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Gamalon - Live At The Tralf  CD (album) cover

LIVE AT THE TRALF

Gamalon

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.75 | 3 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars One of the cultural benefits (in retrospect maybe the only one) to my current exile in Western New York was the discovery of this hard working City of Buffalo band: a diamond in the rough if ever there was one. In a perfect world these guys would be packing arenas coast to coast, wowing crowds with their high-octane, all-instrumental blend of jazz-rock fusion (leaning heavily toward the rock end of the equation), instead of scratching out a living playing in small, smoke-filled clubs and taverns, setting up and breaking down their own equipment night after night, chatting with friends and fans at the bar between sets.

GAMALON has been around, in one form or another, for over two decades, but this 1998 live collection (their latest to date, through 2004) captures the collective energy of the band better than any of their intermittent studio recordings. It was sold as an "official bootleg", but don't let that mislead you: the sound quality is excellant, and all the more vital for its relative lack of studio polish.

This particular line-up (re-shuffled twice already since then) revolved around the testosterone-driven twin guitar attack of founding member Bruce Brucato and newcomer Tony Scozzaro, who assaults his instrument with such concentrated ferocity that I'm surprised his fingers aren't shredded into bloody tatters at the end of every performance. Added to the mix is virtuoso Chapman Stick and bass guitarist Jim Wynne, whose hyperactive ostinatos drive the music away from the funky low-end rhythms of their early sound into harder, more subversive territory.

But to me the heart and soul of the band remains Ted Reinhardt, a drummer's drummer in the mold of Bill Bruford or Curt Cress (it's no coincidence the early repertoire of the group included covers of PASSPORT material, with the guitars of course doubling for Klaus Doldinger's saxophone). Like any true musician Reinhardt's energy and enthusiasm is best appreciated in a live setting, and this CD is the next best thing to being there: when he finds his groove the drummer seems to lose himself in an awesome to watch, almost primitive trance state of total percussion consciousness. Drum solos are typically little more than self-indulgent exercises designed to kill time while the other players take a break offstage; here's a thrilling exception to the rule.

The music is, as mentioned earlier, entirely instrumental, built for the most part around group improvisations, several of which are used here as bridges and intros. At one point in their career the band tried writing some real songs (with lyrics rarely aspiring above the "girl you got me on my knees" level of banality), but this set plays to their strengths, moving from ghostly ornamental interludes to savage mile-a-minute workouts at ear-splitting volume. My only complaint is that the crowd has been edited out between each cut, perhaps to save space for more music, which would be forgivable if it didn't also interrupt the continuity of the performance.

It's reassuring to know that there are bands like GAMALON tucked away in unlikely corners of Middle America. The drawback is that potential fans outside of metropolitan Buffalo won't have much chance to discover them without some effort. But on the other hand, and I don't want to sound too smug, imagine being able to hear THE DREGS, or KING CRIMSON, or "Birds of Fire"-era MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, play a three hour gig for the price of a few beers, in a club little larger than an average suburban living room!

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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