John Coltrane has to be one of the most influential names in music. A true virtuoso, he not only inspired many a person to pick up the sax, but he also influenced many other musicians. Some of the biggest names in Jazz fell over themselves to play like him or even better, with him. Even socially concious poet and forefather of rap, Gil Scott Heron talked of his abilty to ease those blues. "Could you call on Lady Day, could you call on John Coltrane, Coz they'll wash your troubles, your troubles away" (Lady Day and John Coltrane).
A Guitar Supreme pools together some of the biggest talents within the scene. A group comprised of band members who've played alongside Santana, Chick Corea and Phil Collins. Only musicians of such a pedigree would have the audacity to re-record Coltrane's works. A Guitar Supreme is a modern take on Coltrane. The starting point being his music, the saxophone is replaced by the electric-guitar and the album infused with a 21st Century air. There are moments where this trading of roles concerning the instruments, results in sublime, funked-up Jazz. Propelled by a solid bass and drums foundation, tracks like "Giant Steps" sees the guitar assert itself like one of the Fresh Prince's homeboys. The overall sound being too cool for school and down with the kids!
But this esoteric of musical genres, remains just that. Rather inaccessible, it requires a different method of listening than perhaps Slayer! Sometimes I'm afraid the guitar just doesn't reign supreme. Where Coltrane would have teased arpeggios out of his saxophone and run scales up and down it's length, the guitar becomes littered with fussy fingerwork. Guitar solos see nimble fingers play up and down the guitar neck. "Fretboard Wanking" as it's known in the business. It sounds messy and pretentious. More Con-fusion than fusion music.
Yes I'm impressed by the skill of these artists, but quite often it sounds like these guys are playing in a really tight band, just not neccessarily the same one! The syncopated beats and incidentals that give it a 21st Century edge, end up being a little chaotic on the ears.
For every superb funk track, there is a track that sounds too much like elevator music, or a late night soft-porn film on Channel 5. As I listen to a frenetic keyboard solo, I feel like I'm stuck in a game of the Sims. Maybe my ears aren't tuned in to fusion music, but then again, I doubt it will appeal to the ears of Room Thirteen readers. There's even the odd recognisable track like The Sound of Music's "My Favourite Things" which makes me think that maybe Big Brovaz didn't sabotage it after all.
I like to think that we at Room Thirteen have eclectic listening tastes. Personally I'll listen to anything from Mahler to Motorhead or Chet Baker to The Charlatans in any given day. But even with a taste that spans the musical spectrum, this type of music just doesn't quite fit in. This album is definately for a more select audience. For a smooooth listener who wears a DJ, smokes expensive cigars and drinks dry-martinis, shaken not stirred. It's for James....James a wee-bop-bop-bah-bah-baah-Bond!