I KNOW YOU WELL MISS CLARA — Chapter One (review)

I KNOW YOU WELL MISS CLARA — Chapter One album cover Album · 2013 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
In the late 60s and early 70s, when fusion first hit the scene, experienced musicians often reacted with curiosity and creativity and a lot of interesting music was performed. Over the years, formula and cliché set in and fusion became an exercise in technique, big on flash and speed, but low on creative ideas. Fast forward many decades and fusion has been slowly making a comeback in the new century, and mostly because the old formulas have been cast aside and musicians are re-learning how to explore and experiment. With that neo exploratory feeling intact comes this new quartet from Indonesia, I Know You Well Miss Clara. There is nothing cliché about this group as they fuse free post bop rhythms with aggressive rock-like energy and sounds to grasp an early-70s type experimental feel, but without sounding the least bit quaint or dated.

On their debut CD, “Chapter One”, I Know You Well Miss Clara lists some old school experimental jazz rockers as favorites, including Soft Machine, Matching Mole and Mahavishnu Orchestra, and also list jazzers like Ornette Coleman and Miles Davis as influences as well. You can hear all those artists in Clara’s music, but another good comparison could be those avant-garde jazz artists who dabbled in psychedelic fusion in the early 70s, musicians such as Julian Priester, Norman Connor and Oliver Lake. Those artists remind me of Clara’s tendency to relax and let their improvised sections unwind at an un-hurried pace. That sort of un-rushed mindset that allows for introspective creativity is sometimes hard to come by in the modern music world. In between the improvised sections, the band backs guitarist/leader Reza Ryan as he plays composed melodies with a fluid heavy sustained guitar sound similar to a cross between Steve Vai and Alan Holdsworth. Ryan has plenty of technique and speed when called upon, but he never gives into gratuitous displays of fast scale runs. Reza has a very nice and well controlled sound, but given the light and introspective feel of some of this music, I’m surprised he doesn’t turn off the distortion more often and just go with a natural guitar sound. Still, his heavy sound is a perfect for the closing track, a tribute to his old favorites, the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

If you are looking for modern fusion that is fresh, creative and original, I Know You Well Miss Clara is a good choice. Despite their stated influences, they don’t sound like anyone else.
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