Saturday, May 27, 2017

Bruce Johnson - 1980 - Sea Serpent

Bruce Johnson 
Sea Serpent

01. The Storm
02. Astral Child
03. Look What You've Done To Me
04. Montivia
05. Flamencito
06. Sea Serpent
07. Blind Man From The Delta
08. Flashes
09. Blues For Wes

Drums – Chip White
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Synthesizer [Guitar] – John Abercrombie
Guitar, Electric Bass, Vibraphone, Drums, Voice – Bruce Johnson
Tenor Saxophone – Hugo Heredia
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Enrico Rava
Vocals – Bonnie Brown (tracks: A2)

Sea Serpent is an album title that deserves a better album than this. Indeed, the whole notion of mythological creatures would collapse if waiting at the other end of the pipeline were small, strange curiosities such at this record. On one level, at least it can be said that there are things that certain listeners will find of great interest here, none of it easy to shrug off, either. Most important, this album should be studied as a model of just how much yellow ink it is possible to put onto one album jacket. Jazz guitar lovers will find solace here as well. They could chew over several extended solos from both leader Bruce Johnson and the better-known John Abercrombie. Over a generally rapid swinging rhythm section there are passages that even sound something like Sonny Sharrock. This type of playing, sometimes described as "shredding," is combined with a slightly more lyrical approach. Johnson makes rare use of a 12-string guitar on a jazz record, turning in some excellent, imaginative solos that show great command of the instrument. At the same time, his excessive chording on the very same axe waylay horn soloists Enrico Rava and Hugo Heredia, making them fight for air and collapse in the process. The general tone of this discussion will lead to the conclusion that this is a jazz record, and in a sense it is, much of it being taken up by instrumental meanderings to a swing beat and some passages featuring the well arranged, fat-sounding horn section reading written heads. Fans of this type of music will wind up making fun of the other parts of the album, though, songs with lyrics featuring a miserable singer, Bonnie Brown. Intentionally or unintentionally, it is far out territory, though the group proudly delivers a blues in the third act. The poorly translated French liner notes describe the latter piece as a "river blues style," and it does sound like something that crawled up from out of the river, so in the end perhaps it's appropriate for a sea serpent.

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