Review Summary: 'Just A Poke' is one of the many hidden gems in Progressive rock and Jazz Fusion, but it is nonetheless a stellar effort among both genres.
Like typical Progressive rock, the music of Just A Poke
seems to flow along its own current. The musicians take us through vast dimensions of sounds and melodies, using their instruments to create moments so mystifying and entrancing that we hardly even notice time passing us by. We're so lost within the spaces of our own mind, completely surrendering all of our focus to the music's spellbinding allure. Progressive rock is all about taking the listener through a journey, and it doesn't matter how long the journey is, as long as the destination is worth the trip. And the voyage that Just A Poke invites us along, is a rather unforgettable one.
The first part of our journey begins with "Baby Night"
, which exhibits so many twists and turns that it constantly keeps us guessing as to where Sweet Smoke will end up taking us next. Now, as elaborate as the structure of the song may be, its music is rather tamed for a Progressive rock song. There are no elongated flaunts of instrumental complexity or abstract passages that simply exist for the sake of experimentation, it's just a long jam to see how far these musicians can take the music at hand. "Baby Night"
opens with a very beauteous flute solo that is just such an exquisite sound for the senses. It's very calming and inviting, setting up the perfect setting for the other instruments to join in and expand upon the melody. The singing is utterly marvelous on this piece, so sensual and delicate which further augments the mellow vibe. After the initial introduction, we find Sweet Smoke heading into a very jazzy section as the music begins to elevate into a more vigorous display. There is a very lively melodic groove on this section, and its particularly exuded by guitarists Marvin Kaminovitz and Steve Rosenstein, and bassist Andy Dershin. We can really see the guitar work favoring the usage of agressive funky rhythms, and it's an intriguing characteristic because it foreshadows the eminent impact that Funk music would have on several Jazz Fusion artists during the mid 1970's. And as we arrive to the final moments of "Baby Night"
, the songs breaks into a brief rendition of a lyrical passage from The Doors' "The Soft Parade"
. Then, just as we struggle to comprehend what exactly is going on in this song, Sweet Smoke regress back into another instrumental segment. An abrupt moment of spontaneity before cycling back to the melodic theme in its finale.
is a much more rambunctious and dynamic piece when compared to "Baby Night"
. Right from the beginning, Sweet Smoke enter into the jam and deploy a much more Jazz influenced style. This is also the first time in the album that we hear tenor saxophonist, Michael Paris. The vocals are just as impactive as in "Baby Night"
, delivering a provocative falsetto tone that's just embellished with sexuality and prowess. The instrumental midsection of "Silly Sally"
is also much more ostentatious. Like traditional Jazz Fusion, each instrument gets their chance in the spotlight. Boisterous percussion solos, intricate basslines, cosmic wah-wah flourishes from the guitars, and of course, some exuberant saxophone notes for seasoning- "Silly Sally"
is a performance that really lives up to its Jazz roots. Along with other early pioneers like King Crimson, Sweet Smoke can honestly be considered one of the first few Progressive rock artists that intimately embraced Jazz Fusion. The two genres have always had an obvious correlation within their characteristics, but here we really get to see the two coalesce in a much more profound way. Just A Poke is not just an entertaining album, but a cult classic in progressive music. A defining template that helped direct music, to not exactly new territories, but certainly ventures into mildly explored directions. This is a must hear for all fans of Progressive rock and Jazz Fusion, as it will be sure to keep you at the edge of your seat until the final second.