Music Reviews



It’s a testament to the harsh brutality of the music business that a band like this – Mike Brannon’s fusion outfit, Synergy – has got to release their own album without the support of a label deal. In fact, they probably think so themselves, as they’ve dedicated the album to all the musicians “who don’t make it beyond the point of playing bars and clubs.” That said, this is by no means a bitter, resentful recording. Quite the contrary, the music is light and breezy, but never shallow, full of hope, but certainly world-weary enough.

Synergy is a four-piece band supported on this release by a bunch of enormously talented and experienced special guests, including Trey Gunn (King Crimson) and Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck). And Mike Brannon himself has performed with artists as diverse as Mike Stern, Eric Johnson, Jack DeJohnette, and Eric Clapton. Whew!

And while some of you may feel a bit of antipathy at the mere mention of the word “fusion” – all technique and no fun, as it often tend to be – there’s absolutely no need to worry here. Although there’s no questioning the immense talents on display, the compositions and the dynamics are the main focus here, with all display of technical virtuosity being kept nicely in place. This is music where restriction is at least as important as displaying. Perfect. And so, on tracks like the fabulous “Tripod,” there’s room to breathe and to feel as the movements surge forward, each musician playing for the others rather than on top of each other. And “Change Of Plans” moves carefully, tiptoeing around the central motifs, never disturbing, always respectful.

It’s a remarkable release that sees Brannon stepping out from the shadows cast by his impressive mentors. For fans of fusion, this is a must. For everyone else, it’s a way into a maligned genre, and one worth your investigation.

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