Human Element

Human Element

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    8
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Human Element keyboardist Scott Kinsey makes no excuses for his four-piece sounding like a combination of Weather Report and the Zawinul Syndicate. Since two of the band's members have played with various Joe Zawinul-fronted acts, the connection is logical and one spin of this debut will make it clear to jazz fusion fans that the late keyboardist's style is this group's primary influence. That doesn't detract from the sheer musicality and obvious talent on display, though, and with Armenian vocalist/percussion player Arto Tuncboyaciyan, the music often wanders into worldly vistas that develop outside the Weather Report boundaries that dominate the sound. His compelling, often wordless vocals push the already flexible vibe into funky, heavily percussive areas based on Zawinul's basic structures, yet expand outward. Bassist Matthew Garrison, another ex-Zawinul associate, has surely studied his Jaco Pastorius records and uses his fretless, elastic bottom to further elevate these songs. With no guitar or sax, the pressure falls on Kinsey, and to a lesser extent Garrison, to power the twisting leads of the material, which they do effortlessly, bringing a supple world/jazz vibe and riding it as long as needed. That results in the nearly nine-minute "Crazy Girl," propelled by percussion and Tuncboyaciyan's moaning vocals. It's the album's centerpiece and one of its highlights, combining jazz and world styles with Kinsey's '70s-styled synthesizers and rubbery basslines that shift from smooth to jittery. The band can't escape its Weather Report influences, at least on this debut, and don't really try to, but few other contemporary jazz acts are working this unique style and none as well as Human Element.

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