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China Ranch

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Album Review

On China Ranch, Frank Briggs gives a Return to Forever-esque treatment to ten killer tracks that display strong drumming and soloing on Rhodes, synths, guitar, and bass. The compositions, inspired by a visit to a family-owned date farm in the Mojave Desert, keep an eye on the jazz-rock fusion tradition pioneered by such influences as Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Pat Metheny, and others, while still moving the genre forward. On "Desert Flower," the solos run the gamut from lush modern electronics and dramatic harmonies to wide-open solo sections for Kit Walker on Rhodes and Brian Price on guitar. Briggs' powerful and rhythmic drumming keeps this song musically focused, energetic, and shifting freely between the jazz and rock elements. "Tecopa Moon" may be too hip for the room, as they say, since the laid-back ambience and walking basslines integral to Briggs' arrangement take an electronic marvel to another level of melodic excellence. The feel shifts from the very beginning and the tempo ranges from Briggs' moderately slow drumming and soundscapes to the lightning-fast guitar licks of both Price and Jeff Miley. The title track, "China Ranch," features twists and turns with surprises and a funky groove that will have listeners enjoying themselves throughout the musical ride. The entire recording is beautifully conceived and expertly crafted, and is a must for fans of jazz-rock fusion.

Customer Reviews

Unbelievable Music by a Great Drummer/Composer!

If you're a fan of great contemporary/progressive jazz ... and if you are ready for an amazing musical journey featuring some of the best instrumental players out there, by all means check out "China Ranch"! I've been following Frank's career since the mid-80's. At the time, Frank was blowing people’s minds as the drummer for a popular AOR band called 805. Although his playing, musical direction and focus has grown and changed dramatically over the years, one thing remains the same: Frank is still blowing people’s minds. Passion, fire and intensity infuse his amazing music and drumming, and now he’s captured all of that in a virtuoso new compilation. Lots of people know Frank’s name and playing through his many acclaimed drum instruction books and videos, as well as through appearances as a featured clinician at NAMM and a touring/session musician (Atlantic Starr, Mike Kennealy, Jennifer Batten). Quietly and steadily, Frank has built a reputation as being one of the greatest professional drummers in the country, if not the world, and he has surrounded himself with players of equally high technical mastery and a total commitment to the music. Highly polished and technically astute, these magicians have chops to burn. At the same time, there is a raw, loose, organic approach to soloing and comping that puts this band in a different place than most. And what about the music? It’s acoustic and electric; fiery yet delicate; comfortable but surprising. The broad range of styles – from straight-ahead jazz to drum-and-bass and Funk-infused jams – adds tremendous diversity to the band’s musical journeys. It’s a little Return to Forever, a little Weather Report, with a hint of Metheny, Shorter, Tony Williams and Jaco Pastorius ... and yet it is none of the above. Frank Briggs put his heart and soul (not to mention his wallet) into this amazing collection. SUPPORT GREAT MUSIC AND GREAT MUSICIANS! BUY THIS RECORD!

Strong and Melodic. Powerful and Introspective

Pure. That pretty much says it all about this album. Frank has covered all the bases with China Ranch. This CD will be appreciated by jazz purists simply for the approach and production and the way in which each piece has been handled with pure artistry. The melodies and traditional-sounding lines found on these various pieces are simply beautiful. The musicianship is flawless. Why shouldn°t it be? Besides being a world-class drummer, Frank is a gregarious young man. He has enlisted for this project, players that are among the best to be found°≠anywhere. China Ranch is one of those albums that allows the listener the luxury of not having a favorite cut. As you listen to each track you find something very cool about each one that just stays with you. Here is my take on a few of the tunes. The second selection, °Tecopa Moon° is reminiscent of Billy Cobham's °Spectrum° L.P. I do not mean that from a plageristic standpoint, not at all. It is just the feel and the attitude with which the piece is delivered that invokes mystery and a dark atmosphere. Very cool. "Melonie" the third track, is produced in a traditional manner, with pure instrumentation. It begins as a serious piano piece that falls into a really hip, romantic swing carried by pianist Steve Weingart. The tandem melody played by guitar and piano is magical. As this piece moves along there is a beautiful bass solo by Ric Fierabracci followed by a perfectly pure guitar solo provided by Brian Price. The interplay throughout this piece is remarkable. This compostion is one that any serious student of music will appreciate both as a listener and as a piece to study. The title cut, °China Ranch° is a funky one. Heavy and slightly dark with what I would say is a Miles inspired line. Cool vibes and keys. This one is on the other end of the spectrum from the afore-mentioned °Melonie°. I suggest it be played loud. Okay, I am going to get a bit heady with this one °Spirit Rider° is aptly named for sure. It is a breathy piece that gives the listener a sense of sailing high above the western landscape and taking in all of the majestic beauty below. It comes back to ground with the rhythm section playing a °Frank Zappa-ish° kind of reggae style melodic line over which there is the perfect compliment of fiery guitar solo performed by Mark Doyle. So bottom line is this °China Ranch contains 10 remarkable instrumental cuts that you have to hear. It takes you to a lot of different places musically and you will enjoy the trip. Every composition on China Ranch was written and produced by drummer Frank Briggs. Along with playing drums on every cut, Frank plays various keyboard parts throughout. The complete lineup of players includes Brian Price, Steve Weingart, Ric Fierabracci, Kit Walker, Mitchel Forman, Frank Gamabale, Jeff Miley, Chris Golden, Mark Doyle, Travis Carlton, Jimmy Earl, Jeff Babko and Michito Sanchez. Gary Dean Smith, Lone Lee Radio Show (Boulder CO)

Good music is simply Good music.

Regardless of the myriad labels thrust upon it, good music is simply good music. With that stated, drummer Frank Briggs' release, China Ranch, could fit comfortably within many categorizations, its elements including fusion/progressive rock, electronic music, grooveacious funk or contemporary jazz with plenty of creative substance. A propulsive drummer in the style of Tony Williams, Briggs has been active in the Los Angeles area for a number of years. With this debut he enlists the help of a stellar cast of musicians; some lesser known in addition to recognizable veterans such as guitarist Frank Gambale and keyboardist/composer Kit Walker. With inspiration from a desert hike in China Ranch, a Mojave Desert oasis, the music mirrors Briggs' experience witnessing the vibrant colors and renewed environment after a desert rain, teeming with new life and positive energy. The spark is ignited with “Desert Flower,” a fusion up-tempo piece with Kit Walker providing his still strong synthesizer and Fender Rhodes chops, an elastic Jaco Pastorius-like bass solo from Ric Fierabracci, and a torched guitar solo from Brian Price as Briggs commandingly works the kit. His drumming covers a broad range, from thundering backbeats to cymbal finesse on the slow-cooked “Tecopa Moon,” a piece with thick electronics and a hypnotic pulse. Like a view of the desert terrain, a closer look reveals variety that might otherwise go unnoticed; a picturesque ballad in “Melonie,” neon-lit dance floor persuasions in “Dreams” with its moog-synth bass line, Return To Forever jazz funk-rock on the title piece, and some 'Weather Reporting' on “Furnace Creek,” a perfect swirl of electronics and driving beats. Briggs' writing admirably balances both melody and progressiveness throughout the recording, including the final track “Saints,” where Mitchel Forman's piano and keyboards, Gambale's guitar fireworks and the author's own tremendous drumming all converge in harmony. China Ranch is a solid debut that is consistent and filled with memorable tunes and impressive performances that would appeal to a variety of listeners. Mark F. Turner - All About Jazz

China Ranch, Frank Briggs
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