TOM CHANG – Tongue & Groove

Raw Toast

Tom Chang: guitar; Greg Ward: alto sax; Jason Rigby: tenor sax; Chris Lightcap: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums; Akshay Anatapadmanabhan: kanjira, mridangam; Subash Chandran: konnakol

Here at Touching Extremes a grandiloquent presentation followed by a lesser artistic statement is always going to warrant a honest attempt to get closer to the truth. Based on the paperwork, I approached Tongue & Groove nearly expecting the second coming of Between Nothingness And Eternity. What was found instead is well-regulated (make that “overly polite”) fusion with declared Carnatic influences, although the leader was inspired by usual suspects Beck, Hendrix and Page as a youngster. Frankly speaking, the world is inundated by albums played with refined technical skills and replete with odd meters; what makes the difference in the current conditions is the “blood, sweat and tears” factor, sorely and conspicuously missing in this case. Respect must be earned: for example by showing heart and substance while chasing the gist of genuine significance. Glossy chops showcased with the same dandified unconcern of a Holiday Inn combo – in spite of the overdriven tone utilized in some rock-tinged tracks – will never push this writer to the emotional level needed after almost 50 years spent deep inside every kind of supposable vibrancy. Rhythmic complication for the sake of it – plus Mary Halvorson penning promotive notes in the press release – are not enough for a fast conversion. By and large, an unmemorable debut containing a little bit of everything, including a truly awful postcard blues called “Bar Codes”. As Howard Jones used to sing, things can only get better.

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