MR. CHAIR — Better Days (review)

MR. CHAIR — Better Days album cover Album · 2023 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Carmel
Ah, class is in session! Forget your preconceptions at the door, my sonic scholars, because what we've got here is a masterclass in musical fusion and artistic chemistry. Today's subject? The album from the fusion whizzes, Mr. Chair—aptly named "Better Days."

Let's start with the backbone: Ben Ferris on the bass. Take a spin of "Appellation Spring," and you'll hear his bass lines doing far more than merely keeping time; they're deep in conversation with the rest of the ensemble. It's like jazz and prog-rock decided to have a tête-à-tête, and the bass is the master moderator of this harmonic debate. "Fuchsia" offers two distinct versions, like flipping a two-sided coin, each showing a different facet of Ferris' mad skills.

Moving on to the six strings on a semi-box, José Guzmán. The man is a chameleon—flitting effortlessly between genres. Take "Abandoned Cities," where his guitarwork gives the piece its ethereal quality. One minute, he's grounding the melody in "Fuchsia," and the next, he's painting an intricate solo that floats above the rhythmic foundations in "Uncanny Valley."

Mark Hetzler and his trombone, one word, describes this proverbial wizard of the musical Hogwarts, tone. "March," buzzes with his warm round sound woven intricately into the piece. Hetzler's mastery lies in his ability to oscillate between structured ensemble parts and spontaneous improvisation of equal agility and brilliance as in “Britten’s Written Rhythm.”

Never underestimate the guy on the drum stool. Mike Koszewski might be in the background, but his rhythmic insights are very much in the foreground. Just listen to the polyrhythmic brilliance in "Appellation Spring" and "Uncanny Valley," where he coordinates a verdant activity of rhythmic and textural innovations.

Last but definitely not least, the maestro on the keys, Jason Kutz. "Appellation Spring" showcases his dazzling virtuosity, ranging from jazzy runs to intricate neoclassical motifs. In the track “Better Days,” the keyboards are not just an instrument; they function as a sonic Swiss Army knife.

Eddie Barbash's saxophone in "Elegy," adding a touch of tenderness, while in "Fuchsia," he sways with the joy of a Latin virtuoso. Buzz Kemper's spoken words on "Fuchsia" show he is an oracle; his words could be the stuff of an entire term paper, relax, I said "could." His eloquent, silver-tongued philosophies are like the Socratic method for your ears, inviting us to ponder as they guide us through the ensemble's rich, layered soundscapes.

The nine tracks in "Better Days" offer us a journey through the musical multiverse. Mr. Chair transcends genres, achieving a synthesis of influences and styles that's nothing short of alchemical.

So, there you have it—an auditory syllabus on the boundless potential of genre-blending, and a lesson in how to be 'better' musicians and listeners. Class dismissed!
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