Stuart Hart

Inner Voice

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The sustained synth wash, hyperactive drumming and funk bass that kick off "Running Out of Words," this album's opening track, might lead you to expect -- perhaps with some dismay -- standard-issue jazz fusion. But when the guitar and sax come burning in with a sharp, partly atonal head, you realize that if this is fusion, it's not the goopy, wanky, 1970s kind. As a composer, Hart is musical enough to write great tunes, but too smart to leave them in the kind of humid setting that can lead to overripening and rot; instead, he keeps things interesting by means of varied tone and rhythm, and he knows how to throw a wrench into the machinery when it's running just a bit too smoothly. "Running Out of Words" and the Latin-tinged "Toe Nails" are both tuneful and interesting, which means that they continue to reward your attention even after you've memorized the hooks. And "Instrumentality," which closes the album, is a thrilling roller-coaster ride that combines rockish tone with jazzy sophistication. As a guitarist, Hart is a wonder: recently recovered from a seven-year bout with tendinits, his chops are top-of-the-line and his taste unimpeachable. Highly recommended.

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