Gary Willis – Actual Fiction
Gary Willis has outdone Gary Willis on this one. I must admit to being slightly biased, as I’m a huge fan of Gary’s work and his stand-out playing in the post-Jaco era of Fusion bass players. Actual Fiction takes everything you’ve ever liked about his work with Tribal Tech and leaps forward a few light years.
Gary’s past outing’s No Sweat and Bent are great recordings, however, they are much more song based than Actual Fiction. This project is wide open from the very first note and will test your neck vertebrae with the powerful rhythms all through this recording. Nothing is routine here, yet it all feels so “together” and “focused”. Gary’s ability to lay down a groove to the most complex of rhythms is shown front and center. Add to that his ability to improvise and solo over the steaming funkiness, you end up with Actual Fiction.
The liner notes state that Kirk Covington drums on all tracks except two, where David Gomez is utilized and Gary Willis plays “everything else”. I’d have to say that Gary chose his drummers wisely and they clearly make the project superior for having them. Both drummers are so musically gifted, there’s no “beat keepers” here. They really add a tremendous musical voice. Gary’s playing “everything else” is as mystifying as it is wonderful. I tried to dissect who was doing what and when, and it gave me a great deal of difficulty, and then I realized it doesn’t matter. The end result is what matters. So, after throwing out my “musical microscope” and just listening, I was simply blown away.
I didn’t really care how an album with just a bass player and drummer could be so incredible from a technical standpoint anymore. I was too busy digging the amazing music and trying to keep my head attached to my neck from the funky grooves that overwhelmed me. Every note kept me smiling and interested. This is an amazing recording for Fusion fans. An amazing Fusion recording without any guitar shredding solos? Yep, in fact, I was struck hard by the ancient words that Joe Zawinul used to describe early Weather Report “We always solo and we never solo”. That concept applies here almost 40 years later with all the benefits of having experienced Fusion’s golden age and beyond.
This album is a Jazz Rock Fusion treasure. The music is 100% about the music and not the “commercial aspects” that hinder so many recordings. 2007 has been a great year for Fusion releases and no collection would be complete without this one.
On a scale of 1 to 5, it’s a 6. It’s not just Fusion – it’s GREAT Fusion.