Clay Giberson's second album Upper Road takes listeners to a quiet place away from jazz's beaten path and seduces their senses admirably. The distinct sax and keyboard sounds tickle the upper octaves without being vivacious and without contradicting the soft mood of the supporting instruments. Portland native Giberson plays the piano and synth with the same creativity as Pat Metheny, who is regarded as a forefather of experimental electric jazz. The riffs are freely formed without venturing too far into jazz-scat.
Like Metheny, Giberson plays longer tracks that melt together - though none as long as Metheny's "Wichita Falls" masterpiece. What is surprising for an electric jazz album is that each instrument is given a chance to shine. No one element defines a particular track. The staples are represented - alto and soprano sax, bass, drums, woodwinds, piano, and, to a lesser extent, the clarinet and some vocals. At times, the woodwinds crawl along with the bass with a surreal, imperceptible flavour. The album was recorded live at a jazz bar in Giberson's hometown, although there's no audible trace of the audience. It's hard to say this has the overproduced sound of a studio album, though it's equally hard to sense its live qualities without some sound-ups from the crowd. The mood is so subtly intense it is possible the audience was muted with awe like I was. Upper Road is provocative, progressive electronica for anyone who likes classic jazz.