Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Frank Gambale, Stu Hamm & Steve Smith - 2000 "The Light Beyond"

Although Frank Gambale, Stu Hamm, and Steve Smith have each established themselves separately on the fusion scene, their bond, which was made very apparent by their 1998 Tone Center release Show Me What You Can Do, is further solidified on The Light Beyond. The plugged-in power trio, organized by Steve Smith, provides listeners with a positive musical experience as a result of some solid writing and recording skills. Ten great compositions that focus on improvisation, tempo, great drum, guitar, and bass solos showcase the evolution of the group's fusion experiences. While "Katahdin" provides ferocity, "Yin" and "Yang" provide complimentary basslines, intricate rhythmic solos, and muted drumming. Songs such as "First Look," a ballad written by Stu Hamm, along with Frank Gambale's "Isle of Fire" unveil clear, melodic inspirations from their life experiences and musical influences in adaptations that jell with the CD's creative references. Steve Smith's solo piece, "Dun Dun," presents the drummer in an awesome display of beating in this great piece of music. The Light Beyond ultimately offers exciting musical perspectives that capture the group's propulsive abilities as well as their ability to dehyperfy.

The second collective side project from a trio of jazz-rock veterans, The Light Beyond yields nothing revelatory but does serve up a fairly entertaining fusion variety pack. Frank Gambale, guitarist on past Chick Corea Elektric Band projects and a longtime mate of drummer Steve Smith in Vital Information, both rattles and hums on this disc. Most memorable is the complex, whipsawing mix of industrial shards and blues-rock textures he juxtaposes in "Lumpy's Lament," a daunting piece that is counterbalanced by stretches of handsome jazz riffing on "The Throne of Savitar" and the shimmering, desertlike atmospheres he concocts on "Fugitive Aspirations." Stu Hamm, who has logged time with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, reliably sustains the group's challenging metric framework. While sometimes annoyingly light on melody, The Light Within is more structured and graceful than the trio's debut disc (Show Me What You Can Do), and, consistent with a group objective formed for this recording, reminiscent of the eclectic jazz-rock panache demonstrated in years past by Return to Forever.

This outing with Frank Gambale, Stewart Hamm, and Steve Smith is the followup to the 1998 album, "Show Me What You Can Do", both on Tone Center. And while the "Show Me" had fine musicianship, this album is more structured with far better material. In fact, this is a fine fusion album.There is plenty of variety here, from hard fusion to delicate accoutic. Each of the players are outstanding, showing the full range of their talents.

Fusion and Rock superheroes, guitarist Frank Gambale, bassist Stuart Hamm and drummer Steve Smith reunite for their second “Tone Center” release, titled - The Light Beyond. Throughout, the musicians meld strong, memorable compositions with aggressive soloing and cagey dialogue. On the opener “Katahdin”, Gambale utilizes his impressive and well documented – sweeping technique – intermingled with thoughtful lines, legato and suspenseful themes while Hamm and Smith hammer out the rhythms with effortless control amid vivacious interplay. The composition, “Yang” might ring of the Allan Holdsworth School as the band insinuates melodic development yet maintains a calm sense of urgency. Stuart Hamm takes the lead on “Nostalgia” as he pursues smooth balladry with intriguingly melodic lines along with Gambale’s jazz-based chord progressions. With “Lumpy’s Lament”, the band gets back into the red zone as they whirl through some remarkably difficult unison runs and tasty blues-rock motifs. Here, Gambale is ablaze atop Hamm’s pumping, deftly executed bass lines and Smith’s polyrhythmic yet silky smooth drumming. Basically, the trio displays quite a bit of diversity on this new release which continues on Frank Gambale’s brief, yet airy solo guitar interlude titled “Isle Of Few”, as the recording closes with the electrified dreamscape “Fugitive Aspirations.
The Light Beyond represents much more than just three master technicians coalescing for a glorified jam session! All in all, this is well-produced effort that is only adorned by the stinging ensemble work, enticing compositions and radiant soloing! Recommended.

Track Listings

  1. Katahdin
  2. Yang
  3. First Look
  4. The Throne Of Savitar
  5. Nostalgia
  6. Yin
  7. The Spirit Of DumDun
  8. Lumpy's Lament
  9. Isle Of Few
  10. Fugitive Aspirations


Frank Gambale - Guitar
Stuart Hamm - Bass
Steve Smith - Drums



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