Review by Julian Fairall
I must confess to loving music like this. Serious chops with "left-of-centre" music always has interested me; and Altered [http://alteredjazz.com] make some great music. If you enjoy well crafted, well executed, slightly sick music – in the vein of Zappa, mid-70's Miles and a whole lotta fusion thrown in for good measure – then rush out and buy this album right now! Bassist John Flitcraft has got some serious game, but he is best when he's laying down some of the nastiest lines I've ever heard. His pizzicato attack on his MTD 5 string is stunning, as is his punchy yet understated tone. It's the kind of overall album I will admit, will either have you reaching for the repeat or eject buttons. But it's fresh and exciting, and best of all, it's a musician's album without being overly pretentious.
Overall: the trio format (which I enjoy) works so well. All three of these guys can lay it down with the best out there, and they do – but this is not an ego album…this is a great album!
ALTERED: Altered & Graphic
Reviews by Kai Horsthemke
South African Bass Players Collective
Altered are a trio of equals, consisting of John Flitcraft bass, guitarist Jeff Miley and Steve Holmes drums. An appropriately monikered outfit (think altered scales, think made different), their style reminiscent of the Allan Holdsworth, Wayne Johnson and Steve Khan trios (and also Melbournes Tip), Altered nonetheless have their own, individual identity.
The bassists Absotively kicks off the eponymously titled debut album: underpinned by sinewy bass, it moves along with a unique kind of nervous energy. Freaky like that, again penned by Flitcraft, is a notch up, a frisky vehicle for Miley and the bassist who turns in a bouncy, tongue-firmly-in-cheek solo before taking it right down, with Miley and Holmes riding the tune out. The guitarists I must have been mistaken sports a Methenyish title and, indeed, the latters feeling for space. A vehicle for Flitcraft, too, it features Mileys cataclysmic guitars (realization of mistake denial anger acceptance: these stages are beautifully captured here). Scatter is an uptempo neo-bop composition by Flitcraft, featuring a melodic bass solo, and the bassists Dysfunctional is, appropriately enough, angular and jerky. Giant Steps offers a fairly straight-forward reading of the Trane tune, while 7 Chickens/ The Chicken is an arrangement of that perennial Pastorian favourite in 7 time, courtesy of Holmes, which makes excellent musical sense. The last tune here, Flitcrafts Sinister, is well sinister indeed: dark and snaky, an antidote to easy listening.
Moving to the bands second album, the title tune by Flitcraft, a vehicle for Miley and Holmes, merges seamlessly into Bug: with Holdworthian guitar, it is slightly less urgent than Graphic. An almost pastoral atmosphere characterizes Digging out, before it settles into a slowish, no-nonsense groove, featuring an intoxicating solo by Flitcraft and Miley un-assumes the reins and Holmes gets a further chance to shine. The bassists Two Weeks from Everywhere is a Frisellian, left-of-centre Americana, desert-fusion type of tune; wonderful: an immediate favourite. Percolate, well, does percolate. Hectically creative, it (again) features strong ensemble playing. Mileys Dr James is a ballad, for want of a better description, but with an inner propulsion suggested by both the harmonic movement and Holmess relentlessly unballadic fills and solo. Reunion, the longest track here, ends the album: again, Flitcraft turns in an unusual solo, before Miley positively soars and Holmes explodes yet again. What a joy it must be to experience this trio live!
In conversation with Martin Simpson, Flitcraft mentioned the substantial difference in recording and production between the two albums. Not to this listener, quite frankly: to my ears, both could have been recorded at the same time, under identical circumstances. If youre fed up with smooth jazz and/ or faceless slap-pop histrionics, get into Altered: the band may just alter your listening habits
Kai Horsthemke/ March 2006