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3 Sets v.3 – various artists

Lauan Records 113

It could be that this thought runs through my head because it's close to
lunchtime, but: I love music samplers in the same manner that I love food
buffets. There's nothing as enjoyable as the opportunity to taste a little
of
this and a little bit of that, and then go back and re-visit the choices
that
gave the most pleasure.

In the case of this third volume of material from Lauan records, what's
immediately striking, and a good move, is that the creators do not simply
throw on one track by one artist and move on. They serve up two or three
offerings
at 20-plus minutes from each artist in order to give a more well-rounded
version of what each one can deliver. In this case, it's Living Daylights
with the Flava Crystals, the Miracle Orchestra and Ray's Music Exchange.

The sampler starts off on a very high note with the strong grooves, high-octane output, and smooth arrangements of Living Daylights with the Flava Crystals. The group provides the three tracks – Small, Medium and Large – that give off their own distinctive nature. At the same, nice transitions keep one number sliding into the next so that the (mostly) instrumental set becomes one 25-minute long ecstatic piece of music.

I'd like to point out the powerful sax break by Jessica Lurie that comes up
in Medium, showing that the influence of Maceo Parker lives on and
on. On
the debit side of things, I wish that Living Daylights' version of reggae
dub
on Small would go the distance and have bassist Arne Livingston
mining the
low end of his instrument. Without that deep rumble of bass, it lessens the
impact.

Listening to The Miracle Orchestra reminds me of an updated version of early '70s jazz fusion by the Mahavishnu Orchestra and its legendary participants, guitarist John McLaughlin, violinist Jean Luc Ponty and keyboardist Jan Hammer. The music bears that influence, but doesn't reach the passion exhibited by McLaughlin or Pony.

Still, on its two lengthy tracks the Orchestra displays consistent
instrumental flourishes and interplay while the bass and drums lock in to a
tight groove. Then, in a nod to fusion's traditions, Stonehenge
separates
the rhythmic foundation in order to create a hypnotic sensation caused by
the steady play of the low end just as everything becomes chaotic around
it. Out of the two numbers, I really enjoy the atmosphere created here:
relying on a musical theme, successfully working around it, and finally
returning
to it.

Unfortunately, both numbers are hampered by unnecessary vocal samples. If there is anything that they add to the proceedings, then I missed it. Listening to a female talking on The Secret Life of Juan Valdez and then a recording of Noam Chomsky on Stonehenge does little to help the material. The vibrant playing on these instrumentals do not need any such unnecessary flourishes. Thankfully, both are brief. Ray's Music Exchange's Horse Load is a return to more standard fare. There's the familiar jammy groove provided by the loopy guitar riff and drum rhythm. Around midway, it changes gears into something increasingly freeform . Admittedly, I can only handle freeform for so long, and the idea of putting it out front as the introduction to RME's three numbers doesn't thrill me.

Of course, I immediately discover why the proceedings start out this way.
Similar to the mini-set by Living Daylights, Horse Load eases into
Meathead Dance Party. Sounding as if it is spliced along with the
other
numbers, Thumbs finishes the transition from upbeat groove to
contemplative
state. Thumbs turned out to be my favorite among the RME's trio. It
uses
Middle Eastern flavors but not in an overt manner. One can sense the
influence through the guitar tones and the light rhythmic background but it
doesn't totally succumb to the eccentric syncopated nature of worldbeat.
Overall, it demonstrates what RME hints at throughout its three songs:
that the bandmembers can ably take the music around them and create a hybrid
of sound that touches upon such styles without aping them.

And that's how I view the success of "3 Sets v. 3", through the bands' abilities to look at past musical traditions and then to challenge themselves by discovering new musical horizons. Sure, some fine-tuning would be helpful, but it looks as if this sample of sounds successfully did its job. There's just enough here to whet one's appetite for future listening.

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