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Michael Brook

Albino Alligator

Format: CD   Release Date: 02/24/1997
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Translating Brook's evocative guitar art into soundtrack music for a Kevin Spacey-directed neo-noir thriller might seem an unusual choice. However, his work here turns into an interesting blend of his own style and smoky late night jazz and darker, moodier incidental guitar, interspersed with a variety of other instrumental touches. One of his sharpest moves lies in the mixing of performers he brings to the effort. Besides stand-up bass and sax, the ney, udu, and srinivas guitar figure into the rotating lineup of instruments he and his various collaborators tackle. Brook himself also plays keyboard on nearly all the tracks, as well as handling a good amount of the bass and drum programming. Given the project's origins, it's striking if not totally surprising that most of the pieces hold up as well on their own as do Brook's separate efforts. "Albo Gator" underscores the collaborative nature of the project, with some of Christian Forte's lines from the movie played over the gentle chime of the piece, provided in large part by Jason Lewis' tuned percussion. "Preparation" alone is worth the investigating, one of Brook's serene guitar drones and gentle performances, leading into a Morricone-western melody echoing into the distance. Hints of the intense plucking and drive that he brings to many of his pieces bubble under the mix in contrast. "Arrival" starts the album and sets the tone for both film and disc wonderfully, merest hints of Brook's trademark style coming through as a four-performer setup conjures up ghosts of legendary past jazz-noir scores. "Miscalculation" is a more upbeat if no less mood-setting effort, Hafez Modirzadeh's short sax tones and Lewis' quick work on tabla and tom-drum setting the tone. A fine, unexpected touch comes with the final track, a cover of the old Harold Arlen number "Ill Wind," with Jimmy Scott and Michael Stipe on vocals and Flea on bass. ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi

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