Rcubed: The Beginning and The Ending Review
Rcubed: The Beginning And The Ending (2013-06-15 Bill Meredith)
Power trio is a term associated more with guitar-based rock acts like Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Rush than fusion bands, but it certainly applies to the shape-shifting California instrumental trio Rcubed’s debut CD, The Beginning And The Ending.
Which makes sense, considering the group’s powerful collective influences. Guitarist Russ Pettit studied with heralded instrumental rock guru Joe Satriani; bassist Ron Sotelo got fretted and fretless tutelage from icons Jeff Berlin, Tim Bogert, Gary Willis and Steve Bailey, and drummer Rick Alegria’s credits include blues (Bo Diddley), swing (Lost Weekend), pop (Elvis Costello), country (Roseanne Cash), and featured status in the 2008 San Jose Jazz Festival’s tribute to drumming great Louie Bellson.
Alegria’s double-pedal bass drum work on the opening track, Bullet Train (not to mention his shell game with time signatures that run from 7/8 to 4/4 to 10/8), is Bellson-worthy as they lock in with the harmonized lines of Pettit and Sotelo. The subsequently less-frenetic Cheeze Time evens out the meter while alternately displaying Alegria’s ride cymbal touch and Pettit’s gritty power chords.
Sotelo’s bass line anchors Dark Alley, a 6/8-timed piece that also displays Pettit’s wah-wah pedal expertise and the entire trio’s free-form maneuvers during an experimental middle bridge. Gotta Go then lulls listeners in with an intro of Pettit’s clean tones and the rhythm section’s swinging cadence, which makes the track’s alternating rock blasts that much more surprising and effective.
The uneven time signatures of Spaghetti Western (9/8) and Endless Journey (6/8) likewise set up a curveball in the suite-like title track, a power ballad that’s a showcase for Pettit’s tone palette. The CD evens out further near the end through additional 4/4 tonal showcases for Sotelo (Sight Unseen) and Pettit (Chupacabra) before the trio wields its power once again.
As its title implies, Unisong features all three musicians playing unison parts — but those parts create an inside-out rhythm that’s at once funky and marauding, uniting elements of Satriani, James Brown, Led Zeppelin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Rcubed counters the CD’s most rocking number with a lighter closer, A Bright New Day, which offers 10/8 time, stellar performances by all three players, and a bright future for this fledgling instrumental fusion act.
Rick S. Alegria (drums)
Russell Pettit (guitar)
Ron Sotelo (bass)
1. Bullet Train
2. Cheeze Time
3. Dark Alley
4. Gotta Go
5. Spaghetti Western
6. Endless Journey
7. The Beginning And The Ending
8. Sight Unseen
11. A Bright New Day