Fusion jazz: light, breezy melodies spun on the loom of soft brass and shimmering electronics; Latin percussion yielding to muted funk; uplifting or forgettable music depending on taste; see also Chuck Mangione, Spyro Gyra or Frank Ferruccci.
Ferrucci? Truth is, apart from a lot of airplay, there isn't much that separates this keyboardist from fusion's front runners. With the release of "Jewel Eyes," his new album, even that gap should be closing soon.
Bright, translucent melodies are Ferrucci's forte. On the title track and elsewhere, electric keyboards and soprano saxophone tantalize the ears with lingering phrases; other tunes such as "Que Tu Quieres" and "Free" engage the feet with the off-center Latin rhythms of Brazilian drummer Portinho and Cuban congero Daniel Ponce.
The highlight of the album, however, is unquestionably saxophonist Gato Barbieri's guest spot on Ferrucci's moody "Aurora." Barbieri's dark tone projects a depth of expression one rarely hears in fusion music. Seekers of more original, inspired and robust jazz should probably look elsewhere. Fusion fans, though, are likely to consider "Jewel Eyes" a gem.
ON RECORD, ON STAGE
JEWEL EYES -- (Wren WRN 8202).
FRANK FERRUCCI -- Monday at ## at Blues Alley.