Stanley Clarke. Marcus Miller. Victor Wooten.
If you know anything about jazz fusion, funk, or the electric bass, these men need no introduction. These three bassists - some of the best players alive - are responsible for revolutionizing the electric bass and demonstrating what the instrument is really capable of. So what happens if you stick all three of them into the same band? Let's find out.
After a brief symphonic intro in the opening track "Maestros De Frecuencias Bajas", your ears are greeted by a pounding, funky electric bass line and you know just what you're getting into. I would admittedly not consider most of the music on this album jazz fusion; it falls more into the realm of jazz-funk.
This record has a nice mix of original material as well as old favourites that are given the three-bass treatment. The title track, "Thunder", is probably the highlight of the album with its flashy playing and perfect interplay of basses. While most of the compositions here are strong, with so much emphasis on bass lines there seems to be a lack of strong, quality melodies. In addition, although the band seems to be trying to mix things up occasionally, the album could really benefit from even more diversity.
You wouldn't think that having three bassists in a band would sound natural, but these guys weave together flawlessly. By playing in different registers and taking on distinct roles, each bass part sounds crisp and the sound very rarely gets muddled up - something you might expect to happen when you throw so many low-range instruments into the mix. Each of the bassists takes turns alternating between traditional bass lines, lead playing, and soloing, and all three guys are exceptional at every role.
Don't be fooled into thinking that this album is entirely about bass, though; sure, it's the focus of the majority of the record, but it's not all that's here. There are a slew of guest and session musicians who contribute their expertise to this album as well, including fusion hero Chick Corea (who offers a great piano solo on "Mongoose Walk") and George Duke. Marcus Miller himself adds a plethora of instruments to this release, including bass clarinet, saxophone, and the much-loved minimoog.
If you're like me and love the electric bass, S.M.V.'s Thunder is a release you don't want to miss. If bass and jazz-funk is not something you're all that into, however, this record isn't going to do too much to change your mind despite the lineup and great concept. It has a few shortcomings, no doubt, but overall Thunder is a solid debut release.
(Originally published on progarchives.com)