In August of 1969, Miles Davis began recording Bitches Brew, one of the most groundbreaking and phenomenal albums in the history of jazz. When released in 1970, the recording not only introduced a totally new innovation and style of jazz, the album also opened the doors for an entirely new cadre of artists as sidemen and solo musicians. Bitches Brew was a biproduct of what has since become known as fusion jazz, as was Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter, Bennie Maupin, Lenny White, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette and any number of other musicians. Although Miles and his crew did not invent fusion jazz, the recording of Bitches Brew is credited with crystallizing the melding of jazz, rock and R&B together into one conceptualized style.
Since that timely moment in jazz history, musicians such as Jaco Pastorius, Michael Brecker, Tony Williams, Joe Zawinul, Billy Cobham, Lyle Mays, Eddie Henderson and others to numerous to mention have all contributed to the development and popularity of fusion jazz. In recent years, guitarist George Lesiw has re-invigorated the idea of combining alternative styles of music with jazz with the recording of his debut CD entitled Anuta Was Here, an intensely complexed blues-based rock oriented release. By most measures this CD is an improvisational delight.
One of the best attributes jazz has to offer is imagination, improvisation and innovation. The release of Anuta Was Here definitely serves as a launching pad for those types of George Lesiw impressions to take-off from. At various times, George’s progressive approach could be viewed as radical and outside of traditional norms; however, he conveys and displays his creative juices fluidly, where the flow of ideas and musical notes are transmitted with passionate relevance. According to George’s drummer Gil Hawkins, Jr., one of the most unique features of Anuta Was Here is that it is "slightly out of the mainstream, but burns like crazy." That one statement is the best possible description I have heard to date as the transition of varying musical styles takes hold. The technical complexity of the release pushes the envelope of understanding, but Anuta Was Here has the ability to pull the listener back into a fusion edged groove.
There are nine beautifully crafted tracks on Anuta Was Here, with one carrying the name of George Lesiw’s ex-wife Anuta, who also plays electric guitar on the album. That ingredient, along with one centralized improvisational characteristic, helps to make this release somewhat of an anomaly in an environment where one style of jazz seems to dominate the airwaves of radio. By most standards, true jazz aficionados will revel in the album’s originality as Lesiw combines classic guitar-induced fusion with fiery rock-oriented, blues-based metrics. On such tunes as "Blue Skeleton," George slips into a not to common fusion groove that he serves with a heaping helping of laid-back musical essence. He expands on the cut with a hybrid demonstration of systematic note changes and a high degree of charismatic presence. What is even more profound is the ever-present backdrop of Lesiw’s ex-wife Anuta. Her instinctive interpretation of George’s ideas adds another level of credence to the recording’s underlying statement.When reflecting upon Miles Davis’ original thoughts surrounding fusion jazz, I have to say that George Lesiw has done a masterful job of interpreting those ideas. The harmonic display of lyrical nuances coupled with strong neo-fusion ideas provides an impressive array of images that have long since been forgotten. In my mind, the addition of Anuta Was Here to an already impressive body of work made famous by many of George’s predecessors, this CD may be just as exciting as was the superb introduction of Bitches Brew to an unsuspecting cadre of jazz connoisseurs.