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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Ozone Quartet

Nocturne

Review by Vivian Lee

I'd been looking forward to another Ozone Quartet album since hearing their first, Fresh Blood, last March. With that album, I'd found a band whose sound embodied many of the odd time signatures, and eclectic influences of progressive rock married with fluid freeform jazz. With their second full length release, Nocturne, I found many of the elements which attracted me to their music, and a little bit more. Their music had taken a funky groove in some places and an ethnic flavor in others. The disc also shows a new subtlety and refinement to the arrangement and selection of songs.

Nocturne is a subtle feast of eclectic sounds; it makes the listener take the time to savor the multilayered nuances of each instrument. Overall this is a CD that one can't get tired of listening to- something new is heard and learned with repeated playing. If you're merely looking for a generic lovemaking soundtrack, you may be wasting your time and the music is likely to be lost on you. This is muse music by which that alpha state is reached, and creative neurons are sparked. It is music that is evocative and emotional as well as technically accomplished. If you are a fan of instrumental prog-jazz-funk fusion with an ethnic flavor featuring violin and Chapman Stick, this release belongs in your collection. Ozone Quartet is an all instrumental fusion band from North Carolina. Formed in 1992, the present lineup is Hollis Brown (electric violin), Kenny Thompson (acoustic/electric guitar), Wayne Leechford (Chapman Stick) and Francis Dyer (percussion, drums). Check out the band's site at www.ozonequartet.com.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Watcher
The Watcher starts out low and slow it then evolves into an upbeat tempo. Violin and Chapman Stick exchange forefront interplay with drums and guitar in places. This is a song that's easy to listen to, especially on a long road trip.
Mutoid Man
This number also stands out, not just because of its interesting title, which implies capability to alter or change. This theme is reflected in the shifts from distorted sound effects to funky grooves; in the interplay of violin and guitar; and in the rhythm laid down by Stick and drums. This song rather reminds the listener of a live Liquid Tension Experiment type of improvisational jam, only more refined and reserved.
Flood
Another highlight, Flood starts with an Afro-pop sounding guitar intro and launches quickly into full jazz funk mode. I was nodding my head within seconds of hearing it, and hitting the repeat button more than just a few times. The organ accompaniment to the violin and strong Tony Levin-like Stick bass and percussion were great.
Backbone of Night
With its East Indian influenced violin and percussion, and interplaying acoustic and electric guitar work, this one is also well worth hitting the repeat button.
Mazzepa
The percussion in "Mazzepa", especially the Portnoyesque drum riff at the song's end is absolutely wonderful. Violin alternates between mellow and tautly energetic in this one.
Diamond Eye
Diamond Eye is a great showcase of Stick work. One can almost see fingers flying over the fretboard on this one. The Stick playing stands out as the tempo quickens in the middle of the song. The jazzy tone to this track's slow start and end is aided by the interplay of drums, violin, and vibraphone.
The Real Thing
Featuring quiet acoustic guitar chords intermingling with mellow violin melody, sonorously low Stick bass and percussion played with just the right amount of restraint finish out the mix. This is another track that is easy on the ears without being boring.
The Getaway
This cut has a hurried, fast and furious tempo. The respective instruments are wildly all over the place, giving the piece a 70s action soundtrack feel, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Moss
The guitar work at the start of moss mix well with the violin melody parts throughout. The middle part's guitar work is mellow and reminds me a bit of George Benson. This guitar sound goes well with the violin. The Stick bass is muted but still audible, a pleasant tease for the ears.
Circus After Hours
This is a decent track that is fun to listen to, particularly for the Stick playing. It starts out energetic and a bit frantic, then settles into a slow groove that lasts throughout the rest of the song.
Dusk Creatures
This one showcases jazzy percussion mixed with bluesy violin which almost resembles saxophone. Santana-esque guitar work completes the scene.
Broquen
This is one of many strong tracks on Nocturne. Its languid aspect is achieved by a warm toned violin performed in unison with the Chapman Stick. The addition of percussion and bluesy guitar bring a stirring effect to the piece.
 
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