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John Bruschini As You Were (Cathexis, 2000)

New York City guitarist and composer John Bruschini, a long time sideman
in Cecil Taylor's touring groups, offers nine original instrumental
tracks of varying jazz and soft fusion styles played in a small band
setting on his debut CD as a band leader, As You Were, including
nylon string classical guitar and light electric jazz.

The morose, nylon string guitar title track opens the record with a
sluggish feel, despite lightning quick classical guitar passages in the
vein of McLaughlin or Di Meola, that go by too fast to present much
melodic content.  The song shifts into a bright 7/8 time groove after
the first few minutes, adding a rhythmic spark underneath more super
fast guitar runs.  As the only classical guitar track on the album,
however, this song feels odd as the opening track.  With the second song
"B4," the record goes electric with organ keyboards, electric guitar,
and a viola.  "B4" grooves in a subtle 11/8 time riff, and "Way Down"
crawls in a slow blues shuffle, under long guitar and bass solos.  The
snapping groove of "Bloodroot" refreshingly picks up the pace and ends
crisply, but then the ballad "Glory" drags through repeated
recapitulations of a drab melody and more excessively long guitar and
bass solos.  The peppy "April" bounces along to a concise ending, but
the starched groove of "Funkyard" has no snap as it repeats under guitar
and organ solos.

Bruschini's arrangements for half of the jams on As You Were
clock in well over 7 minutes, straining the listener's attention span
with repeated melodic heads and lengthy solos in songs that rarely break
away from repeated riffs or head/turnaround patterns.  The title track
moves into the 7/8 outro, refreshingly taking the song in a new
direction.  "Ancestral Seeds" stands above the rest of the record,
moving in this manner from a slow but more engaging ballad than "Glory"
into a crisp, mid-tempo electric jazz tune.  Like much instrumental jazz
and fusion, the long arrangements on this studio CD would probably work
better in a live setting, where the listener could see the musicians
interact and the music breathe.

Bruschini plays proficiently on nylon string guitar, traditional jazz
electric, and a thicker fusion style electric, and the organ keyboard
work adds traditional sounding and appropriately understated secondary
sonic elements.  The viola sits very well in the sonic array of the
electric instruments, adding a clever original timbre to the light
electric fusion sound.  The rhythm section backs Bruschini competently,
but never seems to shine beyond their roles.

Bruschini's languid "As You Were" effectively paints a somber picture,
but it rarely captures or engages, partly due to extended song
arrangements.  The inside CD cover features a dedication to Bruschini's
brother, presumably deceased, which may explain the somber mood, but the
music rarely reaches out of this prolonged and melancholy feel to grab
the listener with exciting writing or playing.

Reviewed by Scott Andrews []

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