Julien Kasper Band

Trance Groove

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If there is an equivalent to the law among academics to "publish or perish" that applies to music professors, perhaps it is "record or retire." Julien Kasper's tenure as professor on the guitar faculty of the Berklee College of Music finally induced him to launch a recording career under his own name, although he did not issue his debut solo album, Flipping Time, until he had passed his 40th birthday. Three years later came The New Imperial, credited to the Julien Kasper Band, and another four years on, here is a second JKB album featuring nine Kasper instrumentals. As an instructor who explains the styles of Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck to his students, Kasper is, unsurprisingly, steeped in the intricacies of electric rock guitar playing circa the late '60s, with its various effects and eclectic inclusions, leading into the ‘70s jazz-rock fusion style. Every track here takes a different approach, but in beginning with the title tune, "Trance Groove," Kasper lays down his marker as a fusion man. "Chupacabra" takes things in a funky direction, with guest Hammond organist T Lavitz making like Booker T., so that Kasper, bassist Jesse Williams, and drummer Zac Casher can impersonate the MG's. "The Reverend," on which Matt Jenson takes over the organ chair, is the album's blues number, but Kasper turns out to be too precise and considered a player to really let loose with a blues solo. He is more comfortable on "Trash Day," the kind of track that could be on a Jeff Beck LP like Blow by Blow or Wired. "Abyssinia" slows the pace again, but this time Kasper uses classical rather than blues references. "Milk Truck" is the classic rock/arena rock exercise, well executed. "The Bumpus," despite its title, is another slow one, this time with an atmospheric, nearly ambient tone. It's back to the Beck sound for "Riff 53," and the album closes with "Carolina Rosa," another moody meditation. Kasper's third album is, thus, something of a master class in the possibilities of different guitar styles as well as a varied showcase for the masterful musician himself.

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