This tenth recording from the now legendary quartet reminds listeners that, while smooth jazz often gets better press, there are still fans of honest to God inventive electric fusion who will eat up this type of powerfully rocking and energetic project. Bassist Baron Browne joined the core trio of Steve Smith (drums), Frank Gambale (guitar), and Tom Coster (keyboards) in 1998, and provides a rollicking bouncy energy throughout on tunes like the feisty Herbie Hancock ode "Soul Principle" and the '60s soul-jazz-flavored "Cat and Mouse" (featuring some of Coster's slyest Hammond B-3 lines). A few new changes include the addition of the Fender Rhodes to Coster's rack and more organic, exotic guitar sounds by Gambale. It's fun trying to identify the band's specific influences, and it's easy to pinpoint Booker T. (the swinging, ultra-hip "Shagadelic Boogaloo," one of the disc's catchiest, dare it be said, pop numbers) and Lee Morgan ("The Blackhawk," a soulful tribute to the San Francisco nightclub of the same name). They also specifically identify which tune is dedicated to the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Peppered in the midst of the stronger tunes here are seven experimental pieces called "Cranial No. 1," "No. 2," etc., with lengths varying from one to over seven minutes. These show off some spectacular playing, and certainly fans of these guys want to hear that. There's not much concern for any conventional melodies or rhythms, and if you're not up for the wacky jamming, you might find yourself slightly annoyed and clicking to the next track. Overall, it's good to see that fusion like this is still a vital presence in the jazz world.
AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran
feat: Steve Smith