Imagine a Lounge Lizards with two John Luries and you'll have a pretty good idea of how this record opens. Like Lurie, neither of the alto saxophonists -- J. Ghaphery or Tim Harding -- are virtuoso instrumentalists, but they're able to get the job done in their ragged, expressionist way. Harding is much the more accomplished player; he's got a better grip on the horn, and a more sophisticated free-harmonic concept. Unfortunately, he puts his horn down for most of the rest of the album, spending most of his time on fretless bass (which he plays with a slippery, Jaco-ish disregard for convention). Although Hotel X adds guest musicians in order to realize its more ambitious compositions, the band is basically a quartet, consisting of Ghaphery, Harding, bassist/trombonist Ron Curry, and drummer Jim Thomson. Unlike a later incarnation of the band with the guitarist Woody Jackson (who joined the band on the album Engendered Species, which was recorded later the same year as this), this version of Hotel X is rather bass heavy, with battling harmolidicians Harding and Ron Curry duking it out much of the time (Harding concentrates on the bass' mid to upper range, leaving the bottom to Curry). A connection to Ornette Coleman's Prime Time band is most pronounced on the James Blood Ulmer tune, "Moon Beam," a track dominated by the interplay between the two bassists and the energetic backbeat of drummer Jim Thomson. Harding's is the band's dominant voice; he writes most of the tunes and his solos are interesting enough. The compositions are imaginative, and the chosen covers inspired -- Harding's arrangement of the Beatles' "Day Tripper" is funny, and fairly ingenious. Not a bad album, if you like free/punk jazz fusion, but not the best Hotel X has to offer; the band definitely improved with the later addition of Jackson, who gave the band another viable soloist.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Chris Kelsey