Alex Lofoco
Beyond


4.5
superb

Review

by J.C. van Beekum USER (20 Reviews)
June 30th, 2020 | 5 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A jazz-fusion masterstroke!

As far as modern jazz is concerned, I think it’s safe to admit the genre is no longer the cultural force it was during the mid to late 20th century. When one thinks of the jazz greats, one might be immediately inclined to reference artists of the past, from Miles Davis to Charles Mingus. Those two astonishing musical geniuses have unfortunately since passed away, something true more often than not when speaking of the jazz maestros of yore. Nowadays, if you’re looking for contemporary jazz, whether it be free jazz, avant-garde jazz, jazz rock or fusion, it might be difficult to find the next Bitches Brew or The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. I’ve searched many a music forum, end-of-year chart and random online music playlist looking for interesting and tasteful modern jazz, and I’m delighted to say my search hasn’t been fruitless. Many fantastic jazz artists still operate today, releasing solo projects, forming musical collectives and continuing to provide us with instrumentally challenging, improvisational and harmonically rich musical explorations. As far as amazing modern jazz fusion is concerned, bass player extraordinaire Alex Lofoco pulled out all the stops on his debut record Beyond to create a modern jazz-fusion masterpiece.

As with every great jazz-fusion record, there is bound to be an ensemble of incredible musicians along for the ride and as far as Beyond is concerned this is no different. Apart from Alex Lofoco’s incredibly funky and highly dextrous bass playing, we have a number of amazing additional musicians equally worthy of praise for their astonishing instrumental ability. The full studio line up for this record included the virtuoso percussionist Marco Minnemann (Aristocrats, Necrophagist) on drums, Roby Meola on guitars (though he also co-produced the record), Jesus Molina and Tomasz Bura perform on piano on tracks one, two and six, keyboard wizard Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) provides some magnificent synth work on tracks two, four and five and Eric Marienthal (Chick Corea Elektric Band) chips in on soprano, alto and tenor saxophone on tracks three and six. Lofoco himself refers to this record as a form of jazz-fusion big band, and although his band of highly skilled jazz/prog musicians isn’t nearly sizeable enough to amount to a full jazz orchestra, they nevertheless manage to create a sound that is so texturally rich, harmonically and melodically dense as well as generally boisterous that I don’t even think such a characterisation is inappropriate to say the least. In fact, on a multitude of tracks, most explicitly on the breath-taking ‘Earthquake’ does one notice the implementation of additional horn instruments to add even more harmonic richness and general textural density to the record’s compositions.

What is more, the record also contains a number of interesting secondary influences which add even more spice to Beyond’s sonic concoction. Firstly, Lofoco’s funky slap bass which shows up repeatedly throughout the album, especially during the opening bass solo of the aforementioned ‘Earthquake’, although flurries of slaptastic goodness are scattered throughout the entire record. Secondly, Roby Meola’s silky-smooth yet shred-heavy guitar work on this record showcases the more metallic side of Beyond’s influences. Not unlike Lofoco’s funky bass playing, is heavy-metal shred guitar to be found across this record’s soundscapes. Marco Minnemann’s past drumming exploits for technical death metal pioneers Necrophagist alongside many other projects earring on the heavier side of underground music, are also reflected in this frequent use of Portnoyesque drum fills and the use of syncopated double bass swindles on many occasions throughout this album. Rudess lays down some fantastic DT like synth maelstroms during his solos. The perfect example of this would be his remarkably tasteful performance on track two, ‘Resurrection’. In fact, that last description, ‘remarkably tasteful’ would be an apt way to typify most of the instrumental work on this record: it’s melodically and rhythmically sophisticated, yet never is there a moment of instrumental extravagance that occurs at the expense of the music’s overall cohesiveness. Everything is perfectly situated within any of the record's compositional frameworks. The dynamics are expertly executed and every performer is allowed his moment to shine, whilst the interplay between the musicians remains top notch. Take the call-and-response section of ‘The Spear’ where Lofoco and Minnemann trade intense slap bass and furious drum fills in a truly splendid manner, before the song progresses further and we’re blessed with a rather magnificent saxophone solo, not mention the guitar solo that occurs way earlier in the track that is beautifully layered over Lofoco’s scintillating bass work, and we haven’t even discussed the deliciously jazzy piano solo that helps close off the track. That cut perfectly exemplifies this record’s strengths in more ways than one. Beyond truly works like a peach in every way imaginable and it’s testament to Alex Lofoco’s admirable instrumental skill and the cohesiveness of his band. Which brings me to the another one of the record’s obvious qualities: the absolutely wonderful production.

Because by god is the production on this record fantastic. Exactly polished enough to bring out the continuous musical complexity of the album’s instrumental work, and yet, if I were to formulate it in the most concise manner: exceedingly vibrant. From the absolutely perfect bass and lead-guitar tone, the intense clarity of the saxophone work, the magnificent snare sound, the glistening tone of the synth and pianos, everything is entirely in your face and sounds fantastically colourful. The clarity of the production perfectly supplements this type of modern jazz-fusion sound, with all of its intricately layered textures and meticulously arranged instrumental interplay. From the mesmerizingly adroit performances and the perfectly adequate compositional sequencing to the on-the-edge-of-your-seat dynamics and the fantastic production quality, one can say with confidence that Beyond is as good a debut release as any jazz musician could wish for, so good in fact, one can claim with equal confidence that Beyond is a modern jazz-fusion masterstroke.



Recent reviews by this author
Thrangh ErzefilischPretend Bones In The Soil, Rust In The Oil
Jean Louis Jean LouisKoenji Hyakkei Dhorimviskha
Zevious Passing Through The WallThe Flying Luttenbachers Cataclysm
user ratings (2)
4.5
superb

Comments:Add a Comment 
MementoMori
June 30th 2020


910 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hello potential visitor:

- Any constructive feedback is always appreciated.

- Have a taste: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWeqhhqHz98

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
June 30th 2020


18258 Comments


That artwork is really nice.

MementoMori
July 1st 2020


910 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Nocte: It's gorgeous I know.

wildinferno2010
July 1st 2020


1906 Comments


What a lineup on this thing

MementoMori
July 1st 2020


910 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@wildinferno: Yeah, it's amazing.





You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2023 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy