Saturday, May 13, 2017

Frank Gambale, Stu Hamm & Steve Smith - 2002 "GH3"

This disc is intense fusion with great soloing and excellent composition. The trio here just rip it up and pull out all the stops, virtuoso mania-style! The material is varied also, which is great, Frank Gambale uses both his electric and acoustic guitar with equalling effect, a true master player. Plus, there are Steve Smith and Stu Hamm individual solo showcase pieces which are moving and fun! Highly recommended and one of this years best in the fusion genre. Highlights include, All In Your Head, The Great Roberto, Geo 100, Saving Grace & The Challenger.

 I love rich melodic bass lines that are all over the fret board, and this cd (indeed, ALL of the cd's from Gambale Hamm Smith) delivers the goods.

For my money, you can leave your "chops" at the curb if there isn't any melody to augment them. But there are both chops AND melodies abundant on this cd. Stu Hamm is truly one of the world's premier bass players, Gambale frequently plays in the Allan Holdsworth style (that's a good thing), and drummer extraordinaire Steve Smith (Jean-Luc Ponty, Journey(!), Vital Information, etc., etc.) is an ideal drummer for this very-demanding style of music.

As a self-proclaimed "prog head", I guess I'd prefer a bit more in the way of keyboards here, but that's a minor quibble. I've got plenty of keyboard-driven progressive jazz fusion cd's to satiate those desires anyway. As a reference point, this bears close similitudes with the mid-80's albums of Bill Connors.

Interesting, driving, soulful music played exceptionally well, with fine production. It's exactly what I was seeking when I took a chance on this one.

If every track on here were like Confuse-a-Blues, it would have gotten 5 stars from me. That track has gotten more playing time at hardcore music parties than any other in recent memory with requests for more. I have to admit, I wasn't a huge fan of Stuart Hamm from the get go. Gambale and Smith always were ones I followed from first hearing. But, this group really came together on this cd with some challenging and "in your face" tracks on here...Hamm being a very nice part of it.

If you are a hardcore "fusionistic" music fan like me who really enjoys just a trio laying it down and challening your listening skills, this may be a good one to pick up.

I have seen Steve Smith and Vital Information perform on several occasions, and have also seen Stu Hamm. Having these three master musicians in the same band makes for one intense musical ride. I thought "The Light Beyond" was very good, and this release definitely takes things a step further. The tunes here give each member more than enough chances to display incredible chops, so no one will be dissappointed. Some fusion albums can go a bit over the top as far as the soloing, even for the serious musicians out there. However, not this one. The solos are mind-boggling, but they never detract form the songs, which are very well composed and arranged. These guys keep getting better and better! I hope they continue to put out new material.

I have listened to piles of fusion in my day, and this is one of the greats. No, it is not the most intense music out there, but is far more musical than most fusion, which ends up being a mere chops fest. All three of these excellent musicians play at their best, especially Frank Gambale, who simply wails. Every tune is strong too. Bring on more like this one.

Track listing:

1     All In Your Head     7:41
2     The Great Roberto     8:09
3     Confuse-A-Blues     9:43
4     Saving Grace     7:34
5     Culture Clash     3:37
6     Geo 100     9:06
7     November     4:43
8     The Challenger     6:33


    Frank Gambale - Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
    Stuart Hamm - Bass
    Steve Smith - Drums, Djembe, Shaker, Finger Cymbals 

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