In anticipation of my next concert this Friday, I want to share with you all the amazing supergroup The Aristocrats. Consisting of guitarist Guthrie Govan (Steven Wilson), drummer Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson), and bassist Bryan Beller (Joe Satriani), this jazz-fusion/progressive rock band consists of some of the most well-renowned musicians at their respective instruments. Their latest album “Tres Caballeros” was released a couple months ago, and contains some of the finest instrumental music I’ve heard.
Containing nine total songs, each member of the band wrote three of the tracks to their particular style and taste. Because of the experimental nature to this album, one could expect the improvisational aspects of the album to be very off-putting and over-the-top. The album is indeed zany, but because of the musicianship, integrity, and finesse of its composers, “Tres Caballeros” turns out to be one highly intelligent album. This album contains no moments of egotistical playing, or overblown and longwinded solos for their own sakes. The collaborative effort of the band results in well structured songs, showcasing each instrument equally. Even the rhythm sections are interesting enough to stand out as their own songs if desired. The production quality of this record also allows each instrument to be heard simultaneously, whether it is a softer section of “Pig’s Day Off,” or an incredibly wild chorus in “ZZ Top.” I love the artistic balance of this album, equaling highlighting all three members of the band.
It’s hard for me to listen to this album and not favor drummer Marco Minnemann, whom I’ve praise repeatedly on this site. The man is a musical genius, a highly skilled multi-instrumentalist, and my personal favorite drummer. There are too many drool-generating and mind-numbing moments of drumming on “Tres Caballeros” to count, but I especially love his performance on his own contribution “Stupid 7.” The freestyle opening, the fills during rhythm sections, and time-signature changes exemplify why he is indeed my favorite drummer. Despite my adoration for him, I feel the others’ performance are more memorable. The jazzy guitar style of Govan is amusing throughout the album. Contributing solos to every song on the album, Govan particularly shines in “Jack’s Back,” one of his own compositions in the album. Containing tremolo picking, the song contains that cliché Govan sound that is easily heard in his contributions to Steven Wilson albums. The song “Pressure Relief” easily reminds me of jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter, with its clean sounding muted plucks, bending notes, and wah pedal. Being one of the softer songs on the album, I enjoy the change of pace, especially since I was so convinced the album would be an hour long of nonstop crescendos during my first listen. I noticed some songs on the album contained layered guitar underneath some of Govan’s solos, a technique that is always difficult to recreate live, but nonetheless adds much needed texture to prevent the song from falling apart. I almost wish there were moments like this in the album, but am completely satisfied with the sheer technicality of Govan throughout.
With support of the unrivaled talent of Minnemann and Govan, bassist Beller shines on this album, and is surprisingly my favorite characteristic of “Tres Caballeros.” As a matter of fact, my three favorite tracks on this album are all compositions written by Beller, being “Texas Crazypants,” “Smuggler’s Corridor,” and “Through the Flower.” From the track titles alone, the listener can predict the mentality and stage setting of the song. “Texas Crazypants” has every feeling of a Dukes of Hazard-style chase scene, incorporating police sirens and complementing bluesy guitar, while “Smuggler’s Corridor” is very much a Mexican standoff in the making, with each member dancing their tango around each other. The album cover helps to visualize this song, with low-bit Nintendo-themed characters dancing around in the desert. I believe these three songs perfectly capture the tone meant for the track, oftentimes attempted and missed by instrumental bands. There are delicious bass lines throughout the album, highlighted ironically in some of the other member’s contributions. Being the least known member of the band to me, I thoroughly enjoyed discovering and singling out Beller’s bass guitar.
For an album consisting of three uber-talented musicians, “Tres Caballeros” is far more accessible than many other high-caliber and intense musicians. With each listen, you can focus on a different instrument and have a completely different experience. So sit down and dive into this amazing instrumental album. Fans of solo projects by Joe Satriani and Steve Vai will easily fall in love with this album. Please support The Aristocrats by purchasing their album on iTunes, and by following them on their Facebook page for upcoming news and tour announcements.
Speaking of tours, The Aristocrats is finishing up their North American tour this week, hitting many cities in the southwest United States. I will be attending the San Diego show, and I cannot wait to see them! If you are in the area and are interested in watching an amazing performance, please check them out!
Update: Check out my concert review for their latest show here.