TAKE THREE OF THE MOST frighteningly accomplished instrumentalists in contemporary music and record a live set of mostly-improvised, long-form compositions: Jazz fusion, you say? On Personae (Bardo 041), bassist Jonas Hellborg, guitarist Shawn Lane, and drummer Apt. Q258 (Jeff Sipe) grab the notion of "fusion", toss it back and forth for a bit, toy with the concept, and ultimately hurl it against the wall, shattering it into a thousand fragments.
Somewhere between Hellborg's fierce, anxious bass lines, Sipe's superhumanly precise cadences, and Lane's awesome spasms of guitar wizardry, the trio forges a sound that transcends conventional categorization. Within a given song, the melodic blare of Lane and Hellborg's unison fretwork can top the ferocity of any heavy metal onslaught only to evolve moments later into a delicate counterpoint of twangy country guitar played over subtle major pentatonic scales. In the hands of this power trio, jazz sits comfortably alongside punk, pop, funk, middle eastern, and rock forms.
The album's title is derived both from the multiple "personalities" within each of the individual players - the ability of all three to perform creatively in many disparate styles, as well as the symbiotic nature of their work together. The manner in which these three distinct musical voices become one is simply staggering: Often, Hellborg's bass and Lane's guitar lines can seem indistinguishable, even interchangeable, and the interplay with Sipe's complex rhythms is organic, not in any way forced or academic.
Personae, recorded live in Mainz, Germany, captures three virtuosos at the pinnacle of their powers and documents all the scabrous intensity and gentle beauty of their collaboration. It is an album that showcases the artistic restlessness and rigorously principled musical outlook of Hellborg, Lane, and Apt Q-258 but, more to the point, Personae is an invaluable gift from one of the world's tightest, scariest, and most innovative bands. Period.
Jonas Hellborg - bass
Shawn Lane - guitar
Jeff Sipe - drums
1 Time Is the Enemy
2 Rag B/B
5 Hell Is Other People
6 Rice With the Angels
Live in Germany, composed by Hellborg/Lane and mixed at Orange Sound Studio by Scud Noonan