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Vernon Reid and Masque: Known Unknown

Living Colour never meant squat to me. The only Vernon Reid project that’s impressed this writer is Yohimbe Brothers’ Front End Lifter, his 2002 electronic-funk opus with DJ Logic. Most of the crew from that work returns as an entity called Masque for Known Unknown (Favored Nations), Reid’s first solo venture since 1996’s Mistaken Identity. The disc’s unsurprisingly a showcase for Reid’s flamboyant guitar heroics; his squeals and skronks call to mind Carlos Santana, John Scofield and Jimi Hendrix-all of whom merge technical mastery with soulfulness. Joined by keyboardist Leon Gruenbaum, bassist Hank Schroy and drummer Marlon Browden, Reid & Masque turn in a couple of superb renditions of what Reid terms “fractured standards” (Monk’s “Brilliant Corners” and Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder”). Fuzzed-up and fluid, Reid’s playing is exhibitionistic, but it doesn’t overwhelm his adventurous bandmates’ contributions.

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