The As-Is Ensemble: React1 (1998)
Armed with solid musicianship and a spiritual belief in music, the As-Is Ensemble brings their mix of original compositions and occasional covers to venues up and down the East coast. On react, the collaborative demonstrates a variety of styles and combinations which are all to be taken "as-is."
The two-toned opener, "Acceptance," features the Latin percussion of North Carolina School of The Arts alums John C.B. Wilson and Troy Pierce along with the sambaed guitar and piano of Long Islander Marc Ciprut and composer Michael Bellar. "Dungey On The One" features SOTA grad Bellar in a more rhythmic duet with Fayetteville-born double bass player John Vernon Brown. "Now I Can Only Listen" matches a more mellow Bellar with subtle guitar and percussion backing. "A Thanks For Today-A Prayer For Tomorrow" places the listener in a casual after-hours setting, with Bellar's drifting piano dropping in and out of stride pockets and mellow rhythm trio grooves. The collaborative "Money Ain't Funky Like This" begins with a botched Cheech and Chong bit, then sneaks into a percussive third-line swing driven by Bellar's firm-handed ivory-tickling. The sixth track, "Face!", commands the listener to do just that through driving rhythms featuring Brown's nimble, buzzy bass snaps over a repetitive and occasionally draggy percussion line.
After a short cabaret piano cover of Harold Arlen's "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," the collaborative "Troy's Magic Plaything" weaves the ensemble towards a well-arranged up-tempo climax. "Trust" opens with Ciprut's guitar and Bellar's piano, making way for an extended group effort pushed forward by percussive spurts and deep rhythm runs. The penultimate track is the "super silky magic mix" of the untouchable Lennon-McCartney standard "Blackbird." Over-extended and over-played, this seven minute vocalized cover undoes the simple pleasures which had thus far been accruing along the tracks. Though only a short tease, the album's closer, "Celebrate The Life Of William Bright," gives the listener one last 'up' taste of the ensemble's full cast, washing down the hard-to-digest cover.
Overall, React1 is well-arranged and accessible and demonstrates solid musicianship and well-defined orchestration which should work well in the ensemble's many performance workshops. Be sure to watch for As-Is as they tour North Carolina, New York, and places less native to them.
Track Listing: 1. Acceptance 2. Dungey on the One 3. Now I Can Only Listen 4. Thanks for Today-A Prayer for Tomorrow 5. Money Ain't Funky Like This 6. Face! 7. Over the Rainbow 8. Troy's Magic Plaything 9. Trust 10. Blackbird [Super Silky Magic Mix] 11. Celebrate the Life of William Bright
Record Label: Athena Jazz