Review - Staring at the Sun

Artist: P'taah

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While the progressive, downtempo house movement leans on "jazziness" for its organic health, it's typically a watery notion of jazz that gets utilized. Chris Brann is no exception, as he rests the sound of his group P'taah on a blend of late '70s jazz-pop like Herbie Hancock and Return to Forever. Touches like the too-graceful sax line that adorns "Oldest Story" all but beg for a chardonnay on ice, and many of the tracks on "Staring at the Sun" fall prey to a smoothness that's OK for a chill, but not too exciting for the headphones. Brann is also steeped in the forward-thinking fusion of the ECM label's edgier releases (albums that combined spaciousness with strangeness) as well as some of the more fiery passages of Miles Davis' best fusion work. So this album -- despite some thoroughly saccharine moments -- does occasionally manage an interesting track or two. The swooning, bass-driven thrust of "Path" could have been an Eberhard Weber outtake, while the broken-beat funk on "Become Who You Are" is as pleasant as it is percussive. Brann has a long way to go before he makes an album that is as impressive as his idols, but at least he's on the right path.

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