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Craig Easley

An Eclectic Fusion of Jazz, Rock, R & B and Even Poetry!

 
The title and opening two tracks of Welcome to ElectriCrazyland may allude to guitar icon Jimi Hendrix and his classic Electric Ladyland (MCA, 1968), but guitarist Craig Easley’s debut is a far more eclectic affair than anything the boundary busting Hendrix ever recorded. There’s been plenty of conjecture as to where the late legend might have gone had he not left us so early in life, but even suggestions that Hendrix was moving towards a jazzier aesthetic, jamming with legends in the making like John McLaughlin, don’t approach the breadth of Easley’s cross-genre disc, where Calypso lives side-by-side with Gustav Holst, and Miles Davis stands back-to-back with Allan Holdsworth.
Craig Easley

Craig Easley

Welcome to ElectriCrazyland is a fusion record in the broadest sense of the word. Electric and electrifying, there are tracks that fit within the more conventional genre definition. The high-velocity “Nufcuncsity” features Easley’s heavily effected guitar shredding over Jake Woods’ funky beat, with Easley providing his own thumb-popping bass line and guest soprano saxophonist Alex Murzyn’s solo recalling the heavy metal bebop of ex-Miles alumnus Bill Evans. Easley’s homage to Allan Holdsworth, “For All an Hold’s Worth” manages to reference another guitar icon’s distinctive harmonic language, as well as some of his signature Synthaxe tones and textures, before Easley’s guitar solo–reverential but, with a grungier tone and sharper attack, remaining at the same time highly personal.

Elsewhere Easley explore east-west fusion on “Bodhisattva Blues,” where tablas, soprano saxophonist Vincent Henry and Easley’s own dense guitar layers create a cross-cultural mix that’s far removed from McLaughlin’s Shakti, or even guitarist Prasanna’s own homage to Hendrix, Electric Ganesha Land (Susika, 2006). Easley blends overdriven guitar with string synth washes on “Jupiter’s Waltz,” a majestic yet edgy excerpt from Gustav Holst’s The Planets.

“Miles Still Smiles,” one of a number of tracks to feature Easley’s spoken word poetry, begins abstractly but settles into a propulsive rhythm driven by drummer Deszon Claiborne, again featuring Easley’s fuzzy, reckless abandon, Barry Shulman’s saxophone, which cleverly skirts the boundary of inside/outside. Easley’s articulation on synth trumpet is so authentic that it’s hard to believe it’s not the real deal.

Throughout the disc Easley’s tone, regardless of the degree of overdrive, feels almost otherworldly; up front in the mix and demanding attention, but also strangely buried. “If god was an atheist” takes the American civil rights movement anthem “We Shall Overcome” as its starting point, but soon morphs into a hip-hop groove, with Easley’s dense-textured guitar creating an unsettling undercurrent to his political charged lyrics.

While Welcome to ElectriCrazyland’s overall tone is in-your-face with its high energy, Easley knows when to bring things down to vary the pace and make the album more of a complete narrative rather than a collection of individual pieces. “Ode to Big George” begins gently, but soon turns assertive with Easley’s gradually intensifying guitar pulling the rest of the track with it, while “Tears for a Fallen” is a haunting closer, ending a politicized album on the most human of terms.

A uniquely conceived disc, Welcome to ElectriCrazyland is as much about the writing as it is Easley’s undeniably impressive playing. Add his astute lyrics to the mix and you’ve got a triple-threat on one of the more impressive debuts of 2007.

Tracks: “…and the gods went crazy”; Welcome to ElectriCrazyland; Seventh Heaventh; If god was an atheist; Man in the Wheel; For All an Hold’s Worth; Bodhisattva Blues; Miles Still Smiles; Frankly Speakin’; Caribbean Sunset; Nufuncsity; Voodoo Rider; Ode to Big George; Jupiter’s Waltz; Tears for a Fallen Hero.

Craig Easley: poems, guitars; Alex Muzyn: soprano saxophone (11); Alex Popovics: bass (10); Barry Shulman: alto and tenor saxophones (8, 10); Celia Malheiros: voice and percussion (10); DJ Fly (Stephen Bingham): turntables and background samples (4); Deszon Claiborne: drums (3, 8); Gregory James: nylon-string guitar (10); Jake Woods: drums (2, 4-6, 9, 11, 13, 14); Jon Hamera: bass (6); Steven O’Shea: keyboard solos (6, 9); Vincent Henry: soprano sax (7).

Written for ABLX by: John Kelman

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