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Karizma: Perfect Harmony (Album Review)

Only a handful of albums this year excited me enough to count down the months, weeks, and days before release. "Perfect Harmony" by the David Garfield led group Karizma was one of such albums. Take a look at the lineup of musicians, and you'll understand why I could barely withhold my excitement:

  • David Garfield (Keyboards, Production)
  • Michael Landau (Guitar)
  • Jimmy Johnson (Bass)
  • Steve Tavaglione (Sax)
  • James Harrah (Guitar)
  • Tim Pearce (Guitar)
  • Neil Stubenhaus (Bass)
  • Abe Laboriel (Bass)
  • John Pena (Bass)
  • Dean Cortez (Bass)
  • Walt Fowler (Bass
  • Bruce Fowler (Bass)
  • Larry Klimas (Bass)

This three disk set combines all of these great musicians with some of the greatest drummers playing today:

  • Vinine Colauita
  • Lenny Castro (percussion)
  • Oscar Seaton

The first two discs are original compositions by David Garfield for Karizma. It's been more than a decade since Karizma's last release, Document, which was a showcase of live performances of some of the Karizma classics. In Perfect Harmony, we're treated with an abundance of fresh music - fourteen new songs are on the first two discs, to be exact. Listening to the recordings, however, one might think they've been playing the songs for years.

Highlights from Disks 1 and 2

As a drummer, it was very exciting to hear Vinnie Colauita's performance on "My Sweet Oso." The song is a textbook example of syncopated grooves broken up with complex bridges . . . in 7/8! That being said, I have to say that I love the composition just as much as I love Colauita's drumming. There are synchronized keyboard/sax/guitar melodies which are played against synchronized drum/bass rhythms - and they sound fantastic. The rhythmic support provided by David Garfield and Michael Landau allow Colauita to unleash with the high hat, snare drum, and toms over the syncopated bass drum pattern used in the groove.

Another one of my favorite moments in this album is Jimmy Johnson's bass solo in "And Yelling All The Time." I'm a HUGE fan of Jimmy Johnson's playing, and this solo is a unique treat. The tone of his instrument shines through the wide tonal range he utilizes. Normally, I'm skeptical about bass players venturing into higher octaves, but this solo is a remarkable example of the versatility of the bass guitar. Michael Landau also shreds HARD on this tune.

If you crave the feel of a deep pocket supporting a clear melody, look no further than "Pontier" and "Donna." It's a rare treat to hear such musical melodies coming from the same great musicians tearing up the solo sections.

"Still Waters Run Deep" shines through with David Garfield's signature, beautiful melodies. There are countless examples of stunning melodies in his discography, but this is one of my favorites. To make things better, the lines are played by Larry Klimas on saxophone. The tone of his playing is topped only by the deep expressiveness portrayed through his articulation of the phrases. This song also displays the impeccable ability of these musicians to adapt to different styles of music. I sincerely hope that listeners will not discard this album as a hyper-technical fusion exercise manual, when in reality, there is much, much more going on.

New Releases of Old Recordings

As if fourteen new compositions wasn't enough, the third disc is a collection of old, remastered Karizma recordings. Hardcore Karizma fans will recognize live performances of many of their favorites, including Sting and Aliens. Jeff Porcoro fans will delight in a rare emergence of a previously unreleased live recording of Toast for Eli. Personally, I'm also a huge fan of Carlos Vega, and this third disc has several new releases of old recordings with Carlos holding down the groove.

Since I was a young child during the early Karizma days, it's a special treat to get to hear fresh recordings of these two legendary pop drummers. It really means a lot to have new material to hear, study, and internalize. I know that I'm not the only drummer of a younger generation who loves the playing of these two musicians. The joy and the energy in these performances will bring smiles to listeners who can appreciate such rare gems.

Conclusion

It's clear that all of the members of Karizma have been playing together in various projects for many years, not only because the album is filled with musical talent, but because every song feels organic, smooth, and natural. The compositions are absolutely beautiful, and the playing is technically immaculate. I hate to make this sound like an afterthought, but the production is also outstanding, and these players are captured at their best.

Perfect Harmony by Karizma is the kind of album a musician can listen to all the way through, over and over again, hearing new levels of nuance every time. The only thing more perfect than the harmonies in the songs is the harmony between the musicians as they play them.

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