Colaiuta’s kick and high hat opened the album on “Hit Spot.” Fold in Whitty, Haislip and Richman and you’ve got the makin’s! Not only does Haislip handle to bass but produces the album, as well.
George Whitty contributes extraordinary keyboards to make any fusion aficionado stand up in salute. Jeff Beal on trumpet is a sweet addition to the track which, at 7:24, is the longest track of the album. It gives a broad vision of the shape of things to come.
“Seven Up” drops the fusion approach and becomes more melodic while that rhythm section keeps things lively. Joining Beal’s trumpet is Brandon Fields on sax and these two combine with Whitty and Richman for a little bit of a Jazz-Funk exercise.
Like all the tracks but one, Jeff Richman wrote “Chloe” and is more of a ballad which is taken up by the quartet alone. The pace is leisurely and sweet without losing itself in sentimentality. It is playful and energetic and thoughtful and, obviously, dedicated to his daughter.
Jan Hammer’s great composition “Oh, Yeah?” follows next with Jeff Lorber sitting in for Whitty. Jimmy Branly sits at the congas and the result must be exactly what Hammer had long ago envisioned. Richman is at a harmonic high and creates a fascinating version of the song with Richman taking over Hammer’s keyboard parts. A great swag track.
A complete reshuffling of the line-up occurs for “North Shore.” Anthony Jackson takes on the bass with Gary Novak on drums and Mike Stern doubling Richman on guitar. Gary Fukashima accompanies on acoustic piano and performs beautifully atop the driving rhythm section in support of Richman’s sweeping color. Josefine Löfgren provides lovely backing vocals that remind of the great vocalisations from Nana Vasconcelos. Richman and Fukashima are splendid together and equally reminiscent of Pat Metheny and Lyle Myles together.
Colaiuta and Whitty return for “One Last Kiss” with Dean Taba on acoustic bass and Mitchel Forman on acoustic piano. It is a more straight-up Jazz ballad with Richman alternating between the clean and the fuzzy so very compellingly. The support group is more subdued here as Richman takes true center-stage. There is a melancholy sweetness that is highlighted by Forman’s acoustic piano and Whitty’s swells and shimmers. So well done.
The original quartet returns with the addition of Scott Kinsey on piano for “Little Waves.” Whitty introduces a cool, churchy approach against Richman’s advancing and ascending lead guitar. Scott Kinsey’s piano gets a good solo turn backed by the staggered rhythms of Colaiuta. Jazz goes to church here.
“Solar Waves” keeps Haislip on bass but the drums are handled by George Borlai. Kinsey remains on the keyboards. The chord changes grab the listener’s attention throughout the piece. Haislip offers what sounds like a tip of the hat to John Wetton in a couple of spots. Kinsey gets some spotlight time and holds the door open for Richman’s coolest moments. The coda is smoking hot.
One of the most well-crafted pieces on the album is “Golden Arrow.” The core musicians are back with Beal on flugelhorn. The pearl-stringed doublets create a nice groove and Beal lights it up with that flugelhorn. Enter Jeff Richman who takes complete command. Haislip rejects the doublets and maintains a steady stride behind the theme, in step with Colaiuta.
It is a piece that seems predictable but the switched up drum patterns and bass runs stagger against the melodic line and creates something unexpected. Beal is fascinating in his pacing with Whitty and Richman. It is perhaps his standout moment on the album. It is also one of Richman’s greatest moments in an album full of great moments. The composition itself is a monument.
The album concludes with “Miles Per Hour.” The line-up for the finale is the same as on “North Shore” with the sole omission of Josefine Löfgren’s vocals. The title is probably in reference to Richman’s son named Miles.
It is a fun and raucous romp with exciting rhythms and Richman himself cutting swaths of merriment throughout the piece. The rhythms are more straight-forward here which allows greater emphasis on the melody and harmonies. A nice closer.
“Hotwire” is Jeff Richman’s seventeenth album as a leader and is as exciting as anything that has gone before in his 35+ year career. It is another grand meeting of compositions and performances. The supporting artists are absolutely top-flight and they are spot-on for Richman’s compositional mastery. Richman assumes whatever role the piece requires—lead or support—and the music is allowed to truly shine through. Fortunately, he has the virtuosity to meet or even exceed his writing brilliance.