Shadowfax

Live

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A free-form, improvisation-encouraging concert format is a logical place for the quirky worldbeat jazz-rock ensemble Shadowfax to strut its stuff, and the rangy, eclectic Live conveys the mixed ambitions of the band better than most of their studio projects. Recorded over a series of performances in Santa Cruz, CA, the collection offers extended showcases of very familiar hypnotic whirls like "Shadowdance," as well as purely atmospheric sonic fillers à la "Rainforests." Most of the tunes are more about colorful grooves and percussive experimentation, but the lush piano melody of "Foundwind" indicates that there are a few soft hearts underneath the exotica. Although each tune features a lead by a different member, Chuck Greenberg's alpha waves on lyricon and sax have a way of sticking to the ears longer. Andy Abad's electric guitar is employed to create explosive rock edges on occasion. There are many different dynamics at work here, and numerous shifts of rhythmic pattern, but happily, never a dull moment amid the mix of infectious hooks and slowly building themes. If you dipped your paintbrush into musical pastels from ten or so Latin and African countries, this is the pastiche you might achieve.

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