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Pantonic Steel Orchestras
Tonic Gems
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Featured Artist: Pantonic Steel Orchestra

CD Title: TONIC GEMS

Year: 2006

Record Label: Creative Multimedia Concepts

Style: Varied

Musicians: Joel, drums & percussion; Per Gade, double guitar; Kern, Cello; Sharon, Six Bass; Alecia; Tenor Bass, Marcos Ubeda, Keyboards; Guy Barker, Flümpet and Trumpet;

Review: Billy Cobham - Colours: Renowned jazz drummer Billy Cobham started his illustrious career playing with legendary acts like Miles Davis, Dreams, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. He has worked with a wide variety of artists, from Sonny Rollins to James Brown [discography].  After leaving the Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1973, Cobham released the solo record SPECTRUM, which went on to sell more than one million copies and bowled critics over. Billy Cobham is one of the greatest drummers on the planet and needs no introduction or validation.  Culturemix

While each song captures a different mood, all provide good listening.  Colours will expand the musical and sonic horizons of listeners.  Indeed the introduction of the steelpan with non- cliché like Caribbean lines frees the instrument and player (Junior Gill) to take on greater meaning and expression, and thereby contributes greatly to the freshness of the musical concepts and voicing of the pan.  Steel Pan player Junior Gill has great command of the instrument and brings a new voice like the synthesizer to the jazz fusion tapestry, that has not been visited since the days of Return To Ever and Weather Report.

The Steelpan is an integral part of the sound of Culturemix, as much as the distinctive sound of Billy Cobham drumming.  While always clearly in charge, Cobham is a not afraid to share the spotlight long and often with the members of Culturemix on Colours.  The result is an artistic masterpiece of authentic JAZZ Fusion -- with a realistic taste of the Afro-Caribbean experience always right around the corner when desired.

COLOURS, the culmination of Cobham's vision, band leadership, writing and production, assembled musicians from all over the world to form Culturemix. The ten-track recording is a colorful blend of ambient music, funky and smooth soul-jazz and blistering rock fusion. It features, as he himself says, the "shared concepts" of these musicians.

The opener, Cuba On The Horizon, is a film score-like jam that features Cobham's command, dexterity and ability to funk like few have ever. The soul-jazz tune features a soaring rock guitar and steelpan melody, combined with Marcos Ubeda's playful keyboard lines.

The second track is Desiccated Coconuts, which features the soulfulness of Junior Gill as he solos on the tenor pan.  There is a playful blend of Rock/Funk/Jazz genres as the band moves into a reggae-filled interlude with steelpan riding shotgun. But there’s no time to relax, as listeners will be happily jolted out of their comfort zone by the funk/rock-oriented fiery mix of percussion and rock lead guitar, but always returning to its rock/funk base.  Culturemix gives you a choice of rocking your head, snapping your fingers or getting up and dancing.  Serious stuff.

Volcano swings and rocks from top to bottom while overdriven guitar and steelpan double on melody lines giving a new and never-before-heard voice and statement.  Although, this was recorded in a studio the track has the energy of a live performance.  Indeed the musicians sound like they are at a monstrous jam session and having a blast.

The next track is a favorite, Where Do We Go From Here, a pretty melodic piece featuring the steelpan and keyboards, and rides on top classic calypso rhythms.

CARA MIA is a blues-jazz ballad that involves a relaxed melody and bass solo that is contrasted by Cobham's colorful drum and cymbal work.

Moscow Meeting - Culturemix takes us back to a mellow bluesy jazz realm, where a colorful acoustic guitar harmonic melody melds with steelpan and electronic keyboards.  Culturemix lets us know they can swing with best. 

Next up is Coffee Brown-Olive Green - a relaxed piece featuring Guy Barker who is on Trumpet, with a bossa nova feel, while the continued layering of trumpet and pan gives a new, intriguing, previously-unheard sound. 

Black Orchid - a rockin’ jam session amidst the overall cool vibe, which continues on the ultra-soulful title track.  Guy Barker's trumpet closes out the track leaving you wishing it was not closing down.

There and Back - an eclectic piece that demonstrates the storytelling capabilities of Billy Cobham and moreover what Culturemix is about, a combination of great musicians from different parts of the globe.

The album closes with a snappy funk number, Red & Yellow Cabriolet. The spirited horn of Barker works as a beautiful counterpoint to Gill's tenor pan R&B-influenced melodic riffs.  Of course all this works because there is the master Billy Cobham sitting there in the pocket holding down the fort.

Colours does not disappoint.  Great work led by one of the true musical giants. Culturemix has developed a group sound with a purpose, creating complex arrangements in addition to their improvised solos.  The bottom line is these cats are operating on a high level.

Record Label Website: http://www.billycobham.com


Reviewed by: WST

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