This is not the album I expected, but it is a testament to Trevor Rabin that he has delivered something not merely good, but also surprising. Highlights on the album like "Anerley Road" and "Market Street" have Rabin departing from his past rock or film score work, turning instead to jazz influences. There is a restless energy to the music, with arrangements and instrumentation rarely staying still for more than a few bars. Pieces that are four or five minutes long feel epic in terms of the ground they've covered. The usual jazz approach would be a statement of the melody, various solos based on that melody, before a final re-statement. Being close to a one-man band (he plays nearly everything save drums -- full details are on Where Are They Now?), Rabin instead varies instrumentation and arrangements as he explores the core theme of each piece, producing some of the best work of his career.
There is also an eclecticism to the album. There are slower tempo numbers: for example, penultimate track "Zoo Lake" is like an old-time jazz ballad. The short "Spider Boogie" opener does bluegrass. Album finisher "Gazania" is typical of the album's variety: a classical guitar skeleton, with bluegrass interludes and strong piano sections.
Expectant fans have been looking back to Can't Look Away, Rabin's last solo album, or Talk, his last significant non-score project, as possible reference points. The closest we get to those is "Through the Tunnel" and "Me and My Boy", where a heavier rock sound echoes pieces like "Sludge" or "Cinema". Yet we're 18 years from Talk; 23 years from Can't Look Away. 18 years before Talk, Rabin was still in Rabbitt, and given the change from Rabbitt to Talk, we shouldn't be wary of as much change again. Ironically, tracks like "Storks Bill Geranium Waltz" or "Anerley Road" may appeal to fans of the Steve Howe Trio or Time more than fans of Talk or 90125.
What we have heard from Rabin in recent years is a vast amount of film score work, which you could be forgiven for forgetting about. Until, that is, the album completely changes direction with track 6 and the cinematic "Rescue", based on his work for the film "The Guardian". The next track, "Killarney 1 & 2", brings us back towards the style of the rest of the album in its arrangement, if not its instrumentation for this is mostly a solo piano piece on what is mostly a guitarist's album. It is worth noting that the keyboards throughout the album are strong.
Trevor Rabin's Jacaranda has been some time coming, with Rabin busy with film scoring and supporting his son Ryan as his career gets going. Ryan drums on two tracks here, including, as the name suggests, "Me and My Boy". The cover art is by Hannah Hooper, who plays keys in Ryan's band Grouplove. But with the album almost here, Rabin has made some positive comments about the possibility of touring. [9 May: correction of Rabin's comments] If this comes off, it will be a show worth catching.
While I'm here... "Sea of Smiles", the single from Squackett, out on limited edition on 21 April. It's a big, joyful, catchy piece of music: I love it. While there is nice instrumental work, this is melodic rock more than prog. And it feels more 'ackett' than 'Squ': this would not have sounded out of place on Hackett's Beyond the Shrouded Horizon, although Squire's bass and singing are more to the fore than there.