Al Garcia: Make It So (2002)
Hard-hitting, well-executed fusion from a promising new voice. The arrival of CDs which feature one individual playing most of the instruments tends to give chills to reviewers. Fortunately, Al Garcia breaks the mold by crafting inventive, appealing arrangements that utilize all the sounds he has on hand to good effect. He is a member of the Latin jazz group Quarteto Nuevo, but that influence only rears its head on the fine closer. Since the bass guitar tends to be a primary voice, the initial impression is that Garcia is a bassist at heart with a strong appreciation of the guitar as well. Whatever the case, he weaves tasteful tendrils of fusion heat without kissing the sneakers of Jaco and Stanley. Initially the ping-ponging “Harmonic Sketch #1” might recall Jaco’s mind-boggling harmonic skills, but after a moment Garcia makes it clear that he’s not just aping the master.
With the exception of Bach’s short “Menuet”, delivered with respectful dignity on bass, Garcia wrote or co-wrote all the selections here. The enjoyable variety of the tunes testifies to big ears and a vivid imagination. The title track has all the expected elements of good fusion tight drums (courtesy of Dean Rohan’s MIDI set), hard accents, fleet technical execution, appropriate shifts in mood without sounding the least bit clichéd. Garcia proves himself perfectly capable of shred velocity, then moves on to judiciously use the Roland guitar synthesizer as a coloring tool; the keyboard sounds on “The Heart of the Matter”, vibes on “Communiqué”, and Methenyesque resonance of “On Cloud Ten” help round out the spirit of the tunes. On “The Unexpected Answer” the bass begins with almost a bagpipe-chord figure, then transforms into a cascade of prettiness. On “A Bird in the Hand” a Charlie Parker sample serves as a takeoff point for the bass, while “Natural Knowledge” has gorgeous fretless bass, crisp acoustic guitar, and bright Indian percussion. “Journey” is highly unusual in its long, flowing lines and tense undercurrent, an utterly fascinating performance. An excellent offering from an artist to watch.
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Track Listing: Make It So; On Cloud Ten; The Unexpected Answer; The Heart of the Matter; Menuet; Communique; Harmonic Sketch #1; Driving Through Krystal Town; Natural Knowledge; Journey to the Center of the Earth; A Bird in the Hand/Mosaic; Once Upon a Dream.
Personnel: Garcia, guitars, Roland GR-33 guitar synth, electric basses, percussion, drum programming; Dean Rohan, MIDI drums (#1,2,4,8,11); Chris Garcia, tabla, kanjira (#7).