SPF - Island in the Sound|
Review by Les Wiseman
I was sitting around at a music industry barbecue. It was a sunny day and musicians, studio owners, engineers and producers were eating antipasto and sipping wine. Tunes were soaring through the cloudless sky. When the guest of honor's new CD had been played, someone put on another disk. Toes started tapping, heads bobbing, people settled back with satisfied sighs, the music perfectly sound tracked the relaxed easy afternoon. Then the rumblings began. "Who is this?" "This is great" "Great vocals." "Terrific arrangements." "Is this some new Steely Dan album?" You could see engineers staring at the speakers, listening to the production. "Who is this?"
It was revealed that the artist's name was Stephen Foglia and that the album was called Island in the Sound, an independent release from San Jose, California. Foglia produced, arranged and orchestrated the album as well as playing guitar, piano and synthesizers, plus handling lead vocals and harmonies. Call it jazz-pop fusion: full trumpet, saxophone and trombone sections swelling with drama, overlain with rippling full-throated guitar and piano. What distinguishes Foglia's arrangements is his taste or tastiness. While the Kenny G. crowd would certainly appreciate this music, there is none of that overwrought rendering - - if you want to perceive just how amazing a guitarist Foglia is, you won't find any show-offy Al DiMeola/John McLaughlin overkill, instead on compositions such as Bartertown, you will get a few lyrical bars that guitarists will appreciate for their technique and difficulty, yes everyone will enjoy for their well-choseness and their mesh with the entire composition. To ice the tunes, there is Foglia's voice, a honeyed warm thing reminiscent of Steely Dan's Donald Fagan, but inserted into the songs, seemingly as another instrument, another alto sax, that spins lyrics of yearning, life experience and West Coast imagery.
Six of the tunes are instrumentals that range from contemporary swing like an updated Count Basie through compositions that switch tempos and allow the musicians to wail a little bit, not unlike Frank Zappa at his most restrained (The Grand Wazoo, Waka Jawaka). On Living on the Western Side, Foglia even lets loose with a blistering guitar solo that will have guitarheads salaaming at his feet. Stephen Foglia: He offers new hope for the adult-contemporary and jazz markets. He deals in new spins on traditional values such as coherent orchestral compositions and good taste.
Les Wiseman - CANADA WIDE MAGAZINES - September 1999.