For over 15 years the Cleveland, Ohio based progressive/fusion group RARE BLEND has been entertaining audiences with their brand of high energy instrumental jazz fusion at concerts and outdoor festivals, opening for artists like David Sanborn, Kevin Eubanks, OZRIC TENTACLES, TUNNELS, SPECIAL EFX , BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS, DARK STAR ORCHESTRA, LOS LOBOS, and SPRO GYRA.
The group lists their musical influences as SANTANA, TRIBAL TECH , LED ZEPPLIN, STEELY DAN, YES, GENESIS, TANGERINE DREAM, JEFF BECK and SPRO GYRA; and their compositions and improv sessions reflect those many influences – but to my ears this ultra tight unit has more in common with THE DREGS, RETURN TO FOREVER, DAJAM KARET, PASSPORT, KING CRIMSON, WISHBONE ASH , DOCTOR NERVE, and most notably BRAND X.
The current line-up consists of Vic Samalot (electric & acoustic guitars), Bobbi Holt (keyboards), Jeff Scott (bass – fretless & fretted), and Ivan George (percussion). Additional guest artists on this live recording include Vince Broncaccio (drums) and Phil Quidort (trumpet).
The latest CD release “Sessions: Live Recordings From Stage & Studio”, is divided into three segments: STAGE, STUDIO, and FILM, featuring new material recorded in concert during shows in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Baltimore; live one-take improvisational sessions recorded at Odyssey Studios in Cleveland; and live performances recorded during the Crooked River Groove TV program (title track Hipster Spinster), and their ‘2008 Bridging The Gap’ music/film series in which the band performed their original score against the backdrop of classic silent films “Phantom Of The Opera” and “Metropolis”.
Tracks 1-4 recorded during concert performances, and 5-10 one-take studio improvs display the band as an ultra-tight symbiotic unit, with each member linked in perfect sync to create an awesome display of fusion improvisation at its best. But my absolute favorite tracks on the disc are 11-14 as the band performs their filmscore for “Metropolis” and “Phantom Of The Opera”.
Bobbie Holt’s haunting ethereal sampled voices paint an atmospheric backdrop of dread and mystery as Vic Samalot’s guitar work provides the smoldering passion of a spirited Carlos Santana lead, all propelled by a backbone of driving bass and manic tribal percussion. It’s a shame a DVD couldn’t have been provided of the performance just to see how well the music augmented the movie clips.
RARE BLEND can proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with BRAND X and the best of the progressive/jazz/fusion groups, and “Sessions” is as good as anything recorded by their peers.
Highly recommended to aficionados of fusion and improvisational jam bands.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on January 15th, 2010