ACT Music + Vision
Bassist Jimmy Haslip's the link between these two supergroups, both of which, at their best, remind listeners of jazz-rock's promising early years, when bands made some outstanding music with an improvisational foundation and confrontational, energetic performance style. Structure's core sound is more on the jazz end, while Jing Chi's reflects funk, rock and blues.
Structure's pluses include Greg Osby's feathery, exuberant alto sax and the compositions "Black Halo" and "Facets Squared." Sometimes he sits back and lets guitarist Adam Rogers take the spotlight on either electric or acoustic, while on other occasions Osby's leading the charge and either contrasting or complementing Rogers' statements. Haslip's bass lays down thick, dance-oriented lines or provides a tune's anchor alongside drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, or it becomes another outlandish solo voice. But Structure's music is geared as much, if not more, toward group interaction than monster solos, and the foursome lays down some wicked riffs grooves and delivers marvelous unison sections on Carrington's compositions "Mindful Intent" and "Fire" as well as Haslip's "Spiral" and Rogers' "The Invisible" and "Colum-bus, Ohio." The date's lone nonoriginal is a credible cover of Joni Mitchell's "Ethiopia," which includes fine rhythm section work from Haslip and Carrington but is less challenging than the pieces written by group members.
On 3D, the trio of guitarist Robben Ford, Haslip and percussionist/drummer Vinnie Colaiuta stretch things even further than their Structure comrades. There's one lengthy jam piece, "It's Nobody's Fault but Mine," that goes from a dreamy opening to a soulful middle section and then into extensive solos and resolution. While the lyrics are a bit to the preachy side, that's balanced by Ford's jutting guitar, Haslip's booming bass and Colaiuta's flashy drumming. This is the disc's most ambitious piece, capped by a lengthy segment spotlighting Ford at his most esoteric, but it's not the CD's hottest. Those honors go to "Blues Alley," an eight-minute burner distinguished by Ford's finest solo and "Mezzanine Blues," another exceptional number featuring sparkling guitar, thudding bass and fatback drums. Some other pieces like "Hidden Treasure" or "Move On" veer into the less distinguished fusion end, lacking either great individual playing or dance-driven backgrounds that turn the better selections into upbeat, enjoyable entries. Still, there's more grit on 3D than might be expected, and Robben Ford's playing especially makes it an above-average release.