Dutch drummer/composer Sebastiaan Cornelissen's latest album U-Turn (Abstract Logix) is a fantastic collection of modern jazz fusion songs, featuring some of the genre's best musicians. The music is at times reminiscent of Tribal Tech, or Secrets-era Allan Holdsworth, and is loaded with cutting edge musicianship. You may know Cornelissen as a member of the band One Spirit with guitarist Richard Hallebeek and bassist Frans Vollink, both of whom make appearances here. This trio of Dutchmen have collaborated on many projects in the past, and are responsible for some of the best jazz fusion to come out of Europe in recent years.
All of U-Turn's tracks were written by Cornelissen, except for "England Green" which is a Gary Husband song. In general, this album is more about Cornelissen the composer than Cornelissen the drummer. There's unquestionably some great drumming here, especially on tracks like "Fruits and Fibre," and the aforementioned "England Green." However, U-Turn is a fairly keyboard-heavy disc, and is largely devoid of the drum solos and odd time sections you'd expect from a typical drummer's solo album. It also happens to be one of the great guitar albums of the year, due to the inclusion of some top-notch players.
Richard Hallebeek provides some of the best guitar moments on the album with his solos on "Up There" and "Squash." With a style that falls somewhere between Scott Henderson and Allan Holdsworth, Hallebeek is always a treat to listen to, but he's particularly impressive here. He's a great improviser with a deep vocabulary, and his fast legato runs are always executed with a crystal-clear attack. There's some amazing straight-ahead(ish) jazz guitar on U-Turn as well, courtesy of Leonardo Amuedo on the track "Stevenage." Imagine a George Benson-meets-Mike Stern sort of approach, fueled by alarming amounts of Red Bull, and you'll get the idea.
Another standout track is "4 Hands" - a breezy jazz tune that is essentially a showcase for soloists Hadrien Feraud (bass) and Mike Outram (guitar). I found Outram's tone to be a bit tinny here, but he plays some of the wildest guitar on the album as he navigates the changes with ease. As an improviser, Feraud is about as exciting as they come on the bass guitar, and he just kills it on this track. He also appears on the song "Snox!," where guitarist Susan Weinert, and flugel horn player Gerard Presencer take impressive solos.
"All So Familiar" needs mentioning as well, as it features two ex-Tribal Tech members - Scott Kinsey on keys, and Gary Willis on bass (via loops). It should be no surprise then that this track has a vibe similar to that classic group's best band-improvised pieces.
The album closes out with the aptly-named "Last One," which features one of contemporary fusion's best guitar players - Alex Machacek. Machacek takes a typically great solo - lots of smooth phrases through the changes, with a few outside lines dropped in for good measure. Tom Kennedy turns in some great bass work on this track as well.
There's a lot of great writing on U-Turn - songs like "Fruits and Fibre" and "Squash" have melodies that will stick with you long after you hear them. Having said that, this album will also be heralded for how much playing there is on it. Cornelissen gives his perfect-choice guest soloists plenty of room to stretch out over his changes, while the man himself is mostly content to let his sophisticated compositions do the talking for him. U-Turn is a major accomplishment for Cornelissen, and it's one of the year's best jazz fusion releases.
Sebastiaan Cornelissen - U-Turn (Abstract Logix)
Sebastiaan Cornelissen (Drums, Guitar, Programming, Additional Keys)
Alex Machacek (Guitar Solo) 14
Susan Weinert (Guitar Solo) 13
Mike Outram (Guitar Solo) 5
Richard Hallebeek (Guitar Solo) 10, 12
Leonardo Amuedo (Guitar Solo) 9
Gary Husband (Keys) 2, 3, 7
Scott Kinsey (Keys) 8
Steve Hunt (Keys) 10, 11
Hadrien Feraud (Bass) 5, 13
Frans Vollink (Bass) 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10
Jimmy Earl (Bass) 12
Tom Kennedy (Bass) 14
Johnny Copland (Bass) 12
Gary Willis (Bass Loops) 8
Ruud Cornelissen (Bowed Acoustic Bass) 4
Gerard Presencer (Flugel Horn) 1, 6, 13
1. Can Do
2. Fruits and Fibre
5. 4 Hands
7. England Green
8. All So Familiar
10. Up There
11. Bread Maker
14. Last One