It seems that guitarist Chieli Minucci has two distinct careers. His solo career has seen him record nine solo albums, while also writing music for television and film.
As the leader of the fusion band Special EFX, they have cranked out 22 albums. Their first one was released in 1983. Minucci is back for 2020 with a new Special EFX album. It is called All Stars, and if you like jazz-fusion, this will definitely hit the spot.
There are several guest stars on the album. They include Lin Rountree, Maysa, Eric Marienthal, Nelson Rangell and more.
There are 14 tracks in the set, which includes two interludes ten originals, one remake, and three interludes.
Let's get into the album!
Review - Special EFX All Stars
The set begins with Mr. Marzipan. This actually a funky tune where the horns take center stage. It begins with Minucci's guitar and you totally get the street party vibe. The horns then come in and do their thing, and suddenly you get a nice change of pace as Minucci reappears with the smooth guitar. After that, everything comes together and you will just marvel at the musicianship. By the way, Lin Rountree has a nice trumpet solo. Once again, this track is all about the horns.
Up next is Sunset Passion Juice. This is a two man band, with Minucci on the guitars, keys and bass. David Mann is on sax, and Sunset Passion Juice is really an apt title. You really do get the feeling of sipping on a beverage as you endure the heat as day turns to night. You will want to add this groove to your Saturday evening playlist.
The next track offers some nostalgia. Hanky Panky Boys is a song right out of the Stax Records playbook. If you need a refresh, Stax was famous for their Southern Soul. Eric Marienthal guests here with a sax solo. The organ adds a nice touch and this track should take center stage at your next cookout.
Little Wing is up next. This song was written by the legendary Jimi Hendrix. Maysa Leak does her thing on vocals, and Minucci gives a rousing performance on the guitar. Nelson Rangell guest stars on saxophone. This is what you get when Soul, R&B and Jazz artists take on a classic rock song.
In Empathy, the band takes you to that romantic spot. Everything falls into place here, as the sax and the guitar mesh quite nicely. You then add a grand piano to the mix, and you have yourself a soundtrack for an evening of passion.
They are ready pick up the pace with Two Dancing. This song is unique in the fact that it features not one, but two violinists. Throw in the flute by Nelson Rangell, and you have yourself a groove that the whole family can get into.
Time for an interlude with Arise. This is a simple mix of grand piano, guitar and violin. That leads to the next track, Wake Up. This is a groovy uptempo jam Minucci is just showing off on the guitars and keyboards. The musicianship is tight all around and we are sure that this will be one of your favorites from the album.
Chieli is back with the second interlude of the set. It is called Sweet Memories Of You, and the nylon electric guitar is featured.
Kampala is next. This is a song that builds as the track progresses. By the end you are really feeling the vibe of what I call 'controlled frenzy'. I know that is not really a thing, but tell me I'm wrong after you listen to the track.
This next piece is cut into two parts. The Great Escape part 1 features a grand piano intro. Which leads into the Great Escape part 2. This song is impossible to describe, as the musicians offer a masterclass on what Contemporary Jazz Fusion should sound like.
Flows Like Water is another track where the band is just showing off. This is a good thing, as this track would be a great song to open their live show.
The set concludes with a downtempo track, One Stick and a Stone. Immediately, I found myself thinking that this would fit nicely in a Cirque Du Soleil show. That is truly not a bad thing, as the music for their shows are really whimsical and modern. As a matter of fact, I would not be mad if the Special EFX band would create a soundtrack for one of the Cirque shows.
I think I may be on to something!
The Special EFX All Stars is based in fusion, but you will also get some R&B, New Age, and Old School Soul vibes. I am sure that you will take one or two songs and add them to your favorite playlist.