Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Truth Be Told" a review of Mark Egan's latest CD

CD:Mark Egan Truth Be Told/ (WT-8642)

Having once taken lessons from the legendary
Jaco Pastorius, Mark Egan has established his own reputation as one of the premier electric bassists working today.

Egan’s credentials range from his stints as a key member of the original Pat Metheny Group, to a thirteen-year tenure in the bass chair on the Gil Evans Orchestra. On Truth Be Told a> (WT-8642)Egan has assembled a formidable cast of musicians to help him explore the possibilities of his own compositional vision. The line up is impressive with Egan joined by the eclectic multi-reedist Bill Evans, the keyboard wizardry of Mitch Forman, the percussionist Roger Squitero and the tour de force drummer Vinnie Colaiuta.

The album combines elements of fusion, improvisational jazz and funk with a purposeful sense of groove throughout. Forman is particularly adept at incorporating an ample array of electronically synthesized sounds creating an airy, surreal feel that mesh beautifully with Egan’s fluid bass and Evans wispy saxophone solos. On first listen, the album veers into the area of being so smooth and listenable that you can almost dismiss it out of hand, but that would be a mistake. Closer consideration reveals the enjoyable nature of this well crafted music. There are some fine individual performances within these eleven songs, ten of which are Egan compositions. It is the persistent groove provided by Colaiuta and Egan that frees these musicians from any tendency to intellectualize this music. These guys are just having fun and it shows.

The funky “Frogs Legs”, brings me back to the early days of the Jeff Lorber Fusion's brand of electronic funk. "Gargoyle" and "Cafe Risque" both have the psychic blood of Weather Report running through their veins. "Gargoyle" features a driving repeating line that serpentine’s it’s way through the changes behind Forman’s electric piano and synthesizer. The title song “Truth Be Told” dangerously crosses into smooth jazz territory, a bit too predictable for me. It has a catchy electronic vamp combining bass, synthesizer and sax lines with a clever hook and an infectious beat. All the songs are driven by an undeniable tap your foot rhythm held together seamlessly by Forman, Egan and Colaiuta.

“Sea Saw” features a lyrical, Jaco-inspired bass solo by Egan, a whimsically soaring soprano solo by Evans and an impressive Colaiuta drum solo with a staggered off-beat flurry at the finale.

Forman’s “Shadow Play” is the one composition not composed by Egan on this album. Forman uses heavy synthesizer backing over Egan’s deeply evocative bass lines. Egan’s deft use of sustain is wonderfully effective. The notes just suspend beautifully. Forman’s bluesy piano solo midway is perhaps his best on the album, it leads into saxophonist Evans sensuous soprano solo that with Egan’s throbbing bass brings us to a fading climax wishing for more.

“Blue Launch” is a backbeat blues that Colaiuta’s fills with his wonderfully deep toned tom rolls and bass drum as the versatile Evans exercises his Maceo Parker chops on tenor.

Rhyme or Reason”, “Blue Rain”, “Pepe” and the sitar-like, mystical “After Thought” finish out this offering.

Truth Be Told , Mark Egan has put together an enjoyable, well played compilation of music. He manages to span the chasm between hard core fusion and easy listening contemporary jazz, while still maintaining his artistic integrity. While likely a little light for hard core fusion fans, I think the album works as a purposeful attempt at expanding the contemporary music audience.

Musicians: Mark Egan (fretted & fretless electric Bass); Bill Evans (Saxophones); Mitch Forman
(keyboards); Vinnie Colaiuta (drums); Roger Squitero (percussion)

Recorded June 15, 16 & 17, 2009 Avatar Studios, NYC.

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