Brothers Glenn Leonard and Kevin Leonard may not be household prog names, but they are no strangers to progressive music. Both members of the Philly area prog band, North Star, since the eighties, Glenn has also toured extensively with Zappa's former bandmates in Project Object, plus Pojama People, another Zappa alumni endeavor. He now does all kinds of recording and session playing from his Oregon home. Brother Kevin still resides just outside of Philly, and has built a musical reputation as an expert on analog vintage prog keyboards while staying very attuned to varied aspects of the current jazz and prog scene. Please see this month's issue for a very insightful interview with Kevin Leonard, and discover the very unique musical world of Leonard and Leonard! You won't regret listening to this CD, and especially if you're interested in connecting the dots from the baroque era to modern progressive rock, you'll want to own your very own copy! Check out http://www.onlinerock.com/fans/northstar/ or write to Kevin at email@example.com to purchase your own copy! A must add for the serious prog audiophile!
Track by Track Review
Brandenburg #1: Adagio The synth sounds are just awesome, fat and solid, with Glenn playing the strong backbeated percussion line. The parts rock out like an ELP arrangement of classics, but with Bach there is such an added element of depth in terms of the beautiful counterpoint and strong melody lines. How does one improve on Bach? I say one can't, but this is one very cool progged out arrangement. Bach suits any instrument, just like Kevin says. Glenn's tasty fills complement Kevin's moving parts beautifully. Can one say counterpoint percussion to the counterpoint bass line? Extra cool!
Prelude in C Very sweet xylophone and vibe combo interpretation on this! Beautifully classical arrangement! Still, it sounds forward and totally modern. I could hear this at any prog concert as a solo or duet interlude between longer songs, or just as something to reset one's mind and focus peacefully. But doesn't Bach's music do that anyway? Nice contrast sandwiched between more aggressive pieces.
Fugue in A minor The opening synth line enters as a solo, and the percussion enters along with the second voice of the fugue. When the bass part enters the piece , the clear direction is cleanly felt. What incredible and articulate counterpoint! I never though Bach would sound so fat when it's synthed out like this, but this is fat indeed! A very unique, sweet, and highly musical arrangement of a great piece from the world's greatest composer.
Gigue in G minor The opening is clavinet sounding. Glenn enters wioth a strong backbeat and positive groove feel to this. Rhythmically not overly complex, but certainly giving Kevin's parts everything he needs to keep the positive flow of this piece developing and flowing. This CD is a clinic in writing. Why? Because it's Bach! Too many rock and jazz musicians get caught up in incomplete or developing musical ideas that do little or go nowhere. Study up on your theory everyone! Leonard and Leonard are onto something important here!
Prelude in Eb minor The vibe opening is both soothing and musically articulate. What a great stress break this would be at around toward the end of a busy day! No, not to just chill to, but rather to refocus and redirect a busy mind back to the business at hand. Intellectual, yet emotive. Well executed and musical.
Gigue-French Suite #5 The triplet feeling to this piece at such an upbeat tempo really feels really great! Again, I have to make the Keith Emerson comparison, simply because Kevin Leonard is probably one of the few keyboardists I know who could actually cover a Keith Emerson solo and probably do it to perfection. And, that's what he sounds like here, except for the fact that this is HIS arrangement with his own musical stamp on a timeless classic. Glenn's drumming is perfectly synced and tastefully classical, yet rocks out. This material is what progressive rock is at it'smost advanced theory state could be. Serious, and beautiful. The second movement in the suite is legato in three, way below the triplet meter of the opening, flowing into the very cool rehash of the original theme. Glenn's tom playing is very reminiscent of the early military style drums of the pre-colonial era, with a very current high hat ride added and perfectly executed cymbal accents. Well done! Anyone and everyone should enjoy this.
Brandenburg #4: Andante Ah, back to Brandenburg! Dark and intense, there is a fullness of spirit and emotion that this piece conveys. I could hear this in church, or while exercising, or while thinking deep thoughts. It's too rich and beautiful to sleep to, though! I would want to keep paying attention to how all those beautiful parts fit together. Everything about this CD is cool, simply because it's more beautiful than the early switched on Bach renditions and is so very musical.
Fugue in G minor Another beautiful fugue laced with driving percussion. I have to say it again, the counterpoint stuff is incredible! Would today's writers and arrangers take care about listening to Bach for all kind sof inspiration. You can't know where you're goping unless you know where you came from, and great hings just recycle themselves, but with new great ideas attached to them. Bach hsn't been topped, ever, and may never be! So you may as well enjoy these beautiful and powerful electric arrangements, prog arrangements! Prog Bach! Two thumbs up, indeed!