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Various Artists: A Guitar Supreme

A Guitar Supreme: Giant Steps in Fusion Guitar (Tone Center), conceived by Shrapnel label founder Mike Varney and produced and arranged by guitarist Jeff Richman, is a round-robin of Coltrane tributes by leading fusion guitarists (backed by a house band-organist Larry Goldings, bassist Alphonso Johnson and drummer Tom Brechtlein). From the first notes of Eric Johnson’s “Resolution” it seems the whole thing could be a sacrilege. Frank Gambale’s 7/8 smooth funk “Naima” does little to allay that fear. Mike Stern fares better on “Equinox” and “My Favorite Things,” Steve Lukather tries his hand at “Crescent,” Richman does “Afro Blue” and “Central Park West/Your Lady.” Robben Ford plays “Village Blues” like he means it, Gambale redeems himself with “Lazy Bird” and Larry Coryell brings it home with “Satellite.” I’m all for reinterpreting the classics, but these arrangements are just tacky. Monster shredder Greg Howe is a ray of light, however. His readings of “Giant Steps” and “Mr. Syms” are unique and personal, and damned if he doesn’t make the changes. To hear Goldings follow this metal god in the solo rotation is about as off-the-wall as music gets.

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