By: Arlene R. Weiss
The jacaranda tree is indigenous to several multicultural, musically diverse global regions, including South Africa, where legendary guitarist, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, and award winning esteemed film composer, Trevor Rabin was born and grew up, and where he absorbed, and was both informed and influenced by, many diverse music styles.
The jacaranda is a glorious vista to behold, exhibiting a pageantry of brilliantly hued purple blossoms that takes one’s breath away.
Each song on Trevor Rabin’s new solo album, Jacaranda is like the infinite petals of the jacaranda’s blossoms. Each and every intermezzo is brilliant, unique, and breathtakingly beautiful.
And so Trevor could not have chosen a more aptly befitting album title for this radiant songbook of instrumental gemstones. Trevor’s first new solo studio album since 1989’s critically acclaimed, Can’t Look Away, Jacaranda is a deeply personal, musically reverential album, painted with loving, sonic brushstrokes that dance alive with exquisite fire and beauty. It reflects the ongoing artistic vision, scope, innovation, and many eclectic music influences, including jazz, rock, bluegrass, blues, and classical, that Trevor has continually embraced, and which continue to inform, his immense virtuosity and sublime artistry.
Trevor composed all of the album’s songs and produced and arranged Jacaranda. Trevor also plays all of the instruments on the album, with the exception of drums, which are performed with powerhouse finesse and virtuosity by Trevor’s longtime drummer Lou Molino III, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Trevor’s talented son, Ryan Rabin of the acclaimed indie band Grouplove. Bass guitarist Tal Wilkenfeld also guests on the track, “Anerley Road”.
The joyful, delightfully titled, “Spider Boogie” begins the album with Trevor’s trademark exuberance, sense of playfulness and affection for all things musical, and lots of six string fun. Trevor also introduces the album with something this album is exquisitely drenched in, luminous, multicolored textures of radiant, chiming Dobro.
As Trevor hums to start things off and hand claps keep time, this tasty bluegrass front porch romp finds Trevor picking away on his trusty Dobro with the lithe and agility of a dancing spider! Then with Trevor burning up the electric guitar, the song is off to the races as Trevor’s satin smooth Dobro slide comes back in for a duet as the piece rocks out into a rollicking, electrified roots, country rockabilly jam and sparkling mountain suite.
“Market Street” and “The Branch Office” will please appreciative fans of Trevor’s former band Yes, with their progressive rock leanings. Lots of swirling Hammond organ and piano voicings that also call to mind ELP and Genesis, partner with crunching, punchy, semi-psychedelic and slide guitars, segueing into wonderfully nuanced jazz tones and phrasings.
“Anerley Road” featuring bass guitar virtuoso, Tal Wilkenfeld is an amazing palette of many vibrant and beautiful sonic colors and textures. The influences of Barney Kessel, Joe Pass, John McLaughlin, Wes Montgomery, and a sprinkle of Django Rinehardt are all over Jacaranda, and especially so in this stunning, magical, eclectic hodgepodge gumbo of multilingual guitar voicings, chord inversions, changes, and passages, and contextual musical interludes featuring Dobro slide, fusion, and the fluid warmth of big boxy hollow body jazz guitar shadings.
And it all begins and ends with “Anerley Road’s” fade in and fade out through a mystical prism of striking crystalline bell tones which introduce and close out this magical, musical, dreamscape.
My favorite track and the standout song to the album, is the striking and sublime, “Through The Tunnel.” This evocative piece fully embodies and showcases Trevor’s gifts as a film composer and it feels like it could easily be one of his breathtaking musical centerpieces for a motion picture or film score themes. Beginning with a poetic, eloquent piano passage interpreted and performed with understated regality, wondrous radiance, and utter beauty, this exquisite melody and motif ever so gently proceeds, entwining and caressing lyrical Dobro shadings, as it transforms into beautiful reverbed guitar voicings, crafting dazzling jazz rock flights of fancy.
The epic, sweeping, “Rescue” was directly inspired by the 2006 Kevin Costner film, The Guardian for which Trevor composed the score. The amazingly gifted Liz Constantine, vocalist for the band Dizzy X, collaborated with Trevor on the motion picture score, and here, she also lends her spellbinding wordless singing vocals as well.
The Guardian portrayed the courageous life and death sacrifices of the brave men and women of the United States Coast Guard. On “Rescue,” (and also on the film’s original score), Trevor so beautifully honors them with this enigmatic tribute. A battery of layered, dissonant electric guitars tolls as Liz’s deeply emotional, ethereal vocals then call out to the lost men and women at sea. Liz’s singing channels a protecting maiden of the sea, a guiding aural beacon of hope and light to see that those lost at sea find their way and safely bring them home, and to give eternal peace to those who are long given up to the blackest fathoms of the ocean’s depths.
Sublimely orchestrated and arranged with strings, this transcendent suite is hallmarked by the gravitas of its emotionally resonant depth and breadth, and purposeful resolve, as the piece crescendos into a soaring, uplifting, and inspiring song of hope and glory with stunning majesty, luster, and grace.
Though regarded as one of music’s most consummate guitarists, Trevor is also at heart, one of its most gifted artisans on piano. A classically trained musician who studied and has played the piano since the tender age of six, growing up in a family which has always been richly immersed and gifted in the performing arts, and are classical musicians.
On the lush Baroque piano sonata, “Killarney 1 and 2,” Trevor regales us with this intense, elegant pageantry of sweeping piano lines, movements, and beautiful melodic context, that so divinely sings to and touches our heart and soul.
The profound, impassioned eloquence, range, and depth of emotional expressiveness emanating within Trevor’s musical lexicon is awe inspiring. His supple fingerings, his interpretive reading, his intricate yet also ornate phrasings create an aural vision of poetic lyricism that so deeply and exquisitely moves and uplifts our emotions to a place of spiritual transcendence and beauty.
The playful “Zoo Lake” features Trevor’s atmospheric, languid Dobro slide, played, oh, so deliciously, ebb and flow slow, conjuring up an old fashioned, lazy summer afternoon down by the lake. One can almost imagine dipping their toes in the water, sipping an ice cold drink, and romancing their girl, all while of course, relaxing for a spell while enjoying playing their sweet, soulful guitar.
Ever so sweet and wonderfully lowdown. Yet also wistfully reminiscing for a time or era gone by as “Zoo Lake” shapeshifts to the pensive jazz syncopation of piano and electric guitar, and the melancholic, solemn finality of darkly colored, somber strings.
On “Jacaranda,” there are so many musical wonders imbued with incandescence. There’s the effervescent jazzy pizzicato chime harmonics of “Storks Bill Geranium Waltz” and the straight ahead, fuzz toned, phase and effect driven, rock meets jazz fusion guitars of “Me And My Boy,” featuring Trevor’s talented son Ryan on drums, highlighting a musical tour de force of virtuosity of father and son. There’s the studious, uptempo ringy/chimey improvised guitars of the jazzy “Freethought,” and the lyrical pluck and twang, guitar and Dobro revelry of “Gazania.”
Trevor Rabin’s “Jacaranda is a musical flowering tree of splendor. It is an aural vista of sonic beauty, magic, and bliss crafted from the beautiful imagination and renaissance heart of this otherworldly auteur and artisan.
It’s a wistful, contemplative, introspective record imbued with, and which exudes, exuberant radiance and felicitous beauty through the universal connection and language of music. Like that visitor at “Zoo Lake,” take your time and immerse yourself in this wondrous flowering garden of celestial musical soundscapes. For this is a sparkling and sublime, marvel of musical exploration, technical skill, invention, songcraft, and exquisite artistry. And we are so greatly and deeply emotionally moved and inspired by this glittering and enchanting chapter of Trevor’s amazing musical odyssey, which he so joyously, and beautifully, invites us to share and enjoy.
© Copyright March 24, 2012 By Arlene R. Weiss-All Rights Reserved