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Humans by Mark Stanley Quartet

Baltimore-based guitarist Mark Stanley cites Frank Zappa as an influence. An element of that influence certainly reflects in Stanley’s refusal to be easily categorized. He’s not a straight ahead jazz player any more than a jazz-rocker, a fusion player or a player with a totally outside cast, though he brings elements of each to this intriguing album. The opening "cat cat cat" opens with a gentle guitar and tenor (Peter Fraize) dialog before breaking into an outside piece that indeed reminds of Zappa in sections, particularly Stanley’s fluid solo work. Following the frequently intersecting and colliding lines of the players, they take it out as they came in, ever so gently and delicately. "small face" has a funky and sometimes bluesy groove driven by Mike Kuhl’s drums, which take over in a mad midsection run. On "god on a stick," the guitar work is notched up a bit and for "horrible Helga" the band employs a sinewy and backdoor samba beat that explodes in a final fury of sax-guitar-bass-drums cacophony. The title tune is somewhat pensive (at least relative to the rest of the set) and reminiscent in sections of Mike Stern. The sax and guitar conversation is buoyed by Kuhl’s busy drums and the brilliant bass work of Jeff Reed. On "pussy" the intensity of Fraize is played off of by Stanley. Again the rhythm is tight and adventurous. "blue octopus" features guitar effects played expertly and with a steady, slinky, riveting pace vaguely reminiscent of Adrian Belew. "paramour" is a well articulated and melodic tune highlighted by an alluring saxophone that gives way to a wonderful guitar and voice solo that showcases Stanley’s chops in glowing light. The final "diaspora" is seriously playful, with sax, guitar, bass and drums all redeeming themselves quite nicely. Frequently challenging music for adventurous ears, this might benefit from more diversity in tempos and tone, though it remains an enjoyable disc.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mark Stanley Quartet
  • CD Title: Humans
  • Genre: Fusion
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Sir Eel
  • Rating: Three Stars
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