Half Notes: Gene Pritsker – Varieties Of Religious Experience Suite (2010)

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Gene Pritsker is a guitarist and bandleader whose written over 370 compositions, has worked closely with the late Joe Zawinul and has orchestrated major Hollywood movies. His band Sound Liberation plays an amalgamation of rock, jazz, chamber, minimalism and hip-hop. Varieties Of Religious Experience Suite is a series of related compositions — as in an opera — but instead of including vocals, Pritzker pared down his Sound Liberation band to just two guitars (him and Greg Baker) a cello (David Gotay), a contrabass (Mat Fieldes) and drums (Joe Abba). The pieces are best described as rhythm-driven ostinatos where both heavily-notated and improvised music exist side-by-side and often leave the listener wondering which parts are notated and which parts are improvised. Which is kind of the point. The two rock guitars colliding with a cello provides a lot of the sparks found on this record, creating a sound somewhere between Bill Frisell and Fred Frith.

Pritsker sticks with this approach without much variation throughout this hour-long CD, and about two thirds the way in, the formula begins to wear a little thin. If he’d have served up a few more curveballs, it would have gone a long way toward making a good record into a great record. As it is, it remains an interesting body of work, one that mashes together styles in a way that is unique, and fits the innova ethos of, according to innova itself, “forward-looking (-hearing?) work that pushes and challenges the boundaries of contemporary music”

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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