MacAlpine / Brunel / Chambers - CAB fusion series - Brain Auger / Patrice Rushen - " aka Eclectic Earwig Reviews Music and More for You!"
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CAB4 on Mascot Records, (M 7079 2) [66:49], just flew in
from the Netherlands into my CD player and I am lovin' it.
It's all too rare when I can pop in a CD and relish it the
whole way through -- on a first listen too.

MacAlpine, Brunel, Auger, & Chambers have done it again.
And a major bravo to Patrice Rushen on seriously superb
Chick Corea-ish keyboardscapes and soloing!!

This release gives me the same feelings I got upon hearing
RTF's Romantic Warrior the first time. Yeah, it is all that
-- jazz fusion so tight, so slick, so melodic, so well executed,
and compositions so engaging that it deserves a 12.5 out of 10.
It is a laid-back groove in many spots but smokes enough here
and there to satisfy hard-core fusion rockers needing egde and
dymanics. It is not anywhere as dense and frenzied as
Romantic Warrior weighed in so long ago but listen -- these
guys could easily have pulled off a near perfect clone-tribute
to RTF and thus gone the way of -- well ya know -- "that's nice,
what else can ya do?" . . . Instead we get a solid 21st-century
fusion groove that perfectly demonstrates how high-quality
jazz fusion can be without all the extended "look-at-me"
blowing going on.

The virtuosity of everyone is screaming out in the controlled
unison lines, balanced voicing, tones, and phrasings. Be it
bass, keys, axe or drums -- this release is magic! It's gonna
be really hard for me to choose a favorite track!

In a nutshell, all you fusion fans who already own this -- you
know what I mean dontcha -- and the rest of you folks need this NOW!

~ Editor, John W. Patterson 

Track Listings
1. Hold On        
2. One For The Road        
3. Shizuka        
4. Tony Mac        
5. Raymond        
6. Bb's Rhumba        
7. Bass Ackward        
8. Cloud 10        
9. Alphonse        
10. Jam & Toast        
11. De De  

MacAlpine / Brunel / Chambers / Auger: CAB 2

2000, Tone Center
CyberHome: ;

CAB follows up their popular 1998 premiere with CAB 2, adding Brian Auger on keyboards to the all-star lineup. If you like the initial release by CAB, you will probably like some of CAB 2, if not all of it. CAB 2 is similar to the original, self-titled release by CAB in its sound, texture, and compositional style. The music is centered around themes with complex melodies that explore nonstandard, fusion-oriented harmonization. The tracks are groove-based, setting down progressions characterized by unusual, jazzish tonality and complicated rhythms that the instruments then trade off lead work over when they are not collaborating on a theme.

Being a fan of MacAlpine, I have to admit that I picked up the original CAB and CAB 2 primarily to see what he was doing on them. And, MacAlpine's playing is interesting and blazing fast in spots, as I would expect. But, what I didn't expect is that I would like Bunny Brunel's bass playing so much, especially since I am not a big bass follower. Because it was unexpected for me, I think Brunel pretty much steals the stage on this one. He has several exceptional solos and his playing in general is good throughout, though all of the instrumentation is good and none is lacking. I think it definitely says a lot that Brunel's bass work caught the attention of a guitar-centric listener like myself. He has a great feel that he conveys in his playing and approaches the bass more like a solo instrument taking advantage of string stretching and other effects to give the bass lines and solos character beyond what you might here with a more conventional bass player. Brian Auger also brings a new dimension to the group with his angle on the keys, but his playing is not that far off from the MacAlpine fusion sound from the CAB premiere. Auger definitely lends some stylish improvisation and speedy solos to the effort. And, Dennis Chambers adds his savvy brand of fusion drumming to the mix to give the sound another dimension and more depth.

My favorites from CAB 2 are "Decisions" with its themes that balance tonal complexity with accessibility; "South Side" with its catchy groove and smoking bass, keyboard, and guitar lead work; and "Top Spin" with its solos, and especially Bunny's cool bass solo. But, I was a little disappointed that the group did not capture the electricity on any tracks like they did on "Elastic Man" from the the first CAB release. However, CAB 2 still delivers a solid effort from the group.

If you like melody-centric music that develops themes around exploratory tonality with jazzish foundations that goes outside but not out of the solar system and you like equally-matched improvisation trading off between guitar, keys, bass and percussions, then CAB 2 is something you should check out. Or, if you are a jazz-oriented bass player or have any interest in jazzish bass you should check out Bunny Brunel's exceptional playing on this effort.

1) Decisions
2) Madeline
3) Dennis
4) For Joe
5) South Side
6) Song For My Friend
7) Temperamental
8) Top Spin
9) Wah Wah
10) Sunday

~ Chris Ruel

MacAlpine / Brunel / Chambers: CAB

2000, Tone Center
CyberHome: ;

CAB makes its debut with drummer extraordinaire Dennis Chambers, renowned axeman and keyboardist Tony MacAlpine, and bouncing bassman Bunny Brunel teaming up to serve up a collection of aggressive jazz fusion tracks to expand MacAlpine's scope further into this genre that the others already have a firm foothold. The tracks on CAB can be characterized as funk/groove-oriented, theme-centric arrangements having an aggressive drive to them but that are balanced with complex yet digestible rhythms, tonal backdrops, exploratory yet accessible themes, and lead work that trades off between bass, guitar, keys, and drums bringing to view the talents of all three contributors. The format seems to be a forum mainly to display the improvisational capabilities in the realm of fusion for the three comparably matched solo acts that collaborate on this effort. CAB is reminiscent of the rock group Cream in concept, but with a jazz fusion spin-off. CAB is definitely leaning toward the rock edge of fusion in its feel, guitar work, and arrangements, though it does seem that Brunel and Chambers are tugging the rope vehemently in the other direction. And, it is kind of a paradox that MacAlpine's keyboard work on this effort is more jazz-oriented than rock, and yet his lead guitar work has a decisive rock edge to it.

CAB takes it straight to you with "Night Splash", a track that is pretty representative of what you are in for with this CD. "Night Splash" lays out the format of improvisation built around shared thematic development as a center with the improvisation collaborated by all four instruments involved, usually with one instrument in the spotlight, and definitely with all instruments being managed by players of near-equally matched skills in the supergroup tradition. What is nice about this format is that the thematic center gives some cohesion to the track that the improvisation can then venture out from and return to when it is time to trade off. This format works well for me as a listener.

There are a number of tracks on CAB that make it worthwhile, each having a different feel that is pulled from some different influence or creative facility. In fact, the effort is pretty solid from beginning to end. So, if you like jazz fusion with a rock edge, it is a good one to pick up. Some of the other tracks that grabbed my attention were "So There Is Love", "Boogie Me", and my favorite on the album, "Elastic Man".

I think the CAB formula works best on the track "Elastic Man" that sets a nice backdrop with the smooth jazzish progressions, grooving rhythms and spunky basslines, that are contrasted by the opening, teasing theme. This backdrop and intro are then decimated first with MacAlpine's soulful keyboard solo and then his full-frontal assault of ripping guitar work featuring some really cool muted, speedy runs that gives the track its character and title. MacAlpine then with a single grinding stretch lets you know that it is time to pull out the stops and lets the shrapnel fly with some shredding that works nicely over the jazz foundations. If that weren't enough, Brunel lays down some incredible bass work throughout and especially in his solo that is able to keep things going even after MacAlpine's inspired solo that doesn't leave much room for conversation afterwards. I think that "Elastic Man" is the type of arrangement that would have a broad appeal that spans well beyond the jazz fusion listening audience... it is coooool!!! {8{)

I enjoyed CAB for its listener accessibility, aggressive brand of rock-edged fusion, and impressive soloing, especially on bass and guitar, though the keboards and drumming are really entertaining too! The tonality is both interesting and satisfying. But, from an listener's viewpoint it is good how CAB balances complexity and jazz-isms with listener accessibility; a touch juggling act for any arranger, but one that CAB has pulled off pretty well.

1) Night Splash
2) CAB
3) So There Is Love
4) Just Perfect
5) One For Stern
6) The Watcher
7) Atamanashi
8) Boogie Me
9) Elastic Man
10) Bernard

~ Chris Ruel





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