Bassist Oteil Burbridge's The Family Secret is an improv-laced disc of nuanced fusion and jam band funk. Burbridge, a founding member of the seminal Aquarium Rescue Unit as well as a latter-day member of the Allman Brothers Band, is a virtuoso. For that, his playing is surprisingly restrained throughout -- though he still delivers numerous, inherently showy, Stanley Jordan-like scat-solos, doubling his basslines with vocals. Musically, the disc is more than competent, but lacks a distinct character. The quintet members (along with post-Bruce Hampton ARU vocalist Paul Henson) interact well with each other, and the music remains mostly unadventurous. There are several lovely arrangements, including intertwined violin and electric guitar melodies on "Full Circle" and "Check Yourself." When the band jams, such as on "Rewind and Play It Again," there is great pleasure to be taken in the bandmembers' musicianship, though they don't take the improvisation to anyplace particularly new. The disc is bundled with orgiastic bonus features, which furiously contextualize the music contained within. A DVD features videos of the sessions, interviews with the musicians, printable sheet music, a bass lesson with Burbridge, a running commentary about the recording, and more. It is an interesting move, tasteless in a way, which expands the concept of an album as an autonomous collection of music to something self-contextualizing (and self-important). Thankfully, the music itself is comparatively low key. If only it were more original.
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AllMusic Review by Jesse Jarnow
Track Listing - Disc 1