Jerry Goodman &
Nemperor/Atlantic NE 430
by Bob Palmer
Two-fifths of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra (Jerry Goodman & Jan Hammer) and one fourth of Return to Forever (Stanley Clarke) have their say on the debut releases from Nat Weiss's Nemperor label, and it sounds as if the first real alternative to Columbia's jazz/rock juggernaut may be shaping up. Goodman and Hammer have chosen to work as a duo, achieving an orchestral sound with multiple overdubs, while Clarke has gathered an unusually distinguished and compatible crew of sidemen. The resulting albums differ from each other, but both albums are different enough from those of Columbia artists like Weather Report, Herbie Hancock and the current Mahavishnu Orchestra to suggest at least a mini trend.
"Country & Eastern music" is Jan Hammer's half-in-jest name for whatever it is that happens when he combines his keyboards and drums with Goodman's stringed instruments. By playing and overdubbing together in the studio the two musicians manage to avoid the artificial, static qualities of Mike Oldfield's work, and some of their textures and effects transcend the country and the Eastern, achieving the uniquely sublime. All the wrinkles aren't out of the idea yet. The occasional vocals, well intentioned though they may be, appear thin after the technologically beefed up instrumental sound of the duo. There are hulking, polymetric excursions that will inevitably draw accusations of cashing in on the old Mahavishnu sound. But there are also some devastatingly effective sonic landscapes, and as a whole the album is a surprisingly musical use of the easy-to-abuse multiple overdubbing technique.