ANDY SUMMERS — Earth + Sky (review)

ANDY SUMMERS — Earth + Sky album cover Album · 2003 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Steve Wyzard
21ST CENTURY SUMMERS

After recording two tribute albums to Monk and Mingus, guitarist Andy Summers returns to his own compositions on 2003's Earth + Sky. By this time in his career, Summers had long since eschewed the pop/commercial sounds that had made him world famous. With a long string of mostly instrumental albums behind him, Summers no longer even had a record label to release his work in the USA (I had to import my copy from Germany).

For all the comparisons Summers receives with guitarists like Robert Fripp and David Torn (both of whom he has recorded with), on Earth + Sky his sound palette is much closer to someone like Kevin Eubanks than ever before. Listen to tracks such as the light and airy "Now I'm Free" or "Return" and you will hear this album leans more toward the jazz end of the spectrum. Then there's his trademark boundary-pushing on the title track (a multi-layered guitar extravaganza), "Circus" (where his bluesy lines are doubled with a saxophone), and "Red Stiletto" with its brash chords that lead to a funky jam. When you hear the opening drum flourish on "Above the World", you can be forgiven for thinking it's Stewart Copeland sitting in. Actually it's Vinnie Colaiuta, who at various times all but steals the aural spotlight away from the other players. Summers is also backed by longtime session bassist Abraham Laboriel and two keyboardists who effectively capture the "Fender Rhodes through a Leslie cabinet" tones that add a touch of fusion timelessness.

Acoustic guitar textures are heard on "Parallels" and "Roseville", and the album closes with the ambient blues of "I Choose You". At 51:08, this album doesn't overstay its welcome, although some listeners might have wanted more of the guitar-synth weirdness found on albums such as 1990's Charming Snakes (which receives my vote as his solo masterpiece). Earth + Sky effortlessly brings Summers into the 21st Century, and his compositions and guitar tones are more relevant than ever. If you are a long-time Summers listener, there is much to enjoy here, and this album is highly recommended.
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