Friday, September 4, 2015

Vertù - 1999 "Vertù"

Vertú is a jazz fusion band consisting of bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White (both of Return to Forever fame), keyboardist Rachel Z, violinist Karen Briggs and guitarist Richie Kotzen. The band released one eponymous album in 1999.

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.

VERTU is a fusion "superband" made only for one record. Stanley Clarke (basses), Lenny White (drums) still are the best rhythm section of all times. Rachel Z (keyboards) is great (waiting to work with Peter GABRIEL). Richie Kotzen isn't only a hard guitar player, just listen and you'll understand. Karen Briggs (violin) is as good as Jean-Luc Ponty or John Goodman themselves.

"We're trying to bring virtuosic playing back to the forefront in music," says drummer Lenny White about his new band Vertú, a musical collective that features bassist Stanley Clarke, keyboardist Rachel Z, violinist Karen Briggs, and guitarist Richie Kotzen. "I haven't had an opportunity to play like this in a long time - where everybody is really stretching out on their instruments and playing up to their full potential." White is talking about playing fusion again, music that begged its participants to go for broke and show the audience everything they had in them. But will today's jazz audience be down with the "F" word? White thinks so. "I'm convinced that there is a whole new audience out there that will respond enthusiastically to this music, just as people did 30 years ago."

Tracklist:

01. V-Wave (5:09)
02. On Top Of The Rain (7:42)
03. Anoche (5:30)
04. The Call (7:23)
05. Topasio Es Puro Corazon, Part One (4:47)
06. Topsaio, Part Two (5:02)
07. Danse Of The Harlequin (6:38)
08. Start It Again (5:38)
09. Marakesh (4:12)
10. Toys (7:55)

Personnel:

 Richie Kotzen (vocals, guitar)
 Karen Briggs (violin)
 Rachel Z (keyboards)
 Stanley Clarke (bass)
 Lenny White (drums).

2 comments:

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  2. I can't wait to hear this. Thank you

    ReplyDelete