• Jonathan Widran

BOB SABELLICO, Influence

Versatile multi-genre veteran guitarist Bob Sabellico has one of the coolest musical superhero origin stories ever, being shone on by the gods on the outskirts of Philadelphia at 16 to replace the legendary Randy Bachman in The Guess Who at the early peak of their fame, just as “American Woman” was scaling the charts. Sabellico has been takin’ care of business ever since, touring with his own bands, working with the likes of Jaco Pastorius, Steve Cropper, Victor Wooten and George Benson, and - in the early 80s - helping to pioneer the use of electronics and synths in live and recorded music.


A bit over two decades since finally getting around to releasing his debut solo album (Groove Station, 1999), Sabellico gathers a batch of hard core jazz cats to bring back frenetic, high intensity fusion the way Corea, Clarke, Zawinal and McLaughlin and Mahavishnu did in the 70s on the perfectly titled Influence – an epic, no holds barred 13 track recording showcasing the guitarist’s virtuosity and uber adventurousness like never before.

At the time of Influence’s release, it had been eight years since his previous set Child’s Play. While that set was infectious and eminently engaging, and featured excellent guests like Andy Snitzer, “Papa John” DeFrancesco and the late Chuck Loeb, it had a soft spot for slow simmering blues, easy funk and cool smooth jazz. Nothing wrong with any of those splendidly rendered vibes, but Sabellico’s been conserving his energy and has a helluva lot more fire and guitar and synth guitar driven brimstone (and some big time incendiary, freewheeling ensemble edge) on his mind this time around.


Focus on his guitar excursions all you want, but dig the way he interacts with this lineup: keyboardist Michael Whitaker (who complements the drums and electric guitar power punch with spirited, intensity building acoustic piano runs on “Diversions”), saxophonist Jeff Scot Wills (who grounds the wild experimental jazz jam title track with his rich soul intensity) and a cadre of drum greats (Dennis Chambers, Will Kennedy, Todd Sucherman, Terry Silverlight, Raymond Massey, Nicole Marcus and Ray Gonzales) whose slam and boom and eminent grooves lay a kick-ass foundation for all the high octane shenanigans.


There’s a little something for every taste, from the crisp, super-percussive funk blasts of “Morningtide” and the crackling, crazily distorted Sabellico/Kennedy “Doo Ett” to the scorching punch-a-minute blastoff “Funky Bs” and “Just for the Moment,” which cools things down a tad for…well, the title of the song.


Listen to Influence here: Spotify – Influence