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After long stints with venerable fusion acts, bassist Jimmy Haslip (of Yellowjackets fame) and keyboardist Scott Kinsey (Tribal Tech) moved on to a variety of projects that include the ARC Trio, with hyperkinetic Hungarian drummer Gergö Borlai. The group’s self-titled 2018 debut featured several guest appearances, yet served as an appetizer for its latest release. ARCeology: The Music of MSM Schmidt features the trio playing compositions by the German keyboardist and composer with not only the John Daversa Big Band, but also multiple guest horn players and guitarists.
Haslip started collaborating with Schmidt before leaving the Yellowjackets 10 years ago, and the bassist has also since worked with guitarists Allan Holdsworth and Oz Noy, who appears on one ARCeology track. On “Mirrors,” the Israeli guitarist teams with American six-stringer Mike Miller to punctuate Schmidt’s challenging and charging chart, featuring bottom-heavy navigation by Haslip and the powerful push of Daversa’s 14-piece horn section. Miller also appears on “Clark Kent,” a shifting showcase for guest Hammond organist Brian Auger, the horn section, and Borlai’s dizzying accents. With hundreds of recording credits in Hungary, the drummer’s star is now justifiably rising stateside.
“Swing” and “Quartet” are guitar-less showcases for tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, the first a strutting piece with a powerful Daversa trumpet solo; the latter, the lone Kinsey composition, a Weather Report-influenced romp with vocals by Mer Sal. But it’s the guest guitarists who shine brightest throughout. Steve Khan provides acoustic and electric playing to the rhythmic shell-game opener, “Red and Gold,” and propulsive closer “Falling,” the latter with soprano saxophonist Steve Tavaglione. And French-Vietnamese veteran Nguyên Lê contributes memorable solos to the album’s hearty midsection tracks, the rhythmically staggered “Qin Shi” and the 7/8-timed, Middle Eastern-influenced “Si Kitu,” with EVI (electronic valve instrument) player Judd Miller. — Bill Meredith