STICK MEN — With Gary Husband : Owari (review)

STICK MEN — With Gary Husband : Owari album cover Live album · 2020 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
js
Although already powerful enough in their original trio format, as of late Stick Men have been augmenting their line up with special guests. Such is the case on their new live album, “Owari”, where they are joined by well known fusion keyboardist Gary Husband, who has been showing up on albums by artists such as John McLaughlin, Alan Holdsworth, Jack Bruce and many others. Gary makes for an excellent addition to the band as he blends in effortlessly as if he has been with this group from the beginning. This recording turned out to be a very special one time performance as the band’s planned one month tour of East Asia got reduced by Covid concerns to just one show in Nagoya Japan. The end result is a band very hyped and in focus for this one time happening, and the excitement and adrenaline come through on this very well produced live recording.

As usual, Stck Men are wearing their King Crimson influences unashamedly on their sleeve as they launch into well composed prog rock with plenty of metal and Euro funk flavors that recall KC at their best, particularly albums like “Starless and Bible Black” and the live “USA”. When the band launches into “Larks Tongue in Aspic Part II” it sounds so natural you will find yourself assuming it was going to come up anyway. Most of these heavy syncopated rocking tracks are instrumental, but Tony Levin takes the vocal mic on “Prog Noir”. Tony has a great natural voice and you have to wonder why he didn’t get the vocal job in KC over the somewhat nasal Adrian Belew. Along with the rock numbers you also get a few ambient improvisations. Some of these are better than others, but the best is the dark crawl of “Swimming in T”, on which the band really locks into a one mind performance.

I was a little surprised that there was not as much soloing from either Markus Reuter or Gary Husband as I would have expected, both are capable of hair raising fusion style onslaughts, but I suppose a tight ensemble sound was the goal here, and to that end they succeeded in a big way. “Owari” is one of the best prog rock albums for 2020, and it also has plenty of cross-over appeal to fans of modern jazz fusion and interesting instrumental music in general.
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