Style : Jazz rock
Rating : 4.5 / 5
Summary : Curtis, Tony Levin, Mike Keneally ... 'nuff said! This one will appeal to prog-snobs and the rest of us.
Until now, Anthony Curtis's remarkable guitar work has been kept secret from the listening public. Some of modern music's illuminati knew about Curtis, though, and Tony Levin, Mike Keneally, Lewis Pragasam, Jeff Gauthier and Ronan Chris Murphy joined him on Book of the Key, and have collectively compiled well over an hour of challenging, stellar jazzy progressive rock with occasional incursions into fusion, avant garde and a middle-eastern influenced world music. And if that description sounds like Mahavishnu Orchestra, well, so does the music. No, it's far from a clone, that's just the easiest way to describe it.
Curtis's guitar work shows a good variety of tones and stylistic approaches. It's clear that he's a master of his instrument, and he mixes his textures from rock to jazz to funk. Listen to the avant garde meets jazz sounds of "Hikmat al-Ishraq". Tony Levin's bass work drives this music and it's sometimes hard to take your mind off those bass gymnastics and focus on Curtis's compositions. Guitarist and all-rounder Mike Keneally plays a funky Fender Rhodes which with enthusiasm and finesse, and Jeff Gauthier's violin is sadly absent from most passages of most songs. His contribution adds a wonderful texture to the music ("From Towers to the Dome of Heaven") and it ought to be applied more frequently.
Opener "Ruins" is a 12-minute soft, sensitively composed mid-eastern influenced piece that invokes the sounds of the five-times-daily call to prayer for Muslims. "Gallabalba" is a guitar / Chapman Stick (Tony Levin, of course) / drums piece - a fun, jamming, chaotic-sounding blend of rhythms and textures that showcases Levin's and Pragasam's musicianship. But the standout track is the 23-minute epic title track inspired by the stories of Homer and Apuleius. Although it is all instrumental, each song has a story or a theme. Take the time to understand the artists' objectives with each song - it will definitely enhance your listening experience.
Whether your preferred style of music is jazz, fusion, avant garde, or the complex progressive sounds of King Crimson, you'll find Curtis's Book Of The Key will become one of the gems in your collection.
(All Album Reviews by Hippy Pants)
One of the first things I noticed upon hearing the new Anthony Curtis CD, Book of the Key, is that all the musicians on his newest effort are top choice. Their sound falls somewhere between a lot of jazz bands, and those that crossover into prog. Mahavishnu Orchestra, comes to mind pretty quickly, also Anthony's guitar style reminds me of Sonny Sharrock. Steve Tibbets, Weather Report, and Power Tools also comes to mind when listening. There are elements of jazz fusion, funk, world-prog, prog-metal and other styles and textures running throughout this well-made album.
Anthony Curtis plays guitar and gets a lot of different textures, tones, and moods from his axe. Tony Levin plays bass on the album, and his contributions are felt from the first song. "The Ruins" starts off on a moody, blues-sounding vibe, with deep fuzzy bass underneath. Curtis sifts through all sorts of multi-textures, fuzzy sustain, and exploratory guitar riffs as his band mates lays down rhythms, textures, and harmonies to propel each song. "Gallabalba" is a shredding guitar number in a Crimson-styled jam. "Inland Sea" is more mellow, sonorous in nature, and with the aid of violinist, Jeff Gauthier; sounding much like Mahavishnu Orhcestra. The other band members: Mike Keneally on keyboard and Lewis Pragasam on drums help round out this ensemble to give it drive and passion. Three of the songs on the album are extended pieces with the title cut, "Book Of The Key," being influenced by the adventures of Homer's Odysseus and Apuleius' Lucius–giving it a cinematic flavor.
All of the songs on Book of the Key are instrumental, and played extremely well. If I had any qualms about he CD it would be for a bit more diversification. It would have been very cool had the quintet gone into some kind of other-worldly zeuhl, or incorporated a bit more keyboards. However, what is present is tasteful, and if you're into the fusion area of progression, you'd probably really enjoy this work.