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Some Reviews of the J.A.M. CD:

Finally, a collaborative instrumental album to get genuinely excited about, and get isn't a tribute CD!

Over the last two years, Liquid Note Records has produced three of the most talked about guitar driven releases since the slow death of Shrapnel. JAM, a 'project album' is yet another solid step forward in the direction of six string nirvana by bringing together three of today's hottest guitarists; Joel Rivard, Alessandro Benvenuti and Milan Polak.

Each player contributes three original tracks showcasing their own distinctive voice; Benvenuti provides the modern fusion licks and beefy lead tones, Polak the odd time grooves and fired up shred, whilst newcomer (at least to me) Joel Rivard creates lines of sumptuous Jazziness. The results are surprising, face melting and atmospheric in equal measure. LNR house keys man Lale Larson also appears, knocking out a few killer solos and generally fattening up the sound.

The Usual Unusual opens the sticky lid on JAM, with Polak and (co writer) Bernd Fuxa spreading a tight and catchy angular groove over some seriously tasty guitar work. This tune is dedicated to the sorely missed Shawn Lane and comes across very reminiscent of the big mans penchant for progressive arrangements and state of the art solos.

2 Sides Of The Same Trouble opens the set for Italian Fusion ace Alessandro Benvenuti. The clean, almost blues intro immediately hooks the listener as Benvenuti seamlessly morphs the raw beginning into a searing melodic fusion. There are simply to many knockout moments of guitar playing on this tune to mention in full, suffice to say it does exactly what all good instrumental music should do...make you pick up yer guitar!

Joel Rivard is a new name to me, but on the strength of the material found on JAM, Rivard may be the find of the year! Equal parts Johnson and Satch, (and a smattering of Lane) Rivard demonstrates an unbelievable sense of melody that enchants as much as it inspires. His burning fretwork on Lydian Field and Transcendence are highlights of the album, though some may find his compositional style to be a touch too familiar.

The chemistry and interplay between Rivard, Benvenuti, Polak and Larson throughout JAM is terrific, especially considering the international mileage these tracks must have undertaken to reach completion. The diverse styles also add a great deal of listener interest, moving gracefully from Fusion, Shred, Rock and even Ballad. In fact, my favorite part of JAM is the versatility each player shows when negotiating different musical situations, all excel themselves with dynamism and flair.

Other highlights include Benvenuti's technical yet beautiful 'Hot Room', which features plenty of challenging lead lines and superior clean jazz phrasing from Rivard, and Polak's foot stomping shred delight - Back on the Track.

A final mention must go to JAM's cover artwork. A closer look reveals the creepiest use of digital baby imagery since the dancing freak that adorned many screensavers a few years back. The dancing baby has grown up, mutated, and Matt Willams has taught him shred guitar!

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J.A.M. is the latest release from UK based label Liquid Note Music. Despite being a relatively new indie label they have so far got a reputation (at least from virtuosity one!) of releasing quality guitar instrumental albums, J.A.M. is no exception to this trend I am pleased to report.

Touching on equal parts rock, jazz, blues and funk this is 9 tracks full of great guitar work from Joel Rivard, Aleesandro Benvenuti and Milan Polak - who if I am being perfectly honest I had never heard of before this release! Does this matter? Well no as J.A.M. is full of great grooves, solos that are suited to the track rather than the soloist desire to show his bag of tricks. Despite mentioning the words funk and jazz above rest assured guitar fans that this more along the lines of those genres that Satriani or Greg Howe would dish out.

What I particularly like is that each guitarist generally has his own style and does not try to outflash the previous solo. Joel Rivards work brings to mind that of Shawn Lane and Satriani, mostly due to his silky smooth legato technique. Milan Polak's approach is also home to a strong legato technique but with a little more shred in him, which leaves Alessandro Benvenuti in whom I hear comparisons with Greg Howe and a little Allan Holdsworth. These 3 style merge extremely well and add a nice dose of originality to the album.

The Usual Unusual opens the album with a mono sounding classic jazz swing vibe before kicked into a monster groove and a big loud and proud production. This track is dedicated to the memory of Shawn Lane and is home to great melodies that set the standard for the rest of the album. 2 Sides Of The Same Trouble is a superb example of the interplay between the 3 guitarists. Lydian Field is quite excellent with an extremely strong structure and melody, again quite Satriani and has a cool outro vamp based on the lydian scale which brings about the song title, 8 mins of pure class.

Hot Room is jazz fusion done Allan Holdsworth style, superb playing throughout. Back On The Track is home to a great groove and some of the flashiest playing on the album. Transcendence has an uplifiting vibe that is quite Eric Johnson sounding to these ears. The track features a lot of use of the mixolydian mode which probably explains the Johnson vibes, probably my favourite cut on the album. S.L.O.W. is much more ethereal at the start with some female mood vocals before leading into some pretty smoking soloing from Alessandro Benvenuti. Perfect Angel is based around a rather simple melody that evolves as the track progresses, the production here is especially strong. General Relativity Jam closes the album, sadly I do not feels its quite up with the quality elsewhere as its as the name suggests more Jamming bases and occassionally does loose a little focus.

J.A.M. have chalked up a victory in the instrumental releases of 2004 category. Great playing within classic strong structures and home to an ace production for this genre. Whilst not breaking any new ground in the instrumental guitar field, J.A.M. does provide an hours worth of exciting and captivating guitar work and for that reason alone comes highly recommended.

Hot Spots: Lydian Field, Back On The Track, Transcendence.

Rating: 90%

Matt Williams is steadily bringing some great new fusion music to the more extreme side of the genre through his Liquid Note label, he has a nice stable of talented musicians to work with, and each cd I have had the pleasure of hearing is yet another ear popping adventure in the heavy instrumental world of technical and dazzling musicianship. His label provdes an outlet for artists that not only are world class musicians, but artistst that have the freedom to write highly challenging progressive instrumental music. Funny, this description describes my personal preferences in music, and he has a label doing just that, Finally! I know there are others out there that have the same tastes in music, so this is a heads up, go to the Liquid Note site (link provided in artists page here), and check out everything going on there, you won't be disappointed.

J.A.M. is an interesting little slice of fusion, interesting in that it is a compilation of 9 songs, divided into three individual groups, each group provides 3 songs to the cd, and these groups are led by different guitarists, so it's almost a sampler cd of these musicians so to speak. Yet given the fact that the guitarists are all writing intensely motivated music, the cd flows together well. First you have Milan Polak, who has been making a name for himself for his solo efforts as a shred style musician, he plays some very intricate songs on this cd, showing excellent flair for technical arrangements that fully compliment his amazing playing. Alessandro Benvenuti, who's cd Sonic Design is reviewed here at Proggnosis, plays in the style of Greg Howe ultra fluid playing that accompanies complex arrangements, a perfect marriage of power and beauty go hand in hand on his three contributions with J.A.M. Joel Rivard is the one guitarist here that I am not familiar with, but he is in good company here, from what I can tell you, he has a very nimble style that reminds me a LOT of the great Shawn Lane, and plays with the same tasteful expression and freedom the Shawn did.

So there you have a brief summary of what J.A.M. offers, so all of you instrumental/progressive/heavy/technical music fans should get over to Matt's website, and get hold of some of these new creations, and give him more motivation to keep the music coming. 2004

New England Demo Sampler: "*Joel Rivard - Listen up all ye guitar players. I predict (are you ready?) this guy's gonna make some waves. It's 8-track, home demo stuff of the finest guitar playing I've ever had the pleasure of reviewing. A ten." New England Performer, November 1994

Doug's Top 5 for February 1996: "Guitarist, Joel Rivard and bassist, Marc Respass display an astounding command of their instruments as they blow these ten tunes past the listener like a Concorde jet. Joel's technical prowess rivals that of Steve Vai while Respass' bass playing could stand up to anything Stanley Clarke or Stuart Hamm could muster. The songwriting is also very strong and highlights a fine command of arranging skills. A 24-track studio would open up a whole world of possibilities to musicians of this caliber. Any spec deals ou there?" HEARINGS, Feb, 1996.

Spotlight: "Proficient at neo-classical sweep runs, chord-melody jazz, chicken-pickin' country, and modern blues lead, 26 year old Joel Rivard is a technically awesome jack-of-all-licks with clear nods to Shaun Lane's linear cascades, Eric Johnson's violiny melodies, and flatpicking's fiery fusilades. The Bostonian's playing is certainly impressive, maybe even virtuosic-no wonder he's won or placed high in several guitar competitions-but when he stops hyping the tempo on is material so much, he'll be a much more savvy, enjoyable musician. Slow down, for God's sake!--it's not a race (or is it?). Rivard has dug into transcriptions of everyone from Van Halen to Bensusan and he's been featured on the Legato Guitar on the Edge #5 compilation." Guitar Player, March 1998




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