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May 1999

Common Ground
Not Enough Space
TMP Records/LoLo

Those who think that true fusion appreciation is reserved for musicians and technophiles only might want to reconsider after a spin with Common Ground. On Not Enough Space (TMP Records LoLo/TMP 13; 51:26), the Philadelphia-based sextet crafts melodies as fascinating as the solos, mixing modern effects and improvisation with traditional elements for a unique, yet accessible sound. Guitarist Erik Sayles sets tone and pace on tunes like the blues-tinged, "Scrub,C" with its freewheeling runs, and "West Coast," spotlighting long, contemplative lines. Co-leader Chris Farr has an equally strong presence, reserving his highest octane chops for the most appropriate moments. When he opens up, the results are electric.

On "Drop Zone," for example, Farr s tenor bobs and weaves against a bubbling bass, jumping octaves and exploring all the depths and colors of the instrument.

The same tune showcases another Common Ground hallmark -Sayles' and Farrs' parallel play. The two are so in-sync, that together they almost create the sound of a singularly unique instrument. Set against Dan Zank's resonant piano, it's a gorgeous meeting of traditional sounds and modern invention-and a welcome introduction to fusion done right.

Originally published in May 1999
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