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Ryo Kawasaki: Cosmic Rhythm

After a couple of recent outings into tamer fare, guitarist Ryo Kawasaki climbs back out to the edge on Cosmic Rhythm (Satellites; 59:29), an atmospheric album which gives the furious fusion great plenty of opportunities to cut loose, improvise and fly. Kawasaki’s smooth licks, combined with burbling bass and ethereal vocal harmony give “Gravity” a spacey feel, while his fleet, prickly style lights a fire under the darker “Understanding.” Kawasaki’s most recent efforts were marred by an over-reliance on pre-programmed, cold sounding rhythms and effects, so it’s no surprise that the slappiest tunes (“Keep on Movin’,” “Love, Life Within the Sun” here are the weakest. However, more than compensating are gems like “Groovin’ Field,” which builds a Santana “Evil Ways” type vibe on the blues-funk keyboard. Kawasaki’s rock-edged lead is given a unique counterpoint on this track by Victor Jones’ reoccurring fleugelhorn. The album’s other standout centerpiece is a cover of Sonny Rollins’ classic “Airegin,” which is given a rollicking jazz speedball treatment, for a wonderfully free, fiery showcase of improvisation, hearkening back to Kawasaki’s wilder days.

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