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Album of the Week

by Tony Roma
posted 12/07/2010

Eastside’s album for July 2010

James Ryan  – “The Subterraneans”

The Subterraneans is his fourth release, following Bittersweet (ABC Classics, 2009), Long Way Home (Jazzgroove Records, 2006) and James Ryan Quartet (Independent, 1997).

The initial concept of blending jazz and rock some 42 years ago was inspired but the fusion was soon hijacked by the come-upstairs-and-see-my-technique brigade and bombast came to replace groove and imagination.

James Ryan’s Subterraneans – the name of both the band and album – actually fulfils the concept’s original promise, with sophisticated improvising and lithe melodies harnessed to raw power and savage riffs. The band is one of Sydney’s strongest live acts and this brilliant studio debut catches all that excitement and delivers it with a mighty sonic punch.

Ryan’s tenor saxophone is burly, coarse-grained and bullying (in the instrument’s best tradition), with a sweeter temper periodically glimpsed through the pugnacity. He needs all those qualities to share his music’s foreground with James Muller, one of the finest electric guitarists alive.

Unleashing his most stunning recorded work to date, Muller’s every solo is an explosion of ideas, realised with the sinuousness of jazz and the muscle of hard rock.

The rhythm section echoes those qualities. Bassist Steve Hunter is all suppleness as he rounds the music’s edges and adds delicious little counterpoints. Drummer James Hauptmann ensures the grooves crunch with enough power to satisfy a strident rock audience, without forsaking a more pliable sense of groove.

To find out more visit http://www.myspace.com/thesubterraneansoz

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