Meet Reviewer Damian Erskine –
“Actual Fiction” & “Slaughterhouse 3”
The first few bars of Willis’ new release, “Actual Fiction” (2007) immediately reveal this CD to be no ordinary ride. Although seeming slightly “avant-garde” or “electronica” at first listen, a deeper examination reveals the impenetrable pocket, deep groove and flawless execution that we’ve come to expect from Willis. This is modern fusion at it’s fullest. The liner notes reveal two drummers (fellow Tribal Tech alum Kirk Covington and David Gomez) with Willis as credited with “everything else”. This is as much an exploration of groove and sound as it is a unique glimpse into the mind of one who is committed to speaking with his own voice without regard for the critics or those who wish to play it safe by staying within the confines of a specific genre. Thus, he has taken his music to new and exciting new realms. There is more than just bass pyrotechnics here. Although less song-based then previous releases, this is an exciting sonic journey… More “avant-groove” (if you will) than anything.
Willis’ 2006 release “Slaughterhouse 3” with Kirk Covington (drms) and Llibert Fortuny (sax) brilliantly treads a thin line between jazz, sonic experimentation and some seriously funky grooves. Of special note is Llibert Fortuny. He masterfully manipulates sound via an array of pedals and loops delivering hellish squeals, funky enveloped grooves, lush soaring lines and Hendrix-esque feedback. I especially appreciated the playful nature of his playing. Llibert is as solid and impressive technically as he is comic and entertaining. (For an example of his sense of humor, just look at his website: www.llibertfortuny.com).
But back to the rhythm section! Willis and Covington lay it down thick here. The grooves are anything but predictable — being reminiscent of everything from Medeski, Martin & Wood, and James Brown, yet leaning slightly more towards Weather Report or Bitches Brew. The grooves are addictive. I dare you to keep your head from bopping while marveling at what these guys doing! I’m sure this CD was as fun to make as it is to listen to. A highly recommended addition to your CD collection.