'Groove in Two Directions; by Rob Falgiano, October 21, 1996, Artvoice, Buffalo, NY
A live CD has hit the mark when it makes you wish you'd been at the show, and Gamalon's latest instrumental fusion platter, Live at the Tralf, does just that. As most who have seen the group know, the level of musicianship is frighteningly high. Drummer Ted Reinhardt and bassist Jim Wynne drive the groove tank up and down the street all the way through, while the skillful guitar interplay of Bruce Brucato and Tony Scozzaro combines good melodic choices with incendiary rock theatrics.
Wynne gets the first chance to shine with a killer opening riff on "Red Zone," the lead track. With the same seemingly effortless, frenzied quality to his playing as Primus' Les Claypool, Wynne lays down the groove and jump starts the song. Once the rest of the band joins in things really start to smoke.
The first measures of "1969" reminded me vaguely of Level 42, but all similarities end when the overdriven guitars kick in a minute later. I'm assuming Brucato's the lead player on this since he wrote it. Buring the first minute he lulls you with a sweet jazz-blues melody line over a light sixteen feel, then the whole song warps into high energy super rock. Good stuff.
"Violator" is Scozzaro's moment in the spotlight. High speed, off-time funk is the order, with break sections for impressive individual solos by each band member. Scozzaro scribbles maniacally, and brilliantly, over the last minute of the song, bringing the concert to a robust close.
"Live at the Tralf feels uncompromised compasitionally. There is a unity in the playing and consistent high quality in the material despite the contributions of various songwriters in and outside of the band. About the only thing I can really fault them for is that they have a song called "The Sword." A good tune actually, but it's called "The Sword." Which makes me think of Dungeons and Dragons and going through puberty. Oh well.
I should also mention that Live at the Tralf is considerably well recorded and mixed and could pass for a studio album. But the band is perhaps even more impressive in this context, without a lot of artificial gloss that could obscure the playing and dilute the energy of a great performance.
Gamalon performs every Tuesday night at the Central Park Grill.
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