Title - 'Special EFX Allstars'
Artist - Special EFX
For those not in the know, three and a half decades after releasing Special EFX’s self-titled debut album, multi-faceted composer/guitarist Chieli Minucci is still blazing innovative trails in contemporary jazz.
Continuously finding that musical sweet spot between in the pocket, radio ready pop/soul/funk and progressive, freewheeling world fusion, he actually launched a fresh chapter in the ever-evolving, Grammy nominated group’s career with the release of their 2017 Trippin 'N' Rhythm debut Deep As The Night.
Special EFX featuring Chieli Minucci’s latest album, the intriguingly titled All Stars (due out this February 14th, 2020 via Trippin 'N' Rhythm) is one of their most ambitious, eclectic and adventurous ever.
Capturing the explosive, yet well-attuned synergy the guitarist has shared on the road with various lineups of renowned longtime musical collaborators these past few years, the gloriously well rounded 14-track album is already an Album of the Year contender for me.
1, 'Mr. Marzipan'
2. 'Sunset Passion Juice'
3. 'Hanky Panky Boys'
4. 'Little Wing'
6. 'Two Dancing'
8. 'Wake Up'
9. 'Sweet Memories of You'
11. 'Great Escape' (Part 1)
12. 'Great Escape' (Part 2)
13. 'Flows Like Water'
14. 'One Stick and A Stone'
Listening to his sumptuous new album and it is clearly evident that Special EFX now is a true collective, with varying elements and artists coming together to execute and build powerfully upon Minucci’s expansive musical vision.
Opening with the stuttered funk, and trumpet/flugelhorn work of Tatum Greenblatt on 'Mr. Marzipan,' they then quieten the tone for the smooth 'Sunset Passion Juice,' before bringing us a delightful mid-tempo slide into 'Hanky Panky Boys,' and then comes the drum and guitar-led 'Little Wing.'
A complete ground up re-imagining of the Jimi Hendrix classic, it also features jazz/R&B singer Maysa Leak on vocals.
The laidback groove of 'Empathy' (which features Lao Tizer on acoustic grand piano) is then backed by the perky Celtic ambiance (brought forth by Nelson Rangell on flute) of 'Two Dancing,' the tender and cultivated sounds of Antoine Silverman on the violin for the all-too short 'Arise,' the funky hipsway of 'Wake Up,' and then the delicate nylon electric guitar work of Chieli Minucci comes to the fore on the simply divine 'Sweet Memories of You.'
This quite breathtakingly sublime album then comes to a close with the frenetically restrained 'Kampala,' the two-part 'Great Escape,' and then rounds out with the staggered spirit of 'Flows Like Water' (featuring sax work from David Mann), and then my own personal favorite, the atmospheric 'One Stick and A Stone' (featuring Steve Adelson on the Chapman Stick).
Composed, produced, arranged by Minucci, the new album captures the current eclectic, yet cohesive group dynamic with a multitude of colorful styles, from big brass funk and smooth jazz to powerhouse rock/soul.
Although Minucci’s acoustic and electric guitars (and his occasional keyboards, organ and colorful beats) are prominently featured throughout, All Stars (true to its title) is fashioned as a diverse ensemble in the spirit of classic fusion outfits.
For, and much like Return to Forever and Weather Report, here we discover that not only does every player get ample time in the spotlight, but it's obvious that some songs are actually written as exclusive showcases for them too.
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