JazzPunk, David Fiuczynski's first solo release, almost entirely consists of material drawn from a short list of the guitar shredder's idols and/or past and present employers. It's a hyper-eclectic mix: Pat Metheny, Jimi Hendrix, Chopin, Ronald Shannon Jackson, George Russell, Chick Corea, Strayhorn and Ellington, Sousa, and Jack Walrath. But it all sounds like Fiuczynski music, which really says something about the strength of this musical personality.
"Fuze" and his colleagues are at their best when laying down the funk. But their funk is multifarious, not the same old groove over and over. "Red Warrior" is one species -- hats off to Gene Lake's hell-raising drums and Daniel Sadownick's percussion. "African Game Fragment" and "Jungle Gym Jam" represent another, stranger species, one with pronounced references to tripped-out electronica.
The album's funniest moment is "Stars & Stripes Whenever," a vaguely subversive reading of Sousa's patriotic march and perhaps a 21st century update of Hendrix's "Star-Spangled Banner." On the tender side, well, "Star-Crossed Lovers" is as tender as it gets. Fiuczynski gives even Strayhorn and Ellington the whammy treatment, making the melody sound like an old warped record. It's clear, however, that Johnny Hodges' bent-and-slurred approach to melody, while more elegant in the traditional sense of the word, is the inspiration for Fiuczynski's wobbly deconstruction.
Fiuczynski's mix of formidable musicianship and off-the-wall humor brings Frank Zappa to mind. But Zappa's work often felt like one long gag, and Fiuczynski's at times feels that way too. One gets the sense that if he were to just cool out -- for a minute or two -- he'd open the door to a more expansive range of moods.