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April 2008

Carl Filipiak & the Jimi Jazz Band
I Got Your Mantra
Art of Life

Maybe Maryland-based guitarist Carl Filipiak doesn’t covet stardom, or maybe it’s his artistic decisions that have kept him from guitar-hero status during a 20-year solo recording career. He’s never lacked the technical talent, or the surrounding cast. Yet his best CD, Hotel Reál (with saxophonists Bob Berg and Gary Thomas and drummers Dennis Chambers and Will Calhoun), is 10 years old. Filipiak’s latest release, I Got Your Mantra, features another appearance by his Maryland homeboy Chambers, whose ever-stellar playing helps salvage a misguided and retreaded concept.

Filipiak writes in the liner notes that he wanted to “write and record in a way that reflects the vibe of the ’60s, and to also resonate with the decade that I live in.” His preceding release, 2002’s Looking Forward Looking Back, applied the same theme to straightahead jazz. Yet his Jimi Jazz Band opens I Got Your Mantra with a cover of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” that breaks no new ground other than Filipiak mimicking the vocal lines on guitar. The lone Hendrix cover is “Bold as Love,” which gets derailed by a midranged vocal by bassist Steve Zerlin. But the bassist’s playing helps make Filipiak’s originals stand out, from the chanted funk number “Memphis Walk” to the Mahavishnu Orchestra-inspired title track. “Wakan Tanka” captures the Hendrix spirit through Filipiak’s tone and interaction with Zerlin, keyboardist Paul Soroka and drummer John Thomakos, who splits roughly half the CD with Chambers. But the highlight is the closing “Too Much TV,” the midsection of which borrows liberally from Hendrix’s “Third Stone From the Sun.” One difference is the production-enhanced section where Hendrix once dissed surf music. Filipiak changes that to “I never want to hear smooth-jazz again.” Now that’s a mantra.

Originally published in April 2008
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