Percy Jones - fusion - jazz - Brand X - Van Manakas - tunnels - "Eclectic Earwig Reviews Music and More for You!"
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Tunnels: Progressivity
2002, Bucky Ball Records, BR 009

If you want to know what this album is all about, the liner notes for Progressivity by the trio Tunnels pretty much tells it like it is. There is a warning right on the sleave that warns the listener of tonal nastiness, dissonance, harmonic and rhythmic abstraction, distortion, etc. This album is not for the faint of heart nor the fusion novice. No, this album is aimed at hardcore fusion fanatics that like to see the limits pushed in the areas of tonal, rhythmic, and structural exploration. Though Progressivity earns its title as an enterprise in abstract jazz and commanding fusion, the effort is not without a more rudimentary appeal to the auditory senses. The novelty of the enigmatic, experimental sonic excursion compels the listener to become absorbed, if not out of only intellectual fascination at first. But, then the complex themes, intense rhythms, outside harmonization, and calculated interplay take hold of the listener in a way that draws them, reluctantly at first, into the layered grooves until after some time the listener finds themselves acclimated to the very things the label warns of.

Though some tracks on the CD are further out into the reaches of abstract fusion, there are a few moments of tangible gratification. John Goodsall makes a guest spot on guitar with a blazing fusionistic solo that should quench the thirst of most fans of guitar-oriented fusion. Also, Mark Feldman makes a guest spot on violin, bringing a new dimension of sound to the effort that, though distinctive, only serves to augment the experience.

In keeping with the original spirit of jazz fusion, the unpredictability of the arrangements keep the listener's attention engaged. Some sections delve into the depths of abstraction, and other sections strike a more comprehensible groove, though achieving this while maintaining the complex exploration that the trio embarks upon. And, this tenuous balancing of abstraction, complexity, and cohesion is the distinguishing aspect of the CD that attracts and compels the listener's attention.

In summary, fans of hardcore fusion should take note because this album as targeted at defying your demographic. These guys are out to challenge your sensibilities with some risky, avant guard exploration into all technical areas of progressive fusion that puts it to you to get your mind around. So, if you are a fan of easy jazz that soothes you in your diatonic comfort zone, it would be best to steer clear of this one! But, if you like it at the leading edge of progressivity in the spirit of the Mahavishnu, this one might be right up your alley! And, if any questions remain, once again, check out the liner notes... They tell it like it is!

Fretless Bass   Percy Jones
Midi Vibes   Marc Wagnon
Drums   Frank Katz
Guitar   John Goodsall
Violin   Mark Feldman
Voice   Sarah Pillow
1) Syzygy Incident
2) Wall to Wall Sunshine
3) Frank's Beard
4) Diabollocks
5) Progressivity
6) 7,584,333,440 Miles Away
7) Some Things Must Last
8) Fusionauts
9) Orfeo's Demon
10) High Tea at 49th and 10th

~ Christopher Ruel ~ ~ ~ October 2003

tunnels painted rock (1999, Buckyball Records)

The fusion quartet tunnels, led by bassist Percy Jones
of Brand X fame, released their second album painted
rock in 1999.  Their instrumentation ranges from the
traditional guitar, bass, and drums to the unusual,
xylophone-like sound of MIDI vibes.

painted rock mixes modern fusion styles, with upbeat,
snappy tunes like "land of the hazmats" and "painted rock," and
slower, more mellow expositions like "quai des brumes."  The
songs feature few and very sparse heads, the jazz term for
melodic themes prominently restated throughout a song, and
instead the subdued rhythm chording serves as a backdrop for
extended solos by all musicians.  In addition, many of the
songs lock into a groove and exploit it for lengthy passages,
such as the prolonged swing of "bad american dream 2001."  The
understated melodies, long solos, and repetitive arrangements
give the music on painted rock a diffuse and unfocused
feel, especially when the individual solos or the rhythm
grooves drag on for extended segments.

The first half of "house of marc" displays clever sonic
experimentation, bursts of percussive and scratchy bass over
ethereal synth chords and spacey female vocals, before locking
into a plain, mid-tempo groove.  "lily's dolphin" begins with a
catchy head, and retains a more cohesive feel than most of the
tunes as the MIDI vibes play a rolling solo under smooth bass.

painted rock sounds clear and vibrant, with a quacky
clean rhythm guitar tone, round purring bass, and crisp drums.
The xylophone sound of MIDI vibes provides an interesting tonal
contrast to the traditional fusion instrumentation.  The
drumming cracks with a strident bombast through most of the
record, approaching a mechanical feel in passages like the main
riffs in "painted rock" and "land of the hazmats" where the
patterns and attack remain remarkably static.  The pounding
attack and up-front mix clash with the lighter feel of many
passages, such as the bridge of "neuro-transmitter."  The
frisky high hat groove and dynamic snare rolls in "black light"
show a subtle and creative touch that does not shine through on
the rest of the record.  The heavy-handed drumming and the
overly extended solos found on most of painted rock
culminate in the superfluous drum solo track "unity gain" that
closes the record.

Reviewed by Scott Andrews []

More Info: Lineup: Percy Jones: bass Marc Wagnon: MIDI vibes Van Manakas: guitar Frank Katz: drums Tracks: painted rock house of marc black light quai des brumes frank's closet land of the hazmats boyz in the ud bad american dream 2001 lilly's dolphin unity gain


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