Miroslav Vitous Universal Syncopation Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

An allstar lineup (Corea, Garbarek, Mclaughlin, DeJohnette) convened by bass virtuoso...

Peter Marsh 2003

On paper this album is a pretty exciting prospect; a cast of stellar names embarking on what's been touted as a follow up to Vitous' classic Infinite Search. Jack DeJohnette and John Mclaughlin appear from that original session, while Herbie Hancock's and Joe Henderson's roles are taken by Chick Corea and Jan Garbarek respectively.

Garbarek's inclusion is the surprise; though he's played with all the musicians here (with I think, the exception of Corea) his work over the last fifteen years or more has seen him in far more rarified settings, certainly worlds away from the allstar high energy jam sesh we might be expecting here. Except that we don't really get that; and after several listens to this album, I'm not quite sure what we have got.

Vitous is understandably the dominant presence, though Garbarek comes a close second. Only one track seems to feature the full line-up; the rest are quartets, trios or duos, sometimes augmented by extra horns (presumably overdubbed after the fact). Mclaughlin doesn't feature much, which is a relief. While his pure tone may recall the pre-Mahavishnu days of Extrapolation, his brief solo spots are little more than hyperspeed noodling. Rarely have so many notes meant so little.

It's good to hear Garbarek in such company, even though at times (on the earthy "Tramp Blues") he sounds a little diffident, and doesn't connect with Mclaughlin at all. Maybe they weren't even in the studio together.Corea makes a much more sympathetic foil; in the quartet tracks Garbarek's playing hints at the kind of intensities he achieved with Keith Jarrett and Ralph Towner's groups. But it's only a hint; he likes to float these days rather than dig in, though it's hard not to be swayed by the ripe poignancy of his soprano on the closing "Brazil Waves".

Vitous is on good form. His tone is sumptuous, his intonation faultless and his compositions still have that folky lyricism that he's always excelled at. DeJohnette is sometimes a little too busy, but even then he is always doing something worth listening to. Even despite the sometimes excellent individual performances, there's a lack of cohesion here which ultimately makes this a bit of a disappointment. Approach with caution...

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