Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Review Date: July 2011
Al Garcia's follow up to his 2006 release Alternate Realities is called All Things Must Converge. It is another mostly jazz-fusion release, fiery at times (many examples); mellow at others (the 70s-inflected jazz-rock number "I've Been Known," for example). While not totally indicative of the rest of the CD, the opening part of the opening track "Labyrinth" recalls for me Steely Dan's "FM" ... a certain strumming of the guitar, a certain liquidity to the guitars, keys. Yet the more I listen to it, the less I think of Steely Dan. A short time later (at about the 2:45 mark), a bit of King Crimson-like darkness creeps in with throatier guitars. Otherwise, it's a bright and shiny track; it breathes and has an airy air about. And for those keeping notes, yes, I did reference the exact same Steely Dan track> in my review of AR (I just noticed it!).
In fact, liquidity is a perfect term to describe Garcia's style. Most of the tracks employ it to a greater or lesser degree. It's not watery liquid, as one might say about the more vacuous smooth jazz that is out there (not to say that all smooth jazz is bad, just that some is too smooth and limp). Anyway, Garcia's liquid is more like mercury -- silvery, shiny, but not entirely safe. I mean, when King Crimson keeps popping up as reference, though never (to my ear) a direct quote, you know there's some sharper edges to be found. While Garcia never gets knife-blade sharp on those angles... still there's something there.
For example, "A Distant Mirror": Here a cathedral like organ opens before acidic guitar takes over the service, preaching its gospel in angular King Crimson-like tones, circa... Red (yes, I think I said that last time out, too). Perhaps a bit harsher than Crimson were. It's certainly also the point where Garcia could be said to be "proggy;" maybe because of the Crimson thing, maybe also because a certain degree of angularity lends it a bit of a RIO aspect (though... not really RIO). Of course, then we get a waltz-like synth passage that seems very medieval in tone ... and as I write that, with Garcia's notes before me*, I see he says, "I have been fascinated by music from the Medieval period for a long time." Well, King Crimson's debut had some of that going on, I think; if not in sound, certainly by implication. Incidentally, mirrors used to use mercury as their reflective coating; the association here between "mirrors" and "mercury" happened accidentally. I'll add that the flourishes on the synths do not seem medieval, but certainly the "march" section (drums, percussion, and flute-like keys) is very much "old world."
"The Eternal Cycle" is more... adventurous. Not in that Garcia goes way out there -- it's not RIO or avant-garde --, but in that its nature evolves such that there's a sense of movement, a sense of wondrous adventure. It's a heavier track, rockier... although we still get the bright and liquid guitars, the presence of bass is prominent. And it's one of those tracks, and really all of them are, you can hear different things if you follow the different journeys each instrument takes on each listen. The guitar is in the lead, but the drums, percussion and bass aren't merely following along. This is true for all tracks, by the way.
On this outing, it's Garcia on everything, but to hear this CD you wouldn't know it. His past releases have been mostly him with guests on drums, though not this time, so it's not much of a "revelation" to hear that this richly dynamic solo work is just the work of one man. It's a game plan that doesn't often work out for some, but for Garcia it does. And the fact that he did everything himself makes the bits where guitar and bass play in unison (e.g., on the latter part of "Labyrinth") all the more remarkable... hard enough when it's too folks, but to get your timing right twice and meld them together...
All Things... is also spacey and open, not just in terms of what lies beyond our stratosphere, but also in terms of instrument positioning and their relation to each other. No piece seems crowded or filled with stuff just because; that was true for the previous two releases, too. Of course, there's a suggestion of outer space, too; NASA provided images grace the album's front and back cover.
"Lingua Franca" is a piece you can dance to, owing to its percussion: a mix between a tango and a conga, though I think a conga line of tangoing partners might be dangerous. This track makes you want to try it. Garcia notes, it "combines afro-cuban 6/8 rhythms and jazz-rock sensibilities..." All I can say is, searing guitar phrases wend their way, snake their way at times, around throbbing bass, snickering percussion and rumblings drums. Percussion is more dominant here, but bass gets a chance to solo, accompanied by the drums, some Rhodes-like piano work and then some breathy (literally, it's like joyous "ahs") synth work. However, as no keyboard synths are used (or mentioned), I'll credit the keyboard-like aspects to the guitar synth.
"Simulacra," which closes the album, is what would happen if Rush had become a jazz-fusion trio when they recorded Moving Pictures. And it's not even that this is a bass-heavy track, or even a guitar heavy track, but the whole vibe of it... it's a melting pot of the whole album, including "Red Barchetta," and "YYZ." That doesn't entirely capture it, and probably also is a bit misleading. About 4-minutes in, it briefly becomes a classical piece; a few moments later there is a drum solo ... it's good, but it's no slight to say that he's no Peart. Heck, no one can match Peart (well, maybe Bozzio, Palmer...).
It's another enjoyable release from Al Garcia that yields more with each listen; he has completed a hat-trick, to put it in hockey parlance... three solid releases in row.
Score: 5 out of 5 stars