Anthony Curtis - Book of the Key
[Jester Records, www.jester-records.com]

Never a big fan of prog rock, I was still nonetheless surprised by this release. Virtuoso [don't you just love this much overused term!] guitar player, Anthony Curtis has been called 'one of the most advanced guitarists today' [Washington Post]. With praise like this, you wonder who the other 'advanced' guitar players may be? To be fair, 'Book of the Key' is a highly enjoyable all instrumental release of showmanship. Not being a huge fan of guitar solos, I still found solace in the fact that these are kept to a minimum here. His septet is packed with players that understand his vision ' bassist Tony Levin [who also surprises with his intense chapman stick work], percussionist Lewis Pragasam, guitarist Mike Keneally, violinist Jeff Gauthier and harmonium player Ronan Chris Murphy. Together, they make up one tight package. Sure, all of this music is composed [though half-way through, I was thinking how much better this would sound if it were purely improvised] and most of it leans on the prog rock traditions of grand themes ' the build-up and the climax. What bothers me the most is the fact that each member has something to prove, as in: 'Look at me, I'm the world's greatest drummer!' That sort of mentality prevents me from enjoying the record to the fullest. It's the syndrome of the ego before the music, which is never a good thing. Then again, on the plus side of the fence, the music is still rich in themes and develops quite nicely. Overall, 'Book of the Key' is mandatory listening for those who are learning [or polishing] their chops on the guitar.

Tom Sekowski


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