"Sonic Imagination" CD - Steve Adelson Sticktet
Review by Gene Perry
Steve Adelson's Sonic Imagination is an auditory romp through the many styles and genres of which he is master. It's an Easter egg hunt of an album, with each chocolaty find meticulously painted up in its own unique blend of sound and color. In speaking with Steve, he was quick to point out that "it's not a Stick album". Not a Stick album?! How can that be when you've got a cat like Steve who's so methodically hitting every delicious nuance of the instrument imaginable? It was with great anticipation upon receiving the advance copy that I ripped the CD from the jiffy like pulling mussels from a shell.
Maybe you've never been to a baseball game where the first batter up punches it out of the park on the first pitch, I know I haven't, but you can just imagine the excitement, the awe and energy in the stadium when some guy pulls it out. This was how I felt upon hearing the opening track "Metal Swing". Complete with dream sequences and hot jazz, Steve, along with washboard wizard / percussionist David Langlois and big time jazz man Frank Vignola, get right to the point setting a high level of musicianship and creating a compelling compositional backdrop that perfectly complements each individual players' unique talents.
After my first complete listen through the album, I recalled one of the aspects that Steve was most proud of — the players. Steve seams together all these talented players into a masterful tapestry of evocative and innovative art. Appearing throughout the album are the percussive talents of Cuban native Nydia Liberty Mata, a regular among Adelson gigs in the Long Beach, NY area and Southpaw drummer Frank Bellucci who delivers big throughout the album. Some other notable appearances would include vocalist Ramona Spooney, who lays down some nice vocal textures on Garden of Limhuli, guitarist Oz Noy who whips us up a Pangalactic Gargleblaster on the facemelter of a desert island track "Trio of the Hot Club of Mars" and Ralf Illenberger who teams up with Steve on the playful and energetic track "Sedona Tale". Another notable moment is when Steve lets axeman Chieli Minucci off the leash on the ripping Beck-like anthem "A B C D". With a total of four different guitarists appearing on the album, it's sure to crossover nicely with the guitar community.
My stand out favorite track was "Minor Excursion". It's the nougaty straight up center of Sonic Imagination, showcasing the divine talents of pianist Rachel Z and Bellucci on drums. Steve's mechanics really shine in this format and he's found a perfect paring in Rachel Z. and Bellucci. This is the track Stickists will be talking about, you know the one where Steve is walking lines, comping chords, nailing solos and making it sound easy. Be watching for this one at the next Long Beach Jazz Festival. Stickists will also immediately recognize and appreciate Sonic Imagination’s culminating track, the heartfelt solo Stick piece, "Emmett and Yuta", a touching tip of the hat to the first family of the Chapman Stick.
Even after my third full cover-to-cover listening of Sonic Imagination, I am still feeling that jaw-dropping awe I felt when I first set it off. Adelson has pushed the limits in all the right directions with this latest effort. Sonic Imagination explores new boundaries in creative expression, utilizing imaginative pairings of instruments, a wide variety of rock, jazz and progressive styles and a virtual cornucopia of talent. Is it a Stick album? Perhaps. Is it a good album? No, it's a GREAT album, one that offers lots of replay value for anyone that appreciates musical art in its higher form.