This is one of my favorite new CDs! The musicianship is sterling and the tunes are gorgeous. Gates and his fellow musicians were inspired by nature, meditation, Tibetan Buddhism and peaceful living. World influences are integrated into the songs through light percussion and instrumentation and serve to enhance the music’s accessibility.
The title is spot-on, too. As shown on the cover art, the various influences are like spices in cooking. A little pinch is enough to add great flavor. Gates drafted fine musicians to support his skillful guitar work, including Steven Robertson on percussion and Stan Poplin on bass. Harmonica is the hot new/old sound, and Damien Masterson provides wonderful harmonic leads on a few tunes, like Track 2: Time In. It’s great to hear this instrument prove its versatility in a jazz-ballad format. Track 4: Waterfalls features the expert cello playing of Michal Palzewicz. Once more a very traditional, old instrument displays how beautifully it can express contemporary thoughts and sounds.
The longest track on the album is Track 5: Seraphic Journey (8:14 min). It begins with a simple acoustic guitar melodic theme that evolves into a complex melody with a luscious chord progression. After the first minute, an electric guitar adds in a duet part. Throughout the song parts are added and layered. The song’s length allows for plenty of developmental expression, and it’s all good.
This album fits into the adult contemporary jazz in a larger sense, but draws on plenty of world-music influences. The variety of the world-music fusion influences are skillfully incorporated with a thoughtful, light touch.
I especially appreciated that the music remains within a consistent range of stylistic and compositional boundaries. The material is consistent and doesn’t make treacherous leaps from one idiom into another. While it’s tempting to present as much range as possible within a CD, doing so sometimes reduces the ability of the listener to stay engaged throughout the entire CD play-time. Gates does a great job at flashing his creative and musical muscles, and the music flows coherently from track to track.
Track 9: The Magician is an acoustic guitar solo that’s both enigmatic and haunting. It equals the very fine guitar work of Billy McLaughlin. It’s followed by Track 10: Dawn Walker with more gorgeous harmonica work by Masterson. The song is expressive and heart-warming without being an emo-fest. The album ends with Track 14: Liquid Entropy. This is the most mystically juicy track on the album; it gave me flash-backs to one of Santana’s earliest albums “Caravanserai”. It incorporates eastern-style sounds with western instruments.
This album is well worth listening to! It is awesome for kicking back and relaxation, especially for those who are fond of good guitar work. “Bring the Flavor” gets a Poo-Car rating of 10 stars. As the title suggests, it’s a delicious mix with exactly the right amount of spice to make it intriguing without being overwhelming or inaccessible. Well done!
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Artist: Jack Gates
WhiteGates Publishing, 2017
14 tracks, 54 min. Mp3 download $9.49 (Amazon). https://jackgatesmusic.com/music/