There are so many different influences present in the music on the newest CD Bridge by Akiko Pavolka's House of Illusion that it almost defies categorization. This could therefore place this music in the avant-garde category, and certainly there are influences from that particular camp of music present here. Certainly, this music has a high degree of jazzness by virtue of the improvisation and jazz sensibilities present. There are elements of jazz fusion with sounds reminiscent of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, and early 1970's Miles Davis. Merely calling this music fusion however overlooks the unique approaches to making music on this CD, and the broad range of influences Akiko Pavolka and her band mates bring to the listener.
Of the nine selections on the CD, Akiko composed six. The remaining three are by Matt Pavolka. The writing is a challenging, thought provoking aural treat to the listener. This is not music for only casual listening, as it is music that demands your full awareness, and because of the length of many of the tunes, endurance of one's attention span. The songs sound as though they are generally through-composed or modified strophic forms composed to enhance the poetry of the lyrics. In general, all nine selections develop similar complex soundscapes as the result of several layers of musical activity spread over driving bass grooves, and employment of a variety of different instrumental colors, sound distortion and vocal techniques.
As a vocalist, to this listener, Akiko, echoes sounds similar to that of Joni Mitchell and Flora Purim. She uses her voice instrumentally in the ensemble adding her unique vocal timbre to the sound mass either in unison or harmony with other instruments. She is also found sometimes scatting solo, other times juxtaposed in counterpoint with another improvising instrument. Bassist Matt Pavolka, tenor saxophonist/bass clarinetist, Peter Hess, and multi instrumentalist Pete Rende also contribute significant improvised solos. Also, not to be overlooked is the tasteful work of drummer/percussionist Blake Lindberg.
Although uniquely conceptualized, the music on this CD still hovers close enough to the mainstream, that listeners not accustomed to exclusively cutting edge music may find Bridge still very accessible. For the jazz listener who enjoys vocal oriented jazz, but seeks an alternative to the contemporary standards redux type singers, Bridge by Akiko Pavolka's House of Illusion is a highly recommend addition to a jazz CD collection.