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Frank Gambale: Raison D’etre

There’s far more good news than bad regarding Frank Gambale’s latest release.

Billy Cobham’s driving, kinetic presence on drums ranks among the disc’s major attributes, as well as Gambale’s considerable skill as a guitarist on a host of high-caliber equipment including a custom double-neck with Gambale Neauveau Tuning that he plays with a flamboyance that’s enviable. The absence of keyboards is also a great move. There’s so much space for Cobham and bassists Ric Fierabracci or Steve Billman to operate, and the songs sound much cleaner, less cluttered and fluid. This set also was wonderfully engineered, something that’s not always the case even in these days of digital splendor.

The negative moments occur mostly during the CD’s early pieces. Gambale split the 12 selections into two parts, and the eight numbers in the first section are nicely played but sometimes bog down until the solos begin, followed by much sharper ensemble work. Things improve in the second section, mainly due to the upbeat funk number “Smug,” and the taut, rock-influenced tune “Complex Emotions.” Cobham brings to the former a sharp, crackling energy and a multitextured, layered support to the former. Gambale’s bluesy on “Smug” and adventurous on “Complex Emotions.”

Overall, Gambale and company are such accomplished players that their solos and interaction elevate the date and make it worthwhile for listeners despite some occasionally dreary moments.

Originally Published