The Fusion Syndicate (Purple Pyramid Records, 2012)
The Fusion Syndicate is part of a series of albums that brings together some of the best musicians from the jazz fusion and progressive rock genres. In this case, the focus is on fusion. The artists featured in the album have performed in well-known acts such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Yellowjackets, Brand X, Soft Machine, Spyrogyra, Yes, King Crimson, Tool, Porcupine Tree, Hawkwind and even heavy metal band Dream Theater.
The project was conceived by multi-instrumentalist and producer Billy Sherwood, who has played with progressive rock band Yes and AOR band Circa. “When I was asked to write/produce a fusion record I jumped at the chance,” says Sherwood. “I’ve always had a deep love of Jazz and Fusion music having grown up listening to Weather Report, Return To Forever, the Mahavishnu Orchestra among many others in the genre. The record has become a musical dream team, including some of the world’s most renowned players in the field. The music reflects a time when virtuosity was the standard and incredible musicianship was the order of the day. Each artist sharing their talent and skill, blending it all into a bigger musical picture, creating an amazing expression of unity and purpose. I’m honored to be a part of it all and I thank all the artists who joined me on this journey, they have all lifted the music to a higher level.”
Indeed, the list of musicians is impressive: Rick Wakeman, Jerry Goodman, Nik Turner, Jimmy Haslip, Steve Stevens, Jordan Rudess, Mel Collins, Billy Cobham, Jay Beckenstein, Billy Sheehan, Gavin Harrison, David Sancious, Larry Coryell, Derek Sherinian, Eric Marienthal, Chester Thompson, Steve Morse, Jim Beard, Randy Brecker, Percy Jones, John Etheridge, Tony Kaye, Chad Wackerman, Steve Hillage, Scott Kinsley, Theo Travis, Justin Chancellor and Asaf Sirkis.
“Fusion music gave me a way to relate to jazz,” says guitarist Steve Morse. “I liked the rock energy, and the unexpected twists, turns and rhythms that made it fun to play. So, it’s a big influence on the direction I took.”
As to the music itself, the album’s seven pieces are full of superb solos and has more of a jam feel rather than structured material. The weakest parts of the album are the saxophones. For some reason, the horns sound more like smooth jazz solos than fusion solos, which is bizarre. Thankfully, the guitars, violins and keyboards dominate the album and will please fusion fans. I also like great cover artwork and for those of you that buy CDs, the cover is very attractive and follows the tradition of fascinating fantasy artwork used in fusion and progressive rock albums.
Random Acts Of Science – Rick Wakeman (Yes), Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra), Nik Turner (Hawkwind), Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets/Alan Holdsworth)
Stone Cold Infusion – Steve Stevens, Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater/Liquid Tension Experiment), Mel Collins (King Crimson), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra)
Molecular Breakdown – Jay Beckenstein (Spyrogyra), Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai), Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree), David Sancious (The E Street Band)
Particle Accelerations – Larry Coryell, Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater/Black Country Communion), Eric Marienthal (Chick Corea Elektric Band), Chester Thompson (Genesis/Frank Zappa)
At The Edge Of The Middle – Steve Morse (Dixie Dreggs/Deep Purple), Jim Beard (Mahavishnu Orchestra), Randy Brecker (Blood, Sweat & Tears/Brecker Brothers), Percy Jones (Soft Machine/Brand X)
Atom Smashing – John Etheridge (Soft Machine), Tony Kaye (Yes), Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa)
In The Spirit Of – Steve Hillage (Gong), Scott Kinsey (Tribal Tech), Theo Travis (Steven Wilson Band), Justin Chancellor (Tool), Asaf Sirkis (The Orient House Ensemble)
As a follow-up, I’d love to see a fusion musician put together a similar cast of musicians, including some of the musicians of the new generation of fusion performers.