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Spectrum Road: Spectrum Road

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Spectrum Road is not the first group to pay homage to Tony Williams’ band Lifetime-Trio Beyond, with Jack DeJohnette, Larry Goldings and John Scofield, put out the excellent Saudades in 2006-but it may be the rowdiest. This all-star quartet (named for a Lifetime song) is made up of four folks who keep one foot in jazz and one in rock: Cream bassist Jack Bruce, who actually played with Williams in Lifetime; guitarist Vernon Reid, an improviser who became a rock star as part of Living Colour; keyboardist John Medeski of Medeski Martin & Wood; and Cindy Blackman Santana, a jazz drummer who backed Lenny Kravitz for a decade and released a Williams homage under her own name in 2010. Their self-titled album is very often raucous and loud: Reid, sounding a lot like his hero (and Lifetime vet) John McLaughlin, shreds throughout; Blackman Santana batters her skins and cymbals restlessly; Medeski creates giant walls of sound; and Bruce-well, Bruce’s contributions might blow out your speakers.

If these ingredients suggest the thing is a mess, it’s anything but. The 10-song program, consisting mostly of early Lifetime material dating 1969-1971, is vicious but well plotted. In addition to jazz-rock fusion, there are elements of prog-rock, funk, metal and blues in this stew; depending on the moment, one particular style may rise to the fore. The quartet threatens to burst eardrums out of the gate with “Vuelta Abajo,” Blackman Santana drumming maniacally, Reid ripping at his strings and Medeski stabbing at his organ.

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