If you are anything less than a true explorer/connoisseur of music, you are unlikely to have heard either of Mo’Bop I, II, or III or the musicians that constitute the band. So let me introduce you to the people involved: Kazumi Wantanabe is a much acclaimed Japanese Jazz Fusion guitar player, who no one in the mainstream must have heard of. On the same coin, we have Richard Bona, who is this amazing bass player, and an absolute master of grooves that fall into the cracks and spaces between notes. Expect more albums of his to be reviewed by me further on. Finally, we have Horacio Hernandez, a Latin percussion master, whose David Garibaldi-meets-Neil Peart drumming has won him a load of accolades.
And let me tell you this; the bouquets are well deserved. For most of the album, despite Wantanabe’s all-over-the-place guitar playing, and my obviously biased allegiances towards Bona on account of his being a bass player, I was most impressed at Hernandez’s drumming. It’s fast, in the pocket and flashy, seemingly all at the same time. Brilliant. Just as a suggestion, do check out his power trio with Michel Camilo and Anthony Jackson on YouTube. I guarantee furious clapping and general cheering with a fervour usually reserved for India-Pakistan cricket clashes.
The album is in general very fast placed. The only exceptions is the inappropriately named “Lawns”, which is slow and melodious and the wonderful and lyrical “Dragon’s Secret”. Another thing notable in this album is a surprising lack of chords over all. I would have wished for more chordal playing but Wantanabe, ’cause I love the damn things. Here, he have loads of broken chords, and individual notes picked and all that, but the general paucity of chords disappoints me.
The general paucity of chords disappoints me.
The soloing by Wantanabe is all over the place, as I said, but it’s not the best part of the band, despite him being the bandleader. Richard Bona’s soloing and Hernandez’s drumming are the real stars of the show. Check out Bona’s unexpectedly rapid turn of speed in “Tiger Beam”, and the mellifluent singing of his bass on “Dragon’s Secret”.
Despite the Jazz Fusion virtuoso billing of this album and band, there are some surprisingly Latin flavours waiting around to catch the listener’s interest. Witness the sun n’ surf goodness of “Good Fellows”. It’s one of the more danceable tracks, as is the following (keyboard driven) “Infancia”. All this adds a lot of warmth to the otherwise slightly sterile world of Jazz Fusion. Greg Howe-for instance- would really benefit from a more diverse and multicultural band rather than fellow Americans Victor Wooten and Dennis Chambers. It would inject a healthy dose of some warmth into his music.
All in all, this is an excellent album, and surprisingly for a Jazz Fusion album, one which I can listen from the beginning to end in one go because of the variety available. It’s a bit like one of those mixed vegetable soups that actually works because of the variety of tastes it accesses. Excellent. This sounds right.
– El Bajista
More JAZZ/ JAZZ FUSION reviews HERE.
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