Review of "Hardbite"
By: MJ Brady
Endel Rivers represents more of what seems to be a very impressive list of progressive minded fusion musicians coming for the country of Australia. When using the term progressive fusion, I am stating that the music focuses on well written compositions and arrangements that enable the musicians involved to play in a predominantly group type of a setting, no so much to feature anyone musicians soloing skills.
The music is both vibrant and complex, and the musicianship is as good as it gets. It seems as though the Australian fusion scene continues to bring out some of the very best in the world, what with recordings like On the Virg, Loose Change (both bands that featured Planet X drummer Virgil Donati), Sam Aliano (yet another drumming sensation), Indaba, Deluc, Frank Gambale, Brett Garsed, Ric Fierabracci, Chris Brooks, etc., these alone show that the Australian scene is setting new standards for focused fusion music that far exceeds the wealth of jam oriented superstar sessions that are getting major distribution and press.
No doubt Endel Rivers is showing the same high standards of performance meets compositions that those great artists are known for, and as a first cd there are really no weaknesses to speak of. His playing is very unique, perfected fitted for fusion, as he can play clean and dirty with equally good results, and he has a subtle savvy in his approach to the guitar, he is not all speed and riffs, but very tasteful and articulate, which seems to be a Australian staple for the guitarists from there. The songs as mentioned before are not fitted to display his virtues alone, the supporting musicians are all equally involved, and this is a great line-up, not the most well-known, but certainly deserving of more interest in the fusion world.
One of the performers names may standout to fusion heads, Allan Zavod, who had some lengthy stints with Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Zappa returns to his fusion roots on this CD, with some outstanding keyboard playing, yet he is in good company with the rest of these talent rich players, as this CD is all about balance, and each player is highly competent to meet the demands of the various musical challenges presented throughout.
It is fusion like this that keeps me optimistic of the future of the cause, great musicians that are willing to dedicate the time and effort to create substance, that reaches beyond simple indulgence and showmanship. Endel Rivers may not be a household name, but this CD chould be one that fusion fans everywhere should look into getting, it really has all the key ingredients that most fans of the genre are looking for.
Endel Rivers: Hardbite
Review featured in EER MUSIC
Endel Rivers sets out to
compose a multi-flavored, strictly instrumental effort on his CD Hardbite
which he heads up on guitar and keyboards. River's music is
centered around a diversity of musical ideas that deploy
aggressive, hard-edged themes and riffs balanced by more soulful
musical motifs that all provide a backdrop for his lead guitar
work that is the focus of attention. Endel incorporates a number
of different stylistic elements primarily from progressive rock
and fusion influences, as well as from jazz and blues influences.
His playing integrates some speedy runs, gutsy, well-placed
phrasings, interesting harmonization, and accessible themes that
provide a gravity that the music revolves. The composition on
this album is coherent with well-developed musical ideas that are
executed with a driving vision.
The soundscape across the
album is interesting because it integrates many different flavors
of tonality. The album opens with a fusion-ish track, "Klue
Res Pate", that transitions through some nice, jazz-oriented
progressions with Rivers' tactfully arranged fusion phrasings
following the movement closely. The third track, "The
Empress" deploys some eastern melody lines that are Middle-Eastern
in flavor, but balances this with some European classically
influenced piano sections. The contrast achieves the targeted
effect, but the two divergent and contrasting elements work well
together in the cohesive manner that Rivers integrates them. The
fifth track, "Swim", is built around an unwinding,
ascending melodic theme that Morris extemporizes around with
fluid legato runs. This smooth theme is contrasted by a second
theme that is founded in more abrubt rhythms and confrontational
phrasings. The sixth track, "Pup", takes another change
in direction into a more funk-based groove is worked with funky,
melodic, contrapuntal phrasings that are articulated like a
conversation. The ninth track, Olympus, diverges on another
unexpected path with a symphonic sound and feel similar to "Fanfare
for the Common Man." The diversity across the album is
pleasing and disarming at the same time because of Rivers' broad
In addition to the
impressive compositional frame, Rivers and his accompaniment
demonstrate a good sense for musical voicings to achieve the
musical vision, both in the application of different instruments
and different tones. Rivers has assembled an impressive lineup of
talent, each of which make a polished, crafy contribution. The
production that the effort is bundled is first rate facilitating
unobstructed conveyance of the musical vision and execution.
Fusion fans that enjoy
thoughtful composition and skillful, polished playing that is
geared towards conceptual realization of musical vision should
check out this CD from Endel Rivers and company. Though Rivers is
a highly entertaining player, don't expect the onslaught of
overwhelming speed and extreme technicianry you might get with
some of the world class fusion masters, such as Frank Gambale or
Scott Henderson. But, even so, the caliber of composition and
playing on Hardbite
still merit due consideration. And, I am only saying this to
adjust expectations accordingly and put the effort into a broader
perspective to help readers understand where the CD sits in the
musical spectrum. But, don't let this disuade you from any
potential interest in this CD because this is a truly impressive
effort that Endel Rivers has put forth. Fusion fans should check
this one out!