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Steve Smith, David Liebman, Aydin Esen, Anthony Jackson: Flashpoint

Steve Smith, Anthony Jackson, David Liebman and Aydin Esen

Flashpoint represents saxophonist Dave Liebman’s most challenging group association since his days with Miles Davis and Elvin Jones. While his band Lookout Farm performed many beautiful compositions, they weren’t nearly as versatile as Flashpoint, whose members can handle funk and world music as well as fusion, blues and rock. Their skill even extends into more mainstream styles, as they deftly demonstrate on “The Gentle Warrior,” one of several compositional gems, though Liebman’s soothing, whirling soprano sax here is more solemn and reverential than intense. But the date’s prevailing mood is raw and fiery, very much jazz-rock at its most aggressive.

Besides soprano sax, Liebman is forceful and bluesy on tenor (excelling on “Like John”) and almost dreamy and ethereal on bamboo Indian flute (“Yildiz”). Steve Smith turns heads and mesmerizes arenas in his role as rock-drum guru for Vital Information, but he’s proven a talented player in other contexts. He not only capably provides the rhythmic stimulus for such pieces as “Khandu West” and “Edge of Tomorrow,” he’s quite effective playing ghatam (clay pot) on “Yildiz.” Keyboardist Aydin Esen and contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson handle their roles expertly, with Esen more musically arresting on electric keyboards and synthesizers than acoustic, and Jackson at his best on “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Particles.”

The only knock on Flashpoint is that these tunes don’t always fully highlight the group’s prowess, but assuming they stay together the band has a chance to become one of the better fusion units.

Originally Published