Yiorgos Fakanas / Anthony Jackson


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American electric bass guitarist Anthony Jackson has been playing with European musicians for quite some time -- note his collaboration with the Turkish-born pianist Fahir Atakoglu in the 2000s. Here he teams with Greek musician and fellow bass guitarist/composer Yiorgos Fakanas for a set of retro-jazz fusion music that is far from typical. Armed with a large ensemble of contemporary all-stars and lesser known Europeans, Jackson and Fakanas create new music reflective of '70s New York supercharged funk à la the Brecker Brothers, and the mid-period John McLaughlin style of classically oriented jazz that incorporates horns, acoustic strings, and synthesizers. With keyboardist Mitch Forman, guitarist Frank Gambale, and drummer Dave Weckl, the band expands horizons past strictly European traditional or ethnic strains, using them tastefully, while also having a go at getting down with good old rhythm & blues dance beats with big-band type charts. Jackson -- an underrated force on his instrument if there ever was one in the post-Jaco Pastorius era -- plays with a lithe, liquid confidence that almost puts him in the background, yet his unique pulse is ever present. Where the heavier, rhythmic-oriented tracks stand out ("Inner Power" and "Caldera"), the more romantic "Seviglia" with Gambale's Spanish acoustic guitar, and the pretty "Ionio II" evoke the composed, film noir essence of Fakanas. A fully formed and modified chart on Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" is stunning in the way it pays respect to the original version, but takes poetic license in the lengthy introduction, punctuated by the atmospheric flute playing of Takis Paterelis. While things seem a bit calculated, there are many inspired moments and surprises galore, sure to please those who grew up with fusion and who might enjoy nodding their heads or dancing to instrumental jazz.

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