As promised, I'm moving away from the slightly tongue-in-cheek reviews of CDs I haven't enjoyed that have been occupying too much space here of late. This is one of those rare 'talent deserving wider recognition' moments, a genuinely high quality session that leaves me scratching my head as to why Orr isn't better known.
As with many of my reviews, the positive ones at least, I was quoted on the artist's website. Orr's profile hasn't, to my knowledge, risen as a result, but I suppose that just goes to show what a funny business this is...
OWN (KR 01)
Unstoppable; Blues For Jimi; Tomorrow’s Girls; Dangerfunk; Return Of The Jazz Police; Voice Of The People; Non-violence Is The Only Way Forward; The Price Of Peace.
Nathan Haines (ss); Carl Orr (g, syn); Adam Glasser (p, hmca); Neville Malcolm (b); Davide De Rose (d); Billy Cobham (d).
Recorded July 2001.
After hearing this astonishingly accomplished slice of intelligent fusion I wondered how it could possibly be that I’d never previously heard of Carl Orr. A little bit of digging reveals that the guitarist was actually born just up the road from me in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, though other than a spell studying at Berklee in the mid 80s he has spent much of his life in Australia, only returning to the UK in 1995.
Now in his mid 40s, 20 years of dues paid in various jazz and rock ensembles, including a long association with fusion legend Billy Cobham, are beginning to bear fruit. Within seconds of the opening bars of ‘Unstoppable’ we’re taken back to the Miles/Scofield units of some 20 years ago. Orr has Scofield’s way of squeezing out the notes until they cry, adopting the same distorted tone, accented by volume and wah-wah pedals.
Whilst the disc’s title may prepare you for a post-Last Exit free-funk cacophony, ‘freedom in the groove’ (to paraphrase Joshua Redman) is what this disc is all about. Forget any preconceived notions about old school fusion, Orr’s band lack both the pomposity and rhythmic stiffness that have made the genre so risible for many years. Bassist Neville Malcolm and drummer Davide de Rose are a flexible team and they know how to probe within a structure without destroying it.
Glasser’s Rhodes piano is as contemporary as it is retro, adding seductive layers of texture to the music. Cobham and Haines guest only on ‘Unstoppable’ and the extended workout ‘Dangerfunk’, though it’s abundantly clear elsewhere that Orr’s band can deliver even without the patronage of established stars. With big label backing I’m sure that something could be done about the incongruously bland and unassuming packaging. This material is ready made fodder for the jazz/funk/groove aficionados (I confess, I’m one of them) who get a kick out of Scofield’s more recent output, Soulive, or the all conquering Medeski, Martin & Wood.
Possibly hard to find other than at gigs or via the website, but if there’s any justice in the music marketplace then I hope that this can be a stepping stone that raises the guitarist’s profile to a more fitting level of visibility.
(Jazz Review, February 2005)