In jazz, instrumentalists have always been dominant -- for every King Pleasure, Ella Fitzgerald, or Betty Carter who came along, there were at least ten or more instrumentalists. But in rock, it's just the opposite. Instrumentalists are very much a minority in rock, although their contributions shouldn't be overlooked. Over the years, noteworthy rock instrumentalists have ranged from the surf guitarists of the 1960s to Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and Stuart Hamm in the 1980s and 1990s. Like Vai and Satriani, Curtis Fornadley (who only uses his first name professionally) is a guitarist whose specialty is instrumental rock. His debut album, Curtis, contains elements of jazz, blues, and folk, but he isn't a jazz fusion player like Al DiMeola, Scott Henderson, Pat Metheny, or Larry Coryell -- this is definitely a rock-oriented CD. Although Curtis obviously has chops, he doesn't beat listeners over the head with them; the L.A. resident is a storyteller instead of an exhibitionist, and that approach serves him well on instrumentals that range from the aggressively funky "Adrenaline Ruins the Meat" to more introspective pieces like "Truth" and "That We May Pray Without Words." The only song on the album that Curtis didn't write is the Michel Legrand standard "The Summer Knows," which has been embraced by many jazz artists but seldom receives the type of rock treatment that Curtis gives it. Occasionally, Curtis sings; his vocals on "The River" and "I'm Not Going Back Again" (both of which show a bit of a Neil Young influence) are adequate but not remarkable -- Curtis demonstrates that he is more of a musician than a singer on this enjoyable, if imperfect, CD.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson