In 2013, it is easy to assume that the guitar-led, jazz-fusion quartet has jumped the shark. After all, this type of lineup has been well-represented over the last 45+ years in hundreds, if not thousands, of recordings. It might seem as if the format has been done to death. But make that assumption with this release, and you’ll be wrong.
On Cathedrals, Sacramento-based principal Ross Hammond is joined by reedist Vinny Golia, bassist Steuart Liebig and drummer Alex Cline. With the help of these veterans, Hammond has turned out a fresh and compelling offering. As expected, Cline and Liebig lay down off-kilter and varied rhythm tracks. The real treat, however, is the interplay between Hammond and Golia. At times blistering, at other points thoughtful, these two complement each other rather than just trade solos. For instance, the second tack, Hopped Up On Adrenaline builds from flute and guitar interplay to all-out duels, and then back to a slowed-down, thoughtful improv. The fifth track, This Goes With Your Leather, turns it up even further, with Golia on sax particularly shining.
A major point of appeal for me is that this quartet has a refreshing, non-linear approach to jazz-rock. I cannot find an apt comparison in recent memory, so will reluctantly use a cliche instead – on Cathedrals, the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. Hats off to Hammond for breathing new life into the electric guitar. Highly recommended.