Hartford Courant November 17 2009
Hypnotic - Gene Segal - (Innova) - Segal is a Russian-born guitarist raised in Brooklyn, New York. He's studied with Vic Juris, Gene Bertocini and John Abercrombie and worked with trumpeter Ryan Kisor, drummer Ted Poor and bassist Steve LaSpina (to name but 3.) His debut CD features a tight trio including organist Sam Barsh and drummer Matt Kane (plus a 3-piece horn section on 2 tracks.) The guitarist plays in several distinct styles - he can be quite melodic and soulful on ballads such as "Free Fall" and "Quiet", he can rip off rapid licks with bluesy bent notes as on "Red Eyes" and "Truth" plus he's an active rhythm guitarist. Barsh, who's worked with the likes of Cassandra Wilson, Jeff Parker, Boyz II Men, Bobby McFerrin, The Brand New Heavies, Robin Eubanks, Debbie Friedman, Branford Marsalis, and many others, adds great depth and his manic yet soulful organ sound to the tunes (dig his "gospel music" solo on "Free Fall" and the Southern Soul feel of "In The Morning.") His keyboard bass-lines really offer Segal a good bottom. Kane is an active and funky drummer who's work with a number of Brazilian musicians but regularly crosses over to funk, rock, hip hop and even country music gigs. Saxophonists Mike Sim (tenor) and Bryan Beninghove (tenor, soprano), along with trumpeter Jonathan Powell, add strong solos and background licks on the "poppin'" "Alef" and the heavily blues-inflected title tune. Sim's effects-laden tenor solo on the latter tune reminds me of the jazz-funk excursions of the earlier 1970s, such as George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic aggregation.
Despite the fact that the music has a loose, club-gig, feel, most of the songs have well-constructed melodies. Segal certainly has his own, rather loose-limbed, style and works well with his band, giving Barsh plenty of solo space and Kane the freedom to lay back or "kick hard." They even channel Tony Williams' Lifetime on the group improvisation "Captain Chaos." "Hypnotic" is a solid debut from a guitarist/composer who shows great promise.
by Richard Kamins