(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, May 11, 2009

CD Review - BJ Block, Glitterball

This is a 2008 recording by guitarist BJ Block out of Vancouver, BC. Block has two other musicians (Brian McLaughlin and Lenny Fatigati) backing him. Since I downloaded this, I don't have liner notes to credit everyone in more detail.

Most of this album is a mix of moody, very melodic, instrumental guitar jazz with some ambient and electronica touches. There are a couple of exceptions. The opening number, Theme Musik, is a cross between disco and soundtrack work. I don't really think this fit in well with the rest of the songs. Mersey Beat, sort of a retro R&B/funk groove, was a better fit. Throughout the album, there are a lot of retro touches, especially in terms of production values, for example, his use of reverb and chorus. Still, the electronic synth work gives a modern twist.

Block has cited guitarists like Charlie Hunter and Bill Frisell among his influences and that's easy to hear in this music. I also heard a bit of Adrian Legg and some of Bruce Cockburn's instrumental work.

My favorite track, The Twilight Drive-In kicks off with a descending bass with a foggy layer of keys clinging to it, driven by a distantly mixed drum back beat. Like much of this album, I'd classify this song as program music, in part because of the the melodic arrangement. It evokes the dreamy mood of a drive in before the show has begun. I love how this song balances a contemplative guitar engaged in a call and response with the keys.

Another great track is Kaleidoscope, which starts with a keyboard progression and an electronic beat and then flows into a music box sound. This grows to incorporate a set of interlocking jazz guitar lines that are repetitive and evolving. Though the tone was very much like Charlie Hunter, the song sounds more like Bill Frisell. Every listen, I pick up on more simple little pieces, like the heartbeat drum beat or some of the layers of guitar parts.

Finally, of the typical tracks, I'll mention The Coloring Book. This leads off with a clean acoustic guitar with some Bruce Cockburn style guitar leads. This is also where I heard the most Adrian Legg influence. The melody here is fluid and intricate; it's much more complex than the title suggests. Maybe more of a box of paints than a coloring book. Still, the harmonies between the guitar parts are golden sweet.

Of the less typical pieces mentioned earlier, Mersey Beat is also standout. The initial R&B changes shifts into a retro funk, reminiscent of Sly Stone or Average White Band (Pick Up The Pieces). The Latin percussion groove adds a touch of Herb Alpert. The song bounces between two sections and has more of a theme music sound than the lead off song.

This is perfect music to immerse yourself into but you can still just play it in the background if you have company. Drop by BJ Block's site to hear some of the songs I've mentioned here. I enjoyed this music with a vintage 2000 Porto Pocas; the complexity of each complemented the other.

1 comment:

  1. thanks Jay! More info on the guys:

    Lenny Fatigati - www.lennyonbass.com

    Brian Mcglaughlin - www.somethinglikemusic.com