While I am not a jazz expert, I do like many jazz fusion acts like Tribal Tech and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Bassist Jon von Boehm is a very talented bassist who leads his own trio into action on his new album “Ortus.” I’ll admit that whilst I don’t know jazz as well as some, I think a fresh faced reviewer offers a unique perspective.
The opening track starts with a very heavy bass synth part that sounds rather tuneless. From there, it does improve but the funky guitar riff isn’t all that appealing either. On the upside, the bass solo in the middle is outstanding (though the funky guitar lick in my right ear drove me crazy). Overall, not the best opener.
The bass synth rears its ugly head on the second track “DTM” but the song itself is better. Sadly, that damn sound makes enjoying those songs impossible for me. It’s strange that a bassist as clearly gifted as von Boehm would have anything like that on an album. “The Rev” has a better bass sound thankfully. It has a bright sound to it along with a great guitar solo by John Gallo.
“Second Contact” sounds like a Planet X outtake with more atmosphere than that band tends to do. Wordless vocals by Jessie Rosse Brassfield add to that atmosphere. The drum sound is another area that’s perplexing. Since drummer Michael Green produced the album, I would have thought there’d be a fuller drum sound. I suppose this allows more space for von Boehm’s bass.
There’s no questioning the chops of all the players on “Ortus.” But the overall sound of the album is a hard listen, especially with headphones. It’s a bit raw and noisy to be honest. “Soweto” is a good example. So many things pinned to one ear or the other in the mix and electronics to make it even more unsettled. Again, chops aren’t the issue. The bass on “Syzygy” is a good example of how great von Boehm is.
I think it’s an album that could use more depth to the mix. The instruments are all way up in the mix which does make it sound like they are in the room with you…but a little closer to me than I might want! I guess I need more space! The weird opening of the closing track “The Speed of Dark” is cool but again, probably best not to have headphones on. Plus the bass synth rears its ugly tuneless head again. Yeah I can’t.
Without a doubt, von Boehm and his band are talented but talent isn’t all you need. I’ve listened to a ton of music and a lot of heavy, loud shit. This album made my ears itchy on the inside. Yeah yeah, laugh it up. There’s too much of the album pushed to the forefront of the mix and no matter the volume, it can be tough. I am sure the producer will say I am unqualified to judge his work but my ears beg to differ. That said, fans of jazz should give this album a fair listen.
Release Date: March 16, 2018