Style : Everything. AOR, jazz, pop, blues, prog – everything!
Rating : 3.25 / 5
Summary : So you thought pop ballads, jazz and prog were mutually exclusive? Maybe you were right. Or maybe not…
Here’s a story with a difference. Let’s hope we’ll be forgiven if some details are incorrect, but by our understanding it goes like this: Jack Foster goes to a performance, and hears Shelly Berg playing the piano. He is awestruck and writes a 14-minute song called “Nirvana In The Notes”, with lines like When Shelly plays he's got the faith / to put the world in Heaven / ... Shelly’s found Nirvana in the notes… Jack decides to include the song on his new Jazzraptor CD, and manages to swing a guest performance on that track by … yup, Shelly Berg! How unusual, for a musician to play on a song written as a tribute to himself!
“Nirvana In The Notes” is like two distinctly different songs in one – a very pleasing rock ballad with wonderfully imaginative lyrics, which has a huge pure-jazz solo in the middle. And what a solo it is – just Berg, on an extended minimalist piano piece and almost no accompaniment. This track is clearly the jewel of the album but you’ll have difficulty with it if you don’t have a deep appreciation of jazz.
And that’s the whole point about this album. Evolution Of Jazzraptor is a very challenging mix of different styles, and will takes a broad mind to accept the uncomfortable juxtaposition of almost incompatible genres. You’ll find adult pop, jazz, blues, and even a smidgen of progressive rock here – often mixed together in a single song.
To see how many very distinct styles coexist on this CD, let’s examine a few tracks:
The lyrics deserve special mention, yet like so much about this album there’s an unusual story attached. Foster was assisted by lyricist Melanie Myers – via E-Mail. As we understand it, the two have never actually met.
- “Cat's Got Nine” is pure blues complete with dobro, dual fiddles and dual acoustic guitars. This isn’t simply a stylistic nod to the South – this is blues, in the purest sense of the word. Listen to that acoustic guitar technique and remember – this is where metal was born!
- “Tiger Bone Wine” is an odd combination of hard rock instrumentals, a hip-hop beat, vocal harmonies and the sound effects of cats, dogs and monkeys. Go figure.
- “Dream With You” is a pop ballad. A very well written and played pop ballad to be sure, but there’s hardly any progressive, blues or jazz influence here.
- Add a bit more piano and “Feel It When I Sting “ could have come off an Elton John LP. In fact, Foster’s voice has a very similar timbre.
- And the rest of the album is a pleasing AOR style with some progressive elements and the occasional lapse into jazz in the instrumental passages. Robert Berry is a guest artist on this album, and many tracks have a distinct John Wetton or Bob Berry mature pop style which is completely devoid of any jazz. Trent and Wayne Gardiner have writing, playing and production credits and their Magellan influence is very strong but does not dominate.
To misquote Abraham Lincoln: Jack Foster III will please all of his listeners some of the time, but Jazzraptor probably won’t please any of the listeners all of the time. Discerning prog fans may love it, but many will not. Try before you buy.
NP : Jock Foster III, Evolution Of Jazzraptor. (The funny thing is – once you get used to that gaudy mosaic of disparate styles, it becomes rather easy on the ears!)
Here is a new young singer guitarist from the USA by the name of Jack Foster III. He has enlisted the production help and the playing skills of Trent Gardner. The music was recorded at the studios of Robert Berry who also plays and along with Mattias Noren these guys make up the band. There are 9 songs which total about 58 minutes of music.
This is on the Musea label. With the three "assistants" the musicians play what could be loosely described as a new Magellan CD but with Jack as the focus showing his ability to meld these musicians into a group and come out with a document of the sessions. Jack plays very nice and tasty guitar when needed. His vocals are plain/pleasant and kind of talky with not much histrionics. The vocals remind me kind of Michael Franks (who was a light jazz/pop singer).
Musically this has many influences from all over the place. Its design is to have a little something for everyone. They mix classical, jazz, country, down home blues with commercial sounding progressive rock.
The opening song, "Bohemian Soul" is a very nice melding of a mid tempo rocker with an up tempo jazz organ vamp with trombone and sax solos and tradeoffs. Excellent opening song! Most of these songs have real nice catchy verses and melodies throughout them. There are bits and pieces spread out amongst the songs that are really beautiful. "Cat's Got Nine" is a down home bluesy song with smart word play and tasty violin, slide and acoustic guitars, jamming and playing.
"Feel It When I Sting" is probably my fave song here. It is mid tempo rocker with a nice melody. The main body of the song is louder with a cool descending synth solo between verses. Half way through the mix a nice bit/riff of loud guitar and organs and echoed drums make for a cool section. Over the last section they do the main riff and do a multi tracked chant of low vocals that is very surprising and excellent. "The shy ones" is the song that to me sounds like a light pop jazz song ala Michael Franks.
Alright we have one song that lasts 14 minutes and 7 seconds, prog suite right? Wrong! "Nirvana in the Notes" is a messy song that mixes a piano intro that lasts about 2 mins. Then an acoustic guitar and vocals come in on the change and they sing about a gal who finds "nirvana in the notes". Then the piano comes back and the effect is jarring/disturbing and not smooth; this one more so that the intro and the opening verse. The piano sections and the acoustic guitar sections interchange as both play for what amount to almost 10-11 minutes of the song. Right at the end the piano and acoustic guitars and vocals join together for an energetic melding, crescendo and final fadeout.
The song "Every time you smile" has Jack's best vocals and is an excellent song. This one also has some fiery guitar playing with a nice downward vocal chorus. I think this is a very nice CD that has lots of nice twists, sounds effects and melodies that are almost too sugary. For me it does not rock hard enough. The vocals are ok/good but not a singer who will be remembered for his singing. This is one for fans of Magellan, Leonardo or Three or the more commercial aspects of prog music.