Vernon Reid & Masque
When Vernon Reid isn’t shredding the frets with Living Colour, or lending his chops to someone else’s album, he likes to experiment with his own band, Masque. With the all-instrumental Known Unknown, Masque travels the world of musical styles, from rock to jazz, blues to metal, peppering in Reid’s “psychedelic weirdness.” With Leon Gruenbaum (keyboards), Hank Schroy (bass) and Marlon Browden (drums) expertly backing Reid’s guitars, this is truly a fusion album, in all the good ways.
The trip starts out innocently enough, with Reid’s familiar growling guitar opening up the title track, but from there the groove starts and it never lets up until the end. We reach highs with the up-tempo surf guitar soaring of “The Outskirts” and lows with the moody “Time,” but we are never bored, nor do we feel out of the loop. Every transition, both between and within songs, feels organic and natural.
This is an album that works on two different levels, at least. I can put it on and let it flow around me while I work, oblivious to the details, not getting distracted, just enjoying the ambience. Or, I can sit back, crank it up, and savor each note, as Masque lets their music tell its own story. Masque is released on Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label, and after hearing it, I can see why Vai was so excited to have them signed. If you like varied music, and can handle experimentation, give Known Unknown a listen.
Favored Nations: www.favorednations.com