Solar Wind

Grand Tour Alignment

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In a time when so many instrumental artists forsake their inner muses in the hopes of creating airplay ready discs only, Solar Wind's Grand Tour Alignment is a wacky free for all breath of fresh air. While they have a keen sense of how to craft a catchy melody, the duo of keyboardist Sean Mason and guitarist Eric Robson expand beyond the smooth jazz boundaries and find a happy home between urban pop and the untameable electric improv style of Chick Corea's old Elektric Band. In light of this, it's hardly surprising that they employ former Elektricians Eric Marienthal and Frank Gambale to achieve their eclectic collage. Mason doubles on bass to create the punchy groove of "Paradise," whose melody is divided between Robson's Earl Klugh-like snappy acoustic guitar and Marienthal's trademark honking sax energy. The saxman plays it much cooler on the most mainstream genre track, adding his swaying soprano to the laid-back "Summer Day." Before Solar Wind gets too complacent, though, Gambale roaring electric guitars hit hard rock levels on the cocky attitudes of "Pacific Strut" and the throbbing funk/fusion jam "No Look Pass." On these, Mason lays the thick bass foundation and Gambale goes for broke. One wonders why Robson -- who also plays electric -- didn't give these a shot to establish his own credibility before the duo called in an obvious master of the form. The title track, a minute and a half intro featuring synthesized space music, is a bit pretentious stacked up to the rest of the music, but fits in well with the colorful planetary artwork that makes up the packaging.

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