Carl Orr

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Reviews of Carl Orr


22/08/2006 Walter Kolosky

ALL ABOUT JAZZ REVIEW BY WALTER KOLOSKY(author of Power Passion and Beauty, the story of the legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra).

Deep Down is quite a departure for jazz, rock and funk fusioneer Carl Orr. The guitarist has been known to use some pretty heavy-duty distortion and effects over the years, in Billy Cobham’s band and his own groups. This outing is an effort to make more with less. Orr eliminates most of the distortion and treble and goes for a purer sound in service of bossa nova, organ-based jazz and some solo pieces.
Recorded over the space of six years, Deep Down opens with the relaxing “Stand Alone.” Tasteful and clean single-note runs and warm chords mark Orr’s playing on this cut; the calmly swinging organ of Pete Whittaker provides the structure. Christian Brewer’s alto sax offers a counter-voice as the tune builds in intensity. Nic Frances’ drumming, as throughout the CD, is heavy with nuance. (Yes, “heavy nuance” is possible.)
“11th hour,” recorded in 1999, is marked by Whittaker’s organ shadings and Orr’s lightning-fast playing. Its somewhat truncated, but catchy melody is a bit mysterious sounding. Sax player Butch Thomas takes a star turn, reaching the upper registers as the tune fades out. “People Power” is a spatial excursion underpinned by a steady, yet gentle, militaristic beat. The lead instruments for most of the piece, according to the liner notes, are the saxophones of Brewer and Thomas, though it is hard to tell when one leaves off and the other begins, so seamless is the playing. Orr’s reverbed guitar provides space for the tune to land.
The title cut finds Orr in a laid-back bossa nova mode, displaying some of the most expressive chops you're ever likely to hear from an electric guitar. Just down-right beautiful is all I can say. Several heartfelt solo acoustic numbers, dedicated to those Orr loves, follow. They further confirm his stringed virtuosity. Reprises of earlier numbers, some featuring programming, fill out this wonderful creation. In the end, you want to play this disc again.
The relatively unsung Orr’s fleet-fingeredness and musical imagination, as evidenced by his confident dexterity and intriguing compositions, put him on one of the top shelves of today’s guitar and overall musical elite. If there is any artistic justice at all, it is only a matter of time before many more people reach up and grab that particular book, open the pages and discover what they have been missing.


22/08/2006 Marco Anderson;All about jazz

This recording is a radical departure from guitarist Carl Orr’s previous high-voltage fusion output, and on first listening one can be lulled into a false sense of smoothness brought on by commercial aspirations. However, as the title suggests, there is much more to Deep Down than a cursory scratching at the surface would suggest.
The sound is warm and familiar, and anyone with a penchant for Blue Note organ trios with Grant Green or early George Benson will be served well here. There are also some rather lush classical overdubbed acoustic guitar pieces, plus one or two solo efforts where Orr plays all instruments, apart from some junglist drum programming by Ernie McKone. Indeed, three distinct recording sessions appear to have gone into making this album, but they are nicely integrated into a pleasing whole.
The disc kicks off with the first of five organ trio tunes, “Stand Alone,” a classic 5/4 swing piece with a catchy but simple tune. Orr uses a hollow-body jazz guitar here and his tone is clear but mellow. Drummer Nic France keeps the whole thing bubbling along nicely, and the guitarist shows tasteful restraint throughout. Tracks such as “Peace by Peaceful Means” and “People Power,” whose titles themselves tell us much about the writer’s motivation for the album’s direction, amply express his depth of thought and feeling.
Orr can also trade chops with the finest, however, and on the drum-n-bass flavoured “11th hour,” he and Butch Thomas do get down to some mean blowing, while France’s excellent live drums replace McKone’s sequenced work on the programmed version. Even in the midst of these fiery salvos, however, there is a simplicity of expression and execution which are the trademarks of a craftsman at his best and Orr plays with energy, directness and spontaneity throughout, putting his own stamp on this classic format.
“Precious Baby Boy,” “Nam Shin” and “Isolation” are all short, almost classical etudes, the former featuring a particularly lovely theme built on parallel harmonies. Two tracks are dedicated to departed friends, including the tender ballad “Nothing Can Hurt Her Now,” another organ trio track.
Deep Down is exactly what it says, rich in emotion in a soulful, bluesy way, still retaining high technical proficiency, albeit in a subtle setting. The production is studied and clear, lending a relaxed vibe to the sound. The title track is a romantic bossa nova, apparently inspired by the classy, sophisticated music of Burt Bacharach.
Although this wide detour from Orr's normal musical path explores a more chilled-out, soulful area, he’s managed to convey a deeply felt emotional sensibility through a warm, accessible medium. Whilst this music can be used as a soundscape for your favourite form of relaxation or dinner party, this well of heartfelt feelings can only be plumbed by going deep down into the very core of the music. Put your CD player on loop, turn down the lights and dive into this beautiful album.


01/08/2006 TOM BARLOW

A classy guitarist, Carl Orr has more than enough timing, tone and chops to have got the call from fusion god Billy Cobham. But Deep Down also proves he knows a thing or two about good songwriting. A rootsy set, the recording is a stylistic turnabout: mostly guitar/Hammond trio (the excellent Pete Whittaker on organ and Nic France on drums) concocting fiery, back-to-basics grooves and bossa novas with progressive twists and guest spots for the likes of Christian Brewer and excellent tenor saxophonist Butch Thomas. Orr's playing suits perfectly this earthy, stripped-down style. Besides considerable fretboard flair, his tunes and solos are consistently lyrical: 'Peace By Peaceful means', 'People Power' (a standout) and the title track are all cases in point. Elsewhere, the guitarist launches headfirst into terrific hurtling improvisation on '11th Hour', while 'Stand Alone' is a breezy Blue Note 5/4 with Brewer's alto whipping up a storm. Orr also indulges his acoustic playing smartly, notably 'Give the people something' channelling the Joao Gilberto songbook with pianist Steve Rose dancing about the melody. Engaging stuff.Tom Barlow Jazzwise August 2006.


15/09/2004 Jack Massarick - The Evening Standard

Nobody had heard of Carl Orr until he astonished London on a concert tour with US drum phenomenon Billy Cobham. The Australian guitarist, a former Bach student, fitted easily into an all-star line-up that included the amazing Gary Husband on keyboards.
Last night he launched his latest album, Absolute Freedom, with a demonstration of the versatility every contemporary jazz guitarist needs.
This began with the electronica that steers a solid-body Stratocaster in so many digital directions. Some of us would prefer Carl to discover his individual voice and stick to it, but we go along with his sonic experiments-"I sometimes think the reverb pedal was invented with me in mind", he confessed last night-because we know he can produce a fluent, no-nonsense line of thought in any of his foot-pedal identities.
First, though, came grungy numbers such as Unstoppable and Blues for Jimi ("Part of a rock opera I've written-it's about the discovery of penicillin, you'll love it") that found Orr in full jazz-rock mode, his wah-wah, fuzz and echo monitors all showing red. What with keyboarder Mike Gorman and bassist Neville Malcolm making similar gurgling noises, they sounded like a band under water.
Happily, Orr surfaced into the hipper ambience of Steely Dan dedicating Tomorrow's Girls to the watching Elliot Randall (he of the famous rock guitar solo) in the audience. The mellowing process continued in the second set, when Orr, now playing a handsome Heritage semi-acoustic, produced some churchy Phil Upchurch-like blues and Wes Montgomeryish octaves during the thoughtful anti-war ballad The Price of Peace.
For an enjoyable finish, drummer Dave de Rose started rapping in Italian (subtitles next time please) and two guests, Adam Glasser and Steve Rubie, joined the group on chromatic harmonica and flute.
Finally a word about Steve, who runs this venue, a comfortable, low-lit room in dusky-red with large pictures of jazz icons(Beiderbecke, Armstrong,Monk,Coltrane) on the walls, a good piano and a decent menu. Without any aid grant he's been presenting jazz here 363 days a year since 1987 and is about due for a sainthood or an MBE.


01/06/2004 Jamie Renton - Straight No Chaser Magazine

Jazz guitarist extrordinaire Carl Orr presents ‘Absolute Freedom’, his first new CD for five years and a major step forward for his funky jazz-rocking sound. The album includes guest appearances from legendary drummer Billy Cobham (who Carl has worked with since 1996) and flavour of the month saxman Nathan Haines (creator of the unique Bemsha club night, at which Carl played for over a year) But most of all it features Carl’s inimitable mix of fiery guitar licks, compositional flair, spiritual commitment and absurdist wit.

Since moving to the UK from Sydney in 1996, Carl has established himself as a stalwart of the London jazz scene, playing with the likes of Ernie Watts, Randy Brecker and George Duke along the way. Now, with ‘Absolute Freedom’, he’s ready to spread the word beyond the jazz faithful. Backed by a band that includes in-demand bassist Neville Malcolm, the extraordinary young drummer Dave de Rose and Adam Glasser on Rhodes piano and chromatic harmonica, Carl performs seven distinctive originals, plus a cover of Donald Fagen’s ‘Tomorrow’s Girls’. His music bares the influence of his heroes: Miles Davis, John Scofield, Steely Dan and John McLaughlin, yet remains uncompromisingly original throughout.


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