Mark Lettieri – Spark And Echo (2016)

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A few years back the fusion guitarist Mark Lettieri put forward an EP that was all killer/no filler. Three years later, he’s back for a full-length Spark And Echo and with an album running nearly twice as long as Futurefun, it remains hard to find where Lettieri is coasting.

When trying to describe his new set of songs, I often thought that Lettieri’s got that accomplished guitar attack that’s equally steeped in jazz, blues and rock like a Steve Lukather, Larry Carlton or fellow Texan Eric Johnson. Also, the songs have hard grooves that go for the heart but chock full of interesting chord changes and interesting progressions that appeal to the head as well, a little like a certain band Lettieri is a member of by the name of Snarky Puppy. Lastly, the songs and the chops are an integrated whole, not the former acting as a vassal for the latter.

And then I go back to find that I wrote those same things about Futurefun. So, Spark And Echo is more of the same greatness.

This is a trio record at the core, with Wes Stephenson joining on bass and Jason Thomas on drums. Shaun Martin and Bobby Sparks are there to provide on unobtrusive keyboards when called upon and Milo Deering shows up to play a little fiddle and pedal steel guitar (more on this in a bit).

Again showing a flair for composition, Lettieri melds melody with guitar mastery quite well, and just as you get a tune figured out, he tosses another motif or bridge into the mix that maintains the interest level. “Goonsquad” is a perfect way to start a feel-good album, a fun funk rocker with sinewy chord changes tossed in for extra enjoyment and licks to spare. “Little Minx” rocks harder but with more complexity then a typical hard rocker, such as on Jeff Beck’s classic records. Martin lays down a Jan Hammer-type synth solo, acting as the perfect foil to Lettieri.

“Spark and Echo” shows he can wring believable emotion from notes, like ol’ Luke, and blend forceful metal with moments of sensitivity. For the country-kissed “Summer Salt,” his fingerpicking fully tells whole story of song. Lettieri shows off SRV craftsmanship on the tender “Montreal” that features a moody bass solo from Stephenson prior to the two locking together on a funky, mid-tempo repeating figure pulsing underneath a piano solo.

Right near the end, Lettieri uncorks a pop cover, “Everybody Wants to Rule The World.” Deering pairs up with Lettieri and though you wouldn’t think a pedal steel could make a good match for a Tears For Fears song, it’s good enough here to make this rendition well worthwhile.

Spark And Echo went on sale May 20, 2016, via Ropeadope Records.


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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