Late Summer Drive is the debut release from the Canadian duo of the same name. The group consists of Vito Schiralli (bass/rhythm guitar/programming) and Bobby Boutros (lead guitar/saxophone) with Schiralli handling all the recording and mixing. In the studio, the sound was fleshed out by David Paul Neil (drums), Steven Lee Rachel (double bass) and Phil Ashley (violin/alto sax). Guest vocalist Drea and rapper Frantik added their talents in a few featured parts as well.
The band call their style “funk, jazz and chill-hop infused rock music.” Their compositions stemmed from long jams that were cut down and then built out into the tracks heard on Long Summer Drive. Clearly, the jams have a minor-blues flavor to them, as each of the first four cuts has that orientation, albeit with slightly different feels. “Mencomot” sets up as a funk track with horn parts. “Lucid” takes a hip-hop approach and adds Frantik’s rap over the top. “Glossolalia,” in a nicely creative turn, works in some reverse-synth techno sections between minor jazz-standard passages with Boutros’ distorted guitar leads fitting in well.
I am big fan of minor blues tracks, but “Bittersweet” misses the mark entirely. Late Summer Drive includes an effected, distorted vocal that’s supposed to sound sultry, I think, like a lounge singer at a smoky jazz club. Instead, it comes off creepy, like someone calling in a ransom demand for a patron locked in the basement of said club. Further, Boutros’ guitar solos here come across more like blues-scale warmup exercises instead of fluid, purposeful, melodic lines.
Taken as a whole, there are some good ideas across these four minor-blues tracks, but they’re not fully developed. This could go one of two ways: they could be distilled down into one large suite, or, if these are conceived as four separate pieces, the ideas can be fleshed out and tightened up. Maybe this goes against their jam-band ethos, but the middle ground here on Late Summer Drive is inconsistent.
The band does tighten things up on “Komorebi” though, and it’s the best cut on the album. It starts as piano-driven, dramatic, Pink Floyd-eqsue epic, then weaves in Drea’s vocals and works its way up to a terrific breakdown section with a full orchestra slamming away. When the band sets out with a plan, they deliver. The only sticking point for me was some of Boutros’ note choices--they stuck out in places, and it was hard to tell if this was intentional.
Late Summer Drive is a good start for Schiralli and Boutros. They’ve got a strong base to build on, and maybe we’ll hear updated versions of these ideas on their follow-up album. They could call it Mid-Autumn Stroll, and I would gladly spin it.
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