Bassist Ric Fierabracci, guitarist Mike Miller, and drummer Shane Gaalass join keyboardist Bob Frye on his 2015 release Uzoma. The album features eight original tracks that take listeners on a journey though abrupt changes of style and arrangement. A keyboardist’s album featuring Chick Corea personnel could easily lead to false assumptions of what to expect from Uzoma. Though it would be hard pressed to find a keyboardist who doesn’t show signs of inspiration from Corea, Frye certainly takes his own compositional direction and presents them in a fitting manner that creates a wonderfully unpredictable album.
The album begins with the track Box of Stars, a fitting name where the roster is introduced and powerfully displays their skills and places guitarist Mike Miller at the forefront. The song and album as a whole mix elements of jazz, funk, soul, blues and swing at a moments notice. These abrupt style changes never come off as busy, trading attention between players with each transition. This keeps the listener’s ear moving from instrument to instrument, never letting it settle or become stagnant.
The trading of attention also functions between songs, allowing the opening tune to focus on Miller, then allowing Frye to show his feathers on Plutonium Soup with dizzying leads and a powerful and haunting theme. The constant movement creates the illusion of a downward spiral as listeners fall deep into Frye’s twisting arrangements. Just as I began to take notice of how strong Fierabracci and Gaalass are as a rhythm section, Estuary opens up to a tradeoff between the drums and bass, with bass tapping lines that cement this quartet as an undeniable force.
With Your Moment is Now/Eleven Eleven, Frye introduces the fresh timbre of a solo acoustic piano. Frye’s playing starts simply but slowly grows in intensity, becoming more intense and funkier. Just when the magnitude becomes too much for one musician to handle alone, the rhythm section joins him. This hill and valley arrangement continues throughout the piece with swift pulls to straight swing, funk, synth fusion and settling back down with acoustic piano.
The album continues to introduce elements of rhythmic funk and blues, but ends with solo piano pieces that demonstrate Frye’s abilities behind both a modular synth and 88 ivory keys. For One Shining Moment is the perfect piece to conclude Uzoma; Frye’s final bow after an enjoyable listening experience.
Though the quick panning of synths did become tiring to the ear on brief occasions, his ability to quickly shift between feels and styles is incredibly impressive. Uzoma is full of variety and shows Bob Frye choosing arrangement and musicality over instrumentation; opting to leave certain colors be from time to time to serve the overall piece. An example of true fusion Uzoma melds together countless styles and feels, and is bound to catch the ear of any listener.