McGill Manring Stevens - Addition By Subtraction

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Free Electric Sound
Catalog Number: FES4001
Format: CD
Total Time: 70:20:00

This is what I call "look mama, no hands" music. More jazz than prog this all instrumental party requires a lot of concentrated attention in order to fully appreciate their technical prowess. If you translate the title Addition By Subtraction into "more with less" then this would not be 100% true as the threesome sometimes plays far too many notes than necessary. Even with the inclusion of Jordan Rudess it remains "intelligent jazz" all the way.

Several years ago bassist Michael Manring asked guitarist Scott McGill and drummer Vic Stevens to help him out during the recording of his solo album Thonk. The collaboration was so fruitful and interesting that the collaboration remained. The technical fireworks of the threesome is highlighted on this new album. Opener "Zimparty" evokes the feel of National Health, augmented with occasional guitar frenzies. With Dream Theater keyboardist supreme Jordan Rudess stepping on board, a track like "We Are Not Amused" almost gets another dimension as Jordan sounds like Patrick Moraz here.

"The Execution Of Veit" marks a short piece of jazz improvisation leading us right into "The Voyage Of St. Brendan ? Abbot of Clomfert." Here fretless bass accompanies acoustic guitar as if Paco De Lucia has joined forces with them, bringing a Mediterranean atmosphere into the urban rhythm. Scott handles his guitar the Metheny way during "Silé" on top of which he treats us to a Di Meola-like solo. The title track sounds like a collection of rhythmic breaks and chops with Stevens following McGill's lead, perfectly timed, a lead which at times makes me think of Robin Trower. No doubt from a technical point of view the guitar instrumental "Euzkadi" will be a difficult one to execute, yet as a composition it doesn't grab me. Finally the shadow of UK falls over "Conflict Resolution" mainly because of Scott's Holdsworth-like approach and the inclusion of Jordan Rudess stepping into the Jobson boots. The funky wordplay "In-A-Gadda DaVinci" adds some spice to the all instrumental household, giving space for Manring's talent as well as yet another Rudess synth solo, before turning into Latino-flavoured mayhem. By means of Stevens' percussive genius "Four Fields" gets kind of a world music treatment with Scott's guitar loops as repetitive backing.

No doubt these three musicians are true maestros in their respective fields, however only the tracks which have Rudess are really the ones which sound the most interesting. As opposed to Liquid Tension Experiment or Bozzio Levin Stevens or Attention Deficit the music here is more a collection of improvisations rather than compositions [though only 6 of the tracks are actually improvs -ed.] . McGill, Manring and Stevens certainly had a fab time playing and recording together, but they forgot to write songs. In the end the listener has to struggle himself/herself through a difficult album in order to find the good parts in the same way a golddigger has to work ages to finally find that nugget. But it's there. It's definitely there!

[Corrections: McGill and Stevens do not appear on Thonk, but rather Tim Alexander (drums) and Alex Skolnick (guitars) of Attention Deficit (a trio that includes Manring). By the way, this album marks the first release from The Laser's Edge's Ken Golden's new sublabel Free Electric Sound. -ed.]

Zimparty / We Are Not Amused / KVB Liar / The Execution Of Veit / The Voyage Of St. Brendan ? Abbot Of Clonfert / Sil? / Addition By Subtraction / Vicodin Shuffle / Euzkadi / Conflict Resolution / Purging Mendel's Beasts / In-A-Gadda Davinci / Four Fields / Post Hocto-Proct

Scott McGill - electric and acoustic guitars
Michael Manring - fretless bass and e-bow
Vic Stevens - drums, percussion
Neil Kernon - loop technology


Jordan Rudess - keyboards

Addition By Subtraction (2001)
Controlled By Radar (2002)
What We Do (2006)

Genre: Fusion-Jazz Fusion

Origin US

Added: August 2nd 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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Language: english


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