by Jeff Becker
Is Fusion on an upswing, well with all the quinquagenarian’s reliving their childhood, as most are becoming empty nesters, the answer would be a resounding YES! Thankfully there are young bucks like Brian Hudson, who has a strong rock background, that gives him that biting edge needed in raucous fusion, but with the edges of jazz giving it a cerebral smoothing of sensibility.
The notion of Next Level began in the fall of 2016 when Hudson teamed up with Randy Hoexter, who himself has released two jazz/fusion albums featuring Dave Weckl, Mike Stern and Jimmy Haslip, the two composed the music featured on the album. The goal was to compose eight tracks that have their own unique sound, but still capture the overall essence of jazz/fusion and contemporary jazz music. In my estimation that goal was achieved and more. There is a deep musical sense about the tunes, not just pyrotechnic playing, not that I am saying that’s not in there – because it is, but its done with a maturity that offers a profound musical experience too.
The band features, Randy Hoexter on keyboards and piano; bassist Adam Nitti, on four tracks (1,2,4 & 7); Joe Reda playing bass on the other four tracks (3, 5, 6, and 8); Sam Skelton on saxophones; Melvin Jones on trumpet; and Trey Wright on electric and acoustic guitars, and of course driving the band sound is Brian Hudson on drums.
I enjoyed “Seventy Eight,” its rhythmic approach offers a deep groove, and guitarist Trey Wright lends his clean electric sound, with solid attack – joined by Sam Skelton in a solid harmonic elevation of the melody. Hudson’s ability to create textural diversity, uplifting the sections of the tune, while Skelton colorizes with a solo that offers the muscularity of Brecker, and the precision of Redman all rolled into one is unmatched.
Another winner for me was “Ybor City,” the Latin percussion adds a nice focal point for the tune, and Hudson traverses once again many layered change-ups to keep the elevation of the tune moving. This time it is Hoexter that offers and flowing, inspired solo joined by Skelton once again for a stirring soprano solo. The group unites for a subdued sound and moody solo by Adam Nitti, followed by an unabashed solo by Hudson. Quick lines, creative ideas and flowing melodies all tied together by soulful solos with acute attention to chops, adds up to a welcomed listen.
Next Level is aptly titled, I look forward to Hudson’s next release, and what ideas he and his compadres come up with – certainly this is a seasoned outing, one I will savor until we meet again.