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May 2009

Brian Tarquin
Brian Tarquin Presents... Fretworx
NuGroove

Fusion became the jazz f-word when guitarists decided they could phrase like horn players, though few were as capable as the likes of Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Allan Holdsworth and Scott Henderson. New York City guitarist Brian Tarquin, influenced by each, presents several like-minded guest guitarists (including some who merit comparison to those masters) on his new Fretworx CD.

Tarquin composed several of the tracks to honor those who died in the World Trade Center attacks, and a portion of the CD’s profits admirably benefits the Friends of Firefighters 9-11 Foundation. But with 18 songs crunched into a 79-minute disc, Tarquin might’ve been better served cutting some of the filler and extending the stronger compositions. Beck’s classic “Blue Wind” gets covered first to get your attention, and Tarquin, guitarist Doug Doppler, keyboardist Chris Ingram, drummer Greg Morrow and guest bassist Billy Sheehan deliver a muscular (if somewhat metal-clichéd) rendition. Australian fusion guitarist Frank Gambale guests on Tarquin’s “Spanish Harlem,” and Dixie Dregs leader Steve Morse elevates the soaring ballad “Towers.”

Afterward, there’s an element of sameness, more because of the material than guests. Mid-tempo instrumentals like “Constantinople” (with the Hellecasters’ Will Ray) and “Aphrodite” (Dire Straits’ Hal Lindes) don’t distinguish between the guitarists’ diverse styles nearly enough. Max Middleton, Beck’s great mid-1970s keyboardist, is even rendered anonymous on both “Solidarity” and “Jungle Room Boogie.” Bonus tracks include the standout “Funk Me Tender,” featuring guitarist Steve Vai and bassist Randy Coven; Santana’s aimless “Jam in E” from 1969, and the late Tommy Bolin’s passable “Homeward Strut.” But even on his ballad showcase, “Black Rose,” Tarquin sacrifices his otherwise stellar tone with a series of hackneyed hammer-on patterns, forgetting, as do most lead guitarists, that sometimes less is f-ing more.

Originally published in May 2009
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