Vertu is undeniably an ambitious project, certainly more so than most contemporary fusion projects. At the core of the collective are Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, the renowned rhythm section of Return to Forever; they're augmented by violinist Karn Briggs, keyboardist Rachel Z, and former Poison guitarist Richie Kotzen, of all people. It's a wildly eclectic group of musicians, and they appropriately tackle all sorts of music, from straight-ahead fusion and post-bop to worldbeat and classical-tinged rock. Thanks to the fine musicianship of all involved, it's not nearly the mess that it could have been, but it's hardly an unqualified success, either. The main problem is the weird blend of songs and compositions. Vertu is basically divided between songs (only a handful of which feature Kotzen's strained bluesy vocals), which have one simple melody, and flowing, multi-layered, multi-sectioned compositions. In each case, they're graced by some truly extraordinary playing (laugh you may, but Kotzen is a gifted guitarist and it's a pleasure to hear him stretch out, instead of being confined to pop-metal), but the songs often are built around lame themes that feel like excuses for improvisations; even worse, those themes are often delivered with the tone and grace of a television commercial. Vertu is much better with "Topasio Es Puro Corazon" and "Danse of the Harlequin" -- opportunities to build fascinating contrasts in sound, both through themes and improvisations. These pieces, along with the plentiful solo sections in the flawed songs, have some great interplay that will certainly be of interest to fans of all the involved musicians. And if they're longtime fans of any of the members (especially Clarke, White, and Return to Forever), they'll realize that creative risks are often successful and flawed in equal measure, so they won't be discouraged by the awkward moments on Vertu.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine