Danny John Trio: Mr. Twister
Many instrumental guitar trios capably blend jazz, rock and blues elements,but the one led by Australian guitarist Danny John takes a harder stance. With feet firmly planted on the metallic side of the fence, John, bassist Marcos Gil and drummer James Dennett occasionally dip a toe into other genres through tempo shifts, key changes and dynamics to create a compelling Down Under variation of instrumental rock that’s suitably bottom-heavy.
Three years of studying at the Musicians Institute of Technology in Hollywood, CA, and rubbing elbows with Tribal Tech’s co-founding guitarist Scott Henderson and bassist Gary Willis, trained John to think further outside the box. Drift, the opening track to his Aussie trio’s latest CD, Mr. Twister, starts out with a thunderous guitar riff before serpentining into 7/4 half-time and 7/8 double-time meters.
The subsequent Would lightens the mood a touch through its waltzing cadence, although John’s burning solos — in both the main theme and frantic midsection — hardly conjure up images of ballroom dancing. John, Gil and Dennert seem to try to skirt standard 4/4 time whenever possible, and make a shell game of the meter in the epic title track. With its multiple sections and array of guitar tones, the extended piece hints at Canadian rock trio Rush without bassist Geddy Lee’s high-pitched vocals.
Whole flirts with the blues, albeit in 9/8 time, and offers jazz nuances through John’s nimble, often abstract picking and Gil’s solo. Dennett then takes the spotlight. The drummer’s middle break is a lesson in double-bass drum footwork and limb independence, and his pacing also keeps the funky-yet-frenetic, 4/4-timed Predilection from spiraling out of control.
The opening atmospherics of Badland work through the unorthodox note choices by Gil, yet the near-ballad goes into overdrive sections as well. And the closing Lighthouse, after Dennert’s muscular intro, features not only another statement-making Gil solo but a theme that constantly changes keys.
John’s playing and compositional prowess collectively echo guitarists from rocker Steve Vai to fellow Aussie fusion artist Frank Gambale, and bands from Rush to Georgia instrumental rock icons the Dixie Dregs. Clearly, there’s a new thunder Down Under.
Danny John (guitar)
Marcos Gil (bass)
James Dennett (drums)
3. Mr. Twister