Artist: Jeff Richman
Label: Nefer Music Records
Release Date: 11/18/2016
Guitarist Jeff Richman has been pushing the boundaries of the fusion world for over thirty-five years and has released seventeen albums to date. Richman’s latest album, Sizzle, joins together longtime collaborator and producer Jimmy Haslip (bass) and is underpinned by the solid interaction of Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), George Whitty (keys/programming) and Gergo Borlai (drums/programming). Sizzle also has a brilliant guest lineup on various tracks, including Jeff Beal (trumpet, flugelhorn), Taylor Eigsti (piano), Bob Mintzer (tenor sax) and Mitchell Forman (Fender Rhodes).
The title track is built upon an infectious groove by Colaiuta and Haslip, with a flowing, syncopated melody anchored by full chordal support by Whitty. The first thing one will notice in Richman’s solo is his mastery of space, the open sections wind up giving his guitar a boost, letting it command attention and giving even more weight to his virtuosic bursts. Richman’s compositions always focus on texture and colors, here guest trumpeter Beal adds just the right amount of edge to the melody, and his muted tone for the bridge is a wonderful change of color.
“Hit Parade” is an excellent composition that has guest artist Mintzer on tenor saxophone. This selection demonstrates Richman’s guitar skills and his ability to get great squalls of feedback and sweet runs while still retaining the attention on the song. His lines are floating emotion and commotion in concord and lays against Colaiuta’s excellent drum work. The overall effect is that this album feels invigorating and suggests that Richman doesn’t want to rest on his laurels, he is committed to embracing the never-ending challenge of pushing guitar fusion forward. Mintzer’s playing is spectacular as usual, he matches Richman’s energy and melodic colors perfectly and adds just the right lilt to the track.
In total, Sizzle contains ten original Richman compositions that favor his unique guitar abilities, which continue to be a signature sound for fans and the next generation of guitar and fusion enthusiasts. However, do not expect mindless guitar shredding for that sake of fitting the highest number of notes possible into a measure of music. No, in fact Richman places an emphasis on such old-fashioned values as chops and beautiful melodies. The latter helps Sizzle feel fresh and easy to listen to, as always, Richman’s playing is solid: he’s edgy and exploratory, he is as susceptible to lyricism as he is to outright noise, and what makes each composition’s performance even better, is how he always avoids the spotlight to make a musical statement, letting the melodies be the focal point. His solid backing line-up seals the deal for a highly enjoyable outing.