummer Pip Pyle should be no stranger to fans of Canterbury styled progressive rock and fusion. After all, he has played with some legendary acts of the genre, like Hatfield and the North, National Health, Gong, Soft Heap, and most recently Phil Miller's In Cahoots, to name a few. His latest project, Bash!, is perhaps more rooted in jazz than some of those bands, but no less adventurous and daring in their exploratory nature. Joining him here is virtuoso bassist Fred Baker (also from In Cahoots), guitarist Patrice Meyer, keyboardist Alex Maguire, and guest sax player and former Soft Machine alumnus Elton Dean. This is some serious groove music that really swings, while letting each member really show of their capable skills. Quite frankly this is one of the best 60+ minutes of instrumental music I have heard in ages-you get a lot of jazz, some prog, some Caterbury (which is pretty much a combination of the two) and some atmospheric avant-garde.
Highlights-well there are many. "Vas Y Dotty" is a churning fusion piece that kicks off with some angular guitar licks from Meyer, who really digs into a major groove a-la John Scofield, while Pyle and Baker sound almost like the classic rhythm section of Peter Erskine and Jaco Pastorius from Weather Report fame. Add in some funky Fender Rhodes from Maguire and you have a classic fusion romp that keeps you swinging from start to finish. Fred Baker starts the into to "For Adiba" with some melodic bass leads, before giving way to some ominous keys and Asian flavored guitar passages (anyone remember Kazumi Watanabe?) that eventually turn the song into a driving rocker with all players firing ahead in unison. Another nod to Scofield can be heard on the funky romp of "Biffo's Belle Illusion", a song with deep bass and drum grooves and Meyer's weaving guitar lines. "Cauliflower Ears" takes on a more symphonic jazz tone, thanks to the hazy sax work of Elton Dean. Dean's smoky playing contrasts the distorted lead bass of Baker, who to my ears is the MVP of this group, which is really hard to say considering the enormous talent that all these players posess. Mr. Baker performs with such finesse and confidence, as his sinewy rhythms and leads just leap out of the mix dripping melody and passion. Fans of Return to Forever or The Elektric Band will love "Carousel", a rapid fire portayal of fusion firepower, and I really dug the metallic funk of "John's Fragment" a sort of a Tribal Tech-meets -Mahavishnu Orchestra, complete with raging Hammond organ, distorted guitar slabs, thick & meaty bass tones, and Pyle's bombastic drum fills.
I literally could not take this CD out of my player for 3 days. The fact that these songs were all recorded live (most at Le Triton in Paris in 2003, two at Progman Cometh Festival in Seattle in 2002) and not in the studio makes it all the more amazing at the sheer skill involved here. Like I already mentioned, Belle Illusion is one of the best instrumental fusion albums I have heard in a long while, and there have been some real good ones so far in 2004. This one is going to have the prog & fusion fans talking for quite a while I predict.
1) For Adiba (7:54)
2) Vas Y Dotty (5:02)
3) Sparky (7:17)
4) Beautiful Baguette (7:46)
5) Biffo's Belle Illusion (7:44)
6) Spoutnik (8:26)
7) Cauliflower Ears (9:21)
8) Carousel (7:04)
9) John's Fragment (6:35)