“Whaddaya Hear?” Collaboration, Confidence and Cooperation

Lorenzo Feliciati and Pat Mastelotto, PORTAL (Independent). This is a long way from the average collaboration created by a rhythm section. (Primarily) bassist Lorenzo Feliciati and (primarily) drummer Pat Mastelotto take said collaboration to a new level with a selection of grooves, soundscapes, and compositions destined to entrance the mind and satiate the soul.

Mastelotto humbly describes his drum grooves as ideas (or not) stemming mainly from trying to warm up or get the right tones on his drums. He shouldn’t sell himself so short. His grooves can be positively sublime, and are made even better by Feliciati’s otherworldly string work. It seems trite to describe the music herein as a journey, but that’s precisely what it is. The listener is transported from place to place via highly imaginative playing. It’s ethereal without being pretentious. This is what creative collaboration should be.

Portal is a solid nominee for my Sleeper Album of the Year.


SONS OF RA, Live! At LiveWire Lounge. Sons of Ra is a band truly finding itself. They continue to grow by leaps and bounds, knocking down musical barriers as they do. I also dig the slightly lo-fi sound of this mix. It’s the sound of a band pushing its way to the front of the line, ready to be noticed.

The band offers a battle-hardened mix of jazz and metal without being too much of either. The notes are plentiful, but also purposeful. Nothing is wasted or superfluous. Erik Oldman (guitar) and Keith Wakefield (bass) work in tandem nicely, while drummer Michael Rataj creates a sonic whirlwind sound them, helping to drive the musical point home.

This band’s adventure has just begun.

Sons of Ra

BILL FRISELL, Valentine (Blue Note). No one will ever accuse guitarist Bill Frisell or overplaying. While far from minimalist, Frisell’s tasteful phrasing beautifully propels Valentine (Blue Note), a trio recording with Rudy Royston (drums) and Thomas Morgan (bass).

The three also dismiss the need for speed, moving gently and deliberately from piece to piece and giving each tube plenty of room to breathe. Frisell’s lines, double-stops, and chords seem to hang in the air for eternity while Morgan’s bottom end burns with subtle, raw aggression (contradictory as that may seem). Meanwhile, Royston’s drums (particularly his cymbals) seem to work against the groove, making them all the more musical.

Only deep-seated band chemistry makes music like this work. Frisell’s trio more than has it covered.

Blue Note Records


STEPHAN THELEN, Fractal Guitar Remixes and Extra Tracks (2019). Ive made my love for Stephan Thelen’s Fractal Guitar clear for all to see. Even as I heard those pieces, I knew there were infinite possibilities within the notes. I wasn’t the only one.

Thelen saw fit to remix three of the album’s tracks, and turned Bill Laswell loose on a fourth (the already vicious “Urban Nightscape”). The remaining tracks were unreleased before this album. They contain an even deeper look into the mathematically enhanced imagination of the Sonar guitarist.

Of particular note is the sound of keyboards coming to the music’s forefront. It is interesting look at this already amazing music from a slightly different angle.

Stephan Thelen


You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers. I’m currently working on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell

Would you like to have your album reviewed? Contact me at cirdecsongs@gmail.com

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