Harvey Mandel - Snake Pit (Tompkins Square Label, 2016)
On this, Harvey Mandel’s fourth album with ‘snake’ in the title, we find his choice of album artwork to be inspired by his sensational first outing Cristo Redentor, perhaps signifying that in a fashion, the man has come full circle … and I assure you that as the opening track ebbs into your listening space, you’re gonna feel the fabric of time shimmer.
Rising from the Chicago Blues scene of the mid 60’s, Mandel set the pace for those early outings by harpist Charlie Musselwhite, Steve Miller and Mike Bloomfield, he’s also known for the work he did with the godfather of English blues, John Mayall … though what he’ll be forever remembered for is his sinuously hot licks with Canned Heat, including their sensational performance at Woodstock.
Considering that this is his first solo work in nearly twenty years, the album sounds effortless, insightful, mystic, and harmonically pure … balanced somewhere between rocking blues and jazz, where he and his band weave in and out of each other’s space like satellites in orbit, creating a sonic atmospheric texture that rumbles with sweet sweaty edges where he indulges in a technique of immersion that allows him to play things out without becoming explosive or self indulgent. Yes, it would be easy for Mandel to become less restrictive, to become a guitar hero worshiper’s dream; though by holding back he enhances the delivery and arrangements with precision and restrained agility.
Without thinking, it would be far too simple to call his music satin smooth, even bubbling, though I prefer to think of Harvey Mandel as the ultimate slow burn of transcendence, laced with swanky funky groove laden timeless vintage excellence. From start to finish Snake Pit will hit all of your essential cosmic happy spots.
- Jenell Kesler
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