The song titles on keyboardist Mark Knox’s Places give you a good idea of what you’re about to hear. Naming instrumental tunes has been a head-scratcher since the Mesopotamic days of Ur, but not here. The CD is also well-named, as it’s naturally a musical travelogue on locations where Knox has visited and performed. Many have tried this conceit, of course, and Knox joins those with their hits and misses.
While much of the music is passably interesting, some selections don’t pass muster as they are like ideas in search of a melody they never really find. “Salamanca” and the title track rise to the top, rich groove-fusion tapestries of keys, vibes, trumpet and vocalese swirling around easy and memorable melodies. The Far East is obviously a special place for Knox. A three-song interlude on three Japanese cities captures his impressions: “Hiroshima” is singsongy and features a local children’s chorus and Japanese lyrics sung by Yoshiko Matsui that translate into things like flowers and world peace. After the reverential and spiritual Japanese sounds of “Kyoto” here—the fusion of “And Tokyo Too” approximates the bustle of the huge metropolitan city.
Knox is a longtime producer and keyboardist for bassist Gerald Veasley, who performs here, as does another Veasley accompanist, percussion Doc Gibbs of Emeril Live fame.