Poland - Full Moon 141 - 03/21/08
If there's one thing that's changed in the 18 months I've been listening to Frank Zappa, it's my attitude towards melody. I used to be a bit suspicious of
anything with a strong melody, especially major-key melodies played on instruments like saxophones, but I'm now a sucker for anything that's melodically
interesting. And this release by Polish jazz-rock band Stilo is nothing but melodically interesting.
Opener "Mazura Boomerang" springs to life with all the elements that make this music so appealing: crisp, propulsive drumming; lithe, sinuous bass; clean,
funky guitar; and joyous melodies played by saxophone and violin. The song weaves and builds, gets seriously gorgeous with a phased violin in the breakdown,
adds a sax solo, returns to the main theme, and then ends. Fantastic stuff.
Aside from the interesting percussion piece "Latimeria" and the bizarre guitar and percussion miniature "Kwak Song", which is introduced by the squeal of
a pig (!), most of the songs on this album are variations on the basic blueprint established so strikingly on "Mazura". "Most Karola (Charles Bridge)" also
features a lovely synth intro, but is let down by a rather lacklustre vocal performance, which leaves me wishing that the album was entirely instrumental,
since the voices of each instrument are so strong and engaging.
Later in the album, acoustic guitar is introduced, providing the brittle structure around which other instruments solo in "52", and then as the backdrop
for the rather predictable Eastern European theme of the title track. "Azoia" ends the album on a high note with more acoustic guitar partnered with sighing
violin, and then a darker passage led by sax and fuzz guitar, before breaking down again at the end, accompanied by a recording of Lisbon metro.
Aside from the less inspiring passages featuring more predictable melodic themes, this is a thoroughly enjoyable release from a talented band. Recommended
for anyone who enjoys the more buoyant end of jazz fusion.
Copyright © 2008 Tim Clarke