Trey Gunn played in enough rock bands in his formative '80s years to learn how to become a star in popular music -- and then did a 180 into the jazz/fusion thicket. Gunn graduated from keyboards to guitar, then bass to Chapman stick before discovering the customized Warr guitar (which he calls a "touch guitar" because of its tapping response). With progressive rock juggernaut King Crimson since 1994, Gunn's Live Encounter CD goes even further outside of standard rock than Crimson's excursions -- blending Eastern and other world music styles with jazz/fusion rhythms and an against-the-grain attitude. With Gunn playing the ten-string and Joe Mendelson the eight-string Warr guitar, plus Tony Geballe adding electric guitar unorthodoxy on the opening "Dziban," it's deliciously difficult to discern who's playing what over drummer Bob Muller's 7/4-timed groove. Most of the early material is from Gunn's outstanding 1996 studio CD, The Third Star, with a couple exceptions. "The Glove," from 2000's even-better The Joy of Molybdenum, literally showcases Muller's leftism -- the drummer plays mounted tabla drums to the side of his drum kit in the intro before providing a bottom-heavy beat for solos by Geballe and Gunn. Warr guitars are capable of everything from bass-like bottom and distorted power chords to the clean, Crimson-like intertwining lines on "Sirrah." Another piece from The Third Star, "Arrakis," features psychedelia by Geballe and Mendelson over Gunn's monolithian lower-register notes and Muller's clever, percussive arsenal. The tribal, snake-charming closer, "Rune Song: The Origin of Water," beats the odds for any genre by featuring no solos over eight minutes. Clearly, these are virtuoso players who could play traditional jazz but choose to play more outside and emphasize the whole over the singular parts. High artistic marks and Gunn's side job with Crimson allow the Trey Gunn band enough currency -- against all popular music odds -- for the occasional studio recording session and these live encounters.
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AllMusic Review by Bill Meredith