Rare Blend has garnered an undisputable reputation for creating unique multi-genre progressive instrumental music that dates back to the release of their independent debut, Cinefusion, in 1993. The past fifteen years have seen the band expand from core duo Vic Samalot (electric/acoustic guitar) and Bobbi Holt (keyboards, percussion) to include bassist Jeffrey Scott and a rotating roster of top-notch fusion drummers. Arguably, the band’s most ambitious efforts culminated with the 2007 acquisition of veteran drummer Ivan George. Rare Blend’s newly-released Sessions CD provides the first proper full-length recorded evidence of this fruitful period in the band’s dynamic storyline.
Sessions, Rare Blend’s follow-up to the well-received Stops Along the Way (2006), is informed by the band’s ever-growing diverse catalog of musical influences. Both “jazz” and “jam band” in nature, Sessions is an exercise in the “single-take” mentality that has become one of the band’s trademarks. Although the bulk of the album’s material was recorded at live shows in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Baltimore, several tracks were recorded at “in studio” sessions or television taping sessions.
Key songs include the opening cut “Hipster Spinster,” from the Crooked River Groove television program which sounds like a newly-discovered track from a lost Billy Cobham release, as well as the incredibly infectious title track. Several cuts, including “Phantom Lair” and “Break a Leg,” were originally designed as part of a multi-media project to compliment viewings of the film Phantom of the Opera, but hold up surprisingly well on their own.
Rare Blend previewed some of the new material during a recent opening set for Ozric Tentacles at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom. The consensus is that band’s nearly year-long hiatus to write and arrange new songs was both a productive and necessary part of its ongoing development, with Sessions as the proof-divine.