Alessandro Bertoni is a keyboard player who lives in Los Angeles. While being a band member of his former band Aphelion, he met Derek Sherinian who became his musical mentor. Keyboard orientated albums are usually reviewed by one of my colleagues. However, when such an album is instrumental and tends to a style in which prog meets jazz and fusion, I'd like to review such albums as well. This time I'm really glad that I asked our main editor to deliver this album at my home.
Keystone is a rather short solo album that Alessandro Bertoni recorded in Sherinian's studio with the help of some of the best musicians in the genre. Bertoni invited guitarist Bret Garsed who's known for his participation in Uncle Moe's Space Ranch as well as from his solo albums and duo albums with TJ Helmerich . The Australian drummer Virgil Donati has played and recorded with many great musicians like Allan Holdsworth, Planet X, Tony MacAlpine and on the solo albums of Derek Sherinian, just to name a few. Finally bass monster Ric Fierabracci; he mostly plays on fusion albums and he accompanied artists like Chick Corea, Steve Smith and Scott Henderson.
So what can we expect from an album with such great musicians? Regarding the above-mentioned names, it's quite likely that the music will sound in the vein of Planet X. Indeed, Keystone stays pretty close to this majestic band, although there's also room for impressive bass parts which aren't common on the albums of Planet X. It kicks off with Megas Alexandros, a composition which is divided into three parts. It starts nice and in the vein of prog rock with plenty of room for individual solo spots. The second part shifts to fusion. Here Garsed definitely deserves respect for his tremendous guitar solo. During the third part Bertoni plays some fabulous parts on the Hammond organ thus making the third part the most accessible one. Pacifica Rampage tends a bit towards fusion wherein the guitar and keyboards compete for the best solo. In Terium Non Datur Donati's drumming dominates, but the drums are never mixed too much in the forefront. So you can stay focussed on the duels between the keyboards and the guitar; the outcome is a brilliant piece.
In Galactic Halo Ric Fierabracci gets all the room he needs to excel. His bass playing is really sublime. The Keystone Age holds a fine Derek Sherinian-like piano sound over a strong and adventurous rhythm section. The guitar parts are flawless again and fit perfectly to the keyboards and the piano. Magnolia Sunrise ends the album; it's an intense experience: only Bertoni on piano and keyboards accompanied by Fierabracci on fretless bass. A smooth end, but played with passion. Keystone has much more to offer than just a man and his keyboards. This album sounds much more as a real band effort.
Being a protégé of Derek Sherinian, Bertoni stays pretty close to the musical style of his mentor. I guess he's a versatile player and I hope that he will pursue a musical path of his own since he's able to do so. When he succeeds in creating his own musical identity I think he'll get the maximum rating of five stars, but for now it's only four stars, because his music is too similar to his mentor's style. However, don't hesitate if you like Planet X, Bret Garsed, Virgil Donati and Derek Sherinian's solo albums. If you do you can buy this album blindly.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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