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David Hines- Nebula

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Jun 08, 2005    l   By Bill Milkowski

with Steve Hunt, Steve Kirby, Steve Michaud and Allan Holdsworth

Boston-based bassist-composer David Hines makes an impressive debut with Nebula, a hard-hitting retro-’70s styled offering that harkens back to fusion’s golden era. A no-holds-barred player’s project with an emphasis on intelligent, harmonically challenging compositions and virtuosic, over-the-top solos, Nebula is chockfull of things that hardcore fusion fans adore -- tons of blazing unison lines, odd meters, intricate/impossible heads and a take-no-prisoners approach to soloing. All this, plus a special guest appearance by guitar god Allan Holdsworth to boot means that Nebula couldn’t come more highly recommended for fans of Return To Forever, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Brand X or Tony Williams New Lifetime.
Hines is a formidable instrumentalist who shows the influence of Jaco Pastorius, Percy Jones and Bunny Brunel in his extensive vocabulary, but what most impresses here is his big picture vision for this very potent project. His suite-like compositions, particularly pieces like “Toe Nail,? “Neuro Man? and “Antillia,? carry the grand sweep of Romantic Warrior era RTF while never losing sight of the all-important groove factor. A key to the success of this recording is drummer Steve Michaud, whose blend of power, precision and sheer musiciality recalls Vinnie Colaiuta. Michaud fuels this fusion juggernaut with impeccable time, rare authority and a dynamic approach to the kit. Other killers in the lineup include the criminally under-recognized keyboardist Steve Hunt (formerly with Allan Holdsworth, currently with the Mahavishnu Project) and Boston’s best kept secret, Steve Kirby, on guitar.
They burst out of the gate with explosive intensity on the album’s opener, “Skippy,? an anthemic fusion offering that carries the same propulsive kick as Holdsworth’s “Protocosmos.?Hines bubbles underneath in Jaco-esqe fashion while Hunt comps in hip fashion on synth as Allan takes off to the stratosphere with another mind-blowing solo here.
Kirby, who has exhibited a warmer, clean-toned, Metheny-esque quality on his own releases as a leader -- 1998’s Point of Balance and 2002’s North Light, both on A-Records -- wails with aggresive, distortion-laced legato abandon on “Q? and “Toe Nail,? sounding more like Holdsworth than Metheny. And Hunt lights up the title track, alternately sound like Jan Hammer on single note synth lines, George Duke on funky clavinet comping and Herbie Hancock on a brilliant piano solo.
“Lucia? has Kirby on nylon string acoustic guitar playing unison lines with Hunt triggering a flute sound on his synth. Hines blows over an ambient middle section on fretless bass with Jaco-like aplomb and Hunt also offers a cascading piano solo on ths lyrical ballad. “No Loops? is some odd-metered funk which showcases Hines’ slap bass prowess. Kirby unleashes with another buzzsaw solo here and also engages in some daredevil unisons with drummer Michaud. “Neuro Man? opens with a burning bass flurry recalling something from Bunny Brunel’s “Ivanhoe.? As the piece evolves, it begins to sound like an outtake friom Romantic Warrior. Michaud erupts for a particularly intense drum solo here while Hunt and Kirby engage in some vicious exchanges that fusion fans will eat up.
The suite-like “Antillia? opens on a reflective note, somewhat in the vein of Weather Report’s “A Remark You Made.? Hines’ fluid fretless playing over the changes is very evident through the first minute of the piece before resolving to a groove-oriented middle section that serves as a solid foundation for another remarkable synth solo by Hunt. Holdsworth doesn’t enter until five and a half minutes into the piece, but the deluge of notes he delivers over the course of the next two and a half minutes with his patented “sheets of sound? approach is enough to humble any guitar player.
Nebula is a very auspicious debut from a talent truly deserving of wider recognition. Hines has crafted a clear winner here, with the help of a few enormously talented ringers (and one bona fide guitar god).

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