Levin Minnemann Rudess – From The Law Offices Of Levin Minnemann Rudess (2016)

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From guys who have built careers from defying expectations to become the class of rock musicianship, Tony Levin, Marco Minnemann and Jordan Rudess continue to reveal what more is possible in instrumental, progressive rock. From The Law Offices Of Levin Minnemann Rudess (Lazy Bones Recordings) is a sure signal that the possibilities didn’t get exhausted on their lauded self-titled 2013 project Levin Minnemann Rudess.

From The Law Offices strikes a balance between fun and facility, or perhaps it’s more accurate to just state that it piles on both of those things. These songs get a groove going no matter the time signature and the delineation of these songs have so much detail and twisting turns to them, there’s no need to resort to instrumental wanking to keep listeners engaged. The serpentine melodies and the precision by which they play them oftentimes is the solo.

So yeah, it stands to reason that the world’s foremost practitioners of the bass, Chapman Stick (Levin), keyboards (Rudess) and drums (Minnemann) within the artful end of rock are going to show us what they can do, and in case you’re wondering how can this truly rock without some guitar it should be noted — as it was with LMR #1 — that Minnemann wields the axe for the occasion. But you gotta have the right material to leverage the skills and LMR delivers there, too.

So many times a song is deceptively simple and then they pivot on a dime to a completely different domain; they flat-out can’t and won’t stand still, and aste little time getting ideas across. “A Good Day Hearsay” is a prime example of their signature sound, whereby a heavy metal crunch kicks off the performance but the boys scramble it tightly together in Zappa-esque fashion, aiming to fit a whole vinyl side of prog rock ideas in the space of three and a half minutes.

“Back To The Machine” (video above) boogies in a galloping 5/4 time might be as straightforward as it gets on this record, and even then it’s bursting at the seams. Levin defines the riff as Minnemann holds back nothing on drums and Rudess lobs a roomful of keys at the effort, including an arena-worthy synth solo that replicates a rock guitar solo with striking accuracy (Rudess had me thinking for a moment that a sax player was brought in for “Shiloh’s Cat”).

“Riff Splat” is as the name implies, a monstrous bass riff joined invariably by Minnemann on guitar. Rudess manages to insert an almost saloon piano into the aggressive groove, remindful of the daring to blast through genre walls that the late Keith Emerson often showed with ELP. As the song settles into a impenetrable groove, Minnemann is the guy extemporizing but nonetheless firmly holds down the stilted beat.

“Ready Set Sue” has the mathematical, machine-like proficient funk of Discipline-era King Crimson. The power fusion number “Witness” is initially led by a chorus of whistles — and it magically works. But never content to sit on an idea, the song takes several excursions before revisiting the theme. “The Tort” moves with industrial efficiency and heaviness but with Levin holding down the center so securely, Minnemann and Rudess are free to keep things interesting.

After what’s come before, the nimble, light-on-its-feet “Marseille” is nearly pop confection by contrast, as Rudess throws in a deft mixture of classically-inspired piano, Rick Wakeman organ and soaring 70s-inspired analog synths. But the rhythm section is keeping its collective foot on the gas and Rudess remains so elusive. “When The Gavel Falls” is led by the milky flow of Rudess’ piano and synthesizers save for a middle segment where Levin’s bass and the cries of death come raining down.

Another meeting of musician’s musicians produces more of the stuff that fans of discerning rock crave. It’s an open and shut case of instrumental wizardry and indulgence (not overindulgence)…From The Law Offices Of Levin Minnemann Rudess.

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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