"Barry Cleveland's third album as a leader finds the renowned guitarist and composer exploring the nuances of rhythm. Drawing from a varied palette of traditions, timbres and tonalities, Volcano bridges the impressionist leanings of his previous releases with a more audacious, kinetic approach. Listeners will appreciate the disc's pulsing rhythms, inter-weaving melodies, and layers of evocative atmospheres." —Anil Prasad, Innerviews
"Cleveland & Friends compass their way through some uncharted sonic territory while embracing a variety of worldly grooves and influences. From a purely textural and orchestral standpoint—that being the ample diversity of sounds, colors, and the instrumentation—the album is an absolute delight to listen to. All in all, this is an imaginative, somewhat heady album, yet with plenty of deep-rooted rhythms to keep the whole thing from exploding into the upper thermosphere. Cleveland’s sonic cyclorama is a real treat." —Robert Kaye , Abstract Logix
"A series of rhythm-based pieces that draw on inspirations from a multitude of sources to create a sonic landscape that becomes an entity unto itself. It's an album that leans towards Eastern harmonies and yet clearly comes from players with a Western background. And, in the end, it's an appealingly multilayered aural experience that continues to reveal new things with every listen." —John Kelman, All About Jazz
released November 11, 2004
Barry Cleveland: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, Ebowed guitar, pulse guitar, bowed guitar, bowhammered guitar, synthesizer, synth bass, Vocalizer
Michael Pluznick: congas, shaker, bongos, clay pot, gourds, low drum, , talking drums, bata, box drums, anklungs, clavé
Michael Manring: electric bass, Ebowed harmonizer bass
Norbert Stachel: flute, alto flute, bass flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, sopranino saxophone, piccolo, EWI, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet
Michael Masley: bowhammer cymbalom, reed slide, Lokota slide, phenix
Lygia Ferra: voice
Arthur Hull: congas
Kim Atkinson: congas
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Barry Cleveland is an associate editor of Guitar Player magazine and, as such, could easily be mistaken for being more concerned with the logistics, technical rigours and, well, guitar godhood of someone who spends a lot of time focused on the craft of the instrument, rather than its potential for musicality. And there's little doubt that Cleveland has a full command of his instrument, both as a player and a shaper of sound, utilizing all manner of processing to create sounds that are at times distinctly un-guitarlike.
But what is most revealing about his approach, as evidenced by Volcano, is that Cleveland sees the guitar more as a means to an end rather than the end itself, and that places him firmly in the ranks of players more concerned with musicality than virtuosity. While some of what Cleveland does could be called fusion, it's not the kind that one normally associates with guitar antics, lightning fast soloing, and unnecessarily complex arrangements that are more about posturing than meaning and truth.
Cleveland is clearly intrigued by rhythm and its potential to open things up for thematic exploration. While there is plenty of improvising on Volcano, it's not in the context of defined solos. Instead, by using a bevy of percussion to explore African and Afro-Haitian rhythms, mostly courtesy of Michael Pluznick, who forms the core quartet with bassist extraordinaire Michael Manring and versatile woodwind multi-instrumentalist Norbert Stachel, Cleveland is then freed to draw on other sounds, natural and otherwise, to create a world view that is far more inclusive than exclusive.
In the same way that guitarist Steve Tibbetts and percussionist Marc Anderson have created their own take on world music, arguably most successfully on the 1994 ECM recording The Fall of Us All and 2002's A Man About a Horse, Cleveland combines Western harmonies with those from farther afield to create an intriguing blend that can best be described by what it isn't rather than what it is. It isn't fusion per se, but it has some fusion elements, in particular some of Cleveland's guitar tones; it isn't exactly progressive, yet some of the complexities and thematic development might make it so; it isn't specifically world music although the multirhythmic approach, melodies, and some textures certainly would place it within that definition; and it isn't jazz by any stretch of the imagination, yet collective improvisation plays a large part.
So what, in the final analysis, is Volcano? It's a series of rhythm-based pieces that draw on inspirations from a multitude of sources to create a sonic landscape that becomes an entity unto itself. It's an album that leans towards Eastern harmonies and yet clearly comes from players with a Western background. And, in the end, it's an appealingly multilayered aural experience that continues to reveal new things with every listen.
Style: World fusion/progressive Sound: ***1/2 Composition: ***1/2 Musicianship: **** Performance: **** Total rating: 15 (out of 16)
Sometimes spacey, oftentimes jazzy, this fascinating take on ethnic-flavored progressive jazz brims with an Afro-Haitian multi-rhythmic undercurrent that is nothing short of infectious, beguiling, and ultimately seductive. Guitarist Barry Cleveland assembled a crack team of musicians that really goes to town on Volcano, including bassist extraordinaire Michael Manring, conga player/percussionist Michael Pluznick and vocalist Lygia Ferra. Flute and sax add to the mind-bending mix, full of complex little instrumental nuances and clever twists of melody. The multi-dimensionality (hmm, first time I've used that term) of this album is impressive. Not only is there a lot going on most of the time, the music also has room to breathe. Things open with the happy melodicism of "Makanda" and flow through varied tones and moods. A favorite to these ears is "Secret Prescriptions of the Bedroom" featuring Ferra's sensuous vocals. Other contrasts include the spacey ambience of "Obsidian Night," and the head-trippin', psychedelic swirl of "Dervish Circles." Yet, whatever stylistic shift is hinted at on this disc, you're never far from its jazz/ethnic foundation. Cool stuff!
Barry Cleveland's third album as a leader finds the renowned guitarist and composer exploring the nuances of rhythm. Drawing from a varied palette of traditions, timbres and tonalities, Volcano bridges the impressionist leanings of his previous releases with a more audacious, kinetic approach. Listeners will appreciate the disc's pulsing rhythms, inter-weaving melodies, and layers of evocative atmospheres.
For this outing, San Francisco Bay Area guitarist Barry Cleveland has enlisted a troop of comrades in his effort to bridge the gulf between western musical idioms and those beyond these shores. Though all are characterized by rhythmic grooves derived from non-Western sources, be it African, Latin, or Middle Eastern, each of these 10 tracks takes on a unique flavor of its own. This begins with the arsenal and artistry of percussionist Michael Pluznick who (along with an occasional army of percussionists) joins Cleveland on the basic tracks, joined by bass god Michael Manring whose work throughout is nothing less than astounding. Witness his amazing playing on the title track or the lightning fast lines on "Rhumbatism."
Cleveland's guitar provides many of the leads and textures, ranging from frisky African lines ("Makanda") to buzzing Frippian leads ("Ophidian Waves") to waves of soundscapes ("Obsidian Night"), though he never takes the spotlight exclusively for himself. Joining him on many pieces is flute and reeds wizard Norbert Stachel who delivers performances that are very jazz-informed while remaining fresh and primal. Lygia Ferra lends deeply sensual vocals to two songs, best captured in the sweaty intensity of "Dervish Circles," where she is joined by Maxwell Taylor for a performance that I'll bet left everyone reaching for a cigarette once it was over.
Though his contributions are often overshadowed by his guests (Manring especially), this is nonetheless a remarkable collection, and further establishes Barry Cleveland as one of the most creative guitarists of our time.
Who in the world is Barry Cleveland? It’s not a common name among World Music devotees. Nor, perhaps Jazz Heads or Music Electronique Necromancers. Something should be done about that; hopefully this review will set some things right.
Barry Cleveland’s highly imaginative and resplendent guitar playing incorporates elements from a panoply of sources —including, but certainly not limited to psychedelic special f/x, progressive rock, ambient and new age soundscapes, world, jazz, funk and other (re)sources. Like Jimmy Page, for instance, he sometimes bows his electric guitar. To that, add Cleveland’s keen command of digital and analog recording studio devices and techniques. All told, you’ve a pretty talented cat on your hands.
On Volcano, Cleveland surrounds himself with some gifted musicians as well—most notably, electric bass master Michael Manring—along with percussionist Michael Pluznick, and Norbert Stachel on acoustic and electronic woodwind instruments, as well as a few other guest artists spangled on varying tracks. Cleveland & Friends compass their way through some uncharted sonic territory while embracing a variety of worldly grooves and influences. From a purely textural and orchestral standpoint—that being the ample diversity of sounds, colors and the instrumentation—the album is an absolute delight to listen to. There are plenty of various and sundry aural phenomena to keep one satiated. Although for those who prefer more ornate musical arrangements, parts of this album may seem somewhat redundant, as most of Cleveland’s songs rarely recapitulate between two or more sections.
Notwithstanding that compositional criticism, fans of the latter-day King Crimson will get into this album, as there are plenty of Fripp/Belew-like guitarisms meandering about. Manring’s salient fretless bass work is also a treat to behold, with hints of Percy Jones’ outside approach to the low end springing forth. Those fortunate to have once heard Steve Tibbets’ innovative album, Northern Songs, will undoubtedly appreciate Cleveland’s Volcano as well.
The acoustic percussion tracks, as on the title song, provide a great juxtaposition to the perpetual concussion of electronica. There are some noteworthy (for lack of a better word, we’ll call them) World Beat grooves on this album, as on "Rhumbatism," "Makanda," and "Dark Energy." All in all, this is an imaginative, somewhat heady album, yet with plenty of deep-rooted rhythms to keep the whole thing from exploding into the upper thermosphere. Cleveland’s sonic cyclorama is a real treat. To quote Oliver Twist, "Please, Sir, may I have some more?"
Guitarist and music journalist Barry Cleveland has been recording steadily, both solo and participating in other musicians' projects, since his debut album was released on Larry Fast's Audion Recording Company label in 1986.
Barry's intention with his latest release, Volcano, is to explore music based on African and Afro-Haitian rhythms, fused with stylistic influences that include progressive rock, jazz, ambient and myriad "world musics" (quoting from the promo sheet). Reading that the instrumentation throughout the album is primarily made up of electric guitar, bass, flute/sax/winds and percussion, I was surprised at the range of sounds and effects the musicians create. The mindbending thrum of Michael Manring's bass is a key ingredient, while Barry's guitar produces a range of tonal delights, the result being a space-jazz-progressive-psychedelic stew that at times occupies realms similar to ethno and ambient jazz artists like Steve Tibbetts and Steve Lawson, and at others bears similarities to British festie psych bands like Ozric Tentacles and Krom Lek.
Though mostly instrumental, Lygia Ferra's beautiful chanting vocals add to the cosmic factor on "Secret Prescriptions Of The Bedroom," a song that straddles the line between ethnic flavored jazz and Eastern influenced psychedelia. I also dig the male/female vocal combination of Ferra and Max Taylor on the aptly titled "Dervish Circles." Congas galore propel the rhythmic pulse of "Black Diamond Express," with its Shadowfax-like dreamy and uplifting world music feel and Fripp styled guitar patterns. I love both the hypnotic wailing and dreamy singing guitar sounds on "Ophidian Waves," played against a throbbing rhythmic pulse. "Obsidian Night" goes deep into space with even more killer guitar. Both these tracks are highlights of the set.
Overall there's LOTS happening here and Volcano will easily appeal to a varied crowd, including prog rock fans, world music lovers who want adventure—and certainly space rock and psychedelic fans who have a taste for jazz and ambient music. The music is intricate... seductive... trance inducing... and your body will want to MOVE.
Talking drums. Box drums. Congas. Bongos. These are the first words that come to mind when listening to the music on Volcano, Barry Cleveland's third studio release. The feel of Cleveland's music - a combination of Afro-Haitian rhythms mixed with jazz and acid rock - is best described as a drum-circle gone bonkers. Throw into the mix a myriad of flute, clarinet and electronic synth solos with Cleveland's quirky guitar style and you have the ingredients that make up an avant-garde masterpiece.
While this is not a live album, the freewheeling and improvisational attitudes prevalent on each track make you wonder if it all was done in one perfect take. "Makanda" starts the album off with an energetic "Irish jig" influenced melody sandwiched in between a flute solo and electronic noise. Breezy flakiness gives way to icy sternness on "Tongue of Fire," a tenebrous and more repetitive number that is marked by an acoustic guitar and clarinet melding together in dark harmony. The laidback "Ophidian waves" brings the album to a hypnotic dream state with the talking drums providing the main theme and the bass anchoring each chord change with one long sustained note. "Rhumbatism" rounds the album out with funky guitar chords flanked by bass and flute solos, giving a glimpse of what Cleveland's music would sound like if he stuck to a more standard rock format.
Cleveland's eclectic and innovative third album is defined by superb musicianship and the ability to focus open ended jams into 5 minute long songs without compromising quality. However, this is not simple music to groove to. If you are looking for uncluttered rock that is heavy on lyrics and light on solos, you have come to the wrong place. If something a little more experimental and far from ordinary is what you dig, then Volcano is definitely worth a listen.set.
GROUND & SKY
Although Barry Cleveland has been making music for some two decades now, he's only now exploded onto the progressive rock scene, with reviews in all sorts of prog publications and an in-depth interview in Exposé 29. Not sure if he hired a promoter or what, but he's big news all of a sudden it seems, and deservedly so. Volcano is Cleveland's latest effort, an exploration of the fusion and space-rock persuasion grounded in a world music background.
All of the pieces here are outgrowths of the hypnotic rhythms of percussionist Michael Pluznick, rhythms identified by Cleveland in interviews as African and Afro-Haitian. Upon these invariably interesting rhythmic backgrounds, Cleveland plays a flexible, melodic guitar style that most often reminds me of Robert Fripp's precise picking in the Discipline era. And while this has been done before, what sets Volcano apart are the contributions from some of the backing musicians. Michael Manring is present on bass, and he is his usual virtuoso self, sometimes stealing the show with his phenomenal, often melodic playing. However, for me it's Norbert Stachel's wind instruments that really lend this album a unique feel. Sometimes jazzy, often foreign, his playing is unimpeachable and his contributions are always surprising on some level.
While the tracks on Volcano share a clear affinity with one another, namely Pluznick's steady percussion, Cleveland squeezes a wide array of sounds from his guitars, and the presence of winds and, on two tracks, rather sensuous and entrancing vocals, always keeps things interesting. This is a fine release for the space-rock and world fusion crowd; and kudos to Cleveland for making a big splash in both the music on this album and the promotion for it.
DEAD EARNEST (U.K.)
From one of the most underrated guitarists and composers around today, this album stands as a testament to his immense talents as composer, player and arranger, with a seriously strong set of instrumental tracks that are propelled by the stunning rhythm section of Michael Manring on bass and Michael Pluznick on drums and percussion. It opens with a sprightly piece of almost South American influenced music, sounding a bit like a souped-up answer to parts of Jade Warrior's Way Of The Sun album, with resonant deep electric bass, strident congas and percussion, stirring electric guitar and lead melodies from flute and EWI, the whole thing strong and instantly enjoyable for all its five minutes.
The pace decelerates a little for the near six minutes of “Tongue Of Fire” and here there's a more Middle Eastern ambience to the whole thing with chunky African-sounding drums and percussion, chiming electric guitars, deep strong bass, and leads from clarinet, acoustic guitar, EWI and cymbalom, all combining to produce this expansive sounding mix of exotic fusion and sinuous melodic content, with a strong, driving bass and percussion combination propelling the whole thing along to perfection.
“Secret Prescriptions Of The Bedroom” continues this feel, with equal verve and passion, only this time adds a soaring female vocal to the rumbling bass, clattering percussion, deep clarinet, soaring flute and chiming guitars, another exotic but simply fantastic musical setting, once again the production bringing out every strong, glorious and melodic-sounding facet of the richly arranged and horizon-stretching musical canvas.
“Black Diamond Express,” as the name suggests, drives along on express train rhythms of drums, percussion and sonorous electric bass, again the Jade Warrior presence being thought of, if not a direct influence, and another expansive, stirring musical travelogue ensues, this time with leads from Fripp-like guitar, soaring saxes and lush flutes as the multi-conga rhythms prove addictive and engaging, the whole thing rising to a climax that is positively jaw-dropping, the sax work simply breathtaking.
At assorted paces, in various settings but consistent with flow, feel, warmth, passion and strength, a further six tracks continue the flavor of the album so far, and if what I've described to now has whetted your musical appetite, you'll be in exotic fusion heaven when you hear the rest of it. There's simply not a bad or wasted second on this album, and it's one you just have to hear for instant and long-term musical pleasure - a gem!!
To record this album, guitarist Barry Cleveland has surrounded himself with a numerous staff of musicians, among whom most remarkable are Michael Manring, Norbert Stachel and Michael Masley. The fresh, daring style of Barry Cleveland finds itself thus reinforced by the innovative artistic temperament of his collaborators. By breaking barriers and patterns, the music in this CD takes us to an intense journey that encompasses elements of Jazz-Rock, Ambient and World Music.
If one wants to describe the music of Barry Cleveland on Volcano, then one is suddenly beset by difficulties: because so many of the elements are individually pronounced, it avoids being pigeonholed into a more exact classification. The album reveals new age and ethno influences (I think particularly of the polyrhythmic percussion instruments) as well as folk influences and, last but not least by means of Michael Manring's unbelievable monster bass, clearly fusion elements (on "Dark Energy" with inescapably audible borrowings from Weather Report or Return to Forever), sometimes even in strange combination with Soundscapes ("Ophidian Waves"). To boil Volcano down by describing it as a bare fusion album doesn't work either, because it is simply not fair to such wonderful exotic pieces as "Secret Prescriptions of the Bedroom" (wonderfully sung by Lygia Ferra) or "Dervish Circles" (again with Lygia Ferra, and here with Lou Maxwell Taylor in a mysterious-sounding vocal improvisation).
We thus forget the categories completely and concentrate on enjoying the music, because Volcano is indeed, above all, a highly musical album weaving together an array of style-rules which, operating both with and sometimes also consciously against one another, produces a sound-characteristic equally virtuostic and entertaining. But beyond what the aforementioned Michael Manring ensures, Cleveland's diverse guitar work (arabesque, Soundscapish, very nuanced and, prog-be-thanked, 100% cliche-free...) and, naturally, the multiplicity of exotic instruments deployed here, produce the unifying principle [Eingesetz]. One is quite agreeable to carry forward in passing that the album also still sounds marvelous thereby. A completely pleasing album.
—Sal Pichireddu (gist translation from the German)
With his new work Volcano, his third album, the American guitarist Barry Cleveland attempts and achieves in every respect an exploration of rhythm. Accompanied by able musicians from the San Francisco Bay Area, Cleveland puts forward ten compositions in which his six strings are engaged above all in a work of accompaniment or improvisation, while the rhythm instruments remain at the center of attention. The percussion is something of the first order (the truly excellent work of Michael Pluznick) with the reprise of African or Afro-haitian rhythms, and the virtuostic bass of Michael Manring acts as a perfect ring of conjunction between the pulsating ethnic music at its base and the influx of progressive, fusion, funk and modern and technological sound that may be pointed out continually through the album. The meshing between the various genres and between very diverse instruments (sax, flute, clarinet and various atypical instruments are well presented) favors the diffusion of a particular atmosphere, aflame and achieving a just balance between electric and acoustic sounds. In more than 50 minutes there emerges a total (or complete) music, a music without barriers, which includes in its elaboration a certain number of influences from which also the musicians' technical abilities are made clearly to appear. Volcano is a disc which can be seen as a composite ideal which permits the encounter of diverse cultures and styles, and from which there gushes a vibrant and modern music, put forward with a just dose of fantasy and which, also not presenting characteristics or canons (if one may speak of canons) typical of some branch of progressive music, extends a creative approach, evidenced by the absence of well delinated boundaries, to which this may be traced.
—Peppe Di Spirito (gist translation from the Italian)
EXCERPTS FROM ADDITIONAL VOLCANO REVIEWS
Barry Cleveland combines world music with Western structures a bit in the way of Jon Hassell, Tony Levin, and Peter Gabriel (but without the vocals).
—Jurriaan Hage, Axiom of Choice (The Netherlands)
Guitarist Barry Cleveland is probably best known for his crafted articles with Guitar Playermagazine rather than for the inventive guitarist he really is. Volcanoshows Cleveland as a perfectionist arranger. "Makanda" has nearly a Chick Corea flavor with varied eastern influences . "Secret Prescriptions of the Bedroom" comes off like an Arabic bedtime story with sexy lyrical embellishments from Lygia Ferra. "Ophidian Waves" is a good example of how Cleveland can invoke Robert Fripp's arpeggios of doom or brittle fuzz tone guitar lead. "Obsidian Night" also follows a bleak mysterious thread where Cleveland's own wobbly bass line creates a foundation for Masley's slides, making it one of the outstanding tracks on the disc. The title track reminds me of Al DiMeola's blistering solo work with a bit of a less frantic fretboard ferocity.
—Jeff Melton, Expose'
You may remember Cleveland from the space music album he did for Larry Fast (Audion Records) in the 80s. Volcano is no such animal. Now he has gone ethnic, with upbeat, pulsing instrumental music. Melodically speaking there is an exotic Indian twist, but in the rhythm department he gathers influences from the whole world, subsuming his guitar, away from the improvisatory spotlight, where much of the action from drums, percussion, winds, and bass go at it in a never-ending stream of impressive jamming, creating along the way some unique textural environments. I hear definite Fripp connections in some of Cleveland's sonic colors and fast-picking phrases.
—Michael Ezzo, Expose'