Mike Pardew: Road Worn


Road Worn


Mike Pardew (guitar)


Azul (Afan Music AFAN0005)


Mike Pardew (guitar),

Damian Erskine (bass), Micah Kassell (drums)


Composed by Mike Pardew


Recorded: Portland, OR, March 2007


Rating: 91/100 (learn more)

One of the more interesting but problematic lineups in jazz-rock is the power trio. It usually consists of guitar, drums and bass, although the first jazz-rock power trio was actually The Tony Williams Lifetime, in which organist Larry Young provided basslines. More traditional fusion power units have included John McLaughlin, Jack Bruce & Tony Williams, and the Trio of Doom featuring McLaughlin, Williams & Jaco Pastorius. Power trios under the leadership of Larry Coryell, Allan Holdsworth and others have also made their marks. Theoretically a trio is a better showcase for individual musicianship, since we hear more of a player than if he were part of a larger group. But that also requires more of each player. There is nothing worse than hearing a fusion power trio without the power to justify its categorization.

We are in no such position when listening to guitarist Mike Pardew, bassist Damiane Erskine and drummer Micah Kassell. Azul is full of what its liner notes call "21st Century Jazz-Rock Fusion." I am not sure that description fits all the tunes. There are pieces that are more in the modern jazz tradition. But when this band wants to be a jazz-rock power trio, they kick ass.

"Road Worn" is a deep, dark, distorted blues fusion. At times Pardew's guitar is a cross between Frank Zappa's best fuzzed-up sound, as heard on such performances as Son of Orange County, and the slow, tortured guitar of Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi. In fact, the more I listen to this song, the more it seems like Black Sabbath playing fusion. The liner notes also make reference to Mike Stern. I hear some of his blues influence too. Pardew and Erskine play many of the heavy melody lines in unison. They obtain a bottom-up sound that adds to the gut power of the performance. As long as Mike Pardew, Erskine and Kassell play this type of music in this way, they deserve to be called a 21st century jazz-rock power trio.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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