Kyle Hollingsworth, keyboardist/pianist for the String Cheese Incident, has released a solo album , "Never Odd Or Even". The album is a masterful collection of acid jazz groove tunes, with significant influences from various sources like Chick Corea, Brian Eno, Little Feat, the Grateful Dead and more.
The band, with their interminable On The Road series of CDs, had their last studio album in 2003, "Untying The Not", a moody, jazz-rock set. The abilities of Kyle were possibly masked by the skilful cohesion of the band. The solo album gives him free rein to showcase his ivory-tapping skills. A back-to-the roots for the Boulder, CO native, it features a variety of guest talent, including members of SCI.
This album is more consistent tonally than "Untying The Not", which combined, rock, blues, bluegrass and jazz. The brief prelude sets the theme. Titled "Prevolution", it features some Indian classical vocals, a musical form that is remarkably like jazz in its use of improvisation and structure to evoke emotion.
This song blends into the next, as do most songs in the album. This is not an album to be listened to on the shuffle - the mood changes are subtle, yet significant between songs, and the album as a whole, forms a kind of palindrome, tonally, like it's title.
"The Crusade" is a jaunty number, with a catchy beat and a saxophone chorus. The keyboard is quite muted, until at one point, where it takes over and the composition shifts into high gear. Hearkening back to early jazz/funk, it samples some of the same in the middle section of the song.
"Seventh Step" begins with a slow-paced, staccato rhythm. It retains this style, even as the tempo builds up and the steel guitar takes over. This song is a staple on the String Cheese Incident road shows.
"The Bridge" is a gospel-laced, easy-going number. It has some excellent pedal steel guitar work by Robert Randolph, pedal-steel virtuoso. It recreates the fervor of classic blues tracks, almost as if we were in a little shanty church somewhere in the South, swaying to the beat.
"The Preacher" goes even deeper into deep south, Gospel revival territory, with a fast-paced beat, a rousing radio preacher vocalizing lustily, and demanding we 'satisfy the sense of seeing and feeling before we are convinced'. By far one of the best jazz songs ever, IMHO, it holds together competing tonal moods, not letting the listener forget 'the forces of the universe' - a true rendition of faith, as it were. Kyle mentions this song was inspired directly by Brian Eno's "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts". This song features Michael Kang from the String Cheese Incident lending a hand on the electric mandolin.
"Gigawatt" uses literally gigawatts of musical energy, holding the mood created by the previous song, "Preacher". Hard driving chords, layered sound, make this almost a hard rock song, with changes in tempo and new themes introduced abruptly that turn out to be guitar-based solos, ably supported by the earlier themes.
"The Arc" picks up on the final notes of "Gigawatt", speeding up the pace, with a frenetic substrate, that is overlaid with flickers of musical energy, almost like electric charges leaping around a capacitor. This song, too, features Michael Kang on the electric mandolin.
The next song, "Ohms", completes the internal electric trilogy in the album. An unusual piece, it samples children chattering at a museum, a sparse keyboard and changes the tonal mood to effectively set the stage for the next, significantly vocal song.
"Don't Say" utlizes light percussion as a base, and an evocative lyric touching on transient feelings, loneliness, and what 'she don't say, she don't know'. This is a song by someone who's spent a lot of time on the road, missing family ties, giving everything he's had, and now 'tired of being alone, tired of being sad'.
"Not Yet" is stylistically evocative of Latin melodies, a near-bossa-nova beat and another mood changer.
"Boo Boo's pik-a-nik" is an unusual piece, featuring guest vocals from cows, Vince Guaraldi-styled playing, and almost puts you into a '57 two-door Chevy on the way to the pik-a-nik, with a basket of goodies. Yogi Bear watch out!
"¡Bam!" is a Hancock-type fast groove that had me rockin'! The quaver in the middle of the track is Joshua Redman on the sax, a fine fusion on this long piece. This song deserves to be on a best-of playlist in every jazz bar around. This is another SCI fave, done differently, and in a stronger, faster mood.
"Revolution wraps up the set, turning the wheel around to the beginning. The fusion of Indian melody of the Hindustani variety (as opposed to the Carnatic) and steady-paced jazz-rock beats is uplifitng, a fine way to end a memorable album.
The copy I reviewed had no liner notes, choosing perhaps to let the music speak for itself, as it does.
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