Dave Mackay - Three: Vol. 1 [Los Angeles]
Once in a while, you come across certain artists that fill you with hope for the future of a genre. You somehow become sure that it is in safe hands. This was how I felt when I came across Dave Mackay's solo works and I'm sure anyone that likes keyboard-based jazz fusion will agree with me. First hearing him in Plini's 2019 North America tour, and then listening to his own compositions might have resulted in a bias but I will try to keep this as neutral as possible. In this EP (first of a trilogy), Mackay, along with bassist Antoine Katz and drummer Aaron Steele, wrote and recorded the songs in Los Angeles. The premise of the trilogy is to make all three of them at different places and see how this affects the end result. It is an interesting concept that spans multiple recordings, and we can gladly say that the first part of it won our approval.
The EP pulls you in because Mackay knows exactly when to spice things up with intricate chords and when to just groove along with soulful melodies. It feels like something you've heard before, though you don't remember where or when; it reminds you of the past, though nothing materialistic, just emotions: a dense cloud of nostalgia and a healthy dose of melancholy. This is reflected on the cover of the EP, the distorted colors both resemble the heavy use of different kind of synths in the record and also an old and broken television screen, which enhances the nostalgia.
The opening track, "All the Same", is probably Mackay's most popular piece. The song's melancholic opening chords and the energetic drumming that juxtaposes it create a groove that's hard to forget. As the piano sound gets more distorted with the layering of synths, you can't help but head bang in anticipation for some kind of resolution. But what the song gives you is a short pause followed by the same opening section, but with even more keyboard layers and frenetic drumming! You can faintly hear the strings, but the most prominent instrument is of course the searing synth. It is in these dense yet crisp layers and the spicy chord transitions that Mackay creates his unique take on the genre.