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On The Raw - Climbing the Air CD (album) cover


On The Raw


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.76 | 148 ratings

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5 stars "On the Raw" is a jazz fusion band from Barcelona, Spain. They released an album in 2017, and their 2nd full length album is "Climbing the Air" released in February of 2019. The line-up for this album includes Jordi Prats on guitars, Jordi Amela on keyboards, Pep Espasa on sax and flute, Toni Sanchez on bass and Alex Ojea on drums. With only one exception, all of the tracks are around the 7 - 9 minute mark.

The album starts with the title track "Climbing the Air", which starts off with atmospheric electronic effects which suddenly gets interrupted by a fast bass line and a drum pattern to match. Brass and guitar take on the primary melody with some keyboards taking a solo early on before returning to the theme. The track then mellows out a bit and after a secondary theme, guitar and sax play a relaxed vibe to match the softer percussion. Later, it builds quickly and the sax takes it to a more intense feel. Around 6 minutes, things get really interesting with a sudden change moving to a very upbeat tropical feel with flute, hand drums and an island vibe in the keyboards with the guitar providing a nice solo and later a trumpet provided by guest Samuel Garcia.

"Red Roses" is a definite progressive jazz vibe with a complex rhythm pattern in the bass, piano and drums. The flute provides the melody and later some improvisation in fine fashion with a hard foundation generated by guitars and piano. "Resistance" follows the same style with a heavy bass line in 7 / 8. A sax comes in improvising on a theme as the foundation continues. The jazz / rock fusion is quite on point on this track. Next, after a bit of development, the guitar takes on the solo. After each section, there is a progressive section where each time, the track is further developed. Then we get synths and violin (again by Samuel Garcia) in a quarrel that generates some wicked energy. Things cool down a bit when the sax brings the theme back and then holds a conversation with the guitar.

"Moneypenny" begins with heavy guitar and the sound of high heels walking, and immediately this goes into a somewhat funky foundation and the trumpet takes over. The sexiness of the track continues when the bass plays a sneaky pattern as a voice over from a Bond film plays, and, of course, just as you suspected, this continues in its sly way paying homage to the character the track is named after. Later, a cool drum pattern ushers in a nice guitar solo. Without really taking the obvious route with the homage to the Bond protagonist, it does it slyly, with a mysterious, yet victorious feeling but not necessarily sounding like a take on a Bond theme.

"Herois" combines bass and flute playing together at first, then separating into their own parts. This track is more downbeat with minimal percussion, letting the bass take the rhythm at first, but the drums do kick in later staying at a moderate rhythm. Some interesting scat-style, layered vocals (provided by guest Cristina Falcinella) come in and play around with the bass line, then later, wordlessly enhance the flute. Suddenly, things become really minimal with a pinging sound and then a soft piano comes in by itself, playing a lovely theme and improvisation. Later, the piano creates a riff to bring back more intensity as the band comes back a bit at a time, then a rhythm guitar gets the original sound going again with wordless vocals to add atmosphere. Guitar and piano do a call-and-answer style improvisation, then the sax does its thing, but now the vocals have become synth generated.

"Blackmail" has a 70's style vibe with bass and organ playing a groovy foundation over which a guitar establishes a theme helped by the organ and a soulful background. Then the saxophone improvises over the foundation. This later calms to a smoother and jazzier sound. Sax and then guitar improvise over this smoother vibe. Everything intensifies a bit as the guitar continues. Then the drums and funky scratches start to bring back the original vibe under the direction of the flute improvising all over the top of the foundation. Then the organ, flute, guitar and brass work together to bring everything back again.

"Skeptic" is the last track. This album has been so enjoyable, it's hard to believe the last track has come around already. A nice moderately-andante rhythm is established and sax and guitars control the thematic elements and where the song is going. Things calm a bit as the bass takes over. Then it all returns again, heavier this time. There is some development as the music moves to another section this time led by the organ and then the guitar takes over later. Intensity increases. There is a sudden shift when the rhythm moves to a soft swing style rhythm with bass alone at first and then joined by the sax. Again there is an increase in intensity as a fuzzy guitar takes over and starts to wail a bit. Things go suddenly quiet with an acoustic guitar, flute and mellotron finish things off in a soft manner.

Now, this is my kind of jazz fusion, where things have thematic elements in each track, but there is a wide variety of improvisation and variation that moves smoothly from one section to another in each individual track. There is so much to this music that keeps it all interesting and dynamic, and everything just keeps moving, never really stagnating or getting stuck in repetitive foundations or styles, yet each section develops very well. The balance here is amazing and the band's timing is spot on. I have to say that this is the best jazz fusion album I have heard this year and it will definitely be a best pick for 2019. This is how it's done! Variety, dynamics, a bit of humor, a lot of surprises, yet its all done with a strong thematic style, yet without letting the theme overrule the direction of where each track is going to go. Perfect!

TCat | 5/5 |


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