High Treason

High Treason

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Despite the lip-service paid to bebop and modal jazz -- particularly the playing of legends such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis -- by the late-'60s countercultural scene, few of its rock bands actually attempted to translate the interest into music. The sole album from High Treason, however, was steeped in the genre, thanks in large part to leader and schooled keyboard whiz (check the Bach-like Baroque progressions of "Circadian Rhythm") Edgar Koshatka. High Treason marries extensive jazz interplay with a darkly atmospheric type of rock that took its cues, right down to the shared coed vocals, from the Jefferson Airplane. The music ultimately isn't as accomplished as anything in that band's catalog, but it is for want of distinctive songwriting, not because High Treason lacked the chops or ideas to compete with the top-flight artists of the day. High Treason has musicianship to spare, a profusion of adventuresome moments. But at just six numbers, it is very much an album that puts musical skills before songs. Vocalists Marcie Rauer and Joe Cleary sound much more at ease on the funky country-soul of "Maybe, Maybe," the finest actual song on the album, than they do on the jazzy and psychedelic material (the embarrassing scat interpretation of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," for instance). Rauer, in particular, tends to over-sing at times, presumably in an effort to sound more like Grace Slick. The instrumentalists suffer no such problem. On the final two cuts, "The Witch" and "Fallin' Back," the band delves all the way into straight jazz during extended instrumental passages with electric results. But both also highlight the problematic nature of the album. As wonderful as the music can be -- and each song has scintillating flashes -- there simply is nothing to take away except the memory of the outstanding playing.

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