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May 2008

Ken Serio
Live ... In the Moment
Tripping Tree

For guitar aficionados, the pairing of two potent pickers in a single band is always a special occasion. On Live ... In the Moment, New Jersey drummer Ken Serio teams two remarkable yet underrated guitarists in Vic Juris and Pete McCann alongside electric bassist Mark Egan. The results are often scintillating, with the two contrasting six-string stylists stretching adventurously in wide-open jam-oriented settings. Nothing much in the way of composition here, other than Egan’s evocative waltz “3 Way Mirror” (reminiscent of Jaco Pastorius’ “Three Views of a Secret”), his affecting ballad “1000 Words” and a relaxed, lyrical reading of the heartland anthem “Shenandoah.” The formula instead seems to involve Serio putting up a beat—a churning 6/8 groove on “Nigel’s Dance,” a surf-rock pulse on “Big Blue Cars,” a slamming, syncopated backbeat on funky “Bean Town”—then turning Juris and McCann loose to slash and burn.

Juris is a seasoned postbopper with a list of credits going back to 1975, including several recordings with longtime colleague Dave Liebman as well as 15 albums as a leader. His warm but cutting tone, clean articulation and ability to blow over changes at a breakneck pace (as on the runaway jam “Fixin’!!”) recall John Scofield, while McCann’s more renegade tendencies with effects sometimes recall the edgier aspects of Bill Frisell’s playing. Together they make great counterparts on the frontline, with Serio and Egan fueling the proceedings. One CD would have been enough to qualify this as a noteworthy release. Adding a second CD, which runs the stylistic gamut from an alluring bossa nova (“I Wish I Never Met You”) to urgent funk (“Swunk”) to a freak-out improv jam (“The Return of Doctor Zero”) and a faithful rendition of the Ron Carter-Miles Davis composition “Eighty One,” makes this a must for guitar fans.

Originally published in May 2008
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