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OHMphrey

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Album Review

As the band's rather clunky name implies, this is a confluence of members from existing bands Ohm: (guitarist Chris Poland and bassist Robby Pagliari) and Umphrey's McGee (Jake Cinninger, Joel Cummins,and Kris Myers respectively on guitar, keyboards, and drums). Both Um and Ohm: typically traffic in complex, prog-oriented, electrified jazz fusion, so except for the purely instrumental nature of this project, (Umphrey's features a vocalist), there isn't much unexpected here. Regardless, it's an often taut, sometimes loose, always intriguing, hour-long set that will satisfy followers of both acts, with perhaps a slight tendency towards Ohm: fans. While the members are all top-flight musicians, it's hard not to single out drummer Myers and guitarist Poland who drive the majority of these pieces, pushing the level of musicianship throughout. The tunes twist and turn with each shifting mood from jazz to a metal-ish attack, heavy on the Frank Zappa/Joe Satriani patented interplay, but lacking the former's wry sense of musical humor. If you don't appreciate the direction any of the eight selections are going, gears will likely shift within the long-playing times. The 12-minute "What's the Word, Thunderbird" starts off New Orleans funky, with distorted '70s-styled guitar intertwining with a Garcia like lead. It then moves to a frantic bass section and shifts into driving, experimental space rock, creating room for a Hendrix riff and dynamics that never seem forced or pretentious. It's that malleability that allows this music breathing room, even as solos tend to steal the spotlight. Some of the selections could surely have been abbreviated, but even the 15-minute "Shrooms' 'N' Cheese" doesn't seem overlong, due to the inspired playing, terse energy, and sheer enjoyment these talented musicians exude as they exercise their impressive chops. A few slower songs such as the piano propelled "Lake Shore Drive" provide respite from the fireworks that ignite the rest of the program including the following "Not Afraid of the Dark." Clearly there aren't many overdubs, if any, since this jam heavy arrangement thrives on intricate interpersonal interaction. Jazz-rock fusion often gets a bum rap for showcasing demanding solos over the body, soul, and congenial atmosphere inherent in jazz. But when it's done properly, as on most of this project, letting the musicians determine the path of the music, the emotion and jawdroppingly tight instrumental conversations take on a life, and art, of their own.

OHMphrey, OHMphrey
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