Some jazzmen have an either/or mentality -- they believe that either you're a commercial musician who is in it just for the money or you're a true artist who has no hope of reaching pop audiences and is destined to starve and struggle. But anyone who thinks that way is foolish and narrow-minded. Having pop appeal doesn't automatically make you Kenny G, and being a creative jazz improviser doesn't necessarily mean that you will never appeal to pop, rock, or R&B fans. Released in 1995, Henry Robinett's When Fortresses Fall has way too much substance and sophistication to be lumped in with all of the bloodless, mindless elevator muzak that NAC stations were playing at the time. But it's also true that this Pat Metheny-influenced fusion/pop-jazz CD is accessible enough to reach pop-rock audiences. Anyone who appreciates Metheny's Letter from Home could easily get into "Cloud Bursting," "The Laws of Returning," and other melodic, lyrical material that Robinett provides on this CD. Without question, Metheny's influence is prominent on When Fortresses Fall, but that isn't to say that Robinett is a Metheny clone or that he isn't his own man, he has other influences, and parts of this CD underscore his interest in the music of the Yellowjackets. Not breathtaking but certainly enjoyable, When Fortresses Fall demonstrates that jazz can have a lot of pop/rock appeal and still be jazz.
When Fortresses Fall Review
by Alex Henderson