Christopher Gross Ensemble: Hit the Mark
Saying that this modern-day guitar-violin fusion quintet was influenced by Jean-Luc Ponty's band circa late 70s would be an understatement. The CD's title track opener, which they admit is a "variation" on Ponty's "Mirage," could be found by a sympathetic court to be so close to the original as to be plagiarism. The next tune, while largely original, quotes directly from the third movement of "The Struggle of the Turtle to the Sea." Ponty is not the band's only influence, however; "Funky Monkey" is vaguely reminiscent of another violin quintet, the Dixie Dregs. The band does chart its own course on most of the rest of the program. "Rita," for example, floats along comfortably on a conga-driven Latin beat. The compositions, all by the leader, are sufficient platforms upon which to play. Christopher Gross, Christopher Welch, and Jeffrey Sick, on guitar, keyboards, and violin, respectively, solo proficiently.
The arrangements and performances are neat and tidy, and that's the only problem with this CD. It never really catches fire and cuts loose. Everyone stays safe and plays it close to the chart, especially the bass and drums. Passion is sacrificed for cleanliness. It takes experience in the studio to create a spirited, lively sound when the pressure's on to lay down clean, perfect tracks with no mistakes. "Eagle's Peak" is darn near sterile. On the bandstand, with a live edge and more player interaction, this band probably cooks much more than is evidenced here.
Tracks: Hit the Mark; Ryan; Means End; Funky Monkey; It Goes On; Audrey; Rita; Eagles Peak; Resolution. (61:54)
Christopher Gross - guitar and electric guitar; Christopher Welch - piano and keyboards; Jeffrey Sick - violin and electric 6-string violin; David Pascal - electric 5 and 6-string bass; Christopher Monroe - drums and percussion; Greg Fulton - additional electric guitar.
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock