Power Tools

Strange Meeting

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Power Tools was a one-off semi-supergroup that, if it didn't quite fulfill expectations, at least offered up this enjoyable album. It's an odd mixture; drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson was in the midst of his time with the free-metal-noise band Last Exit, bassist Melvin Gibbs was involved with various avant funk bands (including that of Arto Lindsay), and the pre-Naked City Bill Frisell was beginning to delve into that hazy area between country/Americana and jazz. Things don't gel so well when the band gets closer to free improv, as Frisell's inherent gauziness conflicts and deadens the impact of Jackson's more rambunctious approach. Things work better with the more song-oriented pieces, particularly those penned by Gibbs. His "Wadmalaw Island" and "Howard Beach Memoirs" both strike an appropriate balance, allowing Frisell to build on more solid structures while at the same time leaving room for Jackson to embroider freely. Much of the recording ping-pongs between these two poles: pleasant, if overly languid pastoral songs and higher-energy pieces that never quite rev up high enough. The closing rendition of "Unchained Melody," a song dear to Frisell's heart, is very effective. Strange Meeting, an apt title, is worth checking out for Frisell fans who only came to hear his work in the following years.

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