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Frank Gambale: Natural High

A veteran of fusion groups like Chick Corea’s Elecktric Band and Vital Information, guitarist Frank Gambale leaves the electricity and effects pedals behind on Natural High. The album marks his first recording exclusively on acoustic guitar, accompanied only by pianist Otmaro Ruiz and bassist Alain Caron. Percussionist Mike Shapiro joins the trio on four of the nine tracks. Even in a seemingly relaxed setting, Gambale still unleashes torrents of notes with machine-gun speed. What makes it more interesting is that Ruiz or Caron frequently double his melody along with ease.

Four tracks are jazz standards with new melodies affixed. “All the Things You Are” becomes “You Are All the Things,” starting the album off in somewhat familiar territory while simultaneously giving it a new lease on life. “Fortune,” based on Miles Davis’ “Four,” starts with a unison intro by bass and piano, climaxing with vicious trading of eights and fours between Gambale and Ruiz. Most amusing is “Have You Met Tom Jones,” where the Welsh singer replaces “Miss Jones” and “It’s Not Unusual” is referenced in the intro and outro.

While Natural High can often sound purely like a demonstration of technical facility, these moments are balanced by Gambale’s engaging writing (the Latin “D’s Living Room”) or Caron’s funky groundwork (“Another Challenger”).

Originally Published