Geoff Wilbur Live review from Behind the songs at the Hard Rock
Songs without lyrics. Justin is a guitar instrumentalist. But, you know, by halfway through his opening number, I forgot there weren’t any lyrics. “Rolling Blue Hill” sported an engaging verse, bridge, and a catchy chorus. On “Nova Scotia,” you could hear the song rise and fall, build and relax as it told its story. His third song, whose title I missed, painted very specific pictures for me; whether or not it was the picture Justin was painting, the images I “saw” were of a walk in the woods, maybe a stream, birds, a waterfall, rapids… Next up, Justin delivered a very flowing musical cover of the Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home.” And he closed his evening with “When I’m Alone”; as an example of speaking with his guitar, one section of this closing number made me laugh, though I wonder if that was an appropriate response given the song’s title. With a broad range of musical influences driving his guitar stylings, Justin was a terrific inclusion in this inaugural Behind the Songs songwriters’ night.
05/20/16 Albums By Travis Rogers
Justin Piper's Take on "Avant Funk"
Fierce and Proficient Guitar
Justin Piper serves as a musical director for one band, leads his own trio, and performs frequently on solo guitar. He plays guitars, bass, and Rhodes on his album Avant Funk (justonemusic) with Tom Garrington on drums. All 12 of the compositions on the album are written and arranged by Piper himself.
The album opens with I Fall Down. The solo guitar intro is joined by bass and drums in the laying down of the groove that is woven in and out throughout the piece. The guitar approach is often reminiscent of Progressive Rock guitarists like Roine Stolt—tightly harmonic with fascinating chord changes. His technique is beyond reproach with clean lines and distinct phrasing. Garrington’s drumming is also more rock than Jazz or Funk.
Buzz Book, however, brings a more Jazz-oriented approach with smooth syncopation and a cool groove. The bass and drums are in tight together with the Rhodes. The guitar begins to explore interesting avenues and finds cool expressions in the search.
When I’m Alone is a lyrical and emotional piece that is well-crafted and played beautifully. It has a bluesy edge to the otherwise Progressive/Jazz intonations. His electric guitar overlays the acoustic guitar to create a Steve Howe feel in its pure emotionalism. Beautiful.
Rolling Blue Hill carries a nice, tight groove under Jazz guitar. Garrington has some excellent moments on the drums. This was a standout piece and full of charming chords and cool twists. The 1,1-2-3,1-2 motif is a nice touch.
Big Rock is a rock-themed exercise in virtuosity and rock rhythms. Piper takes on a corps progression approach to the main theme and launches into cool riffs off of that theme. Often working on Martin Barre intonations, Piper then dives deep into fine lines of Funk and even a bit of Gospel.
Two Whee’s opens with a guitar arpeggio that remains a backdrop while Piper’s bass follows a separate line with Garrington’s drums. The lead guitar takes off on intriguing side streets but returns to the main theme early and often. The lead guitar creates fascinating riffs of its own and explores them well.
Somnambulist begins on a cool walking groove. Get it? Nice tongue in cheek approach to the title. The rhythm section keeps the walking while the guitar takes a dream-like tone, both broken by interludes of intentional stumbling. Garrington gets in some interesting strokes beneath the walking bass lines. This was a favorite.
What’s This? is a hard-driving groove with even chording from Piper’s lead guitar. The chord changes are full of interesting choices and I mean that in a good way. The proficient runs are tight and intense. Nice work.
Yo Yo Pop has a snappy intro that leads into a complex rhythm/strum pattern and nice work on the Rhodes, being in lock-step with the main theme. It offers some cool moments of lead guitar and sweet swing.
Could I Have a Redo? opens with an acoustic/electric guitars duet. The drums join in gentle background rhythm. I enjoyed the melody and movement of the piece. The tempo picks up and the rhythm section steps forward while the electric guitar takes the lead. The duet returns in complementary tones and phrasings. Sometimes in life, we need a redo. But not here. Piper got it right the first time.
Look at the Tars is a stinging piece with geared-up guitar and driving bass and drums. The electric guitar is again more Progressive than Jazz. That’s not a bad thing. I like Progressive.
At the mid-point of the song, Piper breaks away from the main theme and takes rewarding risks before returning to the main theme. In the final section, he again breaks away into expressive thoughts and cool conclusions.
The album closes with Tonic Immobility. This is a cool foray into Eastern melody and structure. Piper saved the best for last. Garrington lights up with some of his best work. I was digging some of Garrington’s rhythmic choices and break lines.
Meanwhile, Piper follows a break-neck pace that works extremely well with Garrington’s rhythms. The harmonic guitars are on fire. The Rhodes picks up the theme and fades out momentarily before fading back in with it. The bass and drums rejoin the slower development of the resurgent theme. The electric guitar resumes its lead but moves away from the theme as the song and album fade out.
Justin Piper has composed deliberate and fascinating pieces full of excellent rhythms, tempos and melodies. Tom Garrington supports him successfully and with dedication to Piper’s vision. Avant Funk emerges as an album of fine artistry and the beginning of a musical quest that we should follow with rapt attention.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
Justin Piper: Avant FunkBy GEANNINE REID
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Avant Funk, Justin Piper's debut album, completes the creative circle for this remarkable musician in a number of ways. First of all, it documents his ability to create unique sounds and textures, Piper is the heart of the project, performing on guitar, bass, Rhodes and programing, in addition to writing all the compositions, making Avant Funk truly a personal portrait of his musical mind set. Secondly, it documents his abilities in shifting easily between styles, roles and instruments, while always conveying each musical idea with clarity and conviction. Completing the circle is Piper's ability to be a teller and visionary, he bridges genres and generations in a conversational manner that gives the listener a feeling of experiencing a musical story.
The exuberance of the album is centered in the contagious rhythms of funk, rock and fusion that come to the forefront on tracks like: "Buzz Book," "Rolling Blue Hill," "Yo Yo Pop," "Look At The Tars," and "Tonic Immobility." With Piper's solid rhythm guitar parts and dexterous lead riffing, funky bass lines, and compositional hooks, all rooted in the groove foundation of Tom Garrington's drum kit. It's impossible not to move! Piper really displays his soloing capabilities on "Buzz Book." His warm distorted lines build over the steady ostinato of the rhythm section. "Tonic Immobility," displays Piper's excellent lead lines with the added expression of a wha-wha effect, done with taste and complete musicality.
Avant is defined as, original or innovative; (especially with reference to popular music). Through it all, Piper reminds us that music is about emotions through a rhythmic journey in time and the sterling guitarist provides twelve track that will take the listener places. His playing is a delight, whether pouring out his passion on a ballad like "When I'm Alone" or wailing from the core a-la-Scott Henderson on "Big Rock." Avant Funk is an expedition— Piper's brilliant command of multiple instruments and compositions framed by Garrington's time keeping, and for any listener, whether their palates run from jazz-rock, funk, fusion or indie rock, this is a winner!
Track Listing: I Fall Down ; Buzz Book; When I’m Alone; Rolling Blue Hill; Big Rock; Two Whee’s; Somnambulist; What’s This?; Yo Yo Pop; Could I Have A Redo; Look At The Tars; Tonic Immobility.
Personnel: Justin Piper: guitar, bass, Rhodes, programming; Tom Garrington: drums.
Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced
May 14, 2016
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record
JUSTIN PIPER/Avant Funk: If this isn’t exactly your idea on funk, there’s good reason. This is a cat with a lot of far ranging interests. The guitar man comes to us from the classical world where his muse takes him to the middle east. From there, he kicks it out in his local Boston area as an improv jazzer on 8 string guitar. A fun house ride of a date that’ll make the cilia in your ear canals stand up at attention, he’s a jazzbo that plays like a shredder. Ain’t nothing wrong with adapting to our mixmaster world when the tour guide has it together like Piper. Check it out.