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Masi, Alex: Late Night At Desert Rimrock

When this album fell into my lap I was just starting to get into jazz, the improv nature of it, and in search of jazz metal. So it's odd yet timely that this was sent to me. It's a combination of jazz, metal, and improvisation. It features the technically proficient guitarist Alex Masi (whose more typical works are reworks of classical favorites), and the undeniably excellent drumming of John Macaluso (Yngwie Malmsteen, and MCM, which also has Masi).

Apparently the album was made by John just drumming away and Masi playing bass over it purely based on feel. While I don't have the exact details it seems that this improved rhythm was then layered over with lead guitar. I don't know if the lead guitar was improvisation or not. What a listener can expect, however, is to hear some incredibly interesting music. Alex states that the theme of the album is the desert, and the sensations one goes through in it, such as loneliness. I don't know if this was conveyed or not. I didn't always feel it, but I don't' want to say it isn't there.

What I do know is that I was never bored, and never felt like I was listening to pure wankery. While the playing was technical and as fast as can be purposeful, there was some emotion seeping out of it. What I also know is that Macaluso, when let free to just drum as he feels, puts out some of the best lines I've heard. My favorite tracks were the first one, "Vagina Denata", and the Genesis influenced (by name and more), "Telling England by the Sound". But viewing the track listing kind of gives part of the reason that I don't quite get all the desert imagery in the music; except I had some feelings with the first one that it wasn't about sexual frustration.

I also know that I loved the album, and repeatedly listened to it. For musicians, especially the guitarists and drummers out there, it's a good education.

Track Listing
1. Vagina Denata
2. You Asked
3. Antistructure
4. Love Is A Resonance
5. Asparagus Piss
6. Disembodied In The Mojave
7. Tiktaalik In Evolution (The Link)
8. The Smell Of Weightlessness
9. Telling England By The Sound
10. His/Her Dosage
11. Is You Is Or You Ain't?
12. Unsolved

Added: June 1st 2007
Reviewer: Scott Borre
Related Link: Alex Masi Website
Hits: 2246
Language: english

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Masi, Alex: Late Night At Desert Rimrock
Posted by Mike Blackburn on 2007-06-09 12:05:43
My Score:

Alex delves even further into the experimental free form world of rock jazz fusion he first engaged in a serious way on 2004's MCM (Masi, Coven, Macaluso). This new work was initiated by laying down drum and bass grooves (once again with Macaluso on skins, but Alex handles all other instruments on this release) and then by adding a spontaneous display of virtuoso soloing born from a place Alex describes thusly: "Every piece is a universe in itself…the influence is the desert…my love of the desert…my love of trips around various deserts and the imaginary and actual encounters there….altered mental states…". This may indeed leave fans of Alex' recent neo-classical output somewhat puzzled but believe me, there is no shortage of superb guitar work on this release.

One of the most endearing qualities of Alex' music over the years, regardless of genre, is his balls to the wall aggressive approach. Alex has always been a bit raunchier, a bit heavier, a bit louder and not quite as clean as his contemporaries. Coupled with a very much appreciated (at least to these ears) unpredictability in his note selection and his obviously amazing technical skill, one could say Alex is to rock guitar as John McLaughlin was to jazz fusion. There are many passages in this new work that do in fact remind one of Mahavishnu Orchestra like chordings and solos, "Asparagus Piss" for instance. Other pieces recollect the rockiest side (without keyboards of course) of Bill Connors era Return to Forever, Brand X and Tribal Tech. There are several other examples of the furious breakneck Shawn Lane type approach to fusion as well.

The tracks flow together well, as a concept piece should, with lots of changes in groove, vibe and dynamic. "Vagina Denata" is a superb drum fuelled opening rouser with a building layering of urgent guitar riffs. "Tiktaalik In Evolution" contains some super cool Egyptian like riffs and scales and some neat nods to Black Sabbath along the way. You have to also love an atmospheric tune with a name like "Selling England By The Sound". Macaluso provides an alternately crushing or subtle backbeat as demanded by any particular piece. He has certainly significantly upped the ante since the last MCM performance.

Masi has shown that he is indeed an expert at this "stream of consciousness" methodology of musical creativity. If you are in any way a fan of this musical approach you will agree with the hope that there is more of this in Masi's future.

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