Beside his participation in Circa: and being a former member of Yes and World Trade, Billy Sherwood is also known for initiating tribute albums to honour other bands or musicians. In the past the Cleopatra label released albums for Thin Lizzy, The Beatles and Pink Floyd, just to name a few. This time the American multi-instrumentalist was offered a new challenge: to write and produce a jazz-rock fusion album, which he did under the name of The Fusion Syndicate. One of the main characteristics of this eponymous album is the strong combination of musicians with a different musical background in each song. In the opening piece Random Acts Of Science, progressive rock icon Rick Wakeman plays together with violinist Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra), jazz-rock bassist Jimmy Haslip (Yellowyackets, Allan Holdsworth) and saxophonist Nik Turner (Hawkwind).
I think Sherwood is a master in looking for the right people for the right song, although the basic parts are all played by him. In Stone Cold Infusion saxophonist Mel Collins (King Crimson, Camel) duels with guitarist Steve Stevens (Billy Idol, Bozzio Levin Stevens) and Jordan Rudes (Dream Theater). The rhythm-section is formed by master class drummer Billy Cobham and Colin Edward (Porcupine Tree). This piece sounds like' The Brecker Brothers meet Mahavishnu Orchestra' including some other weird elements. Another sample of fine craftsmanship is Molecular Breakdown. On this track you'll hear another nice bunch of musicians like saxophonist Jay Beckenstein (Spyro Gyra), bassist Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, Steve Vai) and drummer Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson), while the keyboard solos of David Sancious add a new dimension to the music of Jan Hammer. Billy Sherwood provides this song with fine guitar parts. In Particle Accelerations we hear guitar genius Larry Coryell (Eleventh House) duelling with Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater, Planet X) and smooth jazz sax player Eric Marienthal supported by drummer Chester Thompson (Genesis). It's amazing how these different styles all come together in just one song.
At The Edge Of The Middle has been built around the unique trumpet player Randy Brecker in combination with the so recognizable guitar playing of Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Kansas, Deep Purple) and Mahavishnu's Jim Beard on piano. The addition of bassist Percy Jones (Brand X) made this piece even better. In my opinion they create a real highlight. On Atom Smashing John Etheridge (Soft Machine) plays some inspired parts on his guitar, Tony Kaye (ex-Yes, Circa:) creates stunning keyboard passages, while the adventurous drumming of Chad Wackerman is the icing on the cake. This song is incredibly grooving and has almost a live atmosphere. The album finishes with In The Spirit Of..., in which you'll hear keyboardist Scott Kinsey (Tribal Tech) playing some of his characteristic sounds. Furthermore guitarist Steve Hillage (Gong), saxophonist Theo Travis (Steven Wilson Band) and bassist Justin Chancellor (Tool) participate in this piece.
Billy Sherwood deserves all the credits for this great album. He created a special jazz-rock and fusion record with instrumentalists that add something special in their own way, but Sherwood made all these different ingredients fit together. If you like a pleasant jazz-rock and fusion CD containing unlimited musical virtuosity, than this is it. I take my hat off for Billy Sherwood!
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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