I wasn’t quite sure what to make of David Wright’s Dajinosaurus CD. The cover art consists of a goofy canine mug shot, the credits are cluttered with production notes, which seem to indicate that the drums and guitars were recorded in different places and times, and the title of the CD is spelled in two different ways on the inlay cards. Despite its amateurish appearance, Dajinosaurus is a fine CD.
Wright is a Berklee-educated guitarist and composer who bounced from Boston to New York and landed in Oakland, California with an IT job. Despite that day gig, Wright is far more than a hobbyist or weekend warrior. Dajinosaurus reveals a fluid, confident, even masterful guitarist, albeit one heavily influenced by the likes of Allan Holdsworth, Bill Connors and Mike Stern.
The music on Dajinosaurus is upbeat, loose-limbed, energetic jazzy fusion that reminds me quite a bit of the LPs Bill Connors did for the Pathfinder label during the late 80s. Not just a fusion shredder, Wright’s approach also belies influences from the previous generation of guitar heroes, players such as Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and George Benson. This is most apparent on the elegant, ECM-ish "Throb" and the R&B inflected "GC."
Wright’s bandmates, bassist Nob Kinukawa and drummer Jim Bove, are excellent. Both feed off of Wright’s joyous, irrepressible guitar soloing. Bove rolls and splashes around like a good fusion drummer should. He is also an alert, sensitive player who provides a deep pocket throughout. Kinukawa meshes well with Bove and cuts loose most impressively on several tracks, though his MIDI setup has a tinny, brittle sound. He sounds best, as on the intro to "Throb," when he solos without the MIDI effects. Wright uses his MIDI setup sparingly, generating mostly unobtrusive keyboard-like sounds.
The compositions, while not overly complex, are substantial enough to serve some purpose other than providing a framework for Wright’s aggressive guitar soloing. On the other hand, a few pieces ("Falls Dance" and "Early Phrase" or "ILD" and "Chess") have overt similarities that lead to listener fatigue over the hour-plus length of the CD. Other tracks, notably "Babar’s Kingdom" and the two closing improvisations, seem like little more than filler. Some judicious editing would have served "Dajinosaurus" quite well.
As a guitar soloist, David Wright definitely has what it takes to make fusion fans sit up and take notice, even in today’s very crowded and chaotic music scene. While the playing on Dajinosoaurus is technically impressive, it’s also quite apparent that Wright and his trio really had a lot of fun making this CD. Their sense of joy comes through in their effervescent, energetic, old-school jazz-rock fusion. Despite a few flaws, Dajinosaurus will put a smile on your face.