Sunday, October 30, 2016
Jing Chi - 2003 "Live"
Hindsight is always 20/20, however, and over the ensuing months the power trio worked hard at shaping up the floppy ends. On the evidence of these live sessions from Yoshi’s in Oakland, the extra polishing was more than worthwhile. It no doubt helped that Robben Ford and Jimmy Haslip have been collaborating since the earliest days of Yellowjackets, and that Vinnie Colaiuta is one of America’s most flexible, gifted drummers. Such exemplary musicianship can’t help but pay big dividends in the long run.
Four tunes from the debut are revisited on Live! (“Going Nowhere,” “The Hong Kong Incident,” “Crazy House” and “Stan Key”). “Crazy House” would still benefit from some more solid rhythmic foundation — Colaiuta and Haslip both keep it too sparse to support Ford’s liquid blues lines — but it, like the other return visits, shines more brightly than on the studio release. “Hong Kong” has an eerie Frank Zappa vibe at times, perhaps as a nod to Colaiuta’s former boss, but not entirely derivative. If Ford’s vocals on “Going Nowhere” and an excellent version of Bob Dylan’s “Cold Irons Bound” are somewhat light in spirit, still he sells the product convincingly enough.
The instrumental performances are exactly what familiar listeners would expect. Ford’s guitar work is impeccably tasty and tractable, even on the more outward-looking cuts. Haslip, who produced both recordings for the trio, remains their secret weapon: full of presence when it’s needed, otherwise subtle as a warm breeze. Colaiuta once again distinguishes himself as a key figure in contemporary drumming, turning on a dime to accommodate the many shifts in mood and beat. It’s been said time and again that Tone Center might represent the future of fusion, and this release is one more feather in the label’s cap. Phenomenal.
Jing Chi is what this co-op group is called rather than being a particular musician's name. Guitarist Robben Ford and bassist Jimmy Haslip, who were two of the original members of the Yellowjackets, have a reunion on this set. Part of a core group with drummer Vinnie Colaiuta that is sometimes augmented by keyboardist Otmaro Ruiz, the trio/quartet mostly performs rock-oriented fusion on this live date. Although Ford has gained a strong reputation playing blues, the only extended blues is "Blues MD," which has a guest appearance from former Yellowjacket altoist Marc Russo. Overall, the musicians play well (with Ford taking two vocals), but the individual selections are not all that memorable and the music is much more rockish than expected, making this set of primary interest for fans of the fusion side of Robben Ford.
Okay, I admit. I’m a bit biased. But how can anyone, with a straight face, say any guitarist is making more, or better music than Robben Ford?
I won’t list the stuff he’s worked on in the past five years, but if you include all of his band and studio material, along with his great solo albums, it’s an amazing body of work.
Basically, he’s what we’d all like to be – a player who gets into various musical situations he likes and just plays his heart out. Plus, it also helps to have his chops.
Jing Chi, for those of you not familiar, is a fusion trio, featuring Ford, bassist Jimmy Haslip, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. The trio put out a studio album last year that was just wonderful.
Here they add keyboardist Otmaro Ruiz and on one cut saxophonist Marc Russo. The nice thing about this setting for Robben is the chance to stretch out. And, he does. And in doing so, he again shows how original and imaginative he is. Whether it’s plain old-fashioned fusion, mixed with a little blues(“That Road”), rock-based fusion that brings Cream to mind(“The Hong Kong Incident”), jazzy-blues(“Blues MD”), or spacey rock with a nice vocal(“Going Nowhere”), Robben shows why he’s one of the best, not just today, but in the modern history of guitar.
There are two vocal cuts mixed in with the six instrumentals. Robben handles the vocals on both. One of them is the aforementioned “Going Nowhere.” The other is the very cool, funky rock cover of Bob Dylan’s “Cold Irons Bound.” It’s pretty straight-ahead with a monster solo from Ford.
As you’d expect, all of the playing great. Haslip is as steady a bassist as you’ll find for this kind of stuff. Nothing fancy, but just a monster at giving the songs a huge base to be built upon. Same goes for Colaiuta. Just a marvelous player. Ruiz also proves to be a fine addition. In fact, his interplay with Ford gives the record some of its finest moments.
This one’s a must for fans of Robben, or just great guitar playing. It almost becomes an embarrassment of riches after awhile. He is, in my humble opinion, as good as there is working out there today.
Great live fusion with extended jams featuring a great power trio--guitarist extraordinaire Robben Ford, drummer's drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and Yellowjacket's bassist Jimmy Haslip--assisted ably by Otmaro Ruiz on keyboards and Marc Russo on sax. This disc contains 4 tracks from the studio-recorded version of Jing Chi (Going Nowhere, The Hong Kong Incident, Stan Key, and Crazy House), and 4 new tracks (That Road, What Goes Around, Cold Irons Bound, and Blues MD). Overall the cd has a little more bluesy and not quite as "hard" a feel to it as the studio version. As you'd expect with such a cast of characters, this is great stuff.
1. That Road
2. Going Nowhere
3. The Hong Kong Incident
4. Stan Key
5. What Goes Around
6. Crazy House
7. Cold Irons Bound
8. Blues MD
Robben Ford - Guitar, Vocal
Jimmy Haslip - Bass
Vinnie Colaiuta - Drums
Otmaro Ruiz - Keyboards
Marc Russo - Alto Saxophone (tracks: 8)
Posted by Crimhead420 at 12:14 PM