Vernon Reid & Masque ~ Known Unknown
The guitar hits you first: set to sustain/noise, it’s like a cornered wild cat spitting and baring its fangs. Much of Known Unknown might best described as heavy metal speed jazz. Given the leader’s pedigree as guitarist with Living Colour and his involvement with the Black Rock Coalition, this isn’t too surprising. There are some delightfully off-kilter, high energy solos particularly from Gruebaum on keyboards, but this is Vernon’s album and it’s dominated by his razorsharp, overdriven, verging-on-manic guitar. Compositionally there are hints of Hendrix, Metheney and Shannon Jackson (Reid’s an alumnus of the latter). The album as a whole feels like a live date – it might have benefitted from crowd noise instead of silence between the tracks and a less shiny production. Put Known Unknown on when you want to blow the cobwebs out of your lugholes (and some of Reid’s solos could also strip paint at 50 yards).