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Published: 2001/10/19
by Ray Hogan

Shadowhead – Joe Gallant and Illuminati

self-released

There was nothing that could have prepared me for what bassist Joe Gallant
has been up to since completing his Grateful Dead trilogy with "Terrapin" in
1999.

I'm not talking about "Shadowhead," the latest disc by his big band
Illuminati. I'm talking porn. >P>

The web site labeled on the back of
the packaging
caught me off guard. The site contains information on the recently released
disc (if you search around) but first informs viewers that the talented
bassist's latest endeavor has resulted in "the best and most complete New
York City smut site." Too weird.

Anyway, if hardcore porn's your thing, check it out. At jambands.com, we're
more interested in the music. [Mr. Hogan's views do not necessarily reflect
those of the management. – CD Rev Ed.][Yes they do- The Ed.]

"Shadowhead," for those familiar with Gallant's treatment of the Dead
repertoire, is a continuation of what the bassist/arranger does best: huge
big band pieces that fall somewhere between symphonic and outside jazz.
Propelled by Gallant's thunderous and groove-laden bass work, string
sections
clash with horn sections for a sound that is as big in texture and ambition
as the band's hometown of New York.

The group – which includes 26 members this time around – creates urban soundscapes. Miraculously, Gallant uses his leadership and nimble finger-work to utilize this orchestra as his own personal instrument. Each track is an entity unto its own. Che is so dark and searching that a band like Tool would have been happy to written it. Vivian, on the other hand," is a propulsive Latin dance rhythm that sounds uncharacteristic of Illuminati until it becomes clear that this is a band that doesn't have characteristics – at least not by stylistic definition.

Female vocalists appear sporadically throughout the disc to provide
appropriate rest stops from the weightier instrumental material.
Aurora is
a particularly intriguing track. At the halfway point of the disc, it's the
closest Illuminati comes to a pop song, yet the strings and brass speak
strictly of avant-garde influences. Catch how far out the horn section takes
the closing of this tune.

The disc sometimes stumbles over its own enterprise. A few of the tracks
aren't as developed as the rest and restraint – or judicious editing, at
least – would benefit a song like Liquid Heart, which would work better as
a
soundtrack than a piece of enjoyment music. The electric guitar work is
sometimes intrusive to the more harmonious blend of woodwind, brass, string
and reed instruments. Rolf Sturm, Rob Wolfson, Gary Miles and Jared Barken
are all listed as guitarists but it never sounds like more than two were
playing together on a particular cut.

"Shadowhead" is arguably stronger than all of Gallant's Grateful Dead
projects. It also showcases Gallant's compositional skills. "The Blues For
Allah Project" had its moments but ultimately sounded like a lounge-act
colliding with refugees of Ornette Coleman's school of free jazz.
"Shadowhead" showcases a much more complete and visionary unit.

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