Sympatico

Sympatico

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Sympatico is a Boston-area quartet that has been influenced by earlier strains of jazz but chooses a more contemporary approach (the Yellowjackets, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny). Electric guitarist Steve Thomas uses a sparse, melodic approach in his playing and with the four pieces he wrote. Keyboardist Robert Ponte uses electric and acoustic instruments à la Corea. Maggie Rizzi has an electric bass guitar sound that borrows from Jaco Pastorius, Steve Swallow, and Hugh Hopper, while drummer Stanley Swan is the most trad jazz oriented, yet moves easily into light funk, Brazilian, and swing grooves. Of the eight selections, the Thomas-penned "The Princess and the Jester" is the most interesting. Swan's very good brush work sets a foundation for Ponte's piano to melodically ramble on 6/8 and 9/8 figures while Thomas drones in. "JB Blues" is a tribute to Joe Pass and Barney Kessel, with an additional nod to Oscar Peterson. It's an active melody that swings nicely, with Ponte again on piano. More samba/bossa based tunes as "Can't Find It" and "Innuendo" are not heavy rhythmically -- the former is a lighthearted happy mood and the latter mixes different beats with Metheny-like simple melodicism. The most intriguing change-up is during "Day Late and a Dollar Short," which goes from swinging measures of 7 and 8 to a heavy fusion section reminiscent of the British band National Health, then back to swing. Sympatico's music is quite derivative, and it's true that sometimes good musicians play to what they think their audiences want to hear. There's also a lack of genuine urgency here, which makes it seem forced; this might just have flown 25 years ago when fusion was in its infancy, but in 1999 it just sounds plain.

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