Lew Soloff / Lew Soloff & Company

Rainbow Mountain

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A sharp departure from 1999's acclaimed With a Song in My Heart, which featured Soloff in a rare straight-ahead jazz setting. This outing, in contrast, features no fewer than four songs from the classic rock canon: Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Susie Q" and "Born on the Bayou," Jimi Hendrix's "Up from the Skies," and -- no kidding -- Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." One almost wonders why they left out Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird." In all seriousness, Soloff and crew have a lot of fun with these, especially the Hendrix tune, which was a staple of the Gil Evans Orchestra's repertoire when Soloff was a principal member. Even the supermarket-ready reading of "Stairway to Heaven" has its rewards -- Lou Marini playing the opening countermelody on a real flute instead of a Mellotron, for instance. The rest of the program consists of solid if unremarkable fusion and jazz, with saxman Lou Marini contributing the three strongest compositions: "Quiero No Puedo," "Starmaker," and "Don't Speak" (not to be confused with the No Doubt song of the same name). Guitarist Joe Beck penned the challenging "Tout Va Lews," during which Soloff plays a great solo. Bassist Mark Egan brought in the funk finale "Frog Legs," which features another strong trumpet solo and impeccable rhythm and lead guitar work from Beck. Drummer Danny Gottlieb is in fine form on all these tracks. Soloff brings in a tribe of guest stars for the adventurous yet meandering title track -- synth and vocal man Delmar Brown (who wrote the tune), guitarist Hiram Bullock, bassists Will Lee and Chulo, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, trumpeter Miles Evans (Gil's son), and even Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer on Hammond organ. The tune is a peppy mix of world pop and funk, with some over the top wah-wah guitar from Bullock. Although it works as a sort of groove-oriented centerpiece for this stylistically far-flung album, it goes on far too long. A little more direction would have helped.

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