Art “Spike” Schloemer: TransFUSION
Like his idol, the late Joe Zawinul, keyboardist Art Spike Schloemer seeks to erase whatever perceived lines lie between jazz, rock, funk and world music. On his new TransFUSION CD, Schloemer arrives well- armed for the task by enlisting some of jazz/fusion’s top open-minded artists: guitarist Scott Henderson, saxophonist Bob Franceschini, bassists Bunny Brunel and Hadrien Feraud, and drummers Dennis Chambers and Kirk Covington.
The opening track, Concussion, shows additional Schloemer influences from the classic fusion era of the ’70s. The piece’s epic theme, and Feraud’s nimble bass line, echo the work of Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke in Return To Forever.
Brunel guests on the subsequent Space Flight, and his liquid tone and soloing guide Schloemer’s synthesizer into the soaring stratosphere of Weather Report, Zawinul’s primary vessel during his stellar career. Chambers’ contribution is on Distant Horizon, another far-reaching Weather Report revisit because of his shell-game with the time signature and Schloemer’s darting electric piano.
Henderson worked in Zawinul’s post-Weather Report group the Zawinul Syndicate, and the guitarist’s prodigious firepower burns throughout Challenge Day. Built on another epic theme by Schloemer, the energetic track is akin to Henderson’s ’90s work in the band Tribal Tech (which also featured a Zawinul-influenced keyboardist in Scott Kinsey).
Covington, Tribal Tech’s drummer, guests on the closing Keep Relaxed. A high-octane funk number that belies its title, the cut gets extra fuel through the drummer’s signature hummingbird-like fills. Franceschini, best-known for his work in guitarist Mike Stern’s group, makes a statement through his solo on Brain Fever, another Schloemer composition that blends jazz technique with rock intensity.
The guest stars may be the drawing card on TransFUSION, but the guest-free tracks are no less alluring. Sentimental Journey sounds like a trip through Zawinul’s entire career through its acoustic piano, programming, and chanted vocals.
Good Times is a Motown-inspired funk vehicle that could’ve been an alternate theme to the urban ’70s sitcom of the same name; Indie Dance manages to blend Middle Eastern and be-bop feels, and the entrancing For Joe is Schloemer’s ode to his late mentor.
Aside from the work of his special guests, Schloemer is responsible for the entirety of TransFUSION, making the disc an otherwise incredible singular achievement. Through his compositions, arrangements, multi-instrumental playing and programming, the keyboardist always manages to sound like he’s looking forward — even as he reaches backward for inspiration.
Art Spike Schloemer (keyboards)
Scott Henderson (guitar)
Bob Franceschini (saxophone)
Bunny Brunel (bass)
Hadrien Feraud (bass)
Dennis Chambers (drums)
Kirk Covington (drums)
2. Space Flight
3. Distant Horizon
4. Sentimental Journey
5. Good Times
6. Challenge Day
7. Brain Fever
8. For Joe
9. Orient Express
10. Indie Dance
11. Emergency Evacuation
12. Como La Miel
13. Keep Relaxed