GRG's latest album PANARICAN represents so much of what’s so great in the Jazz-Funk-Fusion world: a musical tapestry that seamlessly transposes technical virtuosity with the lyrical sweetness of blues-and-soul underpinnings that makes this 9-track outpouring by the Glenn Rexach Group trio a likely perennial in one’s digital playlist and CD tray.
The operative words here are “fluid” and “seamless”. Right from the get-go, PANARICAN takes one on an extended journey through myriad emotions, quietly breaking down natural inclinations to genre-define the music or search for comparisons with past masters of their craft. A few seconds in to the first track Flex Time (a funk-laden gem), and it’s clear that this is going to be a special journey flexing musical brain cells searching that utopic setting most music fans crave – achieving that elusive “live” sound and feel in a recording-studio setting.
Lead-man Rexach’s guitar work is unique – a delectable amalgam of virtuosity and controlled aggression that pays quiet homage to others who came before him, yet has that special voicing and lyrical essence that makes his sound uniquely his own. Influences from John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, Scott Henderson, Wes Montgomery and others seem to play hide-and-seek from time to time, although one quickly learns to sit back and just let the album overcome you.
Named for GRG founder Glenn Rexach’s dual Panamanian and Puerto Rican roots, PANARICAN is by no means a “Latin” CD in conventional terms – and yet, there is that underpinning of syncopation and phrasing that permeates the whole album that is perhaps exemplified by the title track. Or perhaps it’s that Rexach is known to display more mad skills in his side-man bass avatar with Latin and Soul artists like Rey Arteaga and Malford Milligan. Either way, the end result is an album that is equally accessible to both music pros and “just-fans” alike.
Make no mistake, however – this is not just a “guitar-player” album. This trio is also home to drummer Kevin Scott, a formidable player and composer in his own right. Whether they are straight-ahead tracks or complex time-signatures, Scott stays consistently and tightly “in the pocket” - even as he unleashes some breath-stopping, flamboyant chops within - that cannot but evoke fond memories of Billy Cobham, Omar Hakim, Vinnie Colaiuta, Chad Wackerman, Steve Smith and others (check out the track “Angst Freedom Rider” as an example). Bass duties on this album are ably shared by Ed Friedlander and Aaron Hatmaker, each of whom infuses his own quiet low-end groove-making within.
When it’s all said and done, it’s hard to reconcile that this album emanated from a trio or within the confines of a studio. And that 8 of the 9 tracks are entirely original compositions. The feel is fresh, live, electric,... and FULL; and the music is so much more than just the sum of its parts. And oh yeah – fluid and seamless. DEFINITELY fluid and seamless.
PANARICAN is available for purchase on Amazon -- Buy CD | Download MP3. For more info on this album, the artist or their upcoming shows, please visit the GRG website. The band can be seen playing live in fine Austin establishments like The Elephant Room, Saxon pub, One-2-One Bar and other homes to Austin’s Jazz/Funk/Blues scene.
- JAKES SRINIVASAN