by Dave Calarco

Picture the jazz fusion period of the early to mid seventies, spiced with the sounds of Miles' electro-psychedelic exploration and the new thicker sounds of The Weather Report. Mix those sounds with the swank smoothness and dissonance of the contemporary organ trio Medeski, Martin, & Wood, and finally, throw in some of the newer, faster, and more electronic rhythmic trends in today's improvisational rock world, and out would come an a close approximation of Schleigho's style as showcased on their fourth studio release, Continent.

Anchored by bassist Matt Rubano and drummer Erik Egol, Schleigho's newest album successfully translates the band's stellar improvisational abilities into the studio setting, creating an album of multi-sectioned thematic journeys that carve out some real unique musical territory for the Massachusetts based quartet. The bands versatility and dynamic interaction is quite apparent from the first track, "Babyman," whose intricate jazz-based rhythm grooves set the plate for guitarist Suke Cerulo to take on the melodic lead as Jesse Gibbon, heavy on the organ, lends tonal colors and dissonant textures to this multi-layered danceable soundscape. Cerulo and bassist Rubano's harmonic work, particularly on the album's second track, "Go Children Slow," speaks greatly of their communicative abilities and their ability to play with one another as opposed to on top of one another.

The title track of the album brings one through some up tempo Latin flavored rhythmic patterns as Cerulo puts down his six-string in favor of his flute, providing the main melodic themes which dance atop the beat which progresses out of this accented Latin space into some faster, trancier, and more electronic sounding beats. It is this point in the album where Schleigho's sound truly emerges out of jazz traditions past into a new and unique blend of ideas. The next two tracks, "Keep It In the Car" and "Red Tape" continue along this faster new-school electro-drum and bass feel. These tracks are quite definitive in the album's overall sound and impression, as the high-paced rhythmic patterns drive the music as Cerulo and Gibbon contribute to the top half of the music with complex melodies, dissonant tones, and intense focus. Cerulo continues to display his versatility as he plays Coltrane-esque tenor saxophone washes and melodies on the album highlight "Sumo."

Schleigho's offering of millennial jazz fusion concludes with the sixteen minute plus track "Bardo" that first features a dark and multi-faceted exploration leaving the listener with a heavy feeling which fades into multiple minutes of silence before a spoken word poem begins about what seems to be Thelonius Monk. These words are soon joined by a fierce be-bop groove which builds out of its jazz roots and ending in some serious Schleigho fusion, lending an appropriate conclusion to this work.

Evoking thoughts of Miles, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, and some of the true fusion-bas ed virtuosos of our time, Schleigo offers up a new interpretation of jazz-rock fusion, blending in the contemporary electronic rhythmic feel that is pervading today's young improvisational rock scene. While not giving in to this trend, however, Schleigho sits the fence between the 70s fusion sound and the 2000 electro-jamming favored by such bands as The Disco Biscuits and Lake Trout, creating a sound of their own and forging forward a new and engaging musical direction that is as exciting and stimulating as any out there today.

Buy Continent at Homegrown Music!
[Published on: 8/22/00]

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