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STRANGE MEETING

Power Tools

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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js (Easy Money)
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4 stars Power Tools was sort of the Blind Faith of 80s jazz rock, a super group that put out only one album, as if only to show us what they could achieve before disbanding. Bill Frisell was the new jazz rock superstar on guitar via his work with Naked City and his solo albums, Ronald Shannon Jackson's militaristic drum-line approach revolutionized jazz rock drumming in his work with Ornette's Prime Time as well as Last Exit, and in the spirit of 80s NYC punk-jazz, bassist Melvin Gibbs was punk enough for gigs with Henry Rollins, and technical enough for Eddie Palmieri. The three together were incredibly intense, but this trio was far from an avant- garde noise blowout, instead they were often capable of sublime sensitivity and tense calm.

Frisell is more or less the leader here, and his phenomenal guitar technique is more than up for the task. Sometimes soft and lyrically expressive like a lap pedal-steel, Bill's guitar seems too fluent to be a guitar. At other times he stings with a compressed distorted sound that recalls Terje Rypdal bordering on David Gilmour or Jimi Hendrix. The music this trio makes varies from bittersweet impressionistic melodies to full on sonic assaults driven by Jackson's muscular drumming. A typical recipe for some of their best tunes involves a melancholic melody whose changes are repeated in a format known to jazz musicians. As the chords come around the band becomes increasingly abstract, expressive and busy as they drive the initial melody through some harsh deconstruction. Their original tune Howard Beach Memoir is especially gripping as the band recreates the harrowing racial incident the tune is named for with a lonely opening melody followed by a purposefully hopeless improv that can't connect. On another successful track, maudlin chestnut Unchained Melody loses it's sentimental 'chains' and takes on new life under the Power Tools approach.

One of the very best jazz rock records that came out in the 80s, this record is highly recommended. Power Tools joins Quiet Sun and Blind Faith as one of those bands that should have put out way more than one record.

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Send comments to js (Easy Money) (BETA) | Report this review (#259123)
Posted Sunday, January 03, 2010 | Review Permalink
snobb
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4 stars One of rare fusion super-group from late 80-s, this power trio is almost forgotten by wide listeners. And it's a shame! Because this (only) their album is one of the best jazz fusion recordings from all decade!

Bill Frisell's guitar is recognisable there, and sounds sometimes as his nostalgic-melancholic provincial Americana in his earlier solo works, or as nervous, cold and noisy as his Naked City's recordings. Most interesting, that differently from both mentioned above, on Power Tool's album Bill plays both manners at the same time, mixing them even in the same composition!

Drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson is known from his work with Ornette Coleman and many other collaborations. Melvin Gibbs played with Henry Rollins (!), so you can imagine what a mix is this trio's music!

But, speaking about the album, I think this release is unique enough, whenever such experimental, clever and brave mix is recorded in late 80-s, far not the best time for such music at all. Noisy, very complex technically, with many free jazz elements, but at the same time melodic in places and never too strange or not-accessible to be out of interest of casual fusion fan.

Unhappily, the only release of very interesting trio ( live on BBC, their another recording, was never released). Very recommended as excellent example of still-alive and burning fusion from late 80-s.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#285630)
Posted Wednesday, June 09, 2010 | Review Permalink

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