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Rare Blend: Sessions

Jam fusioneers Rare Blend open fire with a fusilade of "live" stage & studio improv numbers on Sessions, the successor to the very well-received '06 platter Stops Along The Way. That album and 2002's Evolution Theory — but especially Stops — demonstrate what a chops-defined yet taste-governed outfit Rare Blend is within the niche they share with modern fusion peers Garaj Mahal and A Helmet Of Gnats. Guitarist and co-bandleader Victor Samalot and keyboardist Bobbi Holt tend to wear their influences on their sleeves (the likes of Beck, Santana, Hammer, etcetera), but neither is a mere copyist (far from it). Drummer Ivan George's style can be likened to Cobham, White, and Chambers. Figure in bassman Darren Frate for this outing and the Rare Blend circle is complete. The album's title also points to the players' decades-long careers as performing musicians and composers.

"March To Orion," the second piece on Sessions, is quite the sick slice of electric prog-fusion. It's a What If?–branded hybrid of Eric Johnson's Ah Via Musicom and Ritual-era Djam Karet. Well, sort of, though the 'sound o' da Blend' is not devoid of specks of space. "Market Square" has nothing to do with Marillion. But wait, what's with Holt's long, monophonic analog synth lead? Crafty, but not exactly subtle, is it? Still, well done, and nothing neither Ant Banks nor Mark Kelly would disown. Each track, up through "Hide And Seek" and beyond, also features sterling bass-playing of the caliber of Prestia, West and LaRue — leads, fills, solos, i.e. the works.

"Say What?" is a spiffy retro-flavored piece with angular guitar and electric piano. "The Timekeeper" is naturally more rhythm-centric and hinges on a wahriffic guitar lead and undulating bassline. "Break A Leg" might be something that would've been found on a Sancious record. Holt's electronic influences surface on cuts like "Mystic Jam" and "Christine's Theme." The former dovetails on a "triptatonic" synth motif, while the latter is more atmospheric and the textures form a bedding for Samalot's paced, expressive solo. Then there's the ten-minute "Z'hadum" with its gothic strings, gloomy piano and — well, let's not spoil all the fun.

Rare Blend has yet to disappoint, and from the looks of things, this seasoned quartet intends to do anything but. While not as over-the-top as hyperfusion trios Niacin and Spaced Out, the atmo rock-meets-funktacular fusion Blend mix doesn't quite sound like anything else out there that costs an hour's wages. The sound samples on the RB CDBaby page (linked below) should prove more than adequate in cementing the notion. The next album of carefully-crafted all-studio compositions should prove their best yet.

Track Listing

  1. Hipster Spinster 6:06
  2. March To Orion 5:11
  3. Mystic Jam 7:27
  4. Market Square 8:12
  5. Hide & Seek 3:58
  6. Jazzmin 5:07
  7. Say What? 3:38
  8. The Timekeeper 2:52
  9. 28 Degrees 4:33
  10. Neon Noodle 4:16
  11. Z'hadum 10:25
  12. Phantom Lair 4:41
  13. Break A Leg 4:02
  14. Christine's Theme 2:40

Added: April 12th 2010
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: RARE BLEND on CDBaby
Hits: 2923
Language: english

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