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OHMphrey - Ohmphrey CD (album) cover

OHMPHREY

OHMphrey

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.52 | 14 ratings

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Negoba
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Jazz Fusion Jam Master Class

When I heard that two of my current favorite bands, Ohm: and Umphrey's Mcgee, were getting together for a side project, I almost melted in excitement. Trying to think what these improvisational masters would create in tandem, I was overwhelmed with possibility. The result, the self titled Ohmphrey album, is both more and less than I had hoped. Knowing all of the individual musicians' sounds fairly well, the album sounds like each of the guys doing their usual thing (which is great stuff). Don't expect monster surprises if you know the bands already. The good news is that each of these players are some of the best in their roles, and yet each left their egos at the door for the good of the common sound.

The five players do meld incredibly well, and the music sounds both like Ohm: and live Umphrey's (a la their recent Jimmy Stewart 2007). The result is often heavier than Ohm: (which of course ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland slips into effortlessly) and more complex harmonically and rhythmically than Umphrey's (which UM drummer Kris Myers navigates brilliantly). Interestingly, Jake Cinninger still seems to be taking the leadership role that he also holds during Umphrey's live shows. Even more surprising is the prominence of Ohm: bassist Robertino Pagliari. Many of the musical ideas seem to have evolved between Pagliari and Cinninger with Poland and UM keyboardist Joel Cummins contributing mainly additional coloring and solos.

One of the highlight tracks of the album is "Denny's By the Jail" during which we actually get a taste of the guitar duel one would have expected from the combination of players involved. While on the album as a whole, Cinninger seems more comfortable, on this track Poland puts down some of the most insane licks he's ever recorded. Cinninger for his part plays some great solos in response, but he's merely an amazing guitarist, and sounds like one. Poland, as usual, sounds like he's playing a different instrument than the rest of us (save maybe Holdsworth) and when he's hot on this album he's a blazing sun. However, there are places where he seems to be searching a little bit, and to be certain Cinninger has a wider range of textures to add in accompaniment. (On the mentioned track he actually plays a very Meshuggah-ish riff in a song that starts very gently before hitting its main thematic chug.)

Not everyone is going to catch the "warts" on this one as the musicianship is unbelievably high, but there are plenty of them. This shouldn't be surprising given that the album is essentially a highlight tape of two days of jamming in Poland's studio. While the songs have some very basic themes, sometimes a just a groove or a riff or a progression, the majority of the music evolves through the interaction of the players (Umphrey's live standard.) To be sure, the addition of Poland and Pag has upped the ante, and this album is a huge step up from very good Jimmy Stewart. In some ways, UM must wish they had the Ohm: guys available permanently.

Part of me wishes the guys had more time to refine, to compose just a little bit more, to record a few more takes, to sift just a little harder. The high points on this album are phenomenal, and maybe those would have been lost if the project was more polished. To be clear, even the lulls here are very good music, and the highlights will spin your head. It could have been more, and maybe that will come. But for lovers of modern jazz fusion, and certainly fans of either band, this is an excellent disc. Enjoy.

Negoba | 4/5 |

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