New York-based Japanese keyboardist Ken Aihara’s latest contribution to the always welcome genre of jazz-fusion is titled Multiverse and it’s right up there with all the ensembles that have furrowed this muso path.
There’s always going to be comparisons because the style is so distinct; Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Brand X, and maybe the less likely Lyle Mays from Pat Metheny’s band – Whale is the trigger for this juxtaposition, and it’s in the piano playing.
The album starts, though, with Ice Mountain, a text-book fusion mix in 11/8 where only a reformed epileptic could do it justice on a dance floor, not that (of course) it would ever get that far. This is music to stare at your expensive hi-fi system and justify to the wife why it was either this or a new kitchen. Superbly recorded and played with Evan Marien’s inevitable electric fretless bass, playing all the right notes in all the right places.
It is also business as usual for this genre where the drumming is concerned, and Marko Djordjevic does not disappoint. Last track Ridge Black could be excused for having original Return To Forever sticks man Lenny White guesting – he is that good.
The third, and proggy, track Spatio-Temporal Wanderer (Spatio-Temporal means belonging to both space and time or to space–time, so this is just a posh way of saying “I think I’ll take this moment to walk from here…to there”, but that doesn’t match the music somehow) is a showcase for Aihara’s fluid retro-sounding synths and aforementioned bassist’s solo backed by some weeezerrrees ’70s keyboard pads. The Fast Show’s John Thompson would definitely turn to camera and say “NICE!” at this point…
Guitarist Bob Lanzetti (from the long list of musicians known as Snarky Puppy) shines on Theia Impact with a pleasing crossover rock sounding lead guitar, his subtle contributions evident throughout the whole album, as apparent with repeat listens.
If you’re a fan of this music, then Multiverse belongs in that section within your collection – most probably in CD form on polished oak shelves. Jazz Fusion always sounds a little classy, maybe elitist, and this isn’t going to rock the Universe in its originality, but it does what it is intended to do and, though not essential, it is a worthy contender to the greats and the goods who have always stuck to their improvisational jivey swingy guns.
01. Ice Mountain (6:12)
02. Whale (4:59)
03. Spatio-Temporal Wanderer (8:23)
04. Theia Impact (6:02)
05. Ridge Back (4:29)
Total Time – 30:05
Ken Aihara – Piano, Keyboards
Bob Lanzetti – Electric Guitar
Evan Marien – Electric Bass
Marko Djordjevic – Drums
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Japan / U.S.A.
Date of Release: 11th February 2019