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Published: 2001/10/06
by John McGee

Project Z, Harper’s Ferry, Allston, MA- 9/26

Jazz is not dead. Project Z, comprised of Jimmy Herring (guitar), Jeff Sipe (drums), and Ricky Keller (bass) as well as touring keyboardist Jason Crosby, played a tight-knit set of improvised jazz/rock fusion September 26 at Harper’s Ferry in Allston, MA. The show consisted primarily of awe-inspiring technical flourishes displayed by former Aquarium Rescue Unit bandmates Herring and Sipe, who locked in with such ease it was as if they had composed their parts ahead of time; not the case. The only element of the set that seemed to be predetermined was a few key changes and some loosely formatted song structures. Other than that, it was all flowing freely in the true spirit of improvisation.

The show consisted of many long jams that often alternated between time signatures of 6/4 and 7/4. Sipe was accenting different parts of the measure throughout, which often made it difficult to decipher where the “one” fell. Keller appeared like a kid in a candy store, bouncing back and forth on stage, utilizing his wireless bass. At one point he even jumped into the crowd, all the while still slapping away. Ricky is clearly the underrated player in Project Z, as most people focus on Herring and Sipe. The long-haired bassist shared many dueling runs with Herring, who certainly lived up to his reputation. Jimmy, while able to lay back in the groove at times, was also explosive in spots, racing up and down the neck via lightning speed arpeggios. He has more than perfected his technique over the years, often times shredding with the precision of a classically trained prodigy turned rock star. On several occasions, Herring plunged into 16th note runs, wowing the crowd, only to delve even further into the stratosphere where the coveted 32nd note gods reside. Although hardly any dancing occurring all night, many people’s jaws swept the floor clean at different points of the show.

Jason Crosby clearly rode in the backseat for most of this ride. He took a few brief violin solos that were truly intriguing. However, he spent most of the evening in the supporting role. His musical abilities are clearly strong, but with the amount of talent on stage, there was not enough room for him to shine.

Monte Montgomery opened the show with an impressive set comprised of blues, pop and rock. The highlight of his short set was a solo acoustic take on the Dire Straits’ classic “Romeo and Juliet.” Montgomery approached the song from a Michael Hedges/Charlie Hunter/Victor Wooten/John McLaughlin style, utilizing many similar awe-inspiring techniques, such as rapid percussive hammer-ons and counter-point. Perhaps most notable was the fact that he caught the attention of the entire bar and the room fell silent, something that this reviewer has never witnessed in countless trips to this normally chatty venue.

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