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Reuben Gingrich - Blue Island CD (album) cover


Reuben Gingrich


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.86 | 2 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Reuben Gingrich is a drummer and drum teacher from Los Angeles who has been uploading videos to YouTube since 2006 and gradually built up a small fanbase before he co-founded the funk rock band The Main Squeeze, embarked on a number of online collaborations and eventually released his debut solo album Blue Island in 2017. Even though the album bears Gingrich's name and he wrote most of the songs, the music on this album is not really drum-centric. Gingrich keeps down the beat with great skill, but the most prominent player on the album is keyboard player Andrew Lawrence, who plays most lead parts and solos on his square wave oscillator (although guitarist Samuel Mösching and saxophonist Corbin Andrick also supply a solo here and there) in addition to using his array of synths and pianos to create a ton of background layers. Many tracks also have the reverb all the way up and incorporate nature sound effects, as if to actually give off the impression of a remote blue island in the middle of an ocean.

Almost all songs on the first two thirds of the album are solid jazz fusion offerings, from syncopated-yet-funky workouts such as "Emerald Flames" and "Awaken" to more ethereal piano-led tunes like "Sun" and "Kokedera". A particular standout is a cover of the song "Secret Of The Forest" from the soundtrack to the game Chrono Trigger. The original already had a jazz-like cadence and chord progression, so this version sounds pretty close to the original. Lawrence and Andrick also both play shining solos on it that very well accentuate the song's mysterious and melancholic mood. Definitely something to check out if you're at all interested in video game songs being recreated with live instruments.

But the real treats of the album are when Gingrich's band is joined by guest musicians with whom he'd already collaborated in the past. The aforementioned "Emerald Flames" features former Prince bassist MonoNeon, a fascinating virtuoso who manages to assume lead position in certain parts of the song and shreds out a great solo on his bass guitar during the bridge. It's surpassed only by "Mystique", a magnificent fast-paced groove which features B.C. Manjunath on 'Konnakol' vocals, a percussive scat-like singing style originating from South India.

Sadly, the album is not entirely free of filler: the final three tracks are pretty much dispensable. "Moon Machines" and "Beyond The Future" are both rather pointless and unimpressive improvised pieces, and "Hope" is a cover of the eponymous track by the Mahavishnu Orchestra that's only two minutes long. While I normally welcome any homage to John McLaughlin, this version doesn't really add anything to the original, and there are dozens of more interesting Mahavishnu songs that Gingrich could have picked to close the album on a high note anyway. So, kind of a weak ending, but thankfully, the tracks on this album that leave me underwhelmed are all pretty short and innocuous, and the rest of the album more than makes up for them. Overall, Blue Island is an excellent addition to any jazz fusion collection and shows that the genre is still far from dead even this far past its heyday.

Mirakaze | 4/5 |


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