Jack Wilkins’ thick hollow-body, round-toned electric guitar sound is rooted in the jazz tradition of players like Jim Hall and Kenny Burrell, but his modern approach to that sound shows a tendency towards the unexpected left turn. His new group, Alien Army, is a quartet groomed from that same approach.
Rather than striving for an ensemble sound locked into every 16th note when approaching funk grooves, the Army instead retains a texture of looser jazz interaction, swelling and stretching around the groove. Drummer Mike Clark bridges the tight/loose contrasts admirably on tunes like “Happy Eyes,” laying down shifting, linear funk grooves with his cracking, tightly wound snare, while initiating flowing interplay above it all. His blistering solo spots combine the fierceness of fusion chops with the earthiness and fluid phrasing of jazz. Especially fascinating is Clark’s interplay with bassist Michael Formanek. This brave duo takes plenty of chances. With their unique writing and four very adventurous, individualistic players, Alien Army has produced and engaging disc that reveals more levels with each listening.
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