Wild Man Of Borneo is the premier outing of John Ferenzik, a keyboardist-guitarist more notably recognized as a occasional touring sideman (Todd Rundgren, Jefferson Starship, among others).
And quite an outing it is. An assemblage of instrumentals written, then recorded during the late 80's – Wild Man represents the first real evidence of something lurking out there in the instrumental-fusion arena that was a little, well, different.
On the surface, Wild Man Of Borneo is a fusion-fest, filled with nods to Jeff Beck classics, such as Wired and Blow By Blow, and 70’s era Mahavishnu Orchestra or Return To Forever. There’s nothing earth-shattering ‘bout that. But a deeper sweep reveals simpler pop sentiments coupled with a healthy dose of humor swimming within each offering on the CD - spelling relief to any jazz-rock pretense.
For the most part, the there are ample opportunities on Wild Man for a soloist to “fire off a round.” Monster players Jesse Gress and Frank Gambale (Check out “Tropic of Cancer") share the guitar spotlight with Ferenzik, for instance. But there’s enough gravity in the music to keep each the listener rooted. There’s drama throughout, both in the soloing and the accompaniment, enough left-turns in the arrangements and plenty of textures to thwart any complacency as well as delight the ear. Angular melodies, thickly layered arrangements, solid rhythm track performances – they all coalesce in a funky stew that bears repeated listening, even more than a decade later.
A cautionary note: If you’re in the market for the avant-garde, Wild Man Of Borneo is probably not going to make your cut - no free jazz living here. The rocking out mayhem and mood-shifts would also upset the cart of any smooth jazzer out there as well. But if you’re looking for some compelling music from – what was then – a promising newcomer, Wild Man is the ticket.