…a gentle but powerful journey of musical invention.
Music Theories Recordings / Mascot Label Group
12 tracks / 64 minutes
Jan Akkerman is one of those legendary artists who seem to prefer the dark corners of fame to the bright spotlights. He’s a guitarist that most people have heard (thanks to being part of Focus, whose mammoth hit song, “Hocus Pocus,” is nearing its 50th anniversary) but few can identify by name. Akkerman’s daring, almost reckless soloing with Focus still sends a shiver up and down the spine, as he teases the very limits of where a melody can go and still remain musically valid. His solo work was no less mesmerizing and always on the eclectic side of what was expected from a rock guitarist. Emerging once again with Close Beauty, the legendary 72 year old axe-man has lost none of his skill – or his ability to surprise.
“Spiritual Privacy” starts the all-instrumental project off sounding like an Eastern-influenced stream of consciousness jam. The intensity grows and things get very jazzy as the seven-minute epic allows Akkerman’s side-men to add layers of the textured sound-scape while the groove stays at a tasty simmer.
The unusual and powerful opener allows us to get our first taste of Marijn van den Berg on drums, David de Marez Oyens on bass and Coen Molenaar on keyboards, who do an admirable job of not only ‘keeping up’ with Akkerman but establishing their own tasty chops as well.
Of course, Jan has - and probably always will be – closely associated with Thijs van Leer and the band, Focus. There’s more than a hint of Focus here and there on Close Beauty – as a matter of fact, the second track, “Beyond the Horizon,” is an emotional, strongly melodic composition – a dreamy combination of blues and jazz in a ballad style that often was part of the Focus signature on many of the classic band’s albums. “Retrospection (Emotional Debris – the Power Behind the Throne – Hear the Trees Whistle For the Dog – Euridice” (yes, that’s the title) is a tour-de-force that starts out sounding almost like an homage to the guitarist’s former band – right down to the Thijs van Leer-like organ. Certainly, “Tommy’s Anniversary” is a tip of the hat to Thijs and company….
Akkerman switches from acoustic to electric and back throughout Close Beauty, making the project a gentle but powerful journey of musical invention. It goes without saying that Jan Akkerman is a technition – but he also plays with passion and humor and not a little good old-fashioned funk. He’s always been an artist who does exactly what he wants to do, and while it might not make him a guitar hero or a household word, it does make him an artist with his own special voice – and one well-worth hearing for the serious musician.
- Bert Saraco
For concert photography by Bert Saraco, visit: www.facebook.com/express.image