/Jeff Gauthier/Steuart Liebig/G.E. Stinson.
Personnel: Gregg Bendian (piano, glockenspiel, drums); G.E. Stinson (electric guitar, dobro); Steuart Liebig (contra guitar); Jeff Gauthier (violin, electric violin).
Recording information: Mad Hatter Studios, Los Angeles, CA (02/20/2000/04/30/2000).
On their debut release, the four members of Bone Structure attempt a synthesis of electric fusion jazz and instrumental prog rock, with an additional touch of free improv. Individually, all four musicians have impressive credentials. Drummer and occasional keyboardist Gregg Bendian has a strong background in both fusion and avant-garde jazz (he has drummed with Cecil Taylor, among others). Violinist Jeff Gauthier has recently recorded under his own name (the excellent Mask), and plays with a compelling lyricism. Guitarist G.E. Stinson, a consistently inventive musician, was co-founder of the innovative world fusion band Shadowfax. Bassist Steuart Leibig also has substantial skills as a sound manipulator, and his various treatments often enrich the textures of the music.
Bone Structure's professed modus operandi is spontaneous collective improvisation, but only three short tracks on the CD qualify as classic free improv, where group members react in real time to each other's ideas, concentrating on timbres and textures without benefit of any underlying melody line or regular rhythmic structure. Just as well, perhaps, because this kind of musical spontaneity can easily become aimless and self-indulgent. In fact, most pieces on the CD (and certainly all the longer ones) are driven by Bendian's strong percussion grooves. Bass, drums, violin, and electric guitar, all hover around the central driving rhythmic pulse, while Bendian also supplies a single-line keyboard melody on "Lock It Down," and Gauthier and Stinson duel quite satisfactorily on the closing "Mutoscope." The CD's later heavy metal tracks are reminiscent of late-'90s King Crimson, and several other pieces, specifically "Ether Or" and "Spirit Box," have a gently mysterious world music quality with intimations of The Weather Report. If Bone Structure could be faulted at this stage of their development, it would be for a general lack of melodic invention and, by extension, a lack of memorable solos. None of the four players really distinguish themselves as a soloist (partly because the lack of melodies provides little to work with), and while the group locks into unison riffs on a number of pieces, interaction among the musicians is less than it might be. The playing still has a nice energy to it, but if the group stirred a little more structure and melodic invention into their collective improvisation mixing bowl, they might leave the listener with a more lasting impression. ~ Bill Tilland