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Album Review

One-hundred-and-twenty-degree summer days notwithstanding, Phoenix didn't truly get hot until the mid-90s, when the incendiary five-piece ensemble Turning Point took over the club scene there. Their mix of progressive jazz with rock, R&B, blues, funk, Latin Jazz, and even Greek music influences made them a regional sensation. The bold and aggressive title of their Native Language debut — and sixth release overall — Matador, perfectly captures a rockin' band that always has a cut or two that's ripe for smooth jazz formatting (they've opened shows for many of the genre's top names), but truly bursts all easy categorization. The disc's first single was "Quisiera Ser," a crisp and light funk-driven cover of a Latin Grammy-winning song by Spanish superstar Alejandro Sanz, highlighted by guitarist Thano Sahnas' snappy flamenco flair. The Latin influence is also in full effect on "Spain" and "Matador," both electrifying flamenco-rock adventures featuring a fiery horn section and wild, rolling grooves. In addition to featuring a soaring violin solo by guest star Charlie Bisharat, "Spain" also has a touch of the blues blended in via Steve Culp's energetic Rhodes-flavored keyboard solo. Moving in a more tropical direction, "Despues de Mañana" is a joyful island dance number. The Sahnas brothers bring their rich Greek heritage to light on "Rhapsody for Priapus," an ode to the Greek goddess of fertility that cools into a moody romantic mode. On a more poignant note, two of Matador's most heartfelt tracks were inspired by powerful events in the news — the anthemic, electric guitar-driven pop/rock anthem "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" by the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy in 2003, and the multi-movement, seven-and-a-half-minute "Soldier's Lullaby" by the war in Iraq. This type of unpredictability and diversity makes this one of 2005's most essential instrumental recordings.

Matador, Turning Point
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