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Greg Howe: Hyperacuity (CD, 45:07); Tone Center TC-40092, 2000 I have been sampling snippets of instrumentalist rocker Howe for sometime. I wasn't impressed early on with his shredderiffic rock, even though he's one of the industry's hottest acts around. He is incredibly pro with chops, style, execution and pizzazz to covet. I finally bought his Five release a few years back and thought, "Ah yeah, this guy's getting much, much better." By better, I mean NO boring look-at-me, flash-riffing but soulful, lyrical, inventive, original, and exciting guitar soundworlds being created. Listen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
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Now, with the release of Hyperacuity, I hear a wondrously matured, measured yet still aggressively mean-digited guitarist. Thankfully, leaning heavy towards a variant of fusion. That full-fledged fusion flow isn't quite happening yet like other Tone Center releases featuring Henderson or Gambale but Howe does an admirable job with making his axes sing. This is Howe's BEST release to date. I find very little to complain about and much to say "Whoa baby!" over. (Well, I must complain over this one non- musical thing. Greg, get a new person to write/type your Press kit/Bio release for Tone Center! It was informative but the spelling and punctuation are atrocious!) Back to the review . . . Plenty of wild and fun surprises await the listener on this release. Best of all, Howe is fresh, alive, avoids the traps of staying too long in one groove, and his guitar playing keeps this lick-trodden reviewer's attention upfront and pleased. Howe utilizes a myriad of guitar voicings and stylings which help create a multi-faceted sonic journey in a mosaic of jazz, rock, fusion, funk, blues and a smidgen of shred. Howe even covers a fav Stevie Wonder tune of mine. "You nasty boy!" Nice and slick grooves, wonderfully re-interpreted. Overall, I strongly recommend this release to guitarists worldwide to study and anyone who digs hearing a dude who know his fretboard inside out. Nice one, Greg! ~ John W. Patterson Listen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
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Greg Howe: Hyperacuity 2000, Tone Center CyberHome: http://www.GregHowe.com When Hyperacuity was first released, I had high expectations for it because of the smorgasboard of incredible music that Greg Howe had been cranking out lately. And, I have to say that at first I was a little disappointed with Hyperacuity because it was not quite what I had anticipated. Then, I realized that the problem was not with Hyperacuity, it was with my expectations that were thinking that Hyperacuity was going to be more like Five. Well, it turns out that Hyperacuity is more like Hyperacuity than Five. ;) I should rather have expected that Greg Howe would not repeat himself and that he would continue his quest for musical expansion and diversity to new feeding grounds, as he has on Hyperacuity. However, if you were expecting a lot of very fast and sophisticated axe mauling on Hyperacuity in the great Greg Howe tradition, you are not going to be disappointed at all. OK. Now we have covered expectations. So this brings us to the next issue with Hyperacuity: listener accessibility. The accessibility in Hyperacuity is definitely going to depend upon your frame of reference. If you have already digested Parallax or if you have broad experience in heavy-weight jazz fusion, you are going to gulp Hyperacuity down like oreo-cookie ice cream pie slathered in hot fudge sauce. Otherwise, if you are not really ready for the big time then you are going to require Greg Howe's freshman orientation class... maybe you should try Introspection first to ease your transition. And, this is not to say that Introspection is not of high caliber, but that it is probably a little more easily accessible and probably is not as involved in the outside tonal exploration. So, to summarize accessibility, Hyperacuity is a CD that I can listen to all day at home or work, but with the exception of a few tracks, I can not listen to it while driving or I start driving like a person talking on a cell phone because it is so mentally involving. Now, for those of you who have already graduated through Greg Howe's school of advanced jazz fusion, let's get on with the hunt. Hyperacuity is phenomenal. Greg Howe has once again demonstrated a unique ability to work with advanced tonality at high velocities and to pull it off without a hitch. All of Greg's patented traits are available on Hyperacuity: the death-defying, wind-chasing speed; the silky-smooth, legato-rich style; the relentless aggression; the nonstop, attention-grabbing directional changes; the talent for inventing unworldly melodies rich in unusual tonality; the sophisticated chordal progressions and harmonization; the advanced rhythmic underpinnings; and the uncanny ability to weave a thread of feeling through a maze of complexity to make it all sound seamless. Hyperacuity is material fit for study at music school. Standouts on Hyperacuity... hmmmm... that wouldn't be easy to single any out. It is a pretty solid effort. But, Greg Howe pays awesome tribute to Stevie Wonder on "I Wish". Greg really assimilates a Stevie Wonder feel and demonstrates an amazing grasp on Stevie's character that eminates in his music. The easily accessible and well-known groove on "I Wish" make it my favorite from Hyperacuity, especially with the smoking, ice-cool rendition that Greg Howe has made of it. Stevie would smile... and may have if he has heard it. "Receptionist" is a pretty cool track too. It starts out with some complex rhythms on the drums accompanied by some other effects including a flute and then suddenly transitions like a radio that is changed stations to a swing jazz standard section that Greg lays down some classy soloing over. Greg has composed another acoustic masterpiece with "Order Of Dawn" that features some complex chordal harmonization, rhythms, and arpeggiation. We are now coming to expect an acoustic masterpiece from Greg on each album. The other tracks are diverse but probably more along the lines of the unique spin-off of complex fusion that Greg claims mastery over. And, they are all good. So, in summary, if you are a fan of Greg Howe's style of speedy, fluid fusion and eclectic composition, you will be obligated to add Hyperacuity to your collection. Arguably Greg's best work to date. Guitars Greg Howe Guitar (cameo) Prashant Aswani Bass Dale Fischer Drums Kevin Soffera 1) Hyperacuity 2) Blindfold Drive 3) Order Of Dawn 4) Heat Activated 5) Receptionist 6) Trinka 7) I Wish ~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com Listen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
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Greg Howe: Five 1996, Shrapnel Records CyberHome: http://www.GregHowe.com Greg Howe returns in Five to lay down some more stylish tracks that demonstrate that he is not done improving upon himself. This is my favorite Greg Howe CD to date. This effort brings a balance between composition, virtuoso sophistication, and tone mastery that together achieve perfection. The judgement in this balance is exceptional. The result is a collection of tracks that you can listen to over and over again without ever getting tired of hearing them and always being able to find something you didn't hear the previous times you listened to it. Five grows on you the more you listen to it. So don't expect to be clubbed over the head the first time you play it. Greg Howe is more subtle and involved than that. Greg Howe showcases his silky-smooth and refined virtuoso guitar technique with sophisticated flavor that will make you gulp it down like a hearty helping of tasty creme brulee. Greg has a subtle finesse in his playing that makes his speed deceptive and makes even staccato sound smooth. The control and finesse that Greg Howe has in his lead playing on Five is incredible. He can play staccato picking so refined that you have to listen closely to be sure it is not legato. Deft, deceptively fast, controlled aggression, and subtlety are all qualities that Greg keeps tucked away under his black belt of jazz fusion mastery. Greg's playing is so amazing that if you can pull your focus away from it and stand back long enough to hear the music you are going to be even more blown away. Greg not only pays attention to each and every tree in his compositional landscape, but he sees the big picture of how the trees are arranged in the forest and uses each tree to maximum effect in the overall picture. This sort of musical genius is very uncommon and is staggering to me. So, enough about Greg Howe's incredible guitar pyrotechnics. Let's talk about Greg Howe's incredible compositional style and sagacity. Greg Howe lays down some guitar chops that are not only impressive on their own, but that together are balanced with a contrapuntal savvy that, to me, is unparalled in anything I have ever heard. Greg somehow finds the balance between guitar technicianry, exquisite phrasing, accessible melodic invention, and captivating direction and changes of direction that will leave you with your jaw on the ground the more you listen to Five. The compositional content is diverse yet bound by a common thread that is Greg Howe's relentless pursuit of accessible rhythms, progressions, melody and harmony with a style that is undefineable, but that is unmistakably Greg Howe; aggressive yet smooth; driving yet refined; speedy yet polished - incredibly polished; and a staccato that paradoxically is legato. And, Greg's sense of dynamics, balance, feeling, and production are so tactful that there is not a single note on the whole album that stands out in a bad way no matter how much you listen to it. Greg is never heavy handed and always keeps it under control... but don't think this means that he lacks aggression, because there definitely is no lack of aggression here. Oh, how could we narrow out some standout tracks on Five? This would be nearly impossible and unfair to Greg. We could say that Greg Howe doesn't hold back with the opening track, "Just Kiddin'", and demonstrates that he has an uncommon ability to convey a human personality trait in music that really captures that feeling of somebody pulling your leg, as well as just being unbelievably good music. "Three Toed Sloth" opens with a slightly dissonant, crunching riff that does characterize a three toed sloth, but then takes an unexpected turn into the composition's melody line that is pleasantly upbeat and satisfying. Kevin Vecchione lays down some bass work that gives Greg a go for his money on this track as well. And, the lead work is devastating with the blazing fast sections balanced with the melodic sections. "Quiet Hunt" is a tasty acoustic track that features some very quick and intricate fretwork. "Quiet Hunt", though very speedy for an acoustic track, brings a sense of balance to the rest of the CD by contrasting the aggressive electric tracks with a more relaxed, acoustic tone. But, let me say again, I doubt there was anything relaxed about Greg's playing on "Quiet Hunt" because he is flying over the fretboard with amazing precision and cleanness that defies the laws of physics. The track "Bach Mock" is a striking hint at what is to come as Greg took a divertimento into the neoclassical genre with Vitalij Kuprij and on his own with Ascend after this effort. When I first heard "Bach Mock", I had a very strong premonition of what Greg Howe was capable of in the neoclassical genre... a premonition that was soon realized fully in High Definition with Vitalij Kuprij. "Bach Mock" is a raucous little prelude composed in the obvious style of JS Bach and adds yet another level of depth to the composition in Five. The closing track on Five is definitely one of my favorites. "Skyline" possesses a certain class and style that to me characterizes and encapsulates Greg Howe's savvy. There is a certain simplicity in the underlying theme that "Skyline" is based around and makes it accessible, though the underlying groove does move quite nicely and the simplicity is again deceptive. But, the melody lines and grooving leadwork have a sophistication that is deftly complex and intricate. Greg Howe is a maze of paradoxes. No matter what angle you look at it from Five is impressive and it remains impressive each and every time you return to it, regardless of what you had been listening to prior to your return. Five, to me, is the definitive Greg Howe album. It accentuates all of his best qualities as a guitarist, a musician, and an artist. Five is right behind Introspection in my permanent rotation. The only thing wrong with Five is the title. It should have been named "Ten" to correspond to the rating I would give to it. Five is perfection that will defy time and that I am sure will prove to be timeless as it was designed to be. Five is a true landmark in accessibility for jazz fusion. I have played Five for many people who had little musical expertise and nearly all of them liked it. Five is a favorite among discriminating musicians and enjoyable by less educated listeners as well. Truly World Class... whether you are a guitar guru or a music fan... just BUY IT! NOW!!!... End of discussion. 1) Just Kiddin' 2) Sit 3) Three Toed Sloth 4) The Terrace 5) Acute 6) Quiet Hunt 7) Bach Mock 8) Plush Interior 9) Dusty Maid 10) Skyline ~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com Listen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
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Greg Howe: Parallax 1995, Shrapnel Records CyberHome: http://www.GregHowe.com What strikes me most about Greg Howe, is that if you had never seen him before and just met him by chance someplace walking down a city street or in the Allentown mall, then you could look at him, see a person, but have absolutely no comprehension of what capacity his mind and his hands possess. But, if you were sitting in a chair a few yards away from the stage at the old Peppermill Bar down in Center Valley when he climbed up onto that stage and started playing, then that comprehension would quickly enter your mind and you might not want to pick up your guitar for a very long time after that because you had just learned the futility in it. The old joke goes... An aspiring guitarist asked a master what advice he could give to a beginner and the master said "quit". And, the reason I have recounted this little story to you, is because Parallax by Greg Howe has the same sort of beneath-the-surface superman quality as Greg does in person. It took me a long time to be able to grasp everything that Greg had put into Parallax, but after seven years with it I am finally getting there. ;) So, I think you can probably gather from my opening here, that one thing you might find with Parallax is that it may not be as easily accessible as some of Greg Howe's other works. But, once you get past that, what you are going to find is that Greg has laid down some of his best guitar work and arrangements on Parallax. The inherent complexity in his tonality, time signatures, directional changes, and staggering lead work make it difficult to absorb it all at once at first, yes. But, once you have absorbed it, you are going to find that there is some really incredible music here that you will be hooked on if you have any inclination for instrumental jazz fusion, and especially if you are a guitarist. So, for me, for some reason, I can listen to Parallax all day at work or home, but not in the car when driving. It is too mentally involving and distracting for me to listen to it while driving. But, I would not say that it is really that far outside in its tonality or timing that it is approaching impossible to grasp as I find some other jazz fusion players. Parallax is more down to earth than that, for certain. It just takes a lot of attention to really follow everything that is going on. And, if you are used to the extreme outside players, you are probably going to love the relative accessibility in Parallax. Favorites. "Dance" for certain. "Dance" has some really cool themes, changes, development, and wicked good jamming. Man, does Greg Howe make jazz fusion stylish on "Dance"! There are no issues with accessibility on this track. "Joker's Wild" is pretty easy to grab ahold of too. "Joker's Wild" has got a funking groove that sets the backdrop for some guitar antics by Greg Howe that lead into his signature savory, jazzish melody lines. The chordal phrasing that underly these melody lines are pretty cool, rich in harmonization yet easily digestible and with Greg's savvy rhythms packing the punch to drive them into your psyche. And, did I mention the blistering fast leadwork that ensues? How can he follow those complicated chords at those speeds???... But, he does, and it is amazing. "The Portrait" brings a moment's peace to the album to balance the remainder of the album that is laden with the guitar pyrotechnics that Greg spreads so liberally throughout. "The Portrait" is a beautiful acoustic piece that weaves variations around a theme of Greg's own creation. "On Sail" is another rich composition that also lends some accessibility to the listener with its soothing chordal arrangements and rhythms, its melodic themes, and its easy-to-grasp guitar work (though I doubt it is easy to play). Parallax is pretty diverse in the character of its tracks. So, as with most of Greg Howe's music, it is difficult to simplify it with a genre labeling. However, on this effort, I would say that Parallax seems to fit more conducively into a jazz fusion type of style, moreso than any of Greg's other works to that point in time. So where does that leave us with Parallax? I would say that if you are approaching Greg Howe without much listening experience in real, heavy-hitting jazz fusion then you should buy Introspection or Five first. But, if you do have a good listening background in the real thing, you may want to check out Parallax first. I think some might argue that Parallax is the best of the three by Greg Howe I have just mentioned, and possibly his best to date. From a technical perspective, Parallax looks to me to be the most impressive effort that Greg Howe has produced to date. Guitars Greg Howe Drums Jon Doman Bass Andy Ramirez Drums (Track 7) Kevin Soffera 1) Howe 'Bout It 2) Found Unwound 3) Dance 4) Time Off 5) Joker's Wild 6) The Portrait 7) Bottom Line 8) On Sail 9) Roundhouse ~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com Listen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
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Greg Howe: Introspection 1993, Shrapnel Records CyberHome: http://www.GregHowe.com Introspection marks a departure for Greg Howe from his previous efforts that were harder and more heavy-handed. When I first listened to Introspection, I really had to step back and gain my bearings to find a frame of reference to put it into. Introspection defines the beginning of a new Greg Howe that is smoother, more polished, and bigger than the previous efforts had led us to believe. The depth and style in Greg's playing require us to reevaluate and try to redefine what Greg is. Greg's style is characterized by complex and speedy phrasing with unending contrapuntal savvy delivered in a deft, legato-rich packaging that makes the speed deceiving. The range of composition is impressive and I would hesitate to try to define it within any genre. But, that's probably what Greg had in mind when he composed Introspection. I think that if a person were to listen to Introspection without ever having heard anything else released by Greg Howe prior to Introspection, they might have one impression of it and those that had listened to Greg Howe prior to that might have a different impression. Greg Howe definitely changed gears on this effort and widened his musical scope drastically. I am still amazed after nearly ten years that he pulled it off as well as he did. Greg's playing prior to Introspection, though impressive, was dominated by hard, aggressive rock-driven stylisms along the lines of Van Halen, Satriani and Vai, but definitely with a Greg Howe uniqueness and spin on things. On Introspection, Greg Howe has introduced a plethora of new stylisms and dimensions to his musical talents. Though there is an obvious carry over of his aggressive style and speed from the previous efforts, Introspection is a marked change in the packaging of these elements. The new packaging is more subtle, more graceful, more fluid, more classy, more refined, more polished, more melodic, more musical, and definitely has a much wider accessibility. But, many of the mainstay elements of Greg's playing that made him famous in the first place are still present; the blinding speed, the driving aggression, the relentless intensity, the unending contrapuntal phrasing, the constantly shifting underpinnings, and the seemless continuity. The range of composition on Introspection is very eclectic and rivals Steve Morse in compositional scope. The genius in Introspection is that Greg has composed some very technically involved compositions that are able to achieve widespread appeal. The guitar work is first rate and world class. The production is as near to perfect as I have ever heard. The instrumentation and ear for tone is nothing less than spectacular. The composition features impressionable melodies, complex harmonization, constantly shifting themes and grooves, and lively rhythms that grab your attention and keep it by not repeating too long before the next change. Greg Howe has a certain type of pschological mastery that he knows just how long to work an idea before it is time to move on to the next idea. And, he has a similar mastery in balancing involved, guitar- intensive, speedy sections with slower melodic sections. There is so much thought put into these elements that I wonder if most listeners can appreciate Greg Howe's depth, though they probably will enjoy the fruits of that labor because of the obvious groove, funk, feel, style, and class that Greg imparts to his playing. Introspection is a nonstop, all-you-can-listen buffet of easily-accessible, musical morsels and tasty guitar chops from beginning to end. The compositions balance and compliment one another in their style, tone, feel, and tempo. Introspection kicks it into gear with "Jump Start" which is an upbeat fusion composition that lets you know right away what Greg Howe is all about this time around. "Jump Start" mixes up some cool jazz-like riffs, some blistering quick runs, catchy themes, and Greg's wits as he knowingly tells you that he has reached a new level in his art. "Button Up" ensues with another funkin' groove that trades off with the emphatic melody line. And, there is no shortage of smooth, polished, speedy guitar work on this track either. "Come And Get It" is next with a full, frontal assault of aggressive fusion that is balanced with more appealing melody lines that ! diverge into some grinding, well-felt, rhythmic lead work that always maintain well-proportioned tone and balance without overstatement. The bouncing bass line for "In Step" sets the stage on this track that bounces back and forth between the funky groove and the uplifting melody line that pull back and forth in a tug of war. And, so the remainder of the effort goes on with each track blessing us with one savvy idea after the next out of the creative mind of Greg Howe who is capable of delivering his sophisticated, accessible musical ideas with his blazing fast, virtuoso guitar technique at his beck and call. Greg takes full advantage of his speed and scope of technique that make the range of his musical composition much wider than the average guitarist. Greg Howe's ear and sense for melodies make Introspection very appealing and easily accessible. The inherent complexity of his advanced music theory, harmonization, rhythms, and guitar technique give the music a timeless depth that ensures that Introspection will survive the test of time. Introspection has been in my permanent rotation since I purchased it way back when it was first released in 1993. It is one of my prize possessions in my music collection, especially since I have an autographed copy. Introspection can be listened to on its own for focused listening, and it is just as pleasant as background music at work or around the home. It is like a fine wine that just keeps improving with age. Definitely consider adding this one to your collection if you are an adamant guitarist or jazz fusion fan. Guitars / Keyboards Greg Howe Bass Alsamad Caldwell Bass Vern Parsons Drums Kevin Soffera 1) Jump Start 2) Button Up 3) Come And Get It 4) In Step 5) Desiderata 6) No Place Like Home 7) Direct Injection 8) Pay As You Go ~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com Listen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
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