Robert Musso

Innermedium

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AllMusic Review by

The king of studio mixing -- he literally mixes almost every record Bill Laswell has ever played on as well as work by John Zorn, James Blood Ulmer, and countless others -- finally releases another of his own works on the renowned DIW label. It's easy to hear why, when featured on this recording is an eclectic who's who of modern sidemen: First and most noteworthy is Byard Lancaster on three tracks, then David Liebman, Bernie Worrell, percussion master Aiyb Dieng, vibes god Karl Berger, Lance Carter on drums, and Blood Ulmer's violinist Charles Burnham as well as stalwart Bill Laswell. Musso plays six-string bass, guitar, and a barrage of synthesizers. But here's the deal: This is a thoroughly modern, spaced out "groove jazz" record. This is Musso's attempt at making commercial smooth jazz. If this were what was on the radio many wouldn't listen to anything else. Long, involved, entrancing melodies criss-crossed with harmonic invention and a truckload of groove-laden rhythms. "Stream of Stars" beams in a trip-hop rhythm with a melody line from Liebman's soprano and Musso's keyboard. It's sweet, spacey, and easy on the senses yet musically sophisticated. There's something just off enough to hold you inside until you're completely hypnotized. When Lancaster pulls out his soprano on "Drifting Shades," and soars above a summery funk with Dieng and Bernie Worrell trading fours on the riff, you could swear the inner city blues of early Grover Washington got tied up with Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man." And on it goes. The music can be greasier, it can get funkier and grimier, but it never loses its melodic edge. Where guitars sear though the middle of a track's body as they do on "One Mind," it still holds the brighter end of the accessibility spectrum. This is not a disc for those looking for wild sonic adventure. It is one, however, for the rest, who crave in sonority and harmonious interaction between riff and groove once in a while. This one's a winner, and it should be burning up the airwaves instead of languishing in the import bins.

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