CD Review: Centre-Line – A Virtual Joyride

Centre-Line – A Virtual Joyride
(Centre Line Music. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Drummer Darren Altman and saxophonist/EWI player Russell van den Berg have been playing together since they met at Leeds College of Music in 1993, and their musical bond is the foundation for Centre-Line’s sound: joyous, full-on jazz-rock.

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It is therefore no surprise to find endorsements from two of the form’s most celebrated luminaries, Randy Brecker (‘great, unique playing and writing’) and Mike Stern (‘really cool music’) on the publicity flyer for the band’s 2012 tour, and the US guitarist’s tumultuous, inexhaustible energy and sheer appetite for soloing is immediately called to mind by the opening track of A Virtual Joyride, ‘Saturday’, which features van den Berg’s throaty, passionate, (Michael) Breckeresque tenor roaring over the rhythm-section support of Altman and rock-solid bassist Jon Harvey.

The band is completed by the eloquent electric guitarist Jez Franks, and the album’s atmospheric second track, ‘Intro’, ushers in Centre-Line’s characteristic use of van den Berg’s EWI, which blends naturally with Franks’s playing to create the hypnotic spacey sounds so effective at creating contrast and tension in fusion music of this type.

Eight of the album’s ten tracks are written by van den Berg, with a single composition from Franks (the title-track) and a swampy, almost grungy, slow-building jam-type closer from Altman, so there is a tightness and coherence to the set that calls to mind the band’s satisfying live performances, in which jazz-rock is gleefully celebrated in a manner that is rarer since the demise of the Brecker brothers’ band, but which can still be found in the music of Mike Stern, Dave Weckl, Steve Smith’s Vital Information, Partisans et al.

Centre Line Music. Centre Line are on an extensive UK tour in Jan – March. Next London date:  January 20th – Olivers, Greenwich.

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