Despite being a prolific writer for film and television, guitarist and producer Brian Tarquin is best known by some for his ability to mix pop with elements of the acid jazz that, throughout the nineties, spiraled into a transatlantic phenomenon. It was a sound that laid the foundation for the best of what contemporary jazz was later to offer and in a concentrated period that straddled the millennium Tarquin released a sequence of albums which typified that style. Often restrained yet paradoxically bursting with latent energy his music was never far from the cutting edge and now, with the release on nuGroove Records of the outstanding retrospective ‘Brian Tarquin Collection’, there is a chance to discover his magic all over again.
Tarquin’s resume is eclectic in the extreme. Alongside a solo career that started with the back to back releases of ‘Ghost Dance’ in 1996 and the highly acclaimed ‘Last Kiss Goodbye’ a year later he has also provided music for both the motion picture ‘The Watcher’ starring Keanu Reeves and numerous television shows that include Dr Phil, The Simpsons, Seinfeld and Judge Judy. He received Emmy awards in 2003 and 2005 for his work on ABC’s long running daytime show ‘All My Children’ while in 2000 he shifted musical gears to team with Chris Ingram and form the electronica band Asphalt Jungle. Together they released albums such as ‘Electro Avenue’, ‘Enjoy This Trip’ and ‘Junglization’ whereas in 2006 Tarquin opened his own record label BHP Music. Specializing in instrumental guitar music, he used the label to release the 2007 ‘Guitar Masters, Vol.1’ that featured guitar legends such as Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, Zakk Wylde, Stanley Clarke and Billy Sheehan.
With the exception of two bonus tracks from 2008, ‘Brian Tarquin Collection’ concentrates on the period from 1996 to 2001 and bursts into life with the Tarquin Ingrams composition ‘One Arabian Night’. Taken from the CD ‘Long Kiss Goodbye’ its familiar vibe is likely to bring the memories flooding back and the funky groove of ‘Freeway Jam’ from the same album may well do the same. Despite his songwriting prowess Tarquin is never afraid to use cover versions as the vehicle for his unique sound so it’s not surprising that his re-imagining of Jim Morrison’s ‘Riders On The Storm’ sounds brand new. Much the same can be said of his take on Gamble & Huff’s ‘Darlin Darlin Baby’ which was a standout of his 1999 project ‘Soft Touch’ and he stays with this album for the ultra chilled ‘Tangled Web’.
I first encountered the slinky ‘Achilles’ on the superb compilation ‘Pacific Coast Highway’ from Jazz FM Records and here it fits in perfectly as one of his best. Indeed several of the tracks on the ‘Collection’ can be traced back to compilations and his 1997 ‘Arrow Of Truth’ has a home on the excellent ‘The Best Of Acid Jazz Vol 2’. Similarly, the ‘Collection’s only vocal number, the lusciously earthy ‘Lately’, comes from the 1999 ‘Best Of Smooth Jazz Blues’ and when Tarquin again delves into the depths of his own solo discography, the result is where acid meets Latin courtesy of ‘Vampirella’ from the 1999 CD ‘Bossa Brava : Caliente!’
‘Razors Edge’ from 2001 finds Tarquin firmly in acid jazz territory and when he takes it all the way back to 1996 and ‘Ghost Dance’ both the title cut and the sparse yet compellingly rhythmic ‘Greek Fire’ make it crystal clear just why this solo debut made such an impact. The two examples from 2008 come from his ‘Brian Tarquin Presents Fretworx’. The first of these, ‘Solidarity’, for which he is joined by Max Middleton of Jeff Beck fame, proves to be a curiously attractive combination of rock and chill while elsewhere, Chuck Loeb’s intervention on ‘Yorkville’ ensures a funky yet melodic close.
‘Brian Tarquin Collection’ is a fascinating look-back to the redefining of a genre and comes highly recommended.