Global Bass Online February 2002
Blown Fuse was in the making for over two and a half years, and I for one am awfully glad he kept up the endeavor. It features Lucas with keyboardist Steve Hunt, who has played with greats like Allan Holdsworth, Stanley Clarke and Billy Cobham. Nine of the ten tunes were written by Lucas and Steve, either individually or collaboratively.
The album* opens with a tune written by Lucas called "Mysterious Passage." Listen as Steve Hunt lays down melodic chordal phrases allowing the bass to make a dramatic entry with a triplet-filled intro that winds it's way to a terrific groove defined by some fine cymbal work by drummer Charles Haynes. Every passage should have as interesting a ride, and as capable a driver. The 16th-note-on-the-4th-beat groove lets you know you are on your way to a very pleasurable music experience.
Seven and a half minutes later you are greeted by the first collaborative piece, "Ikshvaku," which should only be pronounced in a whisper. This is when you realize the tablas of Vinay Kantak. Man, I love the feel of the tablas sound. As a bass player it's always a treat to play with tablas or congas. Lucas plays his six-string on this one too. He says, "I really do tend to write on the 6 string. Some tunes are composed on the 4 but I use the 6 as a chordal instrument when I'm composing. It's just the easiest thing for me to use. I did come up with some chords on 'Arjuna Speaks' on a regular acoustic guitar, but I am a terrible guitar player and don't enjoy it very much. I stick to the 6."
Another thing Lucas does well is surround himself with the best players, and he introduces them to your ears one at a time. The third tune, "Croaker," opens with a one-minute drum intro from Steve Michaud. It's a superb display of ability leading the way to the eventual introduction of Tim Miller on guitar. Keep in mind that all the while Steve Hunt is masterfully adding the key elements. It's all so reminiscent of the best fusion stuff from Weather Report, Chic Corea and Allan Holdsworth, taken up a notch in time, with influences from the best six-stringer Anthony Jackson, and the best four-stringer Jaco Pastorius.
"Arjuna Speaks" is a very beautiful tune written by Lucas. Listen to the first minute or so of it and you'll agree that tablas go good with anything. Here they are mixed with an acoustic guitar played by Tim Miller. Combine that with the tasteful ability of Steve Hunt and the blissful bass of Lucas Pickford and you can experience the eternal beauty of sound. The bass sings the lyrics as Arjuna Speaks. Talk about soothing the savage beast...
All the fusion gods must certainly love the tablas too. "Tablas are truly a sublime instrument. All the instruments from India have a special quality to them and tablas are no exception. The timbre and tone of tablas are just so compelling to me and the absolute virtuosity with which they are played by great musicians is really astounding. Tablas spoke to me much more than Latin perccusion instruments, although both are compelling. Tablas are really two drums, the right hand drum being the high drum actually called "tabla," and the left hand drum which provides the bass is called the "baya". Tablas are also played with the fingertips and the heel of the palm which somehow gives them their distinctive sound. I was lucky to find Vinay Kantak to play tablas for me. I only met him about a month before we cuts the tracks. I did a gig with a drummer friend who had been to a Shakti concert, and I told him I was looking for a tabla player and he gave me Vinay's email and we hooked up."
Steve Hunt wrote "Mr. Crum," and "Mr. Crum" wrote back. The dialogue is one helluva tune with wonderful peaks and valleys. It's no wonder that Lucas says "...it wasn't until I teamed up with Steve Hunt that I was really able to see these tunes to completion and record them the right way." Steve has a gift for musical interpretation. Tim Miller really lets loose on this tune, and the drum work of Steve Michaud is unparalleled.
Some people think of it as homework, but Lucas really likes doing transcriptions. Ask him; he'll do one for you, but not if it's your homework. He was kind enough to provide a transcription of Jaco's solo on "Port Of Entry" in this month's issue of Global Bass. On the other humble hand, here's what he said when I asked him to transcribe his own solo on "Panic Attack": "Ughh!!, no way! It would be too depressing! I'll leave that to someone else."
"When I recorded 'Panic Attack' for the first time I used a drum machine and the engineer said to me 'You'll never find a real drummer to play this.' When I heard (Steve) Michaud I gave him the tape of the drum machine part and he listened to it once. Then he proceeded to come into the studio and lay that part down in the first take. The part you hear on the CD is his first take! He wanted to do more but I wouldn't let him! He was amazing on that cut." Anyone care to transcribe the drum parts?
As mentioned earlier, there is only one track not written by Steve Hunt or Lucas Pickford. It is John McLaughlin's "The Wish," and you gotta hear this version. It's the one tune on which Lucas plays sarod, of which he says,"The only other instrument I play is the sarod, which is a traditional instrument from India. I've only been playing a year and am a rank beginner. I study with a tremendous teacher from India named Anirban das Gupta. I play sarod out of my love of Indian music and of the sound it has. I don't claim to be a sarodist quite yet though. Give me a few dozen more years!" When you go to Lucas's website, check out the quote from Ali Akbar Khan on his Sounds of India link. It would seem to me that Lucas has been playing sarod for at least 20 years.
* "album" is an archaic word. Of course they're still called albums. Think of a photo album as being an opus, a work. The musical work known as an album is now presented on a compact disc format, but it is still an album. Man, you guys and your semantics. (Also "man" & "guys" here does not imply gender.)
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