All Star Lineup; Less Than Stellar Result
Ryan Wepler | Waltham, MA | 05/06/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I had never heard of Bruce Ditmas when I bought this cd. I bought it primarily to listen to legends Paul Bley and Sam Rivers. They don't disappoint, but they also aren't alotted a great deal of solo space. Rivers plays fantastically on "Power Surge" and "Thursday Nite Special" but gets only about five minutes of total solo time during the album's other 50 minutes. Bley has his moments as well, especially at the beginnings of "What If" and "Celver Conversation." However, Bley's playing is consistently crowded out by Ditmas's drumming and Dominic Richards's bass. Richards and Ditmas would sound more at home as the rhythm section for Metallica than they do in a jazz quintet. Ditmas plays in a constantly deep thumping style with a lot of bass drum and frequent moments of loud crashing cymbals and Richards's bass thumps augment Ditmas's excessively loud playing. Rounding out Ditmas's quintet is guitarist John Abercrombie. I've never been a big Abercrombie fan, and he does nothing to change my opinion here. The timbre of the effects that Abercrombie uses on his guitar have always grated on my ears, but it is the style of his playing that leaves me so puzzled about why so many consider him a legend. He typically plays in short bursts of notes that seem aimless and unconnected to one another. When he does play a lot of notes in a row it is frequently a short pattern of notes that he simply moves chromatically up or down the neck of the guitar. In addition, Abercrombie does a lot of simply making sounds with his guitar--bends and squeals--that don't add a great deal to the music. Overall, it seems to me that these guys are trying for more of a soundcape effect than a chance to show off their individual musicianship. However, the individual styles of the musicians don't mesh in a way that creates a really inspiring result. Abercrombie has a lot of solo time, so fans of his work might like this. Sam Rivers superfans may want this as well, for the two songs in which he features prominently (and plays very well). Most others would likely prefer to invest in something else."
A sound and musical treasure
Ian Muldoon | Coffs Harbour, NSW Australia | 10/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is a cliche to say so but that will not deter me - ISLAND SEVEN which opens the program of music on this fine CD is enough for me for the price of the album. Mr Ditmas sets up a sonic almost thunderous but intensely music backdrop to a stunning set of solos from the musicians involved. Musicians? Artists, legends, greats might be a better description, but more of these later. This opening track reminds one of Africa and its musical history but the music morphs into a more reflective conclusion through the guitar work of John Abercombie. The piano solo is a stunner. The title track also begings with the drums of leader and composer of all seven pieces. The music is on the free side of the music allowing considerable space for improvising and does feature Mr Abercombie on a joint composition PULP letting loose with a solo of remarkable power. DONT WAKE ME features the sythesizer work of Mr Bley. Mr Rivers is still playing as if he were thirty years of age on POWER SURGE. The BIG EASY suite is the compositional highlight with an extensive solo by Mr Rivers on soprano sax, more glorious drumming by Mr Ditmas, and a brilliant quirky stomping swinging THURDAY NITE SPECIAL.
Norman Granz was famous for getting musicians together who may not have otherwise had the opportunity, and this has been a feature of Metronome Magazine, etc, in the old days during award time. Mr Alfred Lion did the same at Blue Note. In the present case Mr Ditmas and Mr Simon invited some musicians he has greatly admired over the years for his recording date and what legends they are. The musical history that these three - Bley, Rivers, Abercrombie - embrace and have been part of has really been the major evolution of improvised music in the past fifty years. This is a beautiful album, invigorating, powerful, and swinging. Thank goodness for POSTCARDS."