Ralf Illenberger

Soleil

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In a world of copycat, radio hungry guitarists, German born Illenberger arrives as a breath of artistic fresh air. The title of this disc is a slight misnomer, however, because Illenberger's composing and playing is about thought provoking moods, not all of them sunny and carefree as the name might imply. Splashes of electrified joy ("Sunstorm") engage pop sensibilities, but there are just as many deep, reflective moments with fusion-esque passages. What makes Illenberger appealing is his percussive compositional flair and the way he transcends the typical pop-jazz hook in favor of world beat colors. About half of his compositions combine the best of all worlds -- a light heart with real edge. He also shows skill as a producer, engaging such instruments as Budi Siebert's bass clarinet and marimba to achieve emotions the genre rarely expresses.

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