Neil Sadler - Theory of forms - 1999


There are always some records that get your attention more effectively than others, and usually when you listen to them, you find that there is a reason for that. This time, I think that the reason why I paid special attention to Neil Sadler’s album is that few works have made me wonder how extensive the jazz fusion field can be. Indeed, fusion is, just like symphonic rock, electronic music or RIO, a style in which people tend to copy those who succeeded with a particular formula. The fact is that Sadler’s album has an enormous influence of Frank Zappa or Miles Davis, but the variety of fusion-like styles that were included in this album is definitely impressive.


First of all, it is important to talk about the musicians. Who plays on this CD? Where do they come from? Easy... Neil Sadler is a British keyboard player and percussionist that was in charge of composing all the tracks and getting the whole band together. The result was a meeting of jazz masters with a common Zappa background. A horn section led by the Fowler Brothers, Walt (trumpet), Steve (alto sax) and Bruce (trombone), Albert Wing (saxes), Kurt McGettrick (saxes), two bass players: Joel Woods and Bryan Beller (Beer for Dolphins) and the great Mike Keneally (Zappa, Sting, XTC) on guitar.

The album includes 7 tracks, all of them in the fusion vein. The record begins with "Jazz Bastards" (6:46), a song full of mood changes, sometimes guitar led, sometimes with a remarkable trumpet guiding the melodies, while Sadler’s percussions provide an excellent support. There is something that can be noticed in this song and that will stay there for the whole album: a clear influence from Miles Davis on Walt Fowler’s trumpet parts. "Dna for beginners" (9:36) is a more rock-styled track, with a Crimson-like guitar (?) and a more atmospheric (though still jazz oriented) and changing support from the drums. The Zappa influence can be heard on pieces like "Suehiro" (4:36) and "Theory of Forms" (12:36), a track that also includes a more traditional jazz approach, mixed with the modernity of fusion. Wonderful. Sadler also presents a more experimental side on "Sid Sings" (5:38) and a more orchestral jazz line on "runRim" (7:21), a delicate and inspired track. The album closes with "wFb" (9:00), a powerful rocking theme with a jazzy dialogue between the saxes and the trumpet (at some moments reminding of the Canterbury school), an inspired impressive guitar, and the keyboards layers that give the opportunity to the other musicians to express themselves.


Finally, I might say that, as a big fan of jazz, this album caused me a particular reaction: the impression of rediscovering fusion. One more thing must be said about Sadler’s style: he provides an excellent support and generates music that can be suited for other musicians to play and contribute with their own ideas. "Theory of Forms" is impressive, but I don’t think that this is the highest point that Sadler can reach. If he considers what he did on this album and tries to go beyond, then we might be talking about the next fusion master.

author - date - rating - label

Enrique Gómez - January 2001 -   - Bleeding Arts