Vernon Reid and Masque review - Known Unknown
Vernon Reid and Masque
Vernon Reid is known as the guitarist in the groundbreaking black rock group Living Colour. New Yorkers may know him for his more experimental projects, which he usually showcases in downtown avant-garde clubs. "Known Unknown" is his first recording for fellow virtuoso Steve Vai's Favored Nations label. Perhaps out of fear of upsetting the boss, Favored Nations artists produce guitar albums -- meaning the kind that sell more to musicians themselves than casual listeners. Reid is bound to win over guitarists, jazz hounds and hipsters alike with this winning collection of instrumentals.
On this disc, he demonstrates a versatility not evident in Living Colour. Backed by his working band of Leon Gruebaum on a variety of keyboards, bassist Hank Schroy and drummer Marlon Browden, Reid covers some serious ground. The title track wouldn't be out of place on a Vai disc, with impossibly fluid guitar lines and melodies unfurling with grace, also examines New Orleans funk with urban jungle grit on "The Slouch," updates Thelonious Monk's "Brilliant Corners" with unimaginable post-modernism, and explores his own equally dark sunny corners on "Down and Out in Kigali and Freetown." DJ Logic, the collaborator of choice to seemingly half the modern music world, adds his touch to "Voodoo Pimp Stroll."
If Reid's work with Living Colour had one fault -- and many would argue it doesn't -- it is that he sometimes gets sloppy when playing too fast. Nowhere is that in evidence on "Known Unknown." He hits light speed on a deranged cover of Lee Morgan's jazzy "Sidewinder" without losing control. This disc is a strong, diverse statement from Reid and Masque.