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Album Review

Led by former Brand X fretless bassist Percy Jones, this maddeningly creative, wild, and sometimes experimental trio makes no bones about its desire to carry on in the hardcore jazz fusion traditions of the risk-taking era of Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Tony Williams. They're very good natured about the sacrifice of possible commerce for art's sake. In their liner notes, they actually say something about the recording containing tonal nastiness, dissonance, harmonic and rhythmic abstraction, distortion, and "other forms of sonic weirdness." They warn people under the influence of smooth jazz not to listen! All tongue-in-cheekness aside, what they're really doing is celebrating in modern terms an era where musicality was more appreciated than catchy melodies and radio-ready running times. MIDI vibist Marc Wagnon wrote the brooding, bubbling opening track, "Syzygy Incident," which seems designed for mind expansion, toe tapping, and locomotive timekeeping. In the middle come strange, trippy industrial noises and odd bluesy atmospheres that are sometimes almost relaxing. Then the real action starts on "Wall to Wall Sunshine," with guest guitarist John Goodsall and violinist Mark Feldman ripping the room to pieces. Jones' bass is a constant booming presence throughout. Other tracks seem less organized and more off the cuff, but hardcore fusion fanatics might enjoy them and get something that other listeners may not. So, yes, there is a tendency toward overkill on the weirdness and self-indulgence (there's one 20-minute track), but listeners should focus on celebrating a musical world where great musicians doing such things can actually get a deal and sell records. These types of things are nicely balanced by truly melodic and enjoyable mainstream numbers like "Some Things Must Last." Ironically, that's probably something these guys don't want to hear about their music.


Formed: 1992

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

A quartet of inventive musicians who produced sounds on the edge of jazz, Tunnels was the brainchild of Swiss vibraphonist and percussionist Marc Wagnon and bassist Percy Jones, who was an essential element of the first recording put out by the band, titled With Percy Jones and released in 1994. Drummer Frank Katz, and multi-instrumentalist and composer Van Manakas were also brought on board and helped develop the spastic fusion style that would be evident on Tunnels' second album, Painted Rock,...
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Progressivity, Tunnels
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