Less a permanent group than a recording project, jazz ensemble Raydience are the brainchild of guitarist/singer Ronnie Ray Padilla, the composer of all the songs on this self-titled debut album and the only musician heard playing on all ten tracks. Padilla's most frequent partners are keyboardist Eric Levy, bassist Kai Eckhardt, and drummer Billy Johnson, each of whom appears on eight tracks, that is, every one except the acoustic "Arcenio's Garden" and the Brazilian "Bahian Smiles." Padilla's conception for Raydience is broad and inclusive; he establishes his desire to travel the world musically on the first tune, "Zambula," which begins in a South African style before moving to West Africa, the mbaqanga guitar playing giving way to juju rhythm work and dense polyrhythms over seven and a half minutes. South America is touched on not only in "Bahian Smiles" but also in "Angelica," with its gentle rhythm supporting a soprano sax line by George Brooks shadowed by Padilla's guitar. Despite his affection for the many variants of world music, Padilla also shows a knowledge of 1970s-style American jazz fusion, and he even throws in a couple of vocal numbers in a contemporary jazz vein. It's an eclectic mixture that seems to have something for everyone, or at least for the more adventurous of jazz fans.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann