Jazz-rock fusion, contrary to some reports, did not die. It just splintered off into various sub-cultural cul-de-sacs, appreciated by small, rabid fanbases. One of those is the rock-jazz (vs. jazz-rock), more-is-more school of guitar, lorded over by the likes of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, and a bunch to which Greg Howe aspires. Howe is a nimble-fingered player who has been on the shredder scene for 20 years, when not doing day job duty with the pop likes of Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake and NSYNC.
Duly abetted by a trio of powerhouse players, drummer Gianluca Palmieri, bassist Jon Reshard and keyboardist David Cook, the super-charged fret-mongering and tone-tweaking Howe stirs up a lot of nervous energy, from the super-charged opener “Emergency Exit” to the more harmonically intricate and vaguely Jeff Beck-like title cut late in the program. For cover material, Howe lends a distorted sassiness and slink to the great old Stevie Wonder tune made famous by Rufus in the ’70s, “Tell Me Something Good,” in a version both faithful and re-inventive. “Sunset in El Paso” is a rare respite from the onslaught, a cooler, more harmonically informed and acoustic head prevailing for four minutes and change. More, please.
On an extramusical note, Howe includes novelty interludes of answering machine snippets, from a hyper-nerdy stalker fan to a tin-eared record exec. Amusing on first listen, distracting on the second and intolerable the third, the goofy chatter makes you want to rush to iTunes to edit them out for future listenings. Howe should let the music—and more specifically, the chops—speak for itself, which it can, loud and sometimes clear.