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Lucas, White & Edsey: LWE

By opening their self-titled album with a group of children reciting a sing-songy version of the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag, keyboardist Frank Lucas, drummer Chuck White and bassist Steve Edsey prove early on that their self-titled LWE debut will be unlike so many other instrumental progressive-music CDs flooding the marketplace these days. First of all, there are no guitars. Lucas' piano — rarely does he use synths — propels this music into a feel-good stratosphere, while the rhythm section of White and Edsey provides a mighty backbone. (The subtle potency of this trio is no surprise, really, considering that all three men have gigged with the likes of guitarists Michael Angelo and Neil Zaza, as well as the prog-metal band Ion Vein.) Edgar Gabriel, a principal violinist for Cirque de Soleil, also appears on three of LWE's eight tracks.

Pre-release comparisons to Emerson, Lake & Palmer and the Chick Corea Electrik Band might have been overstated. This music is less pretentious (although no less dramatic) than ELP's work, and it lacks the blatant fusion references of Corea's late-1980s/early-1990s outfit. Instead, listeners get a steady 54-minute stream of clever, quippy and wholly engrossing music that includes the marvelous, bouncy opener "Liberty," the beachcomber anthem "Hasta Mañana" and "The Nightcap," an uncharacteristically dark, mysterious and sexy piece. LWE milks its cleverness with songs whose titles reference the Chicagoland trio's influences: "A Note to Jordan" (as in Dream Theater keyboard maestro Jordan Rudess) and "Waiting for Bela" (as in premier banjo player Bela Fleck).

Count LWE among the most promising acts on ProgRock Records' burgeoning roster of talent.

Track Listing:
1) Liberty
2) Sleight of Hand and Foot
3) A Note to Jordan
4) Hasta Mañana
5) Waiting for Bela
6) The Nightcap
7) A Dog and His Boy
8) The Good Life

Added: November 29th 2006
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Frank Lucas Web Site
Hits: 5220
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Lucas, White & Edsey: LWE
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-11-28 22:28:39
My Score:

The fact that keyboardist and songwriter Frank Lucas has studied keyboard techniques with Jordan Rudess for a dozen years is not at all obvious. Lucas also claims influences from ELP, Chick Corea, Bela Fleck, and of course, The Rudess Morgenstein Project. Again - if those influences exist they're well disguised because none of this music sounds like any of those keyboard giants.

Which tells you what it isn't - so let's examine what it is.

Lucas White & Edsey's debut is mostly energetic soft jazz, played on free-flowing keyboards (mostly piano), against a rhythm section that - in most sections- is just keeps rhythm. There are occasional very jazzy flares of bass work during which Lucas's piano joins the rhythm section, and some of the most pleasing moments on the record are provided by guest artist Edgar Gabriel, a violinist for Cirque de Soleil.  Occasional sound and voice samples and electronica give it a slightly new-agey flavor, and Lucas's occasional layering of keyboard sounds and his tempo and time signature shifts justify their position in Prog Rock Records's catalog.

The highlight of the record is opening track "Liberty", which starts with a children's chorus reciting the pledge of allegiance, followed by an upbeat, major-key piece that appears to be celebrating liberty - with a conclusion featuring a march with snare drums and a (synthesized) fife. We say it 'appears' to be celebrating liberty because the CD is all instrumental. Track 1 is the most classically-oriented piece on the record, with the remaining 7 tracks falling into a not semi-progressive lounge-jazz style that will challenge no one, but might find broad appeal among those looking for intelligent yet relaxing music.

When you come home from work - pull on your favorite slippers, and recline in that La-Z-boy with a good scotch - and spin LWE. It's that kind of music.

Lucas, White & Edsey: LWE
Posted by Kerry Leimer, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-11-13 06:27:34
My Score:

Since the label is called "Progrock Records" one can only assume that Progressive Rock -- as a category -- is trying to demonstrate its bendy-ness and big-tent aspirations by installing Lucas, White & Edsey in its newly opened Lounge Wing. While the players are much more than competent, and the music at times reaches for that remarkable sort of stylistic fluidity exemplified long years ago during the 13 minutes of "Hang on to a Dream" (The Nice: Elegy) it never really arrives. And even though the rhythm section here proves much more accomplished than did Jackson and Davison in their day, LWE remains an album we'd expect to hear first on the shopping mall PA. The inflections, the transitions, the pauses for moments of less than musique concret, all bear the hallmarks of Pepsi-Generation jazz and full-on lounge leanings shaded now and again with excursions into tricky but circumspect patterns.

Still, there are persistent though unconvincing tugs in the opposite direction. As a consequence, Lucas, White and Edsey's sporadic use of "found" sound here and there comes across as almost arbitrary. Those moments when the players depart from the formal demands of their music feel stuck on, in and around. As for the spoken voice, the close of "The Nightcap" forces us to listen in as a girl whispers "Am I the most amazing woman you've ever known" and goes on to say "cheers" to the clink of glasses. This, followed by some superimposed crackle and a recorded thunderstorm, must intend to paint a picture of a soon-to-be-wet romantic encounter. Which in turn illuminates the music -- uh, how exactly? Is it a Bonzo Dog Band moment or a page from Robert Henke? Given the vast and growing number of seriously considered phonography based works, in which found sounds act as the organizing aspect of music, the snippets of the non-instrumental world displayed on LWE are frankly and literally nothing more than superfluous decoration. While probably meant to be tongue in cheek, the gesture isn't funny enough. Instead, it acts to further demonstrate the gulf of comprehension on display here.

In the end, this is music that never strays far from reassuring major scales and unadventurous voicing. It resides in an unyielding and sunny politeness which oddly enough makes its only strength its most obvious weakness.

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