Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fusion CD of the Month - "The Avengers: On A Mission"

Fusion CD of the Month
The Avengers: "On A Mission" (MoonJune)

Produced by The Avengers
Executive Production: A Starry Night Music, NYC
Recorded and mastered at Kaleidoscope Sound, New Jersey.
Engineered by Randy Crafton
Drawings: Juan Conde
Graphics: Leandro Vieira
Layout: Susan O'Kane
Photos: Lina Jang & Maureen Plainfield

Featuring: Adam Holzman (keyboards), Lincoln Goines (electric bass), Kim Plainfield (drums) & Beledo (electric guitar)
Composed & Arranged by Beledo for Belead Music/Gudari Records

A person could be excused if at first glance of the cover of The Avengers' debut album, they perceived it to be something other than an extraordinary progressive jazz-fusion album. (... After all, it is highly unusual to find a jazz band naming themselves after a group of comic superheroes and sporting an album cover depicting themselves in all their crime-fighting splendor!)

The Avengers are led by guitarist Beledo -- composer of seven of the album's eight tracks -- and keyboardist Adam Holzman (who also contributed the album's great artwork), and supported solidly by two renowned "young veterans": bassist Lincoln Goines (a guy with a strong connection not only to such fusion superstars as Mike Stern as well as to Brazilian fusion through his work in the 80s with Claudio Roditi and Eliane Elias, when both were still immersed on fusion), and drummer Kim Plainfield (Tania Maria, Bill Connors, Didier Lockwood and the late Charles Fambrough).

Dynamic depictions aside, once you're past the cover and digging into the disc, it becomes quickly apparent how truly special "On A Mission" is. The album wastes no time, opening with the powerful title track -- a lush, concise piece which immediately puts the group's sensitive dynamics and strong melodic sensibilities on display. The song is full of promise and adventure, and an accurate gauge of what's in store.

Through this and everything that follows, the fretwork from Beledo is nothing less than spectacular and undeniably world-class. His rhythm work is fresh and vivacious. His tones are full-bodied, as evidenced through his towering, emotion-drenched solos and the polished lead voicings by which he articulates themes and melody lines throughout the project. Listeners will find Beledo's compositions to be intricate, inventive and masterfully plotted, producing songs that immediately render you captive.

Holzman's bold, courageous chord work serves as the perfect backdrop for Beledo's grandiose sonic excursions. Adam -- the former keyboardist/band director for Miles Davis, who I saw playing with "the Picasso of Jazz" at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and later with Michel Petrucciani at NY's Blue Note, AND who is currently with prog giant Steve Wilson) also proves himself to be an equally-capable lead voice, contributing some breathtaking solo work; particularly evident on "Portia" (the tune that Marcus Miller penned for Miles' book of the 80s) and "Siddhartha's Return."

While remaining poised, poignant and commanding in his supportive roles, the album features sparkling work throughout from Holzman on synth, organ and Fender Rhodes.

Propelled by Goines' lively, ultra-solid bass work and Plainfield's flowing, understated, complimentary grooves, The Avengers leave no doubt that they are a stellar team -- lean, imposing, and undeniably worthy of their heroic credentials. "Raulendo," "No Big Deal" and the album's closer, "Jimmy O'Donnell's Air," further evidence the group's penchant for revving up commanding melodic themes while effortlessly hugging the tight, twisting turns with spectacular style and agility. Their light, joyous interplay and ESP-like collective continuity stands out over the disc's entirety.

While there are many among the progressive ranks who view the "fusion" subgenre as a dying entity (or already deceased, even), The Avengers make a strong, compelling case to the contrary. This is profound progressive jazz-fusion; the stuff of legends: unafraid to flex its muscles and unleash super-human feats whenever the circumstances warrant such bold displays of musical gallantry.It is with great pride and privilege that MoonJune offers this triumphant, superlative work. Fusion this polished and articulate -- and "immediately essential!" -- deserves a world audience.

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