PANDORA, Watanabe's first new recording since 1989's KILOWATT, is a fiery and explosive return to form. KILOWATT, recorded with Patrick Moraz, Wayne Shorter, and Alex Acuna, contained finely honed, complex works. On PANDORA, Watanabe has the help of a cracking backing band as he hammers home his barnstormers. You didn't think fusion kicked the foundations anymore? Have you been listening to too much recent Spyro Gyra or Passport?
PANDORA has so much energy that you're advised to monitor the bass and treble controls on your amp to guard against maximum overdrive. Watanabe displays tremendous flexibility and verve, and the colors and tinges he extracts from his axe never cease to amaze. With Bruford and Berlin, Watanabe tackled progressive rock; with Moraz, he explored hairpin electronic textures. Watanabe's chosen influence on PANDORA appears to be world music. The ever cooperative Zakir Hussain, a heavyweight on the tablas who has played with Peter Gabriel among others, adds an exotic flavor to the jazzed-up funk atmosphere. But Watanabe is clearly the star of this performance, and he shreds the speaker tarma in spades.