www.AllAboutJazz.com, the net's top Jazz website, has Later listed at #15 in their Top 100 of All Time download area. To listen, please visit:
Allaboutjazz.com's Italian sister site currently has us at #2 in their all time top 100 downloads. To listen, please visit:
"LATER", the followup to Synergy's "Barcodes"
(www.cdbaby.com/synergy) is finally here, with special guests:
BILL EVANS: Long known for his brilliant tenor sax work with Miles Davis, John Mclaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Mick Jagger, Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, John Scofield, Bruce Hornsby and Willie Nelson. Bill was nominated for a
Grammy for his current release.
HARVIE S: Known for his innovative rapport with the most progressive jazz guitarists alive - Pat Martino, Jim Hall, Mike Stern, John Scofield, Wayne Krantz - as well as Mike Brecker, Chick Corea, Kenny Barron, Stan Getz and Sheila Jordan.
PAUL WERTICO: 7 Grammy Awards and 18 years with the
Pat Metheny Group, he also has worked with Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, Charlie Haden, Jeff Berlin and many others.
The Synergy Quartet is an award-winning, contemporary jazz/progressive rock collective combining elements of many other styles - blues, funk, latin, 2nd line, experimental, odd meters - and influences.
***The track, "Vision" from "Later" is now currently an
Allaboutjazz.com daily download***
Influences include: Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, John Scofield, Bill Frisell, Mike Brecker, Steps Ahead, Earthworks, MMW, King Crimson, Steely Dan, Jaco, Miles, Weather Report, Bela Fleck & Eric Johnson.
"Five Stars" Jazz Review
"Five Stars" The Current
"Four Stars" AllMusicGuide
"Four Stars" Jazzsteps
"Four Stars" Communique
"CD of the Week" Jazz Review
"Best Jazz Group" (twice) Current
"Best jazz Group" (twice) SA News
Synergy endorses Elixir Strings (www.elixirstrings.com),
Carlos Acoustic pickups (www.american-guitar-center.com)
and Onyx Forge Guitars and uses Fender Guitars/amps, Roland/US, TC Electronics & Lexicon signal processing, Taylor & Fylde acoustics, Dell/Apple/HP computers, Rode Mics, Memorex CDRs, Anvil cases.
Synergy | Nextep Records
San Antonio’s Mike Brannon has one of the most uplifting guitar tones and approaches to improvisation in contemporary jazz, besides a flair for composition. His playing and writing are informed by fellow travelers like Metheny and Scofield, but not derivative of either. And he knows how to draw out the best from his associates, be they the regular Synergy members (Andy Langham, Gerry Gibbs and Brandon Rivas) or special guests like Bill Evans, Paul Wertico and Harvie S.
Later begins with a series of three guest-laden dedications. “Vision/FYI” is a bittersweet bow to the late tenorman Bob Berg, who was originally tapped as the guest saxophonist on this album. Berg was killed in a car accident as the rhythm tracks were being recorded, and the feature tune became an homage. Evans is a more than able substitute, however, and his attractive tone is a perfect complement to Brannon’s chorused guitar bursts.
“Gumbo,” saluting the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, is driven by an infectious second-line groove that symbolizes the hopeful joie de vivre of New Orleans. Brannon takes a chair and lets his three guests dance through the streets. Wertico and S parry and lock delectably here, then settle into gentler roles on “String Theory,” for the ailing Michael Brecker. One might wonder why a dedication to a saxophonist has no sax—Evans has packed up and gone by now—but the remaining trio acquits itself admirably. Brannon’s crystalline sound is closest to Metheny on this shimmering, gorgeous tale.
The next several tracks feature the members of the standard Synergy quartet, no slouches themselves. From the opening notes of “Scratch,” we find Gibbs and Rivas fairly burning to leap out of their arranged restraints. An almost unbearable tension builds up to and through the solos by Brannon and Langham, driven by an insistent cymbal ride and hypnotizing bass drone. A wonderful construct, as are the other tunes. “Parking Space” fades in and out, apparently pulled from one red-hot jam session.
Brannon allows himself some solid feature spots—going completely solo on “September 28th” and “Loose Ends”; adding crisp acoustic strumming, accented with harmonics and overlaid by electric sitar sounds, on “Just Like Now.” He uses effects judiciously, though he dives into some fearless experimentation on the multitracked “Dream Sequence.” But Brannon is no space hog, and he allows plenty of face time for his compadres. Synergy is a tight and eminently creative unit, and the several guestless tracks here are every bit as worthwhile as the “star” features. Still, closing out with a jaunty Brannon/S duet seems the ideal way to wrap up such a multicolored package. Highly recommended.
- Todd S. Jenkins/Allaboutjazz.com March 2006
Texas guitar-slinger Mike Brannon reaps the benefits of a predominately all-star jazz aggregation throughout these jazz-fusion workouts. Brannon dedicates this outing to the late, great saxophonist Bob Berg who was killed in a car accident close to his Long Island, N.Y., home, during a winter ice storm. Therefore, the artists’ passion and commitment is portrayed within this session, awash with fast-paced works, featuring ample soloing space for all parties involved.
The band executes a feisty second-line New Orleans groove with the aptly titled “Gumbo,” amid Brannon’s breezy jazz, blues and funk riffs. Then on “Just Like Now,
Brannon pursues Eastern modalities via his electric sitar lines, overlaid atop folksy acoustic guitar chords. Teeming with jazz-rock movements, Brannon steers several “breakouts” where saxophonist Bill Evans and keyboardist Andy Langham contribute with zestful, up-tempo solo spots. In addition, the music spoken here consists of tightly-integrated unison runs, diminutive phrasings, turbulent passages and hammering pulses. And with the finale titled “Harvie’s Blues,” Brannon and bassist Harvie S, temper the flow, where they engage in a bump and grind, mainstream jazz duet. In sum, Brannon shuns the somewhat typical, bombastic jazz-fusion like fare with a thoughtful and nicely coordinated program.
– Glenn Astarita/e-jazznews.com May 2006
Nextep Records SYN002-5
Mike Brannon (guitar, electric sitar); Gerry Gibbs (drums); Brandon Rivas (acoustic bass); Andy Langham (keyboards); plus Paul Wertico (drums); Harvie S (acoustic bass); Bill Evans (tenor sax). Rec dates not given.
This makes two out of two strong albums from Synergy, a Texas-based quartet who deal in the kind of intelligent, second generation fusion that will one day triumphantly reclaim the f-word from the capitalist smooth-jazz lackeys. By turns delicate and muscular, the tunes all sound like the musicians had fun playing them: the unhurried approach to groove of Scratch and the folk-flavoured duet Crosstalk are particularly arresting.
Mike Brannon leads from the front, with his guitar of many colours (cap doffed to Stern, Towner, Metheny, inter alia) providing as much in the way of textures as solo lines. The whole project gains some extra dimensions through the recruitment of guest stars, who all stay for more than the usual token track: Bill Evans brings his dynamic tenor to bear on two, Harvie S his ringing acoustic bass to four, and ex-Metheny Group stalwart Paul Wertico his light-yet-powerful rhythms to five.
- Brian Glasser/Jazzwise Magazine (UK) March 2006
Synergy may be a collective in name, but it’s really the brainchild of guitarist Mike Brannon. With keyboardist Andy Langham the only carryover from 2000’s Barcodes, Brannon handles all compositional/arrangement duties on Later, barring the title track, co-arranged by Brannon and drummer Gerry Gibbs. Like Barcodes there are a number of high profile guests on this set, this time bassist Harvie S, saxophonist Bill Evans, and drummer Paul Wertico, making Brannon’s fluid guitar the only constant throughout the twelve-song, 44-minute set.
Brannon stretches out into broader territory this time around. His primary influences are still there: Mike Stern, Pat Metheny, and John Scofield topping the list. Still, there’s a greater eclecticism at work, with Brannon providing acoustic respite from the more energetic electric pieces. The spacious and bittersweet Leo Kottke
informed solo piece “September 28th” contrasts with the similarly informed but more rhythmically insistent “Just Like Now,” where Brannon layers an electric sitar solo, providing greater insight into his not inconsiderable jazz chops. The bluesy “Loose Ends” completes a trio of acoustic pieces that, situated in the middle of the set, break up the pace, but don’t defeat it.
Harvie S, Paul Wertico, and Bill Evans are all onboard for the two opening tracks on Later. “Vision/FYI” manages to be lyrical and fiery; a fitting homage to the late saxophonist Bob Berg, originally slated to play on the piece before his fatal car crash in December, 2002, although Evans turns in an equally passionate and articulate solo. For those who only know Wertico from his fifteen-year stint with the Pat Metheny Group, his funky second-line rhythm on “Gumbo” will come as a surprise, though anyone who has followed his own career knows his capabilities extend well beyond his cymbal heavy work for the iconic guitarist. Harvie S and Paul Wertico provide more delicate accompaniment to Brannon’s atmospheric “String Theory” with S delivering an elegantly melodic solo as well as with more vigor on “Harvie’s Blues,” which closes the disc.
Only three tracks feature Synergy the quartet, and what Gibbs, Langham and bassist Brandon Rivas lack in star power, they more than make up for with a stylistic broad-mindedness equal to Brannon’s. The Methenyesque Americana of “Scratch,” featuring both Rivas and Brannon stretching while remaining faithful to the song’s folksy core, contrasts with the funkier and more harmonically jazz centric title track, with Brannon’s most fleet fingered solo of the set, and a surprisingly swinging solo spot for Langham signalling a return to greasier territory before segueing into the brief but high velocity “Parking Space.”
The delay driven dark ambience of Brannon’s solo electric piece “Dream Sequence” leads into the more optimistic “Crosstalk,” another folksy excursion with Brannon on electric this time in duet with Wertico, proof that less can certainly be more. Brannon may not have the staggering technique of his influences, but his musical instincts are always reliable, making Later an appealing listen that’s sure to win him new fans in addition to satisfying listeners already acquainted with him through Barcodes."
- John Kelman/Allaboutjazz.com January 2006
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