British guitarist Allan Holdsworth may be surprised to learn that the description "Holdsworthian" is now current in American jazz journalism. It's invoked on this album to set a context for his Texan counterpart Jimi Tunnell, who swirls through some of Jack Cooper's arrangements on Waldrop's debut as a big-band leader. Liner-note writer Bill Milkowski suggests that Tunnell helps give the music "a visceral, post-Weather Report energy" and the sounds whipped up are definitely in the same meteorological category.
Tunnell sometimes gives a fusion lift to what might have been ordinary band orchestrations. He's not alone: Waldrop himself is no slouch at the kit, plays vibes on his ballad "Inner Truth" to sedate the band's explosive tendencies and finds room in the kitchen department for former Weather Report percussionist Jose Rossy, who's named on five tracks but has a variable influence.
Solo-by-rote procedures and opaque if bright tone-colouring stand to be subverted in modern big-band arranging. Some of the tunes here, however, are plodders and it's only when original elements come together - vibes, guitar, vocalese, percussion, melody - and dictate textural quality as well as motion that everything works, and works well.
It's a worthy "First" for Waldrop by any standard. One would like to see Cooper dissolve rigid big-band structures even more. He obviously senses that fusion elements combined with vocalese can do the trick, and his choice of solo instruments elsewhere is generally astute.