Garcia, Al - Alternate Realities

Year of Release: 2006
Label: Wandlar Productions
Catalog Number: WL8019
Format: CD
Total Time: 57:06:00

The second solo CD from multi-instrumentalist Al Garcia is a jazzy affair, again falling in the contemporary jazz-fusion category. Although Alternate Realities is not fiery hot fusion, it is energetic and active, featuring not just bass-centered tracks (as Garcia's main instrument is bass), but rather you will find that it is guitar (his second main instrument) that is often in the lead. He is accompanied by a few guests - Chris Garcia and Dean Rohan divide drum duties on five of the album's 9 tracks and Fred Ramirez provides a classical, florid piano intro on "Secret Correspondences." This is a piece that, while mostly guitar soloing, does also allow a brief, deepish toned, moody bass solo as well. The guitar solo that follows that is torrid, suggesting there's something steamy in these secret correspondences?

Speaking of steamy, the Latin feel that characterizes "Materia Prima" - flamenco guitar, acoustic tones - suggests a teasing tango... starring Antonio Banderas and, well, I see Catherine Zeta-Jones... yeh, I guess I'm seeing Zorro... or some very strange T-Mobile commercial*. It's a lively and energetic track that makes ya move. It's almost too long, however; at a shade over 7 and half minutes, it would be a tighter number at 6. But, it's quite a tasty and spicy number (like Banderas... ? Um, well, for you guys, I guess Zeta-Jones?).

For the most part the arrangements have a light tone and feel; it's an upbeat and cheerful tone, bright. Sometimes bright can be too bright or chilly, but except for one track, Garcia avoids this. The production is vibrant and colourful. The only darker tonal colours being the mahogany tones of Garcia's bass. You can hear this in what can only be described as a positive and uplifting track, "Turning Point," where things have taken a turn for the better.

Like "Materia Prima," "The Red Queen's Race" is among the warmest of pieces; at times, it hints at fusion, but never quite exploring and "full-on" fusion attack. There are sections where we get some impressive and sparking fretwork from Garcia. But this "race" never becomes a free-for-all; this gets back to what I said above about the active energy - it's electric, but it does not singe. And that's okay; Garcia's style is to soften those edges just enough that while your hair will stand on end, you don't get scalded.

"A Place In The Sun" is a mellow piece; classic smooth jazz, this; think Rippingtons, or more accurately, Russ Freeman. In fact, sometimes I swear Garcia is playing "My Favorite Things" (which Freeman did on his Holidays CD, incidentally). Actually, I feel like I've heard this on some commercial... maybe it's just that it sounds so very familiar, though it's a Garcia original.

"Three Of A Kind" is a dramatic piece where the guitar intro made me think of a contempo take on Rush (especially of Lifeson's guitar playing in mid-to-late 80s period), but there's also a bit that made think of King Crimson (Red period, but nothing specific... ). Although not exactly proggy, it suggests something proggy - faint references, though I don't think it's intentional. Its steel-string sound also makes me think of both Craig Chaquico, and in brief flashes, of Steely Dan ("FM" comes to mind). While that might make you think this piece is chaotic and being pulled in all different directions, it meshes all these together cohesively. At the center is fusiony guitar playing that can only be described as noodling; speaking aloud whatever comes to mind and somehow making these tangents flow and return back to the main thought at various junctures.

Standing apart from all this, and out of place because of it is the different and colder synthetic "The Pleasures Of Progress" - a piece lacking only computer animation of some odd shaped entities making music with their movements. Yes, I've watched a lot of these animation videos, and this is so like... Animusic, yes, that's what comes to mind. There are even odd, computer like voices that emerge from the mix (like Cylons coming to life... though not). Out of that context, this is just plain weird.

"Calculated Risk," the closing track, takes all the elements of the rest of the album, including some synthetic elements from "...Pleasures..." and darkens them; bass is throatier, the keys a bit shrill (which you'd think would have the opposite effect), layers of guitar some sweet, some syrupy (in a good way).

Though a bit overlong, "Materia Prima" is one of my favorites here along with the dramatic "Three Of A Kind." While not perfect, Garcia has managed to create another strong release. While this style of music can often feel "soulless," it's not so here. Pieces mostly fall in the smooth fusion category, if there is such a one -- as mentioned, it's not fully smooth jazz (though it goes down smoothly) and not fully fusion (though it does get fiery), it falls somewhere in between.

*not sure if T-Mobile has gone international, but for the benefit of those not living in the US, the reference is to the fact that Zeta-Jones is [now was -ed. 2011] the pitchwoman for T-Mobile, one of a dozen cellphone service providers. Though to date she hasn't tangoed in any of the ads.

Alternate Realities (6:36) / Turning Point (5:25) / The Red Queen's Race (5:59) / Secret Correspondences (6:09) / Materia Prima (7:43) / Three Of A Kind (8:46) / The Pleasures Of Progress (3:12) / A Place In The Sun (6:28) / Calculated Risk (6:45)

Al Garcia - electric guitars, acoustic guitars, 4 & 5 string fretted and fretless basses, guitar synthesizer, drums (1, 7, 9), congas, bongos, udo drums, timables, hand percussion, voice
Chris Garcia - drums (2, 3, 4, 8)
Dean Rohan - drums (6)
Fred Ramirez - piano intro (4)

Make It So (2002)
Alternate Realities (2006)
All Things Must Converge (2011)

Genre: Fusion/Jazz Fusion

Origin US

Added: January 9th 2007
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1142
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]