Hotel X

A Random History of the Avant-Groove

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Jazz purists may deride Hotel X for their occasionally shaky chops and the band's tendency to swerve toward experimental rock stylings, but when everything clicks with this band they can be genuinely exciting. There are some great moments on A Random History of the Avant-Groove, most of them when sax or flute lines float over a tangle of dueling fretted and fretless electric basses. The weak link in the band is reedman J. Ghaphery, who has excellent ideas but poor tone and a habit of ending his parts with extended, slightly flat notes. The best cuts are those on which Ghaphery lets the basses lead and plays backups, as he just isn't a strong enough player to lead a group who is otherwise so far ahead of him. Luckily there are plenty of moments here when he does just that, as in their covers of Sonny Sharrock's "Who Does She Hope to Be" and Charles Mingus' "IIBS." The band's own "Ocean Floor" also shows their strengths, with athletic bass work nicely offset by a soothing flute line. Hotel X is definitely about feeling and mood more than technical brilliance, and their first album showed that there was plenty to enjoy in their energetic instrumentals.

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