The ever restless keyboardist Jason Lindner is at it again with another project far different than his previous big-band or small group efforts. In tandem with co-conspirators Mark Guiliana on drums and bassist Panagiotis Andreou also doing poetry and spoken word expressions, Lindner presents contemporary music that hearkens back to the M-Base concept of 20 years prior, but brings it into the future kicking and screaming. The music, dubbed exploratory electro-groove, has its funky, black bottom base, yet glistens with glee amidst the electric instruments Lindner wields with an improvisers spirit at his core. He's still quite fond of the Fender Rhodes electric piano, but also incorporates '70s-type synthesizers, quirky time signatures, and rhythm changes that suggest ghetto-blasted themes alongside the most progressive or techno-styled facades. The crew of guest stars added to the basic trio shows great diversity in textures and approaches; trumpeter Avishai Cohen, electric bass guitarist/vocalist/producer Me'Shell Ndegéocello, vocalist Claudia Acuña, percussionists Pedrito Martinez and Yosvany Terry, tenor saxophonist Anat Cohen, and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel -- a true melting pot of all-star instrumentalists. Probably the most retro sound crops up in the funky, quirky "Seven Ways," as distant and present keyboards, Acuña's vocals, and the horns swirl around a 7/8 beat. The very aggressive "Big Pump" lives up to its title in a high-powered and driven engine of an 11/8 beat that also showcases the lyrical signature sound of Lindner's Rhodes. On the other side, "Worrisome" has the leader employing a Moog synth for a slower, pop-like song, the acoustic piano sound of the child's song "Friendship & Love" takes up a lighter mood, and the "New Jersey Ballad" and the distended blues featuring Anat Cohen's tenor, "Ahisma," further tones down the big city-driven attitude quotient. Of the vocal tracks, the brief, under two minute album kickers "Time Together" and "Can't Chase Time" combine the fusion of electric and acoustic instrumentals with sung and spoken words from Andreou, Baba Israel, and Danielle Negron on the former track, or out-and-out rap from Israel melted onto funk, ending with Lindner's cascading acoustic piano for contrast in the latter instance. The ensemble conjures up chanted Latin-based Santeria voodoo mystique during "Far," a soul-spirit poetic funk including Israel and poet Frances Velasquez Guevara in mixed meters, very similar to recent work by Robert Glasper and Bilal. A tribute to the N.Y.C. subway system, "Subterranean Train-Travelin'," is a straight funky poem from Israel about the trials and tribulations of metro transportation that all city dwellers can relate to. Where Lindner is the central character on the Rhodes, what he has constructed to surround that sound is very busy, dense, and updated to the point of it being a nu jazz that stands alone among his peer group keyboardists. This recording should appeal to the rave-up youth market, Gen-X'ers who enjoy hip-hop with meatier instrumentals, and baby boomers who still love their jazz fusion.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos