Rich Breen; mix engineer, Liner Notes by Jeffrey Davis Drummer, Composer Frank Briggs is joined by an All-Star group of musical soul mates on his first solo release; a breathtaking collection of compositions that celebrate the power of hope amid adversity. Inspired by a spectacular desert oasis, China Ranch takes us on a journey of musical exploration and virtuosity as expressed by an artist blessed with curiosity, compassion … and serious chops. China Ranch is a real place, a family owned date farm in the Mojave Desert, not far from Southern Death Valley. But channeled through this music, China Ranch is not merely a destination; it is a journey into the soul, navigated by a performer at the peak of his talents. Briggs and his amazing bandmates (Steve Weingart, Brian Price, Ric Fierabracci, Mitchel Forman, Kit Walker, Frank Gambale, Jimmy Earl, Jeff Babko, Chris Golden, Jeff Miley, Mark Doyle, Travis Carlton and Michito Sanchez) have pulled off an astonishing feat: The technique is mesmerizing and masterful while also maintaining an emotional truth that makes a cohesive statement. Supple melodies dance over shape-shifting modes and contrasting instrumental voicings. The players carve deep jazz- and funk-based grooves while playfully displacing beats and inverting expectations around every corner.
Driving everything is the deft and explosive pulse created by the composer, producer and engineer of this project. Musically inventive and as sonically lush as the desert flowers that inspire these tracks, China Ranch is Frank Briggs’ musical thank you note to a locale which proves that even the most barren and forbidding places we know can bear fruit of remarkable sweetness. ... ************************************************************* Press Reviews On China Ranch, Frank Briggs writes a Return To Forever-esque treatment of ten killer tracks that display strong drumming, Rhodes and synths, guitar and bass soloing. The compositions, inspired by a visit to the family-owned date farm in the Mojave Desert, keep an eye on the jazz-rock fusion tradition pioneered by such influences as Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Pat Metheny and others, while still moving the genre forward. On “Desert Flower” the solos run the gamut from lush, modern electronics and dramatic harmonies to wide-open solo sections for Kit Walker on Synth and Brian Price on guitar. Briggs' powerful and rhythmic drumming keeps this song musically focused, energetic and shifting freely between the jazz and rock elements. “Tecopa Moon” may be too hip for the room, as they say, since its laid-back ambience and walking bass lines is an example of how Briggs' arrangement takes an electronic marvel to another level of melodic excellence.
The feel shifts from the very beginning and the tempo ranges from Briggs' moderately slow drumming and soundscapes to the lightning fast guitar licks of both Price and Jeff Miley. The title track, “China Ranch” features twists and turns with surprises and a funky groove that will have both the band and their listeners enjoying themselves through this musical ride. The entire recording is beautifully conceived, expertly crafted and is a must for fans of jazz-rock fusion Paula Edelstein; (All Music Guide) **************************************************** Strong and melodic. Powerful and introspective. Pure.
That pretty much says it all about this album. Frank has covered all the bases with China Ranch. This CD will be appreciated by jazz purists simply for the approach and production and the way in which each piece has been handled with pure artistry. The melodies and traditional-sounding lines found on these various pieces are simply beautiful. The musicianship is flawless.
Why shouldn°t it be? Besides being a world-class drummer, Frank is a gregarious young man. He has enlisted for this project, players that are among the best to be found anywhere. China Ranch is one of those albums that allows the listener the luxury of not having a favorite cut. As you listen to each track you find something very cool about each one that just stays with you.
Here is my take on a few of the tunes. The second selection, °Tecopa Moon° is reminiscent of Billy Cobham's °Spectrum° L.P. I do not mean that from a plageristic standpoint, not at all. It is just the feel and the attitude with which the piece is delivered that invokes mystery and a dark atmosphere. Very cool. “Melonie” the third track, is produced in a traditional manner, with pure instrumentation.
It begins as a serious piano piece that falls into a really hip, romantic swing carried by pianist Steve Weingart. The tandem melody played by guitar and piano is magical. As this piece moves along there is a beautiful bass solo by Ric Fierabracci followed by a perfectly pure guitar solo provided by Brian Price. The interplay throughout this piece is remarkable.
This compostion is one that any serious student of music will appreciate both as a listener and as a piece to study. The title cut, °China Ranch° is a funky one. Heavy and slightly dark with what I would say is a Miles inspired line. Cool vibes and keys. This one is on the other end of the spectrum from the afore- mentioned °Melonie°.
I suggest it be played loud. Okay, I am going to get a bit heady with this one °Spirit Rider° is aptly named for sure. It is a breathy piece that gives the listener a sense of sailing high above the western landscape and taking in all of the majestic beauty below. It comes back to ground with the rhythm section playing a °Frank Zappa-ish° kind of reggae style melodic line over which there is the perfect compliment of fiery guitar solo performed by Mark Doyle. So bottom line is this °China Ranch contains 10 remarkable instrumental cuts that you have to hear. It takes you to a lot of different places musically and you will enjoy the trip. Gary Dean Smith, Lone Lee Radio Show (Boulder CO) ****************************************************************** Regardless of the myriad labels thrust upon it, good music is simply music.
With that stated, drummer Frank Briggs' release, China Ranch, could fit comfortably within many categorizations, its elements including fusion/progressive rock, electronic music, grooveacious funk or contemporary jazz with plenty of creative substance. A propulsive drummer in the style of Tony Williams, Briggs has been active in the Los Angeles area for a number of years. With this debut he enlists the help of a stellar cast of musicians; some lesser known in addition to recognizable veterans such as guitarist Frank Gambale and keyboardist/composer Kit Walker. With inspiration from a desert hike in China Ranch, a Mojave Desert oasis, the music mirrors Briggs' experience witnessing the vibrant colors and renewed environment after a desert rain, teeming with new life and positive energy. The spark is ignited with "Desert Flower," a fusion up-tempo piece with Kit Walker providing his still strong synthesizer and Fender Rhodes chops, an elastic Jaco Pastorius-like bass solo from Ric Fierabracci, and a torched guitar solo from Brian Price as Briggs commandingly works the kit. His drumming covers a broad range, from thundering backbeats to cymbal finesse on the slow-cooked "Tecopa Moon," a piece with thick electronics and a hypnotic pulse. Like a view of the desert terrain, a closer look reveals variety that might otherwise go unnoticed; a picturesque ballad in "Melonie," neon-lit dance floor persuasions in "Dreams" with its moog-synth bass line, Return To Forever jazz funk-rock on the title piece, and some 'Weather Reporting' on "Furnace Creek," a perfect swirl of electronics and driving beats. Briggs' writing admirably balances both melody and progressiveness throughout the recording, including the final track "Saints," where Mitchel Forman's piano and keyboards, Gambale's guitar fireworks and the author's own tremendous drumming all converge in harmony. China Ranch is a solid debut that is consistent and filled with memorable tunes and impressive performances that would appeal to a variety of listeners. Mark F Turner (All About Jazz) Read more on Last.fm.
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