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Hines, David: Nebula

With so many great bass players out there competently aping Jaco, Jackson, Clarke, or your other favorite lords of the low frequencies, it's worth noting that it's a bit of work to forge a unique identity among the myriad other musicians who pepper the landscape. Most of these guys remember to add dashes of their own wholesale flavors since the comparisons will be flying through their office windows like gales. With David Hines' debut Nebula, let us not concern ourselves, and enjoy the music. There's no shortage of fusion so whether this album blows another barn door down is up in the air (though it's already doing some serious rattling). What's apparent is every player is no lightweight, with even a Holdsworth band alum in our midst: Steve Hunt, keyboardist on Holdsy's Secrets, Wardenclyffe Tower, Hard Hat Area, and Then!

In fact, Hunt invited Hines to record his album at his studio after the bassist unveiled his demos — nice! Guitarist Steve Kirby, who leads his own band, and drummer Steve Michaud were brought in to handle the chores in their respective areas. Like Hines, Michaud is a Berklee grad; this cat upholds the fusion drummer's tradition with mucho verve, which, while chops bounce off his sticks like so much Styrofoam peanuts, in turn traps him in the tier behind Bruford, Cobham, White and Chambers as he doesn't exactly have an identity apart from the masters (yet). Of course, Hines and his 4 & 6-string fretted and 5-string fretless basses are at the center of it all. This is fairly straight-laced, energetic fusion — no "world" elements. Shades of DiMeola-era RTF, Cobham's Spectrum and White's Venusian Summer resonate throughout.

Back to Hunt: his playing virtually anchors Nebula (even if Hines claims authorship), making this a winner for keyboard lovers. Hunt endows velvet-smooth whorls of semiquavers and swirling gliss runs with hi-quality digital sounds (thought the Clavinet sound isn't very faithful) and at least one thick, faux-analog Oberheim-esque voice for certain solos. Never are his lines the soporific, stream of consciousness types like those that result when a keyboardist is struggling for room between intersecting passages emanating from a number of virtuosos (hogs). Hunt's role in "Q" and the title track is so up-front every other player becomes support. Listen for a long solo on the latter that wouldn't sound out of place in Camel (Hines' solo immediately comes afterward). So is Hunt a hog? Hardly. While he proffers melodic motifs, his sounds just generally stand out (somebody phone or email Jordan Rudess).

With regard to solos, there just may be too many. Many of these eight tracks do follow an intro>setup>verse>solo>bridge>verse> solo>interlude>solo>outro scheme, with ">solo" optioned at will. Since it's all so elegantly executed, it's also too easy to not give a damn, and just crank it! "Toe Nail" appears to be getting much attention across the board, a "pseudo-single." Opening with a dispatch of "events" on one of Hunt's synths, it's a smooth number that — you guessed it — essentially is owned by Hunt. For my change, "Nebula" is a much more happenin' number with a stellar faux-organ lead by Hunt, Kirby's sufficiently Holdsworthian legato licks, and Michaud's in-the-pocket & around-the-fringes playing. Arguably the most retro-friendly track, "Neuro Man" becomes Michaud's showcase as he negotiates his kit with octopoid aplomb. Naturally, there's no shortage of solos from Kirby and Hunt, who trade licks like Beck and Hammer did in the good ole days. We depart this Nebula with "Antillia" to spend just a few moments more with her than we did with "Lucia." Contemplative, soothing, groovy, almost in line with ECM days. Hines switches to his fretless for that aptly syrupy sound, the most minute of spaces between notes slicked into one sticky sweet whole. And then — Presto! "Big Al" is back with another red carpet solo…'nuff said! (Yes, it's one of two on here…where the other occurs is easily discernable.)

No further spoilers!


1. Skippy (5:01)
2. Q (4:58)
3. Toe Nail (5:16)
4. Nebula (6:57)
5. Lucia (8:01)
6. No Loops (5:07)
7. Neuro Man (6:29)
8. Antillia (8:13)

Total time – 50:08

Added: June 12th 2005
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
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Language: english

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