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Joe Marcinek Band: 5
(Independent release, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 9/7/2022)
Instrumental albums by rock guitarists run the gamut from high-intensity shredders, to laid-back jazzy, to electric fusion to retro sounds. And many of those guitarists who step out with solo albums, tend to want to show off their versatility or virtuosity, playing in varying styles, often making for an album that is not particularly stylistically coherent.
This week we have an album by a guitarist that pretty much sticks to the basics with rock and soul grooves, with generally tasteful but not flashy playing throughout. It’s by the Joe Marcinek Band titled 5 named after the number of albums the group has released.
Joe Marcinek actually divides his time between guitar and keyboards. He plays keyboards in the Indiana-based fusion band Fresh Hops, but is frequently seen on the Chicago music scene. The Joe Marcinek Band is actually a rather amorphous group. Marcinek has toured widely from coast to coast, and his band varies from night to night, and has included at various times the late funk keyboard man Bernie Worrell, New Orleans legends Ivan Neville, and George Porter, Jr., and Melvin Seals who was in the Jerry Garcia Band. The new album started with Marcinek wanting to do a live album at a performance in Florida, but a technical problem cropped up, and that recording could not be used. Soon afterward, Marcinek connected with a studio in Los Angeles for the new project, which turned out to be a studio recording, instead of the originally envisioned live album, but the record has a live feel with little apparent overdubbing.
The personnel on 5 include keyboard man Robert Walter, who has had his own funk and fusion group Robert Walter’s 20th Congress. Walter plays Hammond B-3 organ and supplies the bass with the organ’s foot pedals. On drums is Pete Koopmans, making it a classic jazz organ trio, in configuration, though with rock and funk material. There are guests including pianist Greg Spero, and horn players Alex Wasily on trombone, Sean Erick on trumpet, and Jordan Donald on sax. They appear on two of the eight tracks.
But opening is one called Dog which is a kind of classic rock-funk groove tune, with a retro sound. <<>>
A track called Reciprocity has a somewhat Latin-influenced sound with a melodic upbeat mood. <<>>
More laid-back in sound is Vitalizing, which provides an opportunity for an organ solo by Robert Walter. <<>>
Dogs seem to be a running theme on the album, at least as far as the titles of these instrumental pieces is concerned. Another tune with a canine connotation is Bulldog, the album’s lengthiest track and the closest thing to a jam band approach, with a good buildup in energy level. <<>>
Marcinek and band goes New Orleans style on the Lagniappe which features the horns and a great Crescent City style groove. <<>>
Canines also provide the inspiration for the title Doggone Blues Again, a good straight out blues-shuffle also featuring the horns. <<>>
The album ends with probably its jazziest tune, Bella, taking on a bossa nova beat, and providing additional variety helping to make this a well-rounded album. <<>>
The Joe Marcinek Band’s new album called 5 is a worthwhile recording of instrumental rock and blues. It doesn’t break any particularly new ground, and the playing is fairly understated, so there’s not a lot of virtuosity to show off. But it is a solid collection of good compositions with tasteful musicianship and engaging rhythmic grooves, mostly in a classic organ group setting. Rather than focusing the blues or soul as most such groups do, the material is more wide-ranging.
Our grade for sound quality is close to an “A” with generally clean sound, and a nice punchy, but intimate approach to the drums. But apparently in some kind of slip-up, at least on the CD version, a guest piano solo by Greg Spiro on the track Bella is almost completely inaudible in the mix.
Joe Marcinek is known for his variable cast of characters in his live shows. On his new fifth album, the band is nicely compatible one, and the result is a worthy addition to one’s collection of instrumental rock.
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